The Secrets of The Chakram, Part Two
A Xena/DS9 Crossover
by Purple Pen
*It was many winters ago,* Xena thought to herself as she stared out at the stars. *Borias was dead, and my army -- well, I kept them together as best I could, but we were weak, divided. One village actually succeeded in mounting a plausible defense. We were beaten back, and had to shelter in some caves...*
Xena, Warrior Princess, Destroyer of Nations, stood looking into the damp cave, her face set like stone. The stench of blood and vomit combined with the dankness of the cave -- how many of the men had she lost? And how many more was she yet to lose? Those who could walk were scurrying around softly, trying to do their best for their comrades, but they were warriors, not healers. Xena could have been helping, but many were beyond even her skill and she knew her help wasn't wanted -- she could tell by their eyes, their trust in her was gone. Nobody would have thought she could lead them into such a defeat...
She noticed dimly that one man was trying to get her attention. Not bowing his head or kneeling as he would have done before this day, but standing straight, unconcealed anger on his face. "The last of the wounded have been tended," he said, disdain plain. "We await your further orders, *Ma'am*."
The word sounded like an oath out of his mouth. But she couldn't let him know she was affected. "Good," she said. "Move everyone back farther into the cave. I don't want any of the locals to see our fires in the dark."
"That would not be a good idea."
Xena's temper flashed, but she kept under control. She fixed the warrior with her iciest stare. "Oh?" She said calmly, dangerously. "And why is that?"
"These caves are haunted." He displayed no fear of her reaction. Oh yes, her control was slipping. None of her men would have dared made a statement like that yesterday. Xena's intolerance for cowardice was too well-known.
"It's true," spoke up another man, sprawling against a cave wall. "Most of us grew up around here, and we all know the tales. My own father's cousin went deep into the caves one day as a lad, on a foolish dare. He never returned. None of us would have ever set foot in the place, if..."
*If we hadn't been being massacred by those villagers.* The unfinished sentence hung in the air. Xena felt her stomach tighten with anger, but once again she refused to let it escape. "Haunted," she said, voice loud enough to be heard by everyone. "Is that what you all believe?"
Silence was her answer.
"Well," she said, drawing her sword and grinning evily, "we'll just have to tell any ghosts to vacate the premises." Her eyes swept the ranks of warriors, selecting three of her most dependable, still unwounded men. "Mette, Kratos, Iphon, you're with me." Mette and Kratos looked down at the floor. And Iphon, who had been sitting on the floor binding up a leg wound, pointedly turned his back and continued with his work.
Now her anger was beginning to mix with fear. "Iphon," she said to the man on the floor. "Don't tell me you're afraid of a few ghost stories."
Once again there was silence. Xena waited a few heart beats, then lifted her sword to neck level and swung it in a slow circle, as if trying to decide on a victim. Once upon a time this gesture would have caused instant flinching and fear, maybe even some panicked babbling. Now they just looked back. She sheathed her sword. "Fine," she said, and didn't bother to hide her own weariness which suddenly dropped over her like a sheet. "I'll go by myself."
Nobody tried to stop her. She went deep into the cave, carelessly taking every turn, too heartsick and tired to exercise her normal caution. So she didn't notice that the rock walls had metamorphosed into a rock of a different kind; didn't notice the change in the way the air smelled, and the sudden lack of a draft, until she turned around and realized there was a solid wall where a moment ago there had been a passage.
She was trapped.
Major Kira Nerys, newly appointed Bajoran liaison officer of DS9, slumped against a rock wall and wiped the sweat off her forehead. Miles O'Brien was resting on a bolder nearby, his arm hanging painfully from the makeshift sling around his neck. She looked at him through narrowed eyes. Damn it, she had known this was a bad idea. Yes, she was aware that the Gamma Quadrant needed to be explored and mapped. But why did Sisko have to send her? She didn't understand these humans, didn't trust them, and now she was stuck with one them in a prophet-damned cavern on a prophet-damned ball of rock with battle crazed Cardassians who knew how far behind. O'Brien let out a grunt; Kira straightened. "Ready to go, Mr. O'Brien?"
"Just another second." O'Brien smiled ruefully. "You know, you can call me Miles."
