~ The Great Sleigh Heist ~
How Xena and Friends Saved Christmas

by Sadie Jo
Email: cliosdesk@comcast.net

Teaser: After being 'on ice' for centuries, Xena awakens in the 21st century, at the North Pole. She decides to stay with Santa and Mrs. Claus until she catches up with the rest of the world. When Santa's sleigh is stolen the day before Christmas Eve, Santa asks Xena for her help in getting it back. Xena and friends embark on an adventure to retrieve the sleigh in time for Santa before Christmas Eve?

Disclaimer: Any and all characters from Xena: Warrior Princess were borrowed. All other characters belong to us. We ripped off everyone with the greatest respect and love.


425 BC:

The arctic wind whipped around the combatants, cutting through their heavy garments like icy knives. A bolt of lightning flashed in the distance, illuminating the dark sky. A few seconds later, there was a loud crash as the thunderbolt sounded. Gabrielle rolled out of the way as a large club shattered the ice in the spot she had just occupied a few seconds earlier. Her feet slipped out from under her as she tried to set her fighting stance. She was able to turn her graceless fall into another forward roll. This time she didn't slip as swung her staff at the large frost giant facing her.

She came up the creature's waist. Its skin was a pale blue color and it wore a fur shirt, fur pants, and a fur cloak. It had a bald head, but sported a white goatee. Its biceps were as thick as tree trunks, as were its legs. Taking a blow from one of these things would probably be fatal. The butt of her staff caught the monster under the chin. Stunned, the giant backed away, giving Gabrielle a few seconds to catch her breath and check on her companion. She glanced towards her left side?

There Xena stood, holding her own against the second frost giant, near the top of the glacier the four were battling on. She maneuvered on the ice as if it were nothing. The fierce wind whipped the warrior princess' long, black hair about. Xena dodged to the left and the right, looking for an opening in her opponent's defense.

I don't know how she's able to stand on the ice and move like that.' Gabrielle thought to herself. 'Of course I do. It's one of her many skills.'

Xena parried a crushing blow from the frost giant she was battling, leaving its mid-section wide open. With one smooth motion, Xena thrust her sword into the creature's stomach, and just as smoothly pulled the blade out again.

More angered than injured, the mighty creature bellowed into the stormy night, its ear-shattering howl sent chills down Gabrielle's spine. The monster swung its massive club over its head and brought it down towards Xena. The warrior princess managed to back-flip out of harm's way. The ice shook as the creature's club slammed into the ground. At first, nothing happened. Then the ice began to shake violently. A large crevice formed at Xena's feet. She backed away again. She glanced over and saw Gabrielle watching.

"Look out!" Xena yelled.

Gabrielle turned her attention back to her own opponent to see the frost giant charging straight at her.

"Oops." Gabrielle mumbled to herself.

Without a second thought, Xena reached town to her hip and pulled her chakram from her belt. Then the warrior princess hurled the deadly disk at Gabrielle's foe. The chakram flew through the air and sheared through the giant's neck, causing the head to fall on the ground and roll away. The chakram then ricocheted off a rock face and returned to the warrior princess' hand. Gabrielle was amazed to see the blood bounce on the icy surface. She turned to thank her friend and her eyes widened in horror.

The large beast battling against Xena took advantage of her momentary distraction. It grabbed a hold of the warrior princess and hoisted her above its head. Xena struggled against the frost giant's vice like grip. She managed to kick the creature in the jaw twice, but it was to no avail. With a laugh that was truly hideous, the monster threw Xena down the large crevice that had formed from its massive club strike.

"XENA!!" Gabrielle screamed in horror as she watched her fall. Tears began flooding her eyes.

The icy wind seemed to almost freeze her tears as they fell from her face. Then a rage the likes of which Gabrielle had never felt in her life possessed her. She welcomed the fury as she rushed the ice creature. She watched as the monster laughed again as it slammed its club down upon the icy ground, causing chunks of ice to fall into the crevice. This only fueled Gabrielle's anger as she viciously swung her staff at the head of ice monster, causing it to stumble backwards. She swung again, hitting the monster in the mid-section, forcing it back further up the large glacier. She attacked a third time, thrusting her staff where Xena's sword pierced it minutes earlier. Her fourth blow caused her woolen hat to fall off, exposing her short strawberry blonde hair to the artic wind. Steadily Gabrielle forced the monster backwards, towards the edge of a large cliff. The frost giant tried to fight back, but Gabrielle continued her violent assault. She swung her staff in an upward arc, catching the creature underneath the chin, causing it to loose its balance and fall from the glacier.

Gabrielle watched as the creature fell into nothingness. She then turned and rushed towards the spot were the monster had hurled her best friend's body. As she arrived at the spot, her heart sank further than she had thought possible. The large crevice was filled with ice, which had already frozen over. The tears again began to stream down her face as she fell to her knees. This time, she allowed them?

One year later?

Gabrielle stood at the spot where her friend was cast down into an icy grave. She had been making the pilgrimage to this spot monthly for the past year. Deep down inside she blamed herself. If she had only fought better, Xena wouldn't have had to save her life yet again. She unwrapped the single red rose she had carried with her and gently laid it upon the ice. She felt so empty inside. It seemed her life was without meaning.

"You really need to stop beating yourself up over this, kiddo." A voice said from behind her.

Gabrielle turned around to see Aphrodite, Goddess of Love, standing there. Her long golden blonde hair was still in the artic wind. She wore her usual negligee type outfit only instead of it being pink, it was black.

"Excuse me?" Gabrielle asked.
"You're blaming yourself for what happened, correct, girlfriend?"
"What would you know?" Gabrielle retorted without thinking. "Oh?sorry"
"I'll let that one slide, kiddo." The goddess smiled sadly.
"I'm sorry, Aphrodite, really. Have you found out if any of your family has survived?" Gabrielle questioned.
"Only Ares." Aphrodite answered. "It almost seems as if one god representing evil and one representing good survived the Fall of the Gods. My powers have slowly begun to fade as well. Living forever without my powers will really suck."

Gabrielle nodded. "What brings you here anyway?"
"You do, Sweetpea." The goddess answered. "You see Gabrielle, I've watched you come here every month. Do you think Xena would want that? What would she have done?"

Gabrielle hadn't thought of that. "She?she would have continued to fight for the greater good."
"Exactly." Aphrodite said. "Shouldn't you be doing the same thing; if nothing else than in memory of your fallen friend?"
"Y-your right." Gabrielle nodded. "Thank you."
"You're welcome, Sweetpea. But that's not the only reason I'm here. If you do want to do this, then let me give you one last gift. The gift of immortality."
"What?!" Gabrielle exclaimed. "NO! That would mean I could never join Xena in the Elysian Fields. I'd be alone forever. I can't do that."
"Gab, listen to me. This was never supposed to happen. You were never supposed to be separated."
"Aphrodite, what are you talking about?"
"You weren't supposed to find out yet, but under the circumstanced?"
"Would you just tell me what's going on?!"
"Ok?ok. Chill babe. Oh." Aphrodite chuckled. "Chill?glacier?artic wind."
"APHRODITE!?! What the Hades is going on?!" Gabrielle exasperatedly said.
"The two of were never supposed to be separated. You were to continue to do what you do. The 'greater good thing'. But someone messed things up." The Goddess of Love explained.
"Ares." Gabrielle growled.
"Yeah, and in order for you to be reunited, you need to be immortal. Xena's not dead. There is no way to get to her now, but in the future?" Aphrodite explained.
"I see." Gabrielle said thoughtfully. "But you said you were weaker. Will you be okay?"
"I'll be fine. I have enough Ambrosia to last me a very long time. Besides, you would only need a little taste."

Gabrielle hesitated.

"Please, Gabrielle. You would honor me if you would accept."

The young bard thought about it for a minute longer. "Okay. As long as you promise you'll have enough for yourself."
"Cross my heart." Aphrodite smiled.

The Goddess approached Gabrielle. A small box appeared in her hand. Aphrodite opened the box, and took a small piece of Ambrosia from it. She then handed the Food of the Gods to Gabrielle, who then placed it into her mouth and swallowed it.
"Now I'm going to teleport you away from here. What you do afterwards is your business. I'll try to keep in touch." Aphrodite smiled.

The young woman nodded. Aphrodite touched Gabrielle's shoulder. The young bard vanished in a puff of pink smoke, sparkles and rose petals.

Aphrodite nodded in satisfaction, then shivered in the artic air. She solemnly approached the placed where Gabrielle placed the rose. What she didn't tell Gabrielle was that there was a prophecy that when the soul mates were reunited, then the goddess would regain her powers to combat her evil brother. As she bent down and smelled the red rose, Aphrodite found herself wondering if she would ever find her own soul mate?

1899 AD

Aphrodite walked the streets of Philadelphia, in the new land know as the United States of America. The war for its independence was bloody. She knew that her brother Ares was behind the most of the war, gaining more power. If he ever were successful in hatching a scheme for world domination, he would be unstoppable. Just when it seemed it couldn't get any worse, it did. His right hand wench was none other than Callisto. Ares had found her and made her immortal.

Aphrodite's own powers were slowly deteriorating. To conserve her remaining strength, she walked among the mortals. It seemed like the only day she felt like her old self was on this very day. It was according to the mortal calendar, December 24th, Christmas Eve. She watched as people walked the streets, smiling to one another, and saying, "Merry Christmas." She had done her research on this Christmas holiday. From what she could understand the One God the mortals worshiped sent His Son on this very night, so that Mankind would be redeemed from something called the Fall of Man. She didn't understand that, and had no one to ask. The one thing that caught her interest was that a fat jolly old man would come and climb down the chimneys and deliver toys to all the children of the world. She had heard he lived at the North Pole, but never took the trek up into the artic, because the cold was starting to bother her. She had begun to dress in layers now, which didn't suit her. There was at least two feet of snow here. She pulled her coat closer. She had spoken with Gabrielle a few times, but the Amazons were hard to come by these days. When last they spoke, Gabrielle told her that they would be in hiding until the Amazon population grew a little stronger.

She found herself thinking about what she wondered so long ago: would she ever find her soul mate? The loneliness was getting to be a real downer. Yeah, she had been married to Hephaestus, but it wasn't enough. She had watched how mortals treated marriage and wanted that for herself.

She reached into a pocket and pulled out a small box. Inside was the last of her Ambrosia. Aphrodite was so deep in thought that she had walked into one of the mortals, causing them to drop all the packages they were carrying.

"Oh, I'm so sorry. I was lost in thought." She apologized as she knelt down to help pick up the wrapped packages.
"Its okay, Aphrodite." A deep voice answered.
"Well, its just tha-wait a minute! What did you call me?!" she exclaimed, looking at the stranger that she crashed into.

He was an old man, heavy set with rosy red cheeks. He had white hair and a great white beard. He wore a brown suit in the style of the times and black boots that went to his knees. He smelled like cinnamon and apples to her. He smiled.

"I said it was okay, Aphrodite." He repeated.
"How do you know my name?" she cautiously questioned. "Who are you?"
"I have many names." Replied the stranger. "You can call me Santa Claus, if you wish."
"Santa Claus? You're kidding, right?" she exclaimed.
"No dear, I'm not." Replied the old man.
"You're the guy that delivers all the toys to the kids?! You can't be." She said
"Sure I can. I have a question for you. Why is the Goddess of Love moping around on the eve of the most festive day of the year?"
"How do you know?Are your trying to pick me up, Pops?" she asked.
"No Ma'am. I'm a happily married man. I have been for a long time. I was looking for you, however."
"Me?" Aphrodite questioned. "Why?"
"You seem to know a little of me. Do you know where the toys I deliver come from."
"I?I've heard rumors that you live at the North Pole." She answered with a confused look on her face.
"Correct." The old man answered. "I live in Christmas Town, up at the North Pole. I have a large toy factory. The reason I came here was to offer you a job. I could use your bubbly personality to boost the morale at the factory. The elves seem down this year."

Aphrodite placed her hands and her hips. "You're pulling my leg, aren't you, old timer?"
"I most assuredly am not." Santa said.
"Ares sent you." She said darkly.
"No he did not, and I kindly ask you not to associate me with him!" the old man said angrily.
"I?didn't mean to offend you." Aphrodite said.
"Give me your hand." The elderly man said quietly.
"What?" The goddess exclaimed. "You are trying to pick me up!"
"I told you I'm married. Trust me, Aphrodite. Take my hand, please." The old man repeated.

Cautiously Aphrodite reached out and grasped the old man's had. As soon as they touched, if felt like an electrical charge coursed into and through her. She could feel her powers returning to her. The cold wasn't bothering her as it did before. She gasped as she released the old man's hand.

"Wh-what was that?" She stammered as she looked wide-eyed at the old man.
"That was power of a child's love. It is the only form of pure love left in this world." The elderly man answered sadly. "Christmas Town is full of it. As long as you're there, your powers will return."
"Y-y-you really are Santa Claus!" Aphrodite said. "What do you need me for?"
"I told you, young lady. The elves' spirits are down this year. You using your gifts would really bring some cheer to them. Also, we could use your help against Ares. If his vile plans continue, it could cancel out love in the entire world. You would vanish, and the children would suffer. I cannot allow that."

Aphrodite thought for a moment. "Okay, Pops. I'll accept your invitation!"
"Great!" Santa exclaimed. "And who knows. Maybe you'll finally find the soul mate that you've been waiting for. Now follow me. The sleigh is parked behind this general store."

Aphrodite picked up the small box that held the last of her Ambrosia. Maybe I won't need this last piece after all. She thought to herself. Then Aphrodite helped pick up the packages and followed the old man, wondering how he knew about her wish for a soul mate?

One hundred and five years later?

Santa Claus took a sip of hot chocolate as he looked over the blue prints for the newest expansion of the toy factory.

"Things seem to be going according to plan." Santa said, as he took a bite of a Christmas cookie. "Momma, these are the best."

"Thank you, Poppa." Mrs. Claus smiled.

Mrs. Claus had long brown hair and bright brown eyes. She had the body of a Victoria Secret model, despite all the cookies she ate. Santa on the other hand, looked as though he were a Chippendale dancer. He had short brown hair and blue eyes. It was only when he wore part of his 'Santa' outfit that he would change into the jolly ole elf we all know and love. The same was true for Mrs. Claus. When she wore her red velvet Christmas dress, she would change into the image of Mrs. Claus we all envision her as.

"Well?the new building should be done by next Christmas. Is Baxter using the new ice breaker yet?"
"I believe so." Answered a female elf.
"Good. I think I'll take a walk over to R & D and see how things are going." Santa said as he stood up from the table.
"Why don't you take Aphrodite with you?" Mrs. Claus suggested.
"She's not bothering you, is she? I thought she was doing well since we brought her here." Santa told his wife.
"She is, dear. I do question her outfits though. Why can't she wear what the other elves wear?' Asked Mrs. Claus.
"That's what she's used to wearing." Santa said. "I say why rock the sleigh?"
"You would." Sighed Mrs. Claus. "I'll go see if she's back from visiting her friend Gabrielle."
"I'll stay here until you come back."

Meanwhile, out on the ice plains of the North Pole?

Baxter, the head elf of the Research and Development branch of Christmas Town, drilled deep into the icy plains of the North Pole using the ice digger, getting ready for the newest extension of the Christmas Town Toy Factory. He had short black hair, black eyes, and thick black horn-rimmed glasses. The ice digger his lab created effortlessly cut through the rock solid ice of the North Pole. The secret was that the large triple drill bits up front were super heated as they ran, causing the snow to melt as the drills chewed through the ice.

Just then, something caught his eye. He turned the ice digger off and rushed out in front of the vehicle. What he saw caused him to gasp. Sitting in front of the large red and green machine was a young woman encased in a block of ice. She had long black hair down to her shoulders. She wore a short brown leather skirt, with bonze decorations on the chest. Her feet were covered in knee high leather boots. In her right hand was a strange metal disk. In her left was an ancient looking sword.

"Great Bouncing Icebergs!" Baxter shouted in his high pitched nasally voice. "It's a Snow Angel!"

Baxter pulled out from his belt a small silver cylinder. He pressed a green button on the side. A foot long yellow laser beam jetted from the cylinder. Baxter carefully cut the ice block surrounding the young woman down to a size he could manage, and placed the newly carved block on the back of the ice digger. Then he drove back to Christmas Town as fast as he could?

"Hiya Pops!" Aphrodite greeted Santa as she and Mrs. Claus returned.

Aphrodite wore a green and red colored negligee with a white see-through netting over top. She had a green hat on top of her head, and red and white shoes. Her blonde hair seemed to be more curly and golden and her eyes' blue color seemed to have intensified since she arrived over one hundred years ago. The pure love from children seemed to do her wonders. Her powers were strong in this place. But Aphrodite found that when she left to help on errands, her powers would be cut in half.

"Greetings." Santa said. "I'm heading down to R&D to see how things are going. I thought you might wish to tag a long."
"Sure!" Aphrodite replied.
"Well, then. Follow me."

Santa grabbed his red jacket. Aphrodite watched as the young man morphed into the form of the world famous Santa Claus.

The two began their walk to the R&D department?

Inside the R&D lab?

Baxter had silently smuggled his 'snow angel' into his lab. He had set up solar lamps around the block of ice to melt it. The growing pool of water was flowing to a drain in the floors. Baxter had estimated that the thaw would take at least four point five minute. He had just enough time to change out of his winter clothes. He hurried back to his apartment?

Three minutes later?

Santa, Aphrodite and a small elf named Kimmy, who was head of the Retail Department, entered Baxter's office. The sight that greeted their eyes was shocking. A young woman was partially encased in a block of ice. Around her were powerful solar lights, which were quickly melting the ice.

"Sweet Christmas!" Santa and Kimmy exclaimed.
"By the gods!" Aphrodite gasped. "It's Xena!"

Santa turned to look at Aphrodite. "Ah yes. The warrior princess."

Just then, Baxter came sliding into the room. He took one look at the three of them, and jumped in front of the block of ice.

"She's mine!" he yelled. "I found her!"
"Stand aside, Baxter." Santa warned, eyeing the young woman's body.
"No!" Baxter insisted, folding his arms across his chest. "I found her!"
"Baxter, step away, or I'll lose the coat." Santa warned.

Kimmy giggled. Baxter thought for a moment. Then he reluctantly side stepped away.

Santa came forward and knelt down and placed his ear just above the warrior princess' nose and mouth. His eyes widened.

"Great freezing icicles!" He exclaimed. "She's breathing!"
"She's alive?!" Kimmy exclaimed.
"Yes, but not by much. We need to get her blood pumping. Kimmy, get me a cup of Momma's coffee!"
"Santa, are you sure?!" Kimmy asked in disbelief.
"Of course, child! Now hurry!" Santa ordered.

Kimmy raced out of the lab.

"How could this be?" Aphrodite asked Santa. "I understand the prophecy, but?how can she be alive?"
"I have a theory." Santa answered. "Aphrodite, I think she may be immortal. I just haven't figured out the how."

A minute later, Kimmy returned with a cup of a black, gelatinous substance. The spoon was sticking straight up in the middle of the cup. Santa chuckled as he took possession of the cup.
"Momma says she hopes you like it." Kimmy said.
"She's a wonderful cook." Santa said with a chuckle. "But the poor woman can't make a decent cup of coffee to save her life. Now the rest of you stay back. This may not be pretty."

Santa approached the prone form of Xena from the right side. He gently opened her mouth. Baxter was standing on the left side, watching carefully. Santa took a small spoonful of coffee and placed it on her mouth. He then jumped backward. Instantly Xena's eyes and mouth flew open and she sat up violently coughing, head butting Baxter in the process and knocking him out cold. Before anyone could react, she was off the table and in a battle stance.

"What was that stuff?!" Demanded the warrior princess.

She glanced around the room. Something didn't look right about this. The place certainly didn't look to be Greece, or any of the other places she had been in her life. As she looked around at the different people in the room, she found the only person she recognized was Aphrodite.

"Aphrodite." Xena said coolly. "I should have known the gods were behind this. What's going on?"
"Chill, warrior babe. It's not what you think. A lot of time has passed since we last saw one another. A lot of time."
"How long?" Xena demanded.
"A couple thousand years." Answered the old man.
"Who are you?" Xena questioned. "One of Aphrodite's boy toys?"
"I certainly am not! My name is Santa Claus. You are in my Research and Development lab at the North Pole. This is Christmas Town. We mean you no harm."
"Who's the short guy on the floor?" Xena asked, pointing her sword at the prone form of Baxter.
"That's Baxter, head of the R&D division here." Santa smiled. "He's the one that found you in that block of ice."

Xena thought for a moment. She remembered a battle against some type of creatures. Someone was with her. But then her memory went foggy. The confusion showed on her face.

"Kimmy." Santa smiled. "Bring our guest a cup of Momma's hot chocolate and some of her cookies."

The female elf again ran off.
"Xena, why don't we sit over here and wait for Kimmy to return. While we're waiting, we can bring you up to speed on what's been happening." Santa suggested.

Santa and Aphrodite took turns explaining to Xena the different changes that had happened in the world since last the warrior princess walked it. A few minutes later, Kimmy returned with a steaming mug of hot chocolate and a small place of cookies. Xena carefully took the mug and sipped its contents. She smiled slightly.

"This is pretty good." She commented.

She took one of the cookies from the tray and bit into it.

"Whoa?these are good." She said. "I mean really, really good."

"Xena?" Santa began as she took another cookie. "I would like you to think about staying here while you get caught up with history. I really could use your expertise on some things."

"I have many skills. Which would you need?" asked Xena, taking a third cookie.
"Well?" Began Santa. "I want to create a child protection team. An elite group that could resolve extreme situations involving children and their safety."
"You see, Xena. It's not like it was in the old days. There's no longer an open slave trade. It's gone underground, and it seems to be targeting kids." Aphrodite said.
"We could use your expertise in organizing, training and leading the team. While it's being set up, you could continue your learning of the world." Santa said.
"Who's doing it?" Xena asked, biting into her fourth cookie.
"There are a lot of evil, twisted people in this world." Santa told her.
"Why don't I show you around?" Santa asked.
"Alright?" Xena said, grabbing the final cookie from the tray.

Santa, Xena, Aphrodite and a newly revived Baxter were walking through the different parts of Christmas Town. Santa had told Kimmy to double check the sub orbital toy distribution points. He wanted everything to be running smoothly for the twenty-forth.

"I know this is an awful lot." Santa told the warrior princess. "Tomorrow is Christmas Eve. Why don't you ride with me in the sleigh? You'll see how my whole operation runs."
Xena thought for a moment. "I guess it can't hurt."

"Good. There's something else we need to talk about, Xena?" Santa said "I don't want to offend you, but?if you take the job, you may want to change your style of dress."
"Why?" questioned the warrior princess.
"Well?I've gotta tell ya the truth, Xena." Aphrodite explained. "The leather outfit went out a while ago."
"Baxter, go get one of our newer outfits." Santa said.

Baxter, who had kept his eyes on Xena since she woke up, raced down the hall. He came back a few minutes with what looked to be an outfit that came from a Victoria Secret catalog.
Xena glared at him. "I don't think so."
"I have the exact same outfit." Aphrodite commented.
"Come on, Baxter." Santa sighed. "Get the other outfit."
"Fine!" Baxter said and ran off.

The elf ran returned a minute later holding a black tunic, cloak, leggings and knee high boots.

"We're currently working on a new type of stealth suit that absorbs body heat, hiding the wearer from infra red scanners and heat detectors. We're close, but still not successful." Santa smiled.

Xena gave Santa a questioning look.

"Oh, I'm sorry." Santa said. "In this time we have machines that can track a person by their body heat. This outfit conceals the wearer's body heat."

Xena eyed them approvingly.

Suddenly, a loud siren began to wail.

"What's that?" Xena asked, drawing her sword.

As if in answer, an announcement came over the loud speaker. "This is a red alert. This is a red alert. All priority personnel please report to the ELF command center. Repeating?"

Santa shook his head. He walker over to a console in the wall and pressed a button. "This is Santa. Can you give me a status report?"

The other end of the communications array was quiet.

"I?I'm sorry sir." The voice came back. "It looks to be a code Abduct."

Santa Claus shook his head again and fell in to a chair, his head in his hands.

"Aphrodite, what's a code Abduct?" Xena asked.
"It's when a child is taken from their parents. Code Abducts?don't usually end happily."

The warrior princess thought for a moment. Then she walked over and placed a hand on Santa Claus' shoulder.

"Santa?If you can provide me with a room to say in and a ready supply of these cookies, then I'll help you out." She said.
"Thank you, Xena." Santa smiled. "I'll walk you back to transport. Since this is your first time in this world, you can accompany the team going out. When you return, we'll start to bring you up to speed about this new world. "
"Xena?" Aphrodite asked. "Do you want me to let Gabrielle know that you're okay?"

Xena looked over at Aphrodite with a confused look on her face. "Who?"

Aphrodite was stunned. How could she forget her best friend; her soul mate. She had to tell Gabrielle.

"Aphrodite, could I have a minute of your time before I leave?" Santa asked as he watched Xena look around.
"Sure, pops." Aphrodite said.
"Look. You see how Xena is right now. I need you to promise me that you will not tell Gabrielle about this."
"Are you kidding me?" Aphrodite said. "I can't do that. Gabs is her best friend."
"You can see that Xena doesn't remember her. If you bring Gabrielle here, it could cause even worse problems. You have to promise." Santa said.

Aphrodite fumed. Santa knew what he was doing. She was a Goddess. And Goddesses and Gods had to keep their promises.

"Fine." She sighed. "I promise."

One year later?

Santa hung up the phone. He glanced over at Mrs. Claus, who was just putting the finishing touches on a large plate of cookies.

"Are those for me, Momma?" he asked.
"Sorry dear." She replied. "Xena's dropping by. I thought I'd make up a plate of cookies for her."
"I swear she eats more of those things than I do." He said.
"Who was on the phone?" asked Mrs. Claus.
"One of the elves that keep an eye on the department stores. Apparently one of the Santas called in sick, and they need someone to fill in." Mr. Claus told his wife.
"But Poppa." Protested Mrs. Claus. "It's Christmas Eve. You have a lot to get ready for before tonight."
"I trust the elves will have everything together by six o'clock. Kimmy's a good elf. Besides, it'll disappoint the children. I'm taking Aphrodite and Hermie with me." Santa said.
"Why two helpers?" his wife asked.

Santa Claus gave his wife a look that told her that he somehow knew something she did not. She hated that look.

"Keep your secret then, Santa." She said. "I'll just let Xena eat all the cookies."
"Did someone mention cookies?" Xena asked as she peeked her head around the corner of the kitchen door.
"Yes dear. I made you a plate of cookies. Enjoy." Said Mrs. Claus.

Xena quickly walked over and snatched the plate before anyone could say anything else. Aphrodite arrived next.

"Just the lady I was about to look for." Santa said. "I'm heading to a mall located in United States, to fill in for a Santa Claus who just caught the flu. I'm taking you and Hermie with me. Meet me in the hanger in five minutes." Santa informed her.
"Cool!" Aphrodite said.
"Make sure you've changed into something a bit more?appropriate." Santa said.

Aphrodite rolled her eyes. "Whatever."

A few minutes later, Aphrodite arrived in the hanger where the magical sleigh was kept. She still wore her elfish hat, but instead of her 'normal' attire, she wore a green tunic with red sleeves, green tights and red and green pumps. The tunic was a bit low cut. Santa sighed and shook his head.
"It's better than nothing, I suppose." He said.

The three entered the sleigh, and took off?

Aphrodite watched as the mortals brought their little ones to see Santa. She would give a candy cane to them as they left. Some of the kids pulled on his white beard and he would just laugh when their eyes would light up when the beard didn't come off. He truly did love all the children.

She glanced away for a minute and saw one of the mortals walking down the mall with a stack of presents, already wrapped. He clumsily dropped one. As he bent to pick it up, a group of teenagers approached and kicked the gift away from him. Then they began knocking the rest of the gifts out of his hands. Aphrodite fumed with anger.

"Excuse me." She said, thrusting the bag of candy canes at Hermie. "I need to take care of something."

She walked over and picked up the gift that was kicked up the mall. As she approached, she found that the mortal carrying the gifts was a young man. He had short brown hair and blue eyes. She smiled as she bent down to help him.

"Are you okay?" she asked
"Yeah." The young man answered.

The young man looked into Aphrodite's eyes. Wow! She's really beautiful!!

"You have very pretty eyes." He said, blushing.
"Why?thank you." She smiled. "I have to say that most guys don't notice my eyes at first."

The young man smiled. He took the package from her and said, "Look?if, well?if you're not busy later, perhaps you'd like to go out for lunch or?dinner?"
What the heck? Aphrodite thought, clearly amused. It would be something different for a change. He's taller than the elves.

