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CHAPTER 5: higher learning
The Sun was low in the sky when the Xena and Gabrielle entered the Museum of Natural History. A security guard told them that because it was summer, the museum was open later than usual. It was good news since it allow the pair to examine the museum at a more leisurely pace.
"This place is amazing," Gabrielle said in awe. The two stood in the large central chamber of the museum next to something called a Wooly Mamanth. A large elephant with hair Xena had said, unimpressed.
"I've seen warlords with more," Xena continued in a bad mood.
"Not like this," Gabrielle pointed to the museum map the security guard had given them. "Each room contains a different treasure from around the world. I can't wait to look around. This will make a great story."
"Does that map tell you where the spear is," Xena asked brusquely. She couldn't shake the feeling they were being watched.
"According to this, there is a new exhibit featuring it and other artifacts. It just opened a couple of weeks ago."
"What's the name of this 'exhibit'?"
Gabrielle's eyes did a double take, but the name was right. "It's called, Warriors of the Ancient World. It's got some names listed here," Gabrielle grinned broadly, "and you're one of them."
"What! Give me that," Xena pulled the map from Gabrielle's hands. "It only lists me under ancient myth, Gabrielle. They don't think that I'm real." Xena read further, "Anaria's down here too as another myth."
"I don't care Xena," Gabrielle took the reluctant warrior by the hand. "All I know is that you made such an impact that people remember you, even this far in the future. Aren't you glad to know that you made a difference."
"Yeah," Xena replied, embarrassed, "I guess."
"Come on then my mythic hero," Gabrielle said jovially. "Let's go check this place out."
Unseen eyes watched closely as the duo exited the common area and headed for the new display on Ancient Warriors. Anaria lingered in the main hall, looking around for anyone who was watching the pair. She knew that Xena had probably guessed that Anaria was the one who had been watching them, unseen, for most of the afternoon. That didn't bother the ghostly warrior. What was watching them now did.
"Well, my famous friend, this is it," Gabrielle said as they entered a larger room towards the back of the museum. Xena frowned. She had hoped that the room would be mostly devoid of people. Unfortunately, the new exhibit was a popular one.
"I don't suppose Anaria directions included where the spear is precisely," Xena said looking around.
"Not exactly," the bard replied, entering deeper into the room. "All the directions said was that the spear was part of the Heroes of Northern Europe display."
"Let's split up so we can cover more ground," Xena said. "You go left, I'll go right. We should meet up on the far side of the room."
Xena and Gabrielle split up and quickly disappeared into the crowd. Anaria cursed and levitated to the center display and sat down. The warrior shuttered. The presence she had felt watching them earlier was here now. "Come on Xena," Anaria said to herself as she readjusted her seat, "hurry up and find that spear."
Xena shook her head in amusement. By luck, the first display she came across dealt with ancient warriors of myth. Some genius in the museum had decided to create statues representing the legendary fictional heroes of history. Gabrielle will be so disappointed, Xena thought. The Warrior Princess stifled a laugh. Hercules had been chosen to represent Greece, but the statue they created was way off. Instead of the handsome, intelligent man she knew, he was huge, bulky, and looked more suited to be pulling a cart than saving lives. Xena, Anaria, and several other female warriors were only mentioned as part of the display.
Gabrielle's luck took her in a different direction. The second display was the one they were looking for. These are the barbarians, the bard thought suprised. I never knew they actually were organized in any way. With a satisfied smile, Gabrielle continued in the same direction to rendezvous with Xena.
The bard easily spotted Xena heading her way. She couldn't help but smile. Even in the future, the Warrior Princess was breathtaking. "And she's all mine," Gabrielle said to herself as the crowd parted to let Xena through. "I can sure understand why Anaria wants to find Brieal. If she's anything like Xena, I wouldn't want to be too far away either."
"Find anything Gabrielle?"
Gabrielle focused on the taller woman, "Oh yeah....I mean I found the spear. It's right over there."
"Let's check it out then," Xena said, giving the bard a quizzical look.
