Monday, June 30, 2008

"Obssessions" [PG-13] - Epilogue



"I have some good news," Leo announced. He stood before the members of the Elders Council.

The grizzled Elder MacKenzie stared at the young whitelighter. "Good news, you say? What is it?"

"It concerns Olivia McNeill." Leo paused. "She's . . . uh, involved in a new romance. Well, not quite. I mean, she has become involved with someone other than Cole. A witch named Paul Margolin."

Murmurs of approval filled the chamber. Elder Sylvester commented, "Paul Margolin. Isn't he one of your charges? From a place called Buffalo, New York?"

Leo nodded. "Yes. He has recently moved to San Francisco and found a job as an Assistant District Attorney. I, uh . . . I had made arrangements for him and Olivia to meet. They hit it off immediately." He added quickly, "But they're only friends, at the moment."

"What about Belthazor?" Elder Matilda asked. "How does he feel about this new situation?"

A quick shrug lifted Leo's shoulders. "What can he do?"

"A lot of damage, I can imagine," Elder Sylvester replied with some asperity. "What if he takes it upon himself to interfere with Miss McNeill's new friend?"

Leo hesitated. "I don't . . . I don't think he will. I mean . . . if he was serious about Olivia, he would have tried something. And he hasn't."

"Are you saying that Belthazor is not in love with the McNeill witch?" MacKenzie demanded.

Leo shook his head. "I don't think so. Not really. I believe that Cole is still in love with Phoebe. And that he was merely using Olivia as rebound. It looks as if his plans have backfired. Paige suspects that he might have been involved with other women."

Sylvester rolled his eyes. "Wonderful! We have a licentious and powerful half-demon on our hands!"

"But the important thing is that he is not involved with the middle Charmed One or the new Bearer of the Aingeal Staff." Matilda smiled at the young whitelighter. "Excellent job, Leo."

Leo returned his returned his superior's smile. "Thank you. Now if you'll excuse me." Once the Elders dismissed him, Leo turned on his heels and walked out of the Council chambers. He had not gone very far, when he became aware of someone following him. He turned around and found himself facing one of the Elders. "Your Eminence," he greeted with a frown. "Is there something wrong?"

"It's about Belthazor, Leo," the Elder replied. "I have a few questions of my own. Is Ms. McNeill aware that you were the one who had recommended the new job to Mr. Margolin?"

"No," Leo answered. "She doesn't. But I think that Cole has suspicions." He paused. "How did you . . . how did you know that a new position would be opened at the District Attorney's Office?"

The older whitelighter smiled. "I didn't. But I had made arrangement to send Mr. Margolin's predecessor away. As for Belthazor," a frown replaced the smile, "it looks as if he still might be a problem. Something will have to be done about him."

"Like what? He's too powerful. When Barbas had Cole's powers, Piper and her sisters weren't able to vanquish him. I don't see how . . ."

The Elder interrupted. "And yet, not only was the youngest Charmed One able to create a potion to strip his powers, so were the Crozats." The whitelighter paused. "Didn't your Miss McNeill once had a theory on how to vanquish the Source, without the use of brute force?"

Leo replied, "Yeah, but I didn't really think much of it at the time. Especially since Piper and the others were destined to vanquish the Source. Which they did." He paused and stared at the elder whitelighter. "Are you suggesting that I . . .?"

"This new relationship between Miss McNeill and Mr. Margolin might not last, Leo. Even worse, despite what you say, Belthazor might genuinely be in love with her." The Elder pinned Leo with an intense stare. "And we are all aware of the ramifications of a possible child between your witch and Belthazor. This child could end up being even more powerful than your son. And we cannot allow for that to happen. So, before those two can ever have a chance to . . . reconcile, I suggest that you do something about Belthazor." A smile touched the Elder's lips. "Perhaps Mr. Margolin can help." The older whitelighter walked away.

Leo pressed his fingers against his temple. So much for his good mood. And now he was supposed to find a way to get rid of Cole. Permanently. Just how in the hell, he wondered, was he supposed to accomplish such a task?

* * * *

The black Porsche entered the precinct parking lot and made its way toward an empty space. Cole switched off the convertible's engine and sighed. He glanced at the dashboard's clock. It read eleven fifty-four. Just in time for Olivia's lunch break.

