posted on 28-Nov-2001 6:49:23 AM
Title: Hail Jing-Bang – 46
Author: Red the Mighty
Email: red⊕wdsection.com
Rating: PG-13
Disclaimer: Roswell belongs to 20th Century Fox and UPN and not to me.
Category: Other (CC)
Summary: Secret bases, conspiracies, evil aliens, truth, lies, betrayal, and things not being as they seem. All that good stuff.
Spoilers: Could be anything up to To Serve and Protect I guess.
Feedback: Yes please. I love feedback; it makes me so happy.
Archive: Hey, it’s all yours, just drop me a line telling me where so I can visit.

All previous parts can be found here
http://www.geocities.com/redthemighty/library/fiction_red_hjb.html

******

"They took her."

Michael repeated those three words over and over. Sometimes his voice shook with rage and other times it broke with anguish. Max propped his friend up and carried him through the rock opening into the Granolith chamber.

"We have to find her," Michael groaned and slid down against the wall.

"We will, Michael. I swear," Max told him.

Max reached his hand out to attempt to heal Michael’s wounds, but Michael pushed him away.

"I’m fine. Save it for later." Michael looked up and met Liz’s eyes over Max’s shoulder. "We’re here. Now what?"

Liz wrapped her arms around herself. "I’m not sure. Um, I guess, I’ll go look at the Granolith. Maybe, I don’t know, maybe something will happen."

"Will you be okay here?" Max asked Michael.

Michael nodded, his head dropping back against the rock. "Go on."

Max scrambled to his feet and ducked through the small opening, coming up behind Liz. She was staring at the Granolith, deep in thought. Max walked further into the chamber and contemplated the softly glowing object. He shoved his hands into his pockets and looked up at it. There didn’t seem to be any change in the Granolith, no new lights, no strange noises, it sat as it always had. Seemingly waiting for some key or bit of knowledge to activate it and bring it to its purpose.

He glanced over at Liz and frowned, concerned, when he caught the rapt expression on her face. She was frozen in place, her eyes half-closed, as if in a trance or deep meditation.

"Liz?" Max asked softly, hesitantly.

There was an alarming lack of response from her at his quiet inquiry. Her eyes didn’t slide over to meet his and her body remained immobile.

"Liz?" He called more loudly, more demanding of a response.

She gave no indication that she heard him at all. Not a muscle twitched anywhere in her body.

Max found himself frozen by a dilemma. He absolutely did not like the way Liz seemed to be entranced by the Granolith. They understood so little of its working that he couldn’t be sure that this wasn’t in some way incredibly dangerous for her. Nor did he like how vulnerable he felt while it held Liz in its thrall. If she were to remain frozen like that when their enemies came at them, how long would he be able to protect her?

Max circled the Granolith one more time and came to stand behind Liz. He rested his hands gently on her shoulders but made no further move to try and interrupt her and whatever she was doing. He decided to let her continue as she was until they were threatened or he saw some sign that it was harming her in any way.

A few long minutes later Michael’s harsh, tired voice broke the silence in the chamber. "What’s going on?"

"Uh, Liz is, well, actually I don’t know what she’s doing but she’s not really here right now. I don’t know if it’s more dangerous to try to shake her out of this or leave her as she is."

"Well, crap."

"Yeah."

They stood silently for a time after that brief exchange. It didn’t last long and soon anxiety took over both young men.

"How long do we let her stare at this thing?" Michael asked. He was sitting on the floor again, resting against the wall.

Max looked at his friend closely. "I wish you’d let me heal you."

"Let it go, Maxwell. I’m fine. They beat the shit out of me but I’m not gonna keel over or anything. Besides, we’ve got more to worry about. Your girlfriend’s supposed to protect this thing but so far her definition of protection is kind of unimpressive. Hope you guys do better then that when you’re going at it."

Max rolled his eyes. "Michael."

"I’m just saying."

"I know what you’re saying and if you have any suggestions I’m more then willing to listen."

"Do you think they’ll be able to get in? I mean is the, uh, lock just coded to us or do you suppose another alien, like the Disciple could get in?"

"I have no clue. I guess we should assume they can get in."

Michael climbed painfully to his feet. "That sucks. We have no way to defend ourselves here if whatever Liz is supposed to do doesn’t happen."

"We’re just going to have to make sure she gets the opportunity to finish what she has to do here."

"Good plan, Maxwell," Michael snorted wryly. "Well seeing as I hate to interrupt your staring contest with the inanimate object, I’m gonna go sit in the other chamber."

Max ignored Michael’s gibe and turned his attention back to Liz, doing the only thing he could think to do; he wrapped his arms around her waist, settled his jaw down on the top of her head and waited.

"It’s not ready yet."

Max’s arms tightened involuntarily at the suddenness of Liz’s voice.

"What just happened here? You zoned out for about ten minutes."

Liz sighed deeply and leaned back against Max. "It’s kind of hard to describe. It wasn’t words or even images, it was like pure idea, pure thought. I’m still not even sure what this is all about. I mean, my part in it all. But it did let me know that it’s not ready yet."

"We don’t have forever. The Disciple could be here any second," Max argued.

Liz pulled away from Max and turned to look him in the eye, exasperated. "You go right ahead and tell it that."

Max rubbed his jaw in irritation and stalked towards the Granolith. He resisted the urge to kick it, instead reaching out to run his fingers along it.

"I think I hate this thing," he groused.

Max spun around at a shout and a scuffling of feet on dirt behind them. Michael tumbled into the room, followed by four men. Max and Liz both assumed a defensive posture, side by side, backing up to the Granolith. Michael pulled himself over to collapse at the feet of his friends.

Two of the men took up positions by the door while the other two walked confidently into the room, their gazes locked on the Granolith.

"Tall one’s the Disciple," Michael hissed before breaking off into a painful, wracking cough.

The Disciple looked down at Michael and gave him a cold smile. "I’m so disappointed in you, Rath. I was certain you were more intelligent then this. You see, I have the Granolith, and you could have had the power."

"You don’t have the Granolith yet," Liz said defiantly.

The Disciple’s mouth twisted into a snarl of extreme distaste. "Human," he growled, his voice dripping with revulsion. "Your presence here is the most loathsome kind of defilement. You debase this sacred artifact."

He took a menacing step towards them, stopping when Max raised his hand ominously.

"And you, your Majesty," he sneered. "Rutting with a human? If I ever had any doubts that you were not fit to be King, your vile associations with this . . . this primitive would have set my mind. You would taint the royal blood of Antar with this filth?"

Max could feel his mind growing hot with rage. "Liz is more then you could ever imagine."

"She must be a convincing little whore."

Max’s entire body tensed in fury, the muscles of his neck corded and standing out in sharp relief. He focused his powers, readying a blast, but Liz’s hand on his shoulder warned him to hold off.

"Max, he’s just trying to make you angry," she whispered.

"Try? I’d say he did it," Michael coughed.

Liz stepped closer to Max and slid her hand down his arm, trying to get him to lower it. "Max, the Granolith. That’s what’s important."

"Yes, the Granolith," the Disciple spat. "Your time is done your Majesty. Your army is defeated, your power is gone, and you are no longer worthy of defending this most holy relic" The Disciple nodded his head towards the man standing next to him. "Tesher. We’re done with the King."

"Very good, my lord," Tesher told him, a malicious grin stretched across his face.

Max brought his hand back up again and Michael mimicked the action, both men’s palms glowing with dangerous force. Tesher and the two men by the entrance raised weapons and took a step towards them. Michael released a blast of energy that blew one of the men back against the wall of the chamber. His head struck with a sickening thud and he slumped bonelessly down to the floor.

Michael got to his knees and spat at the Disciple, "You’re just going to kill us, Zhilag. We’ve got nothing to lose. So, man, if we’re gonna die I think you’ll be coming with us."

Tesher grabbed a weapon from the still standing guard and turning, fired at Michael. When the wave washed over him, Michael screamed in agony and collapsed again. Max’s eyes widened in realization and for a brief moment his mind went blank with panic at the remembered anguish. A split second later the Disciple let loose a blast of energy at the trio, Max got his shield up just in time, but the force was still enough to knock them back against the Granolith.

While the men were struggling with their battle of wills and power, Liz had stumbled back against the Granolith. Her hand went out to catch herself from falling further and a jolt of electricity surged through her body. It felt like fingers of lava spreading through her body and deep in her mind a whispery voice told her to hang on. Gritting her teeth, Liz tried to follow the voice’s advice, but her awareness of the chamber seemed to be drifting away from her.

The Disciple was the first to take notice of Liz. "What is the human doing?" He shouted.

Max took his eyes from his adversary and glanced over at Liz. Tendrils of blue fire arced and danced across her body, and the whites of her eyes seemed to glow a brilliant red. The sight of Liz helplessly enveloped in the maelstrom of energy tore through Max, ripping his soul apart. He threw his head back, roaring in pain and rage and brought his hands up, intent on throwing every bit of his power into a final, desperate explosion.

