posted on 9-Jun-2002 1:43:23 AM by Puzzlechild
Glass House

Author: gij

Email: roswellbabette⊕hotmail.com or neptuniangirl⊕hotmail.com

Summary: Follow-up to The Future’s Overrated and Ending Our World. If you haven’t read them… well, you’re gonna be really damn confused. They're on my thread on the WbA board, say hi.

Rating: R, NC-17 later. Mostly PG-ish. I'll warn you when we get to the nasty parts.

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

Prologue

Max shifts the energy jet in his hands and checks the power setting for at least the eighth time. It’s level four – enough to keep a human unconscious out for several hours if aimed at the head, or to kill if shot at the head.

A few steps away and closer to the bed, Aeva gives him an annoyed glance. He stops fidgeting, though it shouldn’t be an issue. No one who walks in will be able to see him, so his nerves shouldn’t matter. Still, the look on Aeva’s face would convince anyone to do as she said.

Across the room Atariel and Asanda exchange a look, and shake their heads. Max struggles not to grit his teeth, bot forgets as soon as he sees Asanda tense, her head turning as if she’s heard something. Atariel backs further in to the curtains and Max doesn’t breathe again until they both relax and give all clear hand signals.

He relaxes a little now – this is part of the plan. He knows what to do, having been through at least fifty rehearsals of the entire plan. He tries to pretend this is another practice and fails miserably. Maybe another fifty rehearsals would have helped.

In the middle of the room is the area they’re trying to protect – specifically Liz and Isabel on the bed. The five of them have moved the furniture a bit – not enough to throw Liz, but enough to make sure there’s no clear path to the bed.

On the bed, Liz and Isabel lie sleeping, tangled over and around each other. Liz sleeps at an angle, her side on the bed and her back against Isabel, her hair falling over her shoulders and pillow. Her left ankle is hooked over Izzy’s leg, her right leg supporting her sleeping. Isabel lies on her back, supporting Liz. Her left hand rests gently on Liz’s stomach, not enough to hold her should Liz move in the night. Isabel knows better than that.

They’re uncovered, relying on each other for warmth. Liz’s hair gleams in the soft light from the window.

It’s a perfect set up for an ambush.

And so Max isn’t surprised when Atariel gives the “set” command, and moments later there’s a clicking noise as the first intruder starts to cut through the window.

Aeva doesn’t hesitate. “Now, Liz!” she calls as more of them break the second window and follow the first fighter in. The illusion in the rooms flickers and stops.

Moments later, all hell breaks loose.

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


[ edited 15time(s), last at 23-Jan-2003 6:33:06 AM ]
posted on 10-Jun-2002 4:27:11 AM by Puzzlechild
I reserve the right to edit extensively, especially when things peeve me.

-gij

Part One

The fight was intense, but not overly ugly. Aeva got a better work out at the gym most days. There were seven assassins to four of them, seven with Liz, Avendel and Isabel, but they weren’t really included in the fight. That was the whole idea. The assassins aren’t expecting this much resistance, and so the fight steadily swung towards Aeva’s side.

Aeva zapped one of them in the stomach and stepped back as he fell at her feet. In front of her, Max was grappling with another one, both having apparently lost their weapons. Aeva saw a flash of light from the corner of her eye and realized Avendel was trying to help, shooting from the safety of the bed, but her angle, combined with her attempts not to hit Max, meant that the shot went wide. Aeva winced as she heard more furniture crunch; it was almost a good thing they’d have to leave after this, considering the state of the room.

Across the room Atariel and Asanda were handling their side of the fight better. They’d already taken two people down and were backing each other up as they fought. Their weapons were useless at such close range because of backlash, but they were both highly skilled at hand to hand combat, and it seemed to be working.

Max, though… Aeva thumbed down the power switch on her jet and took a shot. The assassin stumbled briefly, and that opening was enough for Max – he grabbed the nearest item of furniture and cracked the fighter over the head with it. Aeva heard the crunch and winced again. Definitely a good thing they were leaving.

She turned again and was just in time to see Atariel move far enough back to use her weapon without fear of backlash, and take the last assassin down. The room was empty of assassins, but Aeva refused to take any chances.

“Atariel, Avendel.” She ordered. “Outside, patrol the house and fence and come back through the front door. We’ll wait for you in the back room.” The two protectors nodded agreement, Avendel climbed down from the bed and the two of them went out the window the attackers had originally come through.

Max had already hastened to the bed to help his sister and his Queen down from where they had stayed throughout the fight. Isabel had fed Liz energy through the evening, and they both looked exhausted, but the illusion had been flawless. Aeva smiled, but didn’t go to them. Other enemies could still be waiting outside.

“Asanda, cover the bed.” Aeva ordered, and the tall girl nodded and took a position where she could see both windows. Aeva opened the bedroom door, weapon leveled, and checked out the rest of the house. As soon as she reached the back room, she called out “It’s clear!”

Liz, Isabel and Max appeared promptly, Asanda behind them and shadowing their every move. Aeva had pulled out the only decent chair for Liz, and Isabel sat on the arm of it, her eyes shut. Max paced behind restlessly. Aeva stationed herself in front of the doorway, listening for Avendel and Atariel.

She relaxed the moment she heard them approaching the room. If something had gone wrong, they’d be far more uptight and would be walking differently. She let them in quickly and set a seal over the door, then turned to face them all.

“All right. Any injuries?” she asked. Her team all shook their heads or voiced a no. Max shook his head in a negative, although it wasn’t strictly true. A long scrape down the side of his head was bleeding, but he didn’t seem to notice.

“How did they find us?” Isabel asked. “I thought no one knew about this house.”

Aeva shrugged. “No one is supposed to. Somewhere there’s a list of all the safe houses, but it’s supposed to be closely guarded.”

“Obviously, not closely enough.” Asanda noted. Aeva glanced at her and acknowledged the comment with a nod.

Liz shivered. “At least we got warning from Michael. It could have been – ugly, otherwise.”

Aeva preferred not to think about that. Thoughts of Liz, her Queen, captured and tortured for that whoreson Khivar… they weren’t on her fun list.

“We need to move again.” Avendel said, breaking the silence Liz’s comment had caused. “We’ll stay in touch with Michael, but we need to find another way to do it. That line could be how we’re being tracked.”

“It’s supposed to be untraceable.” Aeva disagreed with her second. “But I can’t think of anything else. It might be advisable to maintain silence for the next few days and see if there is any further evidence of trackers.”

“Wait.” Max interrupted. “If we maintain silence, we may miss any information Michael tries to pass over to us. If we stay silent, he won’t know who’s listening.”

“How about we send them a message from here and just say we’re changing location.” Asanda offered. “That way we can’t be traced any further though that line, but Michael knows we’re okay for now, and he can send information if he gets it.”

“Sounds good.” Aeva acknowledged. “Liz? Is that how you want to do it?”

Liz nodded, then added, “But tell him why we’re going offline. And to send emergency messages only. Is there anything else to say?”

“Tell him all four of his girlfriends are still alive and waiting for him.” Atariel said, straight faced, and then cracked up at the looks on Avendel and Asanda’s faces. Aeva felt a grimace cross her own face and just hoped Atariel hadn’t seen it, otherwise she’d never hear the end of it.

“Uh, I think we can leave that out. Avendel sends the message. Everyone else, prepare to depart.” Aeva ordered. “We are out of her in forty five, tops.”

“Where are we going?” Liz asked.

Aeva met her gaze. “A safe house. We’ll decide where once we’re out of here.”

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

Aeva glanced over her shoulder. The second car, driven by Asanda, was back a half dozen cars and two lanes over. It had been over two hours since they’d left the last house, and the two cars had stayed separate since. Aeva had noticed that every house they had to leave in a hurry seemed to be in a worse condition than the one before it. She hoped Liz’s parents never managed to track their daughter. Better they believed their daughter missing than dead, as they would have to if they saw the last house.

So far, their tactics seemed to have worked. The two cars had spilt immediately after leaving the last house, seemingly going in totally different directions, only to meet up as agreed in this miniscule town. Neither of them seemed to have been tracked or followed. That was the first part of their plan covered. Now if they could just choose where they were going… Aeva sighed and fumbled in the glove box for a map. In the driver’s seat, Avendel glanced over and smiled.

“Picked a place yet?” She asked, tapping her fingers on the wheel.

Aeva sorted through the maps. “Not yet. I’ve got a few in mind… there’s a few in this area, I think.”

Avendel laughed. “Well then, make sure we got full star accommodation, all right? Including a tennis court, I need to work on my slam.”

“Ha. Ha ha. And also, ha.” Aeva replied absently. “What about B12, Del?”

Her second considered. “That’s the one near the city, right?” Aeva nodded. “Maybe not just yet. It would be better if we could pull off a total disappearance now, and then we could move around more later.”

Aeva turned another page. “Let’s see… S7 is in the right area, but too small for this crew. Uh, L4 is big enough but interstate. This looks good… T4?” she offered.

Avendel gave her an incredulous look. “Isn’t that the one they call Australia? Back of beyond?"

Aeva shrugged. “Wouldn’t know. But I think it’s our best option.” She glanced into the back of the car, where Liz and Isabel lay sleeping. “I guess we don’t have to ask.” She commented.

“Go for it.” Avendel advised, making a left turn. “And quickly, I don’t know how much longer we can drive around this ditch without someone noticing.”

Aeva picked up the car radio she’d installed the week before. “Venus here. Come in, Arietis. Over.” She switched the setting to receive and waited.

“All the technology of the galaxy at our disposal, and we’re using up to date walkie-talkies?” Avendel asked incredulously. “What happened to the Royal budget?”

Aeva ignored her, a response was coming in. “Arietis here, receiving you Venus. What’s the status? Over.” Atariel’s voice crackled in.

“Well, we’re thinking about taking a vacation in Australia. Over.”

A pause, and then Atariel, incredulous. “Australia? Venus, you are not serious. Over.”

Aeva glanced over at Avendel, who was trying not to laugh. “I told you it was that bad.” She announced. Aeva rolled her eyes and switched the mike back.

“It’s officially Australia. Over and out.” She stated.

Silence, then Atariel again. “Roger that. Over and out.” The line went back to static, and Aeva switched the radio off. She couldn’t see the others any more, they’d taken another route as advised. Good.

“Hope Liz doesn’t mind us choosing.” Avendel said finally, looking over her shoulder into the back of the car.

Aeva followed her gaze. Liz was leaning against a window, (blanked out, obviously), and Isabel sat straight up in her seat, but they were both very definitely asleep.

“She won’t.” Aeva answered eventually, twisting back to face the road.

“I hope they’re okay.” Avendel said absently. “I mean, they were projecting that image an awfully long time.” She explained to Aeva’s questioning look.

Ave shrugged. “A few hours, with two of them…. And projections are a lot easier than mindwarps. They’re just tired.” She answered, settling into her seat again.

Avendel chuckled. “The projection was damned impressive. I was standing behind the two of them the whole time, and I could see them, but I could also see the image they were projecting – from the inside. It was the weirdest feeling.”

Aeva smiled briefly. “I bet.” She replied, wondering if she was allowed to fall asleep too. Probably not.

Aeva glanced at her again, and went strangely silent.

“Aev, do you think this is the right thing to do?” she asked softly after a while.

Aeva frowned. “What, Australia? Moving them? Which one, Avendel?”

“All of them.” She lifted a hand off the steering wheel to make an all-encompassing motion. “Keeping these three separate, letting Michael go, the whole – secrecy thing. Are you sure it’s how things should be going?” she asked.

Aeva’s frown deepened. “Well we couldn’t let them stay with Michael’s troops – critical mass theory, you know that. They’d all four be dead in weeks. And keeping their presence quiet is just another extension of that. The less people know where they are, the less danger they’re in.” She rationalized.

Avendel’s response came as a deep sigh. “I know, but I just – I keep thinking about last time. How we couldn’t help anyone in the end, cause we were just able damn crippled by secrecy.”

“But that’s not going to happen this time.” Aeva replied sharply. “We have the Queen, the King and his sister all here. We are going to protect them, Del.”

Avendel stared straight ahead, “I know. And I believe you. But I remember some of it, and… it’s not worth repeating.” She shifted gears and looked over at Aeva. “Tell you what, sister dear, I’m really glad you’re the one in charge here.”

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



[ edited 1 time(s), last at 28-Aug-2002 5:04:14 AM ]
posted on 16-Jun-2002 7:32:48 AM by Puzzlechild

I should warn you all, I've discovered the technique and general usefulness of flashbacks in fic. I think you're going to see lot of them in the next few parts. :D Enjoy.

Part Two

Liz stirred and moved in her sleep as the car stopped. Feeling the change of movement, she opened her eyes and stretched as far as her seatbelt would allow her. In the front of the car, Aeva and Avendel had been talking softly, but they seemed to have gone quiet for a bit.

Across the backseat, Isabel was still sleeping, sitting up in her belt. Liz peered over at her and decided that, alien powers and abilities or no, she had to be horribly uncomfortable. She turned back to the front to find Avendel looking over at her. She stifled a flinch at finding the other girl unexpectedly watching her, and settled back against the seat before she could embarrass herself further.

“Sleep well?” Avendel asked. Liz nodded to the query, mind still too heavy with sleep to contemplate talking, and yawned.

Avendel laughed. “Obviously. Gotta tell you it looked like more fun than driving. At least you don’t snore, then I really might have gotten resentful.”

Liz smiled and stifled another yawn. “Where’s Aeva?” she asked.

Avendel gestured to the window. “Outside. Checking out our newest haunt, I guess.”

For the first time, Liz looked outside. The car was sitting on a rough driveway, and the car was surrounded by trees, to the point where she could barely see the house in front of the car. “Where the hell are we?” she asked.

Avendel laughed. “Well, the hideout is officially T4, but most people refer to it as Australia… where you’d never dream of looking.”

Liz raised an eyebrow; she was still getting used to Avendel’s sense of humor. “What’s so funny about that?”

Avendel sobered swiftly. “Not much, really. But I told Aeva it wouldn’t be too impressive, and it looks like I was right.”

Liz considered quickly. “Uh… okay. Can we get out now?” she asked, unclipping her seat belt and moving to the door handle.

“Better wait til Aeva’s back.” Avendel answered.

Liz subsided back against the seat. However much she wanted to get out right then, Avendel was making sense. If Aeva had gone out to patrol the house, then she probably had a reason to do so… and she had probably told Avendel not to let Liz follow her. Damn. Liz leaned forward in her seat again to peer out the front window.

“How long has she been gone?” she asked absently.

Avendel checked the car clock. “About ten, maybe fifteen minutes.” She answered.

Liz frowned. “Is that bad? It seems like a long time.”

Avendel shrugged. “It’s a big house. And besides, she’s got Asanda with her. Nothing those two can’t handle.” She glanced back at Liz. “Besides, you guys have got your connection with her, right? If anything was wrong you’d know.”

Liz wasn’t entirely sure she would, but seeing Avendel obviously believed it, she dropped her protests. Aeva was smart enough to know when she couldn’t handle something by herself. Like when she’d called for the other Guardians to come to Earth.

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

Liz happened to be alone in the room when Aeva came in. she doubted somehow that it would have mattered if Isabel or Max had been in the room – Aeva would have thrown either of them out without hesitation. She was very up front about that sort of thing.

Liz hadn’t realized what was going on, how serious Aeva was at first. “Aeva, what’s up?” she asked. “You look like someone killed your goldfish.”

Aeva hadn’t even cracked a smile. “My Lady, there are important issues that I would lay before you.” She opened formally.

Liz sat up from where she’d been reading on the bed, and then moved around so that she sat right in front of Aeva. With that “My Lady”, the formal tone and her body language, Aeva had put the entire encounter on another level.

“Of course, Aeva. I am as always open to your guidance.” Liz answered seriously.

“My Lady, with all due respect, I fear I may be filing you in my position as your Protector.” Aeva said, green eyes lowered to the floor.

Liz wrinkled her brow, then consciously smoothed it again. Aeva kept telling her not to be so open with her emotions. “Guardian, in what aspect do you believe you are failing your duties?” she asked, not noticing her own use of Aeva’s official title.

“May I explain, Lady?” Aeva queried. Liz gave her permission, and Aeva started to explain.

“As you know, Lady, Lord Michael is waging a subtle war against Khivar and his supporters on Earth. I had hoped that by breaking all contact with him and your past in Roswell, you might escape detection by those who might be interested in assuming your position.

“However, it appears Khivar’s spies have learned more than we hoped, and he knows your identity. He does not know where you are, but he has made you, Isabel and the King into targets.”

“He wants us dead so he can set himself as an unchallenged ruler.” Liz concluded.

Aeva didn’t bat an eyelid. “Yes. And if he discovers us, I will not be sufficient protection for you all.”

Liz understood suddenly what Aeva was asking. Just how far was Aeva expected to protect them all? “What is your advice?” she asked softly, evenly. Aeva had obviously thought this through previously.

“I would advise bringing in a small protective force.” Aeva answered immediately. “However, our current situation would make it impossible to detect who among the force might be spies or traitors to our cause.

“There is one alternative, however. You may remember from… before, that there was a special force on Antar, known as the Queen‘s guardians. I would advise bringing them to Earth.” She concluded.

Liz wasn’t convinced. Aeva seemed to know what she was talking about, but realistically she had no more information than Liz herself. “How do you know there won’t be traitors among them?” she asked.

Aeva had a ready answer for that, too. “Because of all your Guardian’s Force are those who protected you previously, revived or reincarnated as were you and I. They gave their last lives to protect you, and they would not hesitate to do so again.”

Liz mulled that over. “How many would you want to be bring to Earth?”

Aeva answered immediately. “Three others. There are eight Guardians all together, but we should leave four on the home planet in case you ever require their services there.”

Liz frowned, there was a gap in logic there. “Aeva, four and three don’t make – oh.” She broke off, seeing Aeva’s look. “Of course, I should have guessed. I’m assuming this makes you the best person to select them?” she asked archly.

