By Delia Lavender

I do not own Harsh Realm, Omar Santiago or any other character from the T.V. series.

She was only half conscious, widening and closing her eyes, unable to focus on him.

There was always a thermos on the back seat of his car. His driver kept it full of icy water. Now he poured some of the ice and water out into his hand. He rubbed it against her face.


She just blinked up at him, a dazed expression in her large, grey eyes. Her breathe caught and she turned her face away.

He tried a little more water, then pinched her earlobe. That got her attention. She winced, then turned her head back toward him.

"Girl, what is your name?"

Her lips moved slightly. She tried to answer him, but was impeded by shock and whatever drug they'd given her. He waited patiently. At least she had acknowledged him.

"Your name, girl...what is it?"


Good. She was recovering. Her voice was very weak, but her gaze had steadied. She was actually looking at him.

" that the name they gave you? What was your realname? The name you were

born with?"

She looked puzzled, but she was making a genuine effort to concentrate. He was tolerant.

"Delores...Mama called me Delores."

"Delores? It means "sorrow", doesn't it? Well, it's your lucky day, dear, and I like "Delos" better.

So that's what I'll call you. Your family is dead?"

"Yes." she whispered.

"Well, the high priest and his followers are, too. What do you remember?"

"They gave me a drink and put me on the altar. A gift to the god."



" you know who I am?"

"Not Apollo."

"No...not Apollo."

"You're the god Ares."

"Really? Well, you're in the neighborhood, at least. It'll do for now."

She stirred, trying to sit up "I must kneel before you."

He pushed her down again, onto her back.

"You can kneel later," he said. He removed his jacket and began unbuttoning his shirt "Right now, I like you just the way you are. Lie still, Delos. I'm about to grant you freedom of worship."

* * * *

It had been several months since he'd executed Inga and Waters.

General Omar Santiago was more depressed than he cared to admit. He'd sensed the weakness in Waters...he knew it was merely a matter of time, before he'd need replacement. But Inga?

He didn't trust women, but he'd almost trusted her.

Santiago had waited a long time for Inga. He had hoped - if she proved worthy - to offer her a place by his side.

But then he had caught Inga and Waters in mid-debauchery on top his conference table.

He had taken his time getting the truth out of them. Waters was weak, broken and foolish. Inga was not only disloyal, but a double agent.

She'd had dealings with Hobbs and Pinocchio. She'd been working with agents of the non-virtual world. With the men who wanted to assassinate him. To take Harsh Realm away from him.

He should have seen beyond Inga's elusiveness...he should have questioned her reticence. He should have recognized her seductiveness for what it was - a distraction.

But the General's instincts had kicked in at last. And he had uncovered the truth.

But there had been repercussions.

His people feared him more than ever. And his bed was empty.

With Inga, he'd had anticipation. Now he had nothing.

Women fled from him, frightened corporals saluted excessively, and young privates wet their pants at his approach.

He was reduced to what he could get in the interrogation room. And it was amazing how unattractive most of the prisoners in the interrogation room actually were.

Couldn't his men arrest someone presentable? Couldn't his officers bring their wives to

banquets? He didn't believe the wives were always sick, pregnant or visiting their mothers.

He wondered what the mothers looked like.

He buried himself in work. He spent more time at the gym. He took an increasing interest in the creation of propaganda films...he wanted more scenes with women, with students, with youthful military cadets.

And then General Santiago had heard about the Greco-Revivalist pagans. A spy told him of their activities. They were going to hold one of their rites in a hamlet a couple of hundred miles beyond his capitol city. It was a closely guarded secret. There were rumors of human sacrifice.

General Santiago could hardly wait. He would take his best snipers. He would take some photographers and a skeleton film crew. He would perform heroically, defeat the pagans and document it all for the benefit of his people. The publicity would be priceless.

And maybe he could pick something up.

* * * *

They had arrived at night, carefully concealing themselves. About fifty of his crack troops, along with his marksmen and his film crew.

He had strictly ordered his men not to hurt any human sacrificial victim. A grateful human sacrifice, whether youth or maiden, could be valuable to him.

He did not explain how.

They were in their places long before daybreak. As first light dawned, the procession of paganists came into view. There were about a hundred of them.

A solemn, chanting column of idiots in bedsheets.

They convened by the fallen columns fronting the faux Grecian ruins of the Hicksville Public Library.

At least it was picturesque. The Wiccans had met by a bunch of dead trees.

General Santiago lay within a few feet of his most reliable sniper. The sniper was there to ensure a clean kill, the General's eyes not being quite as sharp as they used to be.

But the photographer, to his left, was there to ensure that the General got full credit for the kill.

General Santiago waited through the chants, the singing, the incantations, and the sacrifice of a deer and a horse.

And then, at last, two priestesses in red drapery brought a young woman veiled in transparent white.

They brought her to the bearded high priest who waited beside the makeshift altar.

He could hear the slight, metallic whirr as his photographer caught it all.

He lifted his rifle into position.

And then he froze.

The priestesses had removed the girl's veil, revealing the most delightful female form the General had ever seen.

As the pagans chanted faster, Santiago felt a little like chanting, himself.

The girl was very unsteady and it was evident, even from a distance, that she had been drugged. She was trembling but compliant as the priestesses displayed her, then arranged her on the altar.

