posted on 26-Jan-2003 9:47:53 PM
TITLE: And the Stars Fell From the Sky
AUTHOR: Kathy W
RATING: PG
CATEGORY: Backstory. No couples. Unless you consider Nasedo and Langley a couple. *wink*

DISCLAIMER: I own nothing. Nothing anyone wants, anyway. *big* I’m just borrowing these wonderful characters to amuse myself. And hopefully you.

Some of the events in this story are taken from Roswell episodes, and some are taken from eyewitness accounts of the “crash”. In addition to characters from the show, there are a few real people in this story. I know precisely none of these people, and am borrowing them strictly for this little tale.

AUTHOR’S NOTE: I’ve always been fascinated with what happened before the pod squad hatched. And I’ve had a million questions. Why don’t the hybrids remember more? Why was the Destiny Book in the library instead of in the pod chamber? Why did the Dupes wind up in a sewer in New York City? Was Nasedo really working for the Skins? And so on and so forth.

This is the story from the viewpoint of the shapeshifters; my own little fantasy about what happened, why it happened, and what went wrong. It will probably wind up being six to eight separate fics, each a sequel to the other. They will closely track the show; my intention is not to rewrite Roswell, but to fill in some of the blanks. The story starts on the ship headed to Earth, and will likely end with Nasedo’s death.

Pronunciation Guide:

Brivari—“var” rhymes with “far”
Jaddo—“a” as in “ah”, soft “J”
Valeris—"ler" rhymes with "lair"
Urza—just like it looks

The shifters refer to each other by their Antarian names. See if you can figure out which is Langley and which is Nasedo. *wink*



And the Stars Fell From the Sky

PART ONE

The small figure slumped against the console stirred ever so slightly.

Brivari regained consciousness slowly. His vision was blurry; sounds were muffled. Even the dim light in the control center hurt his eyes. And for a split second, he did not remember where he was.

He suddenly jerked upright, panic coursing through every fiber, his breathing coming in ragged gasps. Blinking furiously, he forced himself to focus his eyes.

Soft light. The whispering hum of the engines. The hard floor beneath him. And the stars, flying by at impossible speeds outside the viewports.

Brivari shuddered and leaned heavily back against the console. For a moment there, he thought he was……somewhere else.

****Shouting. Running feet. Orders barked. Glass shattering. The shock and terror on the faces of the imperial troops. And the blood….so much blood.****

He pulled himself to his feet slowly, clutching the edge of the console for support. A wave of dizziness overtook him as he became fully upright, and he slumped over the console for support. Ouch! Staying in one position for so long definitely had its disadvantages.

He rested for a moment, letting his head clear. No surprise, this. He hadn’t had anything to eat for at least a day. Not to mention the strain of loading the ship, making certain they had everything they could possibly imagine needing. After all, they couldn’t just turn around and go back if they forgot something.

****And the bodies. They needed the bodies. Not just fresh genetic samples, but the bodies themselves. The Argilians must never find them if this was to work.****

Brivari looked down at his hands. His long, thin fingers looked darker than usual; in the dim light from the control consoles he couldn’t tell why. Moving slowly so as not to set his head spinning again, he inched closer to the light source on the console. And froze.

His hands were covered with blood. Dried blood. Old blood.

The King’s blood.

****The body had been heavy, and he had been exhausted. But it was imperative that he get the body to the ship without anyone seeing him. The people mustn’t know the King was dead. ****

Brivari straightened up slowly, testing his balance. The dizziness did not return. He moved slowly to a nearby panel and examined the information it gave him. Good. They were still on course. At least something had gone right.

He sank into a nearby chair, breathless already from just this little bit of exertion. He really should talk to the others. He should go to the laboratory and see how Valeris was doing. There were a million things to do; but first things first.

His hands need washing.

He picked his way carefully to the sink. Turning on one small light, he started the water running and held his hands underneath. He reached for the cleanser and started rubbing. The blood wouldn’t come off. It had dried to a thick crust, impervious to cleanser. He sighed, turned off the water, and started to pick it off, piece by piece.

“Master?”

Brivari whirled around, ready to lash out at whoever had so stealthily come up behind him. He stopped when he saw Urza’s surprised face.

“Urza,” he breathed, leaning back against the sink. “I’m….I’m sorry. You were so quiet. I’m still……jumpy, I suppose. Forgive me.”

“Forgiven and forgotten, Master,” Urza said firmly. Brivari smiled. Urza insisted on referring to him with the honorific, “Master”, even though it was not necessary. They all served the royal family; there were technically no titles amongst the four of them. But Urza argued it was only fitting to show such respect to the one who warded the King.

Brivari turned back to the sink and resumed scraping off the blood on his hands. “Does Valeris have everything he needs?” he asked quietly. Not that it mattered now.

“He believes he does,” Urza answered. “The bodies were fresh enough to acquire several samples, and he has an ample supply of donor material and gandarium. He must have made some progress by now. Shall we go and see?”

“In a moment,” Brivari answered. “I’d like to finish washing first.”

Urza moved in closer and gazed at Brivari’s hands. He dropped his eyes and looked away, clearly disturbed by what he saw. “It took me several minutes to wash it all away,” he whispered.

“Oh?” Brivari paused; he wasn’t certain if it was wise to ask his next question. Urza had been devoted to Vilandra. His assignment as her Warder had been the high point of his life. Brivari could still see him, cradling the infant princess in his arms, smiling a smile that could have blotted out the sun. “This is what I live for,” that smile had said. “To protect. To serve.”

His grief when he and Jaddo had found her had been so great that it took all of their powers of persuasion to convince him of what he must do. That his task as protector was not yet over; indeed, in many ways, it had only just begun.

Brivari had finished scraping off the blood; now the cleanser could do its work. “Do you think it was a quick death?” he asked quietly, not looking at his friend.

Urza was silent for so long that by the time Brivari had finished washing, he still had not answered. Brivari dried his hands on a towel and waited.

“Yes,” Urza answered finally, whispering, as if he were afraid of what his voice would do if he tried to raise it. “She appears to have died instantly.”

“That’s one blessing,” Brivari said. The King had not been so fortunate. According to Jaddo, Rath had not been so fortunate either. He had not yet had the chance to question Valeris about the Queen’s condition when she was found.

Urza turned to go. “If you need me, I will be in the laboratory,” he said.

“Wait.”

Urza paused. “Something else, Master?”

Brivari chose his words carefully. “Urza, do you have any idea—any at all—how the Argilians managed to breach our defenses?”

“What do you mean?” Urza asked slowly.

“Khivar’s forces were not to the point where they could overwhelm us so easily. How did they get in?”