"Max, don’t." Liz’s voice, strong and sure, broke through his agony. "Come here. Stand by me. Michael, you too."

Max’s body hummed with the barely contained energy he’d summoned, the effect of that roiling power was that his mind seemed to have temporarily stopped working. Fortunately his innate trust of Liz was so deep and true he obeyed her automatically. She reached out a vibrantly glowing hand to him, he clasped it tightly and a tingle of heat spread from her body into his, calming him and stilling the tempest inside.

Michael also followed Liz’s orders unquestioningly. He pulled himself up as much as he could and with a pained groan, pushed his battered body to her side. Trying to catch his breath, he took quick stock of his injuries, and a nagging voice in the back of his head told him he was quickly becoming a liability to his friends. The smallest movements jarred various internal injuries, driving knives of pain into his damaged flesh. He knew that he wasn’t going to be able to help his friends much longer, a gray mist was already swirling at the edge of his vision, accompanied by black spots dancing across his line of sight. Liz reached down her hand and ran her fingers soothingly through his hair. It was a temptation to let himself float away into sweet unconsciousness and for a moment he teetered on the brink of oblivion, but as Liz continued to stroke his hair he could feel a cold shiver start at the top of his head and slide down his body, almost as though he was standing under a cool waterfall. As the chill washed through his body he could swear he actually felt his injuries mending themselves. Bone and flesh, sinew and muscle knitting together under his skin. Michael glanced up at Liz, wonder etched across his face.

Liz’s actions seemed to be unconscious; her gaze was locked on the stunned and furious face of the Disciple.

"I don’t think the Granolith likes you. You might want to rethink your plans," she told him.

"I don’t care what you think, girl. The Granolith is mine and you are dead," he shouted.

Liz eyes widened in anger, red light arcing across the room ominously. "The Granolith is mine."

The Disciple laughed suddenly, a harsh barking sound that echoed discordantly off the chamber walls. "Ignorant, arrogant human. Yours? Do you honestly believe you can control this power for long?" He turned his taunting remarks to Max. "How does it feel, your majesty, to know that for all her protestations of love her goal was power? How does it feel to see the true loyalty of your wench?"

Max smiled grimly back at his enemy. "Best feeling in the universe."

The Disciple snarled menacingly and took a step in their direction. Blinding blue and green lights shot from the Granolith and wove a web of sparking flame around it and the trio standing by it.

"The Granolith is not for you, Zhilag," Liz told him coldly. "It belongs to the royal family. Its power is mine and you will never get it."

"You are not royalty," the Disciple raged. "I will not stand by and watch you profane this holy place. Tesher, kill them," he screamed.

Tesher looked uncertainly back and forth between the Disciple and Liz. "My lord, the shield . . ."

"No excuses."

Tesher licked his lips and approached the Granolith slowly. He jumped as more lightening flashes darted around the room but he steadfastly continued on. When he was a hand’s breadth from the shield another bolt shot out, this time finding a mark. Tesher shrieked in pain, his body jerked and fingers of fire burst through his skin. One final charge and he was thrown clear of the shield, landing in a smoldering heap at the entrance to the room.

Liz’s face went white and a swell of nausea rippled through her but she composed herself quickly and addressed the Disciple. "We seem to be at a stalemate."

The Disciple straightened his spine, brushed back his hair, and straightened his suit jacket. "I have all the time in the world, child." He turned abruptly and left the room. The last remaining guard shot them a wary look then edged his way out as well.

Liz took a deep breath and wiped her hand across her forehead. She looked behind her and saw both Max and Michael slumped against the base of the Granolith. They looked as wiped out as she felt.

"Are you guys okay?"

Max reached out to grab her hand and pull her down next to him. "I guess. What’s going on here, Liz?"

"It’s a defense mechanism. The Granolith is protecting itself and us," she told him.

"I thought it wasn’t ready."

Liz shrugged. "You know as much as I do."

Michael ran a hand through his already unruly hair. "So basically until it’s ‘ready’ we’re stuck here."

Liz nodded her head. "Yeah, I’d say that’s fairly accurate."

"Any idea how long this will take?" Michael asked.

"Not a clue."

"Cause you know, Maria is still out there with that piece of slime. If he hurts her, Liz . . ."

"He won’t," she said hurriedly. "He’ll probably try to bargain with her. We have some time, Michael."

Michael shook his head. "You don’t know this guy, Liz, I do. He wants one thing only and he doesn’t give a good god damn about any human that gets in between him and the Granolith."

***

Red

[ edited 3 time(s), last at 30-Dec-2001 7:59:00 AM ]
posted on 8-Dec-2001 5:35:08 AM
Chapter 47

Author's notes:
Hey guys, I just wanted to thank you for the feedback. You rock.
Buggabboo, you read the whole thing in one sitting? OMB. I don't think even I could do that. Wow, well, that's fantastic. I'm so glad you liked this so much.
I hope I can clear up any confusion you have regarding Michael, but it won't be in this chapter. *big*
Thanks for reading, everybody.


******

Maria stared up at the bright, cloudless desert sky, squinting her eyes against the brilliant sun. Her thoughts drifted from her apparently dire circumstances, to the welfare of her friends, then to her general loathing of evil aliens and her particular desire to use one as a punching bag at that very moment, and back again. It didn’t help that her captors took every opportunity to tell her just how little they thought of humans, especially those who consorted with the royal four.

Maria could feel her temper rising but was frustrated by the fact that she was unable to do anything about it other then glare at those holding her. She decided her best course was to pay as much attention as she could to the goings on around her and try to discover just what they wanted with her. If she could figure all that out, maybe, just maybe, she could get away.

So she watched and she thought and an hour turned into two and nothing seemed to be happening. They had bound her arms and legs and propped her against a rock outcropping with a guard a short ways away. Well at least I’m still alive, she thought. Surprise. They obviously wanted little to do with her; they asked no questions and hadn’t even bothered to try to intimidate her since just after they captured her. So she pondered the question of why she was still alive, and she came to a rather depressing conclusion. They’d obviously been close enough to do serious harm to them all but instead they knocked Michael down, hurting him, she prayed not seriously, and took her. She figured it was because she was the easiest for them to take and therefore the easiest for them to hold. With the Disciple’s goons holding her hostage and Michael injured, he’d have no choice but to go find Max and Liz which would, of course, lead these goons right to the Granolith. Maria shot a furious glare at the guard holding her but it went unnoticed.

Slumping back casually against the rocks, Maria kept an eagle eye on her guard while she twisted her arms this way and that trying to loosen the bonds holding her wrists together. She kept at it determinedly for as long as she could, but eventually her shoulders began to cramp and her wrists burned and bled. She growled, agitated, and kicked her tied feet angrily at the dusty earth. This day was just not getting any easier, and it had started out so well, too. Waking up with Michael snoring softly in her ear had been wonderful, though she supposed it could get annoying eventually. However, this morning it had been better then she could ever hope for, her worry for him was finally eased and that tight knot in her gut had come undone with every soft exhalation that brushed her cheek. Maria sighed at the memory then yelled in frustration at the ropes binding her limbs. Her guard turned to look at her, a disdainful snarl on his lips, but he made no move towards her.

"Yeah, that’s right, jackass. Ignore the poor little human. I am so going to kick your ass when I get free. You, yeah, you are on my list," she muttered viciously.

"Maria."

Maria’s head jerked up and around at the singsong voice. A quick glance at her guard assured her he wasn’t the one trying to taunt her, his head was turned away from her and he was talking to another man, apparently showing off his weapon. Maria rolled her eyes in disgust and sat up, trying to find the source of the voice.

"His sun. You are light."

The voice came again, this time from above; Maria craned her neck to see. A small man was perched on a boulder a few feet away. Maria darted a look over at her guard, making sure he was still distracted, then she looked back at the newcomer again. He had somehow slipped down into a hollow in the rock wall and onto the boulder without her hearing a thing.

He bobbed his head and looked around the rock next to him towards the men holding her. "He cannot see me."

"Who are you?" She hissed.

He grinned and bounced slightly. "I am called Tobin."

"Tobin?" The name sounded familiar to Maria but she couldn’t quite place it. "Wait. The prophet guy. That’s you?" Maria couldn’t quite keep the disbelief out of her voice.

"I am he and he is me," Tobin pronounced happily.

"What are you doing here?"

"I’ve come for you, Michael’s sun. Michael is my friend. I like him, he’s very amusing and he finger paints very well."

Maria raised an eyebrow. "Okay, Tobin, that guy over there with the gun? You see him?" She waited for Tobin to nod before continuing. "Okay, he will shoot you if he sees you."

"They want the Granolith."

"Yeah, so I’ve heard."

"Lovely Maria, they will shoot you too," he told her sadly. "They don’t like humans."

"I noticed."

"They are wicked, evil, depraved. Frightful, frightful," Tobin spat.

Maria’s eyes widened at the venom in his voice. "I, uh, okay. I see. Not good. Bad aliens."

"Bad aliens," he nodded sagely. "We must go."

"You’re rescuing me?"