Aphrodite smiled. "I'd like that. Let me tell Pops over there I'm going. Please wait here."

The young man stood up, then offered his free hand to allow her to stand as well. Aphrodite smiled again, walked over to where Santa was sitting.

"Are you done flirting?" Hermie questioned as he rolled his eyes.
"Excuse me?" Aphrodite asked as she placed her hands on her hips. "I was helping the young man."
"Oh please." Hermie countered. "You both were grinning like idiots at each other."
"'Like idiots', eh?" she retorted, now rolling the sleeves up on her elfish outfit.
"Now just one minute." Santa said. "Is something the matter, Aphrodite?"
"Well, Pops, that young man over there?he just asked me out."
"Then enjoy. You have enough mojo to get home, right?" Santa smiled.
"More than enough. Are you sure you don't' need me to stay. I know you're busy today, being the 24th."
"Don't worry. Hermie can fill in." Santa winked. "Now have a nice time. And don't do anything I wouldn't do."
"I'm the Goddess of Love, Santa. There are a lot of things I would do that you wouldn't." Aphrodite smirked.
"What?!" Hermie sputtered.
"Quiet Hermie!" Santa said.

Aphrodite quickly walked back to where the young man was standing.

"It's cool." She told him.
"Great!" the guy said. "Oh?I'm sorry. I forgot. My name is Jerm."
"Oh?right. My name is?well its Aphrodite."
"That's a rather unique name. I like it." Jerm smiled
"I'm a rather unique person." She told him with a grin.

Jerm offered his arm, which she took. The two then walked out of the mall?

Aphrodite returned to Christmas Town around nine o'clock that evening. Santa was already delivering toys to the children of the world. Mrs. Claus was awaiting his return. She invited Aphrodite to sit with her, and tell her about her date. She told Mrs. Claus that they enjoyed lunch, dinner and each others company. They had exchanged phone numbers, and he had promised to call her the day after Christmas.

One year later?

"Hey Mrs. Claus?" Aphrodite asked, standing in the doorway of the kitchen. "Are you busy?"
"Not at all, Aphrodite. Please come in." Mrs. Claus invited.

The goddess walked slowly into the kitchen. Her normally pink negligee was black in color. Sitting on one of the kitchen counters was a little girl the age of four. She had long brown hair which was braided into two pig tails. She had brown eyes and wore glasses. She sat beside a large plate of cookies. Aphrodite had to smile.

"Hi Sweetpea!" Aphrodite beamed.
"Hi!" the little girl smiled and waived at Aphrodite. She then turned to Mrs. Claus. "Cookie?"
"Yes, dear. The cookies are done." Mrs. Claus told the little girl

The little girl pulled out a special cell-phone and pressed the button. The small pink phone had only one number programmed into it.

"Hi!" Delorean spoke into the phone. "Yeah! Ok! Bye!"

Mrs. Claus chuckled as she shook her head.

"Aphrodite, would you like to try one of my new cookies?"
"No thanks." Aphrodite said.
"Are you sure, dear? They're chocolate fudge with a thin ribbon of peanut butter." Mrs. Claus. "Chocolate makes people feel better."

Aphrodite shook her head.

"Pssstt." A voice said from the hallway.

The three turned to see Xena peeking from the around the doorway.

"Hi!" Delorean beamed.
"Hi!" Xena smiled back.
"Cookie?" Delorean asked, picking up a cookie and holding out towards the warrior princess.
"You bet!" Xena said. Then she saw Aphrodite. "I mean?I suppose."

Xena took the cookie from the little girl and bit into it. "Oh yeah! These are really, really good."
"Yeah!" Delorean said, grabbing another cookie and taking a bite.
"I'll come back later." Aphrodite smiled.

Xena could tell that something bothering Aphrodite. She looked at the Goddess of Love and shook her head.

"Hey Delorean!" Xena said. "Why don't we try out some new toys?"
"Okay!" Delorean beamed.

Xena gave the child a large smile as she carried her in one hand. The warrior princess then subtly took the platter of cookies in the other. The two made their way down the hall.

"Now child." Mrs. Claus said. "What's troubling you?"
"Forgive me for asking?but when did you know Santa was your?'Mr. Right?'" Aphrodite asked.
"This is ironic." Mrs. Claus said. "The Goddess of Love asking for advice on her love life."
"Whatever." Aphrodite replied.
"I'm sorry, dear. Please forgive me. I think it was the third date?why do you ask?" questioned Momma.
"I just?well?there's this guy?" Aphrodite replied.
"Ah?the one Poppa was talking about. Jerk, wasn't it?" Mrs. Claus said.
"Jerm." Aphrodite corrected. "When I'm with him, I feel like my old self. When I'm away from him, I miss him terribly."
"I see." Mrs. Claus smiled. "Aphrodite?do you think he's the one you've been looking for. Do you believe he's your soul mate?"
"I think he is." The love goddess confessed. "I mean?I told him everything about me a few months ago. And I mean everything. He didn't freak out or anything, which is amazing. I love spending time with him, Momma."
"Aphrodite, has he told you that he loves you?" Mrs. Claus answered.
"Yeah. Plenty of times. He always ends the phone conversation with that."
"Have you told him how you feel about him?" Mrs. Claus questioned.
"I say, 'back at ya babe', or 'ditto'." Aphrodite answered.
"That's not what I asked." Momma said.

Aphrodite got quiet for a moment. "No, I-I haven't been able to yet."
"You do love him, right?" Momma asked softly. "I would hate for you to be stringing him along!"
"Of course I do!" Aphrodite snapped. "I-It's just that?I've been around a very long time, and had my share of loves that were lost. Jerm is?I'm just?"
"I see the problem." Mrs. Claus said. "He's a mortal, which means that due to your immortality, the years you spend with him will seem like an hour."

Aphrodite nodded.

"What else is wrong?" Mrs. Claus asked.
"He hasn't called in two days." Aphrodite answered. "When last I spoke with him, he told me he'd see me in a few days. We were planning to get together for Christmas. I called to double check where I was meeting him, but no one answers."

Mrs. Claus placed her hand on Aphrodite's shoulder. "He'll get in touch with you, child. The way you talk about him, anyone can see you're meant to be together. But you have to tell him that you love him, just as much as he loves you. I once heard that the cruelest thing in this world is love that goes unreturned. If you truly love him as you've just admitted, you have to let him know. A solution to the little problems will present itself."

Aphrodite smiled. "Thanks, Momma. I feel a lot better."

Just then, the alarms began to scream.

"What in the starry sky?" Mrs. Claus said.

An announcement came over the loud speaker. "Christmas Town may have been discovered. This is not a drill. All personnel to their stations! Repeating: Christmas Town may have been compromised!"

"Oh no!" Aphrodite said.
"No time to fret now, dear. Follow me!" Mrs. Claus told her.

Mrs. Claus pulled on a wall sconce in her kitchen. A door seemed to magically appear. The two quickly raced down the corridor.

The dark hallway led into a very large cavern. The cave was extremely well lit and filled with computers. Elves were running every which way, with fax sheets and computer printouts.

"Whoa!" Aphrodite exclaimed aloud. "What is this place?"
"This is ELF." Mrs. Claus answered as she looked around. "I'm the head of this organization. We monitor the children's behavior all over the world. You know, the infamous 'naughty or nice list'. This is also how we find out about children that are in danger. That's where Xena comes into play."

"I got here as soon as I could." Xena said, arriving behind them. "What's the situation?"
"We were just about to ask." Mrs. Claus answered.

The three began walking to the large central computer. Aphrodite turned to ask Xena a question, when she noticed something. She nudged Xena's arm, and pointed to her cheek. Xena wiped her cheek.

"What was that? Chocolate?" Aphrodite whispered.
"Maybe?" Xena answered, not looking at her.

The three arrived at the computer. An elf was busy typing.

"What have we got?" asked Xena.
"About twenty minutes ago, this showed up on our monitors."

The monitor screen changed over to a view of the plains in front of Christmas Town. There was a tiny dot moving.

"That's it?" questioned Xena.
"Yeah, but this is unmagnified." The elf answered.

With a few keystrokes from the elf, the image was enhanced by fifty percent. Now the three could definitely see a medium sized figure slowly moving towards the town.

"We can cloak at anytime." Another elf yelled across the cavern.

"It's too late for that." Mrs. Claus said. "He's definitely on his way here. Is Santa still up in one of the sub-orbital distribution points with Kimmy?" Mrs. Claus asked.
"Yes ma'am." One of the elves answered.

One elf with a large sheet of computer paper approached Mrs. Claus.

"Ma'am." He began. "I thought I'd bring this to your attention."
"What is it, Jim?" she asked.
"This is the naughty list." The elf explained. "Over the past month, it's skyrocketed. We can't figure out why. Also, wars and violence are up almost fifty percent."
"This is troubling, but it will have to wait." Mrs. Claus told him.
"Can we magnify the image again?" Aphrodite asked as she stared at the monitor.

The elf at the console nodded, and the image of the lone walker grew. He fell face first in the snow, and then stood back up.

"He's exhausted." Xena commented. "You can tell by the way he's walking. If he falls again, he may not get back up. What's the weather outside?"
"The temperature is falling rapidly and the snow is about to pick up in intensity." An elf at the weather station answered. "From the looks of radar, we're about to get one of the biggest storms in Christmas Town history!

"Oh?my?gods!" Aphrodite gasped as she stared at the image.
"What is it, dear?" Mrs. Claus asked.
"I-its him!" she shriek. "I-its him!"
"Him who?" Xena asked, clearly confused.
"It's Jerm!" she said, turning to Xena. "It's Jerm! H-he was coming here?!"
"Get search and rescue out there now and bring him in!" Mrs. Claus ordered. "Communications, get me Santa now!"

A direct line to Santa was opened, and Mrs. Claus quickly filled her husband in on the situation. Santa nodded. "I'll be back in a few minutes."
"Should Momma make some coffee?" Aphrodite asked, as the worry showed on her face.
"Aphrodite!" Santa said in a low voice, as he watched Momma turn to order the search and rescue teams. "I thought you cared for that mortal. You give him some of her coffee and it'll kill him! Just relax and get yourself to the hospital."

Aphrodite nodded and quickly left the center. Xena approached Mrs. Claus. "Jerm?is that her?boyfriend?"

Mrs. Claus nodded. "I have a feeling we'll be needing a new cottage built."
The two turned to the monitor to watch the search and rescue units arrive at the now stumbling mortal?

Aphrodite paced in the waiting area of the small Christmas Town Hospital. She felt as though she had been waiting for hours.

What was he thinking?! She thought to herself. She thought about how the past year had flown by. She did love him, but?could she tell him?

Just then, one of the elves arrived in the waiting area, dressed in scrubs.

"Aphrodite?" he asked.

The goddess turned and looked at her. "Yes?"
"You can see him now." She smiled.
"He's okay, then?" the goddess asked.
The doctor nodded. "Yeah. We did give him a some of Momma's special hot chocolate. It'll keep him asleep until morning. This way he'll recover most of his strength."

Aphrodite nodded, relief flooding through her. She followed the doctor/elf to where Jerm's room was.

The doctor led her to a small room. Jerm looked to be peacefully asleep. She glanced around the room. The walls of the room were painted white. In the corner of the room was a red and green painted dresser. On top of the dresser were the clothes he arrived in. His coat was hanging on a hook mounted on the door. Aphrodite walked over to where the clothes were sitting. She picked up the long sleeved flannel shirt he had been wearing. She smiled at the next layer of clothing he had worn. It was a faded blue T-shirt, with a red and yellow design on it. She remembered the first time she'd seen him wearing it. They were going to the movies in the middle of summer. She had worn a pink T-shirt and blue jeans. (Momma told her it wouldn't be proper to wear her normal outfit.) She met him at his small apartment. When he opened the door, the design was the first thing she noticed. When asked, he told her it was one of the last things his mother had given him. The symbol he wore was in honor of the one who truly represented truth and justice. It was a red letter 'S' on a yellow background, encased in a diamond-esqu shield. She smiled for a minute, and then walked out with the article of clothing?

Aphrodite returned a few minutes later. Jerm was still sleeping peacefully. She glanced over at a clock, which read 'ten thirty.' She was so relieved he was okay. She'd yell at him tomorrow. Just for now, she just wanted to be close to him. Aphrodite quietly pulled a chair as close as she could to the bed, and placed her head upon his chest, just listening to her soul mate's heartbeat?

The next morning?

Aphrodite raced down hall. She had wanted to be there when Jerm woke up, but Baxter took up too much of her time. She carried a wrapped package in her left hand. Momma had insisted that she wear something a bit more?"covering" was the word she chose. So instead of her pink negligee, the goddess wore a black T-shirt, blue jeans and sneakers. She carefully knocked on the door and opened it. Jerm was just finishing making his bed. He was already dressed.

"Good morning." He smiled. "Are you surprised yet?"
"Surprised?!" she yelled. "You could've been killed! What were you thinking?! Do you know how cold it was last night?! From what the elves in the weather department said, we broke a record! If I wasn't the Goddess of Love, I'd kill you right now!"
"Not the reaction I was expecting?" Jerm replied. He could see her cheeks were flushed, which he learned early in their courting was not a good omen.
"Not the reaction you were expecting?!" she yelled. "What did you want me to do, leap joyously into your arms?!"
"Look," He began. "I'm sorry. I should have told you what I had planned."
"Yeah, you should have. I would have tried to talk you out of something this crazy! Why in Tartarus did you come here? You know I gladly would have met you at your apartment." Aphrodite told him.
Jerm nodded. "Look, the twenty fourth was a few days away. I really wanted to see you."

Jerm could see a flicker of a smile on her face. "I had hoped you wanted to see me as well."
"Of course I did." She told him. "Jerm, I need to tell you something."
"Please, let me finish. I did want to see you, but I needed to ask you something."
"Jerm?" Aphrodite interrupted. "Please allow me to finish."

Jerm nodded.

"Have you ever wondered?I?this is so difficult. I-Jerm, do you know?" she sighed.

She walked over to him and hugged him. "Jerm?I love you. I'm sorry I never told you before. It's just that with being immortal, I-I've lost a lot of loves in my time. I-its hard to watch someone you care for leave this plane of existence, while you remain. As I look back, I can see that I thought I loved them, but that all changed when I met you. I have no doubts that you are my soul mate."
Jerm smiled at her. "I've thought the same about you. This makes things a little easier."
"What are you talking about?" Aphrodite asked.

Jerm reached into his pocket and pulled out a small black box. He opened it. Inside was a slightly tarnished diamond ring.

"Sorry it's not sparkling. I tried to clean it the best I could. This was my mother's last gift to me. She told me that when I met the right girl, I was to give this to her."
"By the gods!" She exclaimed. "You're proposing, aren't you?"

Jerm nodded. "Aphrodite, will you marry me?"

Aphrodite's thoughts seemed like they were buzzing in her mind at a hundred miles per hour. She did want to spend the rest of her life with him, but the whole mortal thing?no. She wasn't going to lose something great due to a technicality. Mrs. Claus said the small things would sort themselves out. If only she could somehow talk to Gabrielle?

Aphrodite smiled to herself. She just found her answered.

"Jerm?" she began. "Please know that whatever you tell me in the next few minutes, I will indeed marry you. I give you my word. Just hear me out. As I told you before, it's very hard to lose someone you love deeply. I have the power to make sure it never happens again."
"How?" Jerm asked.
"I can make you an immortal. You would never age, but there are still ways for an immortal to die. When I came here to Christmas Town over one hundred years ago, I had with me the final piece of Ambrosia. It's a small piece, but it would make you immortal."

Jerm thought for a moment.

"Aphrodite, are you sure you can put up with me for eternity?" he asked.

She smiled. "I guess so. Is that a yes?"

Jerm looked into her eyes. "Only if it will make you happy."

Aphrodite smiled again. "Of course it will!"

She then waved her left hand over her right hand. A small pink and silver box appeared. She opened the box. The final piece of Ambrosia was the size of a raspberry. She gently pulled the piece out of the box and handed it to Jerm. He smiled, then ate her last piece of Ambrosia.

As she watched, a thought came to Aphrodite's mind. What if it wasn't enough?

"Jerm?" she asked. "I want to make sure that it worked. So I have an idea. I'm going to transfer some of my power to you, just to be sure, okay?"

"How is it done?" he asked.
"It only takes a touch and some concentration." She answered. "But in your case?"

She walked over to Jerm and kissed him deeply. A pink aura began to surround the two for a minute. Jerm could feel energy coursing through him. Then the aura vanished. Aphrodite smiled.
"How do you feel?" they asked each other at the same time. They laughed.

"What's the package you were carrying?" he asked.
"Oh this." She said, handing it to him. "It's for you. I?I knew how important it was to you, so I had our R&D department fix it up. Go ahead and open it."

Jerm opened the gift. He smiled. It was a deep blue, long sleeved shirt. On the front was the familiar red 'S' on a yellow background. "Thank you. I'll treasure it always."

"Now," Aphrodite said. "We have a lot of planning to do. But first let me introduce you to a few friends."

Aphrodite showed Jerm around Christmas Town. She introduced him to Xena, Delorean, and the Clauses. Soon it would be spring and the two would be married.

Little did Jerm, Aphrodite and Xena know what would be in store for them?

Chapter 1: The Heist

December 22nd, 2006

Somewhere in the United States?

The black sky lit up like it was day as the lighting bolt flared. The crack of thunder that came a few seconds later seemed to almost shake the ground. The rain pounded against the glass windows of a tall skyscraper, the headquarters of Mars Inc.

Inside the enormous office complex, on the top floor, a lone figure stood at the glass window, watching the storm outside. The figure stood in a black suit, black shirt and deep red tie, hands clasped behind his back. His black hair was slicked back and his goatee was neatly trimmed. His dark eyes took delight in watching the awesome power the storm possessed. This was a time of meditation for him, a last minute run through of his plans, making sure everything was perfect.

The elevator behind him dinged, letting him know that someone had arrived. He already knew who it was. His assistant. Well?she was a bit more than that. After all, they only had been together for over two thousand years?

The young woman stepped off the elevator. She removed the false glasses she had been wearing, and loosened her blonde hair from its ponytail. She wore a black suit jacket, red blouse, black skirt, nude colored nylons and black pumps. She removed the suit jacket and flung it onto a near by chair. She worked as a secretary at Mars Inc, balancing the books. The company looked like it was just a regular software giant, but it secretly funded money to anyone who wanted to start a war in any country. The being at the windows thrived on violence and war. It gave him power.

"The mortals have left for the day, Ares." Callisto said and she stood next to him, watching the lighting storm.
"Good. How'd we do today?" Ares, God of War, asked his associate.
"Alright." She replied. "We've made a lot of money. But according to the stocks, AmTech is still out doing us."

Ares made a fist and pounded it into his other hand. "I would love to know where they came from. So we were second highest in the market."
"Third, actually." Callisto told him. "Mrs. C's Cookies outdid us today."

Ares let out a groan. Those two companies seemed to spring up over night, and it's been a battle in the stock market since.

"How are the preparations up north?" He asked, turning to face her.
"Our headquarters is nearly finished." She answered. "The foreman tells me that they should be done early morning of the twenty fourth, just as we hoped."
"Excellent."Ares said. "Nothing can stop us this time. Was the call made?"
"Yes." Callisto replied. "A small town will be holding a last minute Christmas parade. He'll be sure to show up. The sentiment of that old fool will be his downfall. But Ares, what is so important about his sleigh?"
"Ah?" Ares said, his eyes shining with excitement. "It is said that Santa's sleigh has powerful magic. On the twenty fourth of December, however, its power is amplified one hundred fold. With that sleigh, I can cause all types of chaos, giving myself all the power I need."

The God of War smirked. "I'll have the power of ten grinches; plus two."

"Do you think anyone can stop us?" Callisto asked, as she walked over to the mini bar. She poured two tumblers of brandy and returned to Ares' side, offering him one.

"I've thought about that." Ares answered. "In the old days, I'd be worried that Xena and that annoying sidekick of hers would show up in the final stages and completely ruin everything. But she and the brat are?well?history."

Both Ares and Callisto laughed as lighting lit up the dark night?

Somewhere else in the United States?

Mara Jenson and her seven year old son Tyler were walking back to their car in a dimly lit parking lot. Mara carried four bags at once, while her son tried to aid her in carrying one other. Ever since Tyler's father took off to Sweden with his 'secretary' shortly before Tyler was born, life had been the pits. The two were just scraping by, but with the economy the way it was, Mara was fearful they would soon lose their home. Things could not get any worse. That's when she heard the footsteps behind them.

"Mom?" Tyler began to say, but Mara hushed him.
"I know, baby. Just a few more feet to the car." She soothed.

Unfortunately, Mara and Tyler never made those couple feet. She didn't look back to see her pursuers, and that cost her. The two were closer than what she had thought. The first grabbed Tyler while the second viciously spun her around. Her attacker grabbed a fistful of Mara's long brown hair.

"Let my mommy go!" Tyler defiantly yelled as he struggled with the young man that held him.
"Shut up, kid." Snapped the first man, still holding onto Mara's hair.
Mara's attacker's dark eyes locked with her bright green ones.

"Now listen, lady." Her attacker's voice whispered. "If ya scream even once, yer kid gets it. Show her the blade, Stan."

The thug that held Tyler brandished a long bladed knife from his back pocket.

"Now." Continued the slime that held Mara. "First, yer gonna give us all yer cash. Nice and easy like."

Mara slowly handed the thug her purse, which he grabbed maliciously from her and handed it towards Stan. His eyes narrowed as he looked Mara's trim figure over.

"Now?" he whispered. "You and I are gonna have a little fun."

So that's what it comes down to. Mara thought to herself. If I scream, they'll kill my son.

Mara thought her heart was going to burst through her chest from the way it had been beating. Her breathing was beginning to speed up as well. She couldn't panic, for Tyler's sake.

"I-I don't care what you do to me." She said, trying to keep her voice from quavering. "But not in front of my son."

The thug smirked. "Of course."

Mara turned her back to her attacker to unlock the car. The thug turned to his buddy and gave him a 'thumb's up'. Then he screamed in pain. The punk looked down to see a small arrow sticking in his thigh. He immediately dropped to his knees yelling.

His buddy Stan turned around as well. Standing a few feet away were two women. One was tall and had short black hair and brown eyes. She wore a black trench coat, black shirt, black tights and black boots. She was holding a crossbow the size of a small pistol. The second girl had long red hair and green eyes. She wore a brown leather jacket which was unzipped, a black T-shirt with white letting that read, "The Force is strong with this one." She also wore blue jeans and white sneakers.

The injured punk screamed to his associate, "Don't just stand there! Kill 'em!"

Stan released Tyler and began walking towards the two young women, spinning his knife around.

"Allow me." The red head said to her friend.
"Please, by all means." The other said.

The young red haired woman stepped forward to meet her attacker. Stan took his knife and made a lunge towards her middle. The young woman caught his wrist and twisted it, until there was an unnerving crack, causing Stan to howl in pain and fall to his knees.

"Be thankful we're not allowed to use lethal force, scum." The brunette hissed as the two walked passed the incapacitated thugs.

"Who are you?" Mara questioned the women as she put herself between them and her son.

"Relax, sister." The red head smiled. "We're friends. I'm Tina and the serious one is Miranda."
"Please come with us." Miranda said to Mara and her son.
"I don't even know you." Mara told the two women.
"Please forgive Miranda." Tina smiled. "We need to get you someplace safe. These two belong to a large gang of thugs. We can protect you, but only if you follow us."
"I told you I don't know you." Repeated Mara.
"Mommy," Tyler spoke up. "They're the good guys. They beat up those bad men who were going hurt us. We can trust them."
"Look Ms." Miranda sighed. "If you want the truth, here it is. We're Amazons. We always travel in two. Tina is my protégé. She's not yet a fully trained Amazon warrior."

Miranda then took off her trench coat and rolled up her left sleeve. On her shoulder was a tattoo of a silver disk with a brown quarterstaff through it.

"This is our symbol. When a woman joins the ranks of the Amazons, they receive this tattoo on their left shoulder. Tina, being an initiate, wears a pin."

Tina then pointed out the small golden pin on her jacket.

"We don't know the particulars of your life, but we can take care of you. We have a safe house not far from here. From there the choice is yours. You can stay a few days, and then go back to your home, or you can choose to join us and become an Amazon yourself."

Tyler looked at Tina. He smiled. "I like your shirt."
"Thank you." Tina smiled back.

"So?you're like Jedi!" He said. "You're Miranda's padawan."

Tina smiled at the small boy. "Yes. In fact, I am a Jedi. But I can assure you I'm no Anakin Skywalker."

The small boy looked at the young woman quizzically. "But?Anakin brought balance to the Force."
"No he didn't. He broke Padme's heart, and killed millions." Tina argued.
"You haven't seen Return of the Jedi yet, have you?" Tyler told the young woman.
"No?I was going to watch it tonight when we got back." Tina admitted.
"I'm sorry." Mara blushed. "He's a bit passionate about Star Wars."
"It's okay." Miranda smiled. "So is Tina."
"If you're a Jedi, where's your lightsaber?" Tyler asked.
"Yes, Tina." Miranda added with a smirked. "Where's your lightsaber?"
"I'm working on it." Tina huffed.
"I guess it can't hurt to follow you." Mara told the two women.

The four walked two blocks when they rounded the corner to see a large building across the street. In bright green letters read the word 'AmTech.'

"That's our destination." Miranda told Mara and Tyler.
"AmTech?" Mara question. "I've heard of them. This company just started a few years ago. I read it rated one of the best places to work in the U.S."
"Correct." Miranda nodded. "It's short for Amazon Technologies. We have the most advanced state of the art Research and Development departments around."

"May I ask a question?" Mara said.
"Of course." Tina nodded.
"If I decided to stay, what would happen?" Mara questioned.
"Well?it depends." Miranda began. "If you just want to stay, you and Tyler would be transported to a secure housing project where you could live the rest of your life. There are many who live there that do not wish to become Amazons. If you wish to become an Amazon, you would be taken to the island to meet the queen. She would interview you and decide if you would become an initiate. If so, you would be assigned to an Amazon for training. When you've completed your training, you would be taken back to the island for the test. If you pass, you would become an Amazon warrior, and assigned a sector. Tyler could stay with you until the age of fourteen. He would then stay at one of the afore mentioned housing areas, until he turned eighteen, when he would have to leave."

The four walked up to the doors of the AmTech building. Miranda placed her hand upon the scanner. After a few seconds, a side door opened. The small group entered.

The lobby appeared to look just as a business lobby would after hours. Tina led the way to a small elevator. After the four entered, Miranda placed her hand on another scanner. The device flashed for a few seconds, then turned green.

A voice spoke. "Destination?"
"New arrivals, please." Miranda answered.

The elevator began its decent.

"Your queen lives on an island?" Mara asked, truly interested in her change of fate.
"Well?" Tina began. "Yes. There is an island where she reigns. When things get really hairy, then she personally comes into play. She's been in quite a few battles recently. Right now she's in seclusion."
"For what?" Mara asked.
"It's going to sound crazy." Miranda began to explain. "But they say our queen is immortal. Legends say that she's waiting for her friend to return. When this friend comes, the queen will continue their journey together, fighting for the greater good. Because she is immortal, she has the pain of watching those she cares for leave this world. She recently lost a very good friend. When this happens, the queen goes into seclusion to grieve for a few days. She can be reached if there is an emergency that requires her attention."

Mara nodded. She did have a very strong sense of right and wrong. Perhaps her destiny lay with becoming one of these Amazons. As the elevator continued it's decent, Mara found herself wishing to meet this mysterious and mystical queen?

On the Isle of Artemis?

Gabrielle and Jamie, her bodyguard, walked through the forest of the small island that was home to many Amazons. The isle was the size of Alaska, and was recently recognized as a sovereign nation. They had begun trading with other countries. Gabrielle had seen many changes throughout the years.

Her most favored was A.S.P., which stood for Amazon Security Patrol. A.S.P. would respond to global threats with a secret strike team that would slip in and neutralize said threat, then disappear without a sound. Jamie was the head of A.S.P.

Thanks to AmTech buildings around the globe, the Amazons were in almost every nation in the world. AmTech headquarters was located on the isle of Artemis, which Gabrielle had founded one thousand years before. Being an immortal had its advantages, but also its drawbacks. When a good friend would pass, Gabrielle would exile herself here, to allow herself to grieve.