She raised her eyebrows. "I don't think so."
Miles let out a chuckle that was more wonder that humor. "Why not? Major, we've been stuck here for more than two days. You've got my blood on your hands." He nodded at his sling and bandage which had once been part of Kira's uniform. "Don't you think we should switch to first names now?"
She stayed silent. O'Brien sighed. "Well, what about calling me Chief?"
That provoked a tiny smile. "Okay," she agreed. "Chief."
"Great." O'Brien smiled, then winced painfully as he got to his feet. "And I'll call you..."
He was interrupted by a sound. It was distant, but the caverns echoed; both of them heard it and were instantly alert. "What was that?" Kira said, voice low.
"I don't know. It sounded like metal hitting something." The sound came again. O'Brien snapped open his tricorder "Major," he said, "you're not going to believe this."
"What?" Kira went to his side and looked over his shoulder. "Life signs," she said flatly. "There weren't any the last time we checked."
"Exactly." O'Brien shut the tricorder. "Shall we?"
She nodded, and they went deeper into the caves, following the sound. Soon they turned the corner, and they were face-to-face with the woman.
They both noticed different things. Kira noticed the way the woman moved: her time in the Resistance had taught her to recognize a warrior's training, and desperation, and both were obvious in the way this woman raked her sword across the stone. O'Brien noticed her beauty, even though it was hidden under a deep layer of perspiration and dirt, and the reassuring fact that she was human, obviously human. "Hello?" he said.
The stranger turned, and swung her sword to face them. Her eyes were cold, animal. She said something that neither O'Brien nor Kira could understand.
They looked at each other. "Did you get that?" O'Brien asked.
"No," Kira said. "There must be something wrong with the universal translator."
O'Brien opened his tricorder and ran it first over the woman, then over his ear where the universal translator was located. The stranger continued to speak. "No," O'Brien said. "The translator's just trying to figure out what language she's speaking. We should be able to understand her in a minute." He took another look at the tricorder, and then glanced at Kira in disbelief. "She's speaking ancient Greek!"
"It's an old Terran language," O'Brien explained. "A lot of our classical literature is written in it, that's why the translator has it in its database. Hang on." Kira heard a click in her ear, and then the words came clear:
"Come any closer and I'll kill you."
It wasn't an idle threat. The words had no theatrics, no fear -- the woman was just stating a fact, and she smiled as if she looked forward to proving it. Kira tensed her body and made ready to jump at her, wishing that she hadn't lost her phaser in their first skirmish with the Cardassians. But O'Brien raised his one good hand. "Wait," he said to Kira, and walked toward the woman slowly, appeasingly. "Can you understand us now?"
She nodded, sword still at the ready. "Yes."
"Good." Miles smiled, slowly and carefully, doing his damnedest not to startle her. Somehow he knew he wouldn't like what happened if he did. "My name's Miles, and this is Nerys. We've been stranded here for two days now. How about you?"
The tall woman said nothing. O'Brien sighed. "Look," he said. "You're better armed than we are at the moment, and neither of us are in exactly great shape. We're not going to attack you." Her lip twisted, and she glanced at Kira. O'Brien followed the glance. "Right Major?" Kira shuffled her feet. "I said *right*, Major?"
Kira nodded perfunctorily. "Right." *For now.*
The dark-haired stranger looked at him, then at Kira, then back at O'Brien. In one smooth movement she sheathed the sword, and appeared to relax a little. "I've been here for three days," she said brusquely. "I think."
"Where did you come from?"
She said a name that meant nothing to them, then another. Finally she seemed to notice how different their clothing was, and tried a third. "Greece."
"Greece!?!" Miles' eyes widened. He ran the tricorder over her again, then changed the setting and repeated the scan. "Major," he said slowly, "I'm getting the weirdest temporal signature from her."
"She's a time traveler??" Kira frowned at the woman, who glared thunderously back. "But that's impossible."