Aeva grinned, the meeting suddenly taking a new tone. “You bet.”

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

The three other Guardians arrived early the next week. They entirely freaked out both Isabel and Max, who had not been warned of their imminent arrival. Liz decided on reflection that that had maybe been a bad idea. Still, their presence was alarming at first, with their Army fatigues and uniform thick braids, and especially their tendency to walk through anyone and anything between themselves and Aeva and Liz.

Neither Aeva nor Liz were surprised at their sudden arrival. Aeva had told Liz she could feel them approaching all week, and when Liz reached out mentally, she could hear a distant hum in her mind. Aeva told her that it was a carry-over from their bond in the previous life, and it would become clearer with the renewal of their bonds.

Liz had expected them, yet their single minded drive surprised her. The moment they had found her, they knelt and swore fealty and loyalty, first individually and then as a group. The three of them then swore to follow and obey Aeva in her protection, and then continued to kneel, waiting for Liz to acknowledge or nullify their pledge.

Looking at them, Liz had at first felt a little ridiculous. Three girls – three women, she corrected mentally, they all looked to be around twenty four – were kneeling and essentially swearing their lives to her. Three women in army gear with braided air and rows of silver studs in their left ears. Liz tried to understand the insane turns the path of her life made, and failed.

Instead, an image from a prized childhood book came to mind. A painting from a book about Camelot. Arthur sat upon a throne, and before him a knight in armor was kneeling and pledging allegiance. The knight had shone with fervor and passion, to her child’s eyes, and somehow she saw that now in the Guardians kneeling before her.

She stepped forward and placed a hand on Avendel’s shoulder, instinctively knowing her as the senior in the group of three. “With these words, I do accept thy pledge, and bid thee remember it always. Rise, in the service of thy Queen.” Liz quoted. The words had come to her, rising up in her mind like a memory forgotten until required. That was probably exactly what Aeva would say it was, but whatever the reason, the words sounded exactly right.

Aeva stepped forward and placed her own hand on Avendel’s other shoulder. “I do witness your pledge and bid three remember it always. I accept thee as Guardian also to the Queen, and bid you rise in her service.” She echoed Liz.

Avendel raised her head and gave them both a blinding smile. “You will not ever be sorry.” She promised them, and helped both Asanda and Atariel to their feet.

posted on 25-Jun-2002 5:02:09 AM by Puzzlechild
New part coming in a few days time. Sorry about tht, I went away for the weekend.

-gij
posted on 26-Jun-2002 2:38:00 AM by Puzzlechild
Part Three

Avendel was right, and it was only a few minutes before Aeva and Asanda reappeared ad reported the house clear. Avendel released the locks on all the car doors and Liz got out, wandering around aimlessly. She was only mildly aware of Atariel leaving the others to unpack the car while she followed Liz.

The house sat well back from the driveway, she noted absently, reinforcing the feeling of separation the house gave off. It was set in a valley, not at the bottom, but not too far from it, Liz would have guessed. Trees pressed around it, rendering the house almost invisible from any distance. Walking around the back, she found a path leading from the back door.

She idly contemplated following it, but guessed that if Atariel were anything like Aeva, she wouldn’t want Liz getting so far from the others with no added protection. Instead, Liz stood up on her tiptoes, trying to follow the progress of the track as it twisted downhill.

“It leads to a lake.” Atariel said, behind her. Liz jumped, then took a deep breath to calm herself before turning to face Atariel.

“Pardon?” she asked.

Atariel smiled. “The track goes down to a lake. There’s a steady trickle of water down the valley, and it pools down there. The house uses some of the water, but you wouldn’t want to swim down there. It’s cold.” She explained, giving an exaggerated shiver for emphasis.

“Oh.” Liz stared out over to the other side of the valley, and shivered. “Why is it so cold?”

Atariel gave a shrug. “We’re further North, partway up a mountain, and not too far from an exposed body of water. Pick your reason.” She grinned suddenly. “Of course, it could always be Vilandra’s personality.”

“Isabel.” Liz corrected, but couldn’t help smiling. Atariel was irreverent, but fun, and Liz couldn’t remember really having fun in a while. Besides, she could understand where Atariel was coming from – Isabel hadn’t been exactly charming on first meeting them, either. She was a lot better to Liz these days, but still… she could definitely relate.

“What about Isabel?” The object of their discussion asked, opening the back door just in time to hear her name.

“Oh… nothing.” Atariel answered evasively, sliding a sidelong look at Liz, who was positive she intended Isabel to see it. How else could you make a subtle look so patently obvious?

Isabel’s mouth was opening, obviously about to start interrogating them, and Liz decided to forestall that one if she could. “Were you looking for us, Izzy?” she asked, deliberately dropping the pet name to allay suspicions.

Isabel frowned, but appeared willing to drop it for the meantime. “Aeva wants you.” She answered. “She said to come talk to her, then we’re conferencing.” She disappeared back into the house.

“Oh, my favorite.” Liz remarked to the air. She glanced over at Atariel. “You coming?”

“Not just yet. I’ll be back in a minute, but I just want to check the water level in the lake first.” She answered, flipping her dark braid over her shoulder. “Tell Aeva I’ll bunk in where she puts me, if you would.” She dropped a quick bow in Liz’s general direction, and took off, loping down the hill towards the lake. Liz watched her for a moment, then headed back into the house. It was cold outside.

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

Liz found Aeva easily enough, she was standing alone in the biggest room in the house, which was also the central room. Liz grabbed a chair beside the open fire – she didn’t know who it was, but by God she was going to pray to them tonight… hang on…

“There you are.” Aeva said immediately. Liz smiled inwardly, at least she’d finally broken Aeva of that bad habit. “There’s a room I think you and Izzy could share, and I could set up a pallet near the door? Is that okay?”

Liz waved a hand at her equitably. “That’s fine, do what you think…. Wait, Aeva, you don’t intend to sleep on the floor again, do you?” she asked, immediately answered by Aeva’s guilty look. “It’s not going to happen, I feel bad already. Take your own room,” Aeva’s faced changed noticeable at that one, probably to indicate that *no way* was that going to happen, and Liz hurried on, “Or move Isabel in with Avendel or Asanda, and you room with me.”

Aeva raised an eyebrow. “That’s okay with you? You don’t want moral support or anything?”

Liz shook her head and laughed a little, then huddled back down as cold air hit her. “Aeva, if you can’t provide moral support by now, I’m not doing very well.” She grinned. “But you’re telling Isabel.”

Aeva gave a long-suffering sigh. “Fine. Look, we’re just going get a little more settled in, then Avendel’s going to give us a full scale report, okay?”

“Sure. Atariel’s gone down to the lake, but she said she’d be back soon.” Liz remembered to tell Aeva.

Aeva wrinkled her forehead thoughtfully. “Hmmm. Okay. I’m surprised you didn’t go with her.” she joked. “I know your love of the wonderful world of science, and I’m sure there’s a lot of biology in there by now.”

Liz wrinkled nose in disgust. “Aeva, that’s sooo yuck. Besides, did you somehow not notice how cold it is out there?” she asked.

Aeva shrugged. “I’ve been trained not to notice the cold. Or other bodily discomforts. But her, if you’re cold, we’ll have to root around and see what we can find for you. Can’t have a frozen Queen, Max would hit the roof.”

Liz felt her smile go tense. “Uh, yeah. I guess.” She replied, looking away from Aeva. She was sure Aeva would call her on it, and was about to do so, when Asanda walked in.

“Aev, where do you want the food supplies?” she asked casually. Aeva broke off from her study of Liz’s features to look at her guardian.

“In the kitchen, Asanda. Where do you think?” she asked rhetorically, and just a touch sarcastically. Liz felt a real smile creep across her face and watched them both carry loads of food into the next room.


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

Avendel looked at the people seated in front of and around her, and took a deep breath. “I feel like a history teacher.” She quipped, trying to break the nervous tension in the air. She had a feeling that before long, it was going to get much worse.

“Would you like a blackboard and some chalk?” Aeva cracked from her pose against a window. Avendel caught Aeva’s glance and rolled her eyes at her. Only someone who had spent an entire lifetime with Atariel could possibly understand the girl, and sometimes, Avendel had her doubts about that one too.

“Thanks, ‘Tari, but I think I got something better.” Avendel answered, her eyes back on Max, Liz and Isabel now, where they belonged. She held her hands clasped together out in front of her, then pulled them apart to reveal the image she’d just created. A 3D image of Antar revolved between her and the Royal… well, three, and she moved it mentally, lifting it up and over towards them.

Liz raised a slender eyebrow. “Very James Bond.” She commented, which elicited a laugh from both Aeva and Isabel. Avendel didn’t really get it, so she resumed her lesson.

“All right. Ladies and gentlemen... gentleman,” she corrected, sending a wink in Max’s direction. Max scowled. “We have the planet of Antar.” Using a tendril of her powers, she reached past Aeva to switch the light off. Aeva moved her shoulders a little, feeling the probe slide past her. Avendel knew it would take a little time for the two of them to get used to feeling each other’s use of power again, but in the meantime… history lesson. Right. She focussed, and the image on air changed.

“This, my Royal friends, is the Royal Palace of Antar. Vilandra, Zan, Rathe and Eliade were all raised within these walls.” She made the palace revolve, so they could see the whole thing, then pulled the focus back so they could see where it was in relation to the rest of the planet. “On Antar, it was called Castel y Gwynt – well, that’s what it would be in Welsh. In English it translates roughly to Castle of the Winds. It was named that in reference to the swiftness with which all news traveled there.” She glanced at her captive audience and moved onto her next mental slide.

“This is Khivar’s planet.” She continued, giving the same 360 view she had given them of Antar. “The planet is called Ki-va – Khivar is more of a title, means he is ‘of’ Ki-va – rather like an old times King, or even God, I suppose. As you can see, his planet is not in the best of health.” She changed to another mental slide. “It used to be like this. A beautiful, water based planet, like Antar. The two planets were long standing allies, because there was basically no reason to fight.

“Then a solar flare was emitted from our sun.” She swapped the view to the sun, and showed them a slide of the visible effects of the flare, then moved on to display the recreation of the scene she’d been taught. “The flare basically fried their planet – they got caught right in the heat of it. Most of the time, it wouldn’t be nearly so drastic, but their ozone was a little wobbly to begin with. It caused mass destruction – shredded the remainder of the ozone, dust filled the skies, oceans evaporated, earthquakes… You get the idea. Point is, the whole planet was no kind of Pleasantville.” Avendel summarized.

Looking around, she found Isabel shocked and silent, Liz intent and nodding to herself, probably working out the scientific implications, and Max pale and intense. More intense than usual, Avendel found that hard to believe.

“What did we do?” Max asked in the low, intense voice Avendel was expecting. Point to me, she thought.

“Well, my lord, we did what we could.” She answered. “We continued to provide sanctuary for those of their people who had been on our planet when it hit, but we couldn’t help them with a mass evacuation of the planet – Antar was too small, and too densely populated for us to be able to help the majority of their population.

“The biggest problem was the numbers of people affected for the radiation. It just got into their bodies and played havoc with them – like cancer in humans, I guess.

“So the Ki-vans couldn’t live on Ki-va any more. If the people hadn’t been so badly affected by the radiation to begin with, maybe they could have stayed. But the damage they had already taken, and continued to take, was too much for their bodies, and they were dying off in shelf loads. If they wanted to survive at all, they needed to move to a new planet and produce as many damn children as they could, and hope like hell they were all normal.

“But there weren’t really that many worlds hanging around available for mass emigration. The closest one they could find was over three light years away, and they had nowhere to keep the survivors safe in the meantime.”

“So they tried to take Antar?” Liz asked, following the thought to its natural conclusion, but still sounding incredulous.

Avendel paused, unsure of how much to say. “Well, yes and no.” she answered evasively, then thought better of it. “Zan let them use part of Antar to build a colony ship – you guys understand about colony ships, right?” she asked, and they nodded. “Well, there was no reason not to let them. Antar and Ki-va had always been on friendly terms, and we hoped to remain so. Had it just been their planet, I still believe they might have left us alone.” Across the room, a derisive grunt was heard from Asanda. Avendel glared. “Well, they might have.”

“So what happened?” Isabel asked, obviously only bare seconds ahead of Liz, who elbowed her in the ribs for stealing her question. Isabel gave her an amused look and then waited for Avendel’s answer.

“Well, the Ki-vans had always had strong telepathic abilities – similar to Antarians in that respect. The radiation that ruined their bodies seemed to strengthen their minds – either that, or just give them enough incentive to actually leave their dying bodies.”

“Into their skins.” Isabel guessed, trying to keep one step ahead.

Avendel shook her head slowly, this was the part of the story she hated. “No. Into Antarians.”

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


[ edited 1 time(s), last at 2-Aug-2002 10:09:04 PM ]
posted on 21-Jul-2002 12:14:53 AM by Puzzlechild
Glass House – Part Four

“They what?” Liz demanded incredulously. Avendel understood, it was shocking, unbelievable, disgusting.

“They started transferring their minds into healthy Antarian bodies.” She explained. “The people they took over had no control – they were trapped in one part of their minds and couldn’t do anything to take back their own bodies. The Ki-vans were totally determined to survive, and if it the Antarian race had to die to achieve that, they thought it was a worthwhile cause.”

“But that’s practically genocide!” Isabel was furious.

Avendel sighed. “It wasn’t like they succeeded, Isabel. Khivar remained in the Antarian Palace. He claimed to have nothing to do with the Ki-vans taking over our people. Zan wanted to trust him, but he couldn’t afford to trust him enough to let the Antarians die. He had to find a way to stop the invasion of Antarian bodies by Ki-van minds.

“To that end, a virus was introduced into the Antarian population.” Discreetly, she let her slide show fail. “Atariel can explain better than me.” She moved out of mid-room chair and took over Atariel’s position at the window.

Atariel happily settled into her appropriated seat and started to explain. “As you all know, a virus works by inserting itself into a living cell, then turning that cell into a factory to replicate itself.” She was using her own secondary imaging talent to show them hat she meant. “After it’s used the cell to recreate itself as many times as possible, the cell will deteriorate, break down, and all the new baby viruses will go swimming into the body’s bloodstream, there to infect new cells. This repeats, until the body is either able to eject the virus, or is taken over by it.”

“Like with AIDS.” Liz contributed. To Isabel’s amazed stare, she answered simply “I read the Bio textbook.”

“Of course you did.” Isabel muttered. Avendel suppressed a grin.

“Um… yeah.” Atariel confirmed. “So, like with AIDS, this virus was genetically engineered to take over the whole body. To do that, it had to invade T4 cells so the rest of the body wouldn’t reject it… anyway,” she broke off, seeing the bemused looks on Isabel and Max’s faces. “We don’t need to go into details, the point is the virus was designed to invade every cell of an Antarian’s body. Only, it wasn’t a destructive virus – it was modified so that it wouldn’t harm Antarians.”

Max had yet to lose his bemused look. “Modified how? To do what?”

“Well, basically it was designed to infect, and supplant, standard Antarian DNA. Their DNA was replaced with the new strand of DNA, and it was recreated throughout their bodies.” Max opened his mouth to ask another question, and Atariel through up a hand to forestall him. “Max, I’m getting there, hold onto your damn horses.

“They took the DNA from people who had been able to resist the Ki-vans mental invasion. There was a key genome in it… oops, lost you again.” Atariel laughed, seeing the looks on Isabel and Max’s face move once more from comprehension to utter confusion. “Anyway, it helped mutate DNA so that people were able to resist the Ki-vans moving into their bodies – created a sort of block, I guess. It was very clever.” She ended admiringly.

“Everyone was infected with it?” Liz asked intently. “There were no side effects?”

Atariel looked very happy that at least one of them had understood her explanation. “Well, obviously some people had immunities, and that sucked, but on the whole, there were so few of them that it wouldn’t be worth the Ki-vans trying to take them. Also, anyone who was still worried about it, they were able to modify the virus again to infect just about anyone, but most didn’t bother. As for side effects, why should there be? They were being infected with their own DNA, so there was nothing to cause any problems.”

Even Liz looked a little lost by that one, and Avendel had never understood it, so she moved to take the conversation into more relevant areas. She came to sit beside Atariel, figuring that Asanda could take over her window.

“To get back to the main storyline… Khivar was at the Castel with the Royal Four. He wanted the use of the Granolith to heal his planet. The Four consulted, and decided it could not be done – firstly, the Granolith wasn’t made for that sort of use, it could potentially be destroyed. Secondly, it was dangerous to use – no one knew exactly how or why it worked, and as such, it wasn’t safe. Thirdly, they couldn’t be sure what else he might use it to do.

“Khivar had always been a little crazy, in my own considered opinion, but when he was denied the use of the Granolith, he went starkers. The destruction of his people and his planet made him wobble, and the refusal to his request for the Granolith sent him over the edge. Despite that Antar and Ki-va had always been on good terms, he started threatening. He begged audiences with all of the Royal Four, separately and in group, and got nastier with each refusal. The Four offered him any other assistance they could provide, but he was insistent that only the Granolith would suffice.

“We all tried to understand, to help, but there were limits, on both sides. The limit finally came when he actually threatened Eliade. Rath walked in on him getting nasty, and basically threw him out of the Palace, with instructions that he either left the Antarians alone, or left the planet with his people. He left with his people.”

“Where did they go?” Max asked. “I thought they couldn’t find a planet.”

Atariel grimaced. “Well, they did, but it was a bit of an arm pit.” She answered before Avendel could. Seeing Avendel’s face she added defensively, “Ave, you know it was.”

“It was at first.” Avendel corrected her. “Now it’s fine. They cleaned it up within a year. So it’s fine, but Khivar wants his own planet back. He’s probably the only Ki-van who remembers what Ki-va was actually like, but he’s taught them all to think of it as home. And they want to go back.” Avendel finished up.

“And that’s why they still want the Granolith.” Atariel summarized.

“And that’s why they’re fighting Michael now.” Asanda added.

