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Chapter 1
No Room
Three Years Later

It was to be the largest festival in what used to be Washington state. The only problem, it was being held in a smallish town and the city planners, had made no provisions for big events. Middling events, yes. Small events, yes. Big events. NO. But the location was beautiful; in mountainish, foresty country, near a lovely lake and other things scenic. The sky was blue, the clouds miandered and the sun was still warm enough to make swimming pleasant. It was, despite the lack of planning, the perfect place.

The real problem was housing. There wasn't enough for all the performers, competitors, tourists, carnival types, and so on, that flooded the fair city. Oh, the town could make do. Several families had offered their homes. But there was the problem of offending some of the major delegations that had been sent by their countries. The Amazon Nation for one.

Rachael, a lovely, pregnant, towheaded barkeep, was struggling to keep order in the bar. Her main cause of worry, were the discontented people who were congregating in a back corner of the bar. She glanced at the harried man standing above the group of angry women and she grinned. *Hero had been right on the nose about this one. No wonder she wanted to stay out of it.* Rachael wondered if Hero had gotten the message. *OH Please come. . .* The barkeep kept having visions of smashed chairs and a crumpled city director.

"Now People, calm down. We are resolving the problems as we speak. I can assure you that there is room for you...somewhere."

One brawny woman spoke loudly, "And what about practice time. . . these slots suck and I've been to your practice facility. What is *that?* I've seen better in a . . ."

The man standing on the table responded, as he clenched a clipboard in his hands, "That's being addressed too. No I don't know who did the planning. Yes it does seem unfair. We are seeing if we can exchange some of these times with other. . .Yes, there will be a larger practice field available for ball players and the like. Please. Please. Remain calm. This town respects all of you and your efforts to come here for the festival. We want it to be a success and an event you will always remember with pleasure. Trust me when I say this will all get resolved. Meanwhile. . .Meanwhile. . Let us buy you a round of drinks while you wait."

"What about the others?" another voice piped up.

"The others?" the man squeaked.

"Yeah, we've got at least fifteen more people coming in. Maybe more. You know, to watch."

The man felt a sudden urge to wipe his brow. "Uhm. . Look some folks may have to. . ."

"We were promised rooms! It says so right here." The woman waved a pamphlet in air, pointing. "This isn't going to sit well with. . ."

The man gulped. "Yes. Yes. Trust me. You will have rooms." *I'll pray for them personally.* He smiled weakly. "Please, accept the drinks. RACHAEL!" He scanned the room frantically and then sighed in relief when he caught sight of her.

The woman was already on the floor, handing out mugs of ale to thirsty Amazons.

***

The beat up orange truck contributed to the noise polution of the usually quiet town. The driver responded to waves in her direction by waving casually through the open window. When she wasn't waving, she let her arm hang down the side of the door. Her driving was smooth, as if she'd done this forever. She pulled up to a more occupied than usual parking lot. The driver rolled her eyes. She opened the rickety door with a loud metalic crunch, stepped out, then slammed it shut again. The truck rattled a bit with the force of the closed door.

Then she entered the building. The noise level was high, matching the number of people occupying the fairly compact space. At first glance, she was ready to turn right back around and head for home. She didn't get a chance though, for Rachael spotted her. "HERO! Wait. Don't Leave." Hero winced at the sound of the barkeep's voice. The barroom drifted into a deep silence. Rachael hurried to Hero's side and wrapped an arm around the reluctant woman's waist. "I am so glad to see you." Hero gave a lopsided grin and patted Rachael's hand.

She blocked out the unnoise and turned her focus on the pretty woman. She leaned and spoke quietly to the woman. "You might want to look outside." Rachael raised her eyebrows, glanced at the door and then back. Hero leaned back. "I won't run away. Go ahead."

Rachael moved smoothly out of the room. Hero turned to glower at the room. "What the HELL are You staring at." She growled. There were startled glances from some of the patrons (not the normals, they'd long ago given up staring at the woman. Last time someone had stared too long. . .well, it was an ugly story and no one wanted to think on it. They paid close attention to their drinks), mostly the Amazons. Recognition showed in their faces. Hero showed her teeth, the canines long and pointy. Her nostrils flared, making the bridge of her nose squinch, molding around two vertical barbells. Her hair was long and shaggy. There was another peircing just under her lip There was a jagged scar along one side of her face. She growled menacingly, "You Just Keep LOOKING and I'll give you something worth. . ."

There was a squeal behind the woman, startling the words out of her mouth. Hero felt herself pulled into a long and rambling kiss of meaningful proportions. "OH Thank YOU! Thank You! Its Beautiful!" Hero blushed, and tried to untangle herself from Rachael's arms. She took the barkeep's hands in hers and smiled shyly.

"I just thought you ought to have one. It seemed right." Hero's smile was a rare thing.

"It is just so gorgeous."

"I'm glad you like it."

"I'll have it brought in right away."

Hero nodded.

"Happy Anniversary, Rachael."

"Thanks Hero." Hero glanced around the room.

"Where's that husband of yours anyway?"

"He's out helping with the festival. There's been a few problems." Rachael pulled Hero in exactly the direction she didn't want to go. But she followed anyway. "Come on. I'll explain."

They didn't get very far across the floor. An tall, limber looking Amazon stepped in front of the pair. She looked bravely into Hero's eyes and saluted. "Captain."

Hero pulled her hands from Rachael's startled grasp. She resisted the impulse to throw the Amazon across the room and settled for shouting. "NEVER call ME that. NEVER! DO YOU UNDERSTAND!" Golden eyes blazed into fearful green eyes. The Amazon gave a shaky nod. Hero snorted, and took a deep breath. "You can call me almost anything but that. . .They call me Hero around here."

The Amazon stuttered, "Yes, Ma'am. Yes, Brigid."

Brigid winced at the sound of her name.

Rachael spoke up, "Yes, well. This brings up the very problem we have before us." She turned to face the uncomfortable woman, "Hero, Brigid." Rachael's body language indicated the Amazons, "These women need a place to stay. You got any ideas?"

Brigid raised an eyebrow. "I suppose you do. . ."

Rachael grabbed Brigid's arm again, "Now that you speak of it. . ."