Chapter 1 Nightmare Warning of Hammunaptra
Two days after posing for the pictures of the Alliance in front of the Red Tower, Hanna lay napping alone in a lounge chair at the therapy pools. Sporting a sleek leopard-print halter-top swimsuit with high cut legs and low back, Hanna slept peacefully with her arms lying across her belly, snoring softly. With no one present, the lapping of the pool water, the crashing of distant waves in the Pond, and the pleasantly warm temperature made an ideal place for a nap. As she slept, a bizarre dream intruded on her rest. Sukar the Yeti and the Circle of Hammunaptra oozed into view with Hanna looking down at Sukar’s mauled form. “Don’t forget your promise,” Sukar moaned, coughing blood up as he bled to death. “Tell my people what happened to me. Do not forsake my people. Do not betray our trust as your ancestors did.”
“What do you mean?” Hanna asked, choking with emotion as she held Sukar’s hand. “Who betrayed your people?”
“Right the wrongs of your ancestors, Beowulf,” Sukar choked out cryptically. “Time is short. A Shadow moves in the Darkness as FATE stirs. Redeem your ancestors by repairing the breach before it’s too late. Keep your word...to...our...people.” His eyes rolled back in his head as he breathed his last.
“No, no, no,” Hanna wept, tears spilling down her cheeks. “Why does everyone I know have to die? Why?” She sobbed deeply for a few moments before kissing the huge yeti on the cheek. Laying her head on the bloody chest of the giant yeti, Hanna cried for Sukar, her tears dripping on his massive hairy chest. A metallic clunk echoed across the arena, drawing Hanna’s attention. The giant sword Hannibal used to kill the Dark Jagara emerged from the sand floor of the arena, glowing blue as it sat stuck into the stone.
“What’s going on?” Hanna whimpered, lifting her head and looking at the glowing sword in the stone. Without warning, a sensation of deep dread and peril washed over as she heard a gurgle from inside Sukar. In the next second, she felt Sukar’s chest bulge violently up from inside, making her back away quickly from Sukar’s body. “What the...,” she whispered in horror as Sukar’s chest bulged repeatedly as if something were trying to escape it. Instinct drove her toward the sword in the stone as blood spurted from Sukar’s jumping chest. His chest swelled and split open, the bones of Sukar’s ribcage snapping as a clawed hand reached for the ceiling. Hanna stumbled on her own feet and fell beside the stone holding the massive glowing sword, her eyes wide with terror as a four foot tall Dark Jagara broke out of Sukar’s abdomen, ripping him open from neck to groin with a triumphant shriek. The remains of Sukar’s internal organs spilled everywhere. The beast rubbed the bloody slime out of its eyes with its clawed hands, sniffing at the air. Its tail wagged and waved like a snake, snapping like a whip. It abruptly looked at Hanna with a menacing growl, crouching for an attack.
“Get up,” a voice echoed in Hanna’s ear. “Take the sword and protect yourself.” The voice seemed to come from all directions.
Hanna clambered to her feet and started reaching for the sword when the beast pounced with the speed of a cheetah, claws forward and its mouthful of razor teeth open in a roar. Just before Hanna touched the sword and the Jagara reached her, everything went black. Hanna snapped awake, bolting upright in her lounge chair with a shriek of terror. Looking around wildly, panting in fear, she saw herself alone next to the therapy pool. When it became evident that she was awake, Hanna pulled her legs to her chest, wrapping her arms around them. Burying her face in her knees, she sobbed, feeling an acute sense of loss and terror that slowly waned. “What was that?” she wept. “That was totally fucked up!”
“What was totally fucked up, Hanna?” Harry called out, rushing up when he saw Hanna crying. He had on a pair of knee-length shorts, T-shirt, and sandals. When he reached her, he added, “What’s wrong, Hanna? You look like you’ve seen a ghost.” He knelt beside her, putting his arm around her.
Hanna turned, hugging Harry with both arms and burying her face in his shoulder. He returned the embrace, rubbing Hanna’s back until she calmed down. “Are you okay?” he asked with some concern.
“I don’t know,” Hanna whimpered, wiping her tears away with a drained look on her face.
“Want to talk about it?” Harry asked. “I haven’t seen you this upset since you told me and Mary about that mutation dream. Was it another dream like that?”
Wiping her nose, Hanna nodded. “It was bad, very bad. I dreamed of the Circle of Hammunaptra again,” she whispered. “The Yeti and the Jagara were there, but it was different somehow. I was like I am now.”
