The Light of Hope
|Title:||The Light of Hope|
|Continuity||SSEU Earth 1337-B|
|Synopsis||Xadium and Minako, lost in time thanks to Minako's hasty "borrowing" of the TARDIS after a silly argument, have found themselves on a backwater world at the dawn of galactic history. They meet a young serving maid who's got herself into a bit of a scrape, and them along with her-- will they manage to save her and the day, or will their history end here, thousands of years before they were even born?|
The constant rising and falling hum of the TARDIS' powerful engines filled the cavernous, gothic cathedral-styled console room with a heavy, leaden blanket of omnipresent sound that seemed to gain in weight and substance with each passing second.
A cough broke the monotony, followed by the shuffle of feet.
"Gomen Nasai," Minako said slowly, quietly, almost meekly, as she looked down and stared at the tips of her shoes. She could not bring herself to meet her husband's gaze. A silly argument two days earlier had led to his leaving the ship that was their common home, and her frantically operating the controls in a desperate, half-baked attempt to find him. Somehow, against all odds, she had succeeded-- but now the machine was wrecked, its controls burnt-out, and its course haywire. And her husband, who usually looked at her with a gaze composed of equal parts admiration and affection, was doing his best to rein in his ire.
"This is the second console you've ruined, you know--" Xadium said tiredly, ripping off the charred victorian-style facade that hid the decidedly alien technology beneath, and inspecting the severity of the damage. "Fortunately for you, the TARDIS telepathic circuits intercepted your desire to find me and so set course on its own. Regardless of what you did to the controls," he gestured broadly to the sparking, crackling mass of exposed circuits and switches, "it would have found me."
"Gomen," Minako said in a still smaller voice, head bowed.
"Tch," Xadium exhaled, all the ire evaporating from him as he watched her stand there, abashed. He knew from years of experience that there were times when she adopted that pose strategically, to melt his defenses and force a resolution, but he also knew when it was a subconscious, sincere gesture. He put down the panel on the damaged console and walked over to Minako and lifted her chin up with his right thumb and index finger, looking her in the eyes.
"It's all right," he said slowly, still somewhat annoyed, but carefully modulating his voice to reassure her. The Time Lord did his best to effect a smile that didn't resemble a poorly-disguised frown. He failed miserably.
Minako noted the failure, but appreciated the effort nonetheless and reciprocated with a warm smile. "I'm sorry, for everything," she said slowly, softly and sincerely.
Xadium nodded, locking gazes with her so she knew he had understood her apology, then he turned back to the console. He was still not very good at the social nuances, such as how to properly and graciously accept apologies. Time Lords were the sort who tended to arrogantly rub in the fact of the apologizer's error. It was an engrained behaviour almost genetic in its nature. Thus, to avoid the potential of giving offense, he buried himself in work once more.
"We should be landing soon," Xadium said under his breath as he began splicing some wires together carefully.
"Landing?" Minako asked curiously. She had assumed the Time and Space machine would just hover in the space between times until all the repairs were done.
"Yes," Xadium replied under his breath, grunting as he yanked out a bunch of fiberoptic cables and began rerouting systems. ""The circuits will regenerate given time... But we don't have any navigational systems working, so we don't know when or where we are. We will have to hyperangulate our position in spacetime before we can go home."
"Hyper...angulate?" Minako sounded out the word, trying to make sense of it. Angle like a triangle?
"Right," Xadium replied, sensing her confusion. "How to put this... we will have to land wherever the TARDIS takes us, record our position and then leave, repeating the process again and again until we can calculate a proper path back home."
"Will we ever get back home?" Minako asked quietly, a sinking, queasy feeling in her stomach. As much as she loved being with her husband here in this wonderful, strange technological place that was the TARDIS, she needed to be back with her friends and family as well, in familiar, warm and happy surroundings.
"Of course," Xadium said confidently, leaning forward and kissing her on the forehead. "We just have to move like a knight on a three-dimensional chessboard-- sideways and backwards, up and down in time, in order to take measurements. I'd say seven or eight such landings, and we should be fine." He smiled brightly, and Minako found the warmth of his smile filling her with confidence, the nervousness in her stomach subsiding a great deal.
"So when do we land?" she asked gamely, standing a bit straighter and taking a deep breath, preparing to plunge into whatever lay ahead.
A Wheezing, groaning sound filled the TARDIS as the vortex drives switched over to matter translation mode and the vehicle began the relatively quick process of slipping out of the space-time Vortex and into the physical plane.