The wide, toothy grin returned to Tobin’s face. "Yes."

He slipped down off of his boulder and hugged the rock, slinking his way to Maria’s side.

Maria hunched her shoulders and slid forward, trying to hide Tobin from any eyes that might look their way. "Are you insane? They’re going to see you."

"No. No, surely not."

"You don’t know that," she argued quietly.

Tobin tittered. "Of course I do." He pointed to his chest. "Prophet."

"Oh yeah, huh?" Maria said weakly.

Tobin crept closer to her and put his hand on her shoulder. She felt the cold blade of a knife against her arms and resisted the urge to flinch. After what seemed like hours, the ropes finally gave way, freeing her wrists. She started to bring them around but Tobin stopped her.

"Keep your arms behind your back. In case they look."

"Hey prophet guy, I thought you said they wouldn’t."

"I’m not omnipotent. Do not move your arms until your legs are free," he instructed calmly.

"Not omnipotent. Not omnipotent." Maria glared at the small prophet. "Not omnipotent. Got it. Hurry, up, damn it."

Tobin worked as quickly as he could, humming to himself as he sliced. "You’re free. Free. Free."

Maria tried to move her legs but they screamed in protest. "God, I’m never gonna be able to walk. I’ve been tied up for hours."

"You’ll be fine. Be fine. Stay die, move live. Easy."

"Dude, how did Michael not kill you?"

"Michael likes me. I finger paint well, too."

Maria rolled her shoulders and groaned in agony. "Great. You two can have a showing at the preschool. I think I can walk."

"Let’s go. Let’s go. We’ll dance away." The prophet skipped back to the boulder and climbed on top. "Come with me, pretty Maria. Lovely Maria."

Stumbling slightly, Maria climbed to her feet and promptly fell against the rocks. She cast a panicked glance back at her guard and wondered how long her luck would hold. Smiling grimly at the aliens’ arrogance, she regretted that she wouldn’t be around to see her guard get his ass kicked for letting her get away, especially since she’d promised herself that pleasure. So much for alien superiority. Bite me, bastards, she chuckled to herself.

******

Maria was completely out of breath when the prophet finally stopped her some distance from the Disciple’s goons. She collapsed onto the hard ground and drew great gulps of air into her starving lungs.

"Where are we going?" She asked between gasps.

"Here then there. I have friends. They hid and now they must come out so that we may continue on our way. Rest now, for too brief a moment, beautiful Maria."

Maria nodded her head wearily and rubbed absently at her still tingling arms. Her fingers drifted down to her swollen, bloody wrists but she drew them back before they touched the inflamed flesh. The wounds were raw and ugly, and they hurt enough as it was, she didn’t want to make them any worse by poking at them.

Absently wiping her bloody fingers on her pants, she looked over at the prophet. It was, she decided, very easy to dismiss the small man. Probably too easy. There was more to him then even that whole prophet deal, she concluded. He was obviously, painfully near-sighted if not legally blind, and his small, slight body couldn’t possibly been seen as anything even vaguely resembling threatening. However, Michael had told her about the prophet and how he had disappeared from the Disciple’s base in Colorado the night Michael staged his rebellion there. And now he’d come all this way on his own initiative and rescued her, rather easily, from a band of alien thugs. To be sure he was beyond bizarre, but that seemed about par for the course in Maria’s experience with aliens and all alien related matters, and on her sliding scale of the bizarre, he was at least charming in his oddity.

"Tobin?" She called to him quietly, a question nagging at her. "How did you find me?"

He looked over his shoulder at her and smiled, then, after peering off into the desert one last time, scampered over to her side.

He took one of her hands gently in his and squinted down at her injured wrists. "Exquisite Maria, you’re hurt. Vile, loathsome, putrid aliens." His demeanor quickly went from genial to furious as he stroked her arms and gazed at her wounds.

"They’ll . . . they’ll be okay," she told him, pulling at her arms to free them from his grasp.

He let her pull one of her arms back, but he clasped her right hand gently but firmly.

"I saw them attack you."

"You were there? Tobin, that’s the middle of nowhere. How could you know to be there?" Maria asked, exasperated.

Tobin giggled for a moment and stroked her hand tenderly. "Tobin the Prophet. I felt Liz," and then almost as an afterthought he added, "and Michael."

"Liz?"

"She is a beacon. A light in darkness. She blazes like a million million suns and the inky black swirls and curses and batters itself against her but still she shines. Radiant. I could find her in an infinite void," Tobin told her confidently.

"Liz?" Maria repeated her friend’s name again.

Tobin grinned at her. "You have a part to play. Very important. Vital, I would say."

"What? What am I supposed to do?"

"I have no idea. I see the pages of a history laid out before me, and on the parchment dance the names of players, past and future. I cannot read all of the words, they are in languages dead and unimagined, but some, a name, a place, an event, stand out and shout my name. Call my attention and I must, I must, I must pay them great heed, for those are the keys to kingdoms, the secrets to ages, the heroes of epics, the grim survivors of bloody days, the lost who stumble from long, dark paths. And I am a thread in the tapestry and, the weft and the warp and I bind and I rend and I thwart and I guide. I see swirls, and knots and I can taste the pattern but I’m seldom gifted with the whole. I have my role, as you have yours, my sight is broader for it being less."

Maria blinked her slightly glazed eyes and took a deep breath. "You do realize that made little or no sense, right?"

"I bind and I rend and I thwart and I guide." His head jerked suddenly and he brought his long fingers up to Maria’s lips. "They’re here."

Maria felt her body grow cold with panic. "Who," she breathed.

"Friends, allies, keys and pieces. Peace," he told her softly, patting her hand again.

Maria climbed stiffly to her feet and watched two figures shuffle towards them. A tall blond woman was supporting a painfully thin, ragged man. Tobin grabbed the man’s arm and guided him to sit on a boulder nearby.

"My comrades." Tobin waved his arms expansively.

Maria watched the pair warily for a minute then nodded her head in greeting. "Um, I’m Maria."

"Jordan. Jordan Trailor," the blond woman stuck her hand out. Without thinking Maria returned the gesture and an instant later she was startled by the woman’s hiss. "What happened to your arms?"

"Oh, uh, rope burns." Maria shrugged her shoulders, dismissing her injuries.

"Come friends. We must be on our way. Ages will not wait for us," Tobin called to them as he and the other man walked away from the two women. Tobin gestured for them to follow.

Maria sighed and forced her tired legs back to work. "So, run around in the middle of the desert with a lunatic prophet often? Wow, you know, hearing myself say that, that’s like almost biblical. Weird."

Jordan Trailor looked over at Maria in surprise. Several fairly intense days with Tobin and John Doe had rendered her unused to small talk in any form. Conversations around the two men tended to be limited to incoherent screaming and bizarre, premonitory rambles. "I, uh, I . . . I. No. I, I’m a doctor. I work in Albuquerque."

"Oh, hey, you’re the psychiatrist Liz and Max talked too, huh? So that’s the freaky guy who was abducted by aliens, right?"

"Yes. Liz. I . . . just after they left, John tried several times to break out."

"Guess he succeeded," Maria observed.

"Oh. Yes. I followed him."

Maria glanced at the doctor, an incredulous frown on her face. Obviously some people just couldn’t deal as well as others. Doctor or no, the woman was totally shell-shocked, almost completely out of it. It was a sort of oblivious, going through the motions, condition that made Maria fairly nervous. According to Maria’s too vast experience, when battling evil aliens it was important to pay attention to stuff.

"Right, so crazy guy escapes, you follow, leads you to other crazy guy, you keep following, leads you to the evil alien hellmouth. Or maybe it’d be the evil alien hellwormhole," Maria sighed. "Welcome to Roswell."

Jordan stared blankly at Maria until she stumbled over a rock, nearly falling. Maria raised an eyebrow and when she was sure Jordan wasn’t going to end up in a heap, she decided she’d had enough non-conversation with the doctor and jogged slightly ahead to catch up with Tobin.

"Hey prophet guy, where’re we going?"

"To the Granolith. We must find Liz. I feel it. A maelstrom on the edge of time. The end of old worlds and the birth of new. There is much to do, pieces that must be made to fit, tasks still undone, masterworks incomplete . . ."

"Right, I get it," Maria said quickly, forestalling any more ranting. Man, she though, next time Michael tells me I’m rambling, I am so going to remind him of this little goofball.

"Time, time. We have little enough of it. Things will happen now, and we will be where we are to be, and we can be there when we get there, however, there’s an advantage to be gained by being early to destiny."

"I’ll remember that for next time," Maria said dryly.

The prophet quite suddenly pulled Maria to his side and reached up to clap a hand on her mouth. "Shh, we are there and look, there are more then just us." He pointed down the rocky slope to the rock formation that housed the Granolith.

Maria pried his fingers off of her face and glared down at him. "Great, that’s what? Like twenty guys between us and the Granolith? And, I hate to break it to you, Tobin, but the chamber’s got a pretty nifty members only kind of lock."