Santiago and the sniper fired at exactly the same moment, just as the high priest held his knife aloft. Santiago had fired slightly over the priest's head, but the sniper had blown the bastard's head half off.

The rest was pure theater. His men stood up, rifles aimed, and shot a few of the celebrates. Then they moved forward, herding and capturing the rest.

The photographers and film crew followed Santiago as he approached the altar. They took many shots of his stern, masterful, compassionate face as he covered the rescued damsel with her veil.

It couldn't have been more perfect. The girl was just conscious enough to cling trustingly to Santiago's jacket front as he lifted her up into his arms. The film crew whooped in excitement as he posed briefly with her, and cheered as they followed him on his slow, grave trek back to his car.

But part of his gravity was caused by pain. He wondered if he was getting a hernia.

* * * *

General Santiago loved beauty...although he generally concealed that little fact about himself.

So much beauty was destroyed during war. And he couldn't expect his men to follow an artsy-fartsy.

But he could safely admire the faces - and bodies - of lovely women.

And he could commission heroically proportioned, neo-classic municipal statuary.

Of course, he was always the central figure. Usually positioned on a pedestal.

Deeply content, General Santiago dreamed of a new that would grace the courtyard outside his government building. It would be a huge work, depicting him as Conqueror of Harsh Realm. He would appear as a gigantic, majestic figure surrounded by a sea of lightly-draped, cringing, gracefully posed figures. At his feet would be a half reclining nude girl, her arm reaching up to clutch his garment...her eyes imploring. He would have Delos pose for that figure. He would stay with her the whole time. He would arrange her limbs himself, so that the artists wouldn't have an excuse to touch her.

Delos had satisfied him completely. Although a maiden, the priestesses of Aphrodite had trained her well. Any god would be happy to possess her. He must send for a jeweler, once he'd settled her into the suite adjoining his. He wanted to see Delos in jewelry, particularly platinum. It would set off her eyes.

She sat on her heels beside him, trying on his military beret. She shoved aside her long, dark curls, rearranging the beret at a rakish angle.

"I wish I had a mirror. I haven't seen one in ages. Does the hat look cute?"

"Cute? A military beret isn't supposed to be cute, Delos. Although I'll admit it looks fetching on you."

"It does? Good."

Her voice was soothing, low and girlish. General Santiago leaned his head back against the seat, closing his eyes.

"I thought that you might claim me...even though I was meant for Apollo. After all, you took Aphrodite. It's the Union Of's one of the goals of alchemy."

What did she say? Alchemy? The Union Of What?

"Did you also claim an Amazon named Zeena? Some of the priestesses think you did."

Mistaken intelligence. He tried to snore.

"I always loved Greek mythology. When I was a little girl, I wanted a winged horse of my own. The priestesses were kind enough...they kept the men off of me. They were distant though...they didn't want to become attached. Not after they knew I was to be sacrificed. The high priest saw it in the sheep entrails."

This girl would definitely need re-educating. Still - he could put it off for a few days. It was enjoyable...being a god.

"That drink they gave me was really strong. I don't remember when the high priest stabbed me. I just blinked my eyes and there you were. I thought you'd come in a chariot, though."

Well...even gods had to adapt to the times.

And then he heard the explosion.

* * * *

He was General Santiago again, instantly.

Delos uttered a little scream and grabbed his arm "Is it the Titans?!" she gasped.

"Delos," he commanded "Give back my beret and cover yourself up."

He jerked his beret onto his head while Delos retrieved her veil and draped it around her body.

The car intercom began to sputter.


"Button up my shirt," Santiago ordered Delos, as he pressed the communication button "What is it, James?"

"An ambush up ahead. They got one of our troop trucks."

"Can you see who it is?"

"No - they're firing from the woods."

Santiago grinned savagely. What a day! He'd crushed the pagans, rescued Delos and now, with any luck, he would get a chance to kick the butts of Pinocchio, Hobbs and whatever allies they'd recruited.

Life was good.

"James...I'm leaving the car, but I want you to protect it. I don't want the "cargo" falling into enemy you understand me?"

"Yes, General Santiago."

He turned back to Delos. The girl looked excited, but under control. There was a lovely flush on her pale, perfect face. Her eyes sparkled.

Of course, Delos didn't think she could die again.

"Delos...lie down on the floorboards until this is over. James will take care of you until I return," he pressed a button and the dark privacy glass lightened, allowing them to see the driver "Do what he tells you. I'll be back...don't be afraid."

She kissed him earnestly as he reached for the door.

He heard the locks engage as he exited.

He was immediately surrounded by his officers. He walked swiftly away, remaining deliberately, tauntingly, within enemy sight for several seconds. His men trailed two steps behind him.

James was a good man...James would protect Delos. He would sacrifice his own life,

if need be.

But the idea of losing Delos was unacceptable. Santiago refused to contemplate it.

If it happened, he would hunt down her murderer. And then he would return to the

non-virtual world, to seek out her twin.

Somewhere in the "real" world was a girl named Delores Divine. And she wasn't a

stripper. She was probably a senior in college, about to receive a degree in literature.

She would love Greek mythology, but she wouldn't believe in it.

No, General Santiago would not lose Delos.

He faced south, staring in the direction of gunfire. A mental image formed in his mind.

Pinocchio. Hobbs.

He'd make their execution last longer than Inga's. And it would be televised.

"I see you." he whispered softly.