“Oh; tell me about it,” Harry ordered gently, seeing Hanna’s vulnerability. Hanna then told him about the dream in detail, trembling as she finished. “Whoa,” Harry murmured. “That’s really fucked up. It sounds like those Alien movies we used to watch. Is it possible that this is just an alternate version of those movies? I know the Alien movies were one of your favorite movie sets.”
“That they were,” Hanna agreed, becoming calmer now that she’d shared the dream. “But this dream was different somehow. It felt so real. It worries me. We know nothing of the Jagara other than their physical shape and predatory nature. We don’t know Jack about how they reproduce or if there are any more of them. I fear for our Zinzera brothers and sisters if this dream is truly a warning about them. If the Jagara breed like the dream seems to suggest, then our Zinzera brothers and sisters could be in great danger.”
“Not to mention the rest of the world,” Harry stated, concluding Hanna’s thought. “But is it truly a warning and not just some fucked up dream seeping out of your unconscious mind?”
“I haven’t a clue,” Hanna murmured. “The problem is even if it is a warning, we have no way to warn them. I pray Okoto burned Sukar’s body and that of the Jagara after we left like I told him to.”
Harry sighed and patted Hanna on the shoulder. “I’m sure he did,” he stated. “Okoto’s a smart guy, and I’m sure he knew more about the Jagara than he let on. What I hope is that he and his people get the hell out of the way when this Rising you speak of occurs.”
“He will,” Hanna replied, smiling soberly. “Okoto is their shaman and would know about such things. If he’s done his job properly, he and his people will have already evacuated. Thanks for the friendly ear, bud. I appreciate it. That dream was so far out of left field it took me by surprise.”
“No problem, sweetheart,” Harry chimed, throwing a warm, but sarcastic barb at Hanna. “That’s why I’m here: to watch your back and keep your pretty ass out of trouble.”
“I don’t think it’s my back you’re watching, you big ape,” Hanna mocked, chuckling. “But it is a nice piece of ass, isn’t it?”
Harry laughed heartily, playfully punching Hanna in the arm. “It’s kind of hard to miss that ass when you keep shaking it in everyone’s face,” he teased, “You just can’t help yourself sometimes. You should tone it down a bit.”
“I know,” Hanna acquiesced. “You’re right. I should exercise a bit more self-control. I have to set a good example.”
Harry sighed deeply and patted Hanna on the shoulder again. “In all honesty, you set a marvelous example,” he admitted. “I’m a bit jealous at how much you enjoy being yourself now, especially since your mutation.”
“Really?” Hanna asked with a raised eyebrow. “You’re shitting me.”
“No shit,” Harry answered bluntly. “I mean it. You’ve become so much more fun to be around. You’re not nearly as uptight as you used to be. And you’re really attractive too. I’m going to miss this part of you when you reverse the mutation.”
“Me too,” Hanna said soberly. “Being mutated has been both the best and worst thing to ever happen to me. This mutation has shown me how to truly live for not just the Lord, but myself too. I learned what true beauty is and how to harness it. I’ve also learned where true friendship comes from and not to take it for granted. But most of all, I’ve learned to be content with whatever the Lord gives me. He makes me what I am, not Josephine, you, Selina, or even the Emperor. I know what it means to truly love someone and enjoy life now.”
“Amen to that,” Harry agreed. “Will you promise to be as much fun after your mutation reversal?”
“I’ll try,” Hanna replied, kissing Harry on the cheek. “It may take a while for me to make the adjustment when I go back to my old form, just as it took me time to adapt to this form. Just give me a little time. I’ll try not to be as big a stick in the mud as I was before.” She held out her hand to Harry.
Shaking Hanna’s hand, Harry said, “All right, sweetheart. But if you don’t, I’m going to kick your pretty ass.”
“You’re welcome to try,” Hanna chimed with a laugh. “By the way, why are you here?”
“Nemesis, Magnus, and Horace are repairing Josephine’s short as I speak,” Harry stated. “They should be done in within the hour.”
“How’s Josephine holding up?” Hanna asked urgently.
“She’s stable,” Harry reported. “Nemesis, Horace, and Magnus put a temporary bypass on her power supply, isolating the damaged circuit so they could repair it.”
“That’s good,” Hanna murmured with a sigh of relief. “Why didn’t they come get me before they started? I wanted to be there when they did it.”
“That was Enoch’s call,” Harry replied, standing up. “He knew how tired you were and didn’t want to disturb you.”