Tobin gave Maria a sly smile. "Always have a backdoor."

Her eyes opened wide in surprise. "You’re kidding me? Talk about your convenient plot devices."

******

Tobin cut a meandering path through the brush and sand that surrounded the Granolith’s rock formation, circling wide of any of the Disciple’s soldiers. He led them down a treacherous slope into a narrow ravine and then down the ravine to the base of a large rock jutting out of the slope.

"Here, here. It’s here," he whispered.

He dropped to his knees and started to dig at the sand and loose gravel. When Maria tried to help him, he acted almost irritated, waving her away brusquely. After what felt like an eternity, Tobin appeared to find what he was looking for and he rubbed his hands over the rock face. Within seconds a spiral symbol became visible, glowing vibrantly blue against the red stone. Maria and the others took a nervous step back when a deep groan shook the ground under their feet. Tobin rocked on his heels impatiently then clapped his hands in triumph when a crack appeared in the boulder. The crack grew wider and wider and until a black forbidding entrance yawned in front of them.

"Come," Tobin ordered before ducking into the opening.

Maria watched John stumble obediently after the prophet, then watched with a wary eye to make sure the doctor intended to do the same. When the tall woman disappeared from view Maria took one last deep breath, swallowed heavily and dove into the gaping maw. She stopped just inside the tunnel, trying to allow her eyes a moment to adjust to the pitch black, when the prophet rushed back and grabbed her hand, pulling her farther inside.

"Out of the way," he whispered.

They all jumped when, with an agonizing creak and moan, and a shower of dust and sand, the opening in the rock slammed shut. The black immediately, and completely, swallowed them.

"Tobin?" Maria hissed harshly, trying to peer through the overwhelming darkness.

"Maria."

Maria jumped back with a muffled shriek when his face appeared out of the blackness mere inches from her own. He held a small glowing orb in his hand and he was grinning again. She clinched her fists at her side and through sheer force of will managed to keep herself from leveling him.

"Get us where we need to go, Tobin," she ground out. "I don’t like it here."

"The dark is heavy," he agreed soberly.

Without another word he turned and started down the gloomy passage.

******

Red
posted on 23-Dec-2001 4:41:18 AM
CHAPTER 48

Author's babble:
**phew** Two more chapters to go after this. I can't believe I've been writing this for a WHOLE year. Terrifying.
I'm glad that so many of you continue to enjoy this. It's amazing to me that I haven't lost more people and that in fact people will actually read this whole thing in one sitting. Astonishing. Wonderful.
Jane - hmm, I hadn't considered the Hobbit/LOTR connection with Tobin but since those are my favorite stories ever I guess it's not surprising. And seeing as those are my favorite that's got to be high on my list of favorite compliments ever. Thanks.
As for the title Hail Jing-Bang is a Scots term that means, essentially, the whole shebang or everything. It seems to have been a fairly prophetic title.

Okay, enough. Thank you all for reading and in addition to feedback I am now accepting birthday wishes on account of my birthday is tomorrow (24th). I love how the world goes all festive for my birthday *wink**big*
Happy holidays to you all.


******

"Michael, shut up."

"I’m just saying . . ."

"And it’s not helping. She’ll be okay."

"You don’t know that."

"You don’t know that she won’t be. They have no reason to hurt her."

"Why’d they take her then?"

"I don’t know. Insurance, maybe."

"God damn it!"

Liz rolled her eyes and sighed. "Guys, please. We’re stuck here and I know this sucks Michael, but there’s nothing we can do right now. She’s my best friend, I hate this as much as you do."

Michael stood up and paced the tiny space. "What are we doing here? I mean besides sitting on our asses for no god damned reason."

"Michael," Max snapped, his voice harsh.

"What are we waiting for, Liz?" Michael asked, frustrated.

"I don’t know. God, I wish I did." Liz scrubbed her hands across her face. "I just know that we have to wait a little while longer."

"Great," he growled and continued to stalk the chamber.

"Aw, were you worried about me, Spaceboy?"

Michael spun around and brought his glowing hand up while Max and Liz scrambled to their feet. Their faces showing varying degrees of disbelief, relief and ultimately suspicion as Maria squeezed through a small, previously undetected doorway on the far side of the chamber.

"What? No, ‘hey Maria, glad you’re not dead’?" She asked.

"Who are you?" Michael snarled menacingly.

Maria stared at him evenly. "It’s me, Michael. Who else would climb through a very dark, very dusty, very creepy cave to save your sorry butt?" Maria took a careful step into the chamber; her eyes still locked on Michael.

"Somebody trying to sneak up on us and kill us," he offered.

Maria rolled her eyes. "Oh please."

Liz’s lips twisted into a small smile. "How’d you get here? How’d you know about that entrance?"

"Oh, well that would be your pal Tobin. And he could come on in any time now," she yelled towards the opening.

A small, elfin head appeared from the dark. "Hello. John vomited. He’s very nervous."

"And thanks so much for sharing that with us," Maria said dryly.

Tobin ignored Maria and stepped into the room. He sketched a sloppy salute in Michael’s direction and managed a perfunctory bow to Max but his eyes were locked on Liz the entire time.

A huge smile cracked his face and he dashed over to her. "Glorious Liz."

Liz smiled sweetly at Tobin. "It’s good to meet you Tobin. How did you get here?" She glanced up when another figure appeared in the opening. "Dr. Trailor?" She asked in shock.

Tobin dropped down to sit on the floor and tugged on Liz’s hand, urging her to join him.

"Jordan will be the herald," Tobin told them all matter-of-factly. "John. John," he called. "Come in. It’s your time, my friend."

The lost and ragged former mental patient and alien abductee stumbled into the room. Max and Liz shared a skeptical look before turning their eyes back to watch the violently trembling man approach the Granolith. John jerked his head, his eyes twitching and squinting as he gazed up at the ancient artifact.

"Prophet?" John asked in a dry, rasping voice.

"Yes, John. There it is," Tobin said gently.

******

Long before the thin winter sun hit the desert the royal army was up and moving. They had decided to get the army out of the open desert, with its lack of cover and dangerous ravines, arroyos and canyons and seek out a stronghold on the higher ground of the Capitan Mountains.

They had just crossed into the wilderness area when the lead vehicle stopped by the side of the road. Isabel was in no mood for a delay, she could feel a foreboding tingling at the back of her skull and she wanted them to get someplace defensible as soon as possible. So when the long caravan of SUVs and Jeeps stopped at the summit of a wide plateau she stepped out of the SUV with a cold glower on her face and stalked up the line of vehicles.

When she got to the front of the convoy she saw Brigadier General Peters and Colonel Blackwell bending over a set of maps spread out on the hood of their jeep. The General pointed to something on the map and the Colonel nodded and spoke quietly into the radio in her hand.

"Brigadier Peters, why are we stopped?" Isabel demanded peremptorily.

"We needed to stop and reconnoiter. We are waiting for word from our advanced scouts and our rear guards. This is a good, flat piece of ground here. We can see a good ways down the valley there and it’ll be damn hard for anybody to get above us," the General informed her.

Isabel’s earlier irritation died a quick death when she allowed herself to realize that these people did know what they were doing and she was just going to have to trust them. "How long will we be here?"

Brigadier Peters shook his head. "I’m sorry, Your Highness, we don’t have a time frame. We’re going to need to hear back from our scouts before I can give you a better answer."

Nodding her understanding, Isabel leaned her hip against the side of the jeep and watched the two commanders going over maps, talking strategies, and sending on orders to the rest of the army.

"Your Highness?"

Isabel looked up sharply at the softly lyrical voice that broke into her thoughts. She closed her eyes briefly, then raised them to meet the determined gaze of Chief Ross. "Yes, Chief?"

"We were interrupted before we could finish our discussion of your parents, ma’am."

"You think they’ll be safer in Roswell?"

"Yes, your Highness."

Isabel didn’t like the idea of her parents being out and exposed somewhere she couldn’t protect them. "Why would Roswell be any safer then here, with the army?" She demanded.

"Your Highness, our numbers in Roswell will be small enough to avoid attention and we can easily hide within the town. Out here," he waved his hand around them, "battles are going to be fought. I can’t promise that the city will be perfectly safe, but I can promise that they will be away from the hottest part of this war. We may encounter some of the Disciple’s forces, but those will be minor skirmishes compared to what’s to come here."

"I don’t like it." She shook her head and glared down the valley. After a moment she glared imperiously down on Chief Ross. "How many," Isabel said through gritted teeth. "How many guards will keep my parents safe?"

"Sargent Major Addison feels two or three dozen will be adequate. Both he and Director MacNab will accompany us."

"Look, I don’t know, okay? Ask my parents. If they want to go with you, fine, if not they stay here and you leave me alone, got it?"

"Yes, Your Highness." Chief Ross bowed and quickly turned away.

Isabel rolled her shoulders, trying to shake some of the tension loose, and turned back to her earlier observations. She was just about to ask a question when the when the Colonel’s radio crackled to life with a panicked cacophony of voices and static.