He had meant to ask his neighbor out for lunch, yesterday evening. Unfortunately, his encounter with one powerful succubus - along with the self-righteous Paul Margolin - had left Cole exhausted. He had fallen asleep the moment his body hit the bed. Long before Olivia had arrived home.

So, here he sat inside his convertible, hoping to surprise Olivia with a lunch date. If all went well, lunch might eventually lead to dinner - and hopefully, something more intimate.

After removing his keys from the ignition, Cole climbed out of the convertible. He then stuffed the keys inside his trousers pocket and made his way toward the police station's entrance. Once inside, an elevator conveyed him to the third floor, where the Investigative Division's squad room. Cole finally reached his destination . . . and came across a scene that nearly froze his heart.

"Excuse me," a woman said, as she brushed past Cole. She paused. Stared at him. "Excuse me, but are you looking for someone?"

Cole's gaze remained fixed upon the sight of Olivia and Paul Margolin, staring into each other's eyes. Smiling. The half-daemon's expression hardened. "No," he murmured. "I . . . she's not here. The person I'm looking for." He flashed a half-hearted smile, turned on his heels and left.


A/N: For all you Cole/Olivia fans, all is not lost. I am now working on the next two stories.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

"GET SMART" (2008) Photo Gallery

"GET SMART" (2008) Photo Gallery

Below are photos from the movie version of the 1965-1971 television comedy, "GET SMART". The movie stars Steve Carrell, Anne Hathaway, Dwanye Johnson, Terrence Stamp and Alan Arkin:

Friday, June 27, 2008

"The Rain Chronicles" [PG] - Book VIII

"The Rain Chronicles" [PG] - Book VIII

Rain Robinson of ”Future’s End” ends up on Voyager, following her adventures with Tom Paris and Tuvok in late 20th century Earth. Here is Book VIII.



Life has pretty much returned to normal aboard Voyager. Well, somewhat. I've noticed that Captain Janeway and Commander Chakotay seem a bit distant with each other. Considering his romance with a beautiful bionic woman, I'm not really surprised.

Maybe I had been wrong about her. Maybe the Captain is really in love with the Commander. But why does my gut say otherwise? I had immediately noticed that she was attracted to the man. Who wouldn't? Jenny and Megan told me that even B'Elanna Torres once harbored a secret passion for the guy. Maybe so, but I've never seen her look at him with lovesick eyes. As for Janeway, either she is the world's greatest actress, or she is simply not in love with Chakotay. I haven't made up my mind, yet.

The Doctor has been displaying unusual interest in Earth's history. Mainly in famous personalities. When he wasn't checking the ship's computer, he was grilling me about people like Gandhi and Lord Byron. Lord Byron? Jesus! What the hell would I know about him? I'm not even a fan! I mean, I used to be pretty good in history. Especially World History. So, I really didn't have much problems in answering the Doc's question. Well, except for questions about Lord Byron. What I wanted to know is why he has developed a sudden interest in this topic.

"I have decided to expand my programming," he declared in his usual pompous, but friendly manner. "I am in the process of creating a personality-improvement holographic program, utilizing the personalities of several historic characters." Then he waved his little instrument over my chest. "Take a deep breath, please."

Ever since I stowed away on this damn ship, I have been subjected to a medical check-up on a monthly basis. It seems the Captain wanted to make sure that I didn't fall victim to some 24th century disease that I might be unable to resist. Once the medical exam ended, the Doctor declared me fit. I slid off the bed and faced him. "Say Doc," I began, "about this new program of yours - are you sure you want to do this? I don't see anything wrong with your personality right now."

"That is what I keep telling him," Kes said from the other side of Sick Bay. She walked over to where we stood. "But the Doctor will not listen to me. Doctor, I'm not sure that this new program is a good idea. Remember what happened the last time?"

Kes explained that a few months before my arrival, the Doctor's program had begun to malfunction after two years of continuous activation and added subroutines to his program. Four months ago, I wouldn't have known what the hell Kes was talking about. But I do now. What she was describing was similar to someone adding additional and unnecessary programs to a PC hard drive.

"The only way we could save him was to graft the Doctor Zimmerman matrix from the holodeck systems into his program." She gave him a look that expressed both annoyance and concern.

The Doctor had the good sense to look embarrassed. But he still insisted upon going through with his experiment. "Many of the crew have complained about my lack of a bedside manner. Perhaps this new program will help me develop one."