“I have no idea, Master,” Urza said.

“None? None at all?” Brivari watched Urza carefully. If the reports he had heard were true, then…… “It occurs to me that information may have been leaked, or perhaps someone let them in. A spy, or a disgruntled servant. Not you, of course,” Brivari added hastily, as Urza’s eyes flashed. “I was just wondering if you’d heard or seen anything—anything—that could shed some light on all this.”

Urza was silent for a moment. “Nothing, Master,” he said finally.

“You realize, don’t you,” Brivari said slowly, “that if some information was leaked, then possibly more information was leaked. The Argilians may know that we have reached the point where what we are attempting is actually feasible.”

Urza paused. A spasm of emotions crossed his face. Doubt? Fear? Guilt? Finally his face cleared; he seemed to have come to a decision.

“I know nothing, Master. I have not heard or seen anything that could shed any light on what happened. I’m sorry.”

“Of course,” Brivari said.

“I live to serve and protect,” Urza insisted

“Of course you do,” Brivari said gently, placing his hand on Urza’s back. “Now, go see how Valeris is doing. Hopefully he will have made some progress. I will join you momentarily.”

Urza bowed, and left.

Brivari watched him go with a sense of uneasiness. He could feel in his gut—whatever passed for a gut in his current form—that Urza wasn’t telling him everything. His devotion to Vilandra was total; if what his informants had told him were true, it was quite possible that Urza would lie to protect her.

Brivari sighed. Did it really make any difference now? He wanted to know, but knowing would not change what had happened. There was no way to undo what had been done. They had chosen their path, for good or ill, and now had no choice but to follow it.





[ edited 3 time(s), last at 16-Feb-2003 6:12:27 PM ]
posted on 26-Jan-2003 9:55:19 PM
PART TWO

Valeris shifted uncomfortably in his seat. He had been sitting in this position for hours, working carefully. He was almost finished.

A final nudge, and…..there. That was the last.

Swinging aside the bright overhead lamp, Valeris carried his latest creation over to the incubator and carefully placed it inside. The gandarium glowed blue in the dim room light. Under other circumstances, he thought wryly, he might even think it was beautiful.

Under their present circumstances, however, beauty was the furthest thing from his mind. He sat down heavily in a chair, allowing his mind to wander for the first time into areas he had so far managed to resist. It was never wise to succumb to pessimism while trying to be creative.

Valeris poured himself a cup of hot jero. He should have eaten long ago, but there had been no time. The samples must be as fresh as possible in order to have the greatest chance of success. And, he reflected grimly, they needed all the odds they could muster to be on their side in this unforgiving universe.

“Valeris?”

Valeris turned to find Urza standing in the doorway of the lab. “Urza,” he said kindly, motioning to a nearby seat. “Come in. Is Brivari awake yet?”

Urza nodded, his gaze fixed on the incubator. “He awakened a short time ago. He was asleep on the floor; I didn’t try to move him. Do you think I should have?”

Valeris shook his head. “No. He was so exhausted I doubt he cared where he was. Is he with you?” Valeris asked, looking past Urza to the passageway.

“He will be coming soon to examine your progress. He is……..washing,” Urza said, dropping his eyes and falling silent.

Valeris nodded silently and sipped his jero. The hot liquid felt good in his dry throat. As he set the cup down, his hand shook a little.

“Was the Queen……I mean, was she…….very…….” Urza stopped, unable to continue the thought.

“She appears to have died quickly,” Valeris said quietly.

“Ah. Good.” Urza’s gaze shifted to the incubator once more.

“Would you like to see them?” Valeris asked.

Urza’s eyes grew wide. “May I?” he breathed, clearly not believing his good fortune.

“Of course,” Valeris smiled. He rose, crossed to the incubator, and lifted the lid.

Urza gazed down at the tiny cell samples with a mixture of hope, admiration, and doubt. “Do you really think this will work?” he asked Valeris.

Valeris sighed. Jaddo had asked him the same question only a short while ago, and the answer was no different now. No doubt Brivari would ask also, but being Brivari, he would want a mathematical estimation of the likelihood of success. I can’t give them that, Valeris thought. This has never been tried before. The Project had been underway for years, but what they were attempting here had never been its goal. It was sheer luck that they even knew of this theoretical possibility.

But Urza stood waiting expectantly for an answer, and Urza was one who thrived on hope and crumpled in the face of doubt. The others would get straight answers; for Urza, the truth had best be masked.

“I think we have a very good chance of success,” he said, to Urza’s obvious relief. “Our preliminary experiments with lower life forms were very promising. And,” he added, “our Wards will emerge stronger than before. They will have all our capabilities, plus new abilities we do not have. They will surely put them to good use when they return.”

Urza shifted uneasily. He had never been entirely comfortable with the way they had all been….altered. Still, Valeris thought, it had been necessary. Even Brivari had seen the sense in that, though he had made no secret of his misgivings about how their kind were treated. Valeris doubted that Urza had even begun to explore his new abilities. Although he had certainly used them to great effect just recently, blasting away those around Vilandra’s body, and making certain that none who had seen her dead would live to tell of it.

Valeris closed the lid of the incubator gently. Urza lingered, looking through the window, obviously nursing more questions. Valeris waited.

“Will it take long?” Urza asked finally. “How long must we wait for them to be born?”

Valeris ran his long, gray fingers over his smooth head. “About twenty earth years,” he answered. “And it is crucial that they not be disturbed until they reach a more stable state,” he added quickly, moving Urza’s hands away from the lid.

“And what will we do during all this time?” Urza asked. Valeris smiled. Poor Urza. He had served one mistress for so long he did not know anything else. It had been different for Valeris; he had served many masters before being chosen as Warder for the King’s new bride.

Valeris put his arm around Urza’s shoulders. “We will watch. And wait. And make certain nothing interferes with their development. We will protect them like we always do. Like we always have.”

“Like we always have,” Urza echoed softly. “Then….why are they dead?”

Valeris sighed, and sank heavily into a chair. He really must get something to eat. “We had no warning,” he said to Urza. “We did our best. That is all we can do.”

Urza nodded, apparently satisfied with this answer. He turned to go, then hesitated. “I have one more question, if you don’t mind.” he said. Valeris nodded.

“What……what will she……look like?” Urza asked haltingly. “Will she be……beautiful?”

Valeris hesitated. Urza had not been present on previous trips to Earth, nor had he seen the donors. He had probably never laid eyes on a human. But there was certainly no point in keeping that information from him. He would need to learn to take their form, either male or female, very shortly.