"Right now," Xadium said with a quick grin, pulling on his long dark-green velvet overcoat and tweaking Minako's nose playfully. As soon as the TARDIS engine noises stopped, he took a fast glance at the environmental scanners, and seeing nothing amiss, confidently slammed a fist onto the console, and two deceptively weak-looking "wooden" doors in one wall of the console room creaked open, revealing a narrow glimpse of the strange alien world outside.
"After you, milady," Xadium said with a flourish, indicating that Minako should step outside. She giggled and stepped forward, feeling a bit unsteady as she crossed the threshold from the TARDIS interior to the outside world, the slight difference in gravity making her feel like she had stumbled over an invisible brick.
Minako blinked as bright sunlight assaulted her eyes, momentarily blinding her. The outside air was fresh and sweet, mixed with the scent of freshly-cut grass after a rainstorm. Birds were singing in the trees, and the sky was a deep cerulean blue. Were it not for the three moons hovering in the sky overhead, Minako would have thought herself in the middle of a park somewhere in Japan.
"Hmm," Xadium muttered as he stepped out of his TARDIS, which--shaped as a Mountain Dew soda vending machine as it was-- stuck out like a sore thumb in the middle of the pristine grassland. He held up a small blinking device, and frowned.
"According to this, it's approximately the year 84374 B.C. as you humans reckon it, and we're on the other side of the Galaxy."
Minako frowned a little. Hearing her husband say things like "you humans" always hurt her in some small way, as if, despite his affection for her, he still considered her as something "less", even if he didn't mean it that way. She bit her lower lip slightly and looked around, trying to put the thought out of her head.
"Look, X-chan!" she blurted, forgetting her thoughts as she spied something in the distance. It was a large, wooden structure with a thatched roof-- something like those seedy taverns one might see in old role-playing games. It was so odd, she realized. The exact same structure on Earth would have been boring and hum-drum, hardly worth any mention at all-- but here, sitting as it was on a new, unknown world in the middle of who knows were-- it was at once exciting and captivating.
Grabbing her husband's arm, she began hauling him towards the "tavern," breaking into a fast sprint as she went.
"HUZZAH!" A crowd of sweaty, grimy, disheveled men raised their steins into the air, foamy froth from the jugs flying every which way as the steel cups "clunked" together in a celebratory toast. "HUZZAH GALETTA!"
As Minako and Xadium stood in the doorway to the tavern quietly, they watched as a slim, somewhat tanned blonde-haired young woman, wearing a short leather skirt and some kind of armored breastplate top, slammed her left leg onto the table in front of the men, raising up her own stein of ale and taking a huge gulp from it. Wiping the foam off her mouth, she let out a loud squeal of glee and held the cup out, as the men refilled it.
"GALLETA! GALLETA!" The men chanted loudly and in unison as she raised her hand up in the air, reaching back behind her.
"It must be some kind of strip-tease," Minako said dimly, covering her husband's eyes. Xadium, for his part, just sighed.
The next second the room net deadly silent as there was a CLANG! from the table upon which Galetta stood, as her arm swung forward, slamming an elegant steel blade into its surface.
"BEHOLD THE SWORD OF ORION!" Galetta yelled lustily. "PULLED FROM HER OWN SCABBARD AS I SLIT HER THROAT!"
The men roared with glee and toasted again.
"I think we should be leaving," Xadium said quietly, gently pulling Minako's hand off his face.
"''Twas a good thing she did, even if she does enjoy it too much," a tall, slender serving maid said, happening to overhear the conversation. "Orion was a fearsome brigade leader-- she'd killed many men. Galleta is our hero."
"Then this is a time of war," Xadium observed clinically.
"Where've you been, then, if you don't mind my askin' sir?" The servitor looked the Time Lord over. "That fancy style of dress, that well-combed hair and clean skin..."
Minako frowned at the level of attention her husband was getting from the maid, who seemed to be scrutinizing him like an ant under a magnifying glass. What irked her more was that he was giving her the same examination, eyes wandering all over her figure-- something he *never* did. Minako was used to being the sole focus of his attention, being the only woman that he had ever felt love for. Had their little argument damaged their relationship that much, she wondered.
"...your pardon sir!" the maid exclaimed in shock as she concluded her examination, dropping to one knee, slightly afraid. "Obviously you're of noble breeding, there's no reason you should know of the goings-on in this place."
