posted on 20-Dec-2001 4:42:24 PM by kaleidoscope
TITLE: Life as a Fish
AUTHOR: kaleidoscope
EMAIL: UNAVAILABLE AS OF THIS MOMENT
CATEGORY: M/L, AU
SUMMARY: Max Evans has spent his entire life in the public eye...okay, so it's not so much of a summary, but you'll figure things out.
DISCLAIMER: Heck, if I owned anything, there wouldn't be so much cheesy scifi on the show!


PROLOGUE

"I really thought we had all the kinks worked out."

"So did I. But he's not getting better."

"What's the diagnosis?"

"Oh, he's smart. No doubt about that. Sharp as a razor. That part's going to plan, at least. The part that I'm worried about--"

"His emotional maturity."

"Bingo. He doesn't associate with people. Not if he can help it. He isn't even particularly close to Philip and Diane. Nor with Isabel. And certainly not with any of his other peers. As far as I can tell, he doesn't have any real affection for anybody."

"Are you telling me that he's incapable of feelings?"

"That's the question of the day, isn't it?"

"Makes me wonder if we created a monster."

"Max Evans is an ambitious kid. The others were, too."

"Too ambitious, if you ask me."

"Right. That's the problem. He's falling into the same trap as the others did. He doesn't care how many people he has to steamroll over in order to reach his goal. He's ruthless. A machine. He doesn't put other people's feelings into account because to him, they're frivolous and expendable."

"Is that why Kevin's thinking of discarding him?"

"Right again. We can't afford to have people like Max Evans released into society. Kevin wants to start afresh. With the new studies available, he thinks that he's found a way to allow the enhanced Sawyer's gene and emotional capabilities to coincide peacefully."

"Philip and Diane won't give him up. I think they really care about the boy, whether those feelings are reciprocated or not."

"They don't get a choice in the matter. They knew there was a chance of this happening when they agreed to provide a home for him. Heck, they knew when they entered the selection process. Legally, Max Evans is a ward of the state--and maybe not even that. He's recognized as an experiment--not living, breathing flesh. He's ours."

"And these people think that the Evans boy is the monster? Maybe they ought to look in a mirror."

"What?"

"Genetically enhanced or not, Evans is still a human being. It isn't his fault that we decided to bring him to fruition in some mad scientist's lab. He didn't ask for it. He'd probably be just as happy being a normal, not-as-insanely-brilliant teenage boy. And then we don't even leave him alone, we hound him mercilessly, we watch every move he makes. We're like the damned paparazzi. Except those guys are even worse, if that's possible. They're just waiting for him to mess up. I can just imagine it. He stays out just a little bit past curfew one night, and next morning's tabloids read that the whole fucking experiment's a failure, and that Max went wild that night and boffed some girl from Turkey while getting drunk on vodka."

"Considering that the experiment mainly deals with expanding brainpower, how could it be a failure based on that alone? Now, if Max suddenly went stupid or something, I'd understand."

"Like that matters to them. Max Evans is the media's darling, just like...just like the President, or the latest It actor in Hollywood. Anything he does is a matter of importance."

"Anything? Poor kid."

"So I'm assuming this is his last chance. What do we do?"

"We wait and see. See if he can establish relationships, keep them, deal with others...the whole enchilada. We see if there's anything beyond the cold exterior."

"Just one person, right? If we can just get him to connect with one person, we'll know it's possible...I hope it works."

"So do I."

"But not because of the experiment anymore. Not because I want to finally be able to gloat how after all these years, after countless subjects, we've finally managed to do it. I want it to work--for him. I don't want him to be destroyed--like some animal in the pound--just because his actions don't correlate with what we think he should do."

TBC...?



[ edited 6 time(s), last at 16-Aug-2002 7:58:56 AM ]
posted on 30-Dec-2001 8:24:29 AM by kaleidoscope
TITLE: LIFE AS A FISH
AUTHOR: kaleidoscope
EMAIL: kaleidoscope⊕smileyface.com
CATEGORY: M/L, AU
SUMMARY: Max Evans has spent his entire life in the public eye, in a slightly unconventional way...
DISCLAIMER: Heck, if I owned anything, there wouldn't be so much cheesy scifi on the show!