Valeris rummaged in a drawer and brought out four images. Shuffling through them, he set one in front of Urza.

Urza blinked. He studied the image for several minutes without speaking, without touching it. Valeris watched a dozen different emotions crossed his face: Interest? Revulsion? Disbelief? Finally, Urza asked, “Is this form considered……beautiful?”

Valeris nodded. “She will be quite a beauty by human standards.”

“They are so……tall,” Urza noted uncomfortably. “Their fingers are so short, and their eyes are so small.”

Valeris nodded again. “They are different from us,” he agreed . “But no more different than some of the other races we’ve had to duplicate,” he added.

“May I see the others?” Urza asked, in a tone that suggested he wanted to get it over with.

“Of course.” Valeris arranged the other three images with the first, and Urza studied them all carefully and with less shock this time.

“Will Ava be considered beautiful as well?” Urza questioned. “And the King? And Rath?”

“They will all be regarded as attractive by humans,” Valeris answered. “Our pool of suitable donors was small; many humans do not respond well to gandarium. But we were careful to choose attractive humans from those who were eligible. Attractive people fare better in the human world.”

“And we must take these forms as well?” Urza asked in a clearly unhappy voice. “For so long? Won’t we ever be able to revert to a more comfortable shape?”

“You will grow accustomed to it,” Valeris said soothingly. “We cannot risk being found in our native shape, and we will be much more comfortable with human lungs in their atmosphere. Earth’s atmosphere is considerably thinner than ours.”

“Not only thinner, but impossible for the Argilians to breathe,” Urza noted.

Valeris nodded. “They will be unable to follow us.”

“Unless they have found a way around that problem,” Urza said off-handedly, still staring at the hybrids.

Valeris looked up sharply. “Why? Are they trying to find a way around it?”

Urza froze. He started backing away, shaking his head as he did so. “I…..I don’t know. I suppose I was just…..assuming….that they would try to find a way around it.”

Valeris studied Urza carefully. The Argilians had never been anywhere near Earth; it’s atmosphere was hostile to their physiology. The Royals, with their human DNA, would be unaffected, as would the four of them, since they could shift their internal organs to accommodate almost any atmosphere. What was Urza talking about?

Urza had backed all the way to the door. “I will tell Brivari you are finished,” he said hastily, and fled before Valeris could answer.

Valeris sat, puzzled, for several long moments. Argilians had been involved in the project years ago when it first began, but none had been involved for quite some time, an absence no doubt fueled by the growing tension between the races. This was probably nothing…..but still. The thought of Urza as a spy or a traitor was ridiculous, but if he had overheard something, he needed to tell them.

Another mystery to solve, Valeris thought, rising and crossing to the incubator. He was tired of mysteries. A few facts would be welcomed, for a change.

Valeris checked the gauge on the incubator carefully. This first stage was critical; temperature, humidity, atmosphere must all be strictly controlled if union was to take place. He looked through the window and was delighted to see that most of the clusters had formed blastocysts. Some were still in the earliest stages of cell division and union, and some did not appear to be progressing at all.

He had expected that. That was why he had made so many, to offset the ones that would not survive. Soon it would be time to cull the dormant ones. Anything that wasn’t a blastocyst within the next hour would go.

Valeris checked the gauges one more time and closed the lid on his handiwork; two hundred Antarian-Human hybrids, fifty of each royal. Fifty sets of the Royal Four.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Look for the next update next Sunday. *happy*

[ edited 1 time(s), last at 2-Feb-2003 8:48:31 PM ]
posted on 28-Jan-2003 1:25:33 PM
Hi everyone! Thanks for stopping by. *happy*

Tabasco Liz: Can you imagine 50 Max's running around? *wink* Or 50 Michael's? But I was thinking about the closest relative we have to this process, which would be in vitro fertilization. It's understood that many, if not most, of the fertilized eggs won't survive, so they fertilize many more than they need. It would make sense to make as many hybrids as possible, because they're unlikely to get another crack at this.

Minanda: The shifters are not as selfless as they may look at the moment. *wink* They all have secrets, and some have private agendas. They're still in shock, and confused about what happened (although some are less confused than others.) And they have only recently left the stabilizing influence of their own society. After being hunted for 50 years in what amounts to exile, they get cranky. *wink* (Ok, they get cranky before that.)

Scottie: I will track the show, so the PODlette's are born when they are born on the show. Many things do not work out as expected. *wink*

Cookie: Shapeshifter love? *big* You're going to get me accused of shipping Nasedo and Langley again. LOL

But--there will be some shapeshifter love. Not necessarily between shapeshifters, but definitely some shapeshifter love. *big* But first they have to crash, and get killed and captured and tortured and all that happy stuff. *wink*

To those who are upset with me because the aliens aren't evil: I realize I am challenging accepted orthodoxy by portraying these characters as people who actually take their jobs seriously, are attached to their charges, and are generally trying to do their best. That's not a common view of the protectors. They are typically viewed as people who never wanted to be there in the first place, and who abandoned their posts or actively worked against those they were supposed to protect.

But what do we really know about these people when they first arrived 50 years ago? On the basis of the show, not much. We know they arrived, and did their jobs--they hid the Granolith, rescued the pods from the Air Force, and hid the pods. They stayed in the area for quite awhile: One was captured, one was in River Dog's cave for awhile, Langley was around in 1955 for the filming of the movie based on Atherton's book, and one killed Atherton in 1959. I calculated that Sheila Hubble was killed in the late sixties/early seventies, so one was around then too. They appear to have done their jobs for a substantial period of time.

What changed? That's precisely what I'm interested in. I've never bought the poplular opinion that aliens=bad, humans=good. One need look no further than Pierce for confirmation that all humans aren't good, and it makes no more sense that all aliens are bad. I portray the Protectors as people who wind up where they do in the end because of a combination of their own choices and factors beyond their control.

So if you're looking for eeeeeeeeeeevil aliens, you won't find them here. Even the bad guys have their reasons, and Khivar himself will have a few points to make. I dislike stories in black and white. I prefer shades of gray. *wink*

[ edited 1 time(s), last at 28-Jan-2003 1:29:53 PM ]
posted on 2-Feb-2003 8:21:27 PM
Hi Everyone! Thanks to all who stopped by. *happy*

Misha: I, too, got the impression that everyone left Antar in haste. I'm not sure why; it might be because so much seemed to not work out the way it was probably intended to. The whole thing struck me as a last, desperate effort. And then the bit that Michael remembered in Interruptus about Vilandra and Khivar made it sound like Khivar's attack was a surprise.