"Is that the pick up line the girls use here," Minako asked darkly as Xadium winced, feeling her almost crush his hand in her iron grip.
"Pick up what, milady?" She looked around the ground, careful not to meet Xadium or Minako's gaze.
"Thank you, that will be all," Xadium snapped, suddenly sounding cold and authoritative. It was the practiced tone of a Time Lord used to dealing with lesser species. "My wife and I require the finest table."
"At once, milord." The servitor backed away and turned, getting up and beckoning them to follow, discreetly.
"Look at her move," Xadium exhaled under his breath.
"Why don't you share the table with her, then?" Minako asked darkly, watching his eyes follow the curves of the waitresses' body.
"No," Xadium muttered irately. "Look at her movements." He nudged Minako and nodded to the waitress as she bobbed and weaved through the crowded tavern, passing out drinks, collecting tips and balancing trays, all the while leading them to a partitioned area in the back.
Minako wrinkled her nose and almost shot back an insult, but then she noticed what her husband was really looking at. The "maid" was graceful and controlled, her movements seemingly random but at the same time practiced and carefully restrained. She had an air and bearing that suddenly seemed out of place when compared to her outfit and role.
"Hai..." Minako whispered back. Before she could offer her own thoughts, the duo found themselves in an ornately furnished private booth. The maid put down some drinks in expensive gold cups, and quietly slipped out to afford them privacy.
"Everyone here seems to be of a merchant or warrior class," Xadium mused as he sat down near Minako, watching her sip her wine, but declining to imbibe. "She obviously thought me nobility due to my appearance and bearing."
"And you didn't seem eager to correct that, koibito," Minako replied, snickering a little, deciding to tease him. "Maybe you wanted her to show you all the "perks" of nobility, hmm?"
"Minako," Xadium sighed. "In a place like this merely being *groomed* is enough to put you a few rungs up on the social ladder. And I have no interest in that serving girl, I assure you."
Before Minako could think of a suitably scandalous reply, there was a scream from the forward part of the Tavern. Instantly, both she and Xadium were on their feet, bursting forward through the silken tapestry that separated them from the main room. The sight that met their eyes was incredible. A well-dressed fellow, tall and lean with cold, pale blue eyes and a thin rakish nose, presumably a noble, had grabbed the serving girl by the wrist, and was dragging her out the door. No one... not the burly men who looked as if they could easily tear a man in half one-handed, nor the heroic Galetta, was even moving to assist.
"Let her go!" Minako yelled, her voice loud, clear, and like a slap in the face of everyone present.
No one moved, although half the eyes in the room quickly darted to take note of the new arrivals.
"This woman is my property by right of law," the noble replied coldly, his voice an icy sneer. "Do not interfere, Lady--" He paused, assessing the firey blonde with her odd style of dress. She did not look like any of the women in the court that he knew.
"The lady Minako speaks out of turn, the result of too much wine, and for this I apologize," Xadium said smoothly but quickly, putting a restraining hand on her arm and subtly squeezing it.
Minako turned and glared at her husband, not appreciating the restraint. "Let me go," she said quietly, but dangerously.
"It seems foreign nobles don't know how to control their women," the noble said, laughing. "You should cut out her lounge," he said darkly, pulling the maid outside with him. As soon as he left, Business in the tavern quickly returned to normal, the hum of conversation and drinks quickly resuming as if nothing at all had happened.
Minako angrily pulled her hand from her husband's grasp. "X-chan, why did you stop me?!" she growled, doing her best to avoid being overheard. "He kidnapped that girl!"
"We know absolutely nothing about the people or the politics here," Xadium replied in just as low a tone. "We can't go around making disturbances until we have a clearer picture of what's going on! For all we know she's his wife. In these societies women were often treated as chattel, especially when class differences were in play."
"I can't believe you approve of that," Minako said slowly, shrinking away from Xadium.
"I don't," Xadium sighed, exasperated. "All I'm saying is, that's the way things are here, and we have to play along until we understand things better."
"All I understand," Minako said slowly, "is that that kid was scared and terrified, and no one would help her! Well I'm not going to stand here and worry about the Prime Detective when he might be doing who knows what to her! I'm going to do my job and save her!"
Minako turned and bolted out the front door, nearly bowling over a few incoming patrons as she went.
