Oneshot set in the Eternal Warriors universe. History kept Liu Bei and Sun Shang Xiang apart. Yet, because of temporal travel technology, they could live together happily. However, the time travel ...
BEI AND SHANG
Gregory P. Wong
To 23rd century scientists of "temporal mechanics"-in laymen's terms, time travel-there existed a little known phenomenon called "temporal shift resonance flux."
What it meant, simply, was that in rare cases, people directly involved in time travel would experience some direct temporal displacement anomalies. It was hypothesized that entirely new timelines could be created, not going quite the way they should have. George Washington might die before crossing he Delaware, the alien Arcone and Gryth might not be friendly, or even a person might be erased because his ancestors never met.
In general, these occurrences were rare and minor.
In some cases, not.
For a group of people, it was a case of the latter.
Liu Bei grunted and ducked under the chakram slash and stabbed with his right-hand sword at Sun Shang Xiang's stomach. The woman twisted out of the way and aimed a kick at his/ other/ sword arm.
Damn! His arm was jarred out of place!
He couldn't lose!
He whirled and lashed out with a kick of his own. Shang dodged at the last moment and his foot only scraped along his opponent's thigh. But it got her off balance.
He hammered down with his left sword at the same time aiming a stab at Shang's stomach.
She tried too hard to block the overheard cut. That was only a distraction. His right-hand sword ran through the ring of the chakram, twisted. He levered the weapon, spinning Shang around.
She managed to lock up his other sword with her other chakram... but it was a foregone conclusion.
His foot kicked out, and he felt her ankle buckle.
Shang tumbled backwards on her back. He smoothly withdrew both swords, and flashed forward.
His attack was perfect! It arrested both chakrams and placed the tips of the blades at Shang's throat.
He had won.
Shang's eyes were wide. He allowed her a moment to take in his victory. It was over.
"Three of five, sweetheart," he said, smiling. "That means a W-I-N."
Shang sighed and smiled. Damn, Bei had pulled a very nice move there.
Smoothly, her husband sheathed his swords, one in a side sheath and another on a horizontal waist sheath. Then he held out a hand.
She gave a playful grin and clasped the proffered hand.
And then pulled.
Bei gave a little "Yah!" and tumbled forward.
Her husband landed on top of her. Luckily, she had tossed away her chakrams, so the landing wasn't something dangerous. The lifeguard in her wouldn't have any of that eh?
"You won. Congrats, my hero," she purred-ah, she just had to do it, huh? "Any reward you want?" She massaged his little goatee.
"Ah... let me see. Well, let's just say... not here."
Bei gave her a quick kiss on her lips and pushed himself off. And, like the perfect gentleman he was, he helped her up.
She dusted off her green sweatpants and red tank top. Bei's dark green sweatpants and tight, lighter green sleeveless shirt-showed of those nice hard /muscles/-also got a patting.
They stepped towards the edge of the mat that was in the basement of the house.
Yes, a 23rd century house.
It had been, oh, seven years since the events of the defense against the Sraida. Their son Chan was just going to kindergarten now, and he liked it there. This world, Erwauld, had a great climate and population. Not to big, not too small, you know?
Life was pretty good, too. She was now a lifeguard. Sure, she hadn't given up competitive swimming-or modeling swim suits for Bei, heh-but there was a demand for real-life lifeguards. People reacted better to living people than to machines.
Bei was still an EMT, doing that noble work he loved.
And they fought a lot.
Okay, fighting as in sparring. That was funny to think of. The only couple that enjoyed fighting... with sharp objects too.
Even their bodies felt in top form. Objectively, she was thirty years old, Bei two years older, but she felt no older than twenty-three. And they weren't going to "age" for quite some time, because of the psionics that had been fully unlocked. Long story.
In short... life was perfect. A husband she loved-and was loved by sure as the ocean was wet-a handsome little boy, plenty of government-provided money-another long story-and a nice house... ahh...
She smiled and took up her chakrams again. These things, plus Liu Bei's twin swords, would go in their holders in the living room. And then she and Bei would go somewhere else. Like the bedroom.
Well, she and her husband had the bodies of young people, and the relationship of a couple ten-odd years married. That meant plenty of intimacy, spiritual, emotional, and of course, /physical/.
Her husband winked and stepped closer.
Bei had just swept her off her feet and was cradling her in his arms. He planted a fierce kiss on her lips.