"Impossible?" O'Brien shook his head. "As impossible as the odd readings that drew us to these caves in the first place? As impossible as the force field that suddenly snapped up, preventing us from beaming back to the Rio Grande? Impossible as a crew of Cardassians materializing out of nowhere to attack us?" He closed the tricorder with a snap. "No, Major. I think--"
A bolt of energy darted past his ear, smashing into the rock and sending crumbling pieces of stone tumbling down to his feet. Miles saw the woman's eyes widen, and sighed as he realized what she was seeing-- a contingent of Cardassian soldiers behind him, weapons drawn. "I think we've got trouble," he finished lamely, and started to turn, hands in the air.
Nobody disagreed with him.
The sonic shower wasn't Gabrielle's only disappointment. Her appetite being what it always was, she shortly found herself being very hungry, and decided to try out the replicator Colonel Kira had shown her. After a few false starts, she managed to get the replicator to start dictating a menu; after listening to fifteen minutes of unfamiliar dishes she interrupted it. "That's enough!" she shouted. "Can you just give me a loaf of bread?"
"Please specify the variety."
"Ummm..." Gabrielle thought for a minute. Well, it was worth a shot. "Nutbread?"
The replicator materialized a loaf. Gabrielle picked it up and took a bite. Well, it was bread, all right. And it had nuts. But... "What about a glass of water?"
"Please specify volume and temperature."
"GRRR!" Gabrielle started to look around for her staff, but fortunately for the replicator the door chimed. She stalked over to it. "Come in?"
The door slid open, revealing two... well, she *thought* they were young men. One was tall and fairly handsome. The other was shorter than Gabby and had the strangest ears she'd ever seen. They were both grinning wider than their mouths seemed capable of, and as the door opened they were pushing each other back and forth, jockeying for a better position. They quit it abruptly when Gabrielle came into view. "Hi," said the tall one, beaming charmingly. "I'm Jake Sisko, and this is Nog. I... uh, we... heard you were on the station. We thought we should see if you needed anything."
"That's very kind of you," Gabrielle said, and flushed slightly as her stomach rumbled loudly. "Actually, maybe you could help me out. I've been trying to get some food out of this replicator thingy, but it's a little beyond me."
"We'd be glad to h---" Jake started to say, but the short Ferengi stepped in front of him and interrupted. "Replicator food!" he said scornfully, waving a hand to dismiss the idea. "We can do better than that. Can't we, Jake?"
Jake frowned, then smiled quickly. "We sure can!" he agreed. "Gabrielle, how would you like to go to the Promenade and get something to eat with us? There's the replimat, the Klingon takeout place, and the Bajoran candy kiosk..."
"And my uncle's place." Nog grinned, showing off an intimidating array of teeth. "Quark's Bar. Best food in the quadrant."
"I-- well. That would be great. Thank you," Gabrielle accepted. She was hungry, and these two seemed nice enough, despite the danger of them smiling themselves to death. Besides, she wanted to see more of the station...she thought.
Nog and Jake beamed, pleased as bunch at the prospect of being seen in the Promenade with the lovely strawberry blonde on their arms. They managed to stay away from her just long enough for her to get through the door, then each took an elbow and escorted her through the halls.
Xena slipped deeper into her chair, remembering that first battle with the Cardassians. She had been ruthless, dodging between the phaser bolts to send alien bodies crashing to the floor, until not a single enemy stood. In a way it had been good training-- after that, she had never again boggled at the shape an enemy came in, be they it or Green Lizard man. Why she had decided that the Cardassians were the enemy, and the battered Miles and Nerys allies, she still didn't know-- the warlord she had been would normally have allied with the side of obvious strength. But decide she did. There is nothing like a battle to build camaraderie-- Nerys dropped her suspicion, and left her to watch over Miles while she scouted for water or a way out. Xena sat with him in silence a while before she shrugged to herself and asked if she could see his wound. Miles looked at her doubtfully. "You... know something about medicine?"
"I have many skills." Xena unwound the sling and bandage. Well, now she knew why he was so weak, and why he was sweating despite the cavern's chill. The wound was obviously infected, and the broken bone was way beyond her ability to set. Miles noticed her expression. "Bad?"
She nodded, unwilling to lie. "Yes."
He slumped back. "Ah well," he said cheerfully, whistling in the dark. "I already knew that."
"I might be able to do something for the pain. I know something about pressure points-- I could block off the nerves."
"Block off the nerves?" Miles looked surprised. "Can you restore them later?"