"Jamie, how are things in the U.S.?" Gabrielle questioned.
"Do you mean our stocks and such? We're very high in the stock market, beating out Mars Inc. from what I'm told."
"No, how are things in general?" Gabrielle said.
Jamie sighed. "Just like everywhere else in the world, your highness. Crime, violence and hatred are almost at an all time high. Honestly, something just doesn't seem right."
"I know. Ares, the God of War, has really caused a lot of strife and chaos over the years. He's gaining power, Jamie." Gabrielle told her loyal friend.

Gabrielle sadly smiled. "You know, in the old days, Xena and I would have found Ares, and stopped him."
"You still can, your highness." Jamie told Gabrielle. "I'm more than willing to fight alongside you."
Gabrielle smiled. "Someday, my friend, but I'm still waiting for the return of my friend. When she comes back, the regent will take over, and you'll need to protect her."
"Where are you going?" Jamie asked.
"I'll go back to traveling with her." Gabrielle said.

A hurt look came over Jamie's face.

"You're a great friend, Jamie, but you'll be needed here. You're also the head of A.S.P. Those lucky enough to reach that level will need your guidance."
"I understand, your highness." Jamie said.

As the two continued their walk, Gabrielle began to think of the many adventures she and Xena had shared. She missed her friend very much. Her thoughts then turned to Aphrodite. Gabrielle hadn't seen her in over a year, and the Goddess of Love usually checked in on her. Gabrielle wondered what Aphrodite was up to?

Christmas Town, the North Pole?

Aphrodite glanced out the window that was in her office at the Claus' toy factory. Santa came to her a few months ago and asked her to start a letter column for a few months. It began in the Christmas Town Gazette as Dear 'Dite. It became a sensation. Santa then thought to try the column globally using the internet. Within a month, she was answering love letters from all over the world. She always made it her first priority to answer the elves' letters first, because they were like a family to her.

She also had toned down the use of her powers, because she wanted to stay under Ares' radar. She looked out the window again, this time allowing her gaze to fall on a small house that was a few hundred yards away. It was a red brick ranch with a gray roof. The chimney billowed gray smoke into the cold December air. She smiled. That was her house. And she knew that Jerm was there, waiting for her to get off work in an hour. She and Jerm had been married for close to six months. Aphrodite had to admit that this was the first time in a very long time she had been happy. Just then, there was a soft knock at her door. She turned to see Xena standing in the doorway, hold little Delorean, who was now four years old.

"Hi!" Delorean smiled.
"Hi, Sweet pea!" Aphrodite beamed.
"Thanks for watching her while I have the self defense class for the elves." Xena told the Goddess of Love.
"No problem." Aphrodite said.
"She brought some cookies and toys." Xena said. "Are you ready to stay with Aphrodite?"

Delorean nodded, and reached towards Aphrodite. The Goddess took the small child into her arms. As Xena turned to leave, Delorean reached into the small bag she had.

"Xena!" the child called out.

The warrior princess turned to see Delorean offering her a cookie. She walked over and took the treat from Delorean.

"Thanks, Delorean!" Xena beamed.

She took a bite of the cookie, waved to the two, and walked out of the door.

"What were you doing at the window?" the child asked Aphrodite.
The Goddess smiled. "I was looking at something. Would you like to see?"
"Yeah!" Delorean exclaimed.
"Okay." Aphrodite smiled.

As she walked towards the large window again, Aphrodite could see her house. She smiled again. She couldn't wait to get home?

Jerm easily carried the television and VCR into the kitchen. He had to admit, it wasn't as heavy as he thought. He plugged both in and turned back to the stove. The pasta was done, and he was about to try to cook desert. Ever since his engagement to Aphrodite, Jerm began watching the Food Network. He was slowly becoming a good cook. He looked back at the table. He had set the table, and had two pink candles waiting to be lit. The salad was already on the table. He had also gone out earlier and bought rose petals. He sprinkled them from the front door to the bedroom. He wanted everything to be perfect. He only had dessert to make. He picked up the remote and turned the TV on. Then he hit the play button on the VCR. The image of a brunette with blonde highlights and brown eyes appeared on the screen.

"Welcome back to Thirty Minute Meals! I'm Rachel Ray, and we're ready to make our dessert."

"Okay, Giggles." Jerm said. "Show me what to do."

Jerm had started calling the host of the cooking show 'Giggles' after he saw an episode where she laughed for half the episode while she cooked.

'Now our dessert today was borrowed from a friend of mine, Ms. Paula Deen." The host continued. "We're making Bananas Foster."

Jerm glanced over toward the stove, making sure he had the ingredients as Rachel named them.

"Oh!" the hostess said. "I forgot the bananas! You can't make Bananas Foster without the bananas!"

Rachel laughed at herself, which caused Jerm to chuckle.

"I've had this dish before and it is delish!" the hostess said as she continued cooking.

Rachel continued talking and showing how to make the dessert.

"Now comes the exciting part!" Rachel said to the camera. "We're going to add rum to this, then set the pan on fire. Don't worry about measuring the amount of rum, just eyeball it. Make sure to stay away from the stove when you light the match and place it near the pan. You don't want to singe your eyebrows off!"

The hostess laughed again. The camera showed her pouring the rum into the pan with the bananas and then lighting it with a long matchstick. As the pan caught fire, Rachel jumped back and laughed again. She explained that the small fire would burn itself out.

As she poured the finished bananas over a piece of pound cake, she added some vanilla ice cream and a sprig of mint to it.

"Now how good does that look!" Rachel exclaimed. "I can tell you right now that this is going to be Yum-o!"

The camera then showed the hostess' smiling face.

"That does it for now. I'm Rachel Ray, showing that you can make you and your honey a very romantic dinner in less than thirty minutes!"

Jerm turned the TV and the VCR off and turned his attention to the stove. He began cooking the bananas in butter as Rachel had explained. When it came time to add the rum, he turned to the counter beside the stove. There sat eight different kinds of rum. He didn't know what kind to buy, so he just grabbed one of each kind they had. Jerm kept the receipt, so which ever he didn't use he could take back.

For a few seconds, his thoughts drifted back three months ago. He had wanted to plan a surprise for Aphrodite, because she had been really working hard on her advice column. She loved roses, so he had decided to run down to the Christmas Town flower shop and buy a dozen. He had gotten a late start, and after locking the house, Jerm had begun running down the street. Knowing that he was late, Jerm ran as fast as he could. That was then the 'incident' occurred. Before he knew what was happening, things were blurring around him. When he stopped, he was standing in the middle of Italy. He figured he was there anyway, and bought some flowers from there. Then he figured if it happed once, why not twice. He began running again. This time it seemed easier to see what was going on around him when the speed kicked in. He was able to get back to the North Pole in plenty of time to greet his beloved wife with the flowers. She was very surprised to see flowers from Italy, and asked where he got them. He simply told her he ran out for them. He didn't tell her about the 'speed boost', because she had been a little worried about what Ares had been up to and he didn't want to add to her trouble. Since then, Jerm had been practicing his new ability.

He grabbed a bottle of rum from the counter and opened it. The bottle read, "Pirate Polly's Caribbean Rum. So good you'll be asking, 'Why is the rum gone.'" He eyeballed how much rum he mixed in with the bananas. Just then his eyes began to burn.

There must be some residual effects of the onion I put into the pasta sauce. He thought to himself.

Jerm then turned to grab a match and he couldn't find one.

Where the devil are the matches! I thought sure we had some! He thought as he rubbed his eyes. Wow, that was one strong onion.

He turned and looked at the pan with the bananas cooking in it. This is just great! All I wanted was a nice dinner for Aphrodite! She's been working really hard on her advice column. She's been worried about what Ares has been up to. I know that she's worried about me as well! Leave it to me to foul things up for her!

That's when it happened. Two red beams of energy lanced out from his eyes and hit the pan with the bananas cooking in it, causing a massive fireball to erupt. Jerm tried to turn towards his right, causing the two crimson beams to hit the rum bottles on counter, causing an even bigger fireball to explode, blasting the roof of the house into orbit. As suddenly as it had started, the beams of intense energy had stopped.

"What was that?!" he muttered.
He could hear the wail of the sirens from the Christmas Town Fire Department. The phone on the wall began ringing.

"Hello?" Jerm asked into the receiver.
"Jerm, this is Christmas Town Construction. Did your roof just enter space?"
"Uh?yeah?I guess so." Jerm replied.
"We're on our way over to put a new roof on." The elf on the other end of the phone told him. "Baxter and the Big Guy are on their way over as well."
"Uh?thanks." Jerm said, and then hung up the phone.

Oh boy. He thought to himself?

Kimmy stood in her fighting stance, eyeing her opponent on the other side of the sparing mat. She wore a red and green karate uniform. She was the best in her self defense class. Her opponent was none other than Xena. After classes, Xena would give extra lessons to Kimmy, because the warrior princess had told her she had potential. The extra sessions would always end with Kimmy and Xena in a duel. The goal was to knock the other off their feet. Xena always won these bouts, but Kimmy kept trying. The last time, she almost had Xena, but that infernal Baxter thought they were actually fighting and tackled her to the ground.

"Anytime you're ready." Xena told Kimmy.

The elf took a deep breath and blew it out slowly. She slowly approached the warrior princess. Then without warning, Kimmy began throwing punches and kicks. Xena blocked all of them with very little effort. Then Xena took the offensive with two roundhouse kicks, which Kimmy was able to dodge and counter with a strike to Xena's abdomen. Xena smiled and backhanded Kimmy, causing the elf to spin in a circle, but she still stood. The two went at each other, both throwing punches and blocking them at the same time. Then Xena went for a foot sweep, taking out Kimmy's legs, and knocking her to the ground.

"You did a lot better this time, Kimmy." Xena told the elf as she offered her a hand.
"Thanks." Kimmy said. "I've been practicing."

Just then, there was the sound of an explosion.

"What was that?!" Kimmy exclaimed.
"Let's find out." Xena said.

The two walked over to the console in the wall and Xena pressed a button.

"This is Xena in the self defense training room. What's going on?"
"No need to worry, Xena. The roof to Aphrodite and Jerm's house just blew off again. We're sending crews over for instant repairs before the snow storm hits." The voice over the loud speaker informed the warrior princess and Kimmy.
"Thanks. Xena out."

"How in the world did that happen?" Kimmy asked.
"My guess is that Jerm was cooking again." Xena told the elf.

The two girls looked at each other for a second, and then began laughing.

"I'd better head back up to Aphrodite. She'll want to check on Jerm as soon as possible." Xena said.

Kimmy nodded, still laughing. Xena waved and rushed back to Aphrodite's office?

"See, that's where you and Xena live." Aphrodite smiled as she pointed out a small house to Delorean. "And Jerm and I lived over here."

Delorean nodded.

Just then there was a loud explosion, followed by the roof of one of the houses soaring into the darkening sky.

Oh no, not again! That's the fourth roof this month. Aphrodite thought to herself. I hope he's alright. As soon as Xena comes back, I'll get home.

"Boom!" Delorean exclaimed, as she laughed and clapped her hands.

Aphrodite had to smile. She walked away from the window, her mind still concerned for her husband?

Santa Claus and Baxter walked through the front door of the home of Aphrodite and Jerm. Baxter, as usual, began looking around the house as Santa walked over to the young man.

"What happened this time?" Santa asked.
"Well?I was trying to make dinner, and the dessert sorta exploded." Jerm told him.
"I see." Santa said, watching as the ever efficient construction elves were already placing the new roof on the house. "Watching the Food Network again, weren't you?"
"Yes sir." Jerm answered.
"I understand why you're trying to cook Jerm. I really do. But?I'm sorry; I have to cut you off from the food network until after New Years. Then I'll have Baxter add it to your cable again."
"But Santa!" Jerm protested. "This is when they have all the best shows on! I can't miss Giggles' 'Christmas Dinner in Sixty' special!"
"I'm sorry, Jerm." Santa replied.
"I'm sorry, Santa." Jerm apologized. "I'm not trying to be a trouble maker."
"You're not, son." Santa told Jerm as he placed a hand on the young man's shoulder.
"Who's Giggles?" Baxter asked as he joined them.
"Rachel Ray." Santa answered. "You'd have to watch the show sometime."
"I see." Baxter said in a confused voice. "Any way. You and Aphrodite really need to work on your house cleaning skills."
"Why do you say that?" Santa asked his R&D elf.
"Didn't you see the mess of petals on the floor to the front door? They lead all the way to the bedroom. And there's even more on the bed!"

Jerm's face flushed two shades of red. Santa glanced at him and began laughing.

"I've been thinking, Jerm. I may have a job for you. Come over to our house around six thirty tonight, okay. And I promise, after the holidays you can resume watching the Food Network." Santa said.
"Yes sir. I'll be there at six thirty." Jerm agreed.
"Good. Come along Baxter. We have some last minute things to do." Santa said.
"I'll be there in a second, Santa." Baxter told his boss.

The elf waited a few minutes and then spoke.

"Here's the deal." He began. "I'll keep the Food Network on your television, but I need you to help me get someone to?like me."
Jerm thought for a moment. "Who?"
"I cant' say right now. I just know the moment I saw her, she captured my heart forever." Baxter answered dreamily.
"Oh no." murmured Jerm.
"For instance, why do you have flower petals all over the house?" Baxter inquired as he drew a pencil from his pocket protector and his note book.

It figures. He would ask the more?intimate questions first. Jerm thought to himself.

"Well, Baxter." Jerm began slowly. "If you want a girl to fall for you, then you have to do romantic things for her."
"And throwing flower petals on the rug is romantic how?" Baxter questioned.
"Well?" Jerm began, his mind racing for an answer. "Tell me, Baxter, have you done anything for this?lady you like?"
"Of course." Baxter said. "I've given her bikinis to wear."
"That's not really romantic, Baxter." Jerm said. "You have to get to know the girl. Find out what she likes; what her turn-ons are."
"Throwing rose petals on the floor and on the bed is romantic?" Baxter asked.
"It?can be." Jerm responded, feeling his face flush again.

Just then, Aphrodite appeared in a puff of pink smoke and sparkles.

"Hi honey, I'm home!" she said with a smile as she looked at the new roof.
"Aphrodite, what are your turn-ons?" Baxter asked, whirling around to face the Goddess of Love.

"Well?" she began. "I like flowers. Dinner is always nice?There's a lot of things, Baxter."
"So?do you like having rose petals leading from your front door to the bedroom?" Baxter asked inquisitively.
"What?" Aphrodite asked, turning to look into the living room.

I'll kill that little brat! Jerm thought to himself as he yet again felt his face flush.

"Yeah, I like that too." Aphrodite told Baxter as she gave Jerm a seductive smile. "Look, can we discuss this later? I need to talk to Jerm about some things."
"Like what?" Baxter questioned, his eyes glued to his notepad as he jotted notes down.
"Like what'll happen when I tell Xena who's been sending her the singing telegrams all week." Aphrodite replied.
"I know nothing of how those singers know where to find her! Have a great night!" Baxter said.

With that, the head of R&D raced out of the house, slamming the front door.

Aphrodite waited a minute, then looked at Jerm.

"Okay, what happened?" she asked as she walked over to him.

Jerm took a deep breath. "Well?I cooked us dinner. Then I was trying to make dessert when?"
"When what?" the Goddess asked.

Jerm had noticed that she was beginning to play with her wedding band, which did when she was nervous. He had wondered if she had taken it off. He had a short message engraved on the inside of the golden band, which as far as he knew she hadn't seen.

"The recipe for the dessert says to light the dessert on fire. I?couldn't find the matches. I felt as though I was ruining something special for you. The next thing I know, two red beams of energy hit the pan, causing the rum inside to blow up. Instinctively I looked to the right, causing the beams to hit the rum bottles on the counter. The resulting explosion sent the roof into orbit. Then the beams stopped." Jerm explained.

Aphrodite thought for a minute. "Do you think you could do it again?"
"You want me to try to blow something up again?!" he stammered.
"I think you may be able to control?what ever it is. Let's try it. Look at the candles on the table."

Jerm turned around to see the two unlit candles sitting in the middle of the table.

"Now concentrate on them. Nothing big, just light them." She said softly. "I know you can do it."

Jerm glanced at his wife, and then stared at the candles. He looked over at her again, then back at the candles. He concentrated has hard as he could. For a few seconds, there was nothing. Then two beams of red energy lanced out from his eyes, igniting the wicks of the candles. Aphrodite's eyes widen for a second.

"Hey! I did it!" Jerm said.
"I knew you could." She smiled at him. "So you're strong, and you have laser vision. I'm just sorry that this wasn't as fun as when we found out about your strength."
"You're the one who pushed me into the hot springs." Jerm remembered with a smiled.
"I made up for it." Aphrodite smiled slyly. "Speaking of which. I want to find out where those rose petals lead."

She took Jerm's hand and led him from the kitchen to the bedroom...

A few hours later?

Santa and Jerm stood in front of a large door in the back of the Christmas Town Toy Factory. Jerm was about to say something, when Santa placed a finger to his lips. Though it was muffled, the two could hear singing.

"Whoever it is has a good voice." Jerm whispered. "Who is it?"

As if in answer, the door to the workshop opened, and out stepped Baxter.

"Hi guys!" Baxter greeted.
"Hi, Baxter." Jerm said in surprise.
"Did Aphrodite like the rose petals?"
"Uh?well?" Jerm stammered, feeling his face flush again.
"Baxter, is the work on the sleigh done for the night?" Santa asked, quickly changing the subject.
"Yes, sir." Baxter said.
"Good." Santa said. "I'll see you later."
"Okay, see you guys later." The elf said.

When Baxter walked around the corner, Jerm said, "I?I don't believe it."
"Yeah." Santa said. "It's the whole nasally voice thing. Throws everyone off."

Santa opened the door and the two entered the room. Santa hit the light switch. Sitting in the middle of the large room was a red sleigh with green trim and black runners.

"This is our pride and joy." Santa said. "I wanted to show you the sleigh, in case you would ever need to know how it works. The maintenance is easy on it, because Baxter made it mostly computerized. Kimmy uses it to check the sub orbital toy distribution points. I know sitting around the house all day gets boring while you're waiting for Aphrodite to get home. I figured this could occupy you for a few hours a day. I also thought it would cut down on the amount of roofs blown off your house. The CTC is really on my back about the amount of roofs being blown off your house. This'll take some of the heat off both of us."
"Wait a second. You mean the reindeer can go into space?' Jerm questioned in amazement.
"No. In all actuality, the sleigh does all the flying. I could go out with just the sleigh, but the reindeer are all union. They'd strike and it would be a publicity nightmare. Besides, the kids love them." Santa explained. "Now sit down."

Jerm sat in the sleigh and slid over to make room for Santa. He looked at the front of the sleigh. A number pad and a blinking cursor were all that showed on the interior dash board.

"This is the password screen. When the correct code is entered, the sleigh's full systems come online." Santa said.
"Then it can't be something like 1224." Jerm said.
"Correct." Santa said. "It's 623."
"623?" Jerm asked.

Santa gave the young man a smile. "Think about it."
Jerm thought for a moment. "The only 623 I can think of is from the book of Romans."
Santa winked at the young man. "It's also the date when we start getting ready for Christmas here."

Jerm typed the code in. When he hit the 'enter' key, the three numbers changed color from white to green. Then the key pad and the screen seemed to get sucked into the dashboard. The whole board then flipped around, revealing a larger dashboard with various screens. On the far right hand side was a smaller key pad. Jerm's eyes widened in surprise.

"Impressive, isn't it?" Santa said.

Jerm nodded.

"This has everything you could think of: GPS, satellite radio, two way communications, a cup warmer to keep your hot chocolate warm, you name it." Santa said.

"What's that for?" Jerm asked as he pointed to the smaller keypad.
"Ah?that's a failsafe." Santa told him. "In case the sleigh was ever missing. Go ahead and type in the code. This time it is 1224."

Jerm typed the numbers into the keypad and pressed enter. The rest of the screens were once again sucked into the dashboard. In their place in the center of the large dash was a single red button.

"What does that do?" Jerm asked.
"Pressing this button will active the homing feature on the sleigh. On top of the toy factory is a beacon that runs constantly. If anything would happen to me while I'm out, pressing the button will set the sleigh on autopilot, which will then return it here." Santa explained.
"That's very useful." Jerm commented.
"Yeah, Baxter did good that time." Santa agreed. "Look, Jerm. I know its boring waiting for Aphrodite to get home. Baxter comes over to update the sleigh's computer functions. You could do the more regular maintenance. It wouldn't take up too much time, but it would be a great help."
"I guess it wouldn't hurt." Jerm said.

Just then, the wall console began beeping.

"Yes, this is Santa."
"Sir, you may want to get over to the communications department. Some new info is coming in." the voice replied.
"I'm on my way. Tell mama that I'll be late for karaoke."
"Will do sir." The voice replied.
"Jerm, you go ahead with Aphrodite to the entertainment hall. I'll be back shortly."
"Yes sir." Jerm answered.

Aphrodite sat in the entertainment hall, awaiting her husband, who left two hours earlier to meet with Santa. She periodically would glanced back at the crowd to see if he had arrived yet. Just then, Xena walked up to her.

"May I join you, Aphrodite?" the warrior princess asked.
"Of course you can." Aphrodite told her.

Xena sat down on the left side of the Goddess of Love.

"Where's Jerm?" she asked.
"I don't know. He should be here shortly. How's he doing in self defense training?" Aphrodite asked.
"Alright." Xena answered. "I'm really happy you found someone, Aphrodite."
"Thanks, Xena." The Goddess smiled. "Thanks for being a friend to the both of us."
"I should be thanking the both of you. You really helped me fit in to this strange, new world."
"It's no problem. We'll have to have you and Delorean over for dinner again. I'll make sure Jerm isn't cooking something as?explosive."

The two laughed?

Baxter entered into the entertainment hall, and looked around. Just then He saw Aphrodite and Xena talking. A wild idea sprang into his head. He quickly walked over to the two.

"Hi Aphrodite!" Baxter said.

Then the elf's eyes fell upon Xena.

"Hi, Xena." He said dreamily.
"Hello, Baxter." Xena grumbled.

She had this feeling that it was he who had been sending the singing telegrams all week, but she couldn't prove it.

"Where's Jerm?" Baxter asked.
"I'm not sure." Aphrodite said. "Did you need something?"
"No?nothing at all. Bye!" the elf said.

As Baxter rushed to the backstage area, Santa Claus walked on stage to a thunderous ovation.

"I have an announcement for all of you." He began. "I just got word that a small town in the United States is having a Christmas parade and they are in need of a Santa. I have already made the arrangements to be there. I know this is out of the ordinary, especially with only one day until Christmas Eve. I'll be taking two elves with me. Kimmy, you'll be in charge of things until I return. I thought you should know. Now let's sing some songs!"

Baxter found Jerm talking with two other elves. He knew them on sight as Evans from the Elf Liberation Force, or E.L.F. division, and Smitty, one of the Christmas Town Construction workers.

Smitty had short brown hair and brown eyes. He was built for an elf, because he was in the construction business. Evans was a tad taller than Smitty, with long blonde hair he usually wore in a pony tail, and bright green eyes. All three wore blue jeans, white t-shirts and sneakers.

"Jerm! I just had a crazy idea!" Baxter exclaimed as he rushed over to the three. "I want to sing a song to Xe--for that girl I was talking to you about!"
"Really, Baxter?" Jerm said. "We were just talking about something. Look, we need another for our Doo-Wop group. Rumor has it this will kick off the singing competition after Christmas. Smitty's heard that the grand prize this year is a week vacation and a dinner for two at Christmas Town's most romantic restaurant. Why don't you join us?"
"Wait a sec!" Evans said, as he pulled Jerm and Smitty away from earshot.
"What's the matter?" Jerm asked.
"Are you insane?! Having Baxter join us?! We want to win!" Evan said.
"Guys, trust me." Jerm said. "I know what I'm talking about.

Smitty and Evans looked at their friend as if he had lobsters coming out of his ears. The three walked back over to where Baxter was waiting.

"Well, Baxter, what do you say?" Jerm asked.
"Okay!" Baxter said. "What to I have to do?"
"Well?" Smitty spoke up. "We're going to sing two songs tonight. We could start with our original song, and then use one for Baxter. As luck would have it, we're last."
"Good idea, and I think I know the song." Jerm said. "Evans, go get Baxter a change of clothes. Baxter, do you have contacts?"
"Yeah." The elf answered. "But I can't stand them. I think the glasses make me more attractive."

The three rolled their eyes as they looked at one another. It took all their self control not to laugh. Evans and Smitty then took their leads to get some clothes for Baxter. Jerm sent Baxter to get his contacts. Then the four began to do some last minute rehearsing?

Aphrodite and Xena clapped as the singer left the stage. Aphrodite still couldn't find Jerm, and was beginning to worry. She had half a mind to ask Xena to go looking for them. The last act was now getting ready to appear on stage. Most of the singing was either terrible or the same song over and over.

"Well?" Mrs. Claus began. "We're at the final act for the evening. Here are the 'Christmas Town Boppers!"

The crowd clapped. Aphrodite and Xena's mouths dropped open.

"Is that Jerm?" Aphrodite asked.
"Is that Baxter?' Xena questioned in disbelief.

"Good evening, ladies and gentlemen!" Smitty's deep voice filled the entertainment hall. "I hope you've had a good time. We're going to do two songs for you this evening. The first is one of our favorites. We all have that special someone, and sometimes we need to tell them how we feel. Baxter, you're on."

Baxter walked past the other three, each giving him an encouraging pat on the back. He glanced back at Jerm.

"Remember, you only get one chance to make an impression." Jerm told him.

Baxter nodded and looked out at the crowd. He found Xena and locked eyes with her. As the music hit, Baxter began singing the first lines of 'Come Go with Me'?

As the song finished, the crowd was silent, for a split second. Then there was a thunderous ovation. Aphrodite's mouth just hung open in sheer surprise. Xena had a cool look in her eye as she rubbed her fingers over her chakram. Baxter handed to mic to Jerm, who announced that their next song would be 'Earth Angel'. The crowd quickly quieted down?

As the song finished, the crowd erupted again in applause. Santa whispered to Mrs. Claus, "I think we may have some competition this year."

The crowd filed out of the hall. Aphrodite and Xena waited for Jerm. A few minutes later Jerm, Smitty, Evans and Baxter walked out into the cold winter evening. Aphrodite hugged Jerm when the four reached to two awaiting women.

"Why didn't you tell me?" she asked.
"Are you surprised?" Jerm asked as he greeted Xena with a handshake.
"Well yeah." Aphrodite said. "That was like, totally awesome!"
"It's always good to have a few surprises. That's what marriage is about."
"You guys did well." Xena said. "I think the Claus' may have a challenge this year."

Xena shook hands with Smitty and Evans. When she reached Baxter, she simply gave him a pat on the back. "Good job, Baxter."

Baxter glanced over at Jerm and smiled. He saw Jerm nod his head in approval.

"I've got to get back. I'll see you later." Xena said.
"Yeah, I've got to get to work early tomorrow." Evans agreed.

Smitty nodded, and the three walked away.

"That was really fun." Baxter told Jerm.
"I'm glad you thought so. We practice every day around four o'clock. I expect you to be there. We're meeting at Smitty's place." Jerm told him.

Baxter nodded and walked off.

"Well, let's get moving." Aphrodite said. "I want to get to the office early tomorrow. I have a lot of emails."

The two walked towards their house hand in hand?

December 23rd.

It was a cold morning in Lucyville, Virginia. The skies were overcast and snow was gently falling to the ground. A cold wind blew in from the west, causing the bare branches of the trees to sway.

Vince Manilow was just arriving at his security job at the warehouse. He was in his mid thirties, with short black hair and blue eyes. He was to meet someone in three minutes outside the warehouse. He heard that an important guest was coming and he was just to keep patrolling the outside until three o'clock. Just then he heard a voice call him.

A young woman approached him. She had long blonde hair and brown eyes. She wore a black heavy coat. He didn't know what the meeting was about.

"I have a request of you, Mr. Manilow." She said.
"I hope I can help." Vince agreed. "What do you need?"
"I?and certain other parties would like you to take a nice extended break from twelve o'clock to three. We can make it work your wile." The stranger said.
"Oh really." Questioned Vince.

The young woman reached into her coat pocket and pulled out a brown envelope. She walked over and handed it to the security guard.

As Vince opened the envelope, he whistled. The woman smiled.

"There's ten thousand there. Money is no object to my employer. Succeed in this task, and he may have other?jobs for you." She told him.
"Do you come with the deal?" Vince asked with a smile.

She gave him a cold look. The inflection in her voice was an equally cold. "Only if you screw up."

The smiled melted off his face. "I'll just take an extended lunch."
"See that you do." She told him, now smiling.

Vince nodded, and then walked towards the warehouse door and entered. The woman reached into another pocket in her coat and pulled a small cell phone. She pressed a few buttons and held the phone to her ear.