They all looked at Aeva.

“What?” she asked.

Avendel laughed. “Never mind. Okay, do we have any further questions? No?” she looked around her small class. “Then I for one suggest that some people go get some sleep, cos I for one am stuffed.” She yawned theatrically, and there were some laughs, but not many. Not in the light of what they’d all just learned.

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

Zan was talking to one of his retainers in the next room. “You need to get the message there as soon as possible, Efel. It’s bad enough with the earthquake, I’d prefer the people did not have to starve as well. This will help them through the winter.” Elia heard him say earnestly.

The courier murmured something, and Zan thanked him. Moments later, Elia heard the front door to the royal apartment open and close, followed by Zan’s footsteps towards the inner room.

She smiled and moved in her seat a little, trying to arrange her dress as he liked it. She knew Zan loved the emerald silk of it; that was why she wore it. For him. She lowered her eyes demurely to the lap screen she had been working on and waited for him.

As if on cue, the bedroom door opened. He hadn’t knocked, he never knocked for entrance into their bedroom. Only they and closest friends were ever allowed in – business was restricted to the outer rooms of the apartment, if held there at all.

“Elia, my love.” She looked up to find him still standing in the door, staring at her. He surveyed her from the toes upward, raking his gaze over every inch of her. When he reached her eyes, he grinned. “You surely do know how to tempt a man.” He finished, still gazing at her.

Elia felt her heart quicken. No matter how many times he told her, she could never quite believe that the King of the whole planet loved her – loved her truly, deeply, passionately, completely. It surpassed belief. No wanting him so far away, she placed the screen gently on the floor and then sat back, waiting for him. He came quickly, no more eager to be away from her than she was.

He stopped in front of her unexpectedly. Elia had assumed he would sit beside her on the couch. Instead, he pulled her to her feet and kissed her breathless, before turning her and pulling her into his lap as he sat back.

“Whoa.” She said unsteadily, unbalanced by his quick movements and still bemused by the kiss.

Zan laughed quietly, she could feel the oft rumble through her tummy. “Well, ‘whoa’ is certainly on my list of ways I want you to feel, but I did not intend to render you utterly monosyllabic.” He teased gently.

Twisting, Elia found a way she could sit across his lap, rather than with her back to him. “Why.” She grinned at him.

“Why what? Why do I make you want to feel whoa…” he mused. He sneaked a look at her from under his lashes. “Maybe… just maybe… it’s cos you make me feel the same way?” he offered teasingly again.

Elia continued to grin at him. “Why.” She asked again, liking his first answer.

Zan gave her his adorable half-grin, then tapped her on the nose with a finger. “Quite the demanding two year old today, aren’t we Lady Eliade?” he asked archly.

“No!” she half yelped. Two year old was not what she wanted him thinking just then!

His eyes darkened suddenly. “No, my lady, you’re definitely not two.” He agreed. “This dress,” he tugged on the material “attests to it. And if it does not… I will.” He promised huskily.

Elia almost shivered. If that voice hadn’t been enough, those eyes… “Wait.” She begged suddenly. “I wanted… to ask you... about Tarisia…”

He nipped at the base of her ear. “So ask.” He whispered, then ran his tongue out to smooth the abused flesh.

She closed her eyes unwillingly. “I can’t think when you do that.” She admitted, her head falling back against the arm of the seat.

She felt Zan’s head dip lower. “Thinking is overrated.” He murmured, touching his tongue to her pulse point.

She did shiver this time, mentally cursing him. He always knew exactly… “Oh, Zan.” She moaned, as he sucked on a particularly sensitive point on her neck.

He kissed his way back up to her ear. “Yes, Elia?” he asked breathily. She forced herself to concentrate.

“Have the people… In Tarisia… arranged their crops now?” she pushed out, struggling for every word. Zan knew her far, far too well.

He barely paused in his exploration of her bare skin.
- I think so - he answered through their connection. - we’ve found techniques so that they can use the land again – it’s pretty messed up just now, but they can use it, and we can fix the soil distribution up next spring. -

“But they’ll be able to get a crop through by winter?” she asked, aware her voice was high and breathy, hoping he wouldn’t notice.

He laughed at that.
- Sorry, sweetheart. Should have known that one was a private thought. - he apologized. - But yes, they’ll get a crop through, and if they don’t we’ll help support them. -

Elia found it harder to breathe suddenly. “That’s… good.” She answered, forgetting what she was talking about halfway through. She moaned again when he suddenly sucked hard on her skin.
- Oh, Zan… -

He raised eyes bright with desire to hers. “Bed.” he barely managed to rasp out. She nodded and let him gather her to him, and then stand.

But his arms were tightening around her suddenly, to the point where it hurt. He’d never hurt her before – not in their wildest lovemaking or their bitterest fights, even by mistake. “Zan.” She panted out, her breathing suddenly constricted by something other than desire.

Zan looked down at her, but there was something *other* about him, to the point where he seemed another person. “Liz, sweetheart, is that the way you want it then?” he asked harshly, cruelly. Elia gasped, this wasn’t Zan. Never Zan.

“I’m not – “ she broke off as he held her arms behind her, backed her against a wall. “What are you doing?” she cried frantically, panicking now. She struggled against him, only to find he had pinned her arms to the wall with his powers. “What do you want?” she asked again, desperately.

He stared at her intensely, with some mixture of desire and loathing. “You, Liz. What else would I want?” he asked rhetorically, and lowered his head to kiss her.

She wouldn’t open her mouth to his probing tongue, resisted his efforts, and he laughed at her struggles. She shrieked aloud with pain when he bit her lip, and she felt blood drip down her chin. “ZAN!” she screamed.


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

Liz woke abruptly, sat upright in bed. The name still lingered on her lips. “Zan.” She whispered now, wide awake. She brought her fingers up to her mouth, checking for blood. They came away clean, but… she shuddered.

She lay back down cautiously, not wanting to awake Aeva to face awkward questions. It was a long, long time before she relaxed enough to close her eyes, and even longer before she could sleep.





It might be a while before I can post again. I've been sick and haven't been writing... I was in bed, delirious for nearly a week.... that wasn't cool. This was all I wrote before that, and it might take a while to get going again... although I do have some ideas to work with just now. :D See you all soon!

-gij


[ edited 1 time(s), last at 23-Jul-2002 2:22:30 AM ]
posted on 31-Jul-2002 6:49:09 AM by Puzzlechild
Okay, so I'm not entirely happy with this. But if I waited til I was happy with it, you'd all die of old age. Or something. I'm gonna go look at the fragments of Part six and try get back to you all sometime soon.


Part Five

When Liz next awoke, she lay with her eyes shut for some time. She could Aeva moving around quietly and assumed she was getting dressed - another good reason to keep her eyes closed. As much as Liz loved her, the girl had a set of abs that bordered on the seriously unfair. Liz shifted, moving onto her side and tucking her hands under her pillow.

“I know you’re awake.” Aeva’s voice drifted into her semi-daze. Liz groaned.

“Aeva, stay out of my head.” She complained, and opened her eyes to see Aeva fully dressed and unfairly cheerful. Damn the girl.

– I heard that – Liz fought to keep herself from yelping aloud, the mental speech abruptly reminding her of her dream. No!

“Aev… how do you do that?” she asked slowly, forcing her voice to remain steady.

Aeva gave her a curious look. “Any reason?” she asked curiously. Liz shrugged, not trusting her voice. “Well, it’s the mind bond thing. I’m bonded to the Royal Four, but most specifically you. So I just generally pick up on thoughts – I can turn it up or down, but when you think specifically about me, it catches my attention, I guess. Names do that.” She shrugged, turning away to pick up her brush and start pulling it through her hair.

“Hmmm.” Liz shuffled up in bed til she was nearly sitting, and leaned back against the headboard. “Do the others – out there,” she clarified, waving a hand to the door to indicate the other Guardians, “have the same bond?’

Aeva winced as her brush caught a knot. “OW. Yeah, they do. Not so strong, though.”

“Why is yours stronger?”

Aeva stopped picking through her hair in a search for the knot. “Would you believe me if I said it’s because I’m the lead Guardian?” she tested cautiously.

“Not now, no.”

Aeva turned away and put her brush down on the dresser, then turned back to face Liz. “Because I was connected to you when you went through a highly traumatic and emotional scene.” She answered quietly, studying Liz carefully.

“Oh…” Liz ducked her head and felt her hair fall forward, concealing her face. Right then, that was perfect for her.

“Your connection with the others will strengthen, probably.” Aeva offered lamely after a few minutes. “Avendel and Asanda are going to work with you all mentally – teaching you about Antar and your powers, respectively. I’d be surprised if that didn’t strengthen the bond.”

“What about Atariel?” Liz asked, grateful for the subject change. Aeva seemed to feel it, turned almost flippant.

“Oh, her… useless girl. Good for nothing. Hopeless.” She grinned. “Nup, she’s on sentry with me this morning, and I’m hoping to figure out with her then what she can teach you all.”

“Right. Okay.” Liz let her head loll back against the headboard. “How long are we going to stay here?”

“Well.” Aeva said evasively. “I don’t really know.”

Liz lifted her head up and fixed Aeva with an intense gaze. “Aeva, you should know by now that you can’t pull that one on me.”

Aeva sighed. “I really don’t know, Liz. I don’t know the long term plan.” She sat down on the end of Liz’s bed. “Right now, we need to keep you – all of you – safe. Everything comes second to that. Eventually, you and Max have to go back to Antar and take over there again, and that’s why we’re teaching you now.” To Liz’s questioning look she added, “Well, Guardians are supposed to be more than sentries, you know. That’s where the ranking comes in.”

“What ranking?” Liz asked immediately.

Avea groaned. “I’m explaining this badly. All the Guardians are deliberately selected out of specific families for specific talents. We all have definite, and fairly singular, talents. Because of those talents, we have certain ranks. Ask Avendel, she’s supposed to be the one teaching you this. There are all sorts of reasons for it.”

“Uh-huh.” Liz considered. “I’ll ask her. But – what plans do we have?”

“Keep you safe, teach you about Antar and your own relation to it, then contact Michael and choose the appropriate course of action based on what he tells us.” Aeva answered immediately.

“Hmmm.” Liz mulled it over, then shrugged. “It could be worse, I guess.”

“A lot worse.”

“A lot, lot worse.”

“Let’s not go there.”

“Good plan.” Liz watched Aeva pulled her hair up into a ponytail and then immediately started to braid it. “Why are you braiding your hair?” she asked curiously.

Aeva flipped the half/completed braid over her shoulder and continued. “I always should have been, really, but I got kinda lazy.”

Liz wrinkled her nose. “Aeva, that makes no sense at all.” She complained.

“Ummm… ask Avendel. She’s good at these questions.” Aeva evaded. She headed for the door. “I’ve got to go – guard duty.” She explained. “Asanda took last night, now ‘Tari and I have to suffer.”

Liz laughed. “Pull rank on them Aeva, you know you want to.” Aeva rolled her eyes,

“They’d push me in the lake and leave me there. Anyway, if you want coffee, I suggest you get up sometime soon. If you think it’s bad fighting Isabel for coffee, you don’t want to try Asanda.” She grinned and disappeared, shutting the door firmly behind her.

Liz laughed, but got out of bed anyway. Aeva had a point, the idea of fighting Avendel or Asanda somehow seemed wholly unappealing.

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

Ave stepped out of the back door and closed it behind her, listening carefully for the click that would tell her it had locked. Satisfied, she turned and started to crunch down the path, looking for Atariel. Shivering slightly, she drew the neck of jacket closer around her skin.

Suddenly, a light gray scarf appeared, floating in front of her face. Startled, she stared at it for a moment before reaching out to take it. Wrapping it loosely around her neck, she did a 360 turn, looking for Atariel. She scanned the surrounding country and found nada.

“Here.” Atariel’s voice drifted down to her. Aeva raised her eyes a few degrees and spotted Atariel calmly seated on the roof.

Aeva retraced her steps partway to the house, then stepped off the path, crunching bracken til she stood directly below Atariel. She tilted her head back and asked the inevitable. “Atariel, how the hell did you get up there?”

Atariel didn’t answer in words, instead kicked the tree that grew alongside the house and above the roof. Taking the hint, Aeva readjusted the scarf and started to climb up.

She settled herself next to Atariel, feet comfortable hanging over the edge of the roof. “You wanna tell me why you’re all the way up here?” she asked playfully.

Atariel shrugged, seemingly bereft of her usual irreverent humour. “I figure, if there’s only one of me, I can’t stay on the ground and see everything and still be able to warn you lot. Up here I can see a lot more.” She leaned back and propped her slim frame up on her elbows. “Before long, we won’t have a choice. It’s going to snow.”

Aeva glanced at the gray clouds overhead and then rolled her eyes. “Wonderful. On top of the fact that we’re being chased by evil aliens, we’re going to freeze to death in a blizzard. This job is so fun.” She said bitingly. Aeva could pack sarcasm like a ten ton truck.

Atariel shrugged. “It’s not snowing yet. Count your blessings.” She looked over at Aeva for the first time and frowned. “You tied it wrong.” She accused.

Aeva patted the scarf at her throat. “How so?”

“You need to wrap it partially over your hair, or it’s not so warm, then round the back, and…” she shook her head, watching Aeva attempt to follow her instructions. “Let me.” She said finally.

She lifted herself off the roof to kneel beside Aeva. Aeva handed her the scarf and tilted her head slightly to allow Atariel access to the scarf and her hair both. Her hands were gentle as they arranged the scarf, and Aeva had a sudden, confusing thought-image of these same hands being used to knock out an alien the previous day. Atariel knotted the ends of the scarf together and handed them to Aeva to tuck inside her jacket.

“Thank you.” Aeva said, feeling a little awkward.

“You’re welcome.” Atariel wasn’t looking at her now. She reached into her jacket to pull out a knife and start dancing it on her fingers, gradually changing into more and more complex rhythms. Aeva narrowed her eyes as she watched the knife spin. Hang on, was that…?

She grabbed the knife the next time Atariel tossed it up, spinning it so as not to cut herself. Atariel looked surprised, and Aeva suppressed a smile. She might have been out of practice but she could still grab s pinning knife without danger, damnit! She lowered the knife, flipping it upside down to search for a make-mark.

“Tari… is this…?”

Atariel smiled. “Yeah, it’s mecca.”

Aeva was mildly amazed. The casual name, Mecca, was a play on the acronym for a molecularly engineered knife. It had been banned on Antar for untold ages except to Guardians of extreme rank, and even for them it was only on the tolerance of the current royal family.

They were hugely dangerous, as far as a knife went. Both edges were honed to a molecular precision, the cutting edge an atom thick. Such knives were only ever weapons – what the hell else would you use one for?

Aeva was also very impressed. “How’d you get this?” she asked, waving it absently.

Atariel’s eyes followed the tip of the knife. “I requested it on Antar. They considered it and decided that the Royal Four hadn’t specifically forbidden it, so they let me have it.”

“Can you use it?” Aeva queried intently.

Atariel snorted. “Please, Aeva. Who do you think I am? Do you somehow not remember your past life?” She held out her hand, and Aeva reluctantly gave her the knife back, instinctively handle first. Atariel took it, and moments later had it spinning on her fingertips once more.

“Could you teach someone else to use it?” Aeva persevered.

Atariel stopped spinning suddenly. “Who?” she asked, her eyes darkening over. She slipped the knife back under her jacket, watching Aeva intently.”

“Liz.” Aeva answered simply.

Atariel’s eyes cleared suddenly, and she tilted her head to the side, considering. “It depends. If she has a little natural talent, it would be easier… and safer. Maybe. Yeah, I could, probably.” Obviously entirely intent upon the question.

Aeva stifled a smile. “Would you?”

Atariel glanced up at her again. “Why?”

Aeva let out a deep sigh. “So far, her powers are defensive, even neutral.” She explained. “I think she and I would both feel safer if she had some secondary means to take care of herself.”

“Why the knife?”

Aeva shrugged. “I figure it’s a lot more subtle than an energy jet, and a skill she wouldn’t be expected to have. Double bonus.”

“Of course, then. You shouldn’t have had to ask.”

“Right.” Aeva closed. “Do you have a blade she can use, or do I need to make one?”

Atariel smiled. “I have a spare – I even have the straps so she can wear it all the time. I had a feeling I might need it, but if the Queen needs it…” she trailed off. “Besides, Aeva, I think I know better than to let you anywhere near a forming process!”

“I’m hurt.” Aeva protested, grinning. “Deeply wounded, even. How can you suggest I don’t know how to make a Mek?” she asked melodramatically.

Atariel raised an eyebrow. “Oh, I don’t know – maybe because it’s entirely the truth. What do you think?” she taunted.

“Shut up, inferior. You’ll give the game away.” Aeva grinned, then got serious once more. “Don’t teach her to throw it, all right? If she ever needs it, God forbid, it’s likely to be close quarters. Teach her to use it like that.”

Atariel nodded, her smile gone now as well. “Right. Close quarters, ugly fighting.” She paused to carefully phrase her next question. “Do you think she’ll need it?” she asked cautiously.

Aeva could feel her face, her emotions, shut down. “I hope not. I don’t ever want her to.” She shrugged. “But the likelihood is that she will. A thousand times better that she’s prepared when that day comes.”

“Right.” Atariel said again. “Good.” She cast a sidelong, mischievous look at Aeva. “So long as she doesn’t lose her temper and castrate the King.” She added casually.

“Yeah, I hope – Tari!” Aeva was caught out. “That’s really not funny.” She muttered.

“No, it’s not. That’s why you’re laughing.” Atariel pointed out dryly. “You worry too much, Aeva.” She touched Aeva’s hand to make the point.

“I’d rather worry and get it right than be unconcerned and have someone die, Tari.” Aeva answered seriously.