She nodded. "Yes." *Not that I think you'll want me to.* Even if the infection didn't kill him, the break made the limb useless. She'd thought about suggesting amputation, but the wound was too high for her to want to risk it. If he never felt the arm again, it would be a blessing.
"Then, go ahead." Xena hit a few points on his shoulder and back. Miles looked apprehensive, but after a moment his face broke into a genuine grin. "Hey! That really is better. Thank you, Xena. I wonder if Julian knows how to do that?"
"Julian?" Xena asked, and the Chief was off and running-- telling Xena all about the young doctor, the station they lived on, his job there and all the other people he knew. Kira was gone for hours, so Miles had plenty of time to talk-- and talk he did. Xena listened patiently, knowing that listening to him talk about his home was the only comfort she could offer. He was in the middle of a soliloquy about his wife and daughter's beauty when Nerys showed up, looking very excited. "Miles, Xena," she said. "I found something." They got to their feet and followed her.
As they threaded through the caves, Kira explained: she'd started out using the tricorder to search for water, but the unusual energy readings that pervaded the caves kept interfering. Finally she'd decided to examine the energy itself, and a pattern slowly emerged. Kira led Xena and Miles along the path she'd followed, the two women assisting the engineer over rocks and through tight squeezes. The floor slanted down-- the little band followed it, and suddenly light became visible. They hurried toward it and found themselves in a room.
"Oh..." Miles breathed.
Xena's first impression was of metal. Lots of metal, the soft light glimmering off sharp edges, metallic shapes neatly stored in piles around the perimeter of the room. She walked slowly around, looking. "What is this place?" Miles asked.
"It's an armory," Xena said positively.
Kira agreed. "I think so too. These must be weapons-- left behind by who knows what kind of culture, who knows how many millennia ago. I've never seen workmanship anything like this."
"Neither have I," Xena said. Her eyes gleamed as she thought of her men, wounded and huddled so far and so long away from here. What she could do with a stockpile like this... Her eyes lit on a pillar placed in the center of the room, and suddenly her breath caught. Here was the source of the room's dim light: it spilled over the pillar like something alive, highlighting a.... thing. Xena had never seen anything like it before. It was a circle of metal, inlaid with gold, and hung a few inches above the pillar, sparkling. She started to reach for it. "What's this?"
"Don't touch it," Miles said quickly. He had taken the tricorder back from Kira and was scanning the room, frowning. "The energy's emanating from it." He looked at Kira, face pink with sweat. "I think it's a time travel device."
"It can't be," Xena said positively. From the moment she'd first seen it, illuminated by the halo of golden light, her eyes hadn't wavered-- it was the most magnificent, glorious object she'd ever seen. Something about it cried out to her, meshed with something else deep in her soul. It took an act of will to keep her hand from closing around its edge.
Kira looked at the pillar. "There's writing."
"There is?" Miles took a closer look. "Hold on a minute while I run a symbol diagnostic." The tricorder whirred and clicked to itself, running comparisons with all its known languages and coming up with a guess for what this cryptic inscription might read. Miles' forehead wrinkled. "It's just one word, that's the closest the tricorder can come. It says 'Chakram'."
"Chakram," Xena breathed. She slowly fell to her knees.
"This must be what the Cardassians have been trying so hard to protect," Kira said. "A rouge time travel device."
"Would you stop saying that? It's not a time travel device," Xena said. "It's a weapon. Can't you two *see* that?"
"What more powerful weapon can there be?" Miles said. "You don't like the outcome of a battle, you just pop back and change it." He shrugged. "It would be impressive just on its own-- the tricorder says it's made of a metal I've never seen before, harder than even tritanium alloy. But add time travel, and it would be invincible." His gaze fell on the pillar and the kneeling woman before it. "No wonder they gave it the place of honor."
"Indeed," said a cold, rasping voice from behind him. "Honor. Thank you for leading us to our prize-- we've been searching a long time, and you can be sure we'll honor your contribution. At your funerals. Please, turn around."
They all turned, even Xena, who found it almost impossible to wrench her eyes from the Chakram. A tall, very self satisfied Gul was standing there, five armed soldiers at his back. "Good," he said, and nodded at the pillar. "Step away from that, please."
