Disclaimer: I don't own Artix Entertainment, or any related characters. Maria Despair is owned by me, and all other characters now owned by myself or Artix Entertainment are owned by their respective owners.

Author's Note: Saying goodbye is a bitch.

As Time Goes By


The ship jostled in response to the air turbulence outside, tossing the soldiers seated inside the long box around in their seats some. Lined up across the ship were two rows of seats, each row braced against the edges of the craft as it flew silently through the night. Those soldiers in the seats, each one wearing a gunmetal gray suit, a long rifle in their hands, prepared for touch down... what they all awaited.

"Standard Smash and Flash operation, soldiers. The Paxians have a small operations post just on the other side of these mountains. The Crystal Desert's pretty calm this time of night, but keep your eyes and ears open. Once we drop you in, you'll advance upon the base and destroy it. However, we have one slightly added mission objective for you. The command tent holds the computer of the Paxian Force Commander in this area. If you manage to retrieve it, we can spy on whatever those green bastards have planned. In the sea of cookie-cutter soldiers, one woman stuck out among everyone else. Her hair was a light green, probably a shimmering emerald in her younger years, now marred by the intrusion of gray hair in recent years. She sat calmly in one chair, a longsword sheathed in it's leather sheath on her lap. "Pair up, soldiers, I don't want any surprises." The man to the light-green haired woman's left stood and patted her gently on the soldier.

"You coming, Maria?" The man asked, his vibrant fuchsia hair seeming to absorb what little light was left in the cabin. The woman looked up and managed a weak smile, one that even the blindest of children could tell was forced.

"As I'll ever be." He droll voice answered as she took hold of the weapon, the ancient sheath sliding into the latch on the girl's belt.

"You look a little distracted, Maria... are you alright...?" The girl gave another nod and took the pistol from her side, checking the clip.

"I'm fine..." She answers audibly, but deep down, inside her head... she speaks different words.

"I wasn't always like this... THINGS weren't always like this."

The city of Babylonia. A large, bustling, shining utopian city, situated near the east coast of the largest continent of Lore. A political and military hub for dignitaries and soldiers from all across lore. The city was safe, relatively speaking, from any outside incursion. However, even the safest of cities had to have some defense line. Babylonia's line of defense was given the form of a large, well-supplied Military Installation two miles out of the city's limits.

Babylonia wouldn't stay at peace for long. As always happened in Lore... war was just on the horizon. Since time immemorial, the lizard-like race, once known as the 'Drakel' have been a scourge upon the civilized races of Lore. Two hundred years ago, embittered by a massacre most would lead you to believe to be 'senseless', the Drakel tore away from the rest of Lore, destroyed their massive domed cities, and fled to the war-ravaged island chain of Paxia, far to the east of civilization; where they brooded for two centuries, stewing in their own hate and bile.

Even in times of stinted peace, weapons are always forged. Armor is always hammered out... and soldiers are always trained. This day, ruled by technology and tactics, is no different. Standing in five rows, six per row, a group of Babylon's finest stood, ready to begin the day's exercises.

"You lot have to be the sorriest bunch of swill-drinking, bottom-feeding, mentally retarded inbred degenerates I have EVER had the displeasure of training in all my life! Stand up!" One figured barked on one in line, the slouching figure going bolt-riged. "Eyes forward, maggot!" He continued, forcing another recruit to look straight ahead. Most of the group didn't have the capacity to be soldiers... they'd probably all die... or maybe panic and run if they're lucky, on their first mission. Except one. One figure stood out past all the others, the hat she wore doing nothing to cover the brilliant emerald hair she had upon her head. She stood in the front, about center, with a purple-haired man at her side. The loud man, the Drill Instructor for this group, bolted to the front of the purple-haired man, getting right in his face as he shouted. "YOU! Where are you from, boy?"

"Sir! Lolosia, sir!" He answered instantly, standing bolt upright, hoping to not be on the receiving end of this man's raging facade. The Drill Instructor laughed to himself as he took a step back.