AUTHOR'S NOTE: I hope everybody had a nice holiday break! I'm still on mine, and I'm busy with meeting friends (just came back from bowling with a grand total score of 60--guess I won't be winning trophies any time soon) and trying not to kill the fish that my friend gave me as a Christmas present (fortunately, she asked the pet store person for a fish that was hard to kill...). Add to that the fact that story beginnings are, without a doubt, the HARDEST aspect (to me, anyway) of a story to write, and there's my rationalization for why updates (at least for now) might be infrequent. I am also mulling over several other story ideas in my head, each one as appealing as the next, so...thanks for all the good feedback, though!

izzylizard: It's interesting that you mention the title of the story, considering the way this story was formed. *happy* I initially was planning to write another story and was coming up with possible titles for it, one of which was Life as a Fish. I eventually decided on another title that pertained more to the story, but definitely liked the ring of LaaF, and wanted to come up with a story that more suitably fit the title. So basically this whole story is developed around the title--a backwards process, you could say.


PART ONE

Previously, whenever Max had started at a new school, his parents--of course they weren't really, but he called them that because it was expected--would always give him the same speech. "Now, Max, we know you're nervous about starting at a new school..." And from then on, he'd tune them out. He was always vaguely amused when anybody tried to assume his feelings--as if they knew the inner workings of his mind! Fortunately, around the eighth grade or so, Philip and Diane had caught on and there were now no more lectures or pep talks on how Max had to be a trooper, how he just had to get through the first couple of days and it'd be easier...et cetera, et cetera.

Now it was just: "Have a good first day at school, son."

His unvarying response: "Right."

Today followed the same formula.

"Have a good first day at school, son."

"Right."

***

Max barely glanced down at his schedule, or the map the office assistant had provided him with. After a cursory glance at both, the information was already locked in his mind. He tucked the two slips of paper into the pockets of his jeans and started down the hall, which was now deserted except for the occasional late straggler.

His first class was Physics Honors.

Oh, joy.

Max reached the room and strolled on in. Nonchalantly, as if he were unaware that his face was plastered on nearly every major magazine in the country, as if he didn't know that his face was as recognizable as the hottest Hollywood actor. But of course he knew. He had to know.

All of the students were already seated--on stools--at tables for two. They looked up as Max entered--he noticed some kids' eyes widening in recognition. He barely spared them a glance.

A handsome, thirty-something guy approached him. The teacher, of course. Mr. Schneider.

"You must be Max?"

Give the guy a medal, thought Max rather sardonically as he merely nodded.

Mr. Schneider nodded towards the general class. "Take a seat."

The only empty seat was next to some dark-haired girl. She didn't look up as Max slid into his seat. But her seeming indifference to his proximity was betrayed by her body, as she visibly tensed up. Her grip on the pencil she was holding tightened, so much so that Max could see the whites of her knuckles.

I make her nervous.

The thought made Max smile inwardly.

***

Liz Parker hadn't known how to react when she had first found out that Max Evans would be attending West Roswell High for an extended period of time. Of course, she had kept up with his story more avidly than the normal high school student, being a science freak and all. So she had known that West Roswell High was one of a handful of schools in the running to serve as the location of Max's education. But she had never expected...never really thought...

And now he was frickin' sitting next to her.

She didn't mind, not exactly. After all...the guy was definitely cute, with bedroom eyes and adorable ears that stuck out. It was just that his very presence was intimidating. He possessed a coolness suggesting that he knew just how smart he was. Liz knew other people like that...and, suffice to say, she was not friends with them.

Liz was aware that Max was looking at her. As if sizing her up.

Determined to ignore his stare, Liz continued staring at her notebook, her pencil hovering an inch from the paper. But it was useless. It was like he was boring two holes into her brain!

Still not looking at him, Liz finally addressed him: "What?"

Through her peripheral vision, she saw a slow smile appear on Max's face.

"A bit jittery?" he said.

"What gives you that idea?"

"Your body language."

"What about my body language?"

"I make you nervous."

Liz was pissed now. It didn't matter that Max's assessment was correct. His smug way of speaking was really getting to her. She slammed her pencil down and turned to face him.

"Don't give yourself so much credit."

Max raised his eyebrows mockingly.

"I never do."

"Stop talking like you think your shit is perfume."

"Are you always this charming?"

"Shut up!"

Max smiled crookedly but--surprisingly--didn't say anything else.

Liz turned her attention to the front of the class, where Mr. Schneider had written something on the blackboard. She groaned--along with half the class--as she read it: EGG DROP PROJECT.

"A follow-up to our studies on the last few chapters," Mr. Schneider explained. "Each of you will individually construct a device of some sort that will safely transport an egg from the top of the football bleachers to the ground."

Liz had done something similar several years ago, in second or third grade. Of course, that project had merely consisted of putting as much soft material around the egg as possible to cushion the blow, and dropping the whole thing from an eight-foot jungle gym. It had been based more on luck than anything else.