Atariel had an odd look on her face. “Of course you would.” She answered softly. “But if you always stay safe, you’ll never learn anything.” She grabbed and squeezed Aeva’s hand incredibly quickly, letting go so fast Aeva barely registered it. “I’m gonna go check the boundaries.” She looked away quickly and swung herself over to climb down the tree again. Aeva watched as she made her way to the bottom and started to walk off, not looking back once.

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




posted on 8-Aug-2002 5:56:06 AM by Puzzlechild
*waves* Hi everyone, thanks for all the fb.

Sheeijan, Aeva does tend to ignore Max. She doesn't like him very much, and with the whole bonded- servant issue (in the end of tFO), technically you're correct, with Liz basically in control with Max as a figurehead. And I know what you mean, personally I think Liz makes a better leader than Max would anyway.

Crazy4Max I saw your note on WbA thread. That was awfully kind of you to say, thanks a lot!


Now, I was hoping to get a part out sometime today, but the truth is I'm having a horrible difficult time getting the pieces of part six to come together... Avendel won't do as she's told, lol. Hopefully I'll get a part out in the next four or five days. Sorry about that.

-gij
posted on 13-Aug-2002 2:11:33 AM by Puzzlechild
Double Post
posted on 14-Aug-2002 5:08:35 AM by Puzzlechild
LOL! The WbA board is the Work by Author board here. All my fic is listed under my name (under gij, that is.) I hope you find and enjoy it!

-gij
posted on 16-Aug-2002 6:28:15 AM by Puzzlechild
Thanks so much to everyone for your FB! I appreciate it so much! and I'm sorry to disappear for so long, but I had trouble with this part. It's a little longer than usual, hope that makes up for it. :D

And - oh. Everybody, wave to my new little (adopted) sister Naomi. This part is dedicated to her, hopefully to cheer her up some, and to apologise for being a stupid ignorant annoying pigheaded moron. Love you, nae.


Part Six


“Well, I didn’t like it in red.” Isabel protested. “I think it looks better now.”

Liz eyed her newly-purple shirt. No matter how many times she was told, Isabel could never resist the urge to colour code other people’s clothes to her own personal preferences. This time, however, she had a point.

“Fine.” Liz relented. “But can I get a lighter purple, please?”

Isabel beamed, happy in her victory. She brushed Liz’s shirtsleeve with her fingers, and they both watched as the colour slowly lightened.

They had been having this conversation throughout the whole of breakfast, and Liz had decided that it probably wasn’t worth arguing her cause. Light purple, dark purple, red… where was the difference? It was still a nice shirt.

Avendel came into the room then, just in time to catch the last of the conversation. She smiled in amusement, the noticed Liz’s scrutiny of what she carried.

“It’s our transmitter.” She explained, holding it up for their inspection. “Tari wants to take a look at it and see if there’s a way we could possibly be traced. And of course Asanda cannot be kept away from anything mechanical.” She reached past them to put it on the table, then grabbed a chair and turned it around to straddle it. “I hear I’m teaching you about Antar this fine morning.”

Liz looked blank, but Isabel nodded. “And we get lessons in powers from Asanda tomorrow, correct?”

“Yeah, how’d you know?”

Isabel shrugged. “I was up earlier than you lot, and so was Atariel, so we chatted.” She gave Avendel a sidelong glance. “She is one dangerous little girl.”

Avendel laughed. “You’re telling me. Don’t ever make her mad in the morning. The rest of the time she can hold her temper, but in the mornings – no.”

“I’m so glad I left her some coffee.” Isabel joked. “It might have been ugly, otherwise.”

“Um, yeah. Getting back on-topic…” Avendel winked at them. “Today you get one-on-one tutoring from the greatest modern history and customs expert on Antar. Aren’t you lucky?”

“Do you want me to be truthful or honest?”

“I will ignore that comment. Okay, so this isn’t your typical history class –“

“Thank God.” Isabel interjected.

“Thank you. Basically I’m inserting memories for your use, all right? I put them in, you see flashes, later you can recall the entire event. History for dummies. Any questions?”

“One. Is this how normal flashes work?” Liz asked curiously.

“Nup. They’re just images, this is much more informative and organised. It’s totally directed and focussed.” Avendel reassured. “I have control of everything you see and remember, so it’s not like you can go overload.”

“Overload? Please explain. I’m feeling nervous now.” Isabel was only half-joking.

Avendel looked perplexed. “Oh – no – don’t worry.” She protested. “I was just – if people don’t know what they’re doing when they connect, sometimes they can hurt people – the information overload basically causes them to black out. It’s rare, and I promise I know what I’m doing.”

Isabel and Liz exchanged glances. “I’m so glad I didn’t know that before.” Liz said finally with a shudder.

“Well, assuming I haven’t scared you off for life, can I ask for a volunteer?” Avendel requested.

“Oooh, so now you’re asking us to risk our loves for the sake of our – planet?” Isabel asked flippantly. “Liz wants to go first.” She announced.

“Thank you, Isabel. Yes I do.” Liz said firmly. “What do I do?”

“Just relax and let your mind blank out. When you’re ready, grab my hands and we’ll start.” Avendel instructed.

Liz tried to focus, clearing thoughts out of her head as they came in. when she thought she had the knack of it, she reached out to Avendel, who took her hands.

Immediately a connection formed between them. Liz saw a quick flicker of images from Avendel, then watched with interest as they quickly slowed and stopped. Considering what they’d just talked about, Liz made the assumption that Avendel had controlled it.

– Yes – Avendel agreed, seeming to have heard the thought. – It’s basic training. Asanda will probably teach you, and if she doesn’t I can. –

- Oh. Good. –

- I’m not seeing anything you wouldn’t want me to, trust me. I don’t need to
know. Can we focus now? –

- Sorry. -

- Doesn’t matter. Okay, so it’s a little like the projection we used last night, but internalised. Stop me at any point if you need questions, or you want me to slow down. Is there anything you really want to know about? –

- I don’t know enough to choose. -

- Right. –
Avendel paused, as if to clear her thoughts or clarify something. Keep you mind as clear as possible, it’s easier that way. – she instructed.

Before Liz could answer, she was inundated with an almost overwhelming wave of images, voices, and sounds. Scents drifted past her, explanations flashed past her eyes, people touched her. With a jerk, she pulled back.

“That’s a little overly intense. I thought you said you can control it.”

Avendel looked mildly hurt. “I can. You were absorbing all of that, I could feel it.” she complained.

“Can we go a little slower anyway?” Liz requested.

“Sure.” She reached for Liz’s hands again, but this time the information wasn’t so overpowering. Liz could see and even connect some of the images together.



A pale, almost white-blue sky.

The Antarian Palace – the castel e gwynt

A young soldier, or guardsman.

A royal bedroom, the door opening.

A courtroom lined with people.

Fragments of Ki-van languages.

The Ki-van embassy on Antar.

“You need to put more of your hair up. That’s almost an indecent declaration.”

“The King will receive you in the ante-chamber. He will be informed presently of your presence.”

A herald strode into a camp tent. “Lord D’ran, second war leader, has arrived. He will attend you presently.”

“White and green are the representative Queen’s colours. The Guardians wear white and gold as a demonstration of their ties to the throne – both blood and political.”

A knife fight in a corridor, followed by a class in a training hall.

A noble from the court being attended by a courier.

“Tell me about Tarisia.”

“It’s a land in the far South. Small, but economically viable. They export spices to nearby lands like Treborough, who trade for it with silk from fahlis moths. The recent earthquake has upset their economy briefly, but they are expected to have decent crops again with the next three years…”

A school lesson with children singing.

Khivar, arguing with a guardian with a braid to her waist.

A herald in yellow. “Lord T’san would petition for peace from the Queen.”

A garden inside the palace.

A silver bracelet.


Avendel let go, and Liz let her hands drop into her lap, then winced and flexed her wrists. “Ouch.”

“What’s it like?” Isabel asked.

Liz thought. “Like more informative flashes. It’s your turn, see for yourself. But let me tell you – Khivar is one ugly guy.”

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

“Name two southern provinces.”

“Llywarch, and, uh, Adda. Tell me representative Herald’s colours.”

“Yellow for a petition, orange for a declaration, purple for war or hostilities. Name two nobles titles.”

Aeva turned to her sister, curled up beside her on the couch like a great lazy cat. “What are they doing?” she inquired.

Avendel grinned lazily. “They had their first lesson today, while you and Atariel were out playing, and now they’re showing off.”

Aeva chose to ignore the comment about “playing”, and watched Liz and Isabel debate some obscurity from two beaten armchairs. “Sounds more like a game.” She commented after a minute.

Avendel shrugged, then deliberately elbowed her sister in the ribs. “You know what teenagers are like. All forms of playing are designed to impress.”

“Teenagers, hmmm?” Aeva challenged, a dangerous twinkle in her eyes. “Have you forgotten how old I am, ‘Del, my dear?”

Avendel turned laughing eyes on her. “That’s exactly what I’m referring to – little sister.” She emphasised.

Aeva groaned. “Do you know how weird that is?” she asked.

“Tell me about it. You’re the older twin, that’s why you’re in charge. And now I come to this little earth planet and find out you’re still seventeen.”

“Jealous?” Aeva teased.

“Not by half. Then again, now I get to play the older sister card off against you.”

“Hah, vengeance for our last lifetime? I was a good older sister.”

“Yes, but now I’m six years older than you. That’s just… weird.”

“Uh huh. It’s weirder for me, I do believe. Think about what’s happened on Antar in the last fifty years, none of which I really know about.”

Avendel yawned expansively. “That’s why we’re here.” She reminded Aeva.

“Silver lining to every cloud.” Aeva said with an intentional dig. She could see it worked when Avendel’s eyes lit up, and she actually sat up on the sofa.

“Are you calling me a cloud?” she asked in pretended indignant disbelief. “I think I’ll go back to Antar, thank you!”

“Nup. As a soldier under my command, I demand you stay.” Aeva said lazily.

“That was evil.” Avendel felt obliged to point out.

“Yeah, yeah.” Aeva yawned. “I can’t believe we just got here and then it went and snowed. Who picked this house again?”

Avendel laughed. “Do you really want me to answer that?” she asked. She slid down on the couch again, tucking her feet under her, and glanced out the window. “Urk. At least you didn’t make us stand guard in that.”

“Like there would have been any point. If I’d even tried there would have been a mutiny.”

“Mmmph. You did set up wards, right?”

“Please, ‘Del. Who do you think I am?” Aeva asked painfully.

“My little shnookie-baby sister.” Avendel cooed, trying to grab Aeva and give her a noogie. Aeva twisted away and avoided it easily.

When they had both stopped laughing, Aeva did an automatic scan of her charges. Liz and Isabel had given up their game and were staring absently into the fire. Asanda and Tari were sitting cross-legged across from each other at a coffee table, working together on the transmitter. Every so often they would break into murmurs over some small piece, reach an agreement, and either discard or reattach the piece. Aeva had faith in them, but the pile of discards did some alarming large to her eyes. Max sat watching the two of them from a nearby chair, occasionally asking questions in a soft voice.

“They seem to be having fun.” Aeva said finally, referring to the Fix-it team. Avendel followed her gaze and laughed.

“Those two? Oh yes. You should have seen them at home, little Misses Science and Mechanics, debating and discussing the pros and cons of every piece of equipment we have.”

“So you guys hang out as a unit at home?” Aeva asked casually.

“Mmm, mostly. It’s just easier that way.”

“It might not be entirely healthy, you know.”

“What? Oh, no… you should know that, Aeva. Being who we are, we can never block out the rest of the world. We have to interact with it too much to ignore it.”

“Good. I wouldn’t want us turning into some incestuous little society.”

Avendel screwed up her nose. “Oh, thank you for that mental image that I so did not need.” She complained.

“Av-en-DEL. Please. Restrain yourself.” Aeva made a sound of disgust.

“You brought it up. But, anyway, what I was going to say was that a lot of the time we need to focus inside our little group. Take… Atariel, for an example.” She waved her hand towards the dark haired girl sitting by the fire.

“She’s the best mek fighter on Antar. The only person who is even close to her in skill-level is Asetya – who happens to be in our group and to have undergone the same training. Coincidence? No. If either of them want to develop that talent, the best way is within the unit.”

“That was very smooth.” Aeva commented.

Avendel grinned. “Did you like it?”

“It was great. Who’s been giving you diplomacy lessons?”

“Asetya, actually. See? Case-in-point.”

“Oh, shut up.”

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





[ edited 2 time(s), last at 16-Aug-2002 10:26:55 PM ]
posted on 6-Sep-2002 7:45:13 AM by Puzzlechild
Part Seven

Aeva let her eyes adjust, standing just inside the bedroom door. As she waited, she could gradually see Atariel – still lying in bed, but awakened by Aeva’s simple presence. Mek training, let alone that for Guardians, ensured that this would happen.

“Tari, I need you.” Aeva said softly, aware that Asanda was awake in the next bed, and respecting that she probably didn’t want to be fully awakened at this time of morning.

Atariel shuffled in the bed, sighed, and flipped the covers away. She dressed in record time, seemingly uncaring of the presence of either Aeva or Asanda, and tied a kerchief over her sleep-messed hair.

“Let’s go.” She whispered, casting a sidelong look at Asanda’s bed. Aeva stepped aside to let Atariel pass her through the door, and their legs brushed together softly. Aeva stepped away carefully and shut the door quietly, following Atariel down the hall.

Atariel opened the door to the back room, and Aeva walked up to the transmitter, already set up on a table in the room. Atariel joined her after a moment and handed her a pair of headphones. For normal use, they would be unnecessary, but this early, sound would carry. And Aeva meant outside the house, as well as to the other bedrooms.

Atariel had pulled on a separate pair of headphones, and had a far away look in her eyes as she spun a dial, slipping through channels to find a clear frequency. If they couldn’t find a clear one, they might have to assume they were being tapped at some point of the line. Aeva watched anxiously until Atariel gave her a thumbs up and took her head set off, heading for the window seat.

Aeva adjusted her headset and sat down at the desk, waiting for a receiving signal. Watching Atariel absentmindedly, she saw the other girl stretch softly and then curl into herself, shutting her eyes to doze off. When the awaited signal came in, Aeva jumped, before reminding herself what was going on and clearly tapping her own code back.

Five bucks says it’s Damien. she muttered, only half way conscious she was projecting it.

No bet came Atariel’s sleepy mind voice.

“Aries Delta receiving.”

“Affirmative. Aries Beta Two receiving.” It was Damien.

Told you Came Atariel’s self satisfied mind voice. Aeva ignored her.

“Affirmative. Line confirmed clear. Venus is under the impression that Beta has information for us. Affirmative/negative?” Aeva asked.

“Affirmative. We have information that indicates Blue Star is moving towards your… constellation.” Aeva suppressed a snort at the new term, then stopped short as she realized what Damien was implying.

“Confirm. Blue Star is moving towards Venus?” She rapped out.

“Negative. Blue Star is moving towards areas where Venus has previously been sighted. Venus appears safe for now – the sky seems clear.”

Translate, Aeva told herself sternly. Khivar knows where we’ve been, but he hasn’t, possibly can’t track us where we are now. The sky seems clear… that seemed familiar. Clear Sky meant that they were safe, in the clear so to speak. Appearing clear – hmmm.

“Any indication of how Blue Star is following our planet?” Aeva asked.

“Negative. Transmitter contact has been ruled out. Possibly a minor nebula has switched stars. The lights are unclear.”

A betrayal? Aeva mused. Whoever it was, they couldn’t be very advanced in the Antarian hierarchy. All entries were screened, and to take on certain rank while off planet required massive clearances.

“Information received and confirmed. Query further movements.”

“Beta has requested I inform you to pass on to Venus that a certain…” Damien’s voice broke off. He seemed confused, or possibly even embarrassed. “Marvin the Martian and Tweety are seeking Venus. They wish to make contact in thirty six hours.”

What the…? Aeva thought. She had no idea what it meant, but if Michael had cleared it to tell them, it had to be important.

“Confirmed. Venus will be informed.”

“Signing out. Next rendezvous 36 hours.”

“Confirmed. Offline.” Aeva told him. She slid the headphones off, and switched the transmitter off at the base.

“Well, that was interesting.” Atariel observed, swinging herself out of the window seat. Aeva watched her with interest. The extra twenty minutes of sleep seemed to have revived her, and she was back to her usual self.

“What was interesting?” Aeva asked.

“Watching you bite your lip and frown to yourself.” Atariel answered flippantly. “But I feel sorry for your lip.” She flipped her braid over in front of her shoulder, running a hand over it possessively.

Aeva noted that somewhere along the line, she had managed to rebraid it without Aeva noticing. Her dark hair was as tightly bound back as always, and in the dim light, she was reminded strikingly of Liz.

“My lip will survive just fine, my ears however may not. Nor my sanity, if I do not get more sleep.” Aeva retorted.

Atariel shrugged, smiling slightly. “Earth is making you soft.” She observed teasingly.

“I seem to recall that the Princess is still asleep.” Aeva defended herself.

“Yes, and the other one wants to be. Run along, back to bed then.” Atariel grinned. “I may as well stay up, after all, someone needs to look after you lot.”

Aeva would have argued with her, but a yawn somehow possessed her, and she didn’t get any choice in the matter. Atariel pushed her gently out of her seat and then towards the door.

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

Max was about to raise a hand and knock on Liz’s door when Asanda came striding down the corridor towards him. He turned to the side to watch her approach him, marveling once more at the differences in the four Guardians.

While Aeva was almost as short as Liz, she gave off an impression of being taller, and walked purposefully. Atariel had a bounce in her step that showed off her exuberant personality, and Avendel seemed somehow softer than the both of them. Asanda, on the other hand, reminded him of Isabel at moments – utterly impartial and non-judgmental, calm and able to be relied on at any moment.

Well, Isabel in a good mood, anyway.

When Asanda came right up to him, she touched his arm lightly to gain his attention, then told him, “We’re going down to the lake this morning. It’s easier to work on powers out in the open.”

“Should I wake Liz up?” he asked, slightly worried.

She shook her head no. “She’s working with Atariel this morning, but not til later – let her sleep.”