"Command, this is Javelin four. They’re on us. We are under heavy fire. Disciple’s forces are flanking us, they’re trying to back us up to a canyon."

"How many?"

"Can’t tell. Could be a few hundred. They’re herding us like fucking sheep."

"Do you have contact with Javelin three or five?"

"Negative. Javelin three was behind us when we were attacked. J-5 was sweeping towards the river. Haven’t seen either of them."

"Can you get clear?"

"We’re gonna try to take cover in the canyon. If Javelin five doesn’t stop them at the river, they have a clear shot to the highway. They’re behind you, command."

The transmission cut off with another loud burst of static, the Colonel tried to get Javelin four back on the radio but her efforts were met with silence.

******

Max could feel his temper becoming more and more frayed with every long minute that ticked passed. The others in the chamber were grating on his already tense nerves. Dr. Trailor couldn’t stop fidgeting and casting panicked glances at John Doe who was staring at the softly pulsing Granolith, silent and unmoving, seemingly lost in a strange communion with the artifact. Michael, in spite of Maria’s presence, had become tense and was pacing the chamber again, glaring at everyone as he stomped by. Maria and Liz were talking softly with Tobin who was gesturing excitedly around him, patting Liz on the hand at every opportunity.

When Max finally couldn’t take the tension coiling in his stomach anymore he bounced to his feet in a burst of nervous energy and crossed the chamber to stand next to John. He looked at the gaunt faced man, then looked at the softly glowing Granolith then back to the man again.

"Tobin, what’s he doing?" Max asked sharply.

"He is preparing," Tobin said simply.

"For what? You’re the only one that has any clue what’s going on and you haven’t bothered to explain it to the rest of us."

Tobin shook his head slightly. "Too much information can be dangerous. It can make you think when you should be reacting."

"I have NO information," Max yelled. "What the hell is supposed to happen here?"

"Trust me, Tobin, all Max does it think. You’d better give him something or he’ll get all stubborn," Michael laughed. Max’s uncharacteristic outburst had loosened something in his own gut. Knowing that he wasn’t the only one who felt like he was about to tear out of his skin calmed him in some small way.

Max glared over his shoulder at Michael, who simply smiled back and gave him a look that said ‘see how it feels?’

Max tried again more mildly. "Tobin, what can you tell us?"

The small prophet sighed and looked up at Max. "There is much I know and much I don’t know. What I tell you could be incomplete and do more harm then good."

Tobin got to his feet and started to walk around the Granolith, gazing at it thoughtfully as he went. "It is ancient. Older then either of our races. It has not seen completion for ages upon eons. I am ignorant of its full history but this I know, it was created in a time of chaos, the violent bloody death of an age. Empires heaved and shuddered in their doom, suns winked out, snuffed before their time and wave upon wave of savagery coursed through the galaxy. Races struggled vainly against the inexorable ending of their days. It was in this maelstrom of fiery discord that a dying power forged, among other items, the Granolith. You see, they knew their days were at an end and with their last gasp they gifted the universe and their children with a legacy."

He spun around and shook an admonishing finger at them all. "That is all I can tell you. This is not my path to walk."

The chamber fell silent, each person considering what his or her possible role in the next few hours could be and contemplating the nature of the Granolith. Liz chewed thoughtfully on her lip, turning the prophet’s words over and over in her mind. How could something so ancient come to be here and how could it be hers? It was totally incomprehensible.

******

"You know what you’re to say?"

"Aye laddie. Ah kin."

Chief Ross and Torquil MacNab lurked in the ally behind the Crashdown. They were the most obvious of the armed forces surrounding the café; ranged up and down there block, stationed in windows and on rooftops were snipers and guards, ready and willing to act in an instant. In addition to the soldiers, Sheriff Valenti and Max and Isabel’s parents accompanied the Chief and Torquil. The plan was simple, convince the Parkers to close the café early and listen to the tale the Chief had persuaded Torquil to spin for them. Torquil had his doubts about how all of this would go but he figured it would be amusing enough to find out, and if nothing else the enthusiasm and determination the young Chief displayed when explaining the details to him were worth the time.

Torquil grinned and stepped up to the rear door, he rang the bell marked ‘for deliveries’ and waited. He was about to ring again when the door finally opened.

"Can I help you?" Jeff Parker asked, his eyes widened and panic flashed across his face when he saw the Sheriff and the Evans standing behind the burly redhead. "What is it? What’s happened? Where’s Liz?"

The Sheriff stepped up quickly and put a steadying hand on Jeff’s shoulder. "Liz is fine, Jeff. We need to talk to you for a few minutes. Can we come in?"

"What is going on?" He demanded again.

The Chief unobtrusively nudged Torquil in the ribs and nodded his head towards Liz’s father.

"Aye," Torquil told him. "Mr. Parker, Ah’m Chief Inspector Torquil MacNab, Ah’m wi’ ra Strathclyde Police Department. Tha’s in Scotland, ye kin? This here is Agent Ross wi’ Interpol. Yer daughter is jess fine, an’ we’ve got her someplace safe. There’re some things we’d like ra opportunity tae explain tae ye an’ yer wife. May we come in?"

Jeff Parker’s face was lined with concern and he looked from the Scotsman to the Sheriff and back again. "Explain what?"

"Jeff, please. It’s alright, we just need to talk." The Sheriff stepped into the doorway and gently pushed his way past Jeff, the others quickly followed suit, leaving the stunned and worried Jeff Parker standing bewildered by the door.

Jeff shook himself and tried to gather his thoughts, the past few weeks had been odd at best and it seemed only to be getting worse. He moved to close the door but found it blocked by a strong hand on the door. He looked up and took a sharp breath, alarmed at the sight of four heavily armed men coming through the door. The Sheriff was at his shoulder again. "It’s alright, Jeff. Where’s Nancy? Is she upstairs?"

"Huh? Oh, um, no I think she’s out front."

"Okay, Jeff. It’s okay. I’m going to go get her and see about closing up the restaurant early. We have a lot to talk about." With that the Sheriff disappeared out into the dining room.

Jeff took several deep breaths and looked over the group standing around the backroom. The armed guards were definitely making him nervous but his concern for his absent daughter was the most pressing worry, the Inspector and the Sheriff’s insistence that she was safe was doing nothing to alleviate that.

Jeff marched up to Torquil MacNab and glared up at the big man’s cheery face. "Where is Liz?"

"It’s best an Ah dae nae tell ye tha’," Torquil informed him kindly. "She is safe." I hope, he added silently.

"What are a Scottish police man and an agent of Interpol doing here? What has this got to do with Liz?" Jeff demanded again, more loudly this time.

"Jeff, I understand how you’re feeling," Philip Evans spoke up, "but I know the kids are okay."

Jeff turned to Philip and looked at him quizzically. "Max is wherever Liz is, isn’t he?"

"Aye, Mr. Parker. They are both well protected,’ Torquil told him.

Jeff threw his hands up in the air and roared in frustration, "Why won’t you tell me what’s going on?"

"Mr. Parker," Chief Ross spoke up quietly, his softly lilting Irish accent easily cutting through the tension in the room, "it’s a long story. Your daughter is well, as is Hi- . . . young Mr. Evans. I would prefer to wait for your wife so that we may go somewhere quiet and Inspector MacNab and I can explain to you exactly what has occurred. Please, sir."

Jeff stared at the young man for a moment; then he closed his eyes and took a deep breath. "Alright. I’m going to go help Nancy close up then you will tell me exactly where my daughter is."

"Yes, sir," the Chief bowed his head slightly.


posted on 30-Dec-2001 8:01:32 AM
AN: Hello everybody. I hope you all had very nice holidays, and thank you for the kind words and b-day wishes.
This is a rather long part and so I've had to break it into two posts.
Enjoy.


CHAPTER 49a

******

A deep thunderous roar tore up the narrow valley, shaking rocks and boulders loose from the mountainsides and setting the trees swaying violently. Alex was knocked to the ground by the shockwave and he landed heavily on his right arm, pain lancing through his shoulder. He groaned and climbed slowly to his feet then stumbled down the path continuing on his search. Some tension went out of his shoulders when he finally saw Isabel crouched behind the smoldering ruins of a jeep.

He dropped down breathlessly besides her. "I think we should move further up the pass."

Isabel glanced over at him, then turned her attention back to the chaos below. "Are they getting closer?"

Alex shrugged his shoulders. "The explosions seem to be getting closer. But I admit, it’s kind of hard to tell through the ringing in my ears."

Isabel nodded thoughtfully. "Lets go find Kyle and Tess, then we’ll see what Brigadier Peters says."

The pair stood up cautiously and made their way back down the road towards a knot of soldiers. As they approached the group, Tess’ tiny figure appeared and she pushed through the bunch trying to reach Isabel and Alex.

"Isabel, are you guys okay?" Tess asked.

"Yeah, we’re fine. Where’s Kyle?"

Tess glanced over her shoulder with an annoyed look on her face. "He’s trying to convince Colonel Blackwell to give him a gun." She turned back to Isabel and Alex with a shrug. "I know he can use one but somehow the idea of Kyle with a weapon is not very comforting."