"To the victor goes the spoils, sweetie."
She gave a fake exasperated sound and slapped a mock-annoyed hand to her husband's chest.
"Uh... men!" she giggled.
"Men who should feel old but aren't," Bei said with a wide-and completely /suggestive/-smile.
And then his face grew a little more serious. But not at all less tender.
"God, I love you so much, Shang."
She felt her own face grow more serious.
"Bei, I love you too, so much. And I'm sure God wouldn't have a problem bearing witness to it."
She gave a wink of her own. "Now, you going to sweet talk me forever or...?"
She let the last word roll off her tongue. Bei laughed and carried her up the stairs.
It was such a God-given thing to have Shang. She was so energetic, beautiful, witty, intelligent... everything a young man could want.
But Shang was also thoughtful, tender, an excellent mother, and loving. Everything a husband could want.
He nuzzled her shoulder, heard Shang giggle, and walked towards the door at the top of the stairs. Yes, it was the 23rd century, but he liked old-fashioned things. After all, he had lived in 21st century California. Weird story to /that/.
The door irised open-he did allow the household AI to do simple tasks like opening doors and turning on lights-and he stepped through. He started to put Shang down.
That... that was impossible.
A sphere of roiling white light was floating the room. It couldn't be! He'd been through with that seven years ago. No-
Then the room filled with light.
No... no... no...
Sun Shang Xiang staggered dazedly to where a green-armored form lay on the ground. Blood oozed from a large shattered portion in the armor. Her chakrams dropped to the ground.
She knelt next to Bei's body and cradled it.
"Bei... no." She looked at the injury, illuminated by the fires of the burning Shu camp. It was ugly and bleeding fiercely Her husband wouldn't live. "Why did we have to be... torn apart?" she sobbed.
Bei's head just lolled weakly. She had to stay until the end. It was the least...
Damn Yi Ling... damn the flames which had consumed the supply depot and demoralized Shu. Damn the Three Kingdoms Strategy...
And then she saw a flash light up the night sky.
"Uh... I don't think we're in Kansas anymore, Toto,' Shang muttered.
Okay, what the hell?
One moment, inside the modestly large home... now in the middle of a burning camp? What was this?
And then she saw a young woman looking at her in wide-eyed amazement.
Wait a second! That was her face!
"Black magic!" she hissed and shot to her feet. It had to be sorcery. It was impossible for another her and another Bei to come to this place. Impossible.
That language they must be speaking... words of evil power. They were even dressed in an odd fashion.
"Leave this place!" she snarled at the doppelgangers. "You have him when it is his time, not a moment sooner!"
The two imposters gabbled to each other. Then what looked like surprised crossed those familiar features.
"Wait... this is Li Ying!" said the imposter Bei, this time in perfectly understandable Mandarin. "But... that wasn't supposed to happen. What the hell!?"
"Well... I'll ask Liang or General Adrian if we get back. But, er, we have a dying man on the floor."
What was this "time travel" business? Incantations, they had to be!
"Leave!" she shouted again. "Stay away!"
The imposter Bei stiffened. He talked with the other Shang in the strange language. Then, "Please, your... husband is dying. We can heal him. Please, allow us to heal him."
Something about that voice. Something familiar. It was... it was Liu Bei's sincerity and virtuosity issuing from that mouth. No demons with evil intentions could take her Bei's goodness and twist it like this. Perhaps...
Perhaps they were her ancestor's guardians, spirit-wardens that watched over her. Maybe, just maybe, they were watching the latest addition to the Sun family.
This was odd beyond belief, Bei thought.
Yi Ling was a Shu defeat, but he wasn't supposed to die in that battle. Well, then again, not "him" since he'd been yanked away into the year 2005, but...
But he did know one thing, at least. Thank God for good science fiction. His perception of the Battle of Yi Ling hadn't changed, so that meant history hadn't changed.
It was a/ very/ far-out thought, but this might be an alternate timeline. One in which Bei did die.
Oh, Lord, how screwed up was this?
At least now the other Sun Shang Xiang wasn't yelling. He and his wife, thank goodness, still spoke fluent Mandarin.
Then he saw the other Shang nodd. He breathed a sigh of relief. Okay... time to get to work. Seriously.
He hurried over, his-real-wife at his side, and knelt next to the bloody Bei. He unstrapped the armor. The other man tried to resist, but it was too feeble to be a bother.