“What are they doing?” Max asked. He knew Liz might not particularly want to work with him, but was that what this was about?

Asanda shrugged. “Don’t know. Ask Aeva or Liz if you’re really interested, Tari might not tell you. Can we go down now?”

“I want to see Liz before we go.” He said, turning back towards the bedroom door. He glanced over his shoulder at Asanda, and added, “I’ll be back in a minute – remind Isabel, otherwise she’ll take forever.” He opened the door and stepped inside.

Inside, Liz lay asleep, curled into her side. He smiled, closed the door after him and made his way carefully to the bed. Her side rose gently with each breath, and if he stood entirely still, he could just hear her breath sighing out. Max took a step closer, and guiltily raised a hand to touch her.

If she were awake, he wouldn’t do this. If she were awake, she’d flinch away before he could touch her. But for now she was asleep, and Max let his hand rest gently against her cheek. He raised a finger to knock back a strand of her hair, then let his hand just rest again.

Needing an excuse, a reason, just something to say, he lowered his head to just above her ear and murmured gently, “We’re going down to the lake with Asanda. I don’t know when we’ll be back, but stay safe my l – Lady.” He corrected himself before the mistake passed his lips, but he’d still made it.

Regretfully, Max pulled away from the bed and headed for the door, where with his luck, Asanda and Isabel would both be waiting impatiently.

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

Elia examined the kekali blossom critically, then motioned to the gardening servant who followed her with as basket and knife. “This one.” She instructed, and watched as he stepped forward to carefully cut the stem of the flower and place it in his basket with the others.

Gesturing to him to follow, she linked her arm loosely with Aeva’s once more and began to make her way down the row of trees again.

“I don’t know, really.” Aeva said abruptly, carrying on their conversation from before. “It’s an old tradition, but some of those are the ones most worth keeping.”

Elia sighed. “Aeva, what kind of useful tradition insists the Queen wear her hair loose to her waist? It may be a royal prerogative, but it’s more of a royal pain.”

Aeva shrugged, absentmindedly a dropped kekali blossom. “It does make sense, ‘Lia. Only the immediate royal family can have hair anywhere near as long as yours, and it makes certain forms of identification much easier. Guardians keep it braided out of respect and as part of their uniform. It’s hierarchical, and it makes certain things much simpler.”

Elia let out a sudden laugh. “But it seems so ridiculous!” she exclaimed. “The first way the common population would go about telling you and I apart is our hairstyle, and that’s just insane!”

Aeva acknowledged the comment with a lofty wave of the flower. “While I realize you and I look nothing alike, that has not always been the case.” She reminded Elia. “The custom was partly developed because of the close relationships between the Guardians and the throne. And the common population is a good reason to allow the custom to stand.”

“Even if I did abolish it, you’ve still got your earring.” Elia pointed out mischievously.

Aeva snorted. “Then people would pick up apart by which ear is pierced, peering at either side of our heads. I was
there when you got that done, Elia.”

Elia gave her patented mischievous look, then laughed, pretending to applaud Aeva’s wit. Still laughing, she turned away to gesture to her servant once more. “Take – that one.” She instructed, pointing to a flower high on the tree. “Then take your basket inside.”

Aeva pulled her away from Elia’s, bowing as her Queen turned and leveled a querying gaze in her direction. “Forgive me, my Lady, but the ties to the throne you mention require paper work. If you would excuse me, I need to attend to some.”

Elia smiled, then asked teasingly, “Whatever became of your lovely sister? I thought she managed for you.”

Aeva feigned a deep sigh. “Now that we are of age, and I the elder,
I have to manage everything. Thanks big, Elia.” She snorted.

Elia laughed. “You may leave.” She allowed, and Aeva bowed from the waist, the only obeisance due from a Guardian. The servant made a deeper curtsey and then left, trotting neatly towards the main building. Elia gathered her skirts and started to walk down to the end of the row to the seat Zan had commissioned for her. He had placed it exactly at the spot where she used to sit on the ground and feel the sun, so she couldn’t stain her dresses any more – although, as he said, Zan didn’t really mind.

“It means you have to take them off all the sooner.” He said in her mind, and she smiled at the memory, then was utterly startled by a voice behind her.

“A lovely lady like yourself should not be unattended in a garden.” The voice said. Elia whirled and found it belonging to a man faintly reminiscent of Zan, although she could not say how. He smiled the, a twisted smile that became a smirk. “May I… attend you?” he requested, putting an emphasis on the words that left no doubt of his meaning.

“Thank you, sir, but your attendance is entirely unrequired and unnecessary.” Elia said sharply. “Also unseemly. Who allowed you into this garden?” she demanded.

The man took a quick step forward, and before he knew it, he held one of her hands in his own. “Ah, but you see Elia… you did.” He quickly grasped her other wrist within his hand.

“Release me.” She ordered, more angry than afraid.

“I don’t think so, Liz.” he gathered her in towards him, and she, unbelieving, stumbled towards him. He embraced her now, against the front of his body, and Elia was starting to be afraid. Who was…?

“I’m not Liz.” she stated firmly, searching for options. If she screamed, he might become violent, and then the whole Castel would end up finding out. Better to end it now. Her hand darted towards the knife in her sleeve, and she gasped at finding it empty.

“A step ahead of you, my dear one.” He said, and saw to her horror that he brandished the knife with his left hand. Feeling her shrink back, he laughed, then threw it deliberately past her. “I don’t need this.” Without warning, he swooped down and his mouth covered hers, his tongue probing entry to her mouth. Struggling, Elia managed to draw back an inch.

“Aeva!” she screamed. She could feel the response to her mind bond call, but somehow she knew any help would arrive far too late.


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

Atariel was shaking Liz gently when she heard her suddenly cry out. Forgetting protocol that would usually indicate she not touch Liz unless Liz did so first, she grabbed the other girl and shook her bodily. Liz’s eyes flew open suddenly, and Atariel suppressed both her relief and her instinctive start.

“My lady? Are you all right?” Atariel asked, concern over her Queen’s seeming bewilderment once more overriding any protocol. “Lady?” she queried anxiously.

Liz shook her head, and her eyes focussed suddenly. “Just a dream.” She muttered, then looked up to see her Guardian leaning over her. “Atariel?”

“Are you all right?” Atariel asked again. She frowned slightly. “You were talking in your sleep.”

Liz smiled, but it was a wan effort, and Atariel could tell it wasn’t entirely real. “I’m fine.” She reassured. “Just a bad dream.” She blinked again and looked at the light spilling in the window. “How long did I sleep? What time is it?”

Atariel straightened her back, standing up straight now. “It’s uh, eleven. You slept a while, but Aeva said to leave you.” She said, rubbing a muscle in her back. There seemed to be more to this than Liz was telling, but Atariel was just the Guardian. If Liz wanted to talk about it, she would, and in the meantime, Atariel figured she should keep her mouth shut.

“Where are the others?” Liz asked, yawning.

“Aeva’s more dead to the world than you, Asanda’s at the lake with the King and Isabel, Avendel is… I don’t know. You and I are here.” Atariel listed.

“Ah. Does that mean I have to scurry on down to the lake?” Liz asked.

Atariel shook her head, caught by surprise for the second time in five minutes. The folks back home would pay to see that, she thought, then immediately felt guilty. Didn’t anyone around here talk to anyone else?

“Uh, no. Actually you’re with me this morning – learning to fight. Aeva should have told you.”

Liz considered, her head cocked to the side a little. “No, actually she didn’t, but that’s ok. I gather I’m supposed to trust you.” She gathered the quilts from her waist and tossed them back. “What am I learning exactly?” she queried.

Atariel grinned, this was an easy question. “Knife fighting.” She answered, and waited eagerly for a response.

One came, but it wasn’t the one she was expecting. Liz turned fully, looked Atariel right over once, then laughed. “It figures.” She said, and what she was supposed to understand from that, Atariel really didn’t know.




posted on 20-Sep-2002 3:12:11 AM by Puzzlechild
Part Eight


“Spread your feet out a little more.” Atariel instructed from just behind Liz’s right ear. Liz did as she was told, then nearly lost her balance as Atariel nudged her foot another inch outwards with her own. She wrinkled her nose as she rebalanced, shifting her weight more over on to one leg.

Somehow, the lesson wasn’t quite what she’d expected. What she had expected, Liz had no idea. If it was that she would suddenly remember all her experience with knife fighting that she wasn’t even sure she had had in another life, she had been sadly disappointed. Atariel hadn’t even given her a knife yet, so she had that to look forward to – in a sense. If it resembled the knife she had seen in her dream, Liz didn’t even want to know about it.

“Now step forward into your right foot,” Atariel was saying. Liz did as she was told. “Keep your body straight. That’s good.” She approved. She came around in front, where Liz could see her, and looked her over critically.

“You have my problem.” She said in a conversational tone. “You’re too small to get into body strength fights, so you need to play keep away. It’s frustrating, but it’s probably in your best interests.” She looked Liz over again from head to toe, and sighed. “That’s why you and I knife fight. Let Asanda do the arm wrestling.”

“Why am I learning to knife fight?” Liz asked, letting herself relax a little. She found that she could keep her body in place and still be fairly comfortable.

“Aeva says to.” She answered in a voice that indicated that was all the answer necessary.

“Why does Aeva say to? She usually has reasons.” Liz pointed out.

Atariel gave her a surprised look, and then wrinkled her nose. “Liz, I realize you’re one of the few people who can ask Aeva anything they want and get away with it, but I’m not. When Aeva tells me to do something, I usually follow through.”

“Yes, I can see that.” Liz said with a perfectly straight face. “But then you don’t know.”

“Ask her yourself. I know you’re braver than me.” Atariel said in an admiring tone. Her eyes shone with sincerity, and if Liz hadn’t spent the last three weeks with the girl, she might almost have believed her.

“Do we have to do this?” Liz asked plaintively.

Atariel laughed. “I’ll behave.” She promised. “Let’s keep going.”

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

Liz rolled her arm from the shoulder, trying to loosen muscles, and winced at a particularly sore joint. Reaching up with her left hand, she tried to loosen the knot with her fingers, but couldn’t get the proper pressure on it.

A knock came at the door, and Isabel and Aeva came in to the room together. Liz shifted from where she sat cross-legged on the bed so that she could face the two of them. “Hey.”

“Liz, that’s not very queenly, you know.” Aeva scolded. “But seeing as it’s you, I’ll let it pass.”

“What did you do to your shoulder?” Isabel asked.

“Lessons with Atariel are more fun than the others, shall we say.” Liz answered wryly. “That is to say, she had fun, but I did not.”

Isabel turned to Aeva with a sigh. “Aeva, have you been getting your Guardians to beat up the poor Queen again?” she asked. “You know that’s really not fair. Even Atariel is bigger than her, and that’s starting to say something.”

“I’m sure Tari would find that particular comment very interesting Isabel, make sure to repeat it to her.” Aeva answered sweetly, making an attempt to stare Isabel down from her own rather modest height.

The stare-out lasted a few seconds, then Isabel laughed. “Touché.” She announced, and dropped onto the bed beside Liz. “So, why have you been letting them beat you up?” she demanded.

Liz shrugged, then winced again as the movement caught at her shoulder. “Apparently Aeva told Atariel to, so I guess we need to ask her.” she turned to Aeva. “Aev, why am I being taught self defense?” she asked directly.

Aeva blinked. “We – that is, I – thought you might feel more comfortable over all if you feel you can defend yourself to some extent.” She answered. “If, however, it’s resulting in you being molested by Tari –” she grinned, and Isabel scowled. “Perhaps another arrangement might be required.” She looked inquiringly at Liz.

“No, it’s fine.” Liz answered quickly. Perhaps too quickly. The coincidence between the knife she’d had in her dream and the one Atariel had showed her remained at the forefront of her mind, and managed to make her nervous. “I’m glad I’m learning, I just – wondered, is all.” She rubbed her shoulder again absently.

“Right.” Aeva confirmed, then nodded. “So what did you do to your arm?” she asked.

Liz rolled her eyes skyward. “Nothing. It just hurts from practicing so long.”

“Let me see.” Isabel offered, and knelt beside Liz on the bed. She put a hand on Liz’s shoulder, feeling for the tightened muscles. “That has got to hurt.” She commiserated.

Liz winced. “Thank you, Isabel, for that helpful diagnosis.”

Isabel smiled, but didn’t answer. She seemed distracted, and a moment later Liz realized why.

Liz remembered very little of the last time Isabel had healed her – she’d been badly hurt, in pain, and almost asleep at the time. In fact, if she remembered rightly, she’d fallen asleep while Isabel was trying to heal her. From what she could remember, though, this healing seemed very different. For one thing, she could actually feel Isabel – or at least, Isabel’s powers – move inside her.

It wasn’t entirely pleasant – having muscles shifted into place and loosened hurt, no matter what technique used – but at the same time it was somewhat comforting – that she could feel Isabel like that. No matter what face she showed to the world, Isabel cared a lot more about people than she would openly admit – especially Liz.

“What are you – Isabel, don’t.” Aeva realized a moment too late what was happening. She shook Isabel out of the trance. “Don’t ever do that without telling someone first.” She lectured. “It’s not fair to them, especially if they can’t shield.”

Isabel looked faintly rebellious. “I know what I’m doing. Asanda taught us how to shield this morning, so it’s not like I saw anything I shouldn’t have.”

Aeva rolled her eyes to the ceiling. “God defend me from stubborn women.” She complained. “It’s not enough I get to deal with the Lady Queen, I get her successor to deal with too. And if that’s not enough, they then send Tari and the others. Why me?” she demanded.

“Do you want me to repeat that to Atariel?” Isabel asked slyly. Aeva glared at her when she found her own threat thrown back in her face. She flicked her braid over the front of her shoulder and ran a hand over it possessively.

“To just completely change the topic, we used the transmitter this morning.” She told them both. Isabel opened eyes she had just closed, and Liz felt herself sit a little straighter at the news. They had agreed not to use the transmitter for a while after they moved, and Liz was only realizing now how much she had enjoyed the not knowing about the problems Michael and his troops were probably facing.

“What did you hear?” she asked quietly.

Aeva sat up straighter, obviously feeling a need for some dignity in her role as first Guardian. “Firstly, Khivar, as of right now, doesn’t know where we are. He’s had men go to, or has himself gone close to areas we’ve been in the last year, but as of yet we have no indication he knows where we are now. That information is highly classified, and for now, we should be safe – recent blizzard taken into consideration.”

“He doesn’t know where we are now, but he knows where we’ve been in the past?” Isabel asked. Aeva’s eyes flickered towards Liz, then moved back to Isabel. Technically, Liz should have been the one asking questions, but somewhere along the line they’d gotten into the habit of letting Isabel in on all but the most sensitive reports. “How can he do that?” Isabel questioned.

Aeva shrugged. “I don’t know. Damien thinks a minor operative might have switched sides, but that’s a very rare occurrence, and a dangerous assumption to make. We have to watch everything we do, not just blame a once off traitor. We do know that they’re not following the transmitter signal, so that’s one thing we can feel safe about.”

“All right. What else?” Liz asked after long moments of processing.

“Well, uh, there’s a rather strange message for you. It doesn’t make any sense to me, but if Michael cleared it, it has to be important.” Aeva said, sounding embarrassed. Liz and Isabel exchanged a curious glance.

“Aeva, what are you babbling about?” Liz asked finally, when it became clearer Aeva was going to have to be pressed. “What’s this weird message?”

“Well, Damien didn’t know either, so it’s not my fault. Apparently, two persons wish to talk to you tomorrow evening.” Aeva told them. Liz frowned, not understanding.

“And these people are?” she asked curiously.

Aeva coughed, looking miserable. “Marvin the Martian and Tweety.”

“Who the hell are they?” Isabel asked wonderingly. Liz was about to echo her sentiment when –

“Oh my God.” She blurted out loud. “No way, there is no way!”

“What? What?” Isabel asked.

“My sixth birthday party. There was a cartoon character theme.” Liz told them excitedly.

The other two exchanged confused glances. “Somehow, I think I’m missing something.” Aeva confided to Isabel.

“Alex and Maria! Alex came as Marvin, and ‘Ria was Tweety!” Liz was thrilled. Aeva and Isabel still weren’t getting it, and she shook her head mentally. “Don’t you get it?” she demanded of Isabel. “They’re with Michael! They’re safe! And they want to talk to us!”

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

Max watched Liz lean over the edge of the pathway surrounding the lake. Beside her, Atariel was blithely standing ankle teeth in the freezing water. Max swore he saw ice chips floating and clinging to her skin. She was either crazy or had no appreciation of how cold it was.

“See, the way it works, there’s some water pumped from underground, which is gathered slowly, and some of it is gathered from here.” Atariel was explaining. “Since we drink some of it, we just test it every so often and make sure it’s all clean. If it’s gone bad, or it’s contaminated, we use the water just from the underground tank. That can’t be corrupted.”

“Do you have this set up everywhere, or just at this house?” Liz asked, leaning dangerously out over the lake. Her voice had developed the scientific edge he loved to hear from her.

“Well, there aren’t lakes conveniently near most of them, but in some, yes.” Atariel teased gently. “The underground tank exists in most of the remote places – it’s just safer.”

Liz nodded. “Show me the next pump?” she requested. Atariel nodded, and started wading along the edge of the path to the next pump. Max followed the two of them at a distance, Liz on the path and Atariel in water that grew to knee deep.

“This one is stronger.” She told Liz. “See, it has the bigger opening and it sucks up more – they vary all over the lake, depending upon how clear we think the water is likely to be at that point. If there are contaminants in one area of the lake, and we really need water, we just turn off the pumps in that section.”

Liz nodded again, leaning out over the edge of the water to look at what Atariel was showing her. Max could see her point out the pipe mouth and a few other bits and pieces, and he could also see Liz leaning out dangerously far. If she moved out another inch, he resolved himself he would grab her – wristband be damned.