Their conversation was interrupted when another menacing rumble shook the valley. They instinctively ducked their heads and looked around nervously.

"Your Highness, my lady," Brigadier Peters shouted out to them as he ran up the road towards them. "We need to move you back up the pass."

"What’s the situation?" Isabel asked.

"There are several hundred of the Disciple’s forces pushing up the valley. We have reinforcements coming but we’re going to have to hold on for another half-hour or so. I want you to go back up the road to the plateau. That’s the safest place for you right now."

The tone in his voice left no room for argument and the three teens nodded meekly and started to walk back up the narrow mountain road. They hadn’t gone more then a dozen paces before shots rang out nearby and blasts shook the trees again, some of them bursting in shocking suddenness. They instinctively dove towards the shallow drainage ditch by the roadside but they weren’t fast enough; an explosion picked the trio up and threw them into the side of the mountain. Isabel came to rest against the rough bark of a pine tree and when she regained her senses she looked about frantically for some sign of Alex. Her heart fluttered in terror when she saw his crumpled form lying lifelessly against a boulder. She tore her gaze from his still body and looked about desperately for some sign of Tess. A greasy swell of nausea threatened to overcome Isabel when she finally located the other alien lying, face down, on the hard gravel road. Isabel shook her head to clear it of the black spots swimming in front of her eyes and tried to tell if either Tess or Alex was still alive. However it was only another moment or two before the blackness overcame Isabel, too.

******

The Parker living room was crowded with guests, though it was probably true that any space, no matter how large, would seem crowded with Torquil MacNab occupying part of it. He had settled himself comfortably on a chair by the couch, smiling amiably at the Parkers, trying to sooth their jangled nerves. Their eyes, however, kept wandering back to the armed guard stationed by the door and Torquil’s charming chatter couldn’t keep their attention away from the contemplation of whatever worst-case horror they were living through in their minds. What could possibly have happened that required four armed men to station themselves throughout their home? The other guests made themselves as comfortable as the situation would allow and Diane Evans went into the Parker’s kitchen to make some tea. Chief Ross had started to rise to follow her but Torquil reached across the coffee table and pushed him back down into his seat.

"Gille," Torquil whispered warningly.

"I am not a boy," Chief Ross hissed back.

The Sheriff cleared his throat loudly to interrupt them. "Gentlemen, are you ready to explain to Jeff and Nancy what’s going on here?"

"Oh aye, aye," Torquil burbled cheerily. "Mr. Parker, Mrs. Parker, let ma start by sayin’ tha’ ye’ve a brilliant daughter. She’s as clever an’ brave a lass as Ah’ve e’er seen."

The Parkers shifted impatiently on the couch, wanting Torquil to get on with it. He easily took the hint and continued on in what he thought of as his soothing policeman’s voice, meant to comfort distraught citizens. "Seems a few weeks ago, Lizzie an’ her laddie were oot in ra desert for a bit o’ a drive. They came across some curious goings on an’ after watchin’ fer a bit they decided tha’ something was nae richt. They came tae yer Sheriff here an’ told him wha’ they saw. A bit o’ investigatin’ on ra part o’ ra Sheriff an’ he found oot tha’ this could be part o’ somethin’ much larger. Tha’s where Agent Ross an Ah come in."

Torquil paused to take a sip of tea. He continued to have his doubts about this tale he was supposed to tell but Chief Ross told him Liz was adamant that her parents not know her true status. The young Chief had worked up a story that he hoped would ease some of Liz’s problems at home while explaining some of her curious behavior of late.

"Yer daughter an’ Max witnessed ra transfer o’ goods, stolen goods, oot in ra desert. Interpol has been trackin’ a ring of international smugglers fer some time now, an’ sad tae say, ra American authorities have nae been as helpful as could be hoped. Sae they’ve been a bit stymied on where they were comin’ intae an’ goin’ oot o’ this country."

"I thought you were working with Brody?" Jeff Parker asked.

"Oh aye, tha’ was ma cover," Torquil grinned broadly. "Brody an’ Ah went tae school together. Strathclyde Police got involved in this investigation after one o’ oor museums was burgled an’ when Ah heard tha’ the nyaff’s had been tracked tae Roswell where ma ol’ freen Brody was, it seemed a perfect story for ma tae suddenly show up. Ra sleekit neds were none ra wiser."

The Parker’s tried to digest what Torquil had just said but finally they turned in confusion to the Sheriff, hoping for an explanation in English.

Chief Ross coughed slightly and took up the story from Torquil. "These men we’re tracking, they primarily deal in stolen art and artifacts. We have been unable to completely stop the flow of goods from Europe so it has been our hope that we could find the entry into the United States and stem the tide there. We know that they move the items into South America, particularly the more unstable countries and from there into the Untied States and Japan. Your daughter and young Mr. Evans witnessed a key component in this smuggling operation."

Relief and worry warred on Jeff’s face. "So these past few weeks, that’s what’s been going on with Liz? When they disappeared last weekend . . ."

"We were going to make our move on the smugglers and we felt it best to get them as far out of the way as possible," Chief Ross told him.

"And they’re safe now?"

Chief Ross hesitated for a moment before replying, "Yes, sir."

Jeff smiled slightly and looked over at his wife to see if she shared his relief, but her face was still a tense mask. He reached out and took her hand in his, giving it a small, comforting squeeze.

Sobering again, he asked, "Is all of this dangerous for Liz and Max?"

"Ah’ll nae lie tae ye," Torquil rumbled softly. "These men are nae ra best examples o’ humanity tha’ have e’er walked. There’s an awfy lot o’ money involved here an’ tha’s always dangerous. We watched them fer a few weeks an’ we believe tha’ we’ve tracked them down tae their main distributor in ra States an’ we e’en believe we’ve found where they are comin’ intae South America. This’ll put a serious hurt on their operations here an’ tha’ll make certain people very unhappy."

Chief Ross noted the looks of fear and anger that crossed the faces of Liz’s parents and rushed to reassure them. "Max and Liz’s names are not to be put in any reports and any testimony they may be asked to give will be anonymous. We are taking every step to insure their safety."

"Then why did you wait so long to tell us what was going on?" Nancy demanded angrily, nearly shouting. "Liz is not an adult yet, shouldn’t we have been notified?" She pinned the Sheriff with an accusing glare.

The Sheriff looked slightly abashed. "Liz thought it would be safer for you both if you didn’t know, and since we thought this would have been wrapped up by now we agreed with her."

Chief Ross bowed his head solemnly. "Unfortunately the operation we started earlier this week to clear them out has gone sour and we’ve had to move Liz and Max out of town for their own safety again. I regret that you’ve been kept in the dark concerning all of this."

Nancy frowned coldly at the young man then turned to look at the Evans’, conspicuous by their silence through the whole, absurd explanation. "Did you know about this?"

Phillip took a deep breath and chanced a quick glance at his wife before answering Nancy. "Yes. We . . . we got it out of Max just after they came back this week. He and Liz begged us not to tell you. They’ve been worried about us probably as much as we’ve been worried about them."

Nancy wasn’t sure how to take that information, she was torn between anger and hurt. Anger that the Evans’ had known what was going on for several days and hurt that Liz didn’t seem to want to trust her with this information. A small, niggling voice in her head tried to tell her that it wasn’t that Liz didn’t trust her it was that Liz wanted her safe, but the overriding hurt that Nancy had been feeling since her fight with Liz won out in the end and she slumped back, wounded.


posted on 30-Dec-2001 8:03:31 AM
CHAPTER 49b

******

The Disciple glared fiercely out over the brown desert, his face twisted in disgust. He hated this planet, he hated this desert and he longed for the verdant lands of his home world. But more then anything he hated the people of this world. They were primitive fools and he dreamed of the day that he would brutally divest them of their arrogant assumption of superiority. Planning for that was the only thing that kept him even slightly amused on this backward ball of dirt.

Turning again he stared contemplatively at the rock formation that housed the Granolith and bent his mind to the task of deciding how best to move that human whore away from the holy relic. He’d had no idea that these beasts could interact with the Granolith and it was extremely vexing to him that they could pollute its essence so easily. However, his revulsion served to steel him for the task at hand, no matter how zealous he was he’d found the idea of slaying his king distasteful, but no longer. The boy-king was tainted and he was no longer fit for any world.

The Disciple felt his strength flowing through him at the thought of what was to come and with every confidence swept his hand over the rock face, opening the door to the chambers beyond.

******

It was a heavy, stifling hush that lay over the chamber, impatience and dread reigning in the silence, so that even the Granolith seemed to be holding its breath as the minutes stretched out interminably.