"Doc, you already have a bedside manner," I retorted. "And quite frankly, I have no problems with it. Okay, you can be a little brusque and arrogant at times." He shot me a glare that I did my best to ignore. "So what? I've encountered too many doctors who will smile in my face and do absolutely nothing for my health. I think the crew should be grateful that you know how to do your job. And to be honest, many of them aren't exactly a bed of roses in the personality department."

One would think after a speech like that, the Doctor would reconsider his idea. But, no. Much to my and Kes' disappointment, he decided to go ahead with his scheme. Who knew that a being of photon light and energy could be so damn stubborn?


What is it with the Universe? Why is it so damn determined to make my life miserable? What the hell have I ever done to it?

Once again, I found myself in Sick Bay. For the third time in less than two months. Only this time, I found myself under attack by the Doctor. Yes, that's right, the Doctor. Not Vorik, not Chakotay, but Voyager's very own holographic medical officer. Kahless!

It was that damn program he had created! That personality improvement holographic program! The stupid idiot wanted to add it to his own program, in order to improve his personality. Some improvement. Instead of a hologram with a new and improved bedside manner, I found myself facing a schizophrenic psychopath, who paralyzed my legs and my vocal cords, kidnapped Kes and tried to kill her new boyfriend. Well, at least he achieved one objective. He prevented Kes from leaving Voyager for good. Of course, it's not the way I would have done it.

The Doctor apologized for what he did to my legs, this afternoon. You know, it seemed like déjà vu, for the third time around. And as usual, I had no choice but to accept an apology. At least I won't have to worry about his personality going through such a change in another seven years. Or worry about some piece of Borg technology in his body. I made sure that his new program was purged from his matrix. Permanently.

As for Zahir, Kes decided not to join him with the other Mikhal Travelers. She claimed that she could not leave Voyager. I wonder. I suspect that she felt worried about the Doctor, after his experiences in that damn 4-C program. Or maybe she was simply afraid to move on. Too bad. I have this feeling that she might eventually regret not joining Zahir.


In the two weeks since my failed experiment with the 4-C program, I have managed to repair any damaged relationship with both Kes and Lieutenant Torres. Much to my profound relief. Not only do the two women serve a vital function to my duties as Chief Medical Officer aboard Voyager, I consider them both friends. Especially Kes.

Ironically, restoring my relationship with Lieutenant Torres has proven to be less difficult. Perhaps after dealing with Ensign Vorik's pon-far and a slightly assimilated Commander Chakotay, being paralyzed by me must have seem like another day in the Delta Quadrant. It was not long before we regained our old relationship.

Kes has proven to be somewhat more difficult. Not only did I physically assault her companion, Zahir, I also kidnapped her. And threatened her with force. Even worse, I had admitted my true feelings for her, while in the throes of schizophrenia. Very embarrassing, I must say. We spent the following week in a state of awkwardness that nearly left me in despair of ever regaining our old friendship.

Within a week, our awkwardness had begun to dissipate. It did not completely disappear until today - when we found ourselves facing another endless medical emergency. It started when Voyager encountered an alien ship. Ensign Kim, for some apparent reason, deemed the ship a threat and fired upon it. Naturally, the aliens fired back and Voyager suffered major damage in the Engineering Section. By the time the ship managed to slip away, Kes and I found ourselves faced with wounded crewmen. Including Miss Robinson. Imagine our surprise.

Ensign Kim appeared a few minutes later. The Captain wanted him examined to comprehend the reasons behind his actions on the Bridge. The ensign seemed particularly stricken by Miss Robinson's unconscious state. Kes and I managed to stabilize Miss Robinson's condition by treating her scorched lungs with pulmozine. However, her burns still required attendance and I curtly dismissed Mister Kim.


The following morning, Ensign Kim returned to Sick Bay with a new dilemma. Spots. Spots had appeared on his face, overnight. I immediately assumed he had been infected with some kind of virus. After a careful examination of his body, I came to the conclusion that Mister Kim had not been afflicted by some disease.

Miss Robinson regained consciousness while Ensign Kim was in Sickbay. She seemed slightly groggy from the pulmozine and she also continued to experience slight pain in her lungs. Which is why I ordered her to remain in Sickbay for another day.

Mister Kim apologized for the being the cause of her injuries. Miss Robinson seemed more than willing to accept his apologies. In fact, she seemed quite friendly. Both Mister Kim and myself learned from her that she was in Engineering to deliver an Astrometrics report, when she suffered her injuries.