Sarah: The thought of 50 Max's is mind-boggling, but not a bad idea. *wink* Sometimes I think it's just too darn bad that Antar isn't making that model anymore. *big*

Kath 7: Thanks for giving my story a try, and for sharing your thoughts. *happy* There is more about Zan in this next part, and more will come out as time goes on.

Scottie, Minanda: Thanks for the bumps. *big*

I'm going to put Part Three in a separate post. *happy*
posted on 2-Feb-2003 8:38:07 PM
This part introduces the fourth shapeshifter, Rath's Warder. He's a bit of a testy fellow. (There's one in every bunch. *wink* )

Terms:

Riall: Ree-all (Zan's father)
Covari: "var" like "far", rhymes with "Brivari" (the name of the shapeshifter's race)
Argilians: "g" sounds like "j" (the name of the Khivar's race)

******************************************

PART THREE


Brivari stood in the doorway, silhouetted against the light of the hallway. The door closed behind him as he entered, and he adjusted the light level upward with a thought. But not too high. He needed light, but he did not think he could bear what he would see in the full intensity of the lamps.

He had meant to go straight to Valeris and inspect his progress. But he had decided he’d rather have the bad news first, and the good news, assuming there was any, after that.

The stasis units in use glowed in the dim light, while the rest of the room was shrouded in darkness. Twelve units, in two neat rows of six, left over from the days when space travel took longer than it did now. The constant, automatic adjustment of atmosphere within the units made a hissing noise, the only sound to break the silence of this chamber-turned-graveyard. Then, these preserved life, Brivari thought. Now, they preserve death.

Vilandra lay in the first unit, beautiful as always, as though she were simply asleep. Brivari had always liked Vilandra. True, she could be thoughtless, and her fondness for having a good time was well known. But he had always found her heart to be in the right place, and her upcoming marriage to Rath was of great interest to the kingdom. Everyone looked forward to seeing the glamorous and popular princess wedded to the trusted leader of the King’s armies. This may well turn out to be one of the longest engagements in history, Brivari thought sadly.

Brivari moved to the next unit, where Ava lay just as peacefully as Vilandra. Clearly, these two had not been the targets. Brivari touched the unit with his hand, remembering….

**** “Brivari!” the old King had cried, with all the enthusiasm his dying body could muster. “Zan is getting married! Isn’t that wonderful news?”

“Yes, Your Highness, wonderful news indeed! When will the wedding take place?”

“Soon, I hope,” Riall had answered, coughing. “These old bones won’t last much longer.”
****

Those old bones had lasted long enough, just barely. Riall had lived to see the heir to the throne wed to the woman he loved, then died peacefully in his sleep soon after. Brivari could still see them: The overjoyed King at the end of his life, his son, so handsome and loved, and the beautiful bride, so young and full of life, promising hope to a world that had known war for so long, they were almost afraid to believe this newfound peace would last.

He loved you, Brivari thought as he looked at Ava, thinking not only of Zan, but of his father as well. They both did.

Brivari moved more slowly toward the next stasis unit. He knew this unit contained his failure as a protector, the demise of a sacred trust. He held his breath as Zan’s body became visible in the gloom. This would not be a pretty sight.

Valeris had put him back together as well as he could, Brivari mused. At least he was recognizable. The former King of the Antarians looked up at him, his eyes wide and staring. I failed you, Riall, Brivari thought sadly. I promised to protect your son, and I failed.

Brivari thought back to that day when Riall had told him that he would be reassigned to Zan. Brivari had not been pleased; he had protected the old King all his life, since Riall was a boy, and he fully expected to protect him until he died. “I won’t make you do this,” Riall had said, although clearly he had the means to do so. “I beg you to do this. Will you do this… for me?” And Brivari had consented; glad, at least, to make the old King happy, and enormously grateful that Riall had given him the choice. But Riall had always treated the Covari as trusted associates, rather than slaves.

**** “You must guide him,” Riall had said to Brivari with a sense of urgency no doubt brought on by his failing health. “He is young, impatient….things take time. People take time to change. We are well on our way, but we must be careful. You could help him understand this, help him to see that he must be patient.”****

And he tried, Brivari thought. Patience was not one of Zan’s strongest traits, but he had convinced Zan to scale back some of his more provocative reforms, reminded him of his father’s warnings again and again. And Zan had listened, for the most part. He had slowed down, pulled back, while still moving inexorably forward. So what had gone wrong?

Brivari placed his hand gently on the stasis unit that held the remains of the son of the man he had loved so much. Riall, the first Antarian king to take the throne bloodlessly in centuries. Zan, his son, the first crown prince to ascend the throne in peaceful succession in even more centuries. When Zan had married, the people’s hopes had soared; surely the handsome couple would produce an heir, and their world’s newfound stability would be assured for many years to come. I have failed you, Riall, Brivari thought again. Now your people have only the memory to sustain them. Let us hope that will be enough.

Brivari turned toward the last unit, bracing himself against what he knew he would find. As the leader of the King’s armies, Rath would have borne the brunt of the invasion. Even so, Brivari was not prepared for what he saw.

Rath was unrecognizable. The twisted pile of flesh in the stasis unit bore little resemblance to any form Brivari had ever taken. These were not mere war wounds; this was deliberate savagery,

“Animals,” breathed a voice from the gloom.

Startled, Brivari peered into the darkness. He directed his mind at the lights and brought them up to full intensity.

On the far side of Rath’s stasis unit sat a figure, a male human figure. It took Brivari a moment to realize it was Jaddo.

“Athenor did this to him,” Jaddo said, rising. His human form was too tall to stand upright; he had to stoop. “It wasn’t enough just to kill him; he had to tear him to pieces like an animal.” His eyes flashed a hatred that was almost palpable. “No doubt he’s running around at this very moment, regaling one and all with tales of how he killed the King’s general.”

“He lived? He knows,” Brivari said, leaning heavily against the unit. “He will tell everyone.”

“He will get nowhere,” Jaddo said grimly. “Athenor is the only one left who witnessed the murder of one of the Royals—we exterminated the rest. Let him babble. He has no bodies to back up his claim.”

“Why have you taken that form?” Brivari asked, looking Jaddo up and down.

“I’m practicing—and the rest of you should as well,” Jaddo said. “Very shortly, our lives and the lives of our Wards will depend on our ability to assume these shapes.”

Jaddo looked down at Rath, or rather, at what was left of him, with sorrow. Ward and Warder were very much alike: Impatient, fiery-tempered, suspicious. “Perhaps he should have taken the deal,” Jaddo said softly. “Maybe then none of this would have happened.”