She leaned out further, and Max prepared himself to make a lunge as he saw her start to slip. Atariel looked up at the same moment as he did, and it was she who managed to stop Liz taking a header straight into the lake, before starting to slide herself. Max grabbed the back of Liz’s shirt and started to tow her back up the bank, hoping Atariel could fend for herself.

“Max, quit it.” she ordered. “I know what I’m doing.” She was obviously annoyed.

Atariel looked up at them from where she’d finally regained her footing. “Liz dear, if he hadn’t grabbed you, you’d be in here with me, and we’d both be in the deep part.” She pointed out. “And you may not have noticed, but it is somewhat chilly out, and it’s even colder in here. I’m not sure if it’s my toes or a fish wiggling in my boot.”

“Ewwwww. Atariel, shouldn’t your foot feel somewhat different to fish scales?” Liz asked.

“That’s the only thing telling me the difference just now, believe me.” She squinted up at Max. “Would you mind being a big, strong, manly man and helping me out of here? I think my boots are sinking into the mud, too.”

Max took a few steps to the edge of the lake and took the hand Atariel offered him, pulling her up and out of the pond. He noted absently that in the afternoon light, wisps of hair falling around her face, she looked unusually like Liz – particularly considering the work they’d just been doing.

“Thanks.”

“Sure.” Max let go of her hand quickly. “So, uh, what were you saying about the deep part?” he asked awkwardly.

Atariel looked around and pointed at a nearby tree. “See that?” she asked. “Once you get maybe three meters into the lake, it’s approximately that deep. Another reason it’s not fun to swim here.” She shivered. “Are we nearly done sightseeing? I’m freezing.”



posted on 27-Sep-2002 1:45:19 AM by Puzzlechild
Part Nine

Isabel crossed her ankles casually, watching Liz watch Atariel. She could guess what was going through Liz’s head, but Atariel remained somewhat of a mystery – except while around Aeva. She could make as many jokes as she wanted, but she obviously had some sort of hero worship thing going towards Aeva. Probably.

Liz, though… Liz was the person she was worried about right then. She had confessed to Isabel the night before just how bad she felt about leaving without ever telling Maria or Alex what was going on. Bad enough to disappear, but when she disappeared with almost their entire company of aliens – double bad. Isabel could guess Liz felt some major guilt coming on.

Strangely enough – or so it had seemed at first to Isabel – Liz regretted leaving Maria and Alex more than she did her parents. When she had considered the situation, though, she thought she understood more. Maria and Alex had known some part of the trouble they were all in, and therefore were much more worried than her parents could ever be. Then was the fact that her parents had seemingly been lying to Liz her entire life – they couldn’t possibly have been her real parents. Isabel figured that was reason enough for resentment, and enough to absolve a lot of guilt.

Maria and Alex had to know some of what was going on now. That they were with Michael at all suggested they knew some part of what was going on. Isabel only hoped that they’d come of their own free will, not because someone was out to kill them. Their best defence was that they didn’t know anything about where Liz and the others were, part of the reason Aeva had insisted on leaving without telling them or anyone else, but a defence that could easily fail. If Khivar knew what they meant to Liz, he would not hesitate to threaten or kill them if it gained him anything at all.

Liz moved in her chair, curling her legs into her chest and hooking her feet on the edge of the chair. It never failed to amaze Isabel how tiny Liz really was – if Isabel had tried the same move, she probably would have fallen off the chair. She certainly wouldn’t be able to tuck her feet beneath her, either. In Liz, though, the move was an unusual one – most often adopted when Liz was upset or nervous and needed comforting.

Isabel reached out a hand to her. “Are you okay?” she asked quietly.

Liz looked at Atariel, talking into the transmitter. “A little nervous.” She admitted. “I feel bad for not telling them anything. Michael even had to tell them we’d left. And Aeva – Maria is never going to understand about her.”

“We didn’t have a choice about leaving.” Isabel reminded her. “And what do you mean, not understand about Aeva?”

“Aeva’s like… my other best friend. I trust her. You’re my sister Is, you know that, and Aeva’s my best friend, but I don’t want to hurt ‘Ria either.” Liz explained.

“Maria will understand.” Isabel assured her, feeling a little helpless. “If she’s your best friend, she’ll understand.”

“Thanks.” The look Liz directed to Isabel explained far more of how grateful she was for the reassurement said far more than the words. She smiled, took Liz’s hand and squeezed it in silent understanding.

“I think we’re through.” Atariel said suddenly, interrupting their quiet moment. “Just let me get through Damien and I’ll hand you two over.”

“Sure.” Liz said casually, but Isabel could feel her hand tremble a little before she drew it away firmly and folded her hands neatly on top of her knees. They waited for several minutes while Atariel talked to the transmitter and listened to replies. Finally she took off her headphones.

“We’re through. Your friends are online.” she directed a bright smile at Liz. “I’m changing the settings so you don’t need to use the headpiece. Have fun.” Stepping out of her chair, she walked around them both to get to the door.

Liz switched chairs, moving to be closer to the transmitter. “Venus.”

“Liz? My God.” It was Alex’s voice. “We’re sooo glad to talk to you.”

“Ditto what he said. But you’re in trouble, Missy. What is this, skipping town without telling us? I thought we were Thelma and Louise, hon, you can’t just pull that stuff on me! I mean really!” Maria, going into hyper mode already.

“I didn’t mean to ‘Ria, I didn’t get a choice in the matter. I wasn’t exactly expecting it, otherwise I would have warned you in advance.” Liz apologised. “I missed you both, believe me.”

“We missed you. You’d better believe it.”

“Yeah, but I guess we really shouldn’t have been surprised. Trust you to fall in love with an alien King! Wait, maybe we should have guessed. I can’t believe we spent our entire lives around you and you’re, you know…. Czechoslovakian. It’s crazy.” Isabel had to laugh at that one.

“Maria, as I recall, you spent most of your life around Michael and Max and I and you never guessed, so I’ve gotta say, you’re developing a bad track record. I mean really. Zero out of four is a pretty lousy ratio.” Isabel said, nudging Liz away from the transmitter for a moment.

Silence on the other end. Then “The ice princess too? What is this?” Maria, sounding disgruntled.

“Maria!” Alex was horrified. Isabel turned to Liz threateningly.

“What is with people calling me that?” she demanded. “Are you in on this? Is it one big conspiracy? Is that it?”

Liz leaned around her to the transmitter. “Ria, maybe you shouldn’t have said that name, considering she’s sitting right here.” she said. “I realise you’re across country, but she’ll probably beat me up now.”

Isabel gave the best curtsy she could, considering she was sitting down and not wearing a skirt. “Never, your Majesty.”

“Yeah, that’s another thing I want to hear about. How exactly are you an Antarian Queen? I’ve seen your baby photos! You’ve gotta be human.” Maria complained.

“That’s one of the questions I never got to ask my so called parents.” Liz said coldly. “I promise, if I ever find out, I’ll tell you.”

“Okay, so you don’t know why you have baby photos. You don’t know why your parents didn’t tell you you’re adopted. Do you know why you’re the Queen?” Alex sounded hopeful.

“Not exactly. Let’s just say things carry over between lives, as far as Antarians are concerned.”

“Oh, and as to the baby photo thing.” Isabel interrupted. “Liz came out of her… pod, early. So she could have been adopted as a baby, thus, baby photos. Also why her powers didn’t develop til recently.”

Maria shrieked. “You have powers! Oh my God! So cool! What can you do? Are you going to turn me invisible? Does this make me like a lowly human to you now? I – mmphl mmph urgh – Alex, quit it! Mrph!”

“Ahem. Sorry about that. Maria had to be gagged. So, tell me, these powers, do they have to do with you getting flashes from Max before?” Alex was genuinely interested. In the background, Isabel could hear Maria protesting.

“Probably. We haven’t really had time to figure out just what happened and why. Aeva thinks my pod might have been damaged slightly when they came down, so I got released early and my powers didn’t waken until later. I guess that made it more difficult in some ways.” Liz answered, sounding a little uncomfortable. Isabel knew why. Liz didn’t like talking about anything to do with Max. It encouraged awkward questions.

“Who’s Aeva?” Maria asked, obviously having gotten control of their transmitter once more.

Isabel winced to see the look on Liz’s face. This was practically destined to go badly, so she took over. “Aeva is Liz’s Guardian. She found Liz, and the rest of us, and we’re with her now.” Liz shot her a grateful look.

“What’s a guardian?” Alex asked curiously.

“You guys totally need to start badgering Michael more.” Isabel said, exasperated. “Doesn’t he tell you anything?”

“Mr Stone Wall Guerin himself? Don’t be ridiculous. Besides, we only got here two days back. He’s been busy.” Maria answered them blithely. “So what’s a guardian?”

“A Guardian is like… they protect Liz. They’re dedicated to her. They’re like guards or advisers, or, I don’t know. It’s like a rank, sort of, but they’re all dedicated to Liz. For life.” Isabel explained.

“Now there’s more than one?” Maria sounded horrified.

“Yeah Maria, I think that makes sense. You know, the whole evil alien trying to take over the world which involves stomping the royal four… more than one Guardian sounds great to me.” Alex argued with her.

Liz laughed aloud. “You two… gods. Aeva is like, the head Guardian, and she was the one who found us. She’s great. Really.”

“Will I like her?” Maria asked suspiciously. In the background, they could clearly hear Alex telling her to sniff some cedar oil.

Liz and Isabel both laughed. “Ill be very disappointed in you if you don’t.” Isabel warned her, before breaking into more laughter.

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

“I can’t believe we got to talk to them.” Liz turned shining eyes on Isabel. “It was so great to hear from them. I missed them so much. More than I thought. It was great.”

Isabel laughed at her. “I forgot how much Maria babbles. It seems to have rubbed off on you, too.”

“I am not babbling!” Liz declared hotly. “I’m just happy. Very happy.”

Isabel’s eyes softened. “I’m glad. But you’re still babbling!” she laughed.

“I am not!” Liz defended herself. “I’m – thirsty. I need water.”

“Yes, your majesty. Let me get you something to drink.” Isabel bowed mockingly from the waist and ducked as Liz swung a punch her way. “Violent, aren’t we?” she teased.

“I’ll get my own drink, you horrible person.” Liz wrinkled her nose at Isabel and went into the kitchen where Atariel and Avendel were talking around the table.

“Hey.” Liz waved in passing, and headed for the sink, grabbing two glasses off a shelf as she went. Isabel took one of them off her and nudged her away from the sink, filling her own glass before letting Liz do her own. Laughing at Liz’s outrage, she took a mouthful, then immediately spat it out. She looked up to see Liz about to do the same.

“Liz – don’t!” she grabbed Liz’s wrist, knocking the glass from her hands. “Something’s wrong with the water.”

“What?” Isabel had forgotten Atariel and Avendel, but now they were right there, obviously on edge and ready for business. Atariel took the glass of water away from Isabel and sniffed it.

“What’s wrong?” Liz asked breathlessly.

“At a guess, the ice has frozen around the pipes, maybe cracked them, and something is getting into the water between here and the lake. We’re going to have to use the underground cache.” She handed the glass back to Isabel. “Don’t let anyone drink this.” She instructed, then turned to Avendel. “We’re going to have to go down and turn off the pumps, otherwise more of this is going to come into the house.”

Avendel nodded, looking entirely miserable. Isabel glanced outside – more specifically, at the night sky hidden over by clouds, the snow, and the absolute lack of light. She didn’t envy either of them the joy of going down to the lake in that.

Avendel turned to Isabel. “Tell Aeva and the others. We need to go down right away.” Atariel was already on the move, but Liz caught her sleeve.

“Wait – can I come?” she asked.

“Why? It’s cold, windy, probably going to snow, and dark. Yuck. Why do you want to go out into that?” Isabel asked incredulously.

Liz shrugged. “Atariel was showing me how the water system worked. I want to see how the pumps work together, too.”

Atariel and Avendel exchanged glances. “Sure.” Avendel said finally. “Just grab a jacket and some decent shoes. We shouldn’t be too long.”

Liz flashed a grin. “I’ll be right back.” She promised, dark hair flying out behind her as she ran for her bedroom.

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

“So how it works, there are four sets of controls around the outside of the lake. Each one controls a quadrant of the lake and the pumps there. Atariel will take the east side, we’ve got the west, and I’ll show you more as we go.” Avendel explained.

Liz nodded, trying to keep up. The three of them were walking down the path towards the lake, and the two Guardians both seemed to be walking faster than she was. Avendel was taller, so that made sense, but Liz couldn’t explain how Atariel managed to keep several steps ahead of them at all times.

She shivered as a breeze stirred the trees around them, dripping partially melted snow onto the path. Neither of the others seemed to notice, nor did they react to the frigid air around them, despite wearing only a light jacket each. Liz assumed that the training Atariel had told her about included not reacting to sub freezing temperatures.

When they reached the top of the stairs leading directly down to the lake, they split up. Atariel broke off to follow another track to around the other side of the lake, and Liz and Avendel went down the steps. Down here the wind was stronger, and Liz could hardly hear Avendel talking.

“We’re going to go out to the furthest controls first, then we can do the other ones on the way back. It won’t take long, so hopefully we’ll be back before Aeva can realise I’ve stolen you. Let’s go.”

Liz nodded and followed her along the side of the lake. “Avendel!”

“What?’

“Did you hear something?”

“No, wind’s too loud. Why?”

“I thought – never mind.” Liz turned to look out over the lake, where she knew Atariel had gone. “Avendel!” she yelled immediately.

“I – shit.”

Avendel didn’t get to hear what Liz had seen, because at that moment the same thing happened to them. Three dark figures appeared in front of them on the path, and when Liz glanced back, another two behind them. A sixth appeared briefly in the darkness beside the path, then faded back into the trees.

Liz, get out of here! Now! Avendel ordered tersely.

I can’t.

Jesus. Without another word, Avendel leapt into battle. Try and keep one of them off my back. she threw back wildly.

I can’t! Liz thought desperately. Avendel kicked one of them in the knee, brought her elbow sharply into his ribs, and brought a hand up in time to break his nose. Another started to reach for her, and she snap kicked his hand. Liz saw a knife blade flash in the air before it went flying out over the water.

Two of them started to come for Liz herself, and she tugged the knife Atariel had given her from her sleeve and held it the way she had been taught. One of them grabbed for her arm and she slashed forward instinctively, felt the blade connect briefly. The man dropped her arm, but the other grabbed for a hold of her hair and she shrieked in pain and fury.

The first one grabbed for her arm again, and when she slashed again she felt nothing but air. Fighting the one holding her, she glanced out across the lake, saw Atariel struggling with another one of the figures, surrounded by another two. As Liz watched, they tumbled into the lake.

The knife was knocked from her hand, and for the first time, Liz remembered to be afraid. Aeva! she shrieked. Max!.

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

“Should they have been gone this long?” Isabel asked. “It seems like a very long time to go turn a pump off.”

“Several pumps.” Asanda reminded her. “But they are taking a long time. Maybe we should –”

Aeva! Max!

Without a word, Asanda dropped the plate she was holding and ran for the back door. In the next room, she heard Max and Aeva do the same. Isabel started to run herself when she realised that it was Liz’s voice she had heard.

posted on 20-Oct-2002 8:01:18 AM by Puzzlechild
Bleh. Okay, a while since the last part. In my defence, I was abducted and taken to New Zealand in the middle of that. I also had a major hard drive crash (on my brand new, first PC), and hence lost what work I had done towards this part. So a little short, a little late, but cut me some slack. I promise no one died in the meantime. Although you might have tried to kill me during the long wait. Heh.


Part Ten


Afterwards, Aeva couldn’t remember running down the path towards the lake. She could remember, faintly, hearing Max crash along behind her, and behind that, Asanda’s quieter footsteps. She couldn’t remember anything until she hit the stairs down to the lake, then started to run around the eastern side towards Liz and her sister.

She pelted down towards them, seeing two on the ground and another hanging on to Liz. Three of the men warily surrounded ‘Del, none of them seeming willing to close in on her.

Aeva felt a rush of air go past her neck and then saw one of the men in front of her go to his knees, only belatedly seeing the knife in his back. Asanda’s, Aeva noted. ‘Del had taken advantage of the brief change of their attention and kicked the dark figure closest to her. Aeva closed in on the nearest one – who was hanging onto Liz – and took him down.

Then Max was helping Liz up from where she’d fallen to the ground, Asanda was taking her knife out of the man’s back and cleaning it, and everyone was looking at Aeva.

“Everyone get the hell back up to the house. Now.” She ordered. “Get whatever you can and get the hell out. Wait.” She glanced around quickly. “Where’s Tari?”

“She went around the other side.” Avendel said, breathing hard. Aeva stared at her in horror, then took off around the other side of the lake. She could hear someone starting to follow her.

I SAID get back to the house! she yelled. The footsteps stopped. Aeva kept running.

The first thing she saw was the two figures standing waist deep in the lake. The second was two bodies on the path in front of her. The third was what the two people in the lake were holding underwater. Aeva launched herself into the lake.

The first one looked up just in time to see her hit him in the chin. He staggered back, letting go of Atariel. Aeva followed him and hit him again, this time hard enough to stop his breathing for a while.

Judging by the way he landed face first in the lake, possibly permanently.

She turned to face the other one, who suddenly yelled in pain and lurched back. Aeva hit him anyway, breaking his nose hard enough to send pieces of the bone up into his head. His eyes rolled back in his head and he fell back.

There was a spluttering noise, and Aeva waded towards Atariel’s limp form and grabbed the back of her shirt, hauled her up by it. Blood dripped down her face, and water poured off her. Her head fell back, and for one horrible moment, Aeva thought she was dead.

Then her eyelids flickered, and Aeva immediately thumped her hard in the back. Atariel’s head came forward, and she choked up water.

Aeva was so relieved, she almost didn’t mind being thrown up on. Almost.

She hauled Atariel in towards the bank and then released her collar, letting Atariel drop to her knees and empty her lungs of the water she’d swallowed. Aeva watched nervously, constantly aware of how long they had been here and whether the others had already left. She put that thought to the side for the moment – she was not going to leave Tari here now.