"'Prime Directive', and I wasn't even invoking that, and..." Xadium shook his head and quickly began to follow Minako out the door. As much as she annoyed him when she ran off half-cocked into the middle of strange situations, he had to admire her iron will and strong sense of justice. While Minako might be silly and playful at times, she was also serious and dedicated to helping out wherever she could. It was one of the things that had drawn him to her. The usual Gallifreyan ethic was to sit on ones' hands and observe as events played themselves out. Minako was the exact opposite of that, the epitome of the fresh, dynamic spirit that made humanity such a thing to be admired-- and at the same time, feared.
He just hoped that in her rashness she wouldn't get herself caught... or worse.
Minako sighed and stared at the dozens of sharp swords aimed straight at her face. A spear tip pressed against her back urging her forwards. Hands raised, she moved forwards, deeper into the compound of the man called "Baron Vero". While the look on her face was one of absolute terror, she was smirking inside. She *could* have transformed and beat them into pulp at any time, but then the alarm would probably have gone up and she might have been outnumbered, maybe targeted at long range by archers or something. But by playing the helpless ditz, Minako had lulled them into a false sense of overconfident security. They'd take her to a cell or something, then she'd bide her time and break out Mission Improbable style. Yeah, that was the wicket. These guys had no idea who they were inviting straight into their lair. She was the fly to their spider, and soon they would feel her sting.
"Hey don't I get to see your boss!?" Minako yelled as she was brusquely thrown into a dank cell, banging against the hard stone walls, the patina of green fungus on their surface smearing against the back of her blue overalls.
The thick, fleshy humpbacked guard in charge of the cells merely grunted and pressed her against the wall, shackling her limbs in massive iron claps, which were attached to thick chains. He smiled an ogre-toothed, decaying yellow smile, and buried his face in her neck, inhaling her scent deeply. "Ewe smuhll purty," he muttered as Minako squirmed, trying to recoil from his touch, pulling away and walking out of the cell.
"Bakayaro," Minako spat as he left. She looked around, eyes slowly adjusting to the dim light. She swore she could feel bugs crawling up her leg. The room stank of sweat and filth. Outside the cell, she could hear guards talking. She decided to put up with the situation for a little while longer, until things got a little more lonely.
"You...!" came a surprised voice from the next cell down. It was the serving girl Minako had come to save.
"H-Hai..." Minako replied.
Except of course, that Vero laid down five aces the very next instant.
Some hours ago Xadium had made his way to Vero's castle, having learned that Minako had been captured for trespassing. Realizing that there was no way that he, who knew the rudiments of fighting as taught to him by Minako and rei.bot, but still thought along the lines of a peaceful scientist, would be able to barge in and rescue her, he had settled on the idea of gambling for her life, using his own as collateral. He was fairly confident that his skill in counting cards and estimating statistical probabilities, not to mention the various techniques he had learned as a prestidigitator under the tutelage of Zatara the magnificent, would have ensured him an easy win. But Vero was a scoundrel amongst scoundrels, and his cheating techniques were far in advance of the Time Lords' own.
"Well now," Xadium said cooly, knowing full well that such a blatant display of fraud meant the time for play was over, "It would seem that you had another ace up your sleeve." He cursed the fact that the heat of the lights made it impossible for him to not sweat in the face of his enemy.
"I have... many aces," Vero said with a thin, taut, smile, as his personal guards leveled their swords at Xadium's neck.
"Do you know I find it interesting that this particular symbology has managed to somehow emerge in such a disparate corner of the universe," Xadium began to babble quickly, trying to keep the guards and Vero fixated on his voice as he mentally focused on sending a command to the wristwatch / computer on his left arm. He needed a distraction, and quickly.
The wrist unit let off a bright pulse of blinding light, momentarily stunning everyone in the room. Xadium leapt out of his chair, but a quick-witted guard stabbed forward on instinct, tearing into his shoulder and causing him to fall back, bleeding profusely.
"Interesting toy," Vero said with a smile. "From just what planet do you come, Lord Xadium?"
"You know of other worlds?" Xadium asked curiously, momentarily forgetting his peril.
"An off-worlder," Vero hissed. "Take him to the dungeon, then kill him and his woman."
Before Xadium knew it, he had been struck on the back of the head with a mace, and the world turned black.
The serving girl regarded Minako for a moment, as if weighing some kind of decision. She moved slightly as if to say something further, but then stopped as the sound of guards approaching were heard, and the cell door swung open.
"X-chan!!" Minako exclaimed in a panic as an unconscious Xadium was thrown roughly to the ground, blood streaming from the side of his head.
