by Bongo Bear
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PROLOUGE: A SHOWER SCENE
Our heroes sat peacefully around their evening campfire, engaged in their evening routines. Gabrielle recorded the day's uneventful activities while Xena sharpened her sword. The only sounds were the crackling of the fire, the rhythmic scrape of stone against steel, and the scratching of a quill over parchment.
Suddenly, the sharp retort of thunder shattered the near silence. A temporal rift appeared several feet behind them. The distortion flickered and wavered the air around it. As the women stared with gaping mouths at the strange phenomena, a blue and white scroll came flying through the hole in time and space. The scroll tumbled through the air and landed at their feet. The hole quickly shrank until it disappeared altogether, leaving nothing behind but the acrid odor of ozone.
Gabrielle ran to the scroll, stared at it for the briefest of moments, then picked it up from the ground. She unrolled it slowly, fascinated by what she read. She felt Xena standing behind her as she tried to make out the words.
"It's not Greek, more like Latin. Same letters any way."
"What does it say?" Xena asked.
"These are the second largest words at the top, so it must be the bard's name. Homer Depot, I think. This is unlike any scroll I've ever seen. Look, see all the line drawings with text?"
"What's the title of this story?"
The bard gave her best, uneducated guess. "I think it says 'How to Build a Shower'."
"What's a 'shower' and why should I build one?" Xena asked, genuinely puzzled.
Gabrielle studied the drawings a bit more and made out more and more of the text. Finally she said, "A shower is an alternative to a bath. A carefully adjusted mixture of hot and cold water flows out of the shower head, here." She pointed to the object labeled 'head' on the drawing. "You stand under it to get wet. It's like standing out in the rain, except it's hotter and steamier."
"That's fine, but why would I want to build one?" Xena asked again.
The bard thought about it and thought about it and thought about it. During the long thinking process, a smile grew upon her face. It grew until it became a evil, wicked looking grin.
Xena was still standing behind the shorter woman. She looked down and saw the unexpected expression plastered on the bard's face. "What's that silly grin about?" Xena asked testily as she lost interest in the scroll.
"Why would you want a shower? Heh, heh," Gabrielle's lascivious grin grew even larger, "Let me tell you about what we could do."
"Oooh yes, we could take a shower together. First we wet ourselves down under the water... and then I wash your back... and you wash mine... and then..."
"Yes, yes! I understand now." Xena smiled. She wrapped her arms around the waist of the woman in front of her and pulled her in closely. The bard's warm back nestled against the warrior's leather-clad torso. Xena rested her cheek against Gabrielle's soft hair and closed her eyes.
In her mind's eye, Xena sees them standing under a moonlit sky and embracing as a warm, soft spray rains down on their heads. She playfully laps up the water puddled around Gabrielle's neck. In response, the bard leans back into the taller woman. Xena easily supports her lover with a slightly bent knee tucked under her bottom and an arm across her hip. She slowly slides a soapy hand over Gabrielle's upturned breasts. She gently caresses the curves leading to the erect nipple. She swirls a finger tip around the dark areola. She feels Gabrielle shudder in her arms. As her hand drifts lower, the water rinses away the suds, revealing a bright, wet sheen. Xena's eyes follow the sudsy water's course down Gabrielle's firm body. She watches the bubbles collect in the navel, then topple over in the furry trap below. Her hands trace the water's path.
"Xena, are you with me? Xena?"
Turning in her lover's arms, Gabrielle looked at Xena with concern. The warrior's eyes were closed to mere slits. Her breathing was shallow and ragged. Her loins, inflamed with lust, radiated heat into the bard's belly. Xena bent down to nuzzle the slender neck before her. Her warm breath caressed and tickled the fine hair as she moaned softly into her bard's ear, "Oh gods, I want you in a hot, slippery, wet shower *now* !"
"Xena, we can't." Gabrielle said with obvious disappointment.