“He could’ve disturbed me for that,” Hanna chided. “Josephine’s my friend.”
“We know that,” Harry stated as Hanna stood up. “But Enoch thought you needed to rest more than being there for the repair. You can see her afterwards when she wakes up, which is why I’m here. He wants you there when Josephine wakes. Apparently, she insisted on it before they started the repair.”
Hanna smiled. “I bet she did,” she stated. “And in her position, I’d insist on the same thing. Just give me a minute while I cover up.”
“Okay,” Harry chimed while Hanna picked up her skirt lying beside the lounge chair. As she wrapped the knee-length skirt around her waist, tying it at her hip, he smiled, saying, “I just can’t get over how you got so hot. You’re as pretty as a woman as you were ugly as a man. It’s wild and a bit disconcerting.”
“Oh, you like what you see?” Hanna crowed, striking a seductive pose.
“I’d be lying if I didn’t,” Harry admitted. “You’re smoking in that swimsuit and skirt. It makes me cringe.”
Hanna patted Harry on the cheek in a friendly manner. “I know it does,” she replied warmly. “I cringe too when I see myself in the mirror. Even with all my scars, I’m so beautiful it scares me.” A solemn sigh escaped her lips. “To be honest, Harry, it really is a burden to look like this,” she admitted. “Furthermore, the longer I’m like this, the less I remember of what I looked like before I was mutated. My male body is like dream I’m slowly forgetting. Sometimes, when I’m alone, I wonder if the last fifty years of my life as a man was merely a dream I’ve awakened from. It bothers me that I’m having trouble remembering what I looked like before Selina and I were captured in Cush.”
“Whoa,” Harry breathed, taking Hanna by the hand. “That’s deep. I guess we’re getting the reversal done just in time.”
“Maybe,” Hanna said softly, looking Harry in the eye. “Who am I, Harry?”
Staring into Hanna’s eyes while holding her hands, Harry said resolutely, “You are Hannibal Smith, a man transformed into the woman Hanna standing before me by the Emperor’s evil. Deep inside this hot tamale body standing in front of me is the man Hannibal Smith, who is my best friend, and is married to Selina Milineus. Don’t ever forget who you are, Hannibal. Hanna may be your persona right now because of this female body forced upon you, but deep in your soul, you are still Hannibal. Don’t ever forget it.”
Hanna embraced Harry gratefully. “Thank you, Harry,” she murmured emotionally. “I needed to hear that. Your words have stirred my soul to remembrance.”
“I suggest you take a little time and look over the pictures you have from before your capture,” Harry insisted, returning the hug. “I know you have a few. Just look at them and reconnect to yourself. You’re going to need to release your male essence when Josephine does the mutation reversal.”
“You’re right,” Hanna replied, stepping back with a sigh, composing herself. “I’ve been so caught up in adapting to being a woman that I forgot to remember who I really am. I should always remember where I came from, especially in these circumstances.”
“Now there’s the Hannibal I know,” Harry crowed. “The Lord will show you the way. Just be patient and don’t forget who you are. That’s the only advice I can give you right now. What you’ve been dealing with is so far off the reservation I can’t even begin to understand how you deal with it.”
Hanna laughed warmly, feeling uplifted by Harry’s wisdom. “Shit, what I’m dealing with is not just off the reservation, it’s clean off the planet,” she crowed. “There’s no precedent for what the Lord has done to me with this mutation. Thank you for the words of wisdom, my friend. I will remember your words when I start doubting who I am again. By the way, did they give any idea how long it’ll be before Josephine can do the mutation reversal after the operation?”
“Both Nemesis and Horace wants her to wait at least a week to make sure the repair holds before doing your mutation reversal,” Harry said, matter-of-fact. “They want to test the repairs to make sure it holds up before putting her under such a heavy load.”
A sigh escaped Hanna’s lips. “I can understand that,” she replied, resting her hands on her hips. “They want to make completely sure the patch holds.”
“Right,” Harry said, nodding. “Come on, sweetheart. They should be about finished by time we get there.” Hanna nodded and followed Harry out of the pool complex’s main entrance.
As they walked the corridors, Hanna said, “You didn’t come down here just to inform me about Josephine, did you?”
Harry smiled sheepishly at Hanna. “Nothing gets by you, does it?” he asked.
“Not much, especially since my mutation,” Hanna declared. “My telepathic power has jumped more than fiftyfold since it happened. It makes discerning people’s intents so much easier, though the noise of other people’s thoughts tends to be a bit annoying and draining. I’m still learning to shut them out. That was one reason I was down at the pool. It’s one of the few places I can get some telepathic quiet.”