A few hours later, Voyager came across a Taresian ship, which helped us fight off the pursuing Nasari ships - the very people whom Ensign Kim had attacked. The Captain, Lieutenants Tuvok and Paris, and Ensign Kim paid a visit to the Taresian surface. Only Ensign Kim remained behind. The Captain delivered an astonishing tale about the ensign discovering that his true heritage was Taresian and that his DNA had resurfaced upon Voyager's proximity to the planet. After examination of Mister Kim's DNA, it seemed the Taresians had been truthful. However, I decided to run more tests.

Lieutenant Paris paid a visit to Sick Bay, several hours later. He expressed interest in Ensign Kim's genetic condition. But I knew the truth. While I discussed Mister Kim's DNA coding, Mister Paris began casting surreptious glances at the once again unconscious Miss Robinson. Realizing that I was wasting my breath, I asked in an exasperated tone, "Do you wish to speak with Miss Robinson?" It was not difficult to detect the emotions that reflected in his eyes. Concern, compassion, tenderness and something else. Dare I say it? Love?

For a moment, I wondered if I had been hasty. After all, I have been aware of the attraction between Lieutenants Paris and Torres for the past half year. However, I also recalled the vibrant chemistry between Mister Paris and Miss Robinson during our adventures on 20th century Earth. Although their relationship has somewhat cooled in the past five months, the chemistry between the pair remained obvious.

"Mister Paris?" I added. He had failed to respond.

The helmsman snapped out of his reverie and blushed. Interesting. "Yeah, Doc. Did you say something?"

"Yes. I asked if you would like to speak with Miss Robinson. I'm sure that a few minutes of your dazzling wit will not harm her." My usual caustic tone drew a glare from the pilot.

However, Mister Paris rejected my offer. He shook his head and replied, "No thanks, Doc. Rain probably needs the rest and I don't want to disturb her." He started toward the door.

I called after him. "Mister Paris!" He paused and I caught up with him. "Mister Paris, about a year ago, a compassionate young man once convinced me to take a chance with a woman I had harbored a great interest in. And now, I would like to return the favor."

Blue eyes stared at me, warily. "Meaning?"

I sighed. When it came to facing his emotions, Thomas Eugene Paris can be incredibly stubborn. "Meaning, it seems clear to me that you still harbor some feelings for Miss Robinson. I do not comprehend the reason behind your estrangement during the past five months, but it is apparent that neither of you have been happy, lately. May I suggest that you take a chance? Mend your relationship. Why continue in this unhappy state?"

The helmsman's face hardened. "Thanks for the advice, Doc. But I think you're barking up the wrong tree. Excuse me, I have to report back to the Bridge." He quickly left Sick Bay.

Kes sauntered over to me and patted my arm. "I'm sorry, Doctor. I had hoped Tom would take your advice. Perhaps he will. One day." She stood on her toes and planted a light kiss on my cheek. "On the other hand, I'm also very proud of you."

I never realized that holograms could experience bodily warmth, due to a kiss from an organic. Until today.


I missed the whole incident regarding Harry and the Taresian women, thanks to the injuries I had suffered. No matter. Harry told Neelix, Tom and myself the entire story during lunch.

He told us how he had been deliberately infected with a retrovirus that genetically altered his DNA to resemble the Taresians. The retrovirus gave him an instinctive urge to return to Taresia. And attack the Nasari ships. The very act that led me to being nearly scorched beyond recognition.

To make a long story short, Voyager visited Taresia. Harry decided to remain on the planet's surface, believing he had returned home. He learned that the planet was mainly inhabited by women, who gave him this cock-and-bull story about some Taresian who traveled to Earth to plant an embryo into his mother's womb. The Taresians really wanted his genetic material to harvest for procreation. I guess this was their way getting knocked up. Lovely. Harry managed to escape with Voyager's help. This led to a discussion about sea sirens that lured men to their doom. If you ask me, this whole incident could have been called, "Ensign Kim and the Vampire Women". What a great B-movie that would made. Bram Stoker couldn't have written a better story.

Then as we left the Mess Hall, Harry and Tom began some nonsense about how they wish they could be each other. Yeah, right. It became so nauseating that I begged them to stop. After the turbolift stopped on Deck Six, Harry said good-bye and disappeared. But not without one last apology. Tom took it upon himself to escort me to my quarters. I didn't mind. Although I had been released from Sick Bay, I still felt a little weak.