"Why not?" Xena's voice ached with desire.
"Plumbing hasn't been invented yet."
"Captain, the view screen is up!"
Katherine Janeway looked up from her handheld pad at the sound of her Number One's voice. She saw the Earth's solar system looming ahead of her ship. "Only minutes away at sublight speeds," she thought, "and we'll be home for supper. The right place but the wrong time. Damn! With all this miraculous technology, you'd think that the two would go together!"
"Ensign Kim, approximate ETA to Earth's orbit?" Janeway snapped.
"30 minutes, ma'am."
"I'll be in my office. Notify me the moment we achieve a stable orbit. Mr. Tuvok, please join me. Chakotay, you have the bridge." The captain rose from her seat and approached the office door which opened and closed with its characteristic hiss. Sitting on the edge of her desk with her arms crossed, she addressed the Security Officer.
"Mr. Tuvok, do you understand our mission?"
"Yes, Captain. We are to retrieve an advanced technology stolen by the Ferengi, which they sent haphazardly into Earth's past civilizations. An obvious violation of the Prime Directive. But Captain, what is the technology? Your report was deliberately vague about that detail."
"Showers, Tuvok, showers."
Meanwhile back on Earth, Ancient Greece, more specifically the famed hot spring resort of Crete:
"Xena, look! It's only a dinar every fifteen minutes for these stalls!" Gabrielle pointed excitedly at the sign advertising the latest in shower massage heads. She grabbed Xena by the elbow and practically dragged the reluctant warrior over to the establishment's entrance. "Come on. You've turned down every other place. This is the last one. This is our last chance." The bard's green eyes looked imploringly up at Xena. Xena looked down at her lover, then she slowly nodded her head 'yes'. Gabrielle's face broke out into a huge smile. She hefted the dinar-laden leather bag in her hand.
"How much do you think we should spend?" Gabrielle asked.
"How much do we have?"
Gabby untied the knots closing the bag and counted out fifty dinars, enough for a room for the night, a candle-lit meal for two, and a nice long shower. She handed over thirty dinars over to the proprietor. He conducted the couple over to a dressing room, beyond which were the private stalls.
The Security Officer's face, normally impassive and self-controlled, looked increasingly inquisitive and amused. "Showers, Captain? Why are we bothering to retrieve that technology?" An eyebrow rose on 'bothering' and stayed cocked for more sardonic wit later.
"Tuvok, the problem doesn't lie with the shower, per se, but what people are doing in them. Observe." She indicated the view screen behind her desk. A blurry image emerged and slowly focused on two women slowly undressing each other. Bits of armor littered the floor at the taller, darker woman's feet. The smaller blonde's clothing was quickly losing ground to her partner's exploring hands. Their lips were locked in a passionate embrace. As the taller woman's leathers slid to the floor, the screen darkened again.
"Ah, Captain, I understand now. Showers are creating a distraction in the development of key civilizations in Earth's history. Instead of sublimating their sexual energy into politics, war, commerce, et cetera, they are --"
"Enjoying themselves. Far too much, apparently," Janeway finished. "Changes in the mating habits of Earth's most important denizens and even of the common peasantry are starting to affect our timeline."
"Yes, I have a noticed a more, relaxed, attitude among the crew. A certain amount of tension and stress is necessary for crew readiness. That tension is no longer evident." Tuvok's expression betrayed more than a hint of disapproval.
"I've talked to the Doctor about the situation. He says that the number of stress-related illnesses and injuries have significantly decreased since the Prime Directive was violated. However, as you say, the lack of tension, especially aggression, among the crew has seriously affected the crew's combat capability. The people of Earth will become sitting ducks for next combative interstellar race that comes along. The Klingons, Romulans, Cardassians, all of the Federation's current and past foes are starting to notice the change. It won't be long before they take advantage of it. Earth's sovereignty is at risk."