One of the guards planted his boot in the Time Lord's back, slowly drawing his iron sword from its wooden sheath, and holding it aloft, intending to bring down a fatal strike.
Minako growled and prepared to transform right there by force of will, bring her arm forward to snap the chains as she had intended all along, but the sound of a large explosion from somewhere outside of the castle stopped her-- and everyone else in their tracks.
"We are attacked!" a guard yelled from the distance. Raise the alarum!"
"Forget him!" the guard's superior yelled to the soldier about to impale Xadium. "Overwhelming numbers have swarmed across the plain! At least a legion! We must push them back!"
The guard nodded and stepped off, following the others, not even bothering to lock the cell. The look of panic in his superior's eyes had told him all he needed to know about the priority of the situation.
Minako narrowed her eyes and began to summon her transformation, but stopped in shock when the serving girl snapped her chains casually, pulling off the iron shackles with ease. She then dropped forward and pulled with her legs, snapping the bonds and completely freeing herself. The next second, she had done the same for Minako.
"D-Domo..." Minako began haltingly as the girl knelt and looked down at Xadium, touching the wound on his head.
"He'll be fine, it looks worse than it is," she snapped authoritatively. "You should stay here, milady."
"Who... are you?" Minako asked in numb shock. "Why are you here--"
"The reason no one stepped forward to help me earlier today was because our plan was to let me get kidnapped by Vero and brought here. From there I would have freed myself and put an end to his corrupt ways, on behalf of all the women he... took from our village." The maid's fists tightened. "I'm not as good a fighter as my sister, but I had the virtue of being unknown--"
"Sister..." she exhaled, eyes going wide. Suddenly the maid broke into a run, leaving Minako to tend to Xadium.
The moans and groans of the dead greeted the maid as she made her way to the tavern, their bloodied corpses still fresh and oozing under the heat of the midday sun. All she could feel was the emptiness in her heart that had suddenly taken root back in the dungeons when she mentioned her sister. And now, she knew why.
Standing in the haze of the midday heat, their black, unearthly forms leering inhuman in the shimmering air, stood a legion of decayed, almost indescribably grotesque humanlike creatures, clad in the decaying flesh and bone of their recent victims, hollow skull-sockets glowing with an ethereal green haze that illuminated them from somewhere within.
"Sister..." the maid repeated slowly, seeing the bloodied remnant of her older sibling's arm, the one which had so recently held up a mug in celebration, torn off and lying amidst the mountain of bodies, her sword still clutched in its hand.
"SISTER!" she screamed, her voice echoing throughout the plains, a hot flash and upsurging of power exploding within her body. If she even perceived the golden light streaming forth from her form, or the shimmering ribbons of light which flowed around her, solidifying into solid golden battle armor, she gave no indication of it. Flush with rage and power, she bounded forth, grabbing hold of her sister's sword and arm, and like a crazed banshee, she tore into the mass of necrotic chaos soldiers, hacking and slashing with feral abandon.
The legion pressed inwards against the force of the rabid assault, but found themselves falling inwards, collapsing as they made contact with the whirling dervish of death in their midst. Her rage and fury grew with every moment, and the unthinking tendril of zombie-like bodies that had stretched forth from the depths of space could do nothing but obediently die before her onslaught.
"She... could be the one...." Chaos pondered even as its "finger" was severed from the world at the edge of the galaxy. No matter. There would be other fingers, other chances. And this one, now its worst enemy... if her fury could be channeled... shaped and directed... she might serve him well.
"What happened here, X-chan?" Minako asked weakly as she and her husband carefully made their way through the pile of bodies, most human but some not, passing by the burnt-down tavern and the remnants of the town, which was now deathly silent. The trees were scorched black, the green grasses ran red with blood and black with ichor, and no birds sang any longer.
"I don't know," the Time Lord said sadly. "Death came to this world." He slid aside a small panel which hid the lock to his TARDIS and put in the key, opening the door for his wife. "And it is time we were leaving."
"What about her?" Minako asked quietly, meaning the servant girl.
"There's no way she could have survived this," Xadium replied quietly, drawing Minako close to him as she cried a little.
Silently, sullenly, the couple went into their ship and locked the door.
As the TARDIS slowly vanished amidst the sounds of its wheezing and groaning vortex drive, the sound of a victorious cheer could be heard all over the planet. The people had been saved, and they hailed their saviour, truly a light of hope sent to them by the gods. Her name burst forth from their throats and made its way into history.
"...GALAXIA! ...GALAXIA! ...GALAXIA!"