Liz sat with her back against the far wall of the chamber, not far from the small, secret door, and let her unfocused gaze rest on the softly glowing artifact. So much had happened in her life these past few weeks, well the past few years if she wanted to be completely accurate, but those weren’t the events that were threatening to overwhelm her. For twenty-one long days she had hurtled from one extreme moment to the next. The highest points of her life, her new sense of purpose and her intimacy with Max, mingled with some of the most terrifying and stressful moments, her strange new powers, her unexpected status and her tense relations with her family. She pulled her knees up close to her chest and rested her forehead on them. Her mind wandered from event to event, hoping that some of it would start to make sense or that she could in some way process any of it. A moment later she felt a soothing calm come over her followed immediately by the gentle caress of a large hand stroking her hair. Max settled himself next to her on the floor and Liz gratefully let him pull her into his warm embrace.

"Interesting day, huh?"

She snorted a soft laugh. "Just kind of."

Liz slipped her arm around his waist and Max trailed his fingers gently up and down Liz’s arm; they fell back into silence and their thoughts.

Michael’s step wavered momentarily and he stumbled slightly in his pacing through the room when his eyes fell on Max and Liz. He cast an uncertain gaze over to Maria. She sat up against the Granolith itself, her eyes closed and her face completely without expression. Michael could almost imagine she was asleep, though he knew that was not the case. He hesitated and wondered if he should go over to her and comfort her as Max was comforting Liz. Would she want that? Would she accept that from him?

The sound of footsteps outside the chamber interrupted Michael’s move to Maria’s side. He whirled around ready to either attack or defend and an instant later he felt Max come up besides him, tense and angry.

The Disciple stepped confidently into the room, a disdainful sneer firmly set on his face, but that confidence faltered when his gaze swept the room and took in the new additions. His lips tightened and he ground his teeth in rage. That rage boiled to the fore when, out of the corner of his eyes, he saw Maria climb to her feet. "Filth! More filth!" He screamed at them, madness in his eyes. "How did you get free?" He took a threatening step towards Maria.

Michael felt his own anger swelling and he quickly placed himself between Maria and the Disciple. "Every time you come in here you get your ass kicked just a little more. Maybe you should take the hint."

"Be silent. I have come to finish this. Your pitiful human sycophants, can do nothing for you." The Disciple waved his hand, a sharp gesture dismissing the humans from his thoughts.

"Who’s pitiful?" Michael snarled back. "You’ve got nothing. You can’t even hold on to one pathetic human, there’s no way in hell you’re getting anything from us."

Maria fought the urge to say something in response to Michael’s pathetic human comment, but she wisely bit her tongue and stepped back around to the far side of the Granolith, out of the line of fire. She felt her stomach flutter nervously when Liz stood up and moved behind Max, placing her hand on his back. As far as Maria was concerned there was nothing about this situation that could be classified as good. Trapped in a tiny room with not one but several lunatics and a completely useless, panicked psychiatrist. Though they had a back door exit, there was still a huge desert and an army outside. And, Maria knew there was no way in hell Liz and Max were going leave until this was done. The whole thing just screamed ‘ugly’ and Maria was more than happy to keep as much out of the way as she could.

The Disciple’s feverish gaze left Maria’s retreating form and took in the other new additions to the room. "These are your allies? Your cause is hopeless," he spat at Max, then started to pace in the entranceway. "Your cause. Your cause. You have no cause. Do you even remember Antar? Your loyal subjects. Give me the Granolith, and I will return to Antar," he said reasonably, however, his attempt at reason came out tinged with fury and madness and far from sincere.

"No," Max told him simply.

The Disciple’s face turned purple and his hands balled into fists. "I will set fire to this world. I will destroy everything you’ve ever touched. I will rip you apart, your arms, your legs, your eyes . . ."

"Shut the fuck up, you blow hard," Michael yelled back.

"Do not speak to me in that manner, you barbarian." The Disciple was almost apoplectic with rage.

"Oh, geez. Ouch. Not a barbarian. ‘Cause you’re just so fucking civilized. You freak." Michael snarled sarcastically. He could see that the Disciple was on the edge, and though he knew it could be dangerous to egg him on, he also knew that if the man got too much more incensed he would make a mistake. A mistake that Michael could use to get them all out of this.

The Disciple took a deep, steadying breath and faced Michael squarely. "Foolish child. Where will you go? Where can you go? I will hunt you down and feed you your insides."

Michael snorted derisively. "I’m terrified."

Max decided he’d had enough of the snarling between the Disciple and Michael, it wasn’t getting them anywhere. "Enough. What the hell is the point of all this? Zhilag, you’re not getting the Granolith. End of story."

The Disciple’s nostrils flared. "And you’re not leaving this chamber alive."

The two aliens stared each other down, their faces set and angry. They were unaware that behind them things were becoming even more interesting.

******

"Down there?"

"I believe so."

"You can’t tell?"

"Not entirely. Just a sense. He is that way."

Crouched below the crown of a scrub covered desert hill was Michael’s bedraggled army. Their general, Amal, shot a frustrated look over at Sef. "There’s an army down there."

Sef smiled at him, unconcerned. "So it appears."

Amal took a deep, frustrated breath. "There are thirty-six of us. There are probably three hundred of them."

Sef stared thoughtfully down at the armed force gathered below them. "That is a problem," she murmured. She let her gaze wander up to the large rock formation that dominated the landscape. There were a number of people milling around in front of it, several of them even seeming to stand guard against it. Puzzled, she watched a moment longer, then closed her eyes, concentrating on her ties to Tobin. "By all the goddesses," she breathed in surprise. "They’re in the rock."

Amal looked from her down to the formation and back to her again. "What?"

"The formation. They’re in the rock," she repeated again. Sef turned and sat with her back against the hill.

"A cave?"

"Must be."

"Can you tell if Tobin is with the king?"

"Well I can see no other reason for the Disciple to have gathered forces there. We’d hoped that Tobin would find his way to the royals. He’s been fixated on Liz for some time. She would be his ultimate goal."

Amal sighed. "If the king is there then Michael is there. We have to get them out."

"We don’t know what the situation in there is. Any action we take could be dangerous."

"We will, of course, proceed with caution." Amal called softly down the hill, "Sam. Come up here."

"Sir?" Sam climbed up the hill, staying as low as he could.

"That army down there, Sam, is between us and Lord Rath. We need to do something about that."

Sam peered down the hill, thought a moment and then smiled at his general. "Yes sir."

******

Tobin walked slowly around the edge of the Granolith, keeping a wary eye on the Disciple but also taking note of the other people in the room, making sure they were in place. He stopped by John Doe and patted the man’s shoulder kindly before moving on to stand by Liz’s side. He took one of her hands in his and gave her a gentle tug, trying to move her away from Max.

"Liz," Tobin whispered urgently.

Liz pulled her eyes from the Disciple and glanced down at Tobin, whispering back. "What? What’s wrong?"

"You need to come over here, You have to get away from him. Zhilag." He gave her hand a more insistent tug. "Come. Come."

With a puzzled frown Liz let Tobin pull her away, her hand trailing across Max’s tense shoulders as she left, trying to impart some of her strength to him.

"Come stand with me," he urged forcefully.

With Liz gone from behind Max, the Disciple could see John Doe standing immobile before the Granolith. His body jerked in shock when he realized John seemed to be communing with the object. "Infidels! How . . . how dare . . ." he sputtered to a stop and turned his furious gaze back to Max. "It was bad enough when you let your slut touch the Granolith but will you let every beast profane it?"

Max stared defiantly back at the Disciple but said nothing.

"Half-breed, abomination. I will kill you all."

Michael let out a roar of frustration and spat at the Disciple, "Jesus. Just stroke-out already, freak. Or fucking kill us. Anything to keep me from having to listen to you spew anymore."

Tobin’s high voice cut sharply through the chamber, "Zhilag. You do not know what you see."

"Prophet," the Disciple snarled, disgusted. "You will die with these wretches."

Tobin’s face was somber, but a strange almost triumphant light gleamed in his eyes. "The Magusi is here, Zhilag. And it is not you."

All color fled the Disciple’s face and he stared at the prophet in horror. "No. Liar."

"The truth is truth, whatever you chose to believe. The Magusi walks among us now. The Granolith is where it is meant to be. The prophecy stands. Is it not wonderful that we have come to witness this?"

Madness and terror warred on the Disciple’s face and his entire body was wracked with tremors. "I will peel the skin from your body for this blasphemy."

Tobin sighed sadly, though he had expected the Disciple’s reaction. "You are a blind man and here beside you a new world blossoms. Revolutions of time come round to now and you will not stop the grinding wheel. No protestation of ideology can deny the rain or sun or tide or flood or day or night."

The Disciple struggled to regain his haughty composure. "You lie, defiler. The Magusi? Absurd. Myths that died a thousand thousand years ago hold no power here."

Tobin looked at the Disciple consideringly, then closed his eyes and recited a piece of verse seldom heard or even remembered outside of the most ancient monasteries on Antar.
"And, there, upon the sister sphere, a crimson river flows,
Beside its banks, a fallen sovereign, like a regal flower, grows.
He will kneel before the sun, and raise his face to her,
She who is of none, for two will banish ancient winter."