"Lolosia?! Son, you DO know what comes from Lolosia, right? Steers and queers, and you SURE don't look like a cow!" The Drill Instructor paused, then got right back in the man's face. "WELL SON!? WHAT YOU GOT TO SAY! SOUND OFF!"

"Sir, that's me, sir! Queer as candy, sir!" The Drill Instructor retreated from him and nodded.

"I like you, son, you're not afraid to stand up to people. Don't loose that! YOU!" He bolted towards the girl with the green hair beside him, getting in her face. Unlike the man, her visage didn't break. "What about you, sweet cakes? Where are you from."

"Sir." She spoke simply, her voice droll and unconvinced. The next words couldn't come out of her mouth. 'By the Creator... where AM I from? It's been so long now I've all but forgotten... Cold... somewhere cold, I remember that. I remember my father warning me about the cold... to always dress warmly in winter. Why can't I remember anything from those days...?'


"Sir. Frostvale, sir." The girl muttered simply, her red eyes batting slowly as she studied his face, trying not to wretch at his horrid halitosis.

"Frostvale, eh? I hope you're as cold-hearted a bitch as the rest of you who come out of Frostvale! I need someone as cold and cruel as you! Make sure you're useful, got it?"

"Yes." The green-haired girl answered, her eyes slowly blinking.

" 'Yes'? YES WHAT!?"

"Yes. Sir." Maria sighed as the man nodded.

"That's damn better." He pulled away and looked over the soldiers. "PHSYICAL FITNESS TIME!" He barked, motioning to an obstacle course, complete with everything you might think belongs there. "First person to clear the course gets to sleep in late in the morning, last person to clear it goes to bed hungry! This seemed to pique everyone's interest, especially the thought of being able to sleep in tomorrow. "Get ready! Get set!" The Drill Sergeant raised a hand as the recruits shifted to a series of lines before the course. "GO GO GO!" he shouted, everyone starting to sprint towards the course.

It wouldn't take long before everyone would see who was the first at the end. About halfway through the tire hops, a flurry of green hair pulled ahead of all the rest of the group, throwing herself onto the rock wall, scaling before anyone even reached the end of the tire hoops. Hand over hand with blinding speed and percision, the gree-haired figure leapt over the wall and dropped fifty feet down, landing on her feet and continuing. This impressive display of physical prowess continued for the entire course, the girl clearing the rope swing, the mud crawl, and about every other obstacle put before her. Finally reaching the end before anyone had even reached the middle of the course, she stood straight up, saluted and stayed perfectly still, not even panting or sweating, like this was a warm up exercise for her.

"Sir. All finished, sir." The green-haired girl muttered, her red eyes bearing bags of fatigue under them... yet despite the fatigue that littered her visage, she seemed to give off an aura of being ready for a second round. The Drill Instructor took an automatic grip onto the brim of his hand and lifted it off, scratching his head in disbelief at what he just saw.

"Well I'll be a monkey's... C'mere girl." He spoke, his words much softer now then before. The green-haired girl started towards the man with a slight jaunt to her step, saluting him. "You're not even sweating... how'd you..."

"Practice sir." She responded in an all-too-well rehearsed answer. The man nodded as the second soldier finished, the Lolosian man who was beside Maria.

"Sir! Finished, sir!" He answered in a more energetic tone, stopping to catch his breath.

"Good! You two get to sleep in early tomorrow morning. Hit the showers. As for the rest of these SPINELESS CRUSTACIANS! Hurry your asses up! You are all a disgrace to yourselves and your mommas!" The two winners walked towards the shower to clean up after the sweat-inducing exercise. Pulling on the cord, the green-haired girl started the shower, her hair instantly falling about her face, soaked from the sudden shower. The man next to her had stripped just about as fast, enjoying his shower like no one's business

"So..." The man began, running both hands quickly across his hair, water splattering the tile floor below him. "You got a name?" Maria looked over the half wall separating her and him, her breasts visible over the low tile division, her eyes still bearing that tired look she's worn all the time the man's seen her.

"Yes." The girl answered, blinking as she turned back to the shower, washing her hair methodically. "Do you?"

"Yes..." The man responded, watching her carefully. "Are you going to tell me your name?"