Atariel retched one more time, then drew her head back. Her hair was soaking, her face was covered in blood, and one arm looked as though it was broken. Somehow, she managed a smile.

“Am I ever glad to see you, princess.”

Aeva goggled, then recovered as best she could. “Thought you’d had it.” She answered as casually as possible.

“Hell no. I’m hard to kill.” Atariel smiled. She jerked, then turned to the side to throw up some more water. Aeva cringed, horribly aware of how exposed they both were right then.

Atariel spat out a last mouthful, then wiped her face. Aeva offered her a hand to get up and winced at how cold Atariel was getting.

“We have to get out of here.”

“I know. Tell me Max and Liz have already left.”

“If they haven’t, I’m going to be really pissed.”

“Tell me about it. I don’t suppose you got my knife, by any chance?”

“No, where is it?”

“Two. One is in the lake in that guy’s leg. The other one,” Atariel kicked one of the bodies on the sand, “Is stuck in this bastard’s ribs.”

Aeva looked at the body in the lake, remembered how cold Atariel was, and volunteered to get that one. Atariel grunted and tried to pull the Mek out of the limp body on the sand.

“Time to get out of here.” Aeva offered her the knife. Atariel took it awkwardly, then knelt down and stuck it into the side of her boot. The Mek she held confidently in her left hand.

“Let’s go.” She said calmly. Blood had trickled down from the hairline gash again, and Aeva wasn’t sure she could see, but there wasn’t time to worry about that. Atariel could walk well enough, with the occasional stop to puke, and that was enough for now.

Halfway up the stairs, Atariel staggered and nearly fell. Aeva revised her opinion of how well she was managing and threw an arm across Atariel’s shoulders. She glared, but leaned on Aeva gladly enough.

By the time they got to the house, Aeva could barely feel her arm, Atariel was half way to unconscious, and Max and Liz were still waiting – alone – in front of the remaining Tahoe.

Aeva would have happily killed one or both of them, but she really couldn’t do that, if only because she was the only thing keeping Atariel on her feet, and therefore alive right then.

Liz at least had the grace to look guilty as the two of them approached. She started to open her mouth, but Aeva cut her off.

“I really don’t want to know why you’re here, alone, in the middle of the night, after being attacked. In fact, the chances are that later I’ll be really pissed about this, but right now, please, just get the fuck in the car and let’s go, all right?” she all but begged.

Liz blinked. Max was slightly faster than her, and took Atariel off of Aeva. Any other time, both Aeva and Atariel would have been annoyed at his carrying any one of the Guardians, but right now that was just too much effort.

“Mind her arm. It’s broken.”

“Gotcha.” He carried Atariel to the backseat of the car and put her down gently. “Now can we please get out of here?”

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

“Tari’s freezing.”

“Is she awake yet? Blinking at all?”

“No. Her eyelids fluttered a while back, but that’s it.”

“How cold is she?”

“Very. Her hands and arms are freezing, her face is cold, she’s shivering and she’s still wet. Her hair has soaked all over the seat. How cold do you think she is?”

“Shit.” Aeva turned the wheel, trying to think and avoid traffic at the same time. She clicked the car heater up another notch, acknowledging that it likely would not do much, but feeling unable to do anything else.

“I don’t suppose Asanda taught either of you heat transferrals yet?” she asked hopefully.

“I haven’t had lessons with Asanda yet, remember?” Liz reminded her. She lifted Atariel’s head where it rested in her lap, trying to make her more comfortable, then wiped away the spill of blood that resulted from the slight movement.

“I have.”

Aeva glanced across at Max, then looked back at the road, cursing the rain. “Has she taught you that?”

“No. Isabel taught me years ago. We used to heat our cafeteria food.”

“But Tari’s alive. That’s a little different, isn’t it?” Liz asked. She pushed strands of her hair back from where they fell across her face, tucking them neatly behind her ear. Max observed her approvingly, and Aeva resisted an urge to hit him.

“I can dry her clothes, at least. Try and warm her skin.” Max offered.

“Clothes only. Liz, try find a blanket. There’s one under the seat, I think.” Aeva instructed.

She watched from the corner of her eye as Max climbed carefully between the front seats and knelt down awkwardly beside Tari, then swore as a Volkswagon nearly sideswiped the car. She swerved and swore again, then threw a middle finger out the window for emphasis.

In the back of the car, she heard an obscenity from Max as his head connected with the back of her chair, and an indrawn breath from Liz. Aeva wasn’t sure whether it was a comment on her driving, or the fact that Max had just swung dangerously close to her, but she tried to focus on the road after that. She didn’t look back again, but she did feel the warmth emanating from Max’s hands as he tried to help Aeva’s Guardian. After a while, he climbed back into the front seat.

“She’s warmer now, I think.” Liz reported from the back. “Not waking up, though. And ergh, there’s blood everywhere.” She tried to use a corner of the blanket to blot it. “Aeva, she’s losing stacks of blood.”

“We don’t have time to stop and heal her now.” Aeva tried to sound as unemotional as possible. “She’s unconscious, Max can’t do anything for her unless she’s awake, and Asanda’s in the other car. We’re snookered.”

“Whose brilliant idea was this?” Max demanded. “First going down there in the dark, then solo rescues and splitting up? What is this?”

“There was no way of knowing any of this could have happened. Our enemies aren’t supposed to know where we are, remember? There was no known danger when Liz and the others went down to the lake, and they were all lucky to get out of there alive! Or had you forgotten?” Aeva hissed back at him. “If you really want, your highness, we can stop right here and you can start leading again!”

“Because you’re doing such an excellent job here, aren’t you?” Max spat back at her. “At least–”

“Both of you. Stop it. Right now.” Liz ordered. “I don’t care what this is about. I don’t care about some damn pissing contest, because in case you hadn’t noticed, Atariel could die back here. While the two of you are arguing over something idiotic. So just stop, all right?”

“Right.” Aeva muttered. She changed gears, not looking at Max.




[ edited 1 time(s), last at 21-Oct-2002 2:45:15 AM ]
posted on 25-Nov-2002 4:38:13 AM by Puzzlechild
Subterfuge - Excellent commentary! You're right - Aeva doesn't like Max. At all. But I suppose that's to be expected, right? And as for your guess about the title, well, good theories. You might even have iven me some new good ideas.... :D

Everyone else - thanks heaps for the FB! It means a lot! And hopefully the next few parts will come along faster - I have four planned as of here and now.

Part Eleven


The first thing Atariel felt as she woke up were the arms picking her up.

The second was the cold wind that immediately slid through whatever clothing covered her and hit her skin full force. She immediately squirmed, trying to get away from the horrible feeling, and was hit even harder by the pain slicing through her arm.

“Is she awake?” Aeva, she identified through a red haze, and she sounded worried.

“Part, I think.” The voice came from above her, and she realised it was Max carrying her. How humiliating.

“Her eyelids fluttered, she’s waking up.” Liz, sounding as anxious as Aeva. “She’s gotta be freezing, get her inside.”

“Right.” Max started walking faster, and she felt it in the way she rocked against him. She clutched at him, trying to still the motion against her arm. At a guess, it was probably broken. She mentally pictured the scene, her attacker picking her up by, and then snapping her arm, and re-evaluated. Badly broken.

“God, what happened to her?” Asanda talking now. The other guardians and Isabel must have arrived first.

Max stepped over something, and the light and air temperature around her changed. They’d gone inside, it seemed, finally. Atariel started counting blessings and thanking her gods.

“Four guys, no weapon and a lake. You do the math.” Aeva answered tersely. “Do your healing thing already.”

“Uh huh. Max, we need you to put her down some place.” Asanda sounded distracted, and Atariel could guess that she was probably already forming her healer’s plan. Excellent. Not that she was complaining or anything, but her head was started to throb too, and she still couldn’t open her eyes.

“Put her on the couch thing.” Aeva instructed.

“Couch thing? Aeva, that’s a day bad. What planet were you born on?” Isabel sounded horrified, and if Atariel hadn’t felt as though she might die shortly, she would have laughed. Her lungs had had enough trouble lately, thankyouverymuch.

Max moved forward, and she felt herself be placed gently onto the couch/day bed. Opening her eyes still didn’t seem to be an option, but she felt it as someone knelt on the bed beside her. If she was in a normal state of being, she would have known who it was by her private radar, but that seemed like a slightly excessive use of powers just now.

Whoever it was to her right tugged on her sleeve gently, trying to expose her arm. They were careful, but it hurt. Make that multiple, bad breaks, she decided.

“Tar? You awake yet?” Asanda asked. Okay, so it was her hanging onto her right arm. Make a mental note. “It hurts, I know, but try and stay still. Your arm’s broken at least twice. We’ve done this before, so just try relax, okay?”

“Uh huh.” Good, at least her mouth worked now, even if it still felt like her eyes were sealed shut. Considering how much her head hurt, that might be an actual option. Eww.

She made an effort to relax, but healing did a lot to waken nerves she thought she’s frozen in the bottom of the lake. It hurt. A lot.

She heard herself whimper, determined not to move despite the pain, and felt her nails dig into the mattress below her. A moment later, someone picked her hand up and held it soothingly in their own.

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

Aeva watched anxiously as Asanda did her best to heal Tari. She was one of the best, but Tari was sliding in and out of consciousness at best, had been partially drowned and beat up, and her head had started bleeding again. Aeva took a quick glance at the white cushions Tari was lying against and made a mental bet that it was a bitch to get blood out of white materials.

Tari hadn’t moved in several minutes, and Aeva was fairly sure she had fallen asleep. That was probably a good thing, but it made her nervous, considering Tari had nearly died once tonight already. She patted the hand she held in her own, reminded briefly of the experience of nursing Lonia through her nightmares.

“Her arm’s done, her lungs are a little weakened but okay – as long as she stays out of water and extreme cold for a while, she’ll deal. Her head is what I’m worried about – that gash is nasty.” Asanda mused. “That happened before she went in the lake?”

“Yeah. She was in there when I arrived.”

“I can tell, it’s filthy. We’re going to have to clean that one out the old way.” Asanda decided. She turned to the people hovering around them. “Del, would you get the other med kit? And some water?” she requested calmly before turning back to Tari’s limp form

“Do you need help?” Max asked. Asanda didn’t look up at him, but shook her head slightly as she tilted Tari’s head to get a better angle.

“I’m fine, and it’s easier if I do it – we’ve done this before, she trusts me.”

Aeva didn’t think anyone else noticed when Max took a quick, deep breath at that statement before edging back. She tried to ignore that and focus on Tari.

“It looks like her hair is pulling on the injury – can we loosen it somehow?” Liz asked.

Asanda was sorting through the medical chest ‘Del had given her. “That’s probably a good idea.” She agreed distractedly. “Her arm is fine now, so you can move her if you need to unplait it.”

“Uh huh.” Liz sat on the edge of the mattress and pulled out the band that held Tari’s braid tight. She started to pull her fingers through links of the braid to loosen it, then tugged out the knots. When she got halfway, Aeva took over, only to be stopped seconds later by Tari herself.

“I don’t know what you guys are doing, but you are so not taking my hair out in public.” She insisted.

Aeva had to smile. “Yes, we really are. And now, the next time you lose consciousness, we know how to wake you up.” She teased.

“You’re really not unplaiting my hair.” She said flatly.

“Yes, I really am.”

“It’s indecent!”

“What’s so indecent about it?” Max asked curiously.

“Pay more attention to your history lessons, Sparky.” Tari snarked. “Aeva, have mercy. You’re exposing me in front of the King, for God’s sakes.”

“And the Queen, and two princesses.” Aeva reminded her. “Shut up.”

“You owe me for this.”

“Whatever.” Aeva answered dismissively. “At least you have nice hair.”

“That is so not the point. Why can’t I open my eyes?”

“That would have to do with the blood all over your face.” Liz winced at that, Aeva noticed.

“Aeva, can’t you do your transfigurey thing?” Tari pleaded. “It’s bad enough you’re all standing around doing the pity thing, but I can’t see!”

“Stop whingeing.” Aeva admonished. She waved a hand over Tari’s eyes, using her powers to dissolve the hardened blood and remove it, then absent-mindedly retook Tari’s hand. “Happy now?”

“Actually I think I’m bleeding again. Asanda, get a damn move on already.”

“If you weren’t senior to me, I’d so get you back for that.” Asanda assured her. “We’re ready now, anyway.”

She dipped a cotton swab into the bowl of water ‘Del had brought her and leaned over Tari. “I imagine this I going to hurt like hell.” She advised calmly, starting to clean the injury.

If the way Tari’s fingers tightened on Aeva’s was any indication, it did hurt. A lot. Tari said a swear word Aeva hadn’t heard since she’d left New York, then went silent.

When Asanda re-wet the swab and leaned in again, Tari hissed, then started speaking under her breath. When Aeva leaned closer, she could just hear enough of the inflections and patterns to realise what she was chanting.

“What’s she saying?” Isabel asked nervously. Max had backed away to a nearby chair, and Liz was sitting on the bed, anxiously twisting her hands together, but Isabel still hovered beside it.

“She’s chanting in Antarian.” Aeva answered briefly. “Knife fighting patterns.”

Asanda looked up briefly. “Kinda makes you wonder if there’s a psychological defence reflex to develop obsessions – so you can think about them while under extreme pain.” She suggested. Tari twisted on the bed in obvious pain, and she looked back down immediately.

“Aeva, could you hold her, please?” she asked suddenly. “This shouldn’t be happening, but she’s a little lost in the other world right now.”

“Uh huh.” She answered uncomfortably. How best to…? She shuffled around on the couch until she could hold Tari’s shoulders down. “This okay?”

“Fine.” Asanda answered distractedly.

Aeva shuffled awkwardly again, trying to find a comfortable way to sit and still hold Tari. She was still hissing sequences under her breath, obviously trying to focus on anything besides the pain of what Asanda was doing her. Had it been anyone else, Aeva would have expected them to have fainted by now, but this was Tari. Naturally she was awake.

“Why’d they go after her and not me?” Liz asked unexpectedly.

“Decoy tactics.” Asanda explained briefly.

“What?”

“They were supposed to. She looks like you for exactly that reason – to draw off attackers. No offence, but she can still handle a knife better than you.” ‘Del explained.

“Oh God.” Liz said unclearly. “Oh, my god.”

“She’s going to be fine, Liz. Really.” Aeva said insistently, suddenly aware there was more than one problem here. She started to sit up so she could look more at Liz, and Tari immediately started to get away from her.

“I – I’m going to – go.” Liz said unclearly. She stood up from the daybed before Aeva could stop her and walked quickly out of the room. Aeva would have followed her, had Asanda not started working on Tari again right then.

“Damnit!” she hissed. “Avendel, go after her!”

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

It took a while, but Avendel was finally able to get through the haze of exhaustion surrounding her brain to use her powers to work out just where Liz was. She found her sitting halfway up a flight of stairs to the upper storey of the house.

“Liz?”

“I’m fine, please go away.” Liz said shortly, obviously with little faith that she would be listened to.

“Can’t, Aeva might hurt me.” She apologised, starting to walk up stairs. Liz didn’t answer, and Avendel settled herself comfortably on one of the steps. There was a long silence.

“Wanna tell me what that was about?” Avendel asked eventually.

“Nope.”

“Okay.”

“I just hate this so much sometimes.” Liz said with an edge of bitterness. “I didn’t ask for this – I’m not even sure I want it. I’m fairly sure I don’t, a lot of the time.”

“What don’t you want?”

She sighed deeply. “Not having a choice in anything. Not knowing what’s going to happen from day to day. Not being able to have a say in what happens in my life or who’s willing to die to protect me.”

“That really bothers you, doesn’t it?”

“What?”

Avendel waved a vague hand in the air. “Us. Guardians, bodyguards, the whole concept.”

“What, I’m supposed to be thrilled that you’re going to follow me around and get killed in the act of defending me?” Liz asked sarcastically.

Avendel shrugged. “Maybe not thrilled, but I guess it’s better than dying young.”

“Right, because you getting killed is totally not going to bother me. Tari, Asanda, Aeva getting killed isn’t going to worry me?” Liz asked, her voice working its way up the scales. “I don’t think so. I think I’d rather end this now than let that happen.”

“No.” Avendel cut her off flatly. Liz opened her mouth to object. “Not you, not now, and not for those reasons. Not going to happen, Liz.”

“Why? Why is it so damn important to keep me alive? I’m sure Max can pick some other damn girl and have her be queen, let him. I don’t want this.” Liz told her with finality. “Find someone else to defend.”

“You think that’s going to change anything?”

“You wouldn’t be risking your lives for my sake.” Liz answered softly.

Avendel sighed. “If it wasn’t you, we wouldn’t be doing this anyway.” Liz looked confused, and she tried to explain. “Guardians aren’t always used. Most Kings and Queens can survive with the standard bodyguards, soldiers, whatever. Every so often, for very specific reasons, Guardians are trained.”

“Why for me?” Liz asked. “What makes this different?”

“Prophecies, I suppose.”

She snorted, an unexpected reaction, considering. “Please, not more of them. The last prophecy I heard told Tess she was supposed to kill me. We all know exactly how well that worked.”

“You know about that?” Avendel was surprised. “Then what don’t you understand? It has to be you. There is no one else who can do this.”

“Understand what? Do what?” Liz asked, annoyed. “All I understand is that I have four apparently suicidal Guardians willing to watch my every move!”

“There’s more than one prophecy, and they’re all very unclear, very unordered, very confusing. But, each one is whole as and unto itself. So as soon as one area of that prophecy is fulfilled, the rest of it will necessarily follow.” She glanced over to Liz, sitting on the next step up.

She nodded. “I understand.”

“The part of the prophecy Tess told you about wasn’t from the start. That one starts maybe fifty years before you were born, and told people on the planet that they needed to wake us up and train us again.”

“So?”