After a split second of stunned silence, Brivari launched himself at Jaddo and threw him to the ground. Jaddo crashed to the floor of the chamber with a sickening thud, and Brivari pinned his arms to the floor.

“It was Rath, wasn’t it!” Brivari spat, breathing heavily as Jaddo struggled against him. “He did it! He let them in! He betrayed all of us!”

“How dare you!” Jaddo cried, struggling under Brivari’s grasp. “Rath would never betray Zan! And maybe he should have. Maybe that was his downfall. Our downfall.”

Brivari dragged Jaddo off the floor and slammed him against the wall, pinning him there with his mind. Jaddo hung there, struggling, but helpless against Brivari’s superior abilities.

“Someone let them in,” Brivari said, panting. “Someone betrayed us. It’s the only explanation. And now you say he was offered a deal. Talk fast,” Brivari ordered grimly.

“Put me down!” Jaddo ordered, straining against the mental bonds that held him.

“Talk first,” Brivari answered, “and maybe—just maybe—I’ll put you down.”

Jaddo resisted for several more seconds before slumping against the wall, exhausted. The two Warders regarded each other with knives in their eyes. Of the two, Brivari was unquestionably the stronger; even in his weakened state, he could keep Jaddo pinned to that wall for a very long time indeed. Finally, Jaddo relented.

“There is a splinter group of Argilians who believe that Rath would make the stronger king,” he said. “They offered Rath the throne if he would help them overthrow Zan and Khivar.”

“And he took them up on it,” Brivari said through his teeth, tightening his mental grip.

“NO!” Jaddo protested. “Rath turned them down! He remained loyal to his king—and look what he got for it! Perhaps he should have taken them up on it.”

“And just why, exactly, should I believe he didn’t?” Brivari whispered in a dangerous voice.

“Because he’s dead, you idiot!” Jaddo shouted. “Why would they kill him if he had accepted?”

“You’re forgetting something, Jaddo,” Brivari said, coming closer until their noses almost touched. “You said it was a ‘splinter group’ that made Rath that offer. But it was Khivar’s army that swept through the capital, not some splinter group. It was Khivar’s own general who killed Rath. It’s entirely possible that Rath did pave the way for the so-called ‘splinter group’, not realizing that there was no ‘splinter group’—it was all just a ruse to get inside.”

Jaddo slumped against the wall, exhausted. Like the rest of them he had had nothing to eat and little sleep for days. His stamina was running out.

“Brivari, I swear to you, Rath said 'No',” Jaddo said in a ragged voice. “He considered it; I won’t deny that. But in the end, he was loyal to Zan. He was loyal to Vilandra. He did not betray us.”

Brivari studied the figure on the wall. Jaddo had always been ambitious, just like his Ward. He had always bristled at being in the shadow of the King’s Warder. He and Brivari had locked horns often. But there had never been cause to question his loyalty. If his loyalty to Rath had always been unquestionable, so too was his loyalty to his King. Still, Brivari thought, I have to be sure.

Brivari slowly released his mental grip on his colleague, and Jaddo slumped to the floor. Brivari crouched down beside him, looking him in the eye.

“Then how did they get in?” he asked, studying Jaddo’s face for any sign of dissembling, any clue. “Obviously someone let them in. Someone lowered our defenses, and the enemy walked right in the front door. Who, Jaddo? Who did it? Who better to do it than the King’s own general?”

Jaddo sat up stiffly and met Brivari’s gaze. “I don’t know,” he said, breathing heavily. “But I do know it wasn’t Rath. He turned them down; I swear to it.”

“Perhaps,” Brivari said. “But tell me this: What if he hadn’t turned them down? Would you have warned Zan? Where do your loyalties lie? With the rightful King, or the man who could have elevated you to the status of a King’s Warder?”

Jaddo glared at Brivari, not answering. A minute passed, then two, as Brivari waited for an answer. Finally, getting none, Brivari stood up.

“What is that earth saying?” he asked, almost to himself. “There was a ‘fox in the henhouse’ –and I don’t know who it was. But I will find out,” he said quietly, leaning in toward Jaddo again, “and when I do, pray I do not discover it is you.”

Brivari turned and strode out of the room, leaving Jaddo slumped against the wall, eyes glittering.

******************************************

I'll post Part 4 next Sunday. *happy*


[ edited 1 time(s), last at 2-Feb-2003 8:46:52 PM ]
posted on 9-Feb-2003 10:48:10 PM
Hi Everybody! :wave: Thanks for coming by. *happy*

I have always wondered why Khivar would commit so much time and energy to chasing Zan all the way across galaxies. I know he wanted his throne, but at the time we come into the story, Khivar had had the throne for 50 of our years. He also wanted the Granolith, whatever he thought that was. But the events of MttM made it clear he also wanted to make a public spectacle of Zan's death. The whole thing struck me as not so much political, as....personal. *wink*

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

PART FOUR

Valeris hummed as he prepared the food. He was starving. He carefully set the hot dish between the two plates, wondering absentmindedly why he was always so careful with hot things. It would take a great deal of heat indeed to harm him or any of his colleagues. But burning was a danger to their Wards, so they had long ago adopted the precautions that ordinary people must always use to avoid injury. There are some advantages to not being ordinary, he mused, as he set cups on the table.

Valeris heard him before he saw him. “There you are,” he said, pouring hot jero and not bothering to look up as Brivari came in. “I was expecting you.”

Brivari looked haggard—and troubled. “How did you know I was coming?” he asked.

Valeris smiled. “This is a small ship, Brivari. One can hear shouting quite easily.” He set down the pot of jero and motioned to a chair. “Sit. You must be hungry. I certainly am.”

“I should check your work first,” Brivari said, heading toward the incubator. “I haven’t even been down here since you started.”

“They will wait,” Valeris said firmly, steering Brivari to a chair. “I will be culling them soon; you may watch, if you wish.” He held out a cup of hot jero in a gesture that brooked no argument.

Brivari sank down into the chair. “Thank you,” he said simply, accepting the cup.

Valeris dug into his food with gusto, pausing only to take gulps of jero now and then. Brivari ate with less relish, but he was clearly hungry too.

After Valeris had finished, he sat back with a satisfied sigh, and eyed Brivari. “So,” he began, “are you going to tell me what all the noise was about?”

Brivari didn’t answer. He was staring at his plate as though seeing it for the first time. Valeris waited.

“How did you feel,” Brivari began slowly, “about Riall’s edict allowing us to eat regular food?”

“I take it you don’t want to talk about your fight with Jaddo just yet?” Valeris said, with a sympathetic look. Brivari looked away. “Very well,” Valeris continued. “I was delighted with the old King’s edict. I realize it meant little to us in practice. It was a symbolic gesture, meant to elevate us in the eyes of others. A mark of his respect for us. And respect,” Valeris noted, “is worth more to me than any particular food.”