"Report." The voice said on the other end.
"You were right, Ares. He was easily bought." The woman replied.
"Excellent work, Callisto." Ares said. "Let me know when you have the sleigh in your procession."
"Of course." Callisto said.

She folded the phone and placed it into her pocket. She smiled. All was going according to plan?

Santa arrived at the warehouse one hour before the parade was to start. He was able to glide the sleigh in under radar thanks to a new cloaking device Baxter had installed earlier that morning.

Xena had wanted to come along, but Santa insisted that things would be fine. He compromised by bringing two members of the new E.L.F. squad that he and Xena created.

The director of the parade walked into the warehouse and met with Santa. He was in his mid forties, had short brown hair and green eyes.

"Thank you for coming at such short notice, sir." The director said, shaking hands with Santa.
"Not a problem." Santa replied.

The director glanced over at the sleigh, then the elves. The first elf was male, whose name was Dean. He wore a green and red suit. He had blue eyes and short brown hair. The second elf was female. Her name was Jan. She too wore a green and red suit. She had long black hair and green eyes.
"Don't worry about them." Santa said. "They're here to watch the sleigh."
"Oh." The director said. "We have a security guard patrolling the outside. Come with me, and I'll show you the float you'll be sitting on."

Santa nodded at the elves, and then walked out with the director.

Two hours later?

A black box van pulled up to the back door of the warehouse. Out from the driver side of the van stepped a very large?being.

He stood at least 6'2 and had glowing red eyes. His skin was a dark gray color and he sported a dark goatee. His outfit consisted of a trench coat, long sleeved shirt, pants and boots, all black. The only his belt buckle showed any hint of color. It was a large sliver skull. He pulled a pair of dark sunglasses from a pocket and put them on.

From the passenger side of the van stepped Callisto. She wore a brown leather jacket, black shirt, black leather pants and black boots. She walked to the back of the van and opened it up. Out stepped six men. The first thing one would notice about them was that they were all identical. All were bald, and wore black suits with white shirts and black ties decorated with a sword in blood red.

"The sleigh's inside." Callisto told them. "Let's get it."

As she turned to walk, Callisto suddenly stopped. She turned around and began scanning the area.

"Is something wrong, mistress?" the dark skinned?being asked.
"It's nothing, Izod." Callisto told him. "For just a few seconds, I thought we were being watched."

The eight began walking towards the warehouse. The security guard was nowhere in sight?

On a rooftop a few yards away?

"Well?" asked the young woman, looking over the edge of the roof.

Miranda sighed. "Okay, I'll admit that these?hunches you get are always eerily correct. It's unnerving."
"I didn't mean that. I meant if you got a picture of her." Tina replied.
"Yeah. She looked directly at us too. It was freaky. I can't figure out how she didn't see us."
"The Force has a strong influence on the weak minded." Tina told her mentor.
"Yeah, whatever. I'm still not buying that you're a Jedi Knight." Miranda said.
"You'll believe soon enough." Tina said sagely.

Miranda rolled her eyes. "I just finished sending the picture to H.Q. We'll know in a few minutes who our mystery woman is."

The back door to the warehouse opened. The two elves turned their attention to the approaching visitors. They nodded to one another and removed their suit jackets. They also took note that six of the eight all looked identical.

"Well?didn't think the fat old fool would have guards." Callisto hissed.

She looked towards her lackeys. "Take them out."

The six nodded, and approached the elves. The elves looked at the oncoming threat and took defensive stances.

"You've got to be kidding me." Callisto laughed.

The first two reached out for the elves. Both elves quickly dodged and began throwing punches, taking their much bigger opponents by surprise. As the first two dropped, the elves rushed the next two and kicked them in the mid section, doubling them over. The elves then jumped on their backs, and launched themselves at the final two.

Callisto watched the fight with great interest.

Something's familiar about their fighting style. I wish I knew what it was! She thought.

Callisto had to admit that the elves were impressive. She fought a smile as the two half pints finished with her flunkies.

"Leave them to me, mistress." Izod spoke.
"No?" Callisto told her lackey. "Allow me."

She approached the elves, cracking her knuckles. She noticed the two shrimps switched their fighting stance from offensive to defensive. They seemed to be sizing her up. Whoever trained them did a good job.

Without warning, Callisto took a swing at Dean. He nimbly dodged her blow and slipped through her guard. He kicked her left leg, just behind the knee. For a second she staggered. That's all it took for Jan to slip in and kick her right leg, at the same place. Callisto fell to her knees. Before she could get up, both elves delivered roundhouse kicks to her head. Both blows simultaneously slammed into her head, causing her to fall face first to the ground.

Izod took a step forward, but Callisto stopped him with a raised hand as she got up. She wiped her mouth, which had a trickle of blood flowing from her lower lip.

"I'm impressed. You drew first blood. I've underestimated you." She hissed.

Then Callisto let out a demonic scream, which stunned the elves for a second. She then back handed Jan with her right hand, sending her spinning to the ground. Dean was sneaking in behind her. Callisto thrust her left elbow backwards, hitting him in the abdomen. As he double over, Callisto followed through by bringing her left arm into his face, knocking him out.

She then turned her attention to Jan, who had recovered and now was getting ready to attack. She led in with a right hook, which Callisto caught. Callisto smiled hideously as she twisted the elf's arm until there was a sickening crack. To her credit, Jan didn't scream. Callisto then brought her left knee into the elf's face, knocking her out.

"Are you okay, mistress?" Izod asked.
"Yes." Callisto. "They surprised me. But there was just something about their fighting style."
"We should kill them." Izod told her.
"I agree." Callisto said. "But we're now running behind schedule. Besides, it'll send a message to the old man."

Izod nodded.

"Get these idiots up and start moving the sleigh." Callisto ordered.

Up on the rooftop?

"Are you okay?" Miranda asked her partner.
"I'm not sure. I sense much hatred and anger from the warehouse." Tina told her.
"Okay?" Miranda rolled her eyes. "Do you want to go down and investigate?"
"No. You're phone will be ringing soon." Tina told her.

Again Miranda rolled her eyes. "Of course it wi-"

Just then, Miranda's cell phone's ring tone sounded.

How does she do that?! The elder Amazon thought furiously.

She looked at the screen.

"Our information is coming in." she informed Tina.

A mini image of the woman they had photographed came up. Flashing red letters scrolled across the screen, indicating that it was of highest priority. At the bottom of the screen was small message. Miranda gasped. The phone fell out of her hand.

"Miranda!" Tina said, rushing over. "Are you okay? What is it?"

Miranda looked at Tina. "Tina, its Callisto."
"What?" Tina asked. "You mean?"
"Yeah. That Callisto." Miranda said. "Our orders are to report to the nearest AmTech. Queen Gabrielle will meet us there for a report. This is big."

Tina seemed to be off in another world. Suddenly she rushed to the edge of the roof.

"What's the matter?!" Miranda asked.
"They're leaving." Tina said. "Do you have one of the new tracers?"
"Yeah." Miranda answered with a confused look on her face.

She reached into her belt pouch and pulled a small disk the size of a silver dollar. She pressed the small red button on it. She then handed the disk to Tina.

Tina took a few steps back and closed her eyes for a second. Then she began running towards the ledge of the building they were on.

"Are you insane?!" Miranda yelled.

Miranda watched as her partner jumped from the ledge of the building to the next one. The young woman did the same to the next building, until she was even with the black box van. They had just loaded something into it, but Miranda couldn't tell what it was. She watched as Tina threw the small tracer onto the roof of the box truck as it began to pull away. A few minutes later the young red head returned.

"I?You're crazy." Miranda said. "Did you look to see what they were stealing?"
"It looked like a sleigh. The kind you take a ride in during this time of year." Tina replied. "We'd better get moving. We don't know how long it will take Gabrielle to arrive."

Miranda nodded. "You'll have to teach me that roof jumping thing."

Santa returned to the warehouse a few hours later. The sight that greeted him sickened his heart. Dean had blood running from his nose and lower lip. Jan had a black eye and her right arm hung limply at her side.

"Great Scott!" Santa exclaimed. "What happened?"
"You should see the other guys." Dean.
"We're sorry, Santa." Jan apologized. "She got the sleigh. When we woke up, it was gone. We really tried to fight them off."
"I know you did." Santa said gently. "What did they look like?"

The elves took turns describing the eight intruders. A dark look came over Santa's face.

"Let's get you two the hospital. Then we have damage control to start." Santa informed them. "Now each of you take hold of my sleeves."

The elves each took a sleeve. Then Santa laid a finger aside of this nose, and the three vanished?

Chapter 2: Strike Force Santa Assemble!

Artemis Isle?

Gabrielle and Jamie entered the Research & Development area of the island. The head was a young woman named Amberlyn. Gabrielle was fond of the young woman. She had found Amberlyn in a basket sitting outside of a hospital in London. She took the small infant and raised her on the isle. Gabrielle named her after the tuft of amber colored hair on her small head. The child grew up and went off to college. When she graduated, Amberlyn returned to the island to help. Her hair had kept its unique amber color. She also had deep green eyes. She wore gold rimmed glasses.

The R&D area was full of computers and other high tech equipment. The young woman Gabrielle raised was sitting in front of the large main computer.

"Good morning, Amberlyn." Gabrielle greeted the young woman.
"Morning, mom." the girl replied "You okay?"

Gabrielle smiled. "Yeah. Anything new?"
"Nothing yet. How are you Jamie?"
"Good." Jamie replied.

Just then, an alarm sounded.

"What's going on?" Gabrielle asked, her fighting instincts beginning to flare up.
"I'm not sure." Amberlyn said, typing furiously.

Multiple images began flooding the large computer screen.

"A pair of Amazons in America are requesting information on an individual they just photographed."

An image of a blonde haired woman flashed up on the main screen. Various search engines were busily gather all know Amazonian information on the woman. Gabrielle's eyes narrowed.

"Callisto." She said coldly.
"Are you serious?!" Jamie said. "I mean, I've heard you tell stories, but?"
"Yeah, that's her." The Queen of the Amazons confirmed.
"But mom, shouldn't she be dead?" Amberlyn asked.
"There's only one person with enough power to bring her back: Ares." Gabrielle said.
"The God of War?" Jamie said. "Oh man. This is big. Really big."
"That means he's up to something." Gabrielle said. "Amberlyn. Return a message to the pair that found her. Stress that they are NOT to confront her. I'm going to the U.S. Find out their location; tell them I request a meeting with them. I'll meet them in the nearest AmTech building."
"I'm coming too." Jamie said.
"Your duty is the regent." Gabrielle reminded Jamie.
"Not this time, your highness. If it is Callisto, you'll need your best fighter with you. That's me." Jamie told her.
"Fine." Gabrielle said. "I'll meet you here in thirty minutes. I need to change into something more?fitting."

Gabrielle couldn't believe it. Callisto. Deep down, she still hadn't forgiven the vile wench for killing Perticus. The Queen of the Amazons arrived in her quarters. She removed her Amazon outfit, and put on a white T-shirt, blue jeans, sneakers, and a brown jacket. She grabbed her sai off the wall and strapped them to her legs, underneath her jeans. She then returned to the R&D room.

Jamie was waiting for her at the door. She had her strawberry blonde hair pulled back in a ponytail. She wore a black T-shirt, black jeans, sneakers and a black jacket. She too wore a black belt which had multiple pockets.

"Are you ready, your highness?" she asked.
"While we're out in the field, I insist that you call me by my name. We're equals." Gabrielle said.

Jamie nodded.

The two entered the R&D room again. Amberlyn was already waiting for them.

"First off, mom." The young woman said. "You're not going to be able to just walk around with your normal sai. Remember, America has changed since a few years ago."

Gabrielle nodded and removed her weapons. Amber took the weapons and handed a different pair of the ninja daggers.

"Fortunately, we've finally figured out that meteor that hit the island a few years ago." Amberlyn told the other two. "The metal is very lightweight and untraceable to all metal detectors. It's one of the main reasons we've used it in all weapons. It's also practically indestructible. We've decided to christen it 'Vulcanite'."

The young woman then handed her adopted mother a small cylinder, the size and thickness of a flashlight. It had a single button on its side.

"Go ahead. Press the button." Amberlyn encouraged Gabrielle.

Gabrielle took the object, and then press the button. The cylinder began to grown until its length was about five and a half feet long.

"We call it the collapsible quarterstaff. When in its smaller mode, it can clip to your belt." Amberlyn explained as she handed Jamie one of the new quarterstaffs.

"Score!!" Jamie exclaimed excitedly as she pumped her arm. "Will I be able to smuggle my crossbow in?"

Amberlyn nodded. "You should have no problems, as long as you don't go showing it off."

The young techie then walked over the table and picked up an object wrapped in white cloth.

"I figured you'd want this, mom." she said, handing it to Gabrielle.

Then the young techie reached into her lab coat and pulled out two small silver flip phones.

"These are the latest in our cell technology." Amberlyn explained. "They have a built in camera, G.P.S. and voice command."

The other two women each took one of the sleek new phones.

"Be careful out there, girls." Amberlyn smiled.
"What ever happened to the blue crystals that were found in the meteor?" Gabrielle asked.
"They were useless to us. They didn't give off any radiation, so I gave them to one of the Amazons who had asked for them. They didn't give off any radiation."
"Incidentally, what are the names of the two women who found Callisto?" Gabrielle asked.
"Uh?just a sec." Amberlyn answered.

She sat down at the computer and began typing. "Their names are Miranda and Tina. They're on their way to the nearest AmTech building."

Gabrielle nodded. "Alright, Jamie. Let's go."

The Queen hugged her adopted daughter and then the two began the walk to the harbor. From there the two would travel to the hidden island where the Amazon's jet was kept?

Santa arrived in the communications center of E.L.F after dropping the two injured elves at the Christmas Town Hospital. He asked for the pubic address microphone, which one of the elves handed to him.

"Please forgive the interruption. This is Santa Claus. I need all available personnel to meet in the cafeteria immediately. Thank you."

A few minutes later, everyone was in the cafeteria. Aphrodite, Xena and Jerm were sitting at one of the tables. Xena had a plate of Mrs. Claus' cookies. When Jerm reached over for one, she glared at him. He quickly pulled his hand back.

"Thank you for coming so quickly." Santa began. "Wait a sec. Where's Kimmy?"

Just then, the doors to the cafeteria were thrown open. In strode Kimmy. Her short black hair was sticking straight up at all different angles. She wore a pair of red and green footie pajamas. She carried in her left hand a large coffee mug with the words 'I don't do mornings!' in bold white writing. Under her right arm was a stuffed pig.

"This had better be good!" Kimmy declared. "Today's the 'Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends' marathon, and they're about to show the 'Hot in Topeka' episode!"

Santa shook his head.

"I regret to inform you that we are now under a Code Grinch Alert. Someone has stolen the sleigh." He told the room.

The cafeteria was silent for about two seconds. Then sheer pandemonium erupted. Elves began rushing around screaming things like, "Christmas is ruined!" and, "Now what will we do?!"

A cold look was in the eyes of Kimmy.

"I'll be back." She said coolly.

Then the elf walked out the door. It took a few minutes for Santa to regain order in the lunch room.

"I know it's disheartening." Santa began. "But things are not yet lost. We still have hope. We must continue our plans for tomorrow night. We have to remember that this is about the children."

Santa then turned and looked towards Xena.

"Xena, I want you to take Jerm and begin searching for the sleigh. After the meeting, I'll discuss things in detail."
"Wait a second!" Aphrodite said. "If Jerm goes, I'm going too!"
"Not now, Aphrodite." Santa warned.
"Chris." Mrs. Claus said just as sternly. "Could I see you and Aphrodite in the kitchen?"

Santa saw the steely look in Mrs. Claus' eyes.

"Jerm, Xena. Get what you think you may need from your homes and return here. I shouldn't be long."

"Now, what's going on, Heidi?" Santa question his wife.
"Why are you sending Jerm into this? How dangerous is this mission?" Mrs. Claus asked.
"And why can't I go?" Aphrodite demanded. "I know how Ares works. I would think I would be valuable to something like this!"

Santa took a deep breath. "Jerm knows how to operate the sleigh."

"So? You could easily write down the passwords for Xena." Mrs. Claus said.
"True. Aphrodite, why do you want to go?" Santa said, changing the subject.
"I just told you. I know Ares." The Goddess of Love answered, not looking at Santa.
"Why else?" Santa asked.
"I?I want to be with my husband. Surely you think the same thing when you go out and are delivering the toys." Aphrodite said.
"She's right." Mrs. Claus spoke up. "It's hard watching you leave, and trying to stay up waiting for you. I miss going out after you return. They're honeymooners, Chris. Let them be together."

Aphrodite looked into Santa's eyes. "Please."

Santa looked at the two women. "Alright. But only because you know Ares. Now I have a meeting to conclude."

Santa then walked back out to the meeting. Mrs. Claus waited for the doors to shut before she spoke.

"What is it really?" Mrs. Claus asked.

Aphrodite sighed. "I know how Ares works. I know that Callisto is somehow involved. The two of them are pure evil. I know Xena can take care of herself. But?"
"Ah." Mrs. Claus smiled. "You're protecting Jerm."

The Goddess of Love nodded.

"Then both of you be careful." Mrs. Claus said.

Aphrodite nodded, then for what ever reason possessed her, she hugged Mrs. Claus.
"Thank you." The Goddess said, and then rushed out.

Santa returned to his meeting.

"Now we have contingency plans that can be put into effect. Someone needs to let the Reindeer Union know that those nine slackers are going to work. Are there any questions?"

Just then, the doors to the cafeteria flew open. In strode Kimmy again. This time she was dressed full combat fatigues. At her side was a large combat knife. She had bandoleer strapped across her chest. Her face was painted in camouflage, and she had a red headband tied around her head. Strapped to her back was a large gun that resembled a small cannon. In her hands she carried a machine gun.

"Put me in, coach! I'm ready to crack some skulls open!" she told Santa.
"Kimmy, where on earth did you get those?" Santa asked.
"Sorry, boss man. I can't tell you." Kimmy replied.
"I hate to tell you this, but I need you here. There's a lot of work that needs done." Santa told the elf.
"But I can help!" Kimmy said.
"Not this time, Kimmy." Xena said, as she returned. "We'll fight together someday. But Santa needs all the help he can get. Trust me."

The warrior princess wore a black leather jacket, white T-shirt, blue jeans and sneakers. Her chakram was hooked to her belt.

Kimmy nodded. Shoulders slumped, the elf returned to her room to change.

"Okay people, we have a lot to do and a short time to do it. Let's go!" Santa ordered.

The cafeteria cleared out. Only Xena, Aphrodite, Mrs. Claus and Santa were left in the room.

"Where's Jerm?" Santa asked impatiently.
"He's probably still at home, getting whatever he thought he would need." Mrs. Claus said. "They live a little further away from the toy factory than Xena does, dear."
"I'll get him." Aphrodite said.

The Goddess vanished in a puff of pink smoke and sparkles?

Jerm raced into the bedroom. He knew he didn't have much to offer, but he was going get one thing. He wasn't sure why Santa was arguing with Aphrodite. She knew Ares better than most. If she wasn't coming, then he was going to take a reminder of her. Jerm pulled open the dresser and pulled out the Superman shirt she had made for him from the year before. He quickly put it on under his sweatshirt. He turned to leave when he saw Aphrodite come into the room.

"I was just on my way back. Are you okay?" he asked.
"I told them I'd get you, babe." She smiled. "And the boss had a change of heart. I'm coming with you two."
"Then we'd best not keep the others waiting." he told her.

She nodded. Then she pulled him close to her and kissed him.

"What was that for?" he asked when they parted.
"Just to say I love you." Aphrodite replied.

The two vanished in a puff of pink smoke?

When they reappeared, Santa began his debriefing.

"From what the two elves that had accompanied me said, Callisto was the one who stole the sleigh. She had group of thugs with. Six of them were identical. We were told a security guard would be making rounds, but Jan and Dean said he never showed. Unfortunately that's all the intelligence I have. I'm not even sure why Ares would want the sleigh."
"Then let's get moving. Callisto has a big lead on us." Xena said.
"Just a second, Xena." Santa said. "The three of you need to get down to R&D. We've had some advanced technological breakthroughs recently."

Xena froze in place. "R&D? Are you sure? I'm sure I already have those things from my last outing."
"Xena?" Santa said.
"Come on, Santa. I'm sure I really don't need to go there." The warrior princess smiled sweetly.
"Xena, you have to go there." Santa said.
"But Santa?" Xena began to say.

Jerm and Aphrodite tried not to laugh. It wasn't like Xena to whine about anything.

"I'm adamant about this, Xena." Santa said.
"Go ahead, Xena. I'll have a plate of cookies for you when you guys get back." Mrs. Claus said.

The others could see the wheels turning in the warrior princess' head. Mrs. Claus' cookies versus dealing with him.

"Fine." Xena huffed. "But if he lays a finger on me, I'm breaking his hand."

The three headed to the R&D division.

When they arrived, Baxter was waiting for them. He was a tad taller than the normal elves, so his pant legs stopped above his ankles. He had his favorite pocket protector in place, and a red and green tie. He went back to wearing his black, horn-rimmed glasses. He was holding a cup of coffee.

"Welcome everyone!" He announced in his nasally voice.

He then turned and looked at Xena. A dreamy look came over his face again. "Hi Xena."
"Hello, Baxter." Xena sighed. "Santa said you had some new gadgets for us."
"Do I!" Baxter exclaimed. "Let me show you!"

In his excitement, the poor elf accidentally threw his coffee on Xena's white T-shirt.

"I'm so sorry!" he said. "I'll get a towel."

The elf ran off. Jerm couldn't help himself, and began laughing. Xena turned and glared at him. He instantly stopped. A few seconds later, Baxter returned with a cloth. He walked up to Xena, and was ready to dry her front. Before he could touch her, Xena grabbed the cloth, and quickly dried off. Aphrodite could tell she was trying not to strangle the elf.

"I'm really sorry about that." Baxter said.

Xena sighed. "Its okay, Baxter."
"So what's the new gear?" Jerm asked.
"Huh?" Baxter asked, staring at the wet spot on Xena's shirt.
"Baxter!" Aphrodite said. "Come on! That's not cool."

The elf snapped out of his daze. "Right! New stuff. Come with me."

He led them in front of a black window.

"First off, we've finally perfected the stealth outfits. See this window? This registers body heat. Jerm, walk behind it."

Jerm walked around the corner of the black window and then walked behind it. His thermo image lit up on the window. They three watched as he walked from one end of the glass to the others.

The elf then walked over to a drawer and pulled out a few black garments. He handed them to Xena.

"Here you go." Baxter said. "Try putting these on."
"Wait a second." Xena said. "Are these even my size?"
"Of course they are!" Baxter told her. "I estimated your measurements. Your bust is?"
"Alright!" Xena shouted over him. "I don't need it broadcasted! Is there a changing room?"

Baxter pointed to a small room off to his left.

The warrior princess entered the changing booth. A few minutes later she returned. The outfit was composed of a black tunic, black belt, black leather pants, and knee high black boots. A bandoleer was strapped across her right shoulder and attached to her belt.

"Baxter!" she exclaimed. "These are a bit too snug!"
"Really?" the elf questioned. "I'm sure I estimated correctly. Maybe you should tell me what your measurements are."
"BAXTER!!" Aphrodite and Xena exclaimed at the same time.

Aphrodite snapped her fingers. Xena could feel the outfit begin to loosen.

"Thanks." Xena said to the Goddess of Love.
"No problem, warrior babe." Aphrodite smiled.

"Okay, Baxter." Xena said, really trying to rein in her temper. "What do I need to do?"
"Simply walk around the black pane of glass, just as Jerm did a few minutes earlier."

Xena nodded. Then she strode around the dark pane of glass and began walking. Jerm, Aphrodite and Baxter watched for a minute. Xena then walked back to the three.

"Well?" she asked.
"Nothing." Jerm told her. "It seems like the outfit works." "Well of course they work!" Baxter said indignantly. "I created them."

The elf then walked back over to the drawer and pulled a few more pairs of the stealth garments. He handed a set to Jerm and Aphrodite.

"You didn't estimate our sizes, did you?" Jerm asked.
"No." Baxter said, rolling his eyes.

"Here's the cloak, in case you need it." Baxter said to Xena, handing her the cloak.

Aphrodite looked at the clothes.

"Wait a sec. I'm a Goddess. I don't give off body heat unless I choose to." She said.
"But you'll ruin the whole stealthy?cool looking black outfit theme." Baxter protested.

Aphrodite sighed and snapped her fingers again. Her negligee changed from its normal pink color to black. A belt hung lopsidedly on her hips.

"Much better." Aphrodite smiled.

She noticed that Jerm was looking at her.

"How, do I look, babe?" she asked.
"Honey?"Jerm began. "You look as?"

Jerm's face flushed. "You look sexy, honey. But?we'll be in public. Maybe you should wear the outfit."

Aphrodite gave her husband a pout look. Then the Goddess of love then sighed again. She snapped her fingers, and the outfit was on her. The belt still hung lopsidedly on her hips, and the tunic was a bit low cut.

"How's that?" she asked Jerm.
"Better." Jerm smiled.

Baxter nodded his head in approval.

Jerm then entered the changing booth. He returned a few minutes later. His outfit was almost identical to Xena's, only he didn't have the bandoleer and his tunic's neck was in the mandarin style. He had the cloak fastened around him as well.

"Not only do these block your body's heat from heat sensing devices, but they also will keep you warm. Now follow me." Baxter told them.

The elf led the three over to a small table with various items on it. He picked up three small gingerbread men. Each of the small gingerbread men were the size of a fifty cent piece. They were brown, with gold around the edges. The eyes of the small gingerbread men were black.

"What are those?" Aphrodite asked.

Baxter smiled. "These are my pride and joy. They're our new state of the art communicator devices. All you do is tap the gingerbread man and address whom you wish to speak with."

Baxter tapped one of the small objects.

"Baxter to Momma's kitchen."
"This is Momma. What do you need?"
"Nothing, ma'am. Just showing off the new communicators. Baxter out."

Xena's eyes widened as a large grin came a cross her face. Now there's something I can use!

"They're ingenious, Baxter!" Xena said. "Where did you come up with the idea?"
"From my favorite T.V. show: Star Trek: The Next Generation. Captain Picard is the greatest!" Baxter told them.
"Oh please." Jerm said. "Picard's an idiot! Everyone knows the greatest Star Fleet Captain is none other than Captain James T. Kirk!"

A look of rage played across Baxter's face. "Kirk?! I'll have you know?"

"Okay." Aphrodite interjected. "Let's focus here."

Baxter handed each of them one of the gingerbread men. The three fastened them on the left side of their outfit, just above the heart. The elf then handed them each a candy cane that was about a foot long.

"And these are?" Jerm questioned.
"Our new grappling hooks. They have a five hundred yard spool of line that can hold up to two tons. You fire the hook by pressing the stud in the middle." The elf answered, pointing to the firing mechanism on the candy cane. Then he picked up a small vial.

"What's that?" Xena asked.
"The big man thinks that some of Ares and Callisto's men are actually demons using an illusion for cover. We've created a pill that allows you to see the demons for what they really are." Baxter explained.

He handed each of them a single green pill, which the three placed in a pocket on their belts. Baxter then handed Xena a large dagger and sheath.

"I thought you could use this." He said.

Then he noticed her chakram hanging off her belt. "Oh! I forgot to tell you. Xena, there's a pouch on the back of your tunic. You can place your chakram there when you don't need it."

Xena nodded as she took the dagger from the elf. She drew the blade out and examined it. Satisfied, she placed the weapon back in its sheath and attached it to the bandoleer.

"Where's our car, Q?" Jerm asked.

Baxter grinned, catching the James Bond reference. He affected a British accent.
"Well 007, we can't give you a car this time. We do ask that you bring back your equipment in the pristine condition it was handed out in."

Then Jerm and Baxter began laughing. Xena and Aphrodite shook their heads.
"There's just one more thing." Baxter said.

He turned back to the table and grabbed an item. He handed the device to Jerm. It appeared to be a high tech calculator.

"What's this?" Jerm asked.
"It's our new experimental tracking device. It should help you track the sleigh's location." Baxter explained.

Jerm nodded and placed the device in a pocket on his belt.

"You guys are all set. Good luck and be careful." The elf told them.
"The best bet is to return to the warehouse where the sleigh was taken. There may be some clues." Jerm said.
"Good thinking, honey." Aphrodite said.
"Wait a minute!" Xena said. "I'll be right back!"

The warrior princess rushed out of the R&D department. She returned a few minutes later carrying a small sack. In her left hand was a single cookie.