Ugh, this was ugly. Medium-depth stab wound, smooth edges right smack on the right lung. Oxygen-rich blood was oozing out.
"Damn," his wife muttered. "He's lost quite a bit of blood already. He'll be going into hypovolemic shock in seven minutes, tops. Probably sooner."
He tapped the black, cigarette-pack-sized PAD-Personal Aid Device-on his left wrist.
"Sir, there is no need to strike-"
"Cut that," he barked. "Level four exploratory nanos, /now/."
His PAD, which was generally federal or military issue, was smart and knew when to not bug him. Heh, that PAD... his buddies in the EMT line had to make do with lesser PDAs. There'd been one time when he'd been "accused" of being some sort of fed spy. That was a good laugh, really.
In any case, this PAD was enhanced. It came with a very powerful medical nanobot control center that could coordinate the literal millions of molecular robots. It was a great enhancement. Never a need to worry about being too isolated for proper medical attention...
Damn! He was stalling, and while he did that this man would die!
The PAD burped up a small cube, quarter-inch to a side. Ah, the exploration bots. They would run through this other Bei's system and give a diagnosis of the damage in a few seconds. He slipped in the cube and looked at his wife.
Fast-thinking Shang. She had her own PAD-also enhanced with medical programs-churning out a couple of sticks of synthskin, special nano-created polymers than would bond to real skin. She was a lifeguard who had to know first-aid, so she would have to help with this.
And then PAD chirped.
Time to see...
"Sir, there is extensive damage to the lungs and upper stomach. Exploratory nanites have begun proper response. Request two additional level four cubes of full repair nanites. However, external damage is too extensive. Advise that manual application of cleansing agents and synthskin be administered."
Manual application? Oh, God. That wouldn't be a good experience for the other Bei.
"PAD... any anesthetics or analgesics?"
"This unit lacks the supplies, sir."
"Damn," he heard his wife mutter. "It's going to hurt him /bad/."
Wait! He had an idea.
"Shang?" she heard the other-Shang say.
"Yes?" she answered timidly. Damnation! The mere presence of these twins were making her act like an unsure child!
"Please, kneel next to your husband. He... he's going to need you bad."
Fear filled her heart. "What are you going to do to him?"
"We're going to try to patch up his wound. But its going to pain him a lot. Hold his hand, and could you toss me your headband?"
Odd request. She slipped it off and handed it to the other her.
Now the other-Bei was leaning over her husband.
It was so... revealing, in this moment. Because of circumstance, she had never seen her husband in anything less than full battle gear. Even when her brother Quan had asked Bei to visit them in Jiang Dong, Bei had worn traveling armor.
But this other-Bei wore a tight shirt or tunic with no sleeves. If this was some type of copy of her husband, it showed that he had thick muscles. Also, the other garb showed Bei-would?-have a fit figure.
Well, the point was moot, since the two doppelgangers had removed the clothing from Bei's upper torso in a hurry.
A very nice body.
Oh, she hoped that those two could preserve it!
"Bei?" she heard the other-Bei ask her husband. "We're going to try to heal you. But it's going to hurt pretty severely. Just... weather this as best you can. Bite on this. Shang will be here to comfort you."
The other Bei placed her headband in her husband's mouth. She held his hand tight and looked into his eyes.
What... what was going on.
Bei saw the form of his wife above him, but she was fading in and out of focus. How strange, though, that the wound he had suffered wasn't hurting badly. In fact, nothing was hurting much anymore.
The other Bei-an ancestral guardian?-had told him to... weather some sort of pain? What could that have-
Like a flaming sword in his chest! Agony! Pure anguish! Ahh!
He had to weather this... his hand clenched around his wife's, and he kept his gaze locked on her. His jaw clamped on the headband. Weather it.
Strength... his wife could give him strength... for this ordeal...
"Almost.. almost..." Shang murmured as she helped her husband get the last of synthskin bonded.
It had been damned hard. The wound was pretty serious, and that meant the synthskin had to be placed perfectly.
And then it was done. The bleeding was stopped, and the internal nanites would have critical repairs completed.
Oh, God, thank God, done.
She looked at the other Shang who was staring in wonder at the now-closed wound. She looked up... what kind of look was that? Hmm... something like unbelieving hope? Something like that.
"Yes, he'll be fine. He'll live."
The other Shang burst into tears.
Yep, joyful tears.