Once we reached my quarters on Deck Eight, I invited Tom inside for a drink. Surprise, surprise! Perhaps I was in the mood for company. Or maybe I remembered what the Doc told me about Tom's visit to Sick Bay. Tom accepted my offer. He even suggested that I lay on the couch, while he replicated the coffee. Is it any wonder that I . . .

"Here you go." Tom handed me a cup. His blue eyes reflected concern. Compassion. Hell, I almost drowned just staring into them. Then he asked me, "How do you feel?"

I took a sip of the coffee. Strong, sweet and with plenty of milk. "Fine," I said, "but I'm still a little groggy. And my skin is a bit tender in some parts."

"Regenerated skin."

Both of fell silent and continued drinking our coffee. I never realized that silence could be so damn uncomfortable. Then at the same time, we both decided to speak. I don't know about Tom, but I wanted to get a few things off my chest. "About what I said that last time," I began.

He said at the same time, "Rain, I want to apologize . . ."

We blinked and stared at each other. I asked, "Apologize? For what?"

"For avoiding you these past two months," he replied. Tom glanced away as his face slowly grew red. "I guess I was . . . well, a little upset over what . . . I mean . . ."

Knowing what he was about to say, I quickly added, "You mean you were upset when I brought up your past." A hot flush burned my cheeks. Embarrassed, I found myself unable to look at him. "I know. I don't blame you for being upset. I didn't mean to use your past against you."

"You have every right, believe me."

A note of self-hatred in Tom's voice caught my attention. I've recognized it so many times in my own voice that it seemed strange to hear in someone else's. Especially from someone as confident as Tom.

"Look Tom," I continued, "I wasn't putting you down for what you did in the past. I was just trying to point out that if you could be forgiven for your actions, so could Vorik. I . . . I'm sorry if I caused you any pain." I took a deep breath and lifted my eyes to meet Tom's. Forgiveness and understanding shined in those blue peepers, much to my relief.

A smile touched Tom's lips. "I understand." The smile disappeared. "How did you . . . uh, find out about . . . Caldik Prime, anyway?"

"From a crewman." The answer popped out of my mouth before I could stop myself. Dammit! When will I ever learn to control my mouth?

Sandy blond brows rose questioningly. "Oh? From whom?"

I stared into a pair of blue eyes that seemed to grow steadily angry. I knew that his anger was not directed at me, but at the person who told me about Caldik Prime. Namely that creep, Pat Mulcahey. Actually, the latter hinted it and I checked the ship's computer for more details. Looking into Tom's eyes, it struck me that if I named Mulcahey, he would go after the man with a vengeance. Which would only lead to trouble. So I lied.

"I forgot who mentioned it," I said. It was easy to see that he didn't believe me. "I read about Caldik Prime from the ship's computer."


"I read that you confessed to lying about the accident and who was to blame, despite the fact there were no evidence on what really happened."

Tom nodded silently. I could see that he still found the subject, disturbing after all these years. "But I still lied," he added. "And Starfleet cashiered me."

"Why? You confessed. I can understand if you had been found out before confessing." I continued, "But you did so before anyone could learn the truth."

In a low voice, Tom explained that Starfleet frowned upon lying and falsifying reports. "Typical military hypocrisy," I murmured sarcastically. "I bet they've lied every now and then, themselves." If it had been up to me, I would have demoted Tom for a while and assigned him to some post in the boondocks. And maybe ensure that he never receive his own command. Personally, I think Starfleet went too far - especially since he had confessed before anyone could discover that he had lied.

I sighed. "Oh well. I'm just glad that . . ." Again, my face turned hot with embarrassment. "I'm just glad that we came to an . . . you know, understanding."

Tom smiled. "So am I." He paused momentarily. "By the way, I've found these two old vids in the computer database. I thought it would be nice to show them to a few friends in my quarters. Would you like to join us?" Tom added that he would be showing, "Orgy of the Walking Dead" and "Bride of the Corpse". Bless his heart! I haven't seen a decent movie since I boarded this ship. And the fact that he would be showing two of my favorite movies? Well, how could I resist? I said yes.

"Okay then," Tom added with a broad smile. "I'll be seeing you in my quarters, tomorrow evening at 01900 hours."