“I did not know that,” Harry admitted. “It shows I have a lot to learn about this telepathy stuff.”
“Don’t worry about it,” Hanna said warmly. “Now tell me the other reason you came all the way to the pool to get me.”
“I just wanted to keep you company,” Harry admitted. “Is that such a crime?”
“No, my friend,” Hanna answered pleasantly, “Not at all.”
“Since you came back from the Black Fortress, you’re so much nicer to be around,” Harry declared.
“Is that so?” Hanna asked with a sultry look in her eye while they walked. “That wouldn’t have anything to do with this hot body I ended up with, would it?”
Harry blushed. “Well, maybe a little bit,” he admitted. “But it’s not just that. Your attitude and personality have changed for the better. You seem to like yourself better and are much friendlier than you used to be. You’ve become very pleasant to be around.”
“Is that so?” Hanna murmured, briefly restraining Harry by the hand. “I’m flattered you think so. You’re such a good friend, Harry. You’ve never been anything but brutally honest with me. Thank you.” She stared Harry in the eye for a moment, and then kissed him gently on the lips.
“Why’d you do that?” Harry asked, blushing crimson.
“Because I wanted to, my friend,” Hanna chimed sensually. “Can’t a girl kiss her best friend to show her affection for him?”
“Yeah,” Harry replied. “But don’t you think it’s just a bit inappropriate? You know how I feel about Mary. Furthermore, you know damned well that this isn’t your true form. Beneath this hot woman’s body is a man screaming to get out. You know it and I know it. Don’t deny it. This was the very thing you were wrestling with before we left the pool. You have to remember who you are.”
A deep sigh escaped Hanna’s lips as a frown crossed her lips. “You’re right,” she admitted. “Forgive me, Harry. I couldn’t help myself. Sometimes, like just now, I forget who I am.”
“I forgive you,” Harry answered soberly. “But that’s why you need to remember who you really are. Remember, your present form is just temporary, especially now that Josephine’s short is being repaired as I speak. You need to start remembering your old self, and not the hot tamale you are now. Remember who you are. If you don’t start preparing yourself for the mutation reversal now, you’re going to have serious trouble with it. We don’t want you to lose your mind because you can’t return to being a man.”
A deep chill raced down Hanna’s spine. “Once again, you prove what a true friend you are,” she said softly. “You’re absolutely right. I’ve become so enamored by this form that I’ve forgotten I need to prepare for my eventual restoration. Thank you for being so brutally honest, Harry.” She extended her hand to Harry, who shook it firmly.
“It’s quite all right,” Harry stated. “I know you like what you are now, and it’s okay. But it’s just not who you really are. You’re Hannibal Smith and Selina is your smoking hot wife. She yearns for you to reverse the mutation and once again become the man she married. Even though I’m not telepathic, I can see it in her eyes. She loves you no matter what, but desperately wants your restoration. She can’t truly be whole until you do that, and neither can you. Would you deny what her heart wants; what your heart wants?”
Hanna shook her head with a sober smile. “You got me, bud,” she admitted. “I can’t argue with your logic. Deep down, I want the reversal. I want to return to being Selina’s husband and not stay as her sister. Actually, I’m not sure that we’ll truly heal from what the Emperor did to us until that happens. Thank you for showing me what my heart really wants, Harry.” She pulled Harry into a warm, sensual embrace, laying her head on Harry’s shoulder as he returned the embrace.
“You’re welcome, Hanna,” Harry replied, patting Hanna on the back. “Someone has to keep you straight.”
“And you’re doing a bang-up job,” Hanna chimed, backing off from the hug. “You’ve always been my conscience, Harry, and kept me balanced. I don’t know how many times you set me straight like you just did. I’m so blessed to have such a true friend. Only a true friend would have stuck with me through all this.”
“That’s true,” Harry agreed. “And I’m going to stick with you right to the end of this, whatever it may be. We’re brothers in the Lord, well, sort of.”
Hanna patted Harry on the cheek again. “I know what you mean,” she stated with a sparkle in her eye. “No words are necessary. What we have no darkness or evil can put asunder. Thank you for being there, Harry.”
“You’re welcome,” Harry replied, sensing he and Hanna were now bonding on a new level. “Come, let’s go see Josephine.” Hanna nodded and followed Harry as he led the way to Josephine.