Maybe she could do the same thing...put in some cotton, some bubble wrap, some more cotton...add a parachute, and she'd be golden.

"Now," Mr. Schneider continued, "there will be a few ground rules. I want this project to display your knowledge of physics, for one thing. So I don't want this to be like the ones that most of you probably did at one point or another in elementary school."

Uh oh...

Mr. Schneider began to write on the board again, talking as he wrote.

"Rule number one: absolutely no packing materials. This includes cotton, shredded paper, or anything else that might conceivably be used to cushion the egg. If you have any questions about what qualifies, come see me."

There were hisses of disbelief.

"Rule number two: no parachutes."

So now Liz was back to the drawing board.

"Rule number three: you must be conservative. To enforce this, I will be taking off one point for every gram that your device weighs."

More hisses of disbelief.

Liz was confused. According to Mr. Schneider's third rule, wouldn't it be impossible for anyone to get a perfect score?

"Before you all jump on my back," Mr. Schneider added, "the project will have 100 possible points, but it will only be out of eighty. So your device can weigh up to twenty grams. And some of you may get more than a hundred percent."

Not me, Liz thought. But she breathed a bit easier.

"Rule number four: it has to work! If your egg does not survive, you lose thirty points automatically. Be careful. If it has even one crack in it, it's dead. End of story."

Damn, damn, double damn.

"Rule number five: the egg must be in a plastic baggie. I don't want egg goop all around the bleachers."

Well...that wasn't such a hardship, Liz figured.

"And of course you have to have a write-up. So I know that you know what you're doing and all."

Shit.

Today just wasn't Liz's day.

First, she had to get stuck next to the spawn of Satan.

Then, she was assigned the project from Hell.

Spawn o' Satan was talking. "How unbelievably easy."

Liz considered stabbing him with her pencil.

***

"So how is he?"

Liz looked down at her pastrami sandwich. Maria had started pressing for details the moment she had learned that Liz had been [un]lucky enough to be Max's lab partner.

"A real jerk."

Maria looked scandalized.

"But he's so hot!"

"He's cute enough...it's his personality that I can't stand."

A familiar, silky-smooth voice behind her said, "I'm sorry to hear that."

Oops.

Liz's face went red as she turned around. She struggled to keep her voice composed.

"Why, hello. Do you normally eavesdrop on other people's conversations?"

Max looked amused.

"Indeed I do."

"You say that like you're proud of what you do."

"Pride isn't exactly the word I would use. But is there any reason why I should be ashamed?"

"Doesn't the word privacy mean anything to you?"

"That is irrelevant."

"I don't think so."

"It's intriguing to listen to other people's stupidity."

Before Liz could reply, Max walked away.

"See?" Liz said angrily to an astounded Maria and Alex. "What'd I tell you? A real jerk."

She stalked off.



TBC...?



[ edited 1 time(s), last at 30-Dec-2001 8:27:47 AM ]
posted on 9-Aug-2002 5:55:40 PM by kaleidoscope
*happy*

For those of you wondering, I still do visit this board. But it was only recently (well, yesterday) that I managed to find this username (after I searched through my zillion email addresses) again. I put a small post on the Fan Fic Discussion board, but I'll repeat it here. I stopped writing this story for a variety of personal reasons, none that have to do with this story. I won't get into very many more details than that, other than to say that for a while, things were on the pressure cooker. But...yeah. I never intended to stop writing this story so abruptly, or to stop forever. But now that the school year is coming up, I'll have to settle into my schedule and see what happens. If I do think that I won't be able to continue with regular (okay, semi-regular) updates by then, then I guess I'll see if somebody's interested in taking over for me. *happy*

~ kaleidoscope

(I know that I put an email address on my two parts so far. But I haven't used that one for a loooooong time, so if you want to send me a PM, then bmail me. *happy* )
posted on 11-Aug-2002 2:45:27 AM by kaleidoscope
Okay, the first part I've had out in...well, a long time. I think I'm a bit rusty around the edges. Forgive me. *happy*

Part 2

Liz carefully took aim with the dart and let go.

Bull's eye, she thought.

Throwing darts was something that Liz did every now and then, ever since her parents had gotten her a dart set for Christmas one year. To be perfectly honest, Liz had lost the target board (an unfortunate incident involving an escaped boa constrictor and popsicle sticks). But that didn't matter. A homemade target served just as well. Take now, for instance. Liz had tacked a sheet of butcher paper to the wall in the back room of the Crashdown and had drawn a crude picture on it with Magic Marker. The picture was of a boy, who would have been indistinguishable from all other boys, had it not been for the larger-than-average ears and the words printed in bold on the bottom: MAX EVANS.