"I almost forgot these." Xena said.
"Who's the cookie from?" Jerm asked, pointing to the cookie in Xena's hand.
"Delorean. I promised her I'd eat it later." Xena answered.

The warrior princess placed the single cookie in a pocket on her bandoleer.

"Now we're ready." Xena said.
"I'll get us to the warehouse." Aphrodite said.

The Goddess of Love closed her eyes and concentrated. The three vanished in a puff of pink smoke, sparkles and rose petals?

Chapter 3: Reunion

Gabrielle and Jamie exited the cab that brought them to the Lucyville branch of AmTech. The flight into the U.S. was smooth. Since the United States was one of the few countries Artemis Isle had open trade with, Gabrielle had been granted diplomatic immunity. She could come and go as she pleased. They were fortunate to have an Amazon for the cab driver.

They entered the lobby of the building, which bustled with activity. The receptionist that greeted them was a middle aged woman, with streaks of gray in her brown hair. She wore glasses, and seemed to have an almost harassed look about her.

"Good afternoon, ladies. How may I help you?" The receptionist asked.
"Hello?" Gabrielle quickly glanced at the name plate on the desk. "?Mildred. We're here to meet with two Amazon, Tina and Miranda. Are they here?"
"I'm sorry, Ms. Do you have an appointment?" Mildred asked.

Gabrielle cocked an eyebrow. She could see Jamie beside her, beginning to get inpatient. She was about to answer the receptionist's question, when someone in the lobby let out a shriek. Both Jamie and Gabrielle spun about, each reaching for one of their weapons.

A young woman was staring at Gabrielle. She suddenly fell to her knees and bowed her head.

"Your Highness." The young woman said reverently.

Gabrielle's cheeks flushed a bit. It was the one thing she hated about being Queen. She had always thought herself equal with everyone else. She never thought herself more important than anyone. She was about to tell the young woman to rise, when she noticed that everyone else had fallen to their knees. Whispers began to fill the lobby.

Jamie, who always thought Gabrielle deserved the respect she got, nodded in approval. "Nice."

"Please." Gabrielle began. "Please get up. There's no need to kneel. I'm sure all of you have more important things to take care of."

The people in the lobby stood, but they still watched Gabrielle.

"Your Highness." Mildred said. "I'm truly sorry, but do you have any identification?"

Gabrielle slightly smiled as she showed the woman her right hand. On the right finger was the beautiful signet ring that was created for her.

"Please forgive me for asking." Mildred stammered.
"There's nothing to forgive." Gabrielle kindly said. "You're just doing your job."

The receptionist blushed. She then stood and walked around from behind her desk.

"Miranda and Tina arrived two hours ago. Please follow me." Mildred said.

She opened the double doors that led to the inter workings of AmTech. Just then, a loud voice boomed.

"What's going on here?! Why is everyone standing around?! Get back to work!!"

The woman with the loud voice had short blonde hair with gray streaks through out it and gray eyes. She wore a gray pantsuit and stood a head higher than Gabrielle.

"What is going on here?!" the woman demanded. "No unauthorized personnel is allowed behind those doors! Mildred, this is the second time you've done this today! Once more and your fired!"
"But Ma'am, it's Queen Gabrielle." Mildred stammered.
"Who are you?" Jamie asked, already not liking this woman.
"My name is Victoria VanHoffenstein, and I am the manager of this building, not that it matters to you. Mildred, did you even check for identification?!"

Jamie's temper was beginning to flare. She grabbed Gabrielle's right hand and showed it to the irritable woman.

"Will this do, Vickie?" Jamie demanded.

The woman glanced at the ring, then looked at Gabrielle. A look of total disgust showed on her face. "It will suffice. And my name is Victoria."

"Whatever, Vickie. Just take us to Miranda and Tina." Jamie told her.
"There's no need. I have already interviewed them and have compiled a report." Victoria told them.

Gabrielle's eyes narrowed to slits. "I asked them to meet me here. You're going to take us to them. Understand?"

Gabrielle and Victoria glared at one another for a minute. Jamie hoped against hope that Gabrielle would lay the woman out.

"Follow me." Victoria huffed.

The woman threw open the double doors and led the others through them. Word that the Queen had come to visit had spread through the departments like wildfire. People seemed to line the halls, just wanting to get a glimpse of their queen. Some knelt down, while others bowed. Some simply nodded their heads. But one thing was for certain: all the people smiled as Gabrielle passed. This seemed to irritate Victoria more and more as they approached. And that made Jamie smile.

Eventually Victoria led them to a large set of double oak doors. She flung the doors wide open. Miranda was sitting at the large wooden table of the boardroom. Tina was standing, as if she knew they had arrived. Miranda jumped out of her seat and bowed as Tina did.

"Your Highness." Miranda said. "Thank you for seeing us."
"Please, just call me Gabrielle." The Queen of the Amazons said.
"Yes ma'am." The two other Amazons answered.
"Please leave us." Gabrielle then asked Victoria.
"I don't think so." Victoria said, sneering at Gabrielle. "I run this building, and I have the right to be here."
Gabrielle's patience with this woman was beginning to wear thin. She noticed Jamie's hand was slowly moving towards her weapon belt.

"That may be." Tina spoke up. "But you must know that code 11A23 supersedes your authority. The Queen requires this room for a meeting. Those she sees fit to leave must do so."

Victoria glared at the young woman across the room from her. Then she spun on her heels and walked out. Jamie shut the doors. Gabrielle breathed a great sigh of relief.

"When I heard that you two found Callisto, I didn't think you'd show up here alive." The Amazon Queen said.
"That makes two of us." Miranda agreed.
"How'd you find her?" Jamie asked.

Miranda glanced over at Tina. "We just?stumbled upon her."

Gabrielle looked at Tina. The young red haired woman took a deep breath.

"Gabrielle?"she began. "The legends call you the Eternal Queen. You have seen many strange and wondrous sights in this world. I can't answer everything, but I?have?special gifts that few others have. I self taught myself how to use these?abilities for justice."

Miranda held her head in her hands.

A strange look came over the Amazon Queen's face. "I see. Please continue."

"I sensed something was amiss. So I convinced Miranda to help me investigate. When we arrived at the rooftop, Callisto had just gotten out of the van; I could?sense her anger and hatred. Miranda quickly took a picture, and we sent it to HQ for identification." Tina said.
"You both did well." Gabrielle said. "Did you see what they may have stolen?"
"Yes." Miranda answered. "It appeared to be a sleigh. You know, the type that Santa Claus would fly around in."
"Why would she steal a sleigh?" Jamie asked.
"Ares is behind this, I know it." Gabrielle said. "The question is why?"
"Too bad there's no way to follow them." Jamie said.
"Actually?" Miranda began. "Tina was able to get a tracking device on the top of the van they were using."
"You got a tracer on the van? Excellent work, girls." Gabrielle told them.
"So what's our next move?" Jamie asked.
"We need to keep an eye on Callisto. She'll lead us straight to Ares." Gabrielle answered.

The Amazon Queen pulled from her pocket the new phone Amber had given her. She flipped it open and dialed a number.

"Amber." Gabrielle began. "I have a question. Can you send the location of one of our tracking beacons to my phone? You can? It was one of Miranda's. Great! Thanks!"

Gabrielle ended the conversation, and then began pressing buttons on her phone. A minute later, a smiled appeared on her face.

"We got her!" she said. "Now we just need transportation."
"We have a car in the parking lot you may use." Miranda said.
"Cool!" Jamie said.

Gabrielle thought for a minute. "Ladies, I want you to come with us. Your talents may be useful."

Miranda, Jamie and Tina high fived one another. Gabrielle smiled. Jamie had trained Miranda before she became her bodyguard. Miranda's reports on Tina indicated that the young red head was well on her way to becoming a full fledged Amazon. They would be an asset if they got into a battle.

"You two get the car. We'll meet you in ten minutes outside." Gabrielle said.

The group of four began walking towards the large double doors when Tina suddenly stopped.

"What's the matter?" Gabrielle questioned.
"Victoria is behind the door, trying to eavesdrop." The young woman said.
"Are you sure?" Jamie asked.
"You may want to trust her." Miranda rolled her eyes. "She gets hunches. They're usually right."

Jamie grabbed the door and pulled them open. Victoria stumbled into the conference room. She quickly tried to regain her composure.

"Go to the parking lot. We'll meet you there." Gabrielle said.

Tina and Miranda nodded and walked out.

"I saw someone who used to stay at the island. I want to say hi. I'll meet you outside, Jamie." Gabrielle said.

Jamie nodded and watched as Gabrielle left the room.

"She dresses like a peasant." Victoria commented as she watched Gabrielle leave. "She shouldn't even be queen."

The manager turned to leave the room when she walked smack into Jamie. Before Victoria could move, Jamie grabbed her and slammed her up against the wall.

"Now you listen to me, wench." Jamie's voice was dangerously soft. "The next time she's here, you WILL show the proper respect to our queen. If you don't, you'll deal with me. Got it?"

Jamie slammed Victoria against the wall again.

"Y-Y-yes, ma'am." Victoria stammered.
"Groovy." Jamie said. "Now get lost."

She dropped Victoria to the ground and walked out.

"This is so exciting!" Miranda said. "We may get to fight side by side with the Queen!"
"Yes, I suppose." Tina said, obviously preoccupied.
"What? What's wrong?" Miranda asked.
"Something's not right. The Force is drawling us into this, but as for why, I don't know." Tina said.
"Tina, just try to enjoy yourself. It's not everyday you get to hang out with the queen." Miranda said.
"Yes, ma'am." Tina said, still thinking.

The four met a few minutes later. Jamie elected to drive, and soon they were on the road, following the directions from Gabrielle's phone?


Xena, Jerm and Aphrodite arrived outside of the warehouse where the sleigh was stolen from in a puff of pink smoke and sparkles. A single security guard patrolled the area. The warehouse was great gray building.

"Do you think that's the guard Santa told us about?" Aphrodite asked.
"Could be." Xena answered. "I want to get into the warehouse before questioning him."
"Are you okay?" Jerm asked his wife.
"Yeah, sweetie. That just wiped me out for a second. I'll be fine." Aphrodite answered with a smile.

The three waited for the guard to vanish around the corner before moving in. They quietly snuck into the large warehouse, which appeared vacant. The three then spread out, looking for clues. After brief search, they reunited.

"Nothing. Callisto covered her tracks well." Aphrodite said.

A strange look came over Xena's face.

"What is it.?" Jerm asked.
"Get ready." Xena warned.

Before Jerm could ask why, ten people jumped out from the shadows of the warehouse. Each was identical to the next. Xena stared at them as she took up a fighting stance. A smiled played on her face. Then she blinked. The camouflage surrounding the ten began to vanish. Her smiled broadened. Humans, she'd hold back on. She'd been holding back for over a year. But these were demons. She could cut loose on them.

Each of the creatures had long sharp teeth and glowing red eyes. Their skin was a deep green color and each of them seemed to stand at least nine feet tall. They all had bandoleers that crossed their chests and weapons seemed to be strapped to their backs, though what those weapons were, none could tell.

"Aphrodite, can you see their true form?" Xena yelled behind her.
"Eww! They're totally grodie!" she called.
"Jerm! Take that pill Baxter gave us and stay back. I'll handle these?things!" Xena told him.

Jerm nodded and reached into his pocket for the pill. Just then, his eyes seemed to go fuzzy for a moment. He blinked them furiously. When he looked back up at the group of baddies, he could see their true forms. He slowly made his way over to Aphrodite.

"Look!" one of them growled. "The female thinks she can fight us. You heard what the mistress' command was: kill any who come here!"

That was all Xena needed to hear. She yelled her trademark battle cry and somersaulted into the air, landing in front of the lead monster. With blinding speed, she backhanded the creature and followed through with a kick. The monster went spinning to the ground.

"Attack!" screamed another.

The other nine rushed the three. Xena wasn't too concerned about Aphrodite. After all, she was a Goddess. She was worried about Jerm, however. He was her friend, but he wasn't that good of a fighter. If these things got near him, they'd tear him apart. She had to protect him. She knew his wife would be watching out for him as well.

A second demon stepped up to Xena. Before he could move, the warrior princess had actually ran up his front. As she neared his head, Xena launched herself into the air. She arched her back, caused her to flip in the air. She used the momentum of the move to plant her two feet into his face, and ride him down to the concrete. She threw a round house kick at third, knocking him back. The fourth and the fifth ones approached her on either side, but the warrior princess was ready for them: she jumped into the air, kicking each hard with a leg. One was able to slip past her and made a beeline for Aphrodite.

Jerm was there, and before the creature could get close to the Goddess of Love, the young man threw a right punch, sending the monster across the warehouse into pile of barrels.

Xena quickly took a minute to glance behind her. Jerm was standing off to Aphrodite's side, looking as though he was guarding her. She turned her attention back to the demons in front of her. One was finally able to throw a punch at her, but she was able to nimbly dodge to the left and counter with a foot sweep. She then took to the air again and attacked the closest one to her. Xena spotted a pipe on the ground and was able to quickly pick it up. She then vaulted herself into the middle of a large group of the creatures. She placed the pipe in the middle, and began running a circle around it, kicking the creatures as she went.

Aphrodite waved her hand, and the creature approaching her was bond by a rope of various flowers. The monster smiled hideously at her. It's muscles began to flex, trying to break the rope holding it. Aphrodite smiled as it tried. One of the other monsters slammed into it and the two sailed into the air. They landed on the other side of the warehouse, courtesy of Jerm. He was slowly getting his confidence as he strayed from his wife's side.

The first demon that was thrown by Jerm into the barrels had finally stood up. He was wobbly on his feet. It reached behind its back and pulled out a gun. It grinned at Aphrodite as it took aim at her and pulled the trigger?

Aphrodite turned to see the creature aim its weapon at her and pull the trigger. Time seemed to slow down for her. She saw the odd bullet come flying at her. She wondered if Ares had actually found a way to hurt a god. She knew if anyone would find a way, it would be him. She knew this was going to hurt a lot, because she used a lot of her power to teleport them here. Jerm had picked up on it, and she didn't want him to worry.

She was just getting ready for the bullet to hit her when out of nowhere came a black blur between her and the bullet. She watched as the silver spinning projectile slammed into?her husband?! She couldn't believe how fast he had gotten in front of her. She watched as his body jerked from the impact. Then his eyes began to glow red for a minute and twin beams of crimson energy slammed into the creature, putting it down?

Xena turned to see the monster pull the gun out and take a shot at Aphrodite. She reached down for her chakram, but one of the creatures took advantage of her momentary distraction and connected with a well placed kick. She stumbled back, then smiled as she returned the favor, kicking the creature in its abdomen, then its head. She quickly looked back to check on the Goddess of Love. The creature was lying on the ground, with whips of smoke floating from its chest. Aphrodite held Jerm at arms length, and said something to him. Then hugged him.

What's going on?! She thought to herself.

Jerm was about five hundred feet from Aphrodite when he saw the creature fire its weapon at her. He knew that teleporting them here took some energy out of her. He didn't know what the weapon was or what it could do to her. His only concern at that very moment was for his wife. He used his new speed ability to place himself between Aphrodite and the bullet. The projectile slammed into his right shoulder. It didn't hurt as much as he thought. It stung more than anything else. He knew he had to put the monster down before it had time to fire a second shot. Jerm concentrated on the creature. Two beams of crimson energy lanced out from his eyes, hitting the creature in the chest. It bellowed in pain, then collapsed.

Aphrodite grabbed her husband and turned him around. She looked at his shoulder where the bullet had hit. There was no mark, just a small tear in the tunic.

"What were you thinking?!" she said. "You could've been killed!"
"You were in danger." Jerm told her. "That's first priority for me."
"You were way over there!" she pointed half way across the warehouse.
"Well?" Jerm hesitated.

Aphrodite hugged him. "Well discuss this after the fight."

Xena in the mean time was finishing pounding on their attackers. She had made a pile of them when she saw him at the door. It was the security guard. He was watching their every move. There was no way to reach him from where she stood.

Wait a sec! I don't need to chase him!

The warrior princess grabbed the large candy cane from her belt. Before the guard could react, she pointed the grappling hook at him and pressed the firing stud.

The hook of the cane launched out and caught on to his pants. Xena pressed the stud again and the winch inside began reeling in her catch. She went to clip the candy cane back to her belt when the guard took a swing at her. She dodged to the left, and smacked him, causing the security office to stagger. Xena then took the index and middle fingers of each hand and stabbed the guard's neck in two different places. The guard's eyes bulged and he fell to his knees. A small trickle of blood began to flow from his nose.

"I just cut off the flow of blood to your brain. You'll die in thirty seconds unless you start answering my questions, got it? Where were you when the sleigh was stolen?"

Xena glanced down at the name tag on the guard, which read, 'Vince'.

"I?went to lunch?" the guard stammered.
"A three hour lunch? That's a little long, isn't it Vince?" Xena asked
"A?lady came earlier?gave me an envelope with money. Told me?not to be around for a few?hours." Vince answered.
"What did she look like?" Xena question.
"Blonde?brown eyes. Cold personality?Said her employer had more work?for me if I didn't foul up this one."

Xena bent down placed her index and middle fingers on another spot of his neck and poked. The security guard gasped for air.

"It sounds like her." Xena said, turning to the other two.
"Her employer may be Ares." Aphrodite said.
"I want to have one more look around before we leave." Xena told them.
"What should we do with him?" Jerm asked.
"Let him go. He's no further use to us." Xena answered as she walked away.

Aphrodite looked at her husband. "So?when did you gain the speed?"
"A few months ago." Jerm said. "Remember the Italian flowers?"
"You ran to Italy?" she asked.
"Yeah. I've been practicing a little each day." Jerm told her. "I'm sorry I didn't tell you, but you've been?worried about things, haven't you?"

The Goddess of Love nodded. "I know Ares is up to something big. We?may not be able to stop him."
"We have to try, honey." Jerm told her.
"Did you know about the other?thing?" she asked.
"What? The?bullet bouncing off? No. I figured that it was really going to hurt." Jerm said. "But what can I say? You're worth it." Jerm answered.

Aphrodite smiled. "So?you're strong, can shoot lasers, are really fast, and invulnerable. Anything else?"
"No. I've told you everything else." Jerm said. "I just didn't want you worrying about me."
"It's my job, remember?" Aphrodite said.

Then she pulled Jerm close and kissed him.

"Okay you two. We need to get moving. Jerm, does that?gizmo of Baxter's work?"
"Let me give it a try." Jerm answered.

The young man pulled the device from his belt and began pressing some buttons.

"Okay." He said a few seconds later. It's giving me a list of coordinates. Aphrodite, can you get us there?"
"I can give it a try." She said.

The Goddess looked at the screen a second then the three vanished in a cloud of pink smoke?

They reappeared in what looked to be a large bog. The three were standing up to their knees in mud and water.

"Oh yuck!" Aphrodite said.
"Baxter?" Xena grumbled to herself.

Jerm pressed more buttons on the device. It gave off an odd sound, causing Jerm to slap it. Then the thing beeped.

"Try now." Jerm said, showing Aphrodite the coordinates.

The Goddess of Love concentrated, and three vanished again in a cloud of pink smoke?

Xena, Aphrodite and Jerm arrived at where Baxter's device indicated the sleigh would be. It was another warehouse. This one was painted black with white lettering on all four sides of the building which read, 'Mars Inc.'

It was close to twilight. The sky was filled with the colors of pink, purple, blue, and orange. It truly was a beautiful sight. A cold wind was beginning to blow in from the north.

"At least these outfits work." Jerm said.
"Yeah, at least they work." Xena said, pulling a few cookies from one of her pockets.
"Are you going to share?" Jerm asked.
"Oh, did you want one?" Xena smirked.

Aphrodite rolled her eyes. "I think you're obsessed with those."
"I am not." Xena countered.
"So what's the plan?" Jerm asked, eyeing the warehouse.
"We'll go in under the cover of darkness. Hopefully they're done traveling for the day." Xena told them.
"It appears we're at the back entrance." Jerm said. "It should be easy to enter." "Let's hope so." Aphrodite said.

Gabrielle, Jamie, Tina and Miranda approached the front of the warehouse. It was dusk, and the four agreed the shadows in the warehouse would be an advantage. A single security guard was stationed at the front door.

"We could overpower him easily." Jamie suggested.
"But they may send more guards if there are cameras outside." Miranda said.
"Leave this to me." Tina said.

The young woman approached the security guard.

"Hello, missy. How can I help you?" he asked.

The young woman looked deep into the guard's eyes. She made a slight gesture with her right hand.

"You will allow my friends and I to pass." She said.
"Uh?yeah. You and your friends can pass." The guard said.

The guard stepped to the left side of the door. Tina looked back and waved the others forward. Gabrielle was impressed.

"I thought sure you were going to hit him." She said.
"Let me guess." Miranda said. "Jedi mind trick?"

Tina nodded her head slightly.

"Really nice there, Tina." Jamie complemented.
"Thank you." Tina acknowledged.

The four entered the warehouse?

Xena, Aphrodite and Jerm approached the building. It was a few minutes past dusk. They had watched as the employees had left for the holiday. The warehouse was dark.

"What do you think the best way in is?" Jerm asked in a whisper.
"The roof." The warrior princess answered. "Everyone ready?"

The other two nodded. They pulled their candy cane-grappling hooks out and aimed them at the roof. Each pressed the firing stud on the base. Three hooks shot in the air and hooked onto the roof. They hit the winch button, and the three were lifted into the air. A few seconds later they were standing on the roof.

"Just as I thought. A skylight." Xena said.
"How do we get in?" Jerm asked.
"Aphrodite, do you have enough mojo to get us in?" Xena said.
"I think so. Ready?" Aphrodite said.
"Not yet. I want to take a minute and look around."

Xena circled the window a few times, watching the floor of the warehouse constantly. After a few minutes, she looked up at the Goddess of Love and nodded.

Aphrodite snapped her fingers. A second later the three found themselves on the floor of the warehouse. It was extremely dark inside.

"Be ready for anything." Xena whispered.

She suddenly began looking around. She sniffed the air.

There's something familiar here. She thought to herself.

"Stay close." Jerm told his wife as he looked around.
"I was about to say the same thing to you." She smiled.

"Did you see that?" Miranda gasped. "They just appeared!"
"Yeah. I don't like it." Gabrielle said.
"We can take 'em." Jamie said.
"Tina. Do you?you know?have any bad vibes?" Miranda asked.

Tina slightly smiled. "You said I was nuts."
"Yeah?well?now's not the time for debates." Miranda sighed.

The young red haired woman closed her eyes and stretched out with her feelings. Her eyes snapped open. There was something about those three?

"I'm not sure." Tina answered.

Gabrielle nodded. She grabbed the small cylinder from her belt and pressed the button. There was a soft snap as the staff grew to its full height.

"Let's go." Gabrielle said.
"Score!" Jamie said, grabbing her staff.

Out from her trench coat Miranda pulled her sword?

Xena's battle senses were ready when the attacks came. The warehouse was dark, so she couldn't see who they were, but she had counted four of them. Piece of cake.

She backhanded the first one with her left hand, sending them flying. The second came at her with a staff, which she was easily able to take and knocked their legs out from under them. The third came unarmed. Xena swung the staff. At the last minute, the unarmed opponent ducked and countered with a foot sweep. Xena managed to back flip away, and took a defensive stance, allowing her opponent to make the first move this time. The fourth also wielded a staff, but they seemed more interested in watching, which was fine for her, for now.

The unarmed attacker threw a side kick at the warrior princess?

"I don't like this." Aphrodite said. "Jerm, go find the light switch."

Jerm stared at his wife.

"Honey?I'll be fine. Trust me." She smiled.

The young man nodded and rushed off?

Xena dodged the third kick of her unarmed attacker. Whoever they were, they were good. It was almost like they knew her moves before Xena made them. This time she slide in close and was able to knock her attacker back with a blow to the stomach with the staff. The unarmed assailant stumbled back. It was all Xena needed. She brought her knee quick and hard, causing her opponent to double over. She then threw a vicious uppercut, sending the attacker to the ground?

Gabrielle watched as the mysterious stranger took out two of her best Amazons. Tina was doing extremely well. That was the one thing Miranda had always stated in her reports: Tina would never use a weapon. The stranger's fighting style was familiar as well. If it was Callisto, Gabrielle knew she was in for a fight. Just then, Tina was hit hard in the stomach. Then the stranger knocked Tina to the ground.

This is it. Gabrielle thought.

The Queen of the Amazons prepared herself for battle?

The final attacker strode in, staff in hand. They swung at the warrior princess, but Xena was able to block it and counter. This time the attacker blocked the blow and took a step back. They then planted the staff into the concrete floor and launched themselves at her. Xena was able to side step and swung her staff at the attacker, but the stranger was ready for that, and was able to roll away.

Something's not right here. Xena thought to herself. They're really good with that staff. There's something familiar about their scent as well. Whoever this is, I can't afford to hold back anymore?

This isn't Callisto. Gabrielle came to the conclusion as she rolled away from a blow from the stranger. Callisto would've killed the other three. This one is only fighting to protect themselves. They're good. Really good. And there's something about the style. But Xena taught me, and she's the best. I'd better get ready to come with everything I have.

The two combatants readied themselves to attack with all their skill. Just as they were ready to begin their attacks, the lights of the warehouse were activated.

The Queen of the Amazons saw the face of her opponent. She dropped her staff in shock.

"XENA?!" Gabrielle exclaimed.

The warrior princess saw her opponent's face. It seemed as though a fog had finally been lifted from her brain.

"Gabrielle?" Xena said, with a confused look on her face.

Chapter 4: Free Fall

Tears began welling up in Gabrielle's eyes. She reached out and touched the warrior princess' face. Xena smiled.

"It's really me, Gabrielle." Xena assured her.
"Uh?hey guys." Jamie said.

The Amazon Queen allowed her tears to cascade down her face she embraced her long lost friend. Aphrodite felt a surge of power return to her. Tina and Miranda slowly got to their feet. Gabrielle let Xena go as her eyes fell on the Goddess of Love. A feeling of rage came over her.

"You!!" Gabrielle yelled as approached the Goddess. "Why didn't you tell me!?! How long has Xena been back?!"
"Calm down, Gab. I know this is a shock. But?" Aphrodite spoke.
"A shock?!" Gabrielle screamed. "My best friend returns and you don't tell me?!"
"Hey guys?" Jamie tried again.
"Look, Gab. I'm trying to explain. I know you're mad?" The Goddess tried again.
"Mad?! I'm furious!!" Gabrielle interrupted again. "What, were you too busy with one of your boy toys?!"

Aphrodite's eyes flashed with anger as she placed her hands on her hips.

"Now listen here, princess. I'll let that one slide because I've known you for a while. Now the reason I couldn't tell you about the warrior babe is I was sworn to secrecy. I really wanted to tell you, believe me. When we found Xena, she was in a state of confusion, and for some reason, she didn't remember you. We don't know why. The boss thought that it would be too much of a shock for her, especially since time had moved on while she was frozen." Aphrodite explained. "I was about to let you know when he asked me not to say anything. He made me promise, Gabrielle. I'm a Goddess. I have to keep my promises."
"She's right, Gabrielle." Xena added. "When I?was freed, I was confused. They helped over the past year get my bearings, and explain things to me."

Just then, Jerm caught up with the others. "Is everything okay?"

Aphrodite nodded. "Just peachy."

"Alright." Gabrielle said. "I'll?okay, I shouldn't have gone off like that. Who are you working for?"
"Santa Claus." Xena said, as though this was perfectly normal.
"Are you serious?" Gabrielle asked, beginning to laugh.
"Yeah. His sleigh was stolen. We think it was Callisto." Aphrodite said.
"A sleigh was taken from that warehouse." Tina said.
"Wait a minute. Before we get talking any further, let introduce ourselves." Xena said. "Or things will get really confusing."

Xena introduced Gabrielle to Jerm. The Amazon Queen smiled, telling him that any friend of Xena was a friend of hers. She in turn introduced Miranda, Jamie and Tina.

Jerm reached to shake Tina's hand. As their hands touched, the two looked at one another and without a sound, fell unconscious to the concrete floor. Xena dropped to her knees and immediately felt for pulses. Aphrodite knelt down beside Jerm as Miranda did next to Tina.

"I don't get it. They're breathing. Their pulses are strong. What happened?" the warrior princess questioned.
"Look guys." Jamie said. "I'm not trying to be insensitive, but we have bigger problems."
"What's bigger than my husband falling to the ground unconscious!?" Aphrodite asked, her temper starting to flare.
"Them." Jamie answered.