Brivari nodded. “I agree. But I always thought the detractors had a point. Why waste perfectly good food on a race that can’t even taste it?”

“I may not be able to taste,” Valeris said, “but I can discern differences in texture. The nutritional supplements we always ate before Riall’s kindness were always the same: Same texture, same temperature, same color. Eating has become much more pleasurable for me. And to sit at table and be served the same food as everyone else—I was surprised at my reaction to that. It was wonderful to share meals with Ava and eat the same dishes. She would describe each one to me and sometimes, if I tried very hard, I could almost imagine I could taste them.” Valeris smiled at the memory.

Brivari set down his empty cup. He glanced over at the incubator, clearly troubled by something. Finally, he spoke.

“Jaddo informed me that a splinter group of Argilians offered to put Rath on the throne,” Brivari said. “He claims Rath turned them down.”

Valeris poured another cupful of jero. “He did turn them down.”

“You knew?” Brivari said incredulously.

Valeris nodded. “I overheard the King and Rath discussing it.”

Discussing it? What was there to discuss? Whether or not to accept?” Brivari said, stunned.

“Of course not,” Valeris chided. “They were discussing whether or not this splinter group could be brought to the bargaining table. Matters had reached a point where Khivar would not come, and Zan thought that perhaps those who approached Rath would agree to negotiate on behalf of the Argilians.”

“Khivar would never accept that,” Brivari said. “He doesn’t want to negotiate; he wants to rule. He has a score to settle with the house of Riall.”

“What Khivar wants and what others of his race want may well be two different things,” Valeris said. “If the leaders of the splinter group had come to the table, both the King and Rath felt that the rest of the Argilians would at least wait to see what would happen—and let Khivar seethe. It was worth a try.” He set down his empty cup. “I have heard that this business between Khivar and Zan is not so much political as it is personal. Is that true?”

“Khivar wishes to avenge his father,” Brivari answered wearily. “A poor reason to bring war upon a planet, if you ask me.”

“This was before my emergence,” Valeris mused. “Educate me?”

Brivari smiled. “You slept through your history lessons, I take it?”

“I am a scientist,” Valeris pointed out. “History was never my specialty.” He shot Brivari a look of genuine affection. “It is good to see you smile, old friend, even in the midst of all this.”

“You do have that effect on me,” Brivari said, still smiling. “You always have.” He poured another cup of jero and leaned back in his seat. “Very well, then. A history lesson. Antarian kingships have rarely passed peacefully from ruler to ruler, certainly not in the last several hundred years. Bloody wars marked each succession. Until Riall.”

“You protected Riall since childhood, did you not?” Valeris asked.

Brivari nodded. “I watched this happen. Riall’s uncle was king at the time, and when he finally passed away, the usual mad scramble for the throne began. Khivar’s father was mere inches from claiming the crown when Riall swept in with an alliance comprised of most of the other contenders, who had agreed to set Riall on the throne if he shared power with them.”

“I’m certain that went over well with Khivar’s father,” Valeris remarked.

“Khivar’s father had no choice,” Brivari said. “The alliance was too strong, the promise of peace too alluring—and everyone’s mistrust of the Argilians too intense. He hated Riall until the day he died, and opposed him at every opportunity, but he was never strong enough to topple him.”

“And then Riall died,” Valeris murmured, “and now the process repeats itself.”

“I warned him,” Brivari said, shaking his head at the memory. “Riall was barely cold in his grave when Khivar pulled the Argilians out of the council and demanded they renegotiate the terms of their inclusion. I told Zan that Khivar would never bargain in anything even vaguely resembling good faith. To him, Zan represents the man who stole his father’s throne, and who now wears the crown that is rightfully his.”

“Khivar’s people don’t necessarily see things that way,” Valeris noted. “They’ve enjoyed decades of peace under the council, and some are loathe to give that up. They seem to feel he is stirring the pot for no good reason. I believe the leaders of the splinter faction had agreed to meet with Zan—and then this happened.” He inclined his head in the direction of the incubator. “Perhaps that agreement was what set this off. I would imagine Khivar fears that history will repeat itself.”

“History should have repeated itself,” Brivari said irritably. “Khivar wasn’t even close to being strong enough to formally oppose Zan, just like his father before him wasn’t able to oppose Riall. So what happened?” He pushed his cup away. “No doubt Zan did not bother to inform me of this business with the splinter group because he thought I would object. He was doing that more and more—leaving me in the dark. It was maddening.”

“You are awfully hard on him,” Valeris noted. “I’ll grant he is stubborn and impatient. I’m willing to bet Riall was too, when he was that age.” He paused, smiling. “Well? Am I right?”

Brivari opened his mouth to say something, then closed it. Valeris leaned in closer. “Brivari, I know how you feel about Riall. But Zan is not Riall. You cannot expect him to be. Or take him to task if he isn’t. He must make his own way, and I honestly do not believe this tragedy was his doing. Something else was going on here, something Riall did not have to face. Find out what that something is before passing judgment on Zan. Or yourself,” he added pointedly, with a meaningful look.

“I take it you have added mind reading to your impressive list of talents,” Brivari said dryly. “Not to mention psychiatry.” Valeris shrugged. Brivari leaned his head back and stared at the ceiling. “You’re sure Rath turned them down?”

Valeris nodded. “Quite sure.”

Brivari sighed. “I see I have an apology to make.”

“To whom?” Valeris asked.

“Jaddo. I all but accused him of cheering Rath on so that he could become a King’s Warder.”

Valeris shook his head. “It’s true that Jaddo is ambitious, and he can be ruthless. And brilliant,” he added with a twinkle. “A most annoying combination at times, I’ll allow. But he is no traitor.” When Brivari did not respond, Valeris continued. “You were rightfully suspicious. You didn’t know. Explain it to him. Jaddo is a military man, like Rath. He will understand. Here,” he said, passing a plate to Brivari. “Have some more.”

“Not yet,” Brivari said, rising from his seat. “There are people missing from the table. Let me fetch them, and we’ll continue.”

**************************************************

Once again, Brivari stood in the open doorway of the stasis chamber, peering through the gloom. Jaddo was still there. He had resumed his usual shape, and was standing motionless at the head of Rath’s unit, hands placed flat on top, head downcast.

Brivari entered the room and positioned himself a little to one side, so Jaddo could see him. The soft lights glowed. The stasis units hummed. Jaddo stood motionless, as if in prayer or meditation. Brivari waited.