Okay, so it sounded vaguely psychotic. What the heck. Liz had done the same thing when Pam Troy had moved into the neighborhood. It was an effective way to relieve stress.

Maria entered the room, untying her apron. Without glancing back, Liz picked up another dart and called out to her friend, "What do you think?"

"What do I think?" Maria threw her apron on to the couch and flopped back on to it. "I don't know. It might be helpful to have a specific topic to think on so that it wouldn't take me forever to tell you what I think."

"His left ear." Now Liz looked back. "D'you think I can hit it?"

"Go for it, Lizzie."

Liz aimed and threw. Perfect hit. She smiled with satisfaction and picked up another dart, turning to face Maria again.

"How about his right one?"

"Lizzie. Darling." Maria raised an eyebrow. "You seem to have a fascination with his ears."

"I do NOT have a fascination with his ears," Liz huffed indignantly. "I just noticed that they were abnormally large, that's all. Abnormally large ears for an abnormally large ego."

"His ears are not THAT big."

"Oh please," Liz scoffed. "They wouldn't look out of place on Dumbo!"

Maria paused and scrutinized her friend. Liz, growing increasingly uncomfortable, shifted her weight before blurting out, "What?"

"You know, you were kinda excited when you heard he was coming here."

"That was before."

"Before what?"

"Before I learned what a jackass he is."

"And now?"

"And now nothing."

Another pause.

"He gets under your skin, doesn't he."

"Does not."

"Whatever."

"Maria, don't you have tables to wait on?" Liz did not feel like being psychoanalyzed by her best friend.

Maria shrugged and got up, pulling on her apron. She left the room, the door swinging shut behind her. Liz watched her leave and was about to turn around again when Maria's head reappeared.

"Just for the record, I think he's cute."

She ducked back out. The dart narrowly missed her and hit the door instead.

***

Isabel Evans was in a bad mood.

And it was all because of him. Her "brother." More commonly known as Mr. Max "Frickin' Super Genius" Evans.

Her family had acquired Max when he was ten. She was the same age. Ever since then, things had started going downhill.

I don't even have my own identity anymore, Isabel thought bitterly.

It was true. Her whole life, from ten years onward, had been defined by Max, Max, and more Max. Her parents doted on him. Her so-called friends were fascinated by him. Even her teachers got into the act!

She was pretty. She got good grades. She participated in theater. But no one noticed that. To them, she was only "Max's sister."

Sighing, Isabel wearily rubbed her eyes. It was after school, and Isabel had opted out of driving home with Max in order to go on a walk. By herself. To think.

She stared at the building in front of her. A UFO straddled the top, with the words CRASHDOWN splashed across. It seemed like any number of greasy diners around town. Burgers, fries, drinks, all centered around a cheesy theme.

Isabel smiled crookedly. Fries? She could handle some fries.

She walked inside.

***

Maria recognized Isabel immediately. After all, they shared several classes.

"What can I get for you?" she asked cheerily.

"Uh...fries. You do fries?" Isabel said uncertainly, taken aback by the uniform that Maria was wearing.

"Sure do." Maria scribbled the order on her pad. "That all?"

"Yeah. I guess."

Maria walked away, whistling tunelessly.

Isabel spent the wait by staring off into space. She was staring off into space so diligently that she didn't notice when Maria slammed the fries down in front of her.

"Here ya go. Crashdown's fries. The best that any place in Roswell, New Mexico has to offer. Guaranteed to induce a heart attack."

"Thanks."

Maria tapped the pad. "You're Isabel Evans, right?"

"The one and only." At least she didn't ask me if I was Max's sister!

"Just moved in?"

"Yeah."

Maria flashed Isabel her trademark grin. "So how do you like Roswell?"

"It's fine. Great. Perfect." Isabel chewed on a fry. "A dream come true."

"A sarcastic streak. I approve." Maria smiled again before moving away. Isabel watched the hyperactive blonde practically attack a brunette who was just walking out of some back room, wearing that same ridiculous uniform.

Isabel shook her head. Maria seemed a bit unusual, but okay nevertheless. Hey, you got all sorts of types in every city, she supposed.

The brunette was now approaching her, a bit nervously. When she reached the booth, she paused, clearly uncertain as to how to proceed.

"Hi," she finally said. "I'm Liz."