"I understand, Captain. Perhaps better than you realize. Vulcan's glory is founded upon self-control and self-denial of carnal pleasures."
"Except for every seven years, you all go at it like sex-starved minks."
"Captain, underneath these pointed ears and plucked eyebrows, we're only humanoids."
Janeway regarded her Security Officer with pursed lips, then said, "Hmmm, well, I wanted you to understand the gravity of our mission. Prepare an away team to recover and destroy, if necessary, any shower technology they can find. I want you and Lt. Paris to go. Our first target is Crete."
After Tuvok left the captain, she sat at her desk computer and punched up the duty roster. Smiling to herself, she highlighted Seven of Nine's schedule and noted when she was getting off duty.
Xena embraced her bard from behind, gently lathering her over all her favorite places. Gabrielle sighed contentedly with each sensuous stroke. She had just turned in her lover's slippery arms when they both heard a crash and shouting nearby. They looked up to see two men in strange clothing staring at them. They held in their hands odd looking metal objects. A twentieth century human might easily think those men carried miniature Dustbusters and monkey wrenches. Such a human would be right about the latter objects. The former ones were Star Fleet issue phasers which were trained directly at the Warrior Princess and her bard.
"Tuvok, check out the stalls around back. I'll unscrew the plumbing fixtures here", Lt. Paris said as he brandished his monkey wrench and approached the nude women.
Xena did not like the look of the heavy metal stick the man carried. She quickly decided it was a weapon. She pushed Gabrielle aside, rolled forward and grabbed her chakram from the pile of her leathers. As the momentum carried her to her feet, she let loose the whirling dervish of death. The flying blade sliced through Lt. Paris' wrist. His hand fell to the floor, still clutching the monkey wrench. Tom Paris howled in pain but kept enough presence of mind to point his phaser at the savage woman who dared attack him. He fired. The phaser enveloped Xena's body in a red glow as she vaporized into nothingness.
"Bitch!" he snarled. The man from the future brought down the wrath of nearly three millennia of technology to bear on everything he saw. He didn't care if the deadly light burned down humans standing in the way or not. In a few minutes, nothing was left of the establishment but a smoking ruin and few pathetic Greeks crying and sobbing on their knees. Pure rage and adrenaline sustained him during the vicious attack. He passed out from blood loss once the rage cooled.
The smoke and shouts rising from Tom's side of the building sent Tuvok running back to his aid. He found the remains of the building and Tom lying on his side, clutching the stump of his forearm. Tuvok gathered up the severed hand and tapped his communicator badge.
When they materialized on the transporter pad, Captain Janeway was waiting for them. She approached Lt. Paris' prone body and kicked him in the groin.
"You have no idea what you have done, do you?" the Captain shouted at her navigator. "You killed Xena in that bloodbath. Tuvok is not sure if Gabrielle survived or not. The records are not complete from that era."
Tom Paris sat in the conference room holding an ice pack to his injured genitals. His fingers still tingled from the emergency surgery that reattached his hand. The Doctor assured him that his hand would regain full functionality after a few weeks of physical therapy. Tom's eyes never left the computer console blinking the ship's telemetry at him. "No ma'am, I don't. Captain, she was a simple primitive warrior. They all were nothing but savages." He looked up to see Janeway's icy gaze bore into him. He looked away and grimaced.
"Lt. Paris, Xena was a warrior to be sure, but she was hardly a mere primitive," Tuvok said conversationally. "She was one of those rare humans your ancestors recognized as a soulmate. She and her, um, companion, Gabrielle of Poteidaia changed the course of humanity over numerous lifetimes stretching well into the twenty-first century. By killing her, you have taken her out of her karmic cycle prematurely. She will eventually reincarnate into the person she needs to be; however, you have cut her current time on Earth too short. She has not completed her tasks yet."