“Have you ever seen a human cry?”

It was question spoken in barely more than a whisper, and Brivari was surprised. He had expected anger, disgust, righteous rage, any number of things, but not this simple, whispered question.

Brivari shifted his feet. “Once,” he replied. “One of the donors woke from their sedation, and became very upset when they saw where they were.” He winced at the memory. After all that had been done to his own race, it had been hard to watch what had happened to the human donors.

“I saw one cry once too,” Jaddo said, still in that barely-above-a-whisper voice. “There are times I wish I could cry like that.” He paused. “This is one of those times.”

Brivari didn’t know what to say. For Jaddo, always so strong and controlled, to admit such a thing was nothing short of incredible.

“I loved him,” Jaddo whispered.

“I know you did,” Brivari answered gently.

“Do you?” Jaddo asked, turning suddenly to face him. “You who think I’m a traitor, who thinks my Ward is a traitor?”

“Jaddo, I’m sorry,” Brivari said. “Valeris explained what happened. I’m sorry I suspected you.”

“So. My word is not enough,” Jaddo said softly. “His word you will take, but not mine.”

“Jaddo, I’m sorry,” Brivari said again, moving closer. I can’t make sense of this. I know they must have had help, but I don’t know who did it. There is a part of me that will not rest until I figure out how this happened. And I’m willing to bet there is a part of you that feels the same way.”

Jaddo stared at him for several long moments, as if assessing his sincerity. Finally, he nodded.

“Come,” Brivari said, holding out his hand. “We are having a meal in the lab, all of us. We must stay together now. For our Wards. For our world. For ourselves. We are all we have. We mustn’t let anything divide us.”

Jaddo stood silently, seemingly unwilling to leave Rath’s unit.

Brivari took him by the arm. “You can come back later,” he said gently.

Jaddo looked at Brivari, as if considering how to respond. Then he shook his head. “I will be there momentarily,” he replied. “I want a few more moments. Alone.”

Brivari nodded. “Then we’ll see you shortly.” He turned and left the chamber, the door sliding closed behind him.

Jaddo remained motionless, looking down at Rath through the lid of the stasis unit, thinking of what he had not said to Brivari. What he had considered revealing, but then decided against it. Not now. Not yet.

“How did you know?” he whispered softly to the body in the unit, as though Rath could actually hear him. “You were down there at the palace gates, waiting to meet them. No one else knew they were coming. How did you know they would be there?”

Jaddo leaned closer to the lid and whispered so softly he could barely hear himself. “Did you betray us?”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I'll post Part 5 next Sunday. *happy*

[ edited 1 time(s), last at 9-Feb-2003 10:52:08 PM ]
posted on 16-Feb-2003 6:08:08 PM
Hello, everyone! *happy*

Kath 7: Perhaps if Roswell had remained on the air longer, we would have gotten more than just bits and pieces. Unfortunately, very few shows are like "X-Files", with 9 years (was it 9?) to explain everything. (Although I must admit I didn't understand everything on "X-Files" anyway, 9 years or no. *big* )

Minanda: We should feel sorry for the shifters. They can't enjoy chocolate. *wink* (As I recall, John Crichton mentioned chocolate as one of his reasons for wanting to return to Earth on "Farscape". A guy after my own heart. *big* )




PART FIVE

Urza stood amongst the hissing stasis units, still unable to believe this had happened. They were dead. All of them. And it’s my fault, Urza thought miserably. His failure to act was directly responsible for the carnage in this room and on his planet.

He moved to Vilandra’s stasis unit, gazing through the cover at something he never thought he’d have to see. She looked virtually untouched, arranged in such a natural position that Urza would swear he need only take her hand and she would wake, and tell him this was all just an awful mistake. Which it was, of course. The entire saga, from start to finish, was nothing but one, huge mistake.

How could they have killed you? he wondered, caressing the clear cover of the unit. You, I thought were safe. This could not have been Khivar’s doing. She was too important to lose; having her at his side would have lent him validity. Not to mention the effect on Zan. It was not enough to covet his throne, Urza thought bitterly. You had to have his sister as well.

Urza bent down and released the mechanism for the cover. He had to touch her one last time, if only to convince himself that she really was dead, that this was not merely some bad dream from which he could expect to awaken. The atmosphere inside the unit escaped with a hissing noise, and the cover swung silently upward. Cautiously, he touched her hand. It was cold, so cold that he withdrew his own hand, shrinking from the touch of death.

You were too trusting, Urza thought sadly, and he lied too well. A bad combination, that. Khivar understood the first rule of constructing a believable lie: All good lies contain some truth. Enough truth to convince the gullible, or leave shadows of doubt in the minds of the less easily convinced. Vilandra had fallen into the former category until the very end, when it was too late to change anything.

“I should not have left you at the end,” he whispered, taking her hand in spite of the chill. “We should have gone together.” His eyes spied the pendant around her neck. The swirling symbol of their galaxy was engraved upon it, with Antar at the center, gleaming in the dim light. He reached for it with a shaking hand.

“Urza, what are you doing?”

Urza spun around to see Valeris framed in the doorway, a quizzical expression on his face. He drew back his hand as Valeris came forward and peered into the stasis unit.

Valeris’s face softened. “Take it,” he said gently to Urza. “She doesn’t need it anymore.” When Urza did not move, Valeris reached down and removed the pendant from Vilandra’s neck. “Rath gave this to her, didn’t he?” he asked, studying it. Urza nodded.

Valeris handed the pendant to Urza. “Keep it. I have Ava’s wedding bracelet, and I know Brivari has Zan’s. You take this,” he said, pressing the pendant into Urza’s hand. “No doubt she will be glad to see something of her own when she returns.”

Urza took the pendant and left the room without a word. Valeris closed the lid of Vilandra’s unit, and looked across to the next, where Ava lay. Everyone keeps vigil, he thought. He hesitated, then shook his head, and moved to the door.

Not here. He preferred to keep his vigil over the living.

******************************************************

Valeris entered the lab to find Jaddo standing over the incubator, peering inside, apparently so lost in thought that he did not even hear Valeris enter. Another vigil, he thought. “Well, this is a surprise,” he said to Jaddo, who jumped. “I can’t remember ever seeing you darken the door of a laboratory.”

“Meaning what, exactly?” Jaddo challenged.

“Meaning you are the last person I would expect to find lost in thought over a bunch of cell clusters.”

“I came here to ask you a question, not to look at these,” Jaddo said stiffly.

“Of course not. That’s why you’re standing over them, meditating…right?” Valeris ignored the scathing look Jaddo shot his way. A great many people found Jaddo extremely intimidating. Valeris wasn’t one of them.