Bei was surprised that he could cry at all, but he did when he felt Shang's face press against his. The pain was gone, and he was feeling stronger. His wife helped him sit up.
Hah! They had to be spirits sent to guard him! Why else would they look like him and his beloved?
"Thank you, guardians," he said to them respectfully.
"Um... we're not guardians," his twin said.
"Er, we'll leave out the real technical details, but this is what we think happened..."
Well, that had been a long and confusing story, Shang thought.
The old-time Shang and Bei were sitting with their backs to an unburned supply silo. It was nice to see their hands tightly clasped and Shang with her head on Bei's shoulder. Cute.
"But why, though? Why save a stranger, even if he is another 'you'?"
Well, maybe because it was-
"It was because that is what Shang and I do," her husband said firmly. "Saving a dying man and giving a couple a new opportunity is not something I can ignore. Inconvenience, effort... big deal."
She loved him so much. She took a hand in hers and squeezed it firmly.
Then she just went into Bei's arms and placed hir head on his shoulder.
To think... this could have happened to /them/. The Sraida could have had them so many times... and then what?
"We also had times when we thought the other would die. We couldn't know what we'd do without the other. Parts of each other, you know?"
She saw the other Shang look up. "Shang... so that is what you became, after marrying a man like him? You became /that/?"
What... that had come out harsh and bitter. Oh, no, that Shang wasn't resentful...?
Then the other Shang broke down into tears again.
"I am so /stupid/!" the other Shang cried out. "I could have had the perfect husband... and I chose my former family over it! I had a hand in nearly killing him!"
And then the other her dissolved into sobs.
"My love... I will never hold this against you. I love you too much for that. Please Shang, your tears are breaking my heart," the other Bei murmured.
The other Shang stopped and looked at her husband. And...
There it was. Yup, definitely. That was what it looked like, when she looked up full of love at Bei... and Bei returned that gaze.
She felt some tears moisten her eyes. A couple found love, and they would love each other for however long they had.
Wow. Had she really thought that? Ah, whatever.
She drew tighter, into her Bei's arms. She didn't say anything, just allowed her love for him to flow, and for Bei's eternal love to permeate her own soul.
Liu Bei, beloved warrior, father, leader, and husband to a certain Sun Shang Xiang. And-
The twin "people from the future" disappeared in a flash of brightness. A fitting departure for people who had performed miracles and helped her see light.
Shang snuggled up closer to Bei. Contact... yes, contact would be good.
The future would be problematic, yes. Bei was supposed to be dead-in this "timeline", at any rate-and she had yet to make contact with another Wu officer. She could fake her own demise.
"The south, with the Nanman," she heard her beloved say quietly.
"We can stay in the Nan Zhong region. Meng Huo and Zhu Rong are gracious hosts. We can live there, away from the chaos of the Three Kingdoms. Shu needs me no longer; Zhuge Liang is more than capable. I have more important things to attend to."
She gave a small smile and kissed her husband gently on the lips.
"We can stay there, yes, for as long as our love burns."
"Forever," Bei murmured.
Okay, that had been a weird adventure.
Bei looked at his wife. He nodded and silently walked to their bedroom.
They took a long shower. It started out like any other shower, but as he thought more and more about what had transpired in what had to be another timeline, he wanted to be as close to his wife as possible.
The shower lasted for quite a bit... but hot water was nothing.
Absolutely nothing compared to his wife and their love.
After drying and dressing he went to the upper floor balcony and looked out at the green hills the view offered, his wife next to him.
"This is what we gave to those two people from a different universe," he heard his wife say softly. "Not green hills and hovercars and starcraft, sure, but we gave them something beautiful, and this view has got nothing on what they have now."
"Yeah, what we gave them was that and more," he replied. "But, you know what? The difference is that these hills, those hovercars, those spaceships, will all, well, eventually fall to dust. Our love, on the other hand, will never end. It's not something that can be marred by something as petty as time.
Shang pressed up to him, tightly. He felt tears wet his chest. Tears of joy, of love, of devotion... of Shang.
Hmm... his own vision was getting blurry, too. Heh, it was nothing.
He buried his faced into the top of his wife's head, letting his tears mingle with her hair.
The Erwauld sun burned bright overhead. But even that burning ball of plasma would fade and die someday.
Not so for the love of the Bei and Shang of some past.
And never, ever, the love of a Bei and Shang of this present.