Tuvok clearly enjoyed the rapt attention that his audience was giving him. He did not recognize the glassy-eyed looks for what they were. He continued, "The effects of this karmic disruption will eventually lead to our timeline. Since the disruption is limited to only the human population in the space/time continuum, I am immune. As such, I can readily observe the more subtle changes in your behavior. Notice how the Captain lost her temper in a situation where she would have normally maintained her professional demeanor."
Janeway sat up at the mention of her rank. She straightened her uniform and tucked a stray hair back into her bun. "Tuvok, I assure you that I am in full command of my faculties. What, what happened won't happen again."
"Captain, you could not help yourself and soon no human on this ship will be able to help themselves. Lt. Paris' rampage, if I may call it that, on Earth has created an extraordinary ripple effect on human society. Greek philosophers have abandoned the rationalist trend they were on. Now they are telling their people that a vengeful god has descended upon them and wreaked his wrath in the form of a magical red light that destroys everything it touches. He has inadvertently created a new religion. The Greeks now pour libations and sacrifice virgins to red lanterns held by figures dressed in clothing resembling Star Fleet uniforms. How does it feel to be a god, Lt. Paris?"
Tom slumped low into his seat.
Janeway smirked and said, "Tuvok, are you sure the disturbance in the karmic cycle is not affecting you as well?" Tuvok shrugged, not understanding the dig. "What is your plan to restore the past?"
"First of all, we will have to reenter the solar system before all of this happened. I will request that Lt. Torres set the ship's timer back a day. Then we can proceed from there."
"Wait a minute, you mean to say that is all we have to do to travel back into time??" Tom interjected.
"Star Fleet ships have traveled to past before so often that the latest upgrade to our navigation software includes time travel as a standard feature."
"Oh, that's right, the latest Windows 2399 upgrade was just last week. I haven't been able to read my email for days!" Janeway whined.
"Do you think Microsoft will ever admit they haven't fixed the Y3K bugs yet?" Tom asked.
"Are you kidding? I wrote an email to Bill Gates, XXI. Do you know what he told me?" Janeway said.
"Captain, we must put our personal problems aside and address the issue at hand. Once we reset the past day, I will beam down to the planet and retrieve the shower technology. Alone," Tuvok said.
"But won't your alien appearance disturb the locals?" Tom asked, forgetting that Tuvok joined him before without any problems.
"No, I will use my appearance to my advantage." With that, Janeway dismissed her staff. Tuvok visited the wardrobe department.
Tuvok beamed down in an olive grove within walking distance to Crete, but far from prying eyes. He smoothed the pleats of his tunic and tucked the pan flute under his arm. Then he set out on the road to Crete.
Days later, our heroes sat peacefully around their evening campfire, engaged in their evening routines. Gabrielle recorded the day's uneventful activities while Xena sharpened her sword. The only sounds were the crackling of the fire, the rhythmic scrape of stone against steel, and the scratching of a quill over parchment.
"Gabby, do you think we struck a good bargain?"
The bard looked up from her work. "What do mean by a good bargain?"
"Well, I was sure surprised when Pan showed up out of nowhere and offered to trade his blessed panpipes for all the showers in Crete. Weren't you?"
"Um, a little. But you know how the gods are. They pop up when you least expect them. Besides, I can actually play this." She put aside her scroll and quill and picked up the panpipe. When she blew across the reeds, the sweetest notes filled the air.
Xena laid back in her bedroll with her eyes closed. "Ah, a regular Yanni, you are." She hummed along with the melody Gabrielle played. Then she said, "You play better than you ever could have without Pan's help. That rod he put next to your head, what did he call it?"
"The 'Teacher' ."
"Yeah, the Teacher. I wish he let me touch it. I could use some more skills," Xena said. "Oh well," she sighed. Then she looked at the bard. " What are you writing about now?"
"Since we don't have showers any more, I've been giving some thought for an alternative."
"Like what?" Xena asked.
Gabrielle brought her scroll within her partner's line of sight. It was entitled "An Ode to a Hot Tub".
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