"Isabel."

"Uh..." Liz rubbed her forehead to get rid of the headache that was suddenly gathering there. "Okay, um, see, I got partnered on this science project with Max..."

Max. Of course. It all came back to Max. Isabel stiffened.

"And...I didn't get his phone number. I was wondering if you could give it to me?"

Isabel glared down into her fries.

"Uh, sorry. My parents haven't set up the phone line yet."

"Oh, well that's okay. Can I give you mine then, and you can give it to him later?"

"Sure." Isabel sighed resignedly as she watched Liz rip off a sheet from her notepad and scribble down a telephone number.

***

"Come on, admit it!"

"Admit what?"

"He's cute, you know he is."

"He is NOT."

Maria and Liz had been at this for a while, ever since closing time. Maria was trying to get Liz to admit that yes, Max was a looker, while Liz steadfastly denied anything and everything.

"He's fine."

"Maria, ew. You have a boyfriend." Referring to Michael Guerin, of course.

"So? That doesn't mean that I can't appreciate the fine male physique."

"Huh! I can tell that that's not all you're admiring! And need I remind you of his ears?"

"His what? You're still on that?" Maria laughed. "Oh, come on. His ears are adorable!"

All right, yes, Liz had to admit defeat. Max's ears WERE adorable. They just begged to be nibbled upon...no, wait, back up. Bad thoughts! Gross. Think happy thoughts, Liz.

Liz took off her uniform and threw it in her locker, refusing to look at Maria. Her cheeks were a bright red. "Okay, so maybe he's cute. Really cute. But he's still an asshole."

"Kyle Valenti was an asshole, and you still salivated after him."

"That was different."

"How?"

"Kyle didn't make me feel two inches tall."

"Right. He was too stupid to do that." Maria rolled her eyes. "So what are you saying, Liz? That because you meet a smart guy for once--a smart guy that isn't Alex, I mean--you're immediately turned off?"

"His intelligence had nothing to do with it."

"Okay, fine. You're right. It's his arrogance. Whatever. But you act like you're afraid to wet your pants."

"Oh, shut up."

The two walked upstairs to Liz's bedroom.

"You just shouldn't let him get to you, is what I'm saying."

"Easy for you to say. He doesn't hate you."

"What? He doesn't hate you, either."

"Well, he definitely doesn't like me."

"He's playing with your head."

"Eh."

The phone rang. Liz, startled, dove for it and ended up banging her head against her desk. Half-moaning with a smirking Maria in the background, Liz put the phone up to her ear.

"Hello?"

"This is Max. Remember me?"











[ edited 1 time(s), last at 11-Aug-2002 2:46:33 AM ]
posted on 11-Aug-2002 5:19:29 PM by kaleidoscope
Part Three

Isabel had given Max Liz's phone number as soon as she had come home, muttering something under her breath that would have gotten her dishwashing detail if the parentals had heard. Since the phone line hadn't been hooked up yet, Max had taken the liberty of going down to the payphone on the corner of Hoverton Boulevard. Nothing else to do, so he might as well.

"Hello?"

She sounded a bit out of breath.

"This is Max. Remember me?"

A pause. And then: "Oh yeah. I remember you. Unfortunately."

Max smiled. Liz had dropped all pretenses of friendliness. Her voice had an edge to it now.

"You gave Isabel your phone number."

"Right."

"So?"

"So I think we should get started on our physics project."

"Oh, do you?"

"Because even though I'm sure that you don't think that my inferior mind can even begin to compare to yours, and therefore that I cannot possibly be of much help, we ARE partners."

"Correct me if I'm wrong, but I thought it was an individual assignment."

"It was. You idiot. But unless you weren't paying attention, then you would have realized that Mr. Schneider amended that after about 99% of the Physics Honors population complained."

"Whatever you say." Max rubbed his forehead. He was getting a headache and began speaking faster. "Fine then. Tomorrow. After school. Library." He severed the connection before Liz could reply, which he was sure she had been about to do.

"Shit," he said out loud. These headaches had been coming with increasing frequency over the past few months, to the point when he couldn't ignore them anymore. But the headaches themselves didn't bother him as much as the occasional flashes that accompanied them.

A sharp knife.

Bright fluorescent lights.

"It's okay. This won't hurt a bit."


Max clutched his head, breathing hard. He leaned against a tree.

"Max, I'm scared."

"Max, don't leave me!"

"Max!"


He had to get to the Headquarters. The people there had told him to come over if this sort of thing happened.

"Mister Evans."