“So we know it has to be you. It’s in the prophecies. It’s in the stars, even. No matter what the circumstances, you have to be Queen. No one else can do it.”

“Why me?” she asked plaintively.

“Ask the prophets. Ask the stars, even, but it has to be you.”


posted on 20-Dec-2002 5:43:23 AM by Puzzlechild
If anything doesn't make sense, I'm tired and it's nearly christmas so just email me and nag me ok? DOn't expect it to mean anything later.

Merry Christmas


Part Twelve


Isabel jammed a thumb on the toaster handle and shoved it down. She held it there for a second.

Despite her best efforts, the moment she let go, it jumped up again. She scowled and looked elsewhere.

“Aeva, the toaster’s screwy.” She announced

“Wha?” Aeva muttered hazily from beneath a blanket of sleep. She opened her eyes, then immediately groaned and shut them.

“The toaster’s broken. Or something.” Isabel reiterated.

Aeva still hadn’t moved from where she was slumped over the kitchen table. “And?”

“Are you not hearing me? Toaster. Broken.” Isabel enunciated clearly. What was so hard about this?

“Isabel, I could really care less. Go annoy Tari.” She dropped her head back on her arms and groaned again.

Isabel wandered into the lounge room, gesticulating and muttering about the obstinacy of certain blonde aliens. Atariel was stretched out on the day bed, which had been cleared of both blood and cushions from the night before.

“Atariel – ” she started.

Her hand lifted off the couch. “Toaster. Broken. I heard you. What do you want?”

Isabel stared. Was her request really so damn hard?

Crystalline green eyes opened and blinked twice before focussing on Isabel. “I’m just jerking your chain. Let’s go.” She grinned before flicking herself off the couch.

Isabel followed her into the kitchen quietly, with an extreme effort to control herself and not throttle someone.

Once inside, Atariel made a beeline for the toaster and started examining it happily. “The cord is fine, handle won’t settle…. Ah-ha!” she crowed triumphantly. “The pin here is dislodged… knocked out of the socket…. See?” she asked happily.

Isabel stared. Aeva rolled her head over on the wooden table. Atariel beamed.

“I think it’s illegal for you to be so happy.” Aeva finally muttered.

Atariel smiled happily. “No, it’s fine.” She contradicted Aeva. “I’m on a post-almost-dying high. No drugs, no alcohol, and I haven’t smoked *anything* in over a week, so it’s perfectly legal.” She bounced towards the stove. “Anyone want scrambled eggs?”

“Coffee. Please, coffee.” Aeva whined. “And for the love of God, stop smiling.” She draped her braid over her eyes and dropped her head back on her arms.

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

An hour, two cups of coffee, and a brief report from Asanda who was patrolling later, Aeva was feeling a hell of a lot more…. Hybrid.

Tari was scraping the last of the plates into a bin beside the sink, humming absent -mindedly. Isabel was working through her third cup of coffee, laced with Tabasco and sprinkles.

Aeva wondered briefly what happened to all the pretty colours when they sunk into coffee sludge, and decided she didn’t want to know. Instead, she seriously considered going back to sleep with her head on the table.

“So did we have a plan for today, or are we gonna sit around until the sky starts raining blood or something equally pleasant?” Tari chirped. “I figure I should know – I could at least put my knives away somewhere high and sheltered. They’re a bitch to clean, you know.”

“Thank you for sharing.” Aeva said into the table. “And no, there are no forecast blood showers. Unless they put something special on the late news that I missed.”

“Awww, damn.” Tari feigned disappointment.

“Don’t suppose you want to come visit Damien, by any chance?” Aeva asked hopefully.

She considered carefully. “He owes me money for an arm wrestle.” She shrugged. She didn’t elaborate, and Aeva decided that counted as a yes.

“Why are you visiting Damien, exactly?” Isabel asked curiously.

Aeva shrugged. “He’s a nice guy. Apparently he owes Tari money. He’s got a pretty awesome car, and did I mention that handy little army he’s in charge of?” she shrugged again. “Seems like a good excuse for a road trip to me.”

“Now it’s a road trip?” Tari asked. “Gods, no one tell ‘Del. We’ll never get rid of her.”

Aeva tried to ignore Tari’s extreme happiness. It was difficult. Isabel was starting to look interested, which was part of the plan, so she figured it couldn’t be hurting her cause. "Wanna come?" she asked.

“Where are we going?”

Aeva shrugged. “He’s going to give us details as we get closer. I do know the meeting place is a beach, so how bad can it be?"

“Don’t tempt fate.” Isabel warned her. “I’m in.”

Aeva grinned. “Excellent. Now go get a jacket while I tell ‘Del where we’re going. She can tell Liz, cos I don’t really want the privilege of waking her up right now. She’s always cranky after these little life and death situations.”

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

What was obvious was that Liz was tired, cranky and annoyed.

What wasn’t obvious, was what Avendel was supposed to do about it.

“Where’s Aeva and Tari and Isabel?”

“They went to go find Damien.”

“Why.”

“So we can protect you guys better. Aeva wants us to hook up with Michael’s crew, maybe see about getting a ride out of here.”

“And she decided this all on her own?”

That sounded dangerous, Avendel decided. “As far as your safety is concerned, Aeva makes all the decisions.”

“And all the decisions for the rest of my life, it seems.” Liz snapped. “Where’s Max?”

“Asanda’s teaching him about the type of healing she did last night. Most people can’t do it, but if he can it would be great for our resistance unit.”

“So we’re going back to lessons like nothing happened?” Liz was incredulous. And cranky.

Avendel refused to let herself be rattled. “We can’t be attacked here. The entire house is shielded and virtually invisible. We can’t be tracked. Even if we’re found, shields defend us. We can’t go outside, so what else did you want to do?”

There was a long silence. The kind of silence that makes you wonder what sort of alien powers your friends really do have.

“Fine.” She said suddenly, and flung herself into one of the armchairs.

Avendel followed cautiously. Aeva might have trusted her to handle a prickly, tired, angry defensive Liz, but she wasn’t sure she wanted to.

“What are we doing today?” she asked abruptly.

Avendel blinked. “Anything you want to. You have the basics of Antarian society, now we get to focus on the areas you’re interested in.” Cautiously, she got up to stand behind Liz’s chair and place a finger on either temple. “Anything in particular?”

“Tell me about Guardians. History, training, what you are, who you are to everyone else… what it means.” Liz directed. Her voice was curiously flat. Avendel had a feeling she knew the source of it. She also had a new guess for why Liz was so irritable this morning.

Ignoring that, she slid into the memory transfer easily.

//Guardians aren’t trained for every King or Queen.// she started, repeating the statement she had made the night before. //They are only trained when a specific prophecy is initiated, one that involves an A’gles – that’s the person who the prophecy revolves around. That’s you.


//Guardians are trained for everything that the A’gles could ever need them for. They are selected based on talent, skills, use and proximity to the throne. There are very few A’gles who did not have at least one Guardian they were related to by blood. Training starts young – Guardian prospects can be chosen at birth, initiated at twelve Antarian years old.

//They are trained in every kind of weapons defence, but each usually has a weapon or fighting style that they prefer. An example would be Tari’s fighting knives, or Asanda’s preference for close fighting. They are trained to use all of their powers, including those that would usually be latent in them – like Aeva’s shielding. Very few females can shield without support or training, she got taught how to do so.

//Guardians tend to have unique or unusual powers as well. An example would be Tari’s knack of finding people at long distances, when they’ve been lost or when they’re unconscious. Mine is this ability to transfer both thoughts and memories – I have a unusually strong talent for it, both in retaining memories and being able to share them.

//We are taught everything there is to be known about the realm, the people, the history, geography, economics, politics. We become advisers from a combination of knowledge and proximity, and we’re generally revered as such. We can teach and instruct in just about anything on Antar, and we know enough about anything in the galaxy to give you a good idea about it.

//Guardians usually have some status of their own, even before they become advisers to the A’gles. Relatives of the throne, daughters of nobles, countesses, duchesses, whatever. Their position is important in that their former rank earns their station respect, and also so that they can deal with becoming a Guardian.

//Guardians are relatively powerful in a sense. They have the ear of the reigning monarch, they’re among her immediate advisers, they’re constantly accompanying the A’gles in the role of bodyguards. They have their former rank to call upon, and the rank of being a Guardian. While they may not have money or land resources, they have unalterable political ties. Plus, they know every fighting technique there is.//
she added with a mental laugh.

//Tell me about your loyalties.//

A mental shrug. Avendel could feel they were starting to tread upon dangerous ground. //There’s little to tell. We’re yours. We have a hierarchy among us, Aeva at the top obviously, and we rank above everyone else you want to talk about, but we are yours. //

//No you’re not!// came Liz’s unspoken cry.

“When you get right down to it, Guardians are nothing except what they can offer the Queen.” Avendel said aloud, hardly noticing she did so. “Our lives, our service, our deaths mean nothing except that they serve you.”

“That’s not fair!” Liz protested loudly and immediately. “I don’t want that! I don’t want my life to depend upon anyone’s, let alone yours!”

“Oh yes?” Avendel asked sweetly. “Would you prefer everyone lived like that, only to serve Khivar?”

“I – no. You can’t – I won’t – this isn’t fair!” she blazed suddenly. “I refuse to be responsible for your death – any of you!”

Avendel smiled sourly. “But you’re not. The prophecy is, and we all live to serve that. Blame the prophecy.” She said, and went to find something to drink.





posted on 23-Jan-2003 6:31:19 AM by Puzzlechild
I'm supposed to reiterate this occasionally.

Title: Glass House
Author: gij
Feedback: Here, or to roswellbabette⊕hotmail.com I get a lot of junkmail, so if you're going to email, please put the story title in the subject line.
Disclaimer: Bite me, Katims.
Rating: PG-13, shall we say? I originally expected this part to be a lot nastier, I expected hate mail and flaming over it, but ti seems to have tamed down since I first planned it. No NC-17 for this fic, no sirree bob.



Part Thirteen


Aeva balanced the pebble on her finger for a few seconds, judging distance, then threw it several metres. It bounced twice before coming to rest on the rock she had thrown down earlier.

“Nice.” Tari admired from behind her. She clambered down over several rocks to sit beside Aeva. “That your party trick?”

“No, my party trick involves the rocks floating in midair and me throwing boulders at them from behind the house.” Aeva said mock-seriously. “Very impressive, here on earth.”

Tari laughed. “If we’re talking about on Earth, I can do some great tricks with a match box.”

Aeva raised an eyebrow and started to ask a question, then decided maybe she didn’t really want to. The look on Tari’s face cast her intended meaning into some doubt.

“Urgh.” Isabel said from behind them. “For the sake of my sanity, I’m going to pretend I didn’t hear that.” She clambered over a rock to sit somewhere near the two guardians.

“Grow up, Isabel.” Tari sounded amused. “Did you bring them or what?”

Isabel held up the binoculars she had in one hand, but didn’t give them to Tari. “I thought you purebred aliens could do anything with your powers.”

Aeva snorted. “Within reason. Manipulating light is Del’s trick, not mine. And we all know Tari is better with a test tube than a flash light.”

“I resent that.” Tari said airily. “But I’ll forgive you on account of the fact that I’m alive right now and last night I wasn’t really expecting to be.”

“Do you want these or not?” Isabel asked, waving the binoculars around.

“Not right now. Damien won’t be here for a while. Feel free to cruise the beach.” Aeva advised with a grin. “There might be some brave soul foolish enough to battle the wind and waves and generally crap weather.”

“Nice alliteration. And I resent that implication.” Isabel stated, already looking down the beach.

Tari laughed. “Sure she does.” She said it softly so only Aeva could hear. “How about you, princess? Feeling better now you’ve had some coffee and been awake several hours?”

“You cannot mock my coffee. I *saw* what you put into that yoghurt.”

Tari shrugged innocently. “There’s something wrong with yoghurt and honey?”

“I was referring to the black pepper packets.”

“Is it a sin not to like Tabasco? It’s just… gross.”

“I agree. And yes I’m feeling better.” Aeva looked seriously over at Tari. “How are you feeling now? Once you get past your whole ‘Yay I’m alive’ deal?”

She was silent for a long minute. Then, “Well, once you get past that, still pretty okay. I mean, a little unnerved, a little worried, but mostly okay. Survived to fight another day. And my head and arm are fine now.”

“I know what you mean. I got knifed in NY, and it was completely unrelated to A’gles, but I was freaked for days.” Aeva agreed. “You’re sure you’re all healed?”

“Uh huh.” She flexed her right arm, demonstrating. “I can turn it this way, and that way, and make a duck, and –”

“Thank you.” Aeva interrupted. She paused, not sure if she wanted to ask the next question. “How did that happen, anyway?”

Tari sighed. “You saw the two guys on the bank, right?” Aeva nodded.

“The first one was easy. The other hung back and he rushed in, obviously thinking a pretty little girl like me was harmless. He went down easy, then the second and third guy came together. I stabbed the closest one, and the bastard twisted as he fell, so when I tried to yank my knife out, it turned in his ribs and got stuck. By this time bastard number three had come in. He was the one that broke my arm.” She was remarkably calm about all of this, relaying the information simply to Aeva.

“So, jerk number three is still holding me and number four hits me – that was the head injury. Naturally I’m losing blood and lurching and somehow we all went into the water, and before I know it I’m swallowing water and they’re holding me under and I’m fumbling for the knife in my boot. That was when you turned up.” She added unnecessarily.

“Fun.” Aeva commented highly sarcastically.

“If that’s what you’re into.” Tari shrugged.

“Could you two please keep it clean?” Isabel asked in a pained tone. “Besides… who’s the spunk?”

“Hmmm?” Aeva held her hands out for the binoculars, which Isabel reluctantly relinquished to her. She focussed them out on the end of one of the long stone piers out from the beach. “Oh that’s Damien. Although, I must say, he is better looking in this life.” She mused.

Isabel laughed and tried to grab the binoculars back off her. “My spunk. I saw him first.” She attempted to stake a claim.

“Yeah yeah yeah.” Aeva got up off the rock she’d been sitting on and dusted the back of her pants. “You two stay out of trouble.” She instructed, setting off down towards the pier and not really understanding the look that passed over Tari’s face.

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

“Del?”

The voice surprised Avendel. She’d been chatting mentally with Asanda and hadn’t expected the intrusion.

“Liz?” she looked up.

Liz was twisting her hands together in front of her, probably unconsciously, but Avendel winced when she saw the pressure marks on Liz’s hands. She’d obviously been at it a while.

“I wanted to apologise for freaking out earlier.” She said in a carefully controlled tone. Avendel guessed the speech had probably been rehearsed earlier.

“I understand why you would.” She shrugged it off. “I’m awfully glad the prophecy has you in charge, I don’t think I’d handle it well.”

“Because I’m just doing fabulously.” Liz muttered. She held up a hand when Avendel opened her mouth to contradict her. “No, I’m not here to argue, I was… wondering if there’s anything more you could tell me...” She drifted off, slightly hesitant.

“About Guardians?” Liz nodded. “There’s not so much more to tell. We braid our hair as warning to the rest of the world, we take on an ‘a’ at the beginning of our names to denote our status, our dedication to the A’gles, we serve you lifelong or until the royal line is secure.”

“Until the royal line is secure?” Liz questioned.

Avendel smiled slightly. “There’s not much point in setting you on the throne if the next generation immediately degenerates into chaos, is there?”

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

Liz fumbled through a pile of her clothes that she was hoping were clean. One of the Guardians had thought to grab a handful of everyone’s clothing before they left, she didn’t know who, but she was grateful.

She yanked a shirt out by the sleeve and dumped it on the floor beside her. Another one followed quickly, and she grabbed another armful to sort through on her lap.

Wet spots appeared on the red shirt she had in her hand, and she stared at them blankly for a second before realising she was crying. Sniffing angrily, she wiped her eyes on her own shirt, then tossed the red sweater onto the double bed that dominated the room.

Getting up, she kicked the mess of clothes into a fairly uniform pile, then went to change her shirt. She had just finished unbuttoning the one she wore when the door swung open behind her.

“Liz?”

Max.

“Come in.” she said quickly. She tugged the shirt off and quickly swiped it across her face again before picking up the sweatshirt.

“But you’re…”

“Nothing you haven’t seen before.” She snapped back dully, regretting it almost instantly.

“Liz…” he fidgeted, obviously uncomfortable. She was past caring.

“Just close the damn door before Avendel or someone gets an idea they’re not supposed to.”

He hesitated a moment, then did as she said. Liz pulled the sweatshirt on over her head, leaving the front of it unbuttoned.

“Avendel said you were upset.” He muttered.

“Ah. And of course we must keep up pretences.” She snarked back immediately.

“That was the choice I seem to recall you making.” He said stiffly.

“Well I’m sure they weren’t expecting that little twist in the prophecy.” Liz muttered. “It’s not a good way for a returning hero to be proclaimed, is it now?”

He didn’t answer. Liz hadn’t expected him to. She took a deep breath, trying to make her self calmer, then let it out slowly when it didn’t seem to have any effect.

“Have you ever considered what it means to be King or Queen or royalty?” she asked him finally. Max frowned, obviously not understanding what she was getting at. “Of Antar, or Ki-va, or a galaxy, or, or England, or anywhere?” she stumbled over the words. “It means you’re of the royal family. Of the royal line. Which you’re expected to continue.” She added quickly, afraid she wouldn’t be able to continue.

Max stared at her for a long moment. She could feel through the mind bond the sudden storm his emotions and thoughts went into. He muted it quickly, but not before she could identify shock, disbelief, amazement, horror on her behalf, fear, and a singular singing joy that she preferred not to think about.

“Now?” he asked.

She shrugged, tried to ignore the shock and fear that rushed through her at the thought. Without a word, she walked forward and touched the silver band on his wrist. It immediately began to glow. Though she couldn’t see it, she could feel the band on her ankle pulsing as it too started to glow.

She stepped closer to him, trying not to think, to fear, or to remember.




Please no firebombing.