The five looked up to see a large group of the demons approaching. Xena had sensed their approach. She wanted to lure them in as close as possible before attacking them. Now they were down two fighters.

"Isn't that weird." Miranda said. "They all look alike."
"They're demons. They're using some type of camouflage." Xena informed them. "Aphrodite, get the pills and hand them out."

Aphrodite pulled the small pills out from her belt and Jerm's and handed them to Xena. The warrior princess added her pill and handed them to Gabrielle.

The Queen of the Amazons blinked hard for a moment. Then she gasped.

"I-I can see them. I mean?they're hideous!" Gabrielle said.
"They look normal to us." Jamie said.

Gabrielle handed the pills to Jamie and Miranda, who took them.

"We've got to protect those two!" Xena said.

Aphrodite began playing with her wedding band. She didn't realize she was doing it until the golden ring slipped off her finger and landed on Jerm's chest. She picked up and was about to put it back on when something on the inside caught her eye. She looked and saw the band was engraved. It simply read, 'Dite, all my love, Jerm.

She smiled and caressed his face.

"Come on honey, wake up." She whispered.

The first creature rushed Gabrielle. It swung its massive arms at her. The Amazon Queen nimbly dodged out of the way and countered with a thrust to the creature's abdomen with her quarterstaff. She then followed through by swinging the staff upward and catching the demon under the chin. She immediately turned her attention to the next monster?

Miranda's sword flashed as she brought it through the creature's arm, cutting it off. She then threw a roundhouse kick, catching her opponent in the head, knocking it down. She was finding it hard to concentrate. She was too worried about Tina. What happened to her? Tina was the one who always had her back in a fight. Even if she didn't use weapons, which Miranda still didn't understand. But she knew Tina had a plan. She just hoped her friend was okay?

Jamie was just having the time of her life. She cracked the first creature across its head, dropping it like a rock. The second took a swing at her, but she was able to block the blow with her staff and countered by attacking the creature's mid section with repeated blows of her staff. She finished the combo with a high kick to the monster's jaw. As she got ready for a third demon, her eyes caught one of the creatures taking aim with some type of gun. With one smooth motion she collapsed her quarterstaff and drew her crossbow. She aimed the weapon and pulled the trigger. The silver bolt slammed home, catching the creature in the head. She fired two more shots, hitting her targets. She smiled as she put away her crossbow and grabbed her staff once more?

Xena's chakram found its mark as it slammed into the monster's neck. It returned to her hand and she hooked it back to her belt. One of the monsters was sneaking up behind her, but the warrior princess was ready. She let out one of her battle cries as she flipped over the demon and began throwing punches and kicks. She finished with a backhand, which sent the creature down. As she readied herself for the next attack, Xena saw that two of the demons had gotten past them and were heading towards Tina and Jerm. She bit out a curse and was about to hurl her chakram again when another creature rushed, causing Xena to change her focus to her attacker?

Aphrodite spotted the two coming towards her, hideous grins on their faces. She was still trying to wake Jerm up. As the two monsters reached the fallen heroes, Tina's eyes snapped open. She flipped up to her feet and began attacking one of the creatures. The Goddess of Love noticed that the young woman tried to draw the second creature away, but it was too focused on her and her husband. She was about to teleport herself and Jerm a few feet away when Jerm blink his eyes open.

"You're okay!" Aphrodite said, kissing his cheek. "What happened?"
"I?I'm not sure." Jerm told her.

He then noticed the creature coming at them.

"We'll have to talk about it later." Jerm said.

He was about to use his vision powers, when a silver dagger impaled the creature's neck, causing it to scream. A second later, Xena delivered a flying kick, sending the monster to the floor. She pulled her dagger out and attacked the next creature. Jerm and Aphrodite got to their feet.

"Do you hear that?" Jerm asked.

Xena strained to listen over the battle. "It sounds?like a truck."
"A truck?" Gabrielle added. "That's what they've been transporting the sleigh in!"
Tina pointed towards a door. "The sound is coming from there!"
"Everyone! Fight your way towards that door!" The warrior princess ordered.

The others nodded and did so. As the group arrived, the sound began to lessen.

"Great!" Xena snapped as she kicked one of the demons. "They got away!"

Twenty minutes later, the demons vanished.

"Is everyone alright?" Jamie asked as they regrouped.
"I think so." Gabrielle said.
"What about you two?" Xena asked Tina and Jerm.

Jerm shook his head. "I?I don't want to talk about it. At least not right now."

Tina nodded her agreement. She looked over at Miranda.

"It's the dream." Tina told her with a defeated look on her face.
"Oh, Tina." Miranda said. "Did you want to talk?"
"No?" The younger Amazon answered.
"We'll figure that out later. What do we do now?" Aphrodite asked, glancing at Jerm.
Xena thought for a few minutes.

"This is what we're going to do." Xena began to say. "Jamie, you and Gabrielle arrived by plane, correct?"
"Yes." Jamie answered.
"Okay." Xena continued. "I want to you, Miranda and Tina to take the jet back to your base. Assemble your best fighters, and then go to these coordinates. When you're a mile and a half away, radio them. Tell them who you are. Tell Mrs. Claus to assemble the E.L.F. unit. After that, you're to wait for my signal. When we find Ares' home base, we'll send the coordinates to you. Then we'll make plans from there. Got it?"
"Where are you going?" Tina asked.
"Jerm, Aphrodite and I are going to follow the sleigh. Hopefully we can take the sleigh at their next destination." Xena answered.

Xena handed the young Amazon woman a piece of paper with detail coordinates.

"Where exactly are you sending us?" Miranda asked.
"The North Pole." Xena answered seriously.
"These coordinates aren't for the geographic north pole." Jamie said.
"Well duh!" Aphrodite said. "Like, those are the coordinates for Christmas Town."
"You guys are serious." Gabrielle said.
"Yeah." Xena said.
"Look." Jerm spoke up. "I know we all just met. Well, most of us. But you have to trust us."
"Alright." Jamie said. "Are you ready, Gabrielle?"
"I'm going ahead with Xena." Gabrielle said.
"Your Highness..." Jamie began.
"Xena's back. I'm heading with her. I'll meet you at the rendezvous point. Trust me."

Jamie hesitated for a second. "Come on, girls."

Jamie, Miranda and Tina left the warehouse.

"Okay Jerm." Aphrodite said. "Now what happened?"

Jerm didn't look at any of them.

"It was dark. It seemed as though I was still awake. I saw a little girl. I don't who she was, but I could hear a woman's voice saying, 'you leave them alone! I won't let you hurt them!' Then I heard cold laughter. It sends chills up down my spine when I think of it." Jerm told them.

Aphrodite reached out and touched his shoulder.

"So, what's the plan, Xena?" Gabrielle asked.
"Do we know where Callisto is heading?" Xena asked.
"No. I can't see them driving all the way to Ares' stronghold, or wherever he is." Gabrielle told them. "My best guest is that they are heading to an airport to make the rest of the journey."
"None of us know the area that well." Jerm said. "Should we try Baxter's device?"

He pulled the homing device Baxter had given them.

"NO!!" Xena and Aphrodite both yelled.

The warrior princess then snatched the piece of equipment from Jerm, threw it on the ground and stomped on it.

"Why'd you do that?" Gabrielle asked.
"The last time we used that thing, we ended up in a bog." Aphrodite said.

"Oh. Anyway, I've been tracking the truck via GPS. Tina was able to put a tracker on it. Let me check on it." Gabrielle told them.

The Queen of the Amazons pulled her cell phone from her belt and opened it. The homing beacon was stationary.

"They've stopped moving." Gabrielle reported. "This may be our chance."
"Let me see the coordinates." Aphrodite told her.

Gabrielle showed the Goddess of Love her cell phone.

"Got it." Aphrodite told them.

Gabrielle gave Xena a triumphant look.

"Superior Amazon Technology." She said smugly.
"Hey! Our technology is way better than yours. That?gizmo was a prototype anyway." Xena said.
"You keep telling yourself that." Gabrielle remarked.
"Is everyone ready?" Jerm asked.
"Wait a minute." Gabrielle said.

The Amazon Queen reached behind her back and pulled a wrapped object. She handed it to Xena.

"I had this made for when I'd meet you again." Gabrielle told her.

Xena unwrapped the object. It was a beautifully crafted sword and sheath. She smiled.

"It's made with a unique metal that is undetectable to metal detectors." Gabrielle told her.
"Thank you, Gabrielle." Xena said as she strapped the sword to her back. "It means a lot. Now, is everyone ready?"

The other three nodded. Aphrodite concentrated for a minute. Then all four disappeared?

The four arrived at a hidden airport. They could see a small warehouse, and a large cargo jet on the runway. A cold wind blew in from the north. It was still dark, but the others could see that dawn would be coming soon.

"We need to sneak aboard the plane." Xena told the others.
"Then let's go." Gabrielle agreed.

Aphrodite looked at her husband and smiled weakly.

"Are you okay?" Jerm asked with concern in his voice.

She looked away for a moment. "Jerm?I've really drained my powers. I don't think I've ever been this low."

Jerm took her hand in his. "We'll get through this. You'll be fine."

The Goddess of Love smiled.

"Alright, lovebirds, let's go." Xena rolled her eyes.

The four slowly made their way towards the large cargo plane. There were six of those demons the group had been fighting back at warehouse. There was also a large being with gray skin. Gabrielle was the first to spot Callisto, ordering her lackeys around. Her eyes burned with hatred.

"There she is." Gabrielle hissed.
"We'll get her, Gabrielle." Xena said, placing her hand on Gabrielle's shoulder.

The group waited a minute. The some of the guards moved forwarded on their patrols.

"Let's go." Xena whispered.
"This sneaking around is so cool!" Aphrodite said.
"Quiet. They'll hear." Gabrielle whispered.

The four made it to the ramp of the plane. Silently they began to board.

"Hey! Who are you?!" a voice said.

The four turned around to see one of the demons staring at them. Xena quickly thought of something.

"We're with the loading team." Xena said, affecting a southern accent.

The demon looked confused for a second. "I don't think we have a loading team."

Xena swore as the creature began yelling for the others.

"Only one way to handle this." Gabrielle said, drawing her staff.

More demons answered the first's call. Xena backed handed the nearest one as Jerm punched the next. As Jerm and Xena fought off the creatures, Gabrielle pulled one of the tracking devices from her belt and hurled it. The small beacon attached itself to the sleigh.

Soon the creatures overwhelmed the four heroes. The creatures pulled them into the plane. One ran to find Callisto. The cargo doors of the plane began to close. The group could feel the plane begin gathering speed down the runway. Then the great craft pulled away from the ground.

"What's so important?" Callisto demanded as she came into the cargo hold.
"We found some strangers trying to get on the plane." A demon said.
"Well, did you kill them?" She demanded.
"No. We captured them." The demon told her.
"Where are they?" the woman snapped.

The creature led to where the four were. Callisto's eyes widened in surprise when she saw Xena and Gabrielle.

"Hello, Callisto." Xena smirked.
"Impossible." Callisto whispered.

Then she screamed. "Impossible! You can't be alive!!"
"Oh, but I am." Xena said. "We know what you and Ares are up to, Callisto. We're taking the sleigh back."
"Xena, Xena, Xena." Callisto said. "The way I see things, you won't be doing anything of the sort."

The vile blonde then turned to Gabrielle. "I see you're still running around with her. Tell me Gabrielle, are you still pining over poor Perticus?"

Gabrielle violently struggled against her captors, but they firmly restrained her. Callisto's cruel laugh filled the hold. Jerm stiffened. He swore he heard that laugh before. She turned to Aphrodite.

"I'm surprised you're here, Aphrodite. Taken a soft spot with the mortals? It's too bad you survived the twilight." Callisto said. "I never believe in love anyway."
"Your loss." Aphrodite snapped back. "But then, I always thought you and Ares were losers."
"You're powers have to be almost drained. You must know that Ares will rule this world." Callisto smirked.
"We'll see." The Goddess of Love said.

Callisto then turned and looked at Jerm. She blinked.

"And who are you?" she asked.
"I'm the wild card." Jerm smiled. "You know nothing of me, and that will be your downfall."

Callisto backhanded Jerm across the face. It took all of Aphrodite's self control not to do something, but she couldn't let Callisto know that she and Jerm were married.

"I don't like surprises." She said. "Ares is too close to being stopped. Tie them up. I'll have Izod take us as high as we can go. When I come back, we'll throw them out of the plane. Not even Xena can escape from that."
"Mistress, should we tell Master Ares?" one of the creatures asked.

Callisto thought about it. "No. Soon they'll be dead. There's no reason to let him know of this?incident."

The vile woman then smirked at her captives, and left. The creatures laughed as they tried the group up. They placed Xena and Gabrielle face to face and bound them as tight as they could with some strong rope. The plane suddenly banked sharply upward. They then placed Jerm and Aphrodite back to back and bound then with rope as well.

"Hey!" Aphrodite yelled. "Why can't we be tied front to front as well?"

The creatures thought about this for a moment, then untied the newlyweds and then retied them so Jerm and Aphrodite were facing each other.

"Much better." She whispered.

Just then, Callisto returned to the cargo hold. "We're as high as we can get. Throw them out!!"

One of the demons opened the cargo hold's doors. He grinned as bound heroes were force towards it.

"Any last words?" one hissed to Jerm and Aphrodite.
"This is so bogus." Aphrodite said.

The creature laughed, and then pushed them out the door. Xena and Gabrielle were pushed towards the door next. The creatures laughed again.

"Allow me." Callisto smirked. "Any last words?"
"I could really use a cookie right now." Xena said.
"What?!" Gabrielle asked.

Callisto laughed, and then kicked out the second pair out of the plane?

Chapter 5: Council of War.

"I sure hope this works." Jamie said, sitting in the pilot's seat of the AmTech modified LEAR jet. The plane was sleek and black in color. Instead of having engines in the rear of the plane, this jet had a powerful engine on each wing. It boasted the most advanced flight and navigational systems around. It also had its own radar.

The young woman had no problems returning with the Queen's plane back to Artemis Isle. She felt a little jealous of Xena, but she was still happy that Gabrielle was reunited with her long lost friend. Miranda had begged Tina to tell her what had occurred, but the younger Amazon refused. Tina slept for a little on the plane ride back, but would wake up every half hour.

When they landed, Jamie updated the regent on what was going on. She then assembled the best of the A.S.P. force and explained the situation. Tina and Miranda had gone back to change. Miranda returned first wearing a heavier coat over her jeans and had on knee high boots. Tina wore a white tunic with a mandarin collar, a white belt, white pants, white boots, and a white hooded cloak. Her long red hair was pulled back into a ponytail. A silver cylinder the size of a flashlight hung at her side. When asked about it, the young woman simply replied, "You'll see."

Now the group was jetting towards the coordinates Xena had given them. There were twenty Amazons in full battle gear in the LEAR, not counting Jamie, Miranda and Tina. Miranda now sat beside Jamie in the cockpit. She had finally convinced Tina to get some rest before the big fight.

"We're about one mile within the coordinates. We'd better radio now." Miranda said.
"Roger." Jamie said. "This is AmTech One calling Christmas Town tower, do you copy?"

For a few moments, there was silence. Then a female voice came over the airwaves. "This is Christmas Town tower. How can we help you, AmTech one?"

Jamie and Miranda looked at one another, looks of shock on their faces.

"We were sent here by Xena. She wanted us to meet with the?elf forces. She has a plan on how to deal with Ares and Callisto." Jamie said.
"We copy that, AmTech One. We're illuminating our runway lights now. See you shortly." The voice came back.

Then in the distance, green and red runway lights appeared.

"Here we go?" Jamie told the others, beginning the plane's decent?


Xena and Gabrielle tumbled through the sky. The air rushed past them, billowing through their hair. They past through a large cloud.

"Well, I'll say this." Gabrielle yelled. "There's never a dull moment with you!"
"Gee, thanks." Xena said. "The first thing we need to do is get free. Can you reach my dagger with your teeth?"
"I think so." Gabrielle said.

The young woman's head bumped Xena's communicator device?

Christmas Town, the North Pole?

"This is E.L.F. communications, Xena. How can we help you?" the elf at the communications center asked.
"Ouch!! Gabrielle, you bit me! I told you to be gentle!"
"I'm sorry! It's hard trying to get the dagger. Besides, I'm not the one who placed it there!"
"Excuse me, Gabrielle! I didn't think that I'd be thrown from a plane today!"

The elves in the communications center all looked at each other. Santa approached the station.

"Is something wrong?" he asked.
"Listen to this." The elves said.

Santa listened for a moment. He heard some grunting noises.
"Sweet Christmas!" he exclaimed. "Who is this?!"
"Santa?!" Xena's voice came back.
"Xena?!" Santa shouted. "What's going on?!"
"Sorry! Can't talk now! Xena out!"

Santa looked at the elves. He sighed and shook his. "It can't get any worse."

Just then, an elf ran up with a sheet of paper. "Uh?sir. We may have some trouble."

Santa looked at the paper. "You're kidding me. Those eight idiots are threatening to strike?!"
"Yes sir." The elf who brought the paper said. "Apparently there's a loophole in their contract. They need at minimum a week's notification that they'll be pulling the sleigh."
"So those slackers want to play hardball with Santa, do they? Come with me, Roxy." Santa said, marching out.

As Gabrielle cut through the last of the rope, Xena quickly grabbed her arm so they wouldn't separate. The warrior princess was trying to think of a plan. She needed not only to save herself and Gabrielle; she needed to save Jerm and Aphrodite.

"You know, seeing the land from up here, it's really beautiful." Gabrielle commented.
"Only you could find beauty as we fall to our deaths." Xena quipped. "I just hope the other two are okay."

"I just have to say it." Aphrodite smirked at her husband. "It's sorta kinky to be tied up like this."

Jerm smiled sheepishly and blushed.

"I?saw the engraving on my wedding band." She said seriously. "Thank you."
"No problem." Jerm told her.
"Jerm?I think it'll hurt majorly when we hit. I?" she began to say.

Her husband impulsively kissed her. She smiled.

"Don't worry." He told her. "I'll take care of everything. I can feel your arms around my waist. What I need you to do is hold tight."
"No problemo." She said with a grin.

Jerm closed his eyes for a second. Then he used his strength to break the ropes binding them. Then he swung Aphrodite's legs into his arms so he was carrying her, and concentrated. At first, nothing happened. Then they seemed to slow down, until they were floating in mid air.

"No way!" Aphrodite exclaimed in amazement. "You?you can fly?"
"It would appear so." Jerm told her.
"Did you know about this one?" she asked.
"No. But the way the other abilities have come, I took a guess." he said.
"Great! Now where are Xena and Gabrielle?" the Goddess asked.

As if in answered, the other two zipped past them.

"Was it me, or were they yelling at each other?" Jerm asked.
"I think they were yelling." Aphrodite said.
"Then let's get them." Jerm said.

The two took off after them.

"How long until we 'land'?" Gabrielle asked.
"I don't know. I haven't been counting." Xena answered.
"Think it'll hurt?" Gabrielle asked.
"Most likely." Xena said.

Just then, the two women felt something grab their collars and gently slowed them down. A few seconds later, they were floating in mid air.

"Don't worry, ladies, I've got you." Jerm's voice said.

The two looked around, then behind them to see Aphrodite holding on to Jerm, who was floating in mid air, holding onto their collars.
"You've got us, who's got you?" Gabrielle asked.

Xena glared at Jerm. "So, you've been holding out on us, haven't you?"
"We'll talk when we land." Jerm said, beginning to lower them.

When they hit the ground, Xena turned and looked at Jerm.

"What else have you been hiding" she said.
"Chill, warrior babe." Aphrodite said. "Jerm and I agreed not to tell anyone about his?abilities. They started shortly after we were married."
"So that's why you wanted to come." Xena said with a slight smiled. "You've been protecting him."
Aphrodite nodded. "We both wanted to make sure that his abilities weren't a fluke."
"Good idea." Xena said. "Sorry?I just like to know what's going on around me. It helps me plan better."
"No apology necessary." Jerm said. "So what's our next move?"
"First let's tell Santa what's going on." Xena said.
"Would you like to use my phone?" Gabrielle asked.
"No." Xena said. "We have our own communication system."

The warrior princess tapped the gingerbread man on her tunic. "Xena to communications."
"This is E.L.F. Comm." The voice came back. "What do you need?"
"Is the big guy there?" Xena asked.
"This is Santa."
"Santa, this is Xena. We have an idea where the sleigh's being taken. We'll try to have it back by the time you head out tonight."
"I hope so. The reindeer are threatening to strike. Is there anything else?" asked Santa.
"Yeah?uh?where's the nearest Mrs. C's?" asked the warrior princess.

The elves and Santa had a good chuckle. "According to the GPS, you're about one mile away from the nearest one."
"Thanks, Santa. Patch me through to Momma."

The small comlink beeped.

"Xena, this is Momma. What do you need?" Mrs. Claus asked.
"I'm a mile away from the nearest Mrs. C's. Can I get?a package?" Xena asked in a whisper.
"I'll notify them that you're coming." Mrs. Claus said.
"Thanks. Xena out."

Gabrielle's jaw dropped as she watched her friend communicate with her home base. Xena smirked at the Amazon Queen.

"See. Superior Elven Technology." Xena said.
"Wait a second." Jerm said. "We're stopping at a Mrs. C's?"
"Yeah." Xena answered, giving Jerm a look that told him not to question her.

Gabrielle's cell phone began to ring.

"Hello?" Gabrielle asked.
"Gabs, its Clio. Amber said you needed some information."
"Yeah. My friends and I need to know?" Gabrielle began.
"Why Ares needs the sleigh of Santa Claus?" Clio finished.
"Exactly." Gabrielle said.
"That's an easy one." Clio answered. "On Christmas Eve, which is tonight, the sleigh's magic increases one hundred fold. Imagine the power that would give the God of War. It would allow him to spread chaos and disaster all over the world in one night."
"Making him practically unbeatable." Gabrielle said.
"Correct." Clio said.
"Thanks, Clio. I'll let you know if we hear anything on Ares' sister." Gabrielle told her friend.
"Remember, Queen of the Amazons: I want to be there when you take her down." Clio warned.
"I'll let you know." Gabrielle agreed.

The Amazon Queen closed her phone.

"Who was that?" Xena asked.
"Clio. She's a friend. She deals with information. She's an immortal. Ares' sister cursed her. I'll tell you more later." Gabrielle explained.
"Gabrielle, what's the location of the sleigh?" Aphrodite questioned.

The Amazon Queen flipped her phone open again, and checked the signal of the tracking device she was able to get onto the sleigh.

"About five miles north. The signal hasn't moved. So wherever it is, that's Ares' base." Gabrielle answered.
"Then we best get moving." Xena said. "After we leave Mrs. C's, we'll send the signal to the North Pole, letting them know where Ares is. They'll beat us there most likely."

A few minutes later, the four arrived at Mrs. C's cookies.

"What are we getting here, Xena?" Gabrielle asked. "Some cool weapon?"
"Exactly." The warrior princess answered, glancing back and Jerm and Aphrodite and giving them another warning look.

Jerm and the Goddess of Love tried to stifle their laughter.

The group entered the establishment. An elf wearing a green hat to hide his pointed ears watched them enter. When he saw Xena, his mouth dropped open.

"Hey Ernie!" the elf yelled. "She's here!"

The elf then turned and looked at Xena. "Momma radioed ahead and told us you'd be here. We'll have your things in a few minutes."

A few of the elves in the pack peeked through the kitchen doors.

"It looks as though your reputation precedes you." Aphrodite said.
"What do you mean?" Gabrielle asked.

A minute later, an elf came from the kitchen with a grocery bag sized sack.

"There you go, Xena. One Momma's special. We even made sure that the chocolate ones were extra gooey, just the way you like them." the elf said.
"Awesome!" Xena exclaimed.

Gabrielle looked at her. "Cookies? We came here for cookies?!"
"Well yeah." Xena said nonchalantly.

Jerm and Aphrodite began laughing harder.

"Here, Gabrielle. Smell." Xena said, opening the bag just a little.

The Amazon Queen took a sniff of the bag.

"Oh man!" Gabrielle said. "They smell delicious! Can I have one?"
"No." Xena answered as she left the store.
"What? Why not?" Gabrielle asked.
"Because." Xena said simply.

Aphrodite and Jerm laughed ever harder.

"Oh, I get it. You're obsessed with those cookies." Gabrielle said.
"No, I'm not." Xena said simply.
"Then let me have one." Gabrielle insisted.
"No." Xena repeated.

Jerm tapped his communicator badge. "Jerm to communications."
"This is E.L.F. Comm. What do you need?"
"We have the location of the sleigh and Ares' place of operations. Let the E.L.F. squad and the Amazons know we'll meet them there. I'm sending the coordinates."

Jerm turned to Xena to ask how far away from the building to set up their camp. The warrior princess' face was covered in chocolate.

"Excuse me." Jerm said as he tried not to laugh. "How far out should the Amazons and the elves set up?"

Xena said something, but Jerm could not understand her; her mouth was stuffed with cookies.

"Could you repeat that?" he asked.
"About a mile away. Tell them to come in under radar." Xena repeated as she reached her hand into the bag and grabbed another cookie.

"About a mile away." Jerm repeated.
"Copy that, Jerm. They'll meet you there." The elf replied.
'Thanks. Jerm out."

"We'd better get moving." Aphrodite told the others.
"The sleigh is still stationary. Now's the time." Gabrielle added.
"Then let's move out." Xena said.

The four began their walk to the north?

Meanwhile, at the North Pole?

The A.S.P. strike force waited for word on when they would be able to strike. They all sat in the cafeteria while elves rushed here and there, getting the last minute details done for Santa's departure to deliver all the toys to the children of the world.

Jamie, Miranda and Tina sat at a table, picking at some food set before them by Mrs. Claus.

"I think I'm going stir crazy." Jamie said. "This is so boring."
"You got that right." Miranda added. "How much longer?"
"Now." Tina answered, as she stood up.

Just then, an announcement came over the intercom system.

"Can I please have your attention? Will all members of the A.S.P. force and E.L.F. please assemble in the outer lobby. We have confirmation of Ares' location. I repeat: We have confirmation of Ares' location."

Jamie stared at Tina in amazement. "How does she do that?"
"How should I know!?" Miranda said, throwing her hands into the air.
"Come now ladies." Tina said with a slight smile. "We have work to do."

The three left for the lobby?

Kimmy stood in the E.L.F. debriefing. She again had on her battle fatigues and camouflage face paint. Her gear was strapped to her back. This time she had on black gloves. When the commanding elf gave orders to board the Amazons' plane, Kimmy began following. Then she felt a hand on her shoulder.

"Going somewhere, Kimmy?" Santa asked.
"I'm going in to help Xena." Kimmy said. "She'll need my help on this one, Santa."
Santa sighed. "Kimmy, I need you here. Tonight's the big night."
"But Santa!" the elf protested. "My assistant can handle it. It's time to bust heads together. Besides, I always felt I was an Amazon in an elf's body."

Santa sighed and shook his head. "I'm sorry, Kimmy. Not this time."

"Fine!!" the elf yelled as she stomped away.

Kimmy's shoulders slumped as she continued walking back to her room. She was so down that she walked right into Mrs. Claus.

"Kimmy! What's the matter?" Mrs. Claus asked.
"I really wanted go on the big mission. But Santa says I'm needed here." Kimmy replied.
"Well?" Mrs. Claus said. "Santa knows best."
"Come on, Momma!" Kimmy said. "Haven't you ever wanted to go out and make the bad guys pay for what they've done? They stole Poppa's sleigh! Ares made it personal! Xena, Aphrodite and Jerm are out there fighting for us! We need to help them! Beside, haven't you ever wanted to just smack the yellow off someone's teeth?"

Mrs. Claus stared at the elf.

"You're right, Kimmy." She said. "Ares did make this personal. Besides, I get bored cooking all the time."

Mrs. Claus twirled around like an ice skater. There was a brilliant flash of light. When she stopped, Mrs. Claus wore a bodysuit of all white, with a light brown belt hanging off her hips.

"Let's go, Kimmy." Mrs. Claus said. "And until the mission is over, call me Heidi."
"Woo-Hoo!" Kimmy yelled.

Baxter came running into the hallway. He was carrying a folded set of black clothes.

"Guys, I need you to do me a big favor!" he said. "The Amazons said that their queen is helping Xena. This is one of the new stealth outfits. I thought she could use it."
"We'll make sure she gets it." Heidi said. "Let's move out, Kimmy."

The two made their way to the Amazons' LEAR jet?

Santa stood on the runway, watching the great plane take off.