Nobody moved. "Who are you?" Kira asked. "Gul--"
"Gul Brizec." The Cardassian bowed sarcastically. "At your service-- for the few moments that you remain breathing, anyway. His eyes narrowed. "Now step away from the pillar."
"No," said Kira.
"There's no reason why we can't be reasonable," said O'Brien, although he said it in such a way that said even he didn't believe it. Xena hesitated-- the chakram seemed to be crying out to her, deafening all the other voices. She saw rather than heard the Gul's caustic response, and surreptitiously stretched out her hand. As she did, the chakram flickered-- a picture appeared inside it, a scene that was a dead ringer for the fields outside Amphipolis. She was startled, but didn't pause. Suddenly she had it...
Oh, it felt so good. She didn't know how, but her fingers knew exactly what to do-- how to grasp it, how to throw, how to give it the right angle and spin. It sailed out of her hand, to collide with the wall and then smash into one of the soldier's skulls. Several of the Cardassians fired at it, despite the anguished "No!" of their leader, but the chakram absorbed the energy and continued on its deadly course. Kira dove for a pile of weapons. She came up with a bladed thing, exactly what Xena would never know, and began striking out at the Cardassians feet. Xena watched as the chakram flew around the room-- three, four, five, of the Cardassians fell, and it was headed straight for the leader. Xena knew that wasn't what she wanted to do. She gave a cry and vaulted across the room, tumbling head over heels until her fingers grasped the chakram just before it slit Gul Brizec's throat. She stood with it in her hand, awed at what she had done, awed at what she'd been about to do. The picture of home still floated inside the metal circle.
Kira, meanwhile, had grabbed one of the fallen Cardassian's phasers, and was using it to cover the Gul. "Drop it," she said, and his own half-drawn weapon clattered to the floor.
O'Brien hobbled over. "You," he said. "Brizec. You know a way out of the caverns?"
The Gul nodded. His forehead bulged as he tried, unsuccessfully, to keep his eyes and both chakram and phaser.
"You will take us there." Gul Brizec started to shake his head. Xena growled low in her throat, and Miles quickly bent his head closer. "Listen, friend," he said softly. "I'll do my best for you, but you don't want to mess with these women. They're *insane.*"
Gul Brizec gulped. "All right," he said. "I will lead you out."
Xena started to say "Good" but she was distracted. As the Gul spoke the chakram tugged in her hand-- she let it go, and it hung in the air, rippling and changing. It had to be a trick, but she could have sworn it was growing, growing until it was big enough to step through. She gasped and stared.
"Xena." O'Brien's voice was soft. "Is that home for you?"
Xena nodded, throat suddenly full. Yes. Amphipolis. She wouldn't be welcomed there-- her mother and everyone else in the village wanted her dead-- but still, her heart thought of it has home.
"It looks like the chakram wants to take you there." Her head snapped to look at him; he shrugged. "I think it might be worth the risk."
He was smiling; Kira was smiling, even as she watched the Cardassian. Xena swallowed. "I guess this is good-bye."
"Not quite," O'Brien said. "According to the schematics the tricoderd made, the thing's got a temporal communicator built into it-- if you need us, or we need you, we'll be able to get in contact." He grinned. "Maybe someday you'll be able to tell us what else it can do."
"Yes." Xena looked at the weapon, beautiful and shining. "It does appear to belong to me." She turned, clasped hands with Nerys, and then O'Brien. "Will you be all right?"
"Oh, yeah," Kira said, smiling pointedly at Brizec. "Won't we, Brizec?" The Cardassian nodded. Xena turned to O'Brien. "Your arm..."
"Will be fine once we get back to DS9. I know a good doctor there." Miles shook his head fondly. "You'd better go, before it changes its mind."
She closed her eyes and jumped through.
When the scent of fresh hay filled her nostrils, she opened them again-- yes, she was in Amphipolis, at the very edge of the hayfields. Tattered, bruised, and without an army, but she was alive, and home. Not that she would go there now, but perhaps she would again, someday. Her fingers closed around the chakram in her hand as she turned her steps and walked away.
TO BE CONTINUED...