London Blitz.

By Joseph Connell


Xena and Rickie (at least technically) are the intellectual and copyrighted property of Ren Pics and MCA/Universal. The concept of "Immortality" as presented here, Jim Horton, Joe Dawson, Tessa Noel, and the Watcher Society all belong to Panzer and Davis Productions. The character of Cora Blaylock is the creation of the great bard Redhawk. The rest are my own creation.

I make no financial gain from this prose. No harm, no foul. I'm doing this strictly for sociopathic reasons: I'm a Xena junkie and need a creative outlet that doesn't involve doing…nasty things to my Beanie Babies.

There's little point in disclaiming either the subtext or incidences of violence at this point in the series. Expect xex and broken bones and more xex and bad guys getting their just desserts and more xex and blood gushing from wounds and still more xex. Also expect two women in love and flaunting it. Got a problem with that?

This is yet another installment of the "Infinity" altverse created by the aforementioned Redhawk. To understand what's what and why, you'd best read her canon story "Only One" and "Oktoberfest" first. This one takes place approximately nine months after the conclusion to "Oktoberfest", and will be making some heavy references to both that story, my own previous contributions to the altverse (shameless plug here: "Tyger Tyger" and "Farewells, and Greetings"), and various episodes of both the "Highlander" and "Xena" TV series. I'll try to explain things as we go without getting bogged down in details. A word of apology: I haven't been in London for over seven years, so any inconsistencies between my descriptions and reality are my fault alone.

I should also mention I know next to nothing about the forging of swords, particularly those of Japan. What information I present here I shamelessly and mindlessly repeat from watching the movie "Highlander" a few too many times.

Commentary, positive and (preferably) negative, can be directed to jconnel1@hotmail.com

Final note: While I promised myself I would avoid posting in serial format ever again, the fast approach of "The Ides of March" drove me to this (you'll see what I mean shortly). It might take awhile to finish, as I'm looking at some major upheavals in my life in days to come. Please be patient.


One: Overtures

You probably read about it all in the papers. "The Wild Wild West Comes To the East End!" said the Daily Mirror, while the Times declared "Gang War Claims a Dozen." Twelve bodies found in a warehouse on the southeast banks of the Thames, all them known villains and each and every one chopped to pieces by either machine gun fire or by something the coroners could only describe as "wickedly sharp". Signs of a major struggle all around, the bodies barely intact enough for fingerprints, never mind dental records.

There's more to the story, of course. Much, much more. But the police, the public, and (eventually) the press lost interest when no more bodies showed up in similar condition. The deceased had few mourners, most of whom barely acknowledged their passage and only did so with a sneer of "Good bloody riddance!".

The few intrepid reporters who followed up on the initial story found little enough of interest. One of the deceased turned out to be connected by both blood and business to certain notable public figures-who's-names-cannot-be-spoken-aloud. Another proved to be a major figure in the British underworld, who's brutality was only matched by his cunning. His death was a matter of celebration as much by his nominal colleagues as by the Metropolitan Police Force.

Beyond these bare facts, the trail quickly dried up, leaving the world at large mercifully ignorant of the circumstances behind the so-called "East End Massacre". The events leading up to it, as so often happens, began simply enough and some months back. A few phone calls, spread over the course of months, were all it took.


May 13. Thursday.

Crackle of long distance lines.

"Hell-low?"

"Hello? Who's this?"

"Jan-nee."

"Janie? Its Uncle Enzo."

"Hiya."

"Hello, little one. Is your father home?"

"Nuh-huh!" Sound of a receiver being dropped. "DA! UNCLE ENZO WANS YA!"

"Hullo?"

Chuckle. "Hello, big brother."

Tense patience. "Enzo."

"Quite the set of pipes my niece has." Amused. "Obviously your gift to her."

"D'you have a name for me yet or not, Enzo?"

"Always so impatient." Serious. "You want to speak to Alexander Devon. Of Silas and Devon. You know them?"

Sigh. "Yes, I do."

"Shall I fly to you?"

"No. Stay put. We need to know when they leave and for where."

"That may not be for months."