“I fail to understand how one could joke at a time like this.”

“We all handle our grief in different ways,” Valeris observed. “I choose to handle mine with humor. I find it far preferable to standing around, blaming myself.”

“You think I blame myself?” Jaddo asked.

“Don’t we all?” Valeris sat down wearily and stretched his legs. “We just express it differently.”

“Your attitude is irritating.”

“As is yours,” Valeris answered calmly. “Now that we’ve exchanged pleasantries and irritated one another…. you had a question?”

Jaddo came around the incubator to look at him more closely. “You look exhausted,” he announced. “I sincerely hope your fatigue has not affected your work.”

“Your concern for my well-being is touching, to say the least,” Valeris said dryly. “I assure you I have done my very best. That is precisely why I am so exhausted.”

The tiniest flicker of regret crossed Jaddo’s face. “Of course you did your best,” he allowed, in a more conciliatory tone. “I meant no offense.”

“None taken,” Valeris said quietly. “Now…your question?”

“It concerns the engineering process,” Jaddo began.

“A bioengineering question? From you? Surprises abound,” Valeris said in an amused tone, and quickly held up his hand when he saw the look on Jaddo’s face. “Sorry. Sorry. I shall do my best to curb my irritating humor for the duration of our discussion. Call it a reprieve.”

“I would appreciate that,” Jaddo said darkly, while Valeris suppressed a smile. Jaddo had very little in the way of a sense of humor, and typically couldn’t abide that trait in others. It made him an easy target if one wished to needle him.

“I do not understand why we cannot create clones directly from the bodies. Given all that we are capable of, why must their DNA be mixed with alien DNA?”

“Some of the best minds in bioscience have worked on that dilemma for quite some time,” Valeris answered. “For some reason, Antarian DNA cannot be directly cloned. They tried for ages, and the results were always the same: Deformities, usually so severe that the clones did not live long. The few that lived longer usually developed anomalies which drastically shortened their lives. The research was finally abandoned, and attention was turned to other things.”

“ ‘Usually’? Does that mean some did not develop anomalies?”

“It is said that our own race is a result of those first experiments,” Valeris said quietly. “That could very well be, given the number of our kind who do not survive their emergence, and the further number who do not survive their first shift. Whatever happened, the results of that research terrified our first bioengineers, and direct cloning has not been attempted since. Instead, we combine our DNA with that of other races and manipulate the process as they join.”

“So we have no choice but to make use of the DNA of inferior races,” Jaddo said resignedly.

“The human race may be inferior technologically, but that does not mean their DNA is inferior,” Valeris noted. “Quite the opposite. That was the reason the project began in the first place. You have some human DNA yourself. We all do.”

“Don’t remind me,” Jaddo said, clearly not pleased. He paused. “I gather I have you to thank for smoothing over this latest conflict between myself and Brivari.”

Valeris shrugged. “I merely told him what I’d heard.”

“Valeris the facilitator,” Jaddo said softly, almost smiling. “I have always wondered if that was why Riall chose you to be Ava’s Warder. You have a talent for smoothing things over. You and your….humor.”

“A complement?” Valeris teased. “Next you’ll be telling jokes, and we’ll all die of shock.” He ignored Jaddo’s withering look, and continued. “Joining a new family can be difficult, but Ava didn’t need much help in that regard. Nevertheless, I have always wondered why Riall pulled me away from my work to make me a Warder. Now, I think I know why.”

“Oh?”

“I think he suspected something like this might happen. And given my research—he may have deliberately put me in the right place to do something about it. He was a shrewd old man.” He rose, and moved to the incubator. “It’s about time to pull the defective ones,” Valeris said, looking through the lid. “I’ll go fetch the others. I know they wanted to watch. You’re welcome to stay too,” he added , “if you think you can tolerate my irritating attitude.”

Jaddo sighed. “I take it my humor reprieve is over?”

“Give it a try sometime, Jaddo,” Valeris said, smiling, as he walked out the door. “You might find humor wears well on you.”

******************************************************
A short while later, the four gathered around the incubator and peered inside.

Dozens of tiny embryos, with shapes so vague they could have been either Antarian or human, sat in neat rows. Some of the cell clusters had not advanced; Valeris started to pull those out.

“How many do we have now?” Brivari asked.

“Approximately thirty-eight of each hybrid,” Valeris answered.

“How many will we keep?” Urza asked, looking faintly ill as Valeris tossed out the defective Vilandra hybrids.

“As many as we can,” Valeris answered. “The more we have, the better. We don’t know what we’re going to run into while we wait for them to grow to maturity. Better to have as many as possible in case something goes wrong.”

“Will all of these have the mark?” Jaddo asked, looking at the Zan hybrids.

“No,” Valeris answered. “The Zan hybrid which reaches a certain stage of development first will develop the mark.”

“Incredible,” Urza whispered. “And…..they will remember us?”

“Assuming they grow to maturity, yes,” Valeris answered.

“Is it absolutely necessary that they remember everything?” Jaddo asked. “Because there are a few things I wouldn’t mind Rath forgetting.”

Brivari and Urza stared. Valeris looked momentarily taken aback, then dropped his head to hide the smile on his face. “A joke,” Jaddo said, in a slightly offended tone. “I have been known to joke occasionally, haven’t I?”

“Not really,” Valeris noted with amusement. “But one has to start somewhere.”

Brivari looked back and forth from Valeris to Jaddo. He had no idea where this sudden burst of good humor had come from, but it was good to see Jaddo relaxing a little. He may be impatient and a notorious perfectionist, but he was a huge asset. Brivari depended on him heavily.

A chiming sound abruptly filled the air.

“We are being contacted?” Jaddo said, surprised. “We were supposed to initiate contact once we reached Earth. Who would contact us now?”

“Let’s find out,” Brivari said, heading for the door. “This could be very good news—or very bad news.”

Several minutes later, all four Warders gathered in the control room. Jaddo placed a communicator on the table in front of them. All four raised their hands and pointed them at the communicator, which started to glow. A beam of light shot from the symbol inscribed on the center of the device, and within that beam a shape began to coalesce. It swirled for several seconds, finally taking the form of a familiar figure.

“Balor!” Brivari said, delighted to see that the Queen Mother’s Warder lived. “It is good to see you! But why have you contacted us now?”

“Greetings, fellow Covari,” Balor responded formally. “I have good news. It is safe to come home!”

******************************************

Look for Part 6 next Sunday. *happy*

[ edited 1 time(s), last at 16-Feb-2003 6:11:21 PM ]