The man popped out from behind a tree, camera slung around his neck and tape recorder in his hand.

"So nice to finally meet you!" the guy said energetically. Max looked at him, his eyes slightly glazed over. "The name's Stan Lowe, from The Roswell Star. Now, I've got just a few questions..."

"Leave me alone," Max snapped, pushing off from the tree. He walked in the opposite direction from Stan. Towards the Headquarters. Had to get something for the headaches. And the flashes.

***

"So when did the headaches start?"

The man leaned over Max, who now lay prone on the gurney.

"A while ago." Max groaned. "And what's even weirder..." His voice trailed off.

The man leaned in closer. "Yes?"

"I keep getting these flashes."

Max had lost the smug look of contention that he normally wore 24/7. The Headquarters--all of them; there had always been a local Headquarters wherever he had lived--were the only places that this happened. Something about them...

"Flashes." The man grinned. "Oh, you mean nightmares."

"These aren't nightmares," Max said peevishly. "They're real, too real to be--"

"Nightmares," the man said with finality. "We've been, ah, expecting this to happen. But they're nothing more than that." He reached over to a nearby counter and picked up a small nondescript plastic bottle. He shook out two blue pills and held them out to Max. "Take these. They should help."

Max took the pills and swallowed them. Almost immediately, the headaches disappeared.

The man was looking at him with interest.

"Tell me, Max," he said, drawing out his name, "what were your years at the Main Headquarters like? Before your time with the Evanses?"

Max shook his head to clear the cloudy feeling that had descended upon his brain. "Uh..." He tried to remember the flashes he had had.

Funny. He couldn't remember them.

"I, uh, spent them there. In the Headquarters."

"Were you happy there?"

"Yes. Very." Max looked up at the man; his voice was mechanical, completely devoid of emotion. "They were very kind to me."

"Good, good..." the man murmured, a glint barely detectable in his eyes as he noticed Max's pupils slowly dilating. "Well. I think you should stay here for a few minutes, Max. Just for observation."

"Thanks for all your help..." Max looked at the man's nametag, "...Mr. Parker."

***

Liz tapped her pencil impatiently the next day after school. She couldn't believe Mr. Schneider. How could he partner her up with Max? How could he change the assignment to a duo one, period? This sucked. Liz hated group assignments. She usually got stuck doing all the work. She had the feeling that it wouldn't be the same with Max. But that didn't matter. The whole situation still sucked.

"Hello."

Liz turned around, surprised, at the sound of Max's voice, the usual wiseass tone absent. "Max. You're fifteen minutes late."

"A...situation arose that required my full attention." This was true. Max had been on his way to the library when a sudden feeling of nausea overswept him--a side effect from the pills, he figured. He had spent ten minutes retching in the bathroom and five minutes cleaning up.

Liz blinked. Max sounded...different. "O-kay," she said uncertainly. As long as he wasn't ragging on her, she figured things would be okay. But this sounded so...unlike him!

"So." Max brushed aside his hair. "Shall we begin?"

Liz stared at him. "Max, are you okay?"

"Very well. And you?"

"You seem different."

"I assure you that I am well."

"Max--" Liz couldn't help herself; she placed her hand on his arm.

A sudden feeling flooded through Max. He wasn't sure what it was. He couldn't even describe it, only that there was this sense of incredible warmth involved. And a hint of electricity.

It scared him to death.

Max jerked away involuntarily. Liz, startled, drew her hand back.

"Max, you're different."

"I feel the same." That hollow voice again. It was creeping her out. She'd rather have him insulting her.

"Well, you're not. You haven't taken a dig at me once."

"Oh." Max looked at her. She shrank back. There was something wrong with his eyes. "Well. I realized the error of my ways."

"The error of your ways? Max..."

"I do not feel...adequate as of this moment. Perhaps we should reconvene at a different, more suitable time?" Max was speaking quickly now. "Very well. I shall contact you. Mother and Father connected our phone line." He shoved back his chair and got up.

Liz watched him leave.

Max was definitely acting strange. He was nice, albeit spacey.

Yes, something definitely didn't add up.

Maybe she'd ask her uncle about it later.

TBC...




posted on 12-Aug-2002 4:04:48 PM by kaleidoscope

A/N: Okay, I wrote this part last night. It doesn't really have Max and Liz together, but...yeah. They will be soon. I think. Maybe. Who knows? By the way, my chihuahua says hi (she's on my lap).

Part Four

"Doctor...I think you'd better come take a look at this..."

Donald Parker walked over to where one of his assistants was gesturing urgently.

"What is it?"