Just as the pair reached the display, the lights suddenly blacked out. The room was left in darkness. Small emergency lights lit the hallway leading out of the room, but the areas around the displays were black.
Anaria stiffened. This wasn't just a run of the mill power outage.
After a few startled minutes, the crowd began to head for the exit. A security guard entered the room from another enterance to make sure everyone left. Soon the room was empty of visitors, save three.
"I thought we were going to get caught," Gabrielle said, stepping out of the shadows.
"Naw," Xena replied, "That guy was an idiot. Even Joxer would make a better guard."
"So now seems as good a time as any," the bard said, "why don't we get the spear."
Xena looked around, her senses screaming alert. "Something's not right here. Someone created this blackout just for us."
"Very good Xena. And someone once told me that Greeks weren't smart."
Xena and Gabrielle whirled around. A tall, pale man emerged from the shadows. About Xena's height, the man was dressed in a dark business suit which contrasted his vivid blonde hair and striking gray eyes. "I've been waiting for you. I'm surprised it took you this long."
"Well here I am," Xena replied defiantly, "so who are you?"
"My name is of no importance," the man replied, looking the Warrior Princess up and down. "Let's just say that my employers have asked me to speak with you."
"Let me guess. They don't want us to get the spear."
"Again, I'm impressed," the man smiled. "You've involved yourself in a very complicated matter. At this point, my employers are willing to let you and Gabrielle go. You are free to return to your own time and place without any further interference from us."
"And what if we decide to stay," Xena asked, wishing she had her sword.
"Then I will be forced to destroy you," the room seemed to grow darker as the man spoke. "Make no mistake Xena, my employers follow through their promises. Can you say the same for Anaria? She is not the same person who saved that village all those years ago."
"I'll trust her over some slick spokesman any day," Xena replied.
"Leave here Xena and don't return. If you do, you'll be coming to your death." The man smiled again and stepped back into the blackness. Suddenly the lights came back on, revealing an empty room. Xena and Gabrielle looked around. All they saw was a rapidly approaching security guard who quickly ushered them from the exhibit area.
CHAPTER 6: grandpa
"Well that certainly was pleasant," Gabrielle said. The pair had exited the museum and started walking home. Despite the distance, walking was preferable to riding that hideous thing they took to get there. "As if it wasn't bad enough with only one god angry at us, now we have two."
Xena nodded, lost in thought. She knew that they were still being followed, and not by the blonde haired man they had just met. The presence was familiar, but it wasn't. It was driving the Warrior Princess crazy.
Gabrielle saw the far off look in her partner's eyes and decided to remain quite. Instead of conversation, the bard focused on the surrounding area. This is a wondrous time, she thought as a long, black car drove past. I wonder what it would be like to actually live here. Maybe I can talk Xena into a return visit once our lives in Greece are over.
As the sky went from purple to black, the bard noticed that people were converging in certain areas. Groups ranging from two to ten stood in front of stores of various sizes. Out of curiosity, Gabrielle slowed as she walked past one of the crowed areas. The smell of food and alcohol came from the establishment, causing Gabrielle's stomach to growl.
"Xena," Gabrielle asked tentatively.
"I'm getting sort of hungry," she smiled up at her partner. "I was wondering if we could have dinner soon."
"Sure. Anaria left us plenty of food back at the apartment."
"I know Xena," Gabrielle replied. The bard wasn't interested in the bland fare that Anaria made for them. "I was thinking that we could stop at one of these places," Gabrielle pointed down the street to a crowed area. "They serve food and ale. We wouldn't have to cook a thing."
Xena stopped and looked down into the bard's pleading eyes. Despite her better judgement, the warrior replied, "Sure."
"Great!" Gabrielle's face beamed. "Don't worry Xena, I'm sure we'll love it."
Xena smiled weakly and allowed the bard to hurry her down the street to the next eatery. Unlike the other places they had passed, the wait was minimal. Much to their surprise, they were greeted at the door by name and ushered to a private booth in the back of the place.
"Could Anaria be behind this," Gabrielle whispered to Xena.
"I wouldn't be surprised," Xena replied. "She always loved trying new things. Even when I was little she would tell me that I was too set in my ways."