The Disciple raised his trembling hands to his mouth, and looked around the room, running other verses through his head, becoming more and more frantic as age old pieces started to come together right before his eyes. "She who is of none," he murmured. "He will kneel before the sun. She who is of none." His eyes darted to Liz and he staggered back as if struck.

Behind them, the Granolith’s soft glow grew brighter, more insistent and John’s arms were flung wide and he threw back his head with a soundless howl. From the base of the Granolith, creepers of white mist reached out, enveloping him in a cocoon or energy.

The Disciple was shaking his head, trying to deny what his mind told him was happening. When he saw John, he shrieked and brought his hands up to attack. Max and Michael fell back and primed their own powers. An instant later the Disciple let loose a powerful barrage of energy blasts and Max grunted as they hit his shield. Michael responded to the Disciple’s attack with his own hail of fire and the others in the room dropped to the floor, taking what cover they could.

Tobin had pushed Liz behind him when the attack started and now she was trying to pull him back. "Tobin? Tobin, why isn’t the Granolith doing anything?" she asked breathlessly. "Last time the Disciple was in here it protected us."

"It is busy. It’s waking up. Now it is vulnerable."

They both threw themselves flat on the ground when one of the Disciple’s blasts ricocheted off of the wall above them. When Liz raised her head warily she saw that John had been hit by the stray blast. He was still held in the grasp of the wisps of energy but he’d fallen to his knees and blood flowed freely from an ugly wound in his back. She pulled herself away from Tobin and crawled over to the injured man.

Tobin scampered after her and put his hand on the wound. "I can do nothing. Liz, he is important. You must heal him."

Liz shook her head, "No, no I can’t heal, Tobin."

"Yes you can. It’s for you to do."

She licked her lips nervously and put her hand over Tobin’s and concentrated. John moaned in agony and the blood continued to flow freely. After a long moment she broke off. "I can’t do it Tobin. I need Max."

Tobin sat back on his heels and stared at Liz. Things weren’t going as he’d thought they would, of course, and though it came as no surprise to him, it was irritating just the same. He glanced over at Max and saw him struggling to maintain the shield that was keeping the rest of them from harm. "Liz, go lend your strength to Max. John’s health will be of no concern to us if we are all dead."

Liz did as the prophet told her and moved to stand with Max. The Disciple chose that moment to unleash a brutal blast and Max stumbled back into Liz. Bracing her hands against his back, she steadied him and began to reinforce his powers with her own. Within seconds his breath came easier and he could feel the fatigue he’d been fighting retreat.

"We have to finish this," Liz breathed in his ear.

Max nodded and looked over to his friend. "Michael, come here."

Michael flinched as another blinding flash of energy broke against Max’s shield, and he fell back, his shoulder bumping into Max’s. Liz put a firm hand on his back, and as soon as the three were connected they could feel an overwhelming swell of power. When the Disciple saw the trio come together, he howled in protest and focused his powers for a fierce final assault.

For a brief second the chamber fell quiet and a terrifying charge of energy crackled around them all. Time stopped, the world froze and in the space of a heartbeat the rational turned to anarchy.

When the chaos lifted and everybody came back to their senses two things were immediately obvious. The first was that the ringing in their ears was replaced by an ear-splitting wail and the second was that the Disciple was very obviously dead, his body lay collapsed in the entryway, blackened and smoldering. The wail was coming from John; his body convulsing while red, spidery, threads of light flowed from the Granolith onto his prone figure.

Tobin was the first to come to his senses, he scrambled to his feet and dashed over to Liz, Max and Michael who were still standing, though they were more then a little dazed. Tobin grabbed Liz’s arm and pulled her over to John.

"Now. You must help him now," Tobin ordered.

Liz reached out a tentative hand to touch John’s shoulder, but the scarlet sparks arcing off of his body made her hesitate. "Max. Come over here." She reached her free hand out towards him and he immediately crossed the short distance to her.

"Can you heal him?" She whispered to him.

Max stared at the ugly wound on John’s back and the strange tendril’s of energy dancing over his skin. "I don’t know," he whispered back.

"You must," Tobin interrupted, his tone deadly serious.

Taking a deep breath, Max tried to concentrate, but his mind was still spinning, trying desperately to process what had just happened. Unfortunately events were such that he didn’t have time to think, only time to act, as one moment of madness led immediately to the next. He laced his fingers with Liz’s and stretched out his other hand to rest lightly on John’s damaged flesh. And true to form, as soon as the energy began to flow from Liz to Max and then into John, the world as they knew it gave way to the bizarre.

The Granolith awoke.

A blazing maelstrom of light illuminated the chamber and surrounded Max and Liz, pulling the pair to their feet and drawing them towards it. In a panicked moment, Max’s mind cleared and he called out desperately for aid, "Michael."

Michael rushed to his friend’s side without a second thought and with every intention of doing whatever was needed, but when he touched Max’s arm, Michael’s entire body jerked, as an agonizing shock shot through him. Gasping, his grip on Max’s arm tightened automatically. Though, it felt like he’d laid his hand on a hot griddle, some dreadful fear gnawing at his belly told him if he let go of Max he’d lose his friend forever, so he held on tightly, gritting his teeth against the pain.

Maria, who had watched the entire show with a slowly numbing mind, stood and as if compelled by some other force walked over to Michael and took his free hand in hers. The jolt that hit her at his touch roared through her veins like a wild fire and her whole body hummed with barely contained power.

John Doe slowly got to his feet, swaying slightly where he stood. Reaching out behind him, he grasped Liz and with his other hand he touched the Granolith. Lightening shot from the ancient relic and spun out in a violent and chaotic vortex. The vortex went wide, easily encompassing the four teens and John, then, as it spun faster and faster, it’s center tightened, closing in around the artifact.

The next conscious thought Liz had was a vague recollection of hitting the floor with unnecessary force. She groggily sat up and tried to remember where she was and why she was there. Her head felt packed with cotton, and exhaustion muffled all of her senses. A tired groan next to her roused her from her struggle to recollect and without looking she reached out to touch Max.

Max was trying to figure out how he’d ended up flat on his back feeling as though he’d just gone ten rounds with Evander Holyfield. He flipped himself over and pushed himself up off the ground with a moan. Every muscle in his body ached and he felt like he could easily collapse back down on the very hard floor and sleep for a week. With the small bit of energy he had left, he crawled closer to Liz and laid his head down on her thigh.

Michael and Maria were less physically wiped out but their mental faculties were just as muzzy. Michael held Maria in an uncharacteristically tender embrace and she gratefully returned it without comment.

Tobin picked himself up off of the ground, making a show of straightening his clothes and dusting himself off before doing anything else. When he was finished with that he looked around and clapped his hands softly, gazing with great affection at the four young people in front of him. "Well done," he said simply. He walked over to Michael and patted him gently on the shoulder; then he turned to Maria and placed a sweet kiss on her forehead.

He stood up straight again and walked over to Max and Liz. Liz was lying back, propped up on her elbows and Max had his eyes closed. They were both pale with fatigue and seemed disinclined to exert anymore effort for any reason.

Tobin crouched next to them and looked them over carefully. When he had reassured himself that they were not physically harmed he relaxed slightly and smiled again. "You both did very well."

Max let out a long breath, "Glad to hear it."

"Thank you, Tobin," Liz said a little more magnanimously. "Did we do it?"

"Yes, child. One epoch has ended and a new begun."

"That’s good right?" Liz asked, though if the answer was no, she wasn’t sure she had the energy to care.

"Very good. Wondrous things will you see."

"Right. Good."

Maria laughed weakly from her comfortable place within Michael’s arms. "Fire bad, tree pretty?"

Liz rolled her head over to cast a baleful glance at her friend but ended up laughing weakly. "Pretty much."

"Where . . . where is John?" The Doctor’s high-pitched, panicked voice interrupted the moment.

Max raised his head from Liz’s thigh and looked up at the Granolith then over at the doctor. "He’s gone. He . . . uh, he’s kind of, well . . ."

"He’s in the Granolith," Liz finished.

Doctor Trailor stared up at the Granolith, her face contorted in horror. "What . . . how . . . no."

Tobin shrugged his small shoulders. "It is his path, Jorden. John took it knowingly."

"It was suicide," she sobbed brokenly.

Tobin snorted. "Certainly not. He is a part of it now, the missing piece. His life is not as it was. A blessing I think, for him."

"He is in that . . . that thing," she protested.

Tobin went over to the doctor and put his arm around her shaking shoulders. "He is not in that thing and he is in that thing. He is of that thing, and while he is no longer human, it is no longer a thing. They are what they were meant to be. Be comforted in knowing he is more than any human has ever been. Ages are his."

Max laid his head back down on Liz’s lap and gazed up to meet her dark eyes. The Disciple was gone, and without his leadership they were hopeful that his army would fall apart, but there were many more things to be dealt with now. Things they could not have possibly foreseen and so many more consequences to what had taken place in the chamber that afternoon. Liz brushed Max’s bangs back off his forehead and tried to comprehend for just a moment the enormity of what she had become.

******