"Think of it as a well-deserved vacation."

Amused. "Then why aren't you out here instead?"

"Oi, remember who's the head of this little family."

"What? Shall I kiss your ring, then, oh mighty God-brother?"

"Ha bloody ha."

"Kiss Janie for me, eh?"

"Done."


May 14. Friday.

"Silas and Devon, Solicitor at Law."

"Alexander Devon, please."

"A moment."

Pause.

"Alexander Devon."

"James Horton still has friends in high places."

"Excuse me?"

Connection cut. Dial tone.


May 15. Saturday.

Dial tone.

"Yes?"

"My name is Alexander Devon. I received a call yesterday…"

"Just a moment, sir."

Silence.

Voices in the background.

"Mr. Devon?"

"Yes? Are you the one…?"

"As I said, Mr. Horton still has friends in high places."

Uncertain. "Yes, well…"

"Friends, sir, who are in a position to aid in his work."

Testy. "James Horton has been dead for nearly two years, sir. I'm sure you're aware of that."

Patient. "But his work goes on, does it not?"

Suspicious. "What…work do you do refer to?"

"The elimination of a disease from the race."

Silence.

"Why should I believe this?"

"Be at Cleopatra's Needle tomorrow at noon. Information will be waiting for you there."

"What kind of…information?"

"Information on one of the oldest living Immortals on record."

"Methos the Egyptian?"

"No. Not the Egyptian."

Connection cut.


May 18. Monday.

Dial tone.

"Reception. How may I direct…?"

"This is Alexander Devon. I…"

"A moment, please."

Silence.

"You received the information, I trust?"

Angry, disbelieving. "Do you expect me to believe this? That you have the name and location of…of…her?!"

"You doubt your own eyes?"

"The Destroyer of Nations is a myth, friend! She vanished from sight two hundred years ago…"

"One hundred and eighty-nine years, seven months, and twenty-three days, to be exact. One hundred and fifty years of which was spent playing shamaness in the Amazon rainforest, with an additional thirty-five years and six months spent playing roaming university student and wealthy Greek expatriate."

"Why should I believe this?"

"Test the information, if you wish. If you value your life, however, you wouldn't go approaching her."

"Is that a threat, friend?"

"A bit of friendly advice. You see, she knows about the Society. Not about you and your little clique, but she's observant enough to know when others are watching her. And I'd really advise you not go stalking the girl with her."

Dial tone.


June 25. Friday.

Dial tone.

"Good morning. How may I direct your call?"

"This is Alexander Devon."

"A moment."

Silence.

"You've tested the information, I trust?"

"I have."

"You're convinced?"

"To an extent."

"Oh?"

"I have questions."

"Ask what you will. I don't promise an answer."

"Who is the girl with her?"

Disinterested. "Some street urchin she took in last year. We aren't entirely sure of the nature of their…relationship. Though it doesn't seem terribly platonic, does it?"

"What is her name?"

"Rickie Gardner. She's of little interest to us."

"You say 'we' and 'us', friend. Who exactly is 'we'?"

Silence.

"If I'm to trust this information, I need to know at least something about the messenger."

"Trust what your eyes tell you, Mr. Devon."

"I must know…"

"Please don't call here again, sir. We'll be in touch."

Dial tone.


July 11. Sunday.

Dial tone.

"Gamble and Price Shipping."

"Its Alex."

Sigh. "What d'you want, Devon?"

"You and yours up for a bit of chase?"

"We're out of the business, Devon."

"Oh?"

"Aye. Yer mate Joe Dawson laid down the law on us two year ago." Angry. "We go near any o'MacLeod's lot an' we kiss our pensions, not ta mention our collective arses good-bye."

"Dawson is in the States, Samuel. He'll know nothing of this."

Furious. "The hell you say."

Calm. "The hell I do say." Smile. "Or do you doubt I have the juice?"

Silence.

"Easy money. Think about it, Samuel."


August 10. Tuesday.

Crackle of long distance lines.

"Hullo?"

"Hello? Marie? Is that you?"

"Enzo! Still in Washington?"