"Hopefully they'll bring the sleigh back in one piece." Santa said to Baxter.
"I'm sure Xena will save the day. She always does." Baxter told Santa, the dreamy look coming over his face.
"Tell Kimmy I need to see her about some last minute details." Santa said, turning to leave.
"She's onboard the Amazon plane." Baxter said. "She and Momma are going to help out Xena and the others."
"WHAT?!" Santa bellowed. "We have only a few hours until I leave and everyone's having delusions of grandeur!"
"I'm sure they'll be okay. Xena will protect them." Baxter said.
"Come along, Baxter." Santa sighed.

A few hours later?.

Xena, Aphrodite, Gabrielle and Jerm arrived at the small command center. Kimmy rushed out to greet them.

"I made it, Xena!" she said jumping up and down.
"I see that, Kimmy." Xena smiled. "How were things before you left?"
"You know Santa." Kimmy said as she rolled her eyes. "He's all worried about last minute details."
"Kimmy, this is my best friend, Gabrielle." Xena introduced the two.
"Hey!" Kimmy said. "I'm almost as tall as you are!"
"I see that!" Gabrielle said.
"Where'd you get the gloves, Kimmy?" Jerm asked.

A sly smile appeared on the elf's face. "On EBay. They have spring loaded claws in them. When I press the button, they'll spring out. I'll be the elven version of Wolverine!" she told them excitedly.
"I'm sure you will be." Xena smiled.

The warrior princess whispered something into Aphrodite's ear. The Goddess of Love smiled, and snapped her fingers.

The four then entered the command tent.

"Momma!" Xena said, stunned. "I can't believe you're here!"
"I figured this battle could use some of my talents. And for this mission, call me Heidi." Mrs. Claus told her. "I'm glad to see you're all safe. This must be Gabrielle. Its an honor to meet you."
"Likewise." Gabrielle smiled.
"Before I forget, Baxter gave this to me to give to you. It's our new stealth outfit." Heidi said, handing the Amazon Queen the garments.
"I'd better put it on now." Gabrielle said, taking off her jacket.
"I'll be outside." Jerm said, walking rather quickly to the open flap of the tent.

A few minutes later, Aphrodite brought her husband back in. Gabrielle's outfit was black like theirs, but the tunic was more of a belly shirt. The silver telescopic staff hung off her belt. Her sai were in the boots. Heidi, Kimmy, Xena, Gabrielle, Miranda, Jamie and Tina were gathered around a large map.

"It's good to see you again." Tina said to Jerm.

The young man nodded.

"So, what's the plan, Xena?" Jamie asked.
"We know Ares will have a lot of his best fighters here. We've already done aerial recon, and seen that it's heavily patrolled." Xena started.
"How'd you do that?" Miranda asked.
"We have our ways." Xena said with a smiled.

Aphrodite reached below the table and touched Jerm's hand.

"The best course is to split into two groups and slowly make our way to Ares' building. I'm guessing that you all saw the large skyscraper as the plane landed. Each group will make their way to within a few hundred yards and stop. Gabrielle, Aphrodite, Jerm and I will make our way into the complex and to the top floor. Ares and Callisto will most likely be waiting there. When I give the signal, the two groups will converge on the complex. Each group will be comprised of both elves and Amazons. Heidi and Jamie will be squad leaders. Any questions?"
"Yes." Jamie asked. "How will the four of you enter the complex without getting caught?"

Xena smiled. "Don't worry. I have many skills."
"You just had to say it, didn't you?" Gabrielle rolled her eyes.
Xena slightly smiled. "Of course."
"Then let's go." Heidi said.

The large group split into two as Xena took the lead. The wind blew, rustling her hair. She would have felt cold, but Baxter's outfits worked well. Snow began falling from the sky. She knew Santa would be leaving soon, and had to get the sleigh back in time. She stared at the large skyscraper as it came into view. She was ready for this fight. She reached back and opened the small pouch on her back. She pulled her chakram from it and clipped it to her belt.

She looked at Gabrielle. "Are you ready?"
Gabrielle nodded. "Xena, I'm glad you're back."
"Thanks, Gabrielle. That means more than you could know." The warrior princess said.

She then turned to Aphrodite. "Ready?"
"This is so awesome!" the Goddess of Love said.

Xena rolled her eyes and then turned her attention to Jerm.

"Ready?" she asked, realizing how much of a friend he had become.

He simply nodded.

"Then let's go." Xena said.

The four began walking towards Ares' complex.

"Wait!" a voice called out.

The four turned to see Jamie, Miranda and Tina coming towards them.

"Please, Gabrielle." Jamie said. "Be careful."
"Good luck." Miranda added.
"Be safe." Tina added.

Then she looked at Jerm. "May the Force be with you."
"May the Force be with you as well, Master Jedi." Jerm nodded.

The three then turned around and returned to their group.

Xena looked at the others. "Let's go."

The four continued their walk towards destiny?

Chapter 6: The Big Battle

The four arrived at the doors to the enormous skyscraper. Xena quietly opened them and peered in. The lobby was completely empty.

"I don't like this." Xena said.
"Where do you think the sleigh is?" Aphrodite asked.
"I'm not sure." Xena said. "What I do know is we'll take the stairs to the top. That way he won't know we're here."

The others nodded in agreement. The group slowly made their way to up the stairs. They would look in on every floor, just to see if the sleigh was there. When the group made it to the tenth floor, they were stunned to see a large group of demons waiting for them. Their leader was the large gray skinned being Xena had seen earlier.

"Looks like we fight our way from here." Jerm said.
"No." Xena said. "Trust me. They'll take us where we need to go."

The creatures quickly overwhelmed the four. They were led to a nearby elevator.

"Well?" Aphrodite spoke up. "This totally sucks! Since we're caught, I guess you can tell us where the sleigh is."
"On the twentieth floor. Soon the master will drain it of it's power." Hissed one of the demons.
"Quiet fool!" Izod snapped.
"This place only has twenty floors?" Jerm questioned.
"Of course not!" the demon said. "It has eighty."
"I said quiet!" Izod snapped as he back handed the creature. "Can't you see they're tricking you for information?

Then the giant gray skinned man turned to the four. "The only place you're going is to see the Mistress and Ares."

The group was forced into the elevator.

"Good job, Aphrodite." Xena whispered.
"Thanks." The Goddess of Love whispered back.

The elevator ride took a few minutes. Soon the doors parted and the four were pushed off the elevator and into a large room. The three sides were all glass windows, giving an almost three hundred and sixty degree view around. Beside the elevator were two doors that led to the stairwells. In the center was a large desk. Standing near one of the large windows was Ares.

The God of War didn't acknowledge the arrival of Izod or his prisoners. He sighed.

"So tell me, Izod, did your hunch pay off?" he spoke without turning around.
"Really Ares. If you wanted a Christmas present that badly, you should have written to Santa like everyone else." Xena said.

Ares' body stiffened.

"There's no way!" he yelled. "There's no freaking way she's here!"

The God of War turned around and swore. He then noticed Gabrielle.

"And the brat's here too! It can't get any worse!" he said.

Ares then saw Aphrodite.
"Great!" he yelled. "You're here?!"
"Yeah, I'm just ecstatic to see you too, bro." Aphrodite said sarcastically.
"Bring them here, then go stand by the elevator!" the God of War demanded.

The four were roughly pushed towards Ares. They were lined up against the large windows. The lesser demons left, while Izod went over to the large elevator. A minute later, Callisto entered the room.

When she saw the four standing there, she screamed.

"NO!" she yelled. "You're supposed to be dead!"

Ares seemed to get over his initial shock.

"I must say, Xena." He said, looking her body over. "I am glad to see you. It's almost like Fate brought us together."
"Can it, Ares." Xena said with a glare. "We're here for the sleigh."

With that, the warrior princess opened a pocket on her bandoleer and pulled out a heart shaped cookie. Gabrielle rolled her eyes.

"What are you doing?" Ares demanded.
"Eating a cookie." Xena told him.
"Why?" asked the God of War.
"I'm bored." Xena said flatly.

Ares glared at her for a second, then shrugged.

Then he stopped as his eyes fell on Jerm. "Who are you?"

Aphrodite glared at her evil brother. "Ares?" she began.
"Let me guess. He's the flavor of the month!" Ares laughed.

Callisto's cruel laughed filled the air as well.

"No, he's not!" Aphrodite yelled. "He's my?"
"Guess what, sis." The God of War interrupted. "The month's almost up."

He then nodded to Callisto. Without warning, both vile beings threw intense blasts of blue energy at Jerm. The blasts slammed into him, shattering the window behind him and sending him sailing out from the building. Callisto rushed to the window, throwing three more blasts of energy. The first two slammed into Jerm's falling form, causing him to slam into a pile of dirt. The third blast seemed to float to the ground, and then violently exploded. Callisto's cruel, cold laugh filled the office again.

The Goddess of Love could only scream as the horrible events took place. She hadn't even told them that Jerm was her husband. A thought came to her that froze Aphrodite to her very core.

Did Jerm think in those final seconds that she was ashamed of him, and that's why she didn't tell Ares about him when they arrived?

Of course not!
She reasoned with herself. He knew that she was only protecting him. Right?

As the dust cleared down on the ground, they could see where the last energy blast hit. There was no snow in that location, and the ground was a smooth as glass.

"It's time to get a new flavor, Aphrodite." Ares said coldly.

He then turned to Callisto. "Very nice, Callisto. I especially like the way that third bolt smoothed out the ground. He's already buried. Very thoughtful of you."

Rage filled Gabrielle as Callisto's laugh permeated the air. It was Perticus all over again. She had been angry with Aphrodite about not telling her that Xena had returned. But now?she felt sorry. She wanted to console her friend. She wished she could have talked more with the young man who captured the Goddess' heart, gotten to know him better. She glanced over at Xena. A steely glint was in her eyes as she glared at the two evil cohorts.

The God of War walked over to a bar and pulled a large bottle of cognac from a hidden bar and poured a few tumblers. He set the half full bottle on the desk, and took a sip from one of the glasses.

Aphrodite looked at Gabrielle. If the Queen of the Amazons didn't know better, she'd swear the Goddess looked pale. An apologetic look came from her.

"Gabs, I've got to go down. I?" Aphrodite said, trying to keep her voice from quivering.
"Go ahead." Gabrielle whispered.

The Goddess of Love vanished in a pink puff of smoke.

"She'll be back." Ares said with no real concern. "Right now, Xena, I want to make you an offer you can't refuse?"

The Amazons and the elves sat and watched the large tower that was Ares' home base. They knew the sleigh was in there somewhere. The two groups had slowly made their way towards the monstrous structure.

"I hope the signal comes soon." Jamie said. "This is more boring than waiting in the North Pole."
"You got that right." Kimmy added.
"I've been thinking." Heidi said. "When we get in there, the elevator will be the obvious way up to the top floor. I say we split up the group and each take the stairs on either side. We'll clean out the place, floor by floor."
"I agree." Miranda nodded.

Tina stared at the large complex. "Something's not right. I can feel it."

"Are you sure?" Heidi asked.
"How so?" Jamie questioned.
"I?I sense hatred?and?" Tina began to explain.

Suddenly they saw an object come flying out of the top floor. Two orbs of energy crashed into to the object. It then fell, followed by a third orb. The object, they saw, was a person. The being slammed into a large dirt pile, making a huge hole. Dirt began filling the hole as the third orb floated down and exploded. The shockwave shook the ground, causing some of the Amazons and elves to fall over.

"Was that the signal?" Miranda asked.
"It's got to be." Kimmy said.
"What?or who was it?" Jamie asked.

A horrified look came over Tina's face. "It was Jerm."
"Are you sure?" Heidi asked.

Tina nodded.

"Oh my?" Jamie said.
"That had to be the signal." Kimmy said.
"Throwing Jerm out the window was the signal?" Heidi asked in disbelief.
"What can I say? Xena's not subtle." Kimmy told her.
"Even if it wasn't, they've killed a friend, and the queen could be in danger. Let's move." Jamie said.
"Agreed." Added Heidi.

The order was given, and the combined group of Amazons and elves began their assault?

Aphrodite appeared in a puff of pink smoke. The ground was indeed as smooth as glass. She could see where her husband hit the ground. She knew there was no way for him to have survived. The abilities he had shown in the past few months couldn't compare with Ares' power. For the first time in eons, tears began to run down the face of the Goddess of Love. She allowed them to fall. He had truly made her happy, as brief as it was. One of her tears hit the ground, growing into a red rose. She picked rose and kissed the bud, then she set it on the smooth ground. Aphrodite vanished again in a pink cloud of smoke?

The combined force of Amazons and elves crashed through the front doors of the large complex. There were dozens of identical humans walking around. They stared at group that just entered the building.

"Isn't that nuts!" one of the Amazons yelled. "They all look the same!"
"No they don't!" Kimmy yelled. "They're butt ugly!"
"She's right!" Jamie added. "They're all demons. Take them out!"

Kimmy grabbed the machine gun strapped to her back and began firing at the creatures. Miranda rushed off to one side and drew her sword, while Jamie fired her crossbow.

A group of the demons rushed at Mrs. Claus. Heidi had a calm look on her face as she simply took a deep breath and blew. The creatures instantly froze, covered in ice. She then waved her hand, and the creatures shattered.

Jamie looked over at Kimmy. "How many have you gotten?"
"Ten!" Kimmy yelled back as she reloaded her machine gun.
"Ha! I've killed twelve!" Jamie laughed.

No Amazon's going to beat me in number of kills! Kimmy thought to herself as she pulled the trigger of her gun.

From somewhere in the back of the lobby a group of larger demons came out. Miranda always liked a challenge and charged the monsters. These creatures were quicker that the normal demons and the young Amazon found herself fighting for her life. One of them hit Miranda with its club, stunning her. All she could do was watch as the demon raised its massive weapon and laughed?

Tina round house kicked the demons attempting to fight her. That's when she felt the warning through the Force. She turned to see Miranda take a stunning blow from one of the larger demons. It raised its weapon, ready to finish her off.

The young woman rushed to her mentor's aid, but knew she'd never make it in time.

Now's the time. She thought to herself.

Tina stopped running and extended her hand. Miranda flew out of the way, as if she was thrown by an invisible hand. Both the creature and Miranda looked about, trying to figure out what happened. Tina knew what had to come next. It was the first rule she was taught. If an Amazon drew her weapon, she had to be ready to take a life. Plus she could feel the Force pulling her towards the elevator. The young red haired woman reached to her belt as the large demon turned its focus towards her; just where she wanted it. She pulled the silver cylindrical device from her belt and pressed the small black button on it.

There was a snap-hiss sound as a meter long shaft of blue energy materialized from the cylinder. The weapon's constant hum comforted her. The creature paused a second, then attacked. Tina nimbly dodged the swing and countered. The blue energy blade cut through the monster's club effortlessly. The demon roared its defiance and swung a massive fist at her. Tina brought her blade around, cutting off the demon's hand. The creature howled and rushed off. A second one snuck in from behind. Before Miranda could shout a warning, Tina was already moving. She spun the blade around in front of her and then stabbed backwards, hitting the creature's abdomen. She reversed her grip on the blade and slashed upwards, cutting the demon in half. The other creatures raced off in fear. The young woman flipped the switch on her weapon, and the blade dematerialized. She walked over and offered her hand to Miranda.

"Did you see that!" Jamie said. "That was so cool!"
"Yeah!" Kimmy added. "I want one!"
'You-you-that's a lightsaber, isn't it?" Miranda stuttered.
"Yes, it is." Tina answered with that slight smile.
"You're really a-a Jedi!" Miranda said, stunned.
"Yes. Miranda, I need to go. I'll explain everything if I return." Tina said, beginning to walk away.
"What do you mean?" Miranda said. "We've to regroup with the others."
"Not me." Tina said, looking at the elevator. "My destiny lies up where the others are. If I don't return, I must tell you that you're a great teacher. I am proud to have been your trainee. May the Force be with you, master."
"Be careful." Miranda said.

Tina nodded and pressed a button. The elevator doors opened and the Jedi entered?


The winds began to pick up as late afternoon began to change to evening. The snow began to fall faster and harder. The only place that the snow melted was the spot where Callisto's third energy blast exploded. Steam rose from the ground. Suddenly, the glass-like ground cracked, then shattered as a red blast of energy erupted from the ground. Then very slowly, Jerm pulled himself out of the hole. He stood on a mound of dirt.

His black tunic was in tatters. The cloak had a few holes in it. His hair was standing on end. He felt weak, but he had been able to free himself. Jerm glanced up to the top of the tower.

Wow! That's quite a fall! He thought to himself. His mind replayed what had occurred. The last thing he saw was the horror in his wife's eyes.

Aphrodite!! She had to be worried!

Jerm knew he had to get up there. But first he had to find the sleigh and send it back to the North Pole.

He ran to the front doors of the building. He could see that a battle had taken place.

The Amazons and the elves must have begun their assault. He thought to himself.

He could also tell that the elevator was on its way up to the top floor. He could tell by the indicator that it was currently on the twenty second floor. The demons said that the sleigh was on the twentieth. He walked up to the elevator doors and pried them apart. Jerm then looked up to see the elevator steadily climb up the shaft.

Here goes nothing! He thought to himself.

Jerm stepped into the shaft and took off. He counted the levels as he past the doors. He stopped when he reached twenty and pried open the doors.

The room on the twentieth floor was small. In the middle of it sat a familiar red sleigh with black runners and green trim. Standing guard were four very large and ugly demons. They spotted him at the same time and began their approach, growling. Jerm felt weakened from Ares and Callisto's attack. But he had to get the sleigh back to Santa. He needed to let Aphrodite know he was okay. He wanted to pay Ares back.

He grabbed the first demon and threw it into the window, shattering it and sending the creature falling twenty stories. The second rushed into battle, but Jerm sidestepped the demon and knocked it down the elevator shaft. The final two approached as a team, trying to box him between them. Jerm backhanded the first of the two, sending it spinning. The other connected with a blow to Jerm's abdomen, sending him skidding across the grey carpet of the room. He was winded, but managed to get up to his feet. He concentrated, and hit one with the energy beams from his eyes. The monster went up in flames before him. The final creature rushed him. Jerm threw a few punches just like Xena had taught him. The monster fell to the ground.

Jerm took a deep breath and walked over to the sleigh. As he sat down, he felt a tingly sensation throughout his body. It was as though his strength was returning. Santa told him the sleigh was magical. He entered the activation code. The sleigh's console turned, revealing the main controls. He entered the second code Santa had given him. Once again the controls of the sleigh melted into the dash board, leaving the large red button. Jerm stepped out the sleigh and pressed.

The sleigh slowly began to rise into the air. It floated over to the shattered window and flew out. Then, the amazing vehicle flew into the evening sky at incredible speed and was soon out of sight.

Jerm smiled. With any luck, the sleigh would just make it in time. He had to get back to the others. As he walked back towards the shattered window, he got a glimpse of himself. The tunic was in shambles. Dirt covered his face and hands. As he tried to rub the grime off his hands, his wedding band slipped off. He grabbed it off the floor. Just as he went to place it back on his finger, he noticed a word. As he looked, Jerm saw it was engraved.

Jerm, I love you.-Aphrodite.

He smiled as he placed it back on his finger. He knew how hard those words were for her to say at one point. He pulled the remains of the tunic off. He was shocked to find that his blue Superman shirt was now jet black. Most amazing of all was that the normally red and yellow 'S' was now a metallic silver color. How it happened he had no idea. There was one more thing he had to do.

The young man bowed his head and prayed. He asked for strength and courage for what was to come. Then Jerm flew out the window.

Hold on, Aphrodite!


The combined strike team of elves and Amazons met on the twenty first floor. Kimmy rushed over to Jamie as they battled. The elf's gun was all out of bullets and her secret elven flame thrower was still recharging. She was down to using Xena's training.

"How many?" Jamie called out over the chaos.
"Forty three!" Kimmy yelled back. "You?"
"Forty two!" Jamie said.

Just then, one of the demons grabbed Kimmy and threw her against the wall. She was more angry than scared. She got to her feet and yelled. "You want a piece of me?!"

She pressed the small button located on the palm of each glove. Three long metallic claws extended from the knuckles of each glove. At first, Kimmy screamed in shock. Then a look of joy came over her face. The demon that had thrown her approached.

"Let's dance, bub!" she said, and then rushed the creature, cutting into it with her new toys.

Jamie in the meantime cracked the first demon she encountered in the head with her staff, sending it to the ground. Another attacked her, but the Amazon weapons master thrust her staff into the demon's stomach, and finished it off with a spin kick.

Heidi was using her weapon of choice: a pair of nunchucks. She easily beat any creature foolish enough to get in her way.

Within minutes, the skirmish was over. Some of the elves began laying large gray bricks with red stripes on the ground.

"I've got to ask." Jamie said as the group took a breather. "What are those things?"
"C-4." Kimmy answered with enthusiasm. "We're going to blow this place sky high!"
"Score!" Jamie exclaimed just as excitedly.
"We need to keep moving!" Heidi told everyone.
"We'll catch up on floor number thirty!" Kimmy called to Jamie.
"Deal!" Jamie said.

The groups split up again?

A pink cloud of smoke herald Aphrodite's return to the top floor. Ares smirked.

"Is your boy toy gone?" Callisto taunted. "Talk to Gabrielle. She knows all about dead loves, don't you?"
"You idiots!" Gabrielle said. "He wasn't a boy toy! That was her soul mate!"
"Then you have more in common with little Gabrielle than we thought!" Callisto sneered.

Tears began rolling down Aphrodite's face again. The rage in Gabrielle simmered. She knew she'd get a chance to even things with Callisto, but there were more important things to do. She looked over at Aphrodite. The Goddess of love began to sob as tears rolled down her face. Xena watched Ares like a hawk. She was waiting for the chance to attack.

"What do you want with me, Ares?" she demanded.
"What else?" The God of War began. "I want you to come back. Join me, Xena. The world is a different place. In this world, I am all powerful. When the sleigh releases its power to me, I will be ultra powerful. I'll build an invincible army and over take this planet. Then we'll tour the cosmos, taking over anything that stands in my way. You could be my general, Xena. Think of it. The most powerful army in existence at your command."
"Never, Ares!" Xena yelled defiantly. "Lead your own army! I'd rather die fighting you than be your lackey!"

A look of frustration came over Ares' face. "You know, your right. I'm the God of War! I don't need anyone to lead. They'd slaughter anyone with one command from me. I'd be the ultimate general!"

"Excuse me, general." A voice said. "Would you care to step outside?"

All heads turned to the window. There floated Jerm. The wind ruffled his hair. The black cloak billowed in the air. His arms were folded across his chest. The silver 'S' on his shirt seemed to almost shine. His eyes were glowing red as he glared at the God of War.

"Jerm!" Aphrodite shrieked.
"Why can't you people stay dead?!" Callisto shouted.
"You've got to be kidding me." Ares said. "You're challenging me? I'm the God of War!"

Ares snapped his fingers. Six demons appeared from thin air. Xena took advantage of the distraction and grabbed the bottle of cognac. She filled her mouth with the alcohol and reached into one of the pouches on her belt. She pulled a lighter from it and flicked the button. Then she turned to the oncoming demons. She held the lighter to her lips and blew the cognac out. It created a flame thrower effect, lighting the demons on fire. The warrior princess then drew her sword and leaped over the desk.

Ares simply made his sword appear in his hand. The God of War and the warrior princess began a vicious sword fight.

As Xena lit the creatures on fire, Gabrielle drew her quarterstaff and press the button. The staff extended to its full height. The queen of the Amazons then joined the battle, swinging her weapon.

Jerm floated into the room and landed next to Aphrodite. She grabbed him in a fierce embrace. He could feel her body shake as she sobbed in his arms.

"Everything's okay." He whispered. "I'm here. I'm okay. Now let's take out the trash."

She smiled at him and nodded. He gently wiped the tears from her face. As he went towards the demons, The Goddess of Love grabbed him and kissed him.

"Please be careful." She asked.
"I promise." Jerm said.

Then he rushed the closest demon?

Xena couldn't help but laugh as she dodged Ares' attack and countered with a backhand.

"Come on, Ares." She taunted.

She rushed the God of War. He dodged to the side. Xena ran up the glass window, screaming her battle cry. She then flipped off the window, landing behind Ares. She threw a roundhouse kick, stunning the God of War. She glanced back to see Gabrielle heading towards Callisto while Jerm took care of the demons. Ares took advantage of the warrior princess' distraction and delivered a vicious kick, sending her flying through the air and landing next to Aphrodite.

"Callisto!" Ares yelled. "Get over here!"

Callisto, who was easily dodging Gabrielle's attacks and taunting her, back flipped her way over towards Ares. Gabrielle quickly rejoined Xena, Aphrodite and Jerm.

"We've learned a few new tricks since we last met, Xena." Ares spoke. "Let's see how you handle this!"

Ares closed his eyes and extended his hands. Callisto knelt in front of him, facing the group. She too extended her hands. The two seemed to concentrate.

"I'm not liking this, Xena." Gabrielle said.
"That makes two of us." Xena agreed.

Suddenly, a dark gray beam of energy shot out from the two.

"This one's mine." Aphrodite said.

The Goddess of Love closed her eyes. A giant pink transparent dome shielded the group as the energy beam slammed against it.

"How do we fight that?" Jerm asked.

Xena thought for a minute. "Gabrielle! Remember India?"

The Queen of the Amazons thought for a second. Her eyes lit up.

"Yeah!" she said.
"Aphrodite, cover us. This may take a few minutes. When I say so, drop the shield."

Aphrodite nodded.

Xena stood and positioned her hands in a certain way, similar to Ares. Gabrielle knelt as Callisto did, holding her own hands in a different position. The two soul mates closed their eyes and concentrated.

"Ready?Now!" Xena yelled.

Aphrodite dropped the shield as a bright blue energy beam shot out from the Gabrielle and Xena and slammed into the energy blast of Callisto and Ares. From there it was a battle of wills. For a long while, it seemed that neither side made any progress. Then slowly, Ares and Callisto's beam began pushing back Xena and Gabrielle's. Jerm came up behind Xena and added his own energy blast to Gabrielle and Xena's. For a few minutes, it seemed that the energy beam from Gabrielle and Xena was going to overtake Callisto and Ares'. Then slowly, Ares and Callisto's blast of energy began overtaking Gabrielle and Xena's.

Now what? Aphrodite thought to herself. Ares and Callisto must be drawing upon the world's hatred and violence. How could she counter that?

She looked at Xena and Gabrielle. Then she looked at her husband.

Duh! Aphrodite thought.

The Goddess of Love walked over to Xena and Gabrielle.

"Okay, gals." She began. "I know you are really concentrating, so just listen. I need you to concentrate on your love for one another. Remember how strong your friendship is. Focus on this. You're soul mates. It's the only way to defeat Ares."

Aphrodite then walked over and stood next to Jerm. She placed her arms around him.

"Listen to the sound of my voice, babe." She said softly. "I want you to focus on our love for each other. We're soul mates?"

Aphrodite continued speaking to her husband. Xena, Gabrielle and Jerm's energy beam increased in intensity and power?

Izod watched the power struggle between the two groups. He knew it was time to strike. Just then, the doors to the elevator he was ordered to guard opened. Curious, he peered into the elevator. Two boots swung out of nowhere and kicked him in the chest, knocking him over. A red haired woman dressed in white stood over him.

"That would be cheating." Tina said.

Izod scrambled to his feet. He glared at the young woman.

"Do you think you can really win?" he snarled.

He then reached to his belt and pulled a black stone cylinder, similar to the Amazon's telescopic quarterstaffs. He pressed a button. The cylinder extended to a five foot long staff. He twirled the staff around him and smirked.

Tina shrugged. She pulled aside her cloak and pulled her lightsaber from her belt. Her finger touched the power stud on the weapon, and the blue-white energy beam flashed into existence. She set herself in a defensive stance. Without warning, Izod attacked. He brought his staff in a thrust move, but Tina was able to parry and counter, almost taking her opponent's hand off. The two circled one another, looking for an opening?

Xena, Gabrielle and Jerm's energy beam began pushing the beam of Callisto and Ares inch by inch and then foot by foot. A panicked look could be seen forming to the two villains, when suddenly the blue energy blast slammed into Callisto and Ares, knocking them backward. Xena, Gabrielle and Jerm's energy beam then vanished.

Ares laughed as he stood up. The suit he was wearing had seen better days. The jacket and shirt were practically shredded. His pants had large gashes and burn marks on them. Callisto seemed to be unconscious. Her blouse was missing sleeves. Her skirt had a large cut up the left side and her nylons had runners of various sizes.

"Give up!" he told them. "You can't win. Soon I will add the power of the sleigh to my own, then I'll be unstoppable!"

Ares snapped his fingers. Two large demons appeared. Gabrielle and Xena sprang into action, attacking the creatures.