"Maria." The girl answered without so much as a hiccup. "Happy now?"

"Maria... that's a pretty name. Lot of historical meaning, too." Maria rolled her eyes at the man, hoping this prattle had some point to it. "I'm sorry if I'm bugging you."

"You're not." The girl answered quickly.

"Yes I am."

"Oh? How can you tell?"

"Your body language. You're trying to pretend I don't exist, while answering me so I don't THINK you're trying to pretend I don't exist. I've seen it before." Turning back to the man, she laid her arms across the small wall, setting her head on her arms, looking at him with her piercing crimson eyes.

"You know a lot, kid." She droned, reaching over to shut the water off, the man doing the same.

"What can I say? When you've got the talent, use it." He stepped out of the shower to dry the water from his body, running a small plastic comb through his long, purple hair, pulling it into some kind of pony tail as Maria exited shortly after him, her lithe, muscular, but beautiful form seeming to sway with every motion of itself, her feet barely making a sound against the tile, despite the water rolling off her pearly skin. "My name's Kyle, by the way. Kyle Hood. Pleasure to meet you." He held his hand out to the girl, who managed an extremely weak smile, and an even weaker shake of his hand.

"Pleasure." Despite the fact the two were naked... there seemed to be a different form of professionalism in the room... they were both soldiers this kind of display shouldn't affect them. The outside observer could note that it seemed to affect Maria considerably less then Kyle, the man having to stop himself from looking down at her chest. Maria noticed this and cracked a near invisible smile. "See something you like?"

"S-sorry... that was really rude of me." Maria wrapped a towel around her chest so she could dry off, turned around and walked out into the barracks. She offered no confirmation of if it was okay... if he should stop, or even if she might have wanted him to continue looking. Either way it was a pointless thing to say anything more, and both parties knew it. Drying herself off by her cot, she redressed in the horrible, rough, scratching Military Garments on her bed, setting herself on the bed, closing her eyes and folding her hands behind her head in relaxation. Kyle took his bed (conveniently right next to Maria's), hurled himself into the cot on his side and stared at the sleeping girl, his own body now covered. "You don't meet many Maria's anymore... kind of a rare name."

"You're a snoopy one, aren't you?"

"It's a character flaw." He answered quickly. Before Maria could answer, a small sound came from the bag at her bedside. A cell phone.

"I didn't think they let phones here..."

"They don't." Opening her bag, she took out the small phone from her back and answered it. "Hello?" There came a pause as whoever was on the other line spoke. "Sure." Maria spoke again, her voice's inflection not changing. Maria stood and walked towards the door. "I've got time to talk."

Shoving the rear door to the barracks building open, Maria walked out into the dying sunlight, the shouts of the other soldiers trying to finish their training echoing in her ears. "Hey dove..." Maria muttered, the load beneath her tired eyes seeming to lighten at the voice on the other end.

"Maria love... how are you?" Maria stroked the phone with her other hand, imagining that it was Safiria's cheek pressed against hers. These long nights Maria and Safiria go without speaking to one another drives the pair crazy.

"I'm okay... better now that I can hear your voice." A little laugh escaped the Vampire Queen's lips on the other end of the box, followed by a low moan. "You okay, Safiria?'

"Oh... I'm just happy I get to hear my little Kitten's voice again... The nights are so long here without you by my side... in my bed and in my arms..."

"I know dove... I know. It won't be much longer... six months at most. I'll do one tour of duty... and then I'll be yours again." Safiria gave a happy sigh, followed by a little titter.

"I know you will kitten. I know you will... in the meantime, I guess your memory and voice will have to keep me going." Maria nodded and kissed the receiver of the phone, then smiled herself.

"I have to go love... keep me in your heart..."

"And you keep me in your dreams." With a click, the conversation died, Maria left alone to her thoughts, and the memory of a raven-haired woman who seduced her all those years ago.

"Maria?" Came Kyle's voice, the young man looking as though he was just starting to come out of the Barracks. Maria turned to him, her young face aging once again, the bags under her eyes slowly starting to return. "Let's catch some sleep. You look like hell." Maria nodded and started back, to get some sleep.

Welcome to Lore.