O what? "Huh?" I gave him a perplexed frown. Tom explained that meant at seven o'clock, tomorrow evening. Of course. Dummy me.

I returned Tom's smile with one of my own. "Seven o'clock, then. I'll be there." He flashed one last smile, finished his coffee and left. Well, that went great! Tom and I might never find ourselves in a romance, but at least we're talking again. As friends. Perhaps that is the best that either of us can do.


Thursday, June 26, 2008

Second Look: "MANDINGO" (1975)

Second Look: "MANDINGO" (1975)

About thirty-three years ago, Paramount Pictures released an adaptation of Kyle Onscott’s 1957 novel of the Old South, ”MANDINGO”. This movie, which has developed a reputation as lurid, exploitive and racist, is considered to be one of the worst films to be released in the 1970s. Directed by Richard Fleischer, it starred Perry King, Ken Norton, James Mason, Brenda Sykes, Susan George and Ben Masters.

However, there are recent film critics who refuse to dismiss ”MANDINGO” as simply lurid trash. They contend that despite its melodramatic tone, the movie offered a portrait of the antebellum South that may have been a lot more accurate than shown in Hollywood movies before or since. I have found two articles on the movie you might find interesting:

The Film Journal: "The Eye We Cannot Shut"



Also included are photos from the movie:

"MANDINGO" Photo Gallery

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

"Crossroads of the Force" [PG-13] - Chapter Eleven




The former Jedi Master sat in the middle of the ground, inside his cave hovel. With his eyes closed shut, he allowed his mind to drift deeply into a state of meditation. With the supper at the Lars homestead looming ahead, Obi-Wan felt he needed a period of meditation to keep his emotional state in check. Especially since he would soon find himself spending several hours with his former apprentice's children.

Nearly a half hour had passed before Obi-Wan felt a familiar presence within the Force. He slowly opened his eyes and found the tall, transparent figure of Qui-Gon Jinn looming before him. A faint blue light surrounded his master. Obi-Wan took a deep breath and murmured, "Qui-Gon."

"Obi-Wan," the Force ghost responded in his usual calm manner. "You did summon me, did you not?"

A lie hovered upon Obi-Wan's lips. Realizing that he had not the heart to use it, he heaved a sigh. "I suppose I did. I . . ."

"Yes, I understand," Qui-Gon continued. "You wish to speak about your upcoming supper with Anakin's children."

Obi-Wan finally burst forth with a rendition of his encounter with the Skywalker children in Anchorhead. "I truly had no intention of contacting them," he continued. "But when young Leia had invited me for supper, I could not resist. You should see them, Master. The girl is a spitting image of her mother and young Luke reminds me Anakin at that age. Although, I suspect that he may have inherited his mother's height and temperament. Looking at them reminded me of the potential Anakin once possessed."

"Once?" One of Qui-Gon's brows quirked upward.

A slight cough escaped from Obi-Wan's mouth. "I did not mean . . ." Then he broke off with another sigh. "It's amazing. It has been nearly twenty-five years since your death and you still manage to make me feel like the young apprentice I used to be."

"Only in your mind, Obi-Wan," Qui-Gon stated firmly. "And I believe that you are still my apprentice. Despite my lack of a . . . physical presence. Now what did you mean by that comment regarding Anakin?"

Obi-Wan decided that he might as well express his true feelings. "Master, is it possible that the prophecy regarding the Chosen One might pertain to one or both of Anakin's children?"

A long pause followed, as Qui-Gon regarded Obi-Wan with a penetrating stare that made the latter squirm. "It is . . . possible," the Jedi Master finally answered. "But surely it is premature to discount Anakin?"

The question left Obi-Wan in an emotional quandary tinged with jealousy. It seemed ridiculous. He should have moved past his initial jealousy regarding his former apprentice and actually believed he had after becoming Anakin's tutor. Yet, it did not take long for his old feelings to rush to the fore during with great speed. Could his jealousy be linked to Qui-Gon's regard for Anakin?

"Is it?" Obi-Wan finally countered. "For a brief period, Anakin had been the apprentice of a Sith Lord. He is partially responsible for the deaths of thousands of Jedi."

"And you intend to hold that against him, forever?"

