by Joseph Anderson

The characters in this story belong to me. However the storyline originally derived from Xena: Warrior Princess. No copyright infringement is intended.

This is a prequel to The Quality of Mercy. It won't make much sense if you haven't read at least My Brother's Keeper and Good Prince Samuel in my Kimberly/Jilly storyline.

Angela stared at the woman who had just come into the room. She looked like Sam. Tall, dark hair, broad shoulders and those blue eyes. She didn't trip like Sam usually did when he came in though. The woman was dressed in an expensive looking trench coat over a dark blazer and skirt. Angela had noticed her looking at the picture of the Sword of Ares that was the first thing you saw when you stepped out of the elevator. After a while she finally came in and began wandering around. Something told her that the woman didn't want to be assisted just yet, so Angela went back to the psych textbook she'd been reading. The woman seemed to have found what she was looking for. She was looking at the coins with Prince Samuel.

Angela finally put her book down and walked over to the woman.

"Can I help you find something?" she asked.

Finally tearing her eyes away from the coins with her little boy on them, Kimberly looked up at the tall girl. It felt strange; she didn't meet that many women taller than she was. Course she didn't meet that many college basketball players either.

"I was just admiring your coin collection here," Kimberly said.

Angela smiled and said, "Yeah, it's pretty good. New ones with Samuel keep coming in too. Everything else in here is only ancient Greece, but Prince Samuel's family lasted long after that and went all over. The prince was always shown like this no matter how he really looked. Just tradition."

The woman ironically said, "That's a pretty smart explanation for somebody to come up with."

Angela just impulsively said, "You look like a friend of mine. Do you know Sam Snopes?"

Kimberly looked back at the coins. "Yeah, I'm a relative. He tell you he was related to Melinda Pappas?"

"Uh huh. Guess, that's why you're here too since this is the Pappas Collection."

Kimberly didn't say anything, just nodded. Finally she looked at the girl. "That and I wanted to meet you. Sam's really into you, I hear. So I just thought I'd drop by. Check you out." She said the last with a smile to make it clear it was a joke.

The tall freckled redhead smiled a little nervously. Sam came from a family that was colorful to say the least. She had no idea what to expect from this woman.

"Don't worry, I won't bite," Kimberly said. Angela laughed.

"How are you related to Sam?" Angela asked.

"Distantly. I haven't seen him in years."

"Y'know, if Sam had long hair and a mustache, I think he'd look sort of like Prince Samuel. I mentioned that to somebody and she said I'm just crazy about him." Angela said, looking at the coins on display now herself.

Kimberly smiled. "I can see it. I mean, I've only seen pictures of Sam for a long time, but, yeah, I can see it."

"Thank you. Somebody agrees with me." Angela said.

"You're not a history major, right?" the dark woman asked.

Angela nodded. "Right. Library Science. I just work here. I've learned a lot though. I mean it'd be a waste to be here and not. All these psychos, I mean, it's fascinating."

"That's probably the word for 'em," Kimberly said, looking around the room. Her eyes stopped on something she'd missed before.

Angela looked curiously at the woman as she approached the display cases with the veiled helmets. She looked at them with an inscrutable expression on her face. Angela followed her.

"I love those. They're beautiful. Of the two, I like the simpler one more, myself. All that inlay on the other one is kind of much," the redhaired young woman said. She thought for a moment the other woman wasn't even listening to her.

Kimberly said softly, "Your taste changes as you get older. Or maybe you feel like you have a position to maintain. So you get a Porsche instead of a Camaro. It's not bad or good."

The young woman laughed and Kimberly looked at her. "Sounds like you've given some thought to this," Angela said. "No one really knows the history of these helmets. They are up because they are the same style as the Sword of Ares wore. There are claims they were actually worn by her. That sounds kind of far fetched to me."

"Oh, I don't know. There weren't that many around in Greece. She wanted it that way. The Sword of Ares was really vain." Kimberly said. "I hear you're a vegetarian," she said changing the subject abruptly.

Angela heard something a little odd in her voice and suddenly realized she had been denigrating what might be a family tradition regarding the helmets. Apologizing would just make it worse. She was blushing as she began to answer, but Kimberly interrupted her. "Don't worry about it. You haven't impugned the family honor. I was thinking of something else."

"That's a relief!" Angela said. She tried to remember what she was going to say. Oh yeah. "Um, I'm a vegetarian, yeah. I don't want to be some grease sponge, but more than that I just can't stand the thought of killing anything and then eating it. It's horrible. What right do people have to kill defenseless animals? If murder is wrong, so is killing animals!"

The woman looking at her had an amused expression on her face that made Angela mad. "Everybody thinks caring about anything besides people is a big joke."

"Angela, I'm not laughing at you. I just wasn't expecting that is all. I had you pegged in my mind as a real carnivore."

Mollified, Angela said, "Well...okay. Why would you assume I was a meat eater."

"I dunno. Maybe I just misunderstood something. Tell me, Angela, what do you think when you look at what's on the reverse of those coins with Prince Samuel on them?"

"I never thought about it. Some kind of symbol or something. I'm not a history major. I just work here twice a week." Angela said. She saw the woman nod knowingly. This was irritating. "Okay, tell me what it is," she said a little sharply, then blushed.

"It's a man impaled on a stake. That was how Prince Samuel dealt with enemies and criminals of practically every kind. Worked good too, from what I understand. Scares the crap outa people and in a war that's how you want your enemies to look at you. It's also more economical than crucifixion since it requires less wood. When you're dealing in volume, concerns like that matter."

Angela made a face and went over to look at the coins again. "I didn't even realize that! God, that's sick! You sound like you approve."

Kimberly shrugged.

"You know a lot about all of this. It must be a family tradition, what with Melinda Pappas and everything," Angela said. She didn't like this woman so much anymore. She seemed arrogant and mean.

Kimberly looked at her. This was Captain Angela. It was incredible that this same sweet freckled girl would in a few months become a death machine with an appetite for inflicting pain worthy of Cortese. She wondered how Ares had possibly spotted it in her. He just put Sam in danger so Angela could save him, and somehow that freed the blackest heart Kimberly had ever seen. She led Sam's army, torturing and impaling his enemies for 30 years.

Kimberly thought maybe she would go see her after she became Captain Angela. This girl might still be in there somewhere. "Sometimes I'm a little insensitive, I guess. Sam's a lucky guy."

Angela was surprised again. The woman kept saying things that seemed to be coming out of left field, or like she meant more than she actually said.

"Thanks a lot. Oh, what's your name, so I can tell Sam you came by?"

She got this strange look again, sad or something. "Kimberly. But Sam doesn't know me."

"Just like the Sword of Ares, huh?" Angela said.

"Yeah, just like the Sword of Ares."

Angela studied her and something hit her. The woman looked sort of young but maybe she got started early or was just well preserved. Angela carefully said, "I really care for Sam a lot. His mother's name was Kimberly. He said she died but I never got the story."

The woman's face got red.

"Are you his mother?"

The woman nodded.

"Is that how Sam copes with it? or maybe your dying was just some story they fed Sam when you left?"

"You're a smart girl, Angela, but I already knew that. I'm glad he has somebody like you. He thinks I'm dead. Don't mention me to Sam; it'll just upset him. Goodby." The woman reached out and squeezed Angela's shoulder, then walked out. Angela watched the elevator doors close behind her.

The End