"Look." The assistant, a young man who couldn't have been over twenty-three, pointed at the sheets spread out in front of him. "The latest results...they deviate from what we've come to expect."

Cocking an eyebrow, Don glanced down at the sheets. His eyes widened as he took in the meaning of the charts and scans in front of him. One phrase came to mind: Oh, fuck.

He picked up one sheet. His hand began to shake and when he spoke, his voice was tight with rage. "I thought it was mentioned that the bugs had all been worked out."

The assistant looked nervous. "Well...we thought they had...we honestly don't know why the results are so...skewed..."

Don closed his eyes and willed himself to talk rationally. "Tell me what's going on to the best of your knowledge."

"Take subject one." The assistant picked up one chart. "After inducing the flashes, we then gave him the proper dosage of pills. That was several years ago. Which was when we started the initial work."

"And then?"

"And then nothing. So far, the flashes have not returned and the subject cannot even recall what they were about."

"Which is the result we're looking for."

"Yes." The assistant swallowed. "But then there're subjects two through seven. Each subject was also given the mind-blocking drug, but in some cases, it's had the opposite effect. Subjects three and four and seven, especially, have had their visions come to them even stronger than before. And the worst part of it is...the window of time for this to happen is uncertain. Subject three started having recurring visions a few months after. Subject four--weeks. Subject seven--days. It's like the drug has a mind of its own. It decides when it wants to backfire on its own time."

"And the side effects?"

"Those varied even more widely. Personality changes, nausea, loss of concentration..."

Don rubbed his forehead. This was not good. "No backup?"

"None. This was our only chance. We attempted to reapply the drug, but apparently it's a one-shot deal. The second time, the bodies had developed an immunity."

Don groaned. That was what he was afraid of. "Very well. Continue. I want you to get started on the new research right away." He walked away, cursing this particular turn of events. Now that the results of the drug were so...uncertain, there was no telling what might happen. He shivered, thinking about what Max might start remembering.

Shit. Kevin is NOT going to like this.

"Doctor Parker." A short redhead peeked in through the door. "Excuse me, Doctor Parker, but your niece is here to see you."

"Elizabeth." It was a statement, not a question. Don had only one niece. "Tell her I'm on my way, Mary."

Mary disappeared.

***

"So how's your father doing?"

"He's fine, Uncle Don. Still running the Crashdown."

"Really?" Don feigned interest, even though he scorned his brother's line of work. What type of career was it, to run a greasy alien-themed diner? But he didn't say anything.

"Yeah. I think I might have even convinced him to let us get new uniforms..."

Okay. Enough chit chat. Get on with it.

"So..." Liz asked innocently, "what exactly do you do here?"

Don raised an eyebrow. "What do you mean?"

"Like with Max. He's one of my classmates, you know." Liz tried to make it sound like her question was merely for curiosity's sake, when it was really anything but.

"Elizabeth," Don said, smiling easily, "you know that my work is strictly confidential."

"But..." Liz pouted, "all I've read about the whole experiment has been in the papers, and they never get into anything truly scientific. I think most of them are written at a sixth-grade reading level. You know, pandering to the masses." She turned pleading eyes to her uncle. "You know I want to be a scientist, it's all I dream about. But how can I when all the articles focus mainly on Max's looks rather than his background and genetic makeup?"

I do believe that I deserve an Oscar for this performance. Liz Parker, ladies and gentlemen!

"Lizzie...I'm impressed." Don chuckled. Maybe Liz would make a good addition to the "Dream Gene" (as the nickname went) Team. All in good time, of course. "But I'm afraid that I can't divulge any information to you. You understand. Professional conduct and all."

"Oh...right." Liz sighed inwardly. Max's behavior had seriously creeped her out that day in the library, and he had been acting weirder and weirder since. He had alternated between being a complete smartass and a robot. Could it be multiple personality disorder? Liz didn't know. There was something fishy about the whole episode, and she'd be damned if she let it go without at least trying to figure it out. Which was why she had come prepared to do a little investigative work of her own. "You know, Uncle Don, a lot of people don't agree with what's going on."

"It's a controversial experiment, I can see that." Uncle Don cocked his head to one side. "But then again, so was the proclamation that the Earth was round, at first."

"They think everybody here is messing with something that shouldn't be messed with." Liz managed to keep the perfect touch of girlish innocence in her voice. She didn't want to put her uncle on the defensive.

"And they're perfectly entitled to that opinion. But I hope you'll realize, Lizzie, that far more educated people such as myself--and, quite possibly later on, you--often take a less worn path in the search for enlightenment."