Unable to think or say anything original, Obi-Wan utilized an old lesson he had learned as a Jedi initiate. "Master, have you forgotten that Anakin had fallen to the Dark Side. Master Yoda once taught us that once a person starts down the dark path, it will forever mark his or her destiny. Even if he had managed to turn away from the Emperor, Anakin has done nothing to make up for his crimes. I have not heard nothing of him confronting the Emperor or Rasche. And instead, he is leading the life of a . . . a smuggler."

Qui-Gon's gaze became hooded. "I see. So, you are saying that Anakin's submission to the Dark Side will mark him forever. Even to the point that forgiveness is out of the question? Do we really know what the future will bring for Anakin? Or the prophecy?"

A sigh left Obi-Wan's mouth. "What if he never fulfills the prophecy?" Shaking his head, he added, "I'm sorry, Master. Years ago, I had managed to overcome my doubts regarding Anakin. But now . . . they are as strong as ever. Now, I believe that we should consider the children."

"If you insist, Obi-Wan," the late Jedi Master murmured. "I cannot determine what you feel . . . or how you think. But I do suggest that you ask yourself - have you ever believed in Anakin? Truly had faith in him?"

A retort hung on Obi-Wan's lips. Of course he once had faith in Anakin! After all, he had been the one who convinced the Jedi Council to knight his former apprentice. He and Anakin had fought as a team during the Clone Wars. And before that . . . Obi-Wan tried to remember the other times he had shown faith in Anakin. And yet, all he could recall were old doubts.

Obi-Wan opened his mouth to speak and found himself unable to utter a sound. "Perhaps you might need more time to meditate," Qui-Gon continued. "I will take my leave now. Enjoy your supper with Anakin's children, Obi-Wan."

"Thank you, Master," Obi-Wan finally said.

Qui-Gon added, "And take care of yourself. May the Force be with you." The Jedi Master's ghost force faded from view.

Meanwhile, Obi-Wan remained seated in the middle of the floor . . . staring into space, as he contemplated his master's last question about his former apprentice. And his own private response.



Arm-in-arm, the couple strode across the Hotel Grand's wide lobby - deep in conversation. They finally entered one of the turbolifts, which conveyed them to the tenth floor. Upon reaching the suite that she shared with her mentor, Igraine turned to smile at her companion. "Thank you for a charming afternoon, Captain Horus. I truly enjoyed myself."

"Including our little encounter near the lake?" Captain Horus replied with a roguish smile. Igraine merely chuckled at his light joke. He added, "By the way, my name is Set. Set Horus."

Igraine uttered a soft, "Oh." Then she added, "And my name is Igraine. Instead of . . . Milady." Again, she smiled. The couple locked eyes and Igraine found herself reeling inwardly from the force of the pilot's intense blue eyes. An idea came to Igraine. One she feared that her companion might misconstrue. "Captain Ho . . . uh, Set," she began tentatively, "are you . . . um, busy this evening?"

Mild confusion settled in Set's eyes. "I'm sorry?"

The Maldarian woman fought an urge to succumb to her wariness. She took a deep breath. "Will you be occupied, this evening? I . . . I wondered if you would like to have . . . dinner with me." When the pilot merely responded with widening eyes, Igraine's wariness increased. She quickly added, "Your friends are welcomed to join us, as well."

The pilot's smile became even more roguish before he finally answered, "I'm certain that Han and Chewbacca will have other plans for this evening. Don't you think?"

Igraine's wariness quickly dissipated, as vibrant warmth spread throughout her chest. She returned the pilot's smile. "Of course." The pair agreed to rendezvous in the hotel's lobby in another five-and-a-half hours. Feeling bold, Igraine invited Set inside her suite for a glass of Alderaanian wine.

"I'm not much of a drinker," Set politely answered. "And I have an appointment with some . . . well, with some friends. I'll see you in a few hours."

"In a few hours," Igraine repeated. She and Set bid their good-byes before she entered the suite. The young woman stopped in her tracks at the sight of Senator Dahlma conversing with a visitor in the suite's living room.

". . . don't seem to understand, Zoebeida, is that ridding ourselves of the Empire might take years," the visitor was saying. "Perhaps another decade. It took us this long just to finally form an alliance."

Igraine coughed slightly. The other two women stared at her. "Pardon me, Senator Dahlma," she said. "I'm back."

The senator nodded. "Igraine." Then she nodded at the third woman. "As you see, I have a guest."

"Milady," Igraine politely greeted the exiled Senator Amidala from Naboo. Then she returned her attention to her mentor. "By the way, Senator, is there anything you need before we return to the conference?"