"Really," before Gabrielle could continue to question her partner about her past with the old warrior, they reached their seat. A man was already seated there waiting for them.
"Xena and Gabrielle! How nice to meet you! Anaria has told me so much," the man smiled and extended his hand.
"And you are," Xena asked. She hated to be caught off guard.
"My name is Ty Adams," the man replied. "Please sit down. We have a lot to discuss."
"Thank you," Gabrielle smiled and complied. One of the things that Gabrielle had enjoyed from the start in this time were the people. Everyone was so different. Ty was older, probably around Meleger's age. Virtually bald, he had cut his hair very short in an attempt to make it more becoming. When Gabrielle shook his hand, she felt warmth, kindness, and a playful spirit. By looking at him more closely, the bard could tell that this large man had once been in top physical condition, but had let his body go some as he had grown older.
"So Ty, what do you do?"
"Well Gabrielle. I used to run a large company, but now I'm retired. My younger brother runs it now."
"You used to run Norse Corp didn't you," Xena asked. "You're another god."
"Anaria said you were sharp," Ty smiled and sipped some of his wine. "I was one of the original norther gods, but times changed and I lost popularity. Odin was next in line for the thrown, so he rules them, and the company. I'm more of a free lance consultant now. Anaria asked me to help you in that capacity."
"Anaria certainly has planned for every contingency," Gabrielle said. She looked around the restaurant to see what others were eating.
"That she has," Ty looked at Xena. "I know that you can't be happy with your current situation. You have quite a rough history with Anaria."
Xena looked across the table and at the wall, "Let's just say that the last couple of times we've met, things didn't go very well."
"That can change you know," Ty leaned closer and lowered his voice. "Anaria's ways have changed some since you two last spoke. She had to adapt quite a lot. Losing Brieal wasn't easy, neither was learning how to operate in the spirit world. Or the land of the gods either. When this is done, try to remember that she is a good person." Ty patted Xena lightly on the arm and leaned back.
Xena looked at him questioningly, wondering what his little aside was all about. Hoping that it didn't mean what she thought it did.
The trio chatted about past experiences and adventures during the first course of their meal. Ty had taken the liberty of ordering for them. Xena and Gabrielle weren't disappointed by his choices. By the end of the second course, just before dessert, Ty turned the conversation to the mission at hand.
"So you two had a run it at the museum," Ty asked.
"Yes," Xena replied. "With a blonde haired man who claimed to represent the group who wants to take over Norse Corp."
"We also had a run in with Loki earlier in the day," Gabrielle added. "That's why we needed to see you. He's captured Anaria."
Ty frowned, "Don't worry about that situation," he said. "Anaria can handle Loki."
He's not telling us everything, Xena thought. There's more to Loki than he will let on.
"So who was this blonde guy," Gabrielle asked.
"He doesn't have a name from what I know. He has a reputation as pure evil. Most of us just call him Malevolent. He means what he says, Xena."
"I can take care of myself. I've handled gods before."
"But not like this," Ty became deadly serious. "Times have changed, so have the gods. The old ways won't work on him. Just be careful."
"What else can you tell us," Gabrielle kept the conversation moving forward.
"If Malevolent had found you, then time is of the essence. The sooner you are able to steal that spear, the better. Through my connections at the museum I've set up the perfect window of opportunity for you in three days. It's then or never." Ty handed Xena an envelope. "In here are all the details. Read it, memorize it, and destroy it. I wrote it in Greek to make sure there wouldn't be any miss communications."
"What if Malevolent shows up," the bard asked. "He won't just let us take the spear."
Ty looked around for a moment, as if he was searching for something that wasn't there. He smiled knowingly, "Don't worry. Some one has your back."
Xena suddenly knew who had been watching them all day. The question was why.
"Well ladies it has be a quite enjoyable evening," Ty said standing. "But I must be going. Don't worry about the bill, I've got it. Feel free to stay as long as you want or order something else." Ty shook both Xena and Gabrielle's hands, "Good luck." With a small wave, he left.
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