Uh, yeah. Whatever. Keep telling yourself that, Uncle D. D for delusional. Truth was, Liz knew that she would not be following her uncle into the genetic engineering field. She was interested in the whole theory--or at least she had been. But her budding non-relationship (soon to be more?) with Max had been enough to screech those feelings to a halt. Max got on her nerves, yes, but when she hadn't been arguing with him, she had actually felt sorry for him. She had found herself sneaking peeks over at him as he worked on school assignments, wondering what kind of person he would have been if his life hadn't been...messed with.

"Oh, I agree completely." Liz smiled brightly. Time to wrap this up and get the REAL show on the road! She stood up. "Well, gotta go. Homework awaits."

"Of course. Give my regards to Jeff."

"Right." Don't tell me that you wouldn't have been happy to be an only child.

***

Liz walked towards the exit, cheerfully exchanging greetings with the passing workers, to whom she had become a familiar sight. As she walked down the brightly lit hall, she glanced up towards the ceiling and took in the security cameras staring down at her.

She looked at a closed door. There was a palm pad next to it.

She went outside. There were a few workers on the premises; most of them were on a break of some sort. Ignoring them--and they ignored her--Liz surveyed the outside of the building, the gears in her mind whirring at top-notch speed.

Processing everything she needed to know.

***

"Are you in? Or out?"

Alex shook his head. "Liz, I don't know..."

"Pleeeeeeeeeeease? Alex, I can't do this without you. No one is as fabulous with the latest gadgetry and techno-crap as my dear, wonderful Alex."

"Ah. The old flattery trick." Alex looked up to meet his friend's earnest brown eyes. "You think I don't see through that?"

Liz winced. "Am I that transparent?"

"Yes you are."

"Is it working?"

Alex groaned. "Yes it is."

Liz clapped her hands together in total delight. "Great!"

"I don't get it though...I thought you don't like Max."

"I don't!" Liz said instantly without thinking. "I mean, I do...I mean, I don't know! But I just know that something is definitely not right. It's like a sixth sense or something. Not to mention Uncle Don had this little twitchy thing going on with his eye which means he's hiding something."

Alex grinned broadly. "I'll help you. On one condition."

Liz crossed her arms and instantly took a defensive position. "Alex, I will NOT french kiss you."

"Excuse me?" Alex laughed. "That was in the eighth grade."

"And I'm still scarred."

"Hormones, remember? And you OWED me."

"Typical male. Uses a girl's sense of obligation to satisfy his own sexual perversion."

Alex coughed. "Okay," he said in a mock-offended voice, "just for that, I'm NOT going to help you."

"Oh, Alex," Liz said, instantly reverting to her innocent and slightly-coquettish voice, "I'm sorry. You know I don't mean that."

Alex smiled. "Like I said, I'll help you. On one condition."

"Name it."

"You've had a run in with Isabel Evans, right...?"

***

He was standing in the middle of the room. The room was empty. The lights were on--bright lights. They hurt his eyes. On one side was a mirror. There were no doors.

He wasn't alone. There was another boy with him. A scrawny kid, no more than seven years old. A cowlick right in the middle. Missing his two front teeth. Wearing a T-shirt. And jeans. And tennis shoes.

He looked at his hands and realized that he was looking at the soft skin of someone who hadn't even reached puberty yet. So he was young again, too.

"Max," the boy said. "I don't think I'm going to make it."


Max woke up with a start.

His heart was pounding. He was drenched with sweat. He looked down, and noticed that he had tangled himself in the bed sheets.

Wildly, he thought, I thought the pills were supposed to stop this.

His head felt like it was splitting.

What was going on? He felt like he was having a panic attack, seizure, and migraine all rolled into one.

One word--one name, actually--fell unbidden into his lap, offering up yet another clue to the puzzle while creating dozens of new ones.

John.


TBC...
posted on 16-Aug-2002 7:58:16 AM by kaleidoscope
Hey all,

Okay, I feel really bad about doing this, as I've already left you guys once for like half a year without updates. But, uh, there won't be new updates for a while, at least not until September 16. I'm moving back to LA to USC for the beginning of the school year in less than a week, and so my comp will be disconnected and all that good stuff for a while. Plus, I have to read Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged--all 1075 pages of it--and write a philosophical essay on it by September 16 (ha, cash prize involved--planning to use it for school finances, only reason why I'm putting myself through this torture). Oh, joy, right? I'm leaving this note so that you guys won't think that I just up and disappeared..again. Heh. *happy*