"'Fraid so. Is the birthday boy there?"

"Of course. One mo' while I tear him away from the cake."

Silence.

Distracted. "No, Janie. One piece at a time. 'Lo?"

"Its me. Happy birthday."

Sulky. "Right, cheers."

"Oh, c'mon. Thirty-eight isn't that bad."

"Tell that to my gray hairs."

Laughter. "Makes you look all distinguished."

"Right."

Serious. "They're leaving for a vacation."

"Already?"

"Yes. For London."

"Hmm. That all?"

"No. I pulled their phone records for the past two months. They've been in touch with Aunt Cora again."

Quietly. "Bloody hell."

"Think she managed to track Marie or Manny down?"

"What d'you think?"

"I think I'm on the next plane out, eh?"

"When are they to arrive here?"

"One second." Shuffling of papers. "The twenty-fourth, I think."

"Lovely. Just in time for the opening here." Voices in the background. "I've got to go. Stay with them until they leave."

Dial tone.


August 20. Friday.

Cora Blaylock, Lady wife of the Earl of Covington and administrator of its estates, returned to her apartment along Grosevnor later than expected that evening. She was mildly peeved with the results (or lack thereof) of a outrageously priced dinner and evening with one of her many contacts in the local artistic community. She'd begun the evening with high hopes of finally chasing down clearer information on at least one of the two people who'd bid on Xena's chakrum last year, said hopes being utterly dashed by the fact said contact (an avant-garde performance artist from the West End) proved utterly ignorant of the object and auction in question. The poor dear had thought she'd been inquiring about John Dartmoth, the critic, even though she'd clearly spelled out the unlamented Dartmouth's name clearly.

She actually had more luck focusing in on the purchaser than 'The Giant', as she'd come to think of massive black man who'd made the unsuccessful bid on the artifact. No name as yet, but many a raised eyebrow at the description. Whoever she was, it seemed like every artist of every persuasion at least knew of the buyer. She seemed to be a constant presence among the various artistic nooks of the city, and was attached to the Anan Galleries.

Of her massive counterpart, she heard not a whisper. Even her confidential agents at Lloyds could tell her nothing. She could almost smell the satchels of money that must have exchanged hands to assure their ignorance.

Finding no success in one direction, the peer attempted a different track. Upon learning of the woman's connection to the influential chain of galleries, Cora had turned her attention and efforts towards freeing up a couple invitations to the next opening at Anan's, scheduled for just four day's time. The chain's owners were said to frequently attend such openings, while avoiding any and all of the galleries every other day of the year. It would be, Cora suspected, the single best moment for Xena to find her mysterious benefactor.

Ironically, she seemed to enjoy even less success there than in trying to identify the Giant, the seasonal openings at Anan's among the most fiercely sought social events London offered. Invitations had already been distributed, and reservations taken months ago. Every one of the coveted and rare invites had been answered, and the chances of shaking loose a single one, never mind two, were about as remote as the Titanic spontaneously rising from the ocean floor!

Disappointed, she put her key to the door's lock, only to find it creek open of its own accord. More surprised than immediately alarmed (her apartment block had a competent and attentive security detail), Cora nudged the door fully open, uncertain what to expect. She knew she was nowhere near senile enough to have simply forgotten to lock the door. She likewise knew it was unlikely anyone short of Houdini himself could have gotten past the building’s various alarms and guards.

Only her darkened apartment greeted her, the city lights sparkling beyond the front room's windows and casting weak illumination over the tasteful furniture arrayed there. She could see her writing desk off in the corner, a cone of yellow light emanating from its single lamp, illuminating papers she could not recall being there before.

What Cora could recall, clearly, was that she had the apartment completely dark.

She tried to back up a step, intending on alerting the front desk, only to encounter a solid form standing directly behind her. The slight woman froze stiff at the contact…and promptly relaxed at his voice, clearly recognizing it from long association.

"Step inside."

There was no threat or demand to the words, and all the more compelling for it. Cora took three quick steps across the threshold, closely followed by her visitor.

The door shut firmly behind them.



Part 2

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