Jerm looked at the God of War and laughed.

"Then I guess you'll be waiting a while." Jerm said. "The sleigh's back at the North Pole."
"Impossible." Ares said, glaring at the young man.
"Try and find it. I'm the one that sent it back." Jerm said.

Ares went over to his computer and tapped a few keys. A look of rage came over his face.

"Then I guess you'll have to pay." He said simply.

Then the God of War unleashed a barrage of energy at Jerm, causing the young man to fall to his knees?

At the North Pole?

Santa sat at the kitchen table. In a half hour, he'd have to leave to start his run. Elves ran back and forth, gathering last minute weather details and making sure everything was ready. The reindeer were strapped to the back up sleigh. It turns out that the 'loophole' was added after the initial contract was signed.

Just then, one of the elves ran up to him.

"Sir! Radar has picked up something large coming this way incredibly fast!" she said.

Santa jumped up from the table and rushed to the command center. He watched the main radar display as the object raced towards Christmas Town.

"Do we know what it is?" Santa asked with concern. He's hate to have to evacuate Christmas Town on Christmas Eve.
"Well have visual in five seconds." The elf sitting at the display said.

Four seconds later, they all gasped.

"It's the sleigh!" one of the elves squeaked. "They did it!"
"Great!" Santa exclaimed. "We still have a half hour preparation time. Let's get that sleigh ready when she lands!"

Back at Mars. Inc?

The two groups of Amazons and elves arrived at the seventy ninth floor. Once again Kimmy and Jamie met up with one another.

"Eighty demons killed!" Jamie said.
"I got eighty too!" Kimmy said.
"Uh?guys." Miranda said, looking forward.

The group turned to see a giant creature guarding the stairs to the final floor and the elevator. It had horns like that of a ram, and scarlet skin. Its eyes burned with yellow fire. The monster possessed large claws and extremely sharp fangs. It screamed its defiance at them.

"Well, now what?" one of the elves said.
"I don't know." Heidi asked.
"Momma, take the others and get out of here. Leave this to me." Kimmy said.
"I think you got hit on the head." Heidi told the elf warrior. "You're crazy."
"I'll be here." Jamie said. "This thing stands between us and the queen. Heidi, Kimmy's right. Take the others down to the ground floor. Miranda, get the jet ready for take off. When we blow this place apart, we'll need to get out of here in a hurry. We'll handle this."

Heidi nodded and the two groups left. The creature roared its displeasure at them. Kimmy looked at Jamie.

"Let's do this!" Jamie said.
"I came here to kick butt and chew bubble gum." Kimmy stated. "And I'm all out of bubble gum."

She and Jamie high fived one another. Then Kimmy 'popped' her claws, and Jamie extended her staff. Then the Amazon pressed another button on her staff. Twin blades extended out from it. The two engaged the monster?

Tina dodged the third swing of Izod's staff. What ever it was made of, her lightsaber couldn't cut through it. For a second, she thought the weapon was malfunctioning, but she then cut a deep wound in her opponent's leg. He had repaid her with a strike to her jaw. She could still taste the blood in her mouth. The two continued their back and forth battle. Sparks flew as their weapons collided together. If only she could find a way to cut through the staff?

"You'll pay for tampering with my plans with your life!" Ares yelled as he increased the power of his continuous energy blast on Jerm.

"Ares!" Aphrodite yelled. "Leave him be!"
"I told you to get another flavor, sis!" the God of War quipped.
"He's not a flavor! He's my husband!" she yelled back.
"Are you serious?" laughed Ares.
"Yes! I love him!" Aphrodite said.
"Then I guess you'll soon be a widow!" Ares hissed.
"I said let him alone!" Aphrodite yelled again, rage flashing in her eyes.

Then the Goddess of Love extended her hands and blasted Ares with a pink energy blast. The God of War flew into the air and landed hard on the floor. Aphrodite began walking towards Jerm, when Ares stood back up. A look of pure hatred was one his face.

"You'll pay for that one, sis." He snarled.
"I don't think so." Jerm said, getting to his feet.

Ares rushed forward, and began throwing punches. Jerm dodged them and threw a right hook, connecting with the God of War's chin. He flew through the air and crashed through his desk. Xena dispatched the demon she was facing and rushed over. She began throwing punches and kicks as the God of War got to his feet. Xena could tell he was beginning to wear down. They had to keep on him.

Callisto in the meantime had woken up and was about to go to Ares' aid when Gabrielle began an impressive assault with her quarterstaff. Callisto was on the defensive, barely blocking the attacks. Finally Gabrielle was able to get past her defenses with a thrust to her stomach. Then the Amazon Queen snapped her staff back, hitting Callisto across the face. She finished with a flip of her staff, catching Callisto under the chin. The vile blonde flew into the air and hit the ground hard. Gabrielle then turned her attention to Ares and joined the others.

Tina ducked another swing of Izod's staff and countered, but he was ready for her. He blocked her attack and thrust his weapon hard into her stomach. Then he swung his staff, catching her across the chin. He smiled cruelly as he twirled his weapon around, ready to finish the young woman off. As he swung his staff for the coup de gras, Tina called upon the Force. She flipped over her opponent and delivered a vicious side kick, causing him to stumble backwards. She then gripped her lightsaber in her left hand and extended her right, using the Force to send Izod across the building. He fell face first into the floor and slowly stood. His sunglasses were shattered, revealing his glowing red eyes.

"Fool! Do you really think that would stop me!?" he yelled.

Then twin beams of light shot from his eyes. Tina allowed the Force to claim her. It was as if her lightsaber was alive. The glowing blue blade would shift to block the incoming energy blasts from Izod. Angered, he charged her. Izod wildly swung his staff at Tina. The young Jedi easily dodge the blow and backhanded him. As he got ready to attack again, Tina swung her lightsaber and cut his arm off at the elbow. Izod screamed in pain. She then hooked her lightsaber to her belt and used another Force push to send Izod sliding across the flood. He knelt down, cradling his stump. She then turned to join the others.

Ares stood glaring at the group. Xena, Gabrielle and Jerm all were in attack stances, ready to strike. Tina stood behind them, her lightsaber humming in her hand. Aphrodite had her hands on her hips.

"Go ahead, Ares." Xena smirked. "Try something."
"You think you've won, Xena, but you're delaying the inevitable. I'll have my revenge sooner than you think."

Then Ares, Izod and Callisto vanished.

"We did it." Gabrielle said.
"We'd better get out of here." Xena said.

Just then, Xena's comm pin beeped.
"Xena here."
"Xena, its Heidi. We've made it back to the plane and we're ready to take off. We've got the LEAR as close as we could. We're just waiting on you guys and Kimmy."
"We're on our way." Xena said.
"Let's get out of here." Tina added.

The five quickly made their way to the elevator?

Chapter 7: Ares Triumphant?!

Jamie ducked under the demon's swipe as Kimmy slashed out with her claws. The demon howled in pain and swung at the elf, narrowly missing her. The demon had various cuts and slash marks from its attackers. Both Jamie and Kimmy had bruises from the monster's attacks. Jamie rushed the creature and jumped into the air at the last minute. She swung her weapon, cutting its chest deeply. As it tried to counter, Kimmy leapt on the monster's back, and began mauling it with her claws. The creature was able to grab the elf this time, and pull her off of it. It brought her up to its mouth. Its breath smelled horribly.

"You don't want to eat me!" Kimmy yelled. "I'm just an appetizer!"

Jamie jumped at the thing again, but was backhanded into the wall. She shook her head violently to clear the cobwebs. She had to do something. She grabbed her crossbow and began firing bolts. The first hit the monster's left eye. She fired a second into its throat. The creature dropped Kimmy and clutched at its neck. Kimmy then raced up and began slashing the demon's chest with her claws. She plunged the claws deep into its chest as Jamie fired a third crossbow bolt. The monster groaned and fell to the ground.

"I killed it!" Kimmy yelled triumphantly.
"No, I killed it!" Jamie objected.
"Great. We're still tied." Kimmy sighed.
"So?" Jamie said. "We killed the thing! We were awesome!"

The elf thought for a minute. The two high fived each other and yelled, "Score!!"

Just then, the left side stairway door opened. A large group of demons entered. They laughed as they stared at the Amazon and the elf. They all had large swords, ready for action.

"Uh?" Jamie said.

Just then, Xena's battle cry sounded as her chakram flew through the air, cutting through all the creatures' swords. The amazing weapon then returned to her hand. The warrior princess grinned as she drew her sword. The demons charged forth. Tina flipped forward and brought her lightsaber down, neatly cleaving one in half. Xena backed handed the nearest one to her, and then stabbed forward, catching it in the chest. Jamie shot another with her crossbow. Kimmy cut through one with her claws while Jerm and Gabrielle dispatched two more. Within one minute, the demons were vanquished.

"Nice timing." Jamie said.
"Let's blow this popsicle stand." Aphrodite told them.
"Wait." Xena said. "Who's got the detonator?"

Kimmy smiled as she pulled a small device from her belt pouch.

"Just don't hit the button until we're out of here." Gabrielle warned.
"Let's go." Jerm said.

The group made excellent time as they ran out of the building. They could see the plane, ready for take off.

"Come on!" Xena yelled. "Faster!"

Jerm glanced back to see another group of demons giving chase.

"Go on!" he yelled "I'll stop them!"
"Not by yourself your not!" Aphrodite said, rushing back to join him.

The young man shot a blast of energy from his eyes, hitting the demons. Aphrodite grabbed his hand and pulled him towards the plane. The group was two thirds of the way there when Kimmy tripped and fell. As she hit the snow covered ground, she hit the detonation button. Ares' tower exploded.

"Awesome!" Kimmy and Jamie said in unison.
"Come on!" Tina said, helping the elf up.

The group began running faster. The shockwave from the massive explosion began rushing after the group. Xena tapped her comm pin as she ran.

"Xena to Heidi! Get the plane moving! We're almost there!"
"We can't leave without you!" Heidi replied.
"Just go! We'll make it!" Xena yelled back.

I hope. She thought.

The plane slowly began to roll away. As they ran, Aphrodite tripped and fell. Jerm quickly turned and ran back. Tina called upon the force for an extreme burst of speed. In the blink of an eye, she was hanging off the doorway of the LEAR. Xena jumped for her hand and snagged it. Tina pulled the warrior princess into the plane. Xena then stood on the other side of the doorway, ready to lend a hand. The LEAR was slowly gaining speed. Gabrielle jumped and was caught by Xena, who pulled her in. Jamie was next, pulled to safety by Tina. Kimmy barely had time to jump, but Tina and Xena caught her. The plane's speed picked up. Xena could see Jerm carrying Aphrodite and running.

"I?I don't' think they'll make it." Tina told her with concern.
"Give them a chance." Xena said.

As if on cue, Jerm made a leap and took to the air, catching up with the plane. He handed off Aphrodite first, and then entered the plane himself. Tina pulled the door closed. The explosion's shockwave was almost there.

"Floor it!" Jerm yelled.

Miranda, who was piloting, accelerated the plane, and took off. The shockwave extended to where the plane had just been sitting seconds ago.

A loud cheer filled the cabin.

"We did it!" one elf yelled. "We stopped Ares!"
"Just in time too." Heidi added.

Mrs. Claus then turned to speak with the others. A stunned look came over her face.

"Jerm? How?" she began.
"Oh, you mean the whole falling from the building? Aphrodite placed a shield around me at the last minute." Jerm explained.
"Nice save." Gabrielle whispered.
"We're about two hours from home." Tina said. "I suggest we all take a rest."

Jamie went to the cockpit to help pilot. Xena and Gabrielle sat down in the middle of the plane, while Jerm and Aphrodite sat in the back. Miranda stayed up front as co-pilot. The time passed rather quickly. Soon plane was fifteen minutes away from Christmas Town.

"Why the down face, babe?" the Goddess of Love asked her husband.
"I really wasn't' much help, was I? I just seemed to get in the way." Jerm said.
"You helped when it was needed. That's all that mattered." Xena said, over hearing.

"It's too bad you'll all die celebrating a 'victory'." A voice sneered.
Everyone looked around. Suddenly, Ares appeared in a blue cloud of smoke. He grinned at the shocked faces in front of him. Xena stood up and pulled her chakram from her belt.

"I don't think so." Ares scoffed. "You may hit someone, or damage the plane."

Angered, Xena clipped the weapon back to her belt. "What do you want, Ares?"
"Just explained. You're all going to die. I figure that it'll crush that sentimental old fool to have to attend a group funeral service on Christmas Day. It'll 'suck' for you too, sis, because you'll be the only one to survive the crash."

Then Ares vanished in a puff of blue smoke. He reappeared on the right wing. The God of War extended his hands, and fired an intense energy blast into the right wing's engine. There was an explosion where the engine had been. Then he mock saluted with an evil grin, and vanished.

Alarms began to scream in the cockpit. Jamie swore as she fought with the controls. Panic filled the air inside the cabin. They were so close to home. The LEAR jet began to tilt and begin the horrid decent downward. The screams grew louder?

Chapter 8: A Hero's Birth

"He's right!" Aphrodite snapped. "This does suck!"

Suddenly Jerm stood up beside her.

"What are you doing?" she asked.
"How much mojo do you have left?" he asked with a serious look upon his face.
"A little. Why?" she questioned.
"Aphrodite, I need you to teleport me outside the plane."
"What are you thinking?" she eyed him suspiciously.
"I've got to stop the plane." Jerm told his wife.
"Are you crazy?" she whispered. "We don't know the limits of your powers!"
"Now's not the time." Jerm said. "People are in danger."
"Jerm, please?" Aphrodite said. "Every time I close my eyes, I see Callisto and Ares blasting you out of the sky. I was so?"
"'Dite, I have to do this." Jerm said to her.

She looked into his eyes. The Goddess of Love could tell he was adamant about it. She looked away from him. "Fine."

"'Dite?" Jerm said. "I need to ask you?do you believe in me?"

She turned to face him. "What?"
"Do you believe that I can do this?" Jerm repeated.
"Of course I do. I'm just?scared." Aphrodite said.
"That's all I needed to know." Jerm said.
The Goddess of Love kissed him. "Please?please come back to me."
"I will. I promise." Jerm told her.

Aphrodite smiled, and then closed her eyes. Jerm vanished in a puff of pink smoke?

"Mayday! Mayday!" Jamie screamed into radio. "This is AmTech One! We are going down! I repeat: we are going down! Christmas Town Tower, do you copy? We are going down!"

Static filled the radio waves. Then a garbled reply came.

"I don't know if you can understand me, but we need the runway lights lit. If you can, please get them on!" Jamie said.

A minute later, the red and green runway lights lit. Then snow began to fall heavier. Miranda looked over at Jamie.

"I don't know how we're going to get out of this one." Jamie said.

Jerm reappeared outside in a puff of smoke. He quickly looked around his surroundings. The plane was yards ahead and plummeting fast.

I don't know how or why I have these powers. But If I am to be worthy of these gifts, then I must help those people. He thought.

He glanced down at the silver 'S'. He had always thought it meant that you gave your all, no matter the cost. To help those who needed it. That's why Superman did the things he did. This most definitely was a job for Superman. Unfortunately, he wasn't here. His friends were on that plane. Aphrodite believed in him. That's all he needed. Perhaps, just perhaps?

Jerm flew towards the falling plane?

"What should we do, Xena?" Gabrielle asked.
"Gabrielle, I don't know." Xena said. "Ares really did a number this time."

The warrior princess turned to looked around the plane. She felt powerless. She hated the feeling. Then she noticed Aphrodite looking out the window. She carefully walked back towards the Goddess of Love.

"Where's?" Xena began. "Wait?he's?"
"Outside." Aphrodite said, not taking her eyes from the window.
"Jerm's going to try and save the plane?!" Xena exclaimed.

Aphrodite nodded.

"Do you think he can do it?" Xena asked.

Aphrodite turned to face Xena. The warrior princess could see the fear in her eyes. "Yes, I know he can."

Jamie continued fighting with the controls. She knew it was pointless. Ares not only took out the engine, but also the wingtip was well. The ground was slowly getting closer. Miranda looked how she felt. Scared. Just then, something caught her eye. A blip on the radar, coming towards their falling craft.

"What the?" Jamie said. "Miranda? Do you see that?"
The other Amazon nodded. "Jamie, what is it?"
"I don't know. Whatever it is, it's coming in fast. We'd better brace ourselves, just in case." Jamie said grimly.

"I'm too young to die!" Kimmy yelled as she looked around the cabin. "Can't you do something, Heidi?"
"No." Mrs. Claus said. "Not this time."

Aphrodite looked out the window. She saw Jerm flying parallel with it. He looked towards her and blew a kiss. She smiled and waved. Then he zipped off?

Kimmy turned and looked out the window. She was always an optimist. There had to be away out of this. That's when she saw the black blur flash by her window. Her eyes lit up.

"Did you see that!?" she exclaimed. "Did you see it?"
"See what, Kimmy?" Heidi asked.
"The black blur!" Kimmy said.

Heidi smiled sadly at Kimmy. Poor kid.

"I saw it too." An Amazon said. "It was a black blur. It just shot by the window."
"Me too!" another shouted.

Jerm looped the plane once, then pushed his speed harder than he ever thought possible. He reached the damaged engine and grabbed hold of it. Then he began lifting?

Jamie watched the altitude gauge slowly lower. She still pulled back on the steering column. Just then, the LEAR began to pull up. Jamie's eyes grew wide. She look over at Miranda, who was staring out the window.

"What's going on?" she asked. "Did the engine?" "No?" Miranda said. "Uh?Jamie, you're not going to believe this?"
"What?" Jamie said.

Miranda moved aside so Jamie could peer out the window. The Amazon weapons master squinted. Then her eyes widened in surprise and she gasped. She could just see through the falling snow that?someone was?holding up the plane?

"What?is it?" she asked.
"I?I don't know." Miranda said.

The plane continued it's rise until it was flying level again?.

Gabrielle looked out her widow. She could just make out the figure holding on to the engine. Her eyes widened. She also could see the landing strip ahead. She jumped up and rushed the cockpit.

"Jamie!" The Amazon Queen said. "Put down the landing gear so we can land! He's going to need all the help you can give!"

Jamie nodded and flipped a few switches?

The plane was heavy to Jerm, but not as bad as he thought. He could feel that Jamie was trying to slow the plane down and she lowered the landing gear. He could see the runway lights growing closer. He began aiding the damaged plane's decent. The LEAR touched down, but was still coming in too fast. He let go of the engine and rushed around to nose of the plane. He placed his hands against the nose and began pushing against it. A few seconds later, the jet stopped?

Jamie was trying to stop the plane, but it was still coming in way too fast. She then noticed someone was in front of the jet, pushing against it. Between the two working together, the LEAR slowed down, then stopped. She could see the individual began to walk way from the nose of the jet. In the light she caught sight of a silver letter 'S'. She jumped out her seat, Miranda close behind?

Kimmy was the first out of the plane. She looked around. Whoever had saved them had to be around. She wanted to meet them, say thank you. She looked until she saw someone hovering about the plane, his face concealed by the growing darkness. Everyone else exited the plane. Aphrodite and Xena smiled at one another, like they knew something. Tina joined with Miranda and Jamie. Gabrielle walked over to Xena and the Goddess of Love. Heidi looked around until she too spotted the figure in the dark.
"Is everyone alright?" Jerm asked.

He dropped his voice down an octave. He still agreed with Aphrodite about not having a lot of people know, though he didn't mind Xena and Gabrielle knowing his secret. Who knows; maybe Christmas Town could use their own superhero. Anything was possible. He could see Aphrodite smiling.

"We're fine!" Kimmy yelled. "Mrs. Claus is making a feast to celebrate. Why don't you join us before Xena eats all the cookies!"
"Hey!" Xena said. "I don't eat more than anyone else."
"Right." Gabrielle said sarcastically.
"Who are you?" Miranda asked.

She glanced over at Tina, who was smiling as well.

She probably already knows who he is. She thought to herself.

"A friend." The figure answered.
"Well, whoever you are, thank you." Heidi said. "You have our gratitude."

Jerm smiled. He just had to say it. "Don't thank me, miss. We're just all part of the same team. Goodnight!"

He then flew off. The elves and Amazons rushed towards the Claus' castle, ready for a time of food and friendship. Aphrodite told them she would be there in a minute. Xena and Gabrielle wanted to congratulate Jerm as well.

"I left some things on the jet. I'll be back. Come on, Gabrielle." Xena said.

The two re-entered the LEAR. Two minutes later, Jerm landed beside his wife. He smiled. "Well?"
"You were totally awesome!" she said as she hugged him.
"It was your belief in me that did it." Jerm told her.
"Jerm?" she smiled. "When we get home?I want you to hold me, and not let go. After what happened in the tower?I just?"

Jerm nodded. Xena and Gabrielle disembarked from the plane.

"Good job, Jerm. I really mean that." Xena said.
"Yeah." Gabrielle added.
"Thanks." Jerm said, blushing.

Then the young man placed an arm around his wife and his other arm around Xena. "I think we all did well. Let's get some food before Kimmy eats it all."

The others laughed. Then, arm in arm, the four friends went to join the others in the friendship feast Mrs. Claus was preparing?


December 28th
Gabrielle sat in the front of the large cafeteria of the AmTech building in Lucyville, Virginia. She had called this meeting after speaking with a friend who worked at the building. It was the young woman Gabrielle had spoke with when she was there a few days ago. The woman had gathered information on how that particular branch was doing business. The things she found had angered her. Gabrielle also found out that after they had left that day, Victoria had fired Mildred for allowing them in the building. So Gabrielle decided to hold a surprise meeting. The Queen of the Amazons had also searched out the number and called Mildred, requesting her presence at the meeting.

This time Gabrielle had Xena, Jamie, Miranda, Tina, Aphrodite and Jerm with her. Xena and Gabrielle both wore pantsuits; Gabrielle's was black while Xena's was brown. Miranda had on a green and red dress. Jamie wore a blue sweater and long gray skirt. Tina was dressed in a black blouse and white skirt with black heels. Aphrodite, who had complained a lot when Gabrielle and Jerm told her she couldn't wear her negligee, had on a pink blouse, pink skirt, and pink pumps. She had her long blonde hair pulled back in a ponytail and wore a pair of gold rimmed glasses. Jerm was dressed in a white dress shirt, black tie, pants and dress shoes. Gabrielle was about to say some rather nasty things, and she wanted her friends there for support. As with the first meeting, Victoria was not the most pleasant person to be around, until she spotted Jamie. The employees had arrived and all eyes were on Gabrielle.

"Good morning, everyone." She began. "I hope your Christmas was very enjoyable. I called this meeting to discuss some important things. As you may or may not know, AmTech gives at least eighty percent of their profits to different charities and missions, knowing our funds are doing the greater good. I requested reports to see how this branch of the company was doing, and I what I read absolutely sickened me. Only ten percent of this company's profits when to the local charities! Ten percent! Then I looked to see what the company was spending the money on and was appalled. Sports cars, trips to exotic locations, you name it! These things are going to stop. First and foremost?"

The Queen of the Amazons turned to where she requested the board of directors to sit down.

"Effective immediately, the board of directors for this branch is fired."

Whispers began to fill the cafeteria. Eyes widened in surprise, including those on the board of directors. One of them began rising to speak but Gabrielle cut her off.

"Also, you'll see that Mildred is with us this morning as well. Starting on January third, she will be returning here to work as the receptionist. Victoria VanHoffenstien, could you please stand?" Gabrielle continued.

The manger of the building stood, a smug look on her face. She was finally going to get some respect. A seat on the board perhaps.

"You?" Gabrielle began speaking again. "You were worse than the board. You disrespect your employees, and put down those around you, thinking you're better than everyone. As Queen, I could care less what you think of me. Those I brought with me?they're my family. They are the ones that matter most. As owner of this company, I will not allow you to demean another person. You, Victoria are fired as well."
"You can't do that!" Victoria snapped. "Who will run this place?"
"For awhile, I will." Gabrielle said. "Then I will bring in people I trust to take over. Things will be different starting in the New Year. I thank you for coming to this meeting. For all employees, you don't have to return to work until January third. You may leave."

Everyone got up talking. Some cheered and laughed as they left.

"Wow." Xena said. "Good job, Gabrielle."
"Yeah?well?I don't like doing that." Gabrielle said, looking utterly drained.
"I guess we better get back up north." Miranda said. "Does anyone know what Santa wants to talk to us about? When is this meeting anyway?"
"I think we find out on New Years Eve." Tina answered.
"I have an idea." Aphrodite said. "Why don't we go out for lunch somewhere? Just us. We'll make a day of it."
"Yeah!" Miranda said. "We could go clothes shopping!"
"Cool!" Aphrodite and Jamie exclaimed. "Shopping!"
"Oh no?" Jerm and Xena both sighed.

The others laughed and the group left the building?

December 31st

Jerm, Aphrodite, Kimmy, Xena, Gabrielle, Tina, Miranda and Jamie sat around a large round table. Two large plates of cookies were sitting there, along with a few bottles of milk. Xena had her own plate, which was almost gone, and she was beginning to eye up the other plates of cookies.

"Thank you for coming here." Santa began. "I know a few of you have plans, so I'll make this short. Heidi filled me in about what happened with the battle. I have to say I'm really impressed with you all. But I'm afraid it'll get a lot worse. We've made an enemy of the God of War and his flunkies. They'll be back, and even worse threats will rear their ugly heads. You all have great strengths which complement each others wonderfully. You also have weaknesses that only your friends around you can help you overcome. What I am proposing is that the eight of you form an elite strike force that will covertly go in and fight off Ares, and all those who threaten the world. I know there are other heroes out there, but Ares, Callisto and Izod may be a bit out of their league. I don't need an answer tonight. This is something you all need to think about. Discuss it with one another, if you wish. I will need an answered by next week. Now if you'll excuse me. I have to help Heidi plan for the big party the elves are having. I just would love to know who but the idea for a fifties sock hop in the suggestion box."

Santa then walked out of the room.

"Well?" Miranda said. "Now what?"
"I think we all have something to think about." Jamie said.

A few hours later?

Aphrodite, Xena, Gabrielle and Jerm stood on one of the castle's towers. Tina had agreed to start training Kimmy, Jamie and Miranda how to use a lightsaber. It was beginning to get dark. Snow fell heavily from the evening sky. A cold wind began to blow in from the north.

"He's really worried." Aphrodite said. "I think things may be changing."
"How so?" Gabrielle asked.
"Ares knows that you two are back, and that I'm still around. He'll try to find us. I'll have to tone down using my powers to stay out of his radar. If he ever found this place?" Aphrodite explained.

She turned to Jerm. "He'll come after you too, babe."
"I know." Jerm said quietly.

She caressed his face. He hadn't been sleeping well since?well since he collapsed with Tina. It bothered Aphrodite, but she knew he would talk to her when he was ready.

"So, where are you going?" Xena asked.
"We're going to see how different places celebrate New Years." Aphrodite said.
"Do you have enough mojo to get everywhere?" Xena questioned.
"I'm flying us around." Jerm said.
"Besides, I won't need any mojo for later?" Aphrodite smiled slyly.
"I didn't need to hear that." Gabrielle mumbled.
"We'll see you tomorrow." Jerm said.

He scooped up Aphrodite into his arms, causing her to giggle. Then with a nod to the other two, Jerm leapt into the air, and the two vanished into the darkness?

"So?what do you think of Santa's offer?" Xena asked.
"Honestly?" Gabrielle asked. "I enjoyed the past few days. Running around with you, Aphrodite, Jamie and the others reminded me of the old days. I really wouldn't mind joining Santa's secret strike team. There would be a lot of adjustments to be made, though."
"I had fun, too." Xena admitted. "And it was like old times. I think there's a lot we could learn from each other."

Gabrielle nodded in agreement. "So?what do you want to do?"
"I think it's time we caught up with each other." Xena said. "Besides, there's a little girl I want to introduce you to."

The two friends walked back into the castle.

Mount Olympus, Greece.

It was dark in the ruins that had once been home to the Grecian gods. Only a lone figure was there, staring at a large wall, with carvings of the different gods. Most had slashes throughout their carvings. Only two were unmarred: Ares, the God of War, and Aphrodite, the Goddess of Love.

The figure stood about seven feet tall. His skin was an ashen gray. His garb was that of a warrior's. His eyes glowed with an eerie yellow color. He had no hair. In his hand was a sliver axe with flecks of dried blood on it. A cold smile was on his face.

"Well, Well?" he hissed as he stared at the carving of the Goddess of Love. "It looks like I found you after all these years, Aphrodite. Soon, very soon, I will add your powers to my own."

A sinister laugh filled the air?

The End.

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