Senator Dahlma shook her head. "I don't think so." She glanced at Senator Amidala, who slowly stood up. "Leaving so soon, Padme?"

The soft-spoken woman replied, "I left my conference notes in my room. And I need to speak with Bail about a certain matter. Excuse me." She strode toward the door. "I'll see you within a few minutes."

After the Nabooan woman left, Senator Dahlma heaved a sigh. "Poor Padme. It must be quite a burden to be stuck near the edge of the galaxy without the benefit of family or identity. Even Solipo Yeb has his sister and a new wife, I hear."

"Why did she fake her death?" Igraine demanded. "Senator Yeb didn't."

With another sigh, the senator replied, "I believe she was forced to fake her death in order to escape the Emperor's wrath. Like poor Garm Iblis. After all, she was one of the main supporters of that petition asking for Palpatine to step down during the Clone Wars. The Empire tried to have both Padme and Garm killed. At least the two of them can now live their lives without constantly being hunted by the Empire . . . unlike poor Solipo."

"Then perhaps she is better off," Igraine added. She paused, as an uncomfortable idea came to her. "Do you suppose the same could happen to us? End up with a fake identity or becoming a fugitive?"

The senator's dark eyes narrowed suspiciously. "Why do you ask this question?"

"I . . ." Igraine hesitated. "Well, considering how we left Maladore . . ."

"Don't worry, Igraine," Senator Dahlma assured the younger woman. "I am quite certain the Empire is not aware of our trip. And if they were, Chattal or my friend, Dellis Bama would warn us. Have you been imagining a life as someone other than a senator's aide?"

Igraine's face grew warm, as the image of a certain handsome pilot lingered in her mind. "No, Milady! I . . . I'm just worried. After all, I cannot imagine what my life would be like if we end up becoming fugitives."

One of the senator's eyebrows quirked upward. "I don't know. I can only assume that a future with the handsome Captain Horus might seem very appealing to you."

"Milady! Really!" Now, Igraine's face felt as hot as the Tatooine suns. "I never said anything about Captain . . ."

A knowing smile curved the senator's lips. "I've seen the way you look at him, Igraine. And the way he looks at you. And you should have seen the expression on your face, when you entered the room. Even Senator Amidala noticed." To Igraine's surprise, the smile disappeared. "However, if you are truly serious about Captain Horus . . ." Senator Dahlma paused.

Dreading the other woman's next words, Igraine cautiously said, "Yes, Milady?"

A long pause followed before the senator continued. “Be careful, Igraine. Beneath the handsome face and good looks, Captain Horus strikes me as a very dangerous man. It almost seems as if . . .” She sighed. “. . . as if he is haunted by a thousand personal demons. Demons that I fear you might not possibly understand.”

The older woman’s words took Igraine by surprise. “I don’t understand, Milady. If you’ve never trusted Se . . . Captain Horus, why did you hire him as our pilot?”

“Because I thought I could trust him. Then.” Senator Dahlma took a sip from her goblet. “But after knowing him for less than two days, I cannot help but wonder if I had made a mistake. He is . . . there is something about him that is dark. And deep.” She regarded Igraine with eyes filled with pity. “And I fear, dear Igraine, that you might not be able to deal with his true personality. Although you are familiar with the political world on Coruscant, you have very set ideas about how the universe should be. I wonder if you’re flexible enough to deal with such an ambiguous personality like Captain Horus.”

Igraine merely stared at her mentor. How could she . . .? Then the young Maldarian woman mentally dismissed the older one’s words. There was nothing wrong with Set! Igraine came to the conclusion that the senator feared the young aide would become serious with the pilot. Something that went against the senator’s sensibilities on class.

The older woman continued, “Igraine?” Dismay flickered in Senator Dahlma’s eyes. “Oh dear! I have upset you. I don’t mean to, but I simply wanted you to be aware of the possible consequences of a relationship with Captain Horus. Promise me that you will be careful.”

Keeping her resentment in check, Igraine softly replied, “Yes Milady. I will.”


Monday, June 23, 2008

"THE INCREDIBLE HULK" (2008) Photo Gallery

"THE INCREDIBLE HULK" (2008) Photo Gallery

Below is a gallery from the new Marvel comics film - "THE INCREDIBLE HULK" - starring Edward Norton, Liv Tyler, Tim Roth and William Hurt: