|posted on 13-Oct-2001 4:56:36 PM|
Disclaimer: Characters portrayed in the following work belong to creative geniuses: Metz, Katims and UPN.
Spoilers: End of the World
Notes: Must have read: It's Good To Be King, Always Second, Underestimated, Lacrimae Rerum Cetera Desunt... All part of the Antarian Recollection series
Max Evans - Gediro of Utinu, Isabel Evans - Vilandra of Utinu, Tess Harding - Rila of Opaeno, Michael Guerin - Fervid of Jinaso, Liz Parker - Misela of Kejir, Maria DeLuca - Jirena, Alex Whitman - Balei, Kyle Valenti - Hanu.
Maria’s rant in part 2 comes courtesy of Col. Thank you, you’re a dear.
Cling and Clatter
Max opened his eyes as he yawned; he blinked against the bright sunlight. Odd, he didn't remember leaving the curtains open. He turned his face into the pillow and groaned. He was vaguely aware that he was not wearing any boxers beneath the sheets.
“Is he awake?” A voice asked softly.
“Give him another minute. It usually takes him awhile to wake up.” An even softer voice replied.
Shaking his head, he pushed himself away from the bed and visually confirmed his lack of clothes and soiled sheets. Holding the sheet against his body he rolled over expecting to find Isabel and Michael but instead found five of his friends. “What the hell is going on? Why is everyone here?”
“Remember anything about last night, Romeo?” Michael glared.
Max sat up, careful to pull the sheet tight against his body. His droopy eyes fell on Liz, who was wearing his clothes. It came flooding back; the dreams, Liz at the window, making love to her. “And so I reiterate. What is everyone doing here? As I recall there should only be one other person in here.”
“We remember.” Tess whispered. “Everything. At least I do.”
“Me too.” Isabel nodded.
“Yeah, me too.” Michael chimed in.
“Re-” Liz's voice caught in her throat. “Remember what exactly? I know Michael told me it was basically about your past lives but... for all you guys to run to Max... what exactly?”
“Okay, okay. We'll talk about this... but can I put on some clothes please?” Max shifted backwards on the bed, pulling the blankets with him.
“Sure thing.” Kyle nodded and hopped out the window, motioning for Tess to follow. “Meet ya'll on neutral ground.”
“Yeah, Crashdown.” Isabel nodded and opened the door. Michael started to lead Liz out the door but a look from Max stopped him.
“Liz. Stay. Please?” Max's eyes pleaded with her. She nodded and looked to Michael, letting him know that she would be alright. “Thank you.”
Michael eyed Max warily before shutting the door. Liz hugged herself, barely looking at the man she had made love to the night before. Max moved to get up and she spun around, still embarrassed by the situation. Max couldn't keep a small smile from his face. Suppressing a chuckle, he sat back down. “There are boxers in the top drawer on your right. Mind tossing me a pair?”
Blushing and trying not to look, Liz pulled out a pair of boxers and tossed them over her shoulder. Max caught them and stood to put them on. “You know... you did see me naked last night.”
“But it was dark and... now it's day and it's different.” Her cheeks were still flaming when he moved past her to get clothes from his closet. Max pulled on a pair of jeans and a T-shirt. Grabbing a pair of socks he sat on the edge of the bed to put them on.
“Different.” He repeated. “How is it different?”
“I don't know. It just is.” Liz put a hand to her face, willing away the heated blush on her face.
Max sat up after he tied his shoes. Something occurred to him. He stood and tilted her face up to look at him. “Did I hurt you? Liz? Did I?”
“No. You didn't.” Her eyes dropped to her hands where they had come to rest on his chest.
“Liz...” He pressed.
“I know what you're thinking and no. I mean, yeah... it hurt at first but that was bound to happen.” Liz blushed brighter. “But it did feel... really... really, really good.” She buried her face in her hands, letting him put his arms around her. “I can't believe that we... God, Max.”
“That's what you called me last night...” He teased her. Liz swatted him. They shared a tender kiss in memory of the beautiful act they had shared together for the first time... and the second. Running his hands up and down her bare arms, Max looked her over. “I think you look better in my clothes than I do.”
“Oh Max. I can't go home in your clothes.” Her eyes widened. “What if my parents find out that I wasn't home last night?”
“Sh.” Max stroked her hair and held her to him for a moment, then held her out. His hand hovered over her and his clothes transformed into her clothes. Then he waved a hand over the bed, ridding it of the evidence of the night before. “If they ask, you got up early for a walk. Ready?”
“Yeah, I guess so.” Liz nodded and moved towards the door. Max caught her hand and led her into the house. “Max... is what Michael told me true?”
“What did Michael tell you?” Max waited for the answer.
“That I am Misela, some woman from your past life. I didn't completely understand it all and I wasn't really listening because I was too worried about him seeing me naked.” Liz blushed again. She wished she could stop doing that.
“Michael saw you naked?” Max's defenses automatically went up.
“Beside the point. You were passed out and I was stuck. He helped me.” Liz pulled him down the hallway to the kitchen where Isabel and Michael were waiting. “Is it true?”
“Essentially... yeah.” Max nodded and lowered his voice. “We'll talk about it after I talk to the others. I promise.” He kissed her hand. “I love you.”
“I love you.” Liz stood on tiptoe to kiss his lips.
Michael's eyes narrowed at the couple standing in the kitchen doorway. He wasn't so sure that history should repeat itself.
Max looked around the table at the faces of his sister, best friend, former-wife and his lover. “Where to start?”
“I really don't want to talk about this...” Tess whispered. Max couldn't help but feel guilty for her sudden lack of interest.
“I'm sorry. I really am.” He told her. Liz, sitting by his side, noticed that Tess suddenly seemed to want to be as far from Max as possible.
“Can we get started?” Michael groaned.
“I want to know who Misela is.” Liz spoke up. Isabel turned away, Michael scratched at the back of his head, Max took her hand and Tess shook her head in confusion.
“Who's Misela?” Tess asked softly.
“She was--” Isabel stopped herself. “She was in the palace around the time that you were born. You never met her. No one ever talked about her.”
“With good reason.” Michael managed before exchanging a look with Max.
“What are you guys talking about?” Liz couldn't believe how cryptic they were being all of a sudden. Tess stared at Liz for a long time. The way she sat up stiffly, the way it was obvious that she and Max had gotten back together by the glimmer in her eyes when she looked at him. It was the eyes that gave it away. The look that gave it all away.
“It's you. Nehide told me about you.” Tess whispered, blue eyes widening in recognition. “You broke him. It's your fault what he did to me.”
“Liz, can you give us a minute to talk about this?” Max turned to her, kissing her cheek. “I promise that I'll tell you everything later.”
“Ok.” The kiss was just supposed to be short and sweet but became impassioned before they remembered where they were and she left them alone. Max watched until she had gone into the back before turning back to his fellows. Eyes on Michael, Max began. “What did you tell her last night?”
“Just... You passed out on top of her and I helped her out. I accidentally called her Misela. You should have seen her face when I said that. She demanded to know what Misela was and I told her who she was. All I said was that she was someone you loved in your past life.” Michael rushed to get out.
“Good.” Max sighed, relieved. “I want to tell her myself.”
“What? You're going to tell her that she's your whore?” Isabel scoffed. For a moment, she couldn't believe that had just come out of her mouth... but it was true. Even as Isabel, Vilandra resented Misela or Liz and what she represented: a threat to inevitable reign.
“What? I thought she was just a servant.” Tess sat up. “She was in all those pictures they showed me of you. She always sat at your feet. I figured you fell in love with her but were told you couldn't marry her. That is what your mother said.”
“Not even close.” Michael snorted. “Misela of Kejir was princess of a traveling procession of... Ceronis, vagabonds. Anyway, Max took her as payment from her father for protection during the battles the next day. He kept her around until she fell in love with him and got pregnant. After she was gotten rid of, no one was allowed to speak her name.”
“That's putting it lightly. She was barely more than a sex slave.” Isabel groaned, tired of the subject. “He would have gotten tired of her eventually... just like all the others. Not like he loved any of them.”
“What?!” Liz exclaimed. No one had seen her walk back into the dining room. No one knew exactly what she had heard. Michael closed his eyes. That had come out wrong and she didn't know the details surrounding her exit from the palace. Max watched her face flush in anger. “So what? You did me in before and you were going to do me in again?”
“Liz...” He started to plead with her.
“No! I do not want to hear it.” She stormed off in extreme anger.
“Shit.” Max held his head in his hands. Then he sat up. “We need to talk about this. Everything... and I do mean everything needs to come out in the open.”
“Liz, babe, what is wrong?” Maria watched her friend go through various stages of upset. First she had cried, then she had punched a pillow to death, then she had torn up a picture of Max. “What did the moron do this time?”
“How could I have been so stupid?” Liz sank down on the bed. “He told me that he loved me and I believed him. I actually believed him.”
“I'm missing something here. I thought we had already established that Max loves you. You're not talking to him anyway.” Maria sighed.
“That's just it. I went over last night to tell him the truth. I was going to tell him the whole thing.” Liz felt the anger rising.
“What did you actually tell him?”
“That I didn't sleep with Kyle. I couldn't say anything else because then he was kissing me.” She ran a hand through her hair. “And things just...” Suddenly her hand went to her mouth. “We didn't even use a condom...”
“Condom? Liz! You slept with Max?” Maria shrieked. “Well? Tell me about it.”
“I will not.” Liz scoffed. “But I have to so you'll understand just exactly what happened last night... I wasn't planning on sleeping with him. He just kept kissing me and then I didn't want to fight him anymore.”
“Wait... did he like... force you?” Maria sat straighter, concerned for her friend.
“No. I can't explain it. I knew I shouldn't and I tried to leave but then I just thought... to hell with it. I wanted him.” Liz threw her hands up in the air. “And then when he...”
“Was it good?” Maria butted in.
“Maria, please. When he... came... he called out Misela.”
“You're kidding. He said someone else's name?”
“Yeah, that's what I thought. Then he says that I am Misela and kisses me. So I figure that Misela is like a term of endearment in Antarian or something.” Liz turned to Maria who nodded in concurrence. “Then he just passes out right on top of me... and then Michael walks in.”
“Whoa. Michael was there?”
“Can I finish?” she flopped back on the bed. “So after Michael gives me a hand, he calls me Misela. So term of endearment, it's not.” Her eyes fixed on the ceiling. “He just kept staring at me... like he'd never seen me before... So he tells me that Misela was someone from Max's past life. Someone he loved.”
“Wow... so you were both reincarnated and met again. This is totally something out of one of my mother's books.” Maria grinned excitedly.
“Maria... wait. I'm not done. Eventually... like everyone was there. Me, Michael, Isabel, Tess... Kyle. Last night... everyone tapped into their memories and gathered to talk about them. So this morning, we're all downstairs and they wanted to talk. Max promised that he would talk to me afterward.” Liz took a deep breath. “He had already told me what Michael said was true. So I went back to ask when exactly we could talk and I hear them talking about me. You know me Misela.”
“What did they say?”
“That I was a whore. Max's sex slave... that I fell in love with him and got pregnant and he just got rid of me. They said that I was like all the others, he got tired of me and moved on.”
“Oh Lizzie... babe. I'm sorry.”
“How could he use me like this?”
“I'm sure that it's not what it seems. Max loves you.” Maria tried to comfort her friend.
“You don't understand.” Liz sat up and wiped at her face angrily. “I won't cry over him any more. Not him, not any alien. If this is how he feels about me then fine. It's done with.”
“Lizzie. He wouldn't do this to you.”
“Maria. While Michael and Isabel were saying these horrible things about me, Max sat back and did nothing. He made no move to defend me... and after how I agonized about what he must think of me, thinking that I had slept with Kyle...” Liz shook her head. “No more. I'm done.”
Max watched Isabel and Tess walk off. Then he turned to Michael. “What didn't you want to say in front of them?”
“Nothing.” Michael crossed his arms and fixated his eyes on a bottle of ketchup.
“Come on. I know you were holding back. It has to do with her. Fine, I know you helped her escape. Fine, I know you knew she was pregnant. What didn't you say?” Max demanded.
Michael weighed his options very carefully. Then he realized this would create a larger rift, left unsaid it would stay. “About the night she left the palace...”
“I couldn't find her.” Max pressed, then it sank in very slowly. “I couldn't find you either.”
“Right.” Michael nodded, keeping his eyes on the ketchup bottle. “Don't worry about it. It was nothing.”
“I don't believe you.” Max argued.
“Whatever. Don't worry about it. It's nothing.”
“Don't give me this shit.” Max ordered. “She's already angry about the way you guys talked about her.”
“But-- just forget it. No one needs to know. It's my own shit.” Michael sat back. “She's gonna tell Maria.”
“We'll have to tell Maria about Jirena, then.” Max noted Michael's sudden silence. “Yeah, I see you remember Jirena, too.”
“So.” Who could forget the green-eyed servant with lips that could drive a man to the edge of insanity?
“You want to tell Maria she was the palace slut in Utinu and quite possibly among the Opaenians?” His amber eyes flashed and met wary gray ones.
“Then do as I say. We've already screwed up enough with Liz.” Max growled and went to go talk to Liz.
“It's awful, Kyle.” Tess curled up on the Valenti couch. “I remember everything.”
“Buddha says that by sharing our pain, we lighten our loads. It allows the mind to rise to heights unrealized. We can't understand ourselves if we don't understand each other.” He sat on the table facing her. She tossed him a confused look. “It helps to talk about it.”
“I was a child, Kyle. I mean, barely a year younger than I am now but I was so young. They told me so many lies. They said he would love me and cherish me. He didn't. He was cold and just shy of cruel.”
“We are talking about Evans, right?” This information just blew him away.
“After he stopped sleeping with me. Nehide and I had a talk.”
“Neh-I-duh?” He repeated uncertainly.
“Nehide of Laoron, Max's mother. She told me that he had a servant that he fell in love with. Of course, he could never marry her. The servant was returned to her people and died in an accident along the way. Gediro... Max. He was never the same. Nehide said that it was like a part of him died when she did.”
“What does that have to do with anything?”
“Because... the older pictures of him that I had... all had her in them. Losing her made him cold. He treated me like he did his whores.” Tess wiped at her eyes. “It was because of Misela. Liz.”
“Whoa.” Kyle held his hands up. “Are you trying to tell me that Liz and this Mee-sel-la chick are the same person?”
“How is that even possible?”
“You tell me, Buddha-boy. You're the one that believes in natural reincarnation.” She glared at him.
“Okay. Okay. Okay.” Kyle tried to draw on memories of what he'd read on the subject. “If there was something Misela was supposed to finish with you guys, it would make sense that she was reincarnated into a form that she could do that in. That's not exactly Buddhism there. I'm talking out of my ass now.” He propped his elbows on his knees and leaned forward. “What would she need to do in this life that she didn't in her past life?”
“Linao.” Tess whispered suddenly.
“Leen-ah-o? What's that?”
“Linao... it means... prince.”
“Nehide, Misela, Rila, Gediro. Linao. What the hell is up with your names?” He shook his head. “Okay but what does Linao have to do with Liz?”
“Misela never told Gediro about the Linao. In fact, Vilandra and Fervid...” Tess noted Kyle shaking his head again. “That’s Michael... they figured it out but never told Gediro about it either.”
“Why? I'm missing something here.”
“They were concerned about successions. If Gediro knew about the Linao, neither of them would get to the throne in their lifetime. Chances are the Linao didn't know who his father was.” Tess caught the confused look on Kyle face. “The Linao is Gediro's son. His son from Misela. Max and Liz had a son in their past life.”
Liz walked calmly around her room, drying her hair and setting out her uniform. She heard him walk into her room but she just kept busy. Once she shut the hair dryer off, she sat at her vanity to do her hair.
“Liz?” Max whispered. He noted that she had showered and was getting ready for work. “It wasn't what it seemed out there. Isabel and Michael had no control over their mouths. They've always been jealous of you... been jealous of what we had... even back then.”
She didn't even acknowledge that he had spoken. She just grabbed her uniform and went into the bathroom. He stood outside the door. “Liz, come on. Let me tell you what it was really like.”
“Get out.” Liz muttered as he brushed past him and grabbed her shoes. “I don't care to hear anymore. Just leave. Don't come back. I have to work.”
Max sank down on her bed when she breezed out of the room. She had never once looked at him or acknowledged that she heard a single word that he said.
“There’s more Kyle.” Tess whispered. “I had a servant named Jirena.”
“A servant...” He waited for her to elaborate on why she brought up the subject.
“She was older than I was and... subject to being promiscuous. She came with me to the palace when I married Gediro. After he stopped sleeping with me, I didn’t see her as much...” She watched as he shook his head in understanding of what she was implicating. “Rumor has it after he got tired of her... Fervid took to her.”
“Okay. So your servant slept with the two most important men in the kingdom. What’s the whoop now?” Kyle shrugged his shoulders.
“Jirena is Maria.” She whispered softly.
“Maria and Jirena are the same person.”
“Okay. Okay. Kinda makes sense. I read somewhere that people are always reincarnated in units... so that they can make things right. So if Liz was with you guys... goes to figure that Maria would be as well. Anyone else?” Kyle ran a hand over his face.
“Alex? So who was Alex? A stable boy?”
“No... we didn’t have horses.” Tess cracked lamely. “He was Balei, a clown that was kept around for Vilandra’s entertainment. Nehide said that Vilandra fell in love with Balei and they got together but... when Nehide found out... Balei was executed. You see how strange this all is? We were supposed to tell each other everything today but somehow I don’t think we did. I kept my mouth shut about a lot of the things that Nehide told me. Isabel never mentioned Balei or her other lover. Max... I think Max told us everything, although he didn’t talk about Jirena. Michael... he stayed quiet a lot. He knows something that the rest of us don’t.”
“Okay. Wow.” Kyle ran his hand through his hair. “This situation could get wildly out of control.”
“Tell me about it.” Tess brushed her hair out of her face, sinking backward into the couch.
“I'm gonna go talk to someone else. I need someone else's side of the story to fill in the holes.” Kyle stood up from the couch. He yanked on his shoes and made for the door. “You coming?”
“Why are you doing this?” Tess asked, her eyes full of pleading.
“Look... Alex is a good buddy of mine. Maria is practically a sister and the way things are going with our parents, that is a very real possibility. Liz... Liz is very special and I will not allow anyone to hurt her. These are MY friends and I will figure all this out if it kills me.” Kyle stopped his rant just as abruptly as it started. “Are you coming?”
“No. Who are you going to talk to first?”
“Michael. He’s the one with the secrets... right?” With that, Kyle was out the door and on the hunt.
Max shadowed Maria around, pleading with her to tell him what was wrong with Liz. “Maria, come on. She won’t talk to me.”
“Maybe you should have thought of that when everyone was calling her a slut.” She whirled on him.
“It was a misunderstanding.” Max practically yelled. When he realized that the whole restaurant was staring at them, minus Liz who kept going like she hadn’t heard a thing. He quickly lowered his voice. “She won’t let me explain how it really was. Michael and Isabel have always been jealous of Liz’s position with me. Always. This life and the past life and even more so now that we have both perspectives.”
“Tell me something. Do you love her?” Maria crossed her arms.
“Of course I do. I love her so much that it hurts.” Max leaned in closer. “Did she tell you about... last night?”
“Yes, she did. Misela?”
“Maria. When I was Gediro... Misela was the first woman I ever made love to. She was my first and only love.” Max saw Maria’s eyes melt. “Last night was very special, not only because we made love for the first time together... Because I love Liz with all the strength that I had for Misela. Our firsts were each other’s firsts in both lifetimes and that only confirms what I’ve always known... Liz is my destiny.”
“I’ll talk to her.” Maria nodded with a little smile. “No promises but I’ll talk to her.”
“Thanks Maria.” Max started to go but turned. “Have you spoken to Michael?”
“No, why?” At the expression on his face, her curiosity rose immensely. She waited for him to spill his guts but he shut his mouth and stared down at his toes.
“Don’t worry about it.” He waved and walked off. Maria thought about it. If Michael had something to tell her, he wouldn’t come looking for her and if it was about anything... it was about what anything was about today. Maybe he was going to tell her about their lives back on Antar. If Liz was a part of their lives, why shouldn’t she be? Maria went about her work with a smile plastered on her face. Maybe she and Michael had a romantic affair since he was engaged to Isabel. Maybe he promised to run away with her before the wedding... She couldn’t wait until she could go talk to Michael.
Michael stared at the wall over Kyle’s head. Kyle had just burst into the apartment rattling off information that Tess had given him. The two guys moved away from the door, nudging it closed but never really letting it catch. He wasn’t really sure what to say. He could say that Tess was wrong and he wasn’t hiding anything. He could say that... no he couldn’t. “Why are you so interested?”
“Tess confided in me about all this alien crap because things are weird... like weirder than usual.” Kyle crossed his arms and leaned against the bar. “This concerns Liz, Alex and Maria. They don’t deserve all this crap you guys keep throwing around.”
“What do you want to know?”
“Bally, Jergens, Marcel and Linear.” Kyle sat on a stool and waited for Michael to say something. Michael just stared at him in confused stance for a few minutes.
“Oh... I got it. Bal-lay, Jer-reena, Mee-sella and Leen-ah-o.” Michael annunciated for Kyle.
“Whatever. Just tell me what you know about them.” He was quickly losing patience with the alien jerk in front of him.
“Ok. Balei was some idiot hired to keep Vilandra entertained. I never bothered much with him. The Linao was my apprentice.” Michael sat on his bed. “I came out and told Max already that the kid existed. The Linao was his son. I know he was. The boy was like my own son... He was called Miwiro.”
“Mee-vee-ro. I got it. Keep going.” Kyle rubbed at his eyes. If his eyes had been open, he would have seen the movement in the doorway.
“Jirena was Rila’s servant. Gediro would keep her close to relieve his frustrations. I must have looked at her too long one day because he gave her to me.”
“Gave her to you?” Kyle’s eyes narrowed to slits.
“I was in my mid-thirties and she was barely in her twenties. She was a servant that knew her way around a man’s... whatever. It’s what she did best. I mean... at her station, sleeping with me or Gediro would be the closest to status she would get.” Michael trained his gaze on his feet.
“So what? You and this past Maria just what?”
“She gave me what I wanted when I wanted it. It’s what she did. She’d always been that way. Even when she lived in the Opaenian household from what Tess said.”
“What about Liz?”
“What about her?”
“Was she what you guys said she was?”
“Yes... No. No. Misela was special. We, Kones and I, picked her out--”
“Hold on. Ko-ness?” Kyle shook his head. “You guys have such weird names.”
“King Kones of Utinu, Gediro’s father. Anyway, we were getting ready for battle, teaching Gediro the ropes. He was a young punk and had been coddled while we fought. He had to turn him into a man, quick. Then this band of Ceronis comes through. Their leader came from Kejir, this legendary place said to only be accessible by the light of the third moon and the first song of the Varnya. Anyway. Their leader, he’s like a King but we don’t give them much merit as their land can never be found, so their leader offers us his daughter in exchange for safe passage and protection in the battle.”
“So what? He bribed you guys to look after his people by giving his daughter.”
“Right. So this Kejir Princess is young, untouched, pure. Kones usually takes these type girls for the night and I would get them the second night. As a change of plans... He gave her to Gediro. I had to guard their tent while they did their thing.” Michael’s hands tightened into fists at his sides while he talked. “He fell in love with her. Three years later, she was pregnant.”
“Misela didn’t want her son to become the Linao. He’d become king of a kingdom like ours... so she wanted out. I arranged for her to hide in one of our villages. We told Gediro that she had died when we sent her back to her family.”
“What aren’t you saying? I don’t buy this. Why... what’s the deal?”
“He wasn’t the only one who wanted her. She was beautiful, gorgeous. Her smile lit up a room and her laugh just... it was contagious. She was so strong, unselfish... She would do anything to keep her baby safe. When I went to her with my plan, she agreed... to everything. Did you know that Liz has a mole about an inch from her right nipple? She’s got a scar next to her belly button about the size of a dime and the shape of our smallest moon.” Michael found himself grinning at the image of her naked body in his mind.
“What are you saying?”
“For three years... I wanted her. I was supposed to have her the night after the battle but Kones had changed his mind and given her to Gediro. I watched them and I envied what they had. It should have been mine. I wanted her. The last night that she was in the palace, she stayed with me. I couldn’t keep her in my room because Gediro or Jirena came in and out as they please.” Michael developed a far away glaze as he spoke. “I took Misela out to the Siheo and made love to her under the stars by the light of the moons. I only had one night... so I memorized every inch of her. I reveled in the fact that I was only the second man that she had ever slept with. She wasn’t pure anymore but she was a damn shot better than Jirena.”
“What!” A shriek filled the room. Michael and Kyle’s head snapped around to the door where Maria was standing. Her face was red with anger and her eyes filling with tears. “Is that what you think of me?”
“Maria, no--” Michael started to explain but she cut him off.
“No! NO! Don’t talk to me. Just don’t talk to me!” She advanced on him in three long strides. “I genuinely cared for you...”
“Listen.” Michael tried again but she slapped him hard, whipping his head around and leaving a bright red handprint.
“I don’t ever want to see or speak to you or any of your green little friends again from this day forward.” Maria took a deep breath and spoke softly but forcefully. “You, Max, Isabel and Tess do NOT exist to me as I certainly don’t matter to any of you.”
Before either guy could react, Maria had stormed out the door and slammed it behind her. Kyle rubbed his face with his hands. “Holy shit.”
“My thoughts exactly.” Michael rubbed at his sore face. “You’re the Guru. How do I fix this?”
“Depends.” Kyle replied softly. “Do you feel about Maria that way?”
“She’s like a sister to me. If I have to kick your ass, I will. Buddha forgive me, I will kick your ass.” Kyle narrowed his eyes at Michael.
“Whoa! Hold up. That was Fervid feeling that way in Utinu on Antar. I am Michael, I... I care for Maria. I do NOT like Liz.”
“Care to explain?”
“Ok. You still have feelings for Liz... right?” Michael inched away from Kyle just in case.
“Yeah, if Evans hadn’t come along... I think we’d still be together.”
“Ok. But you wouldn’t move in on her and now that she and Max are sorta together...”
“Hell, no. I wouldn’t make a move on her because now I’m her friend.” Kyle glared at the cowering Michael.
“Right. See, this is like a past thing. My former self was infatuated with Liz’s former self but I know her too well now to think that way about her. I do not, do not, like Liz in anyway that might jeopardize my life.” Michael swore and crossed his heart. “I want Maria. That’s all.”
“Good Luck my friend. The road to truth hath many trials and only the pure shall prevail.”
“Tough luck, good luck, be careful and wear a cup.” Kyle grinned and turned to the door. “Now... we’ve got some problems to fix and I want to talk to Isabel about Alex.”
“Whoa.” Michael froze. “You’re gonna touch that subject?”
“Vilandra was a bitch but go ahead.” Michael shook his head slowly.
“I thought you were engaged to her.” Kyle stopped his movements to the door.
“Well, we were but not by choice. Her mom chose me because I was already in a high position within the hierarchy. Isabel was Princess. If anything happened to Max, Isabel would rule and as her husband I would become King.” Michael shrugged and waved to Kyle as the shorter boy walked out the door.
“All aliens are scum!” Maria shouted as she entered Liz’s room. There was no one there. “Liz?”
“In here...” Liz’s strained voice wafted out from the bathroom. Maria raced around and found Liz on her hands and knees in front of the toilet.
“Are you okay?” Maria knelt beside her friend.
“I’m fine. Just a little morning sickness.” Liz shook her head and began puking once again.
“Ay Dios mio! Please tell me you aren’t pregnant.” Maria closed her eyes and waited for Liz’s response.
“Ok, lets examine the facts. I’m throwing up. I had unprotected sex with an alien last night.” Liz grumbled as she got up to brush her teeth. “And I have this craving for hot wings... which I would probably get if I wasn’t puking my guts out.”
“Can you tell that quick?”
“It’s aliens we’re talking, Maria. Anything is possible.” Liz flushed the toilet and stumbled to her bed. “I’m gonna go talk to Michael.”
“Michael? Why?” Maria immediately threw her fences up.
“I am NOT speaking to Max at the moment and I will not speak to Tess and Isabel and I have never gotten along. Michael is at least nice to me.” Liz never noticed Maria’s sudden change in attitude.
“Is this a pattern for you?” Maria almost shrieked.
“What?” Liz’s eyes got wide and she rolled over to look at her friend.
“You and Max have sex, you get pregnant and then you move on to Michael? No! No! NO!” Stomping to the door, Maria shouted over her shoulder. “I don’t want to speak to you ever again, Liz Parker.”
“What did I do?” Liz called after her.
“Kyle?” Isabel opened her bedroom door to find Kyle standing there. “What are you doing here?”
“I need to talk to you... your mom told me to come on back.” He shifted slightly while he waited for her to make up her mind about if she wanted him in her room.
“I’ve talked to Tess and to Michael and they’ve told me some things. Your side is missing though.” Kyle shoved his hands into his pockets. “I know about Balei, Linao... Miwiro.”
Her face crumpled up as she stepped aside to let him in. “Do you know everything?”
“I know that Alex was killed in his past life. That you wouldn’t tell your brother about his son being in the palace because you wanted to rule...” Kyle said softly. “I’m not judging but somebody’s gotta pick up the pieces...”
“I was so awful.” Isabel sank down on the bed. “They used to discount me completely in the past life. I won’t ever forget Gediro’s face when he realized that it was me.”
“What happened?” he asked, taking a seat on the edge of the bed.
“If I start, you can’t interrupt me. I was an evil child.” She leaned forward, eyebrows raised.
“Tell me. Maybe I can fill in the holes.” Kyle got comfortable with one of her pillows. “So, evil child. Speak.”
“I was horrible. Daddy gave me a clown when I was nine. Balei. He knew all my secrets, he could make me laugh. He was my only friend. I remember when I was 11, Gediro went with Daddy and Fervid to battle. They came back with Misela. She was a Ceroni... allegedly from Kejir. I hated her immediately. Gediro would make goo-goo eyes at her all the time and it was obvious that she was in love with him. I was 14 when I found out she was pregnant. I was spying. I made a suggestion to Fervid. I said something about how beautiful the Siheo was at night, about how no one would ever know that someone was hiding there... how close it was to the gates.”
“So you... it was your idea for Michael to sleep with Liz before taking her out of the palace?” Kyle broke in.
“He slept with her?” Isabel’s jaw dropped open. “I didn’t know that. I was just pretending to be flirting with him. I didn’t know that he wanted her too...”
“Continue.” Kyle pushed.
“Right, my reasons were completely selfish. I wanted to be queen. If Gediro knew about Misela and Linao... he would marry her. She was a princess and even though her property couldn’t be found or measured, she was royalty. It would be possible. I would never get to the throne that way. So I spoke to Fervid. I may have mentioned the laws of succession to Misela and then she was gone and so was the brat. I broke my brother’s heart to assure my birth rite. Balei yelled at me for what I did to Misela.” Isabel wiped at her eyes. “Then I met Khivar. He was just gorgeous and he wanted me on the throne as much as I wanted on it. I was 17 when our meetings started.”
“Khivar? Isn’t that...” Kyle snapped his fingers. “That guy that wants you dead.”
“He doesn’t want me dead.” Isabel whispered. “I think he still loves me. That’s what Nicholas said.”
“What’s going on, Isabel?”
“I was in love with Khivar. I would do anything for him. He was from another kingdom, a warrior. His parents orphaned him when he was a little boy and he worked his way up to being the finest warrior in Disjala. I would meet him in the Siheo and he would teach me to fight.” Isabel smiled a little at her forbidden courtship. “I mean, I met him at one of those absurd parties my mother was always throwing. I should have known better, he was as old as Gediro... I guess you could say they were rivals. I didn’t start paying attention to Gediro until after Khivar told me to. I wanted to marry him but my mother had told me that I was supposed to marry Fervid.”
“Ok... I think I see.”
“I wanted to be with Khivar and so I used Balei. He really was my best friend. He knew what I was and he still came to me when I told him I loved him. We may be an advanced type of civilization but purity is important. There was no way I could make love to Khivar and it not be found out when I married Fervid and so... I used Balei. I let my mother catch us together. Daddy had been dead just a few months and the pressure with Khivar had gone up. My mother just thought that I was a silly twit, ready to fall in love with any man who gave me as much attention as my father did.” Isabel rose to her feet and began pacing. “My mother couldn’t let word get out and so... she had Balei executed... and all I could think was that now... Khivar and I could be together. I wouldn’t have to worry about Balei finding out or what would happen on my wedding night...”
“Alex was Balei.”
“Yes. I can still see his blue eyes and his smile. I betrayed him for Khivar.” Isabel wiped at her eyes roughly and continued. “I—I... Gediro was King. That meant I was one step away from being Queen. I was getting upset at Khivar for pushing me. Sure, we met, trained and made love but he was taking me for granted. He thought I was blind. I knew he wanted to be King and I was a tool for that purpose... but I also knew he loved me. I was 24 when I let myself get caught in bed with Niko, Nicholas. My mother announced my marriage to Fervid. I remember her lecturing me about how good a wife Rila was. I didn’t want to be compared to that sniveling....” She broke off suddenly. “I’m sorry. I don’t mean that. I just... sometimes when I remember, I talk like Vilandra.”
“Well, I picked up on my eavesdropping. I learned about Gediro and Fervid’s security plans for the party they were throwing for our wedding and the party the night before. I told Khivar how to sneak in. He was wary of me since he heard about how I was roped into the engagement. He hadn’t heard that it was Niko I was with or else the night would have been worse than it was. Niko took out Fervid. Khivar took out Rila. Gediro and I faced off. We circled and circled the room as if there weren’t a battle going on around us. I lifted my hand just as he lifted his and... Khivar shot him. He shot me and I shot him... we killed each other.”
Kyle paced for a moment before turning to Isabel. “Are you going to tell them?”
“I want to but... I’m scared.” She whispered. “I don’t want them to think that I’m the same person but at the same time I want more respect than I’ve been getting. What if they all hate me? Will you come with me?”
“Yeah... I mean... I still gotta talk to Max.” He sighed and shoved his hands in his pockets.
“Ok. Meet me out at the quarry. I feel safe there.” Isabel nodded stiffly. “Just Max, Michael and Tess. I don’t want to look at Liz or Alex after what I’ve done to them... in the last life and this one.”
“Okay.” Kyle studied her face only knowing a little of what she was talking about. “Where are they now? Do you know?”
“Michael’s off of work. Max has been at the Crashdown all day. Tess won’t talk to anyone.”
“I’m on it.”
Max watched Liz move around customers with a bright smile on her face. She refused to look at him or service him. Agnes had kept him in cherry coke all evening, making her annoyance obvious. Michael sat across from him, sighing heavily. “I’m sorry.”
“For what?” Max’s eyes never left the brunette that hated him at the moment.
“Just accept my apology.” Michael concentrated his stare on the table. “I’m probably never going to say it again so sorry for everything that I’ve ever done wrong and for everything that I will do wrong.”
“Maria.” He whispered. “I was talking to Kyle and she overheard... I don’t know how much but she does know about Jirena.”
“How could you let her find out?” Max snapped his eyes to his friend.
“I didn’t ok. We can add one more to the list of humans that hate us. If Maria’s talked to Alex then we have two.”
“Alex?” Max shook his head.
“Tell me you remember Balei.” Michael groaned when Max’s face remained blank. “Don’t tell me you were that caught up in yourself.”
“What?” Max blinked. Had Michael just accused him of being selfish?
“You just blocked out everything that didn’t have anything to do with you, didn’t you?” Michael scoffed and sat back to watch Maria wander into the restaurant to talk to Alex. “Look, there it goes and we’ll be three for four.”
“You accuse me of being selfish and then you change the subject?” Max’s jaw dropped. “What the hell is your problem?”
“My problem?” Michael’s head snapped around. “I don’t have a problem. You’re the one that has a problem. You’re too wrapped up in your own shit that you don’t notice that the rest of us are in deep shit too. Maria hates me. She thinks I think she’s a whore. She hates you too because she knows you used to sleep with her, too. Your sister used Balei and then he was killed and you don’t even care. No wonder whatever problem Liz was talking about on the phone, she came to me.”
Max started up out of his seat but a pair of hands shoved him back into it. Kyle loomed over the two. “This is not the place to air the royal dirty laundry. Quarry, now. Isabel has something she wants to tell you guys.”
Kyle was about to follow them out of the Crashdown when Maria stopped him. “Kyle, what’s going on?”
“Nothing. Just alien crap.” Kyle shook his head. He had already learned to identify Maria’s moods. She was currently in her ‘death-to-all-those-alien’ mood and shouldn’t really be around anyone. He just needed to keep her out of it while she was pissed.
“That’s nice.” Maria droned, rolling her eyes. “When isn’t there alien crap? Why are they sending you to do their dirty work? You need to free yourself of aliens. Be free. Get them out of your life and out of your house... so what’s going on?”
“Maria... it’s just alien crap. Liz and Alex and alien crap.” Kyle shook his head and started out the door. “Don’t worry about it.
Liz winced slightly as a cramp immobilized her near Max’s table. A wave of nausea flowed over her and as it passed, she heard Kyle’s order out to the quarry. The two were out of their chairs in a flash. Alex appeared by her side just moments later.
“Are you okay?” His concerned blue eyes ran over her hunched over form.
“I’m just feeling a little icky.” Liz lied. She dreaded going upstairs to take the pregnancy test she had another waitress buy for a ‘friend of hers’ later on that evening. “My shift’s over and... did you hear that? Why are they going to the quarry to discuss us?”
“No idea.” Alex shrugged, trying not to let it show how much his curiosity was growing due to Kyle’s statement to Maria.
“I don’t know about you but I don’t like to be talked about behind my back.” Liz narrowed her eyes. “I want to know what’s so important that they have to go someplace so private to talk about us.”
“Let’s go and see.” Alex nodded in agreement. Maria stood there dumbfounded. She had asked Alex to meet her so she could tell him what she had found out regarding their past lives and the moment that he had seen Liz looking a little ill, he was off to help her. She still had to tell him that he was there on Antar just like the rest of them and so she followed the twosome out to the quarry.
The sky had darkened considerably since Isabel had left her house. She watched the storm clouds sweep across the sky and block out what was left of the sun. A cloud of dust announced the arrival of her fellow aliens and Kyle. Nervously, she began pacing and waited for them to meet her by the reservoir’s edge. Max was the first, leaping out of the Jeep to look her over and make sure she was okay. “What is it? Are you okay?”
“I’m fine. I just... I have to talk to you guys.” Isabel whispered and cleared her throat, looking over at the others. “I know you all know that we didn’t say everything that needed to be said this morning. I know that we’ve all been talking to Kyle.”
“What?” Max turned to look at the jock, who was motioning for Isabel to keep going.
“Tell them about Khivar.” Kyle prompted but his words were lost as the wind picked up.
“And there are three people that we need to talk about. We need to talk about this... Michael.” Isabel singled him out.
“I don’t think that’s such a good idea, Iz.” Michael shook his head and threw his hands up in the air.
“Michael... Isabel’s right.” Tess stayed next to Kyle’s car. “I know things that you all don’t think I know because of my relationship with Nehide.”
“And I’ve done some horrible things as Vilandra.” Isabel felt the sting of tears. “Michael... Kyle accidentally told me what you did... and that wasn’t entirely your fault but... you did it anyway.”
“What is she talking about, Michael?” Max approached him slowly, barely aware that rain had started to fall on them all.
“Tell him about the boy. I remember the way you looked at him... you wanted him to be your son.” Tess whispered.
“I knew about him too, Michael. I knew he was there. Tell him.” Isabel called out over the winds that brought the rain down hard on them. Lightning flashed, lighting up the quarry.
“Michael.” Max glanced at his sister and former bride before turning back to his second. “What are they talking about? What boy? What boy?”
Just as Michael opened his mouth to speak, two cars pulled into the quarry, lightning lit up the cars to identify them as Maria’s Jetta and Alex’s Rabbit. Three people leapt out of the cars.
“Kyle!” Isabel shouted over the wind. “I thought I told you not to let them come.”
“I can’t be in two places at the same time. It was either keep them home or come and support you and this little powwow.” Kyle shouted back.
“What’s going on?” Alex shouted and blinked against the bright lighting and stinging rain. “If this concerns us, we should have been invited.”
“Liz? What are you going out here? You’re going to get sick.” Max tried to approach her but Liz backed off.
“I’m still angry with you. Don’t touch me. I’m only here because I heard Kyle say this little meeting was about Alex and me. It’s bad enough that you’re talking about me behind my back. Don’t drag Alex into this too.” Liz hissed at him.
“Maria... what are you doing here?” Kyle groaned and wiped the water off his face.
“I’m here to get you and Alex and go home. We do not need their alien crap. You’re my friend and I won’t have them messing with you too.” Maria shouted out and pointed specifically to Michael.
Kyle noted Maria’s obvious omission of Liz’s name. “Maria. What’s your problem? I know what you heard and you are really overreacting.”
“I’m overreacting? He called me a slut!” Maria shouted out.
Liz approached Michael and tried to talk to him over the raging wind. “Michael. I gotta talk to you!”
“What? You’re gonna yell at me too?” He backed off and stared up at the churning clouds overhead.
“Why would I yell at you? Because you called me names? This is important and I will never speak to Max again.” She pulled his arm so that she could yell in his ear.
“There she goes! You took him in the past life and now you’re taking him again!” Maria stomped her foot and pointed to Michael and Liz. “Why can’t you just be satisfied with Max? Why do you have to have Michael too?”
“What?” Max’s eyes widened then glared at his supposed best friend.
“Oh yeah. Don’t you know? They shacked up back on the home planet.” Maria blurted out. “Apparently your planet is full of sluts.”
Michael had never been scared of Max in all his life but at that moment, nothing in the world could have scared him more. While the two stared at each other, Kyle ran his hands through his hair. “This was not supposed to go like this. Isabel was supposed to tell about Alex and Khivar, Tess was supposed to talk about everything that Nehide said and Michael was supposed to tell about Misela.”
“What about me?” Alex turned from Kyle to Isabel, who blinked rapidly to keep the rain out and to clear her head enough to make a response.
“Kyle, it’s no use. I knew this would all go to hell.” Tess threw her arms up and turned away from them to stare up at the flashes of light that danced across the sky, not caring that she was soaking wet.
Kyle turned to where Liz was staring at Max and Michael. Max started yelling just as the brightest flash of lightning appeared over a side of the quarry. “I’m selfish? You called me selfish today. You and Liz?”
“It wasn’t Liz!” Michael countered, getting Maria’s attention. “It was Misela!”
“I don’t know why. She was gorgeous. She was supposed to be mine and you got her first just like everything else. I was your father’s favorite. He was like a father to me and as soon as you came of age I was tossed in the backseat.” Michael roared letting two lifetimes worth of angst out. “My question is why I always got your sloppy seconds. First Misela and then Jirena.”
“You’re gonna bring that out now?” Max took a step forward. “We were talking about Misela.”
“I know! I’m not changing the subject. I’m just saying that you’ve never thought about anyone but yourself!” Michael shouted in his face.
“What?!” Max shoved him backwards.
“Maybe you should think about why Misela came to me. Why she gave herself to me? Why she ran away from you? Why she took her son away? I’m surprised you didn’t think of that... it’s still all about you.” Michael fought off Max’s advances. Soon a shoving match ensued.
“You took her away from me. You let her get away.” Max shoved Michael hard, making the taller boy back up a few steps. Max was about to advance on him again but Liz stepped in front of him.
“I don’t know what’s going on but stop it.” She told him calmly.
“Let him come, Liz. I can take it. He’ll just blame me for his mistakes like he always did.” Michael glared. Max reached around Liz and grabbed Michael by his shirt. His friend just took it. “Go ahead, hit me. You didn’t have any qualms last time.”
“Do you have any idea of the pain you caused me by screwing me over?”
“Guys, chill! You’re going to hurt Liz and the baby!” Maria snapped out of it as soon as Liz had tried to stop the two boys from fighting but it was obvious that none of her efforts to keep them apart were working and only succeeding in getting her sandwiched between the two furious aliens ready to kill each other. Maria’s words stilled the alien boys in an instant.
“What?” Max’s eyes snapped down to Liz, who suddenly wouldn’t look at him. Silence settled over the eight friends. “Are you...?” Slowly, Max released his grip on Michael and tipped Liz’s chin to look up at him. “Liz...”
Tess screamed, making them all turn. She pointed out into the darkness that had settled over the quarry. When a bolt of lightning streaked across the sky, a figure was lit up. It made its way across the floor of the quarry directly toward them. As the figure came closer, it became clear that it was male and walking very quickly. He was upon them in moments. Max thrust Liz behind him and raised his hand to the man walking to them. Michael stood next to him and also raised his hand.
A guy about the same age as them stopped a few feet away and knelt down in front of Max. “My lord, I am so glad I found you so soon.”
“Who are you?” Max asked and a familiar face turned up to him. Max just couldn’t think of why the guy was so familiar.
“Forgive me, King Gediro.” He stood and swallowed nervously. “I am your humble servant, your mother’s protector and temporary ambassador to Earth.” A half-smile crossed his face for an instant and was gone. “I was just a little boy when you died. Your mother, Nehide of Laoron, has sent me to retrieve you, your wife, your sister and your commander. We received notice that you had emerged and it is time.”
Isabel gasped and stepped forward to look at the guy. This guy had been 11 the last that Isabel remembered and now he didn’t look much older than them. “How can you be him? I know you. How can you be him?”
“That will take some explaining and I promised your mother that I would bring you back as soon as I found you.” The ambassador bowed his head in her direction. “Princess Vilandra, you are every bit as beautiful as I remembered.”
“How can you recognize them?” Maria spoke up.
“They look exactly the way they did on Antar.” He answered without taking his eyes off his King. “Now, we must go. Khivar is still wreaking havoc.”
“Khivar’s still alive?” Isabel whispered to herself, she could still remember how in love with him she had been.
“We must go. I’ll explain on the way.” The ambassador gestured behind him in the direction he had just come from.
“No.” Tess spoke up.
“Queen Rila.” The boy turned and smiled, before continuing. He couldn’t believe his luck that they were all right there when he landed. “We really need to go. I can only hide the ship for so long.”
“Tess is right. We can’t just leave.” Max turned to his friends, all tension gone from the fight just seconds ago. “We have people that we have to report to. We... have parents that will worry. Besides... I have to think about it.”
“What is there to think about? Your kingdom is falling. Your people are enslaved. You have to come home. There is nothing to think about.”
“I don’t have to do anything. There is more to consider here that just my going home.” Max shouted against the still raging wind. The rain was stopping but they were all still soaking wet. “I’m not going to go streaking across the universe at the drop of a hat just because you or my mother say so.”
“Stop it!” Tess shouted and made for Kyle’s car. “Let’s just go. We’ll think better dry and fed. I don’t know about you guys but I was too anxious to eat today.”
“She’s right.” Max nodded stiffly, calming down. “Let’s go home and think of what to do.”
“Then I suggest that we hurry.” The ambassador pointed the cars parked nearby. “Are these... your talosh?”
“Cars.” Michael supplied and looked over his former apprentice. He looked like a perfect blend of Misela and Gediro. He was just as tall as his father, with his mother’s beautiful eyes, her fair skin, his dark hair... it was so strange.
“Fervid, my master, it is good to once again be in your service.” He bowed his head at Michael and smiled broadly.
“Let’s go back into town before you guys get sick.” Kyle motioned for his friends to get into their cars. Miwiro got a good look at Kyle when the lightning flashed. He approached the teen slowly. “What? Why are you looking at me like that?”
“Hanu? Is it really you?” The ambassador couldn’t stop himself from hugging the human boy tight. “I can’t believe it. When you said you’d always be with me... I didn’t think I’d ever see you again.”
“Um, his name is Kyle... not Hanu.” Liz interrupted, noticing how uncomfortable her ex-boyfriend looked. He let go of the shorter teen and faced the owner of the voice that had just spoken to him. “I’m Liz. That’s Maria and that’s Alex.” She pointed to each in turn. She began to feel uneasy with the way this guy was staring at her. Granted he was gorgeous but the stare was uncomfortable. “We should go.”
Max took her arm but she shook it off and walked off to Alex’s car. When the strange boy started to go after her, Max stopped him. He didn’t like the way that the ambassador guy was looking at Liz. “You’re riding with me.”
Kyle sat behind the wheel of his car and watched the stranger. It was all coming together in his head. He called Max his king and Michael his master. He recognized them all and thought Kyle was someone he wasn’t. He didn’t even need eyes to see how much like Max he was. The way they clashed just a few moments ago was all the proof anyone needed. The stranger was the Linao. This was Miwiro.
Max waited for Isabel and their guest to climb into the Jeep and watched the others all drive off; Kyle, Michael and Tess in the convertible, Liz and Alex in the Rabbit, Maria in the Jetta. Once all were on their way, Max turned to the guy in the passenger seat. “Who are you? You never gave me a name.”
“Max, this is Miwiro.” Isabel hissed. It was at his blank expression that she realized her brother still had no clue who this boy was. “What are we going to do with him? We can’t tell Mom and Dad who he really is.”
“Your highness, I do not understand.” Miwiro leaned forward. “I thought you would be on your own. Where is your protector?”
“Dead. We have parents. We’re barely 17 and 18 years old.” Isabel explained. “We have parents that don’t know who we really are. They think we’re human.”
“We could tell them that this is a relative of ours.” Max turned onto the highway and ran a hand over his face. “We can’t call him Miwiro. Any suggestions?” He turned to Miwiro.
“You may call me whatever you want. I am always your servant.”
“Okay, Bob... you’re our cousin.” Max fixed his eyes on the Rabbit a few cars ahead. “Don’t talk about us too much.”
“Max... do you think that Liz is really pregnant?” Isabel stared out the window and pondered over everything that had been said.
“I don’t know. I... didn’t use anything and I don’t think Liz was on any birth control.” Max’s fist suddenly pounded the steering wheel. “How could I be so stupid?”
“Max, how long have you been sleeping with her?” She barely turned to look at her brother. Miwiro sat back to listen.
“Iz... god... last night was our first time. She didn’t sleep with Kyle... that’s what she came over to tell me.” Max tried to explain but he just felt so trapped. Like he was in 10 deep and clawing at mud walls. “I was in the middle of memory retrieval when she showed up and... I lost control. She’s Misela and I love her... I did what came naturally to Gediro and she deserves better than that. Can we even tell after one day?”
“No.” Miwiro whispered softly.
“What?” Both Max and Isabel turned.
“It’s impossible to tell after one day. It takes us weeks to learn of new life. My mother didn’t know about me until she was beginning to show... at least, that’s what I remember her telling one of the women in the village.” Miwiro’s eyes turned bright at the mention of his mother. “I was only with her until I was nine and then I was in the palace. I was still in the palace when she died only months after the monarchy fell. I didn’t even know until years later when I was spying on the slave drivers. She didn’t survive one week of captivity.”
“You didn’t even know she was dead?” Isabel whispered softly. She reached back and took his hand, squeezing it in what she hoped was a comforting gesture and she was rewarded with a shy smile.
“I... this is embarrassing.” Miwiro ducked his head a little. “I used to have the biggest crush on you when I was younger. I meant it when I said you are just as beautiful now as you were then.”
Max snorted and kept his eyes on the road. The other two didn’t dare speak for the rest of the ride into town.
“I’m not calling him Bob.” Isabel glared at her brother. Miwiro sat back, stared out the window and wondered how it could rain so much. Earth was a strange place and he was finding his leaders much changed. They were parked in front of the Evans home trying to come up with a cover story. “How about Stephen or Victor or something better like that?”
“Isabel, he’s not a pet.” Max sighed and turned in his seat to look at his guest. “Do you have a problem with Bob?”
“No.” Miwiro shook his head slowly. “But I don’t have any concept of what Earth names are supposed to sound like.”
“I’m Isabel, this is Max. Rila is Tess. Fervid is Michael. Our other friends’ names are Liz, Maria, Kyle and Alex. Our parents are Philip and Diane.” Isabel nodded to the house in front of them. “I mean, Bob is such a generic name.”
“Robert.” Max suggested finally, it was only the full form of Bob but surely it would appease his sister. “How’s Robert? It’s not Bob and it’s just as good as those other names.”
“Fine. Robert is fine.” Isabel rolled her eyes and turned back to Miwiro. “I hope that’s okay with you.”
“It’s fine, Princess, really.” Miwiro gave her a shy smile.
“That’s another thing. You cannot address us by our titles or whatever. I’m Max, that’s Isabel.” Max stated slowly and watched the other cars pull up nearby. Somehow he had beaten them all... and then he realized that they had probably all gone to the Crashdown expecting to meet there and come over to his house when he hadn’t shown up. “Let’s go.”
The dripping threesome moved into the house and was immediately greeted by the worried Mrs. Evans. “Kids, I was so worried with the two of you gone during this storm... who is this?” Diane asked and went for towels in the hall closet.
“Yeah, Mom... you’ll never believe this.” Isabel started and motioned for her brother to take over. He was always better at lying to their parents about the important stuff.
“Mom, this is Robert... Miro.” Max quickly threw in a last name and shrugged at Isabel’s disgusted face. “We ran into him and um... the darnest thing... hehe... well. Apparently, he’s our cousin.”
“Oh! Really?” Diane blinked and looked over the strange young man dripping in her foyer. “Well, you certainly look like Max. It’s nice to meet you, Robert, I’m Diane. It’s... very fortunate that you ran into them.” She turned to her children. “Tell me what happened.”
“Liz, I can’t believe you.” Alex sighed and opened the car door. “How could you be so careless?”
“I wasn’t exactly thinking.” She muttered and followed him up the Evans’ walkway.
“Obviously.” He turned his blue eyes on her. “Why didn’t you say something sooner?”
“Alex, it’s not like I was keeping it a secret. I don’t even know yet... It’s just that last night, we... and this morning I was fine but this afternoon I was really nauseous and dizzy... it makes sense that I could be carrying an alien child, Alex. I’m not exactly thrilled about it.” Liz finished at last. “What are we doing here?”
“I want to talk to Isabel and you obviously need to talk to Max.” Alex pressed the doorbell and glanced over his shoulder at the others climbing out of their cars. The six of them waited for the door to open. Mrs. Evans swung the door open and blinked at all the wet faces standing there.
“Hi. Kids!” She called out and then stepped aside. “I’ll bet all of you were at the Reservation with Max and Isabel?”
“Yeah.” Maria nodded. “It started raining.”
“It’s still raining, Maria.” Alex bit back a laugh and turned on the charm for Mrs. Evans. “We are very sorry to come into your lovely home sopping wet but your house was the first on the way into town. The street lights are down...”
“It’s no problem. At least you kids aren’t out there driving. Come in, dry off.” Diane laid out a towel next to the door. “Just... shoes here.” Then she held out another towel. “Jackets here.”
Kyle took off his jacket and then took the towel from her. He was better able to hold onto the ton of wet jackets that went into it. Soon, all jackets and shoes had been properly taken off and taken to be dried.
“We’ll just lay these out in the laundry room to dry. Max, Isabel and Robert went to get dried off. I’m sure they’ll be out soon.” Diane kept moving. “I’ll get some more towels and make some hot chocolate or something. Feel free to use the phone to let your parents know where you are.” She started to walk off but then turned back. “Michael, I think I washed an outfit of yours that got left behind, sometime. In case you want dry clothes, they’re in the hall closet next to Max’s room.”
“Yeah, thanks.” Michael nodded stiffly and then scooted past the mass of people to retrieve said clothes.
“Alex...” Maria turned puppy dog eyes on her best friend. “I have a bag in the trunk of my car... could you go get it?”
“Fine.” He rolled his eyes and went outside to retrieve said bag.
“What’s in the bag?” Tess asked softly.
“Clothes.” Maria nodded her head as if it was obvious but the others kept staring at her. “What? With the way that Michael keeps wanting to take off in my car with me in it... I’ve taken precautions. I will not get stuck in the middle of nowhere in grungy stanky clothes.”
Liz couldn’t keep a laugh from escaping her mouth. It quickly died when Max entered the foyer. She couldn’t stop herself from looking him over and was barely able to contain the inevitable drool. He was wearing a thin wife beater and sweats, barefoot. “Hey guys.” He nodded to Alex when he walked in with Maria’s bag. Maria took the bag and then opened it. After a moment, she reached in and pulled out a set of clothes for both Tess and Liz to borrow. She gave both girls looks that said not to even mention it. Liz hugged the dry clothes to her chest and bit her lip. Max had moved to stand beside her. “Liz... um, you can use my room to get dressed... if you want... you know, after Robert comes out.”
“Robert?” Liz and the others asked.
“You know... Robert.” Max emphasized the name. “My cousin from... Arizona that we ran into on the Reservation at that store with the cow skull on the sign...”
“Right. Robert.” Liz nodded and made to move past Max but he followed her. “Max... I know that...”
“Yeah, we need to talk... but not now.” Max nodded and tried to shove his hands into his pockets but soon realize he didn’t have any. He pushed open his door and waited for Liz to go first.
Liz took one step in and whirled around, hand covering her eyes. “Oh my god...” The sight was branded in her mind. Miwiro had been standing naked in front of the stack of clothes on Max’s bed. Her face was flaming red with shock and embarrassment. She nodded to Max’s hushed ‘wait here’ and waited until the door had closed before leaning against the wall for strength. Those Antarians sure knew how to make ‘em.
“Why aren’t you dressed?” Max hissed and closed the door behind him, leaving the mortified Liz in the hallway.
“I don’t know how these work.” Miwiro pointed to the stack of Max’s clothes.
“Don’t clothes work the same on Antar?” Max sighed and picked up the boxers. “These go on first. Feet through the holes, tag on the left side, patch on the waist band in back.” Miwiro obediently did as told and followed the rest of Max’s blind instructions until he was dressed. Max picked up Miwiro’s wet clothes and after examining them, he understood how he could have gotten confused. There were elaborate ties on the sides of the shirt. The pants had laces that ran up each leg from mid-thigh to waist and from below the knee to the ankle. “Does everyone wear these?”
“Only the servants. Royalty and warrior classes... as well as our ambassadors wear much nicer things.” Miwiro wiggled his toes in the socks he was given. They felt odd, like dancing shoes. His heavy boots had been shoved underneath the bed.
“I thought you were an ambassador.” Max narrowed his eyes at the boy, who shifted nervously and bowed his head. “You aren’t, are you?”
“I was cendsi.” He shrugged with a half-smile. “My mother said I get my sense of detin from my father.”
“Okay.” Max nodded and gathered some extra clothes to take with him to Kyle and Alex. “Follow me and try not to talk too much.”
Liz entered the living room to find most everyone already there. She must have taken longer than she thought to dry off and get dressed. Then again, she had debated for 15 minutes on whether or not to borrow some of Max’s clothes. Maria had given her a pair of shorts and a spaghetti strap tank top. She finally borrowed an extra pair of his sweats and one of his sweatshirts over the tank top.
Running her eyes over everyone else, she blushed when her eyes fell on Miwiro. Her already red face reddened more when he offered her the seat next to him and half his blanket. Not seeing any other open spaces in the Evans’ living room, she sat down beside him. He kept staring at her. She smiled nervously at him. “What?”
“What?” he blinked rapidly at her.
“You’re staring at me.” Liz furrowed her brow.
“You’re beautiful... very beautiful. There was a story about a Kejir princess.” His voice caught everyone’s attention. By then everyone was dry and congregated in the living room. Alex, Maria and Kyle filled up one couch. Tess and Isabel were sharing a chair. Michael lay sprawled on the floor. Liz and Miwiro occupied the remaining couch. Max and his mother were busy handing out mugs of hot chocolate and apple cider.
At the words, Max’s head snapped up to see the voice’s owner and who he was sitting with. He was about to warn Miwiro not to say anything but his mother opened her mouth first. “I’d love to hear it.”
Once they were all settled in, the young man began his story. “Legend has it the Kejir had land on which no person could ever set foot. The legend also says that only the King of Kejir and his bloodline could visit it upon the light of the third moon and the first song of the Varnya. His people traveled the land, turning tricks, earning money and friendship from all the other kingdoms.”
“Ooh. This sounds fascinating.” Diane whispered to her son, who had shared his blanket with her. Max only nodded and waited for Miwiro to go on.
“The last Kejir king, Taoni, had a daughter. She was so beautiful and the purest of all princesses. The king had many offers for her hand but he turned them all down. His daughter was very young and he had lost his own very young wife in childbed. He wanted her to live a long life with many seasons of happiness. All was well until the battles started. King Kones of Utinu took his second in command, Fervid, and his son, Gediro, into the Ceirda for the fighting. The others called them Ceronis but it was the Kejir who were traveling the land at the time. Misela, that’s the Kejir princess, was only 34 seasons.” Miwiro caught the questioning glances on many faces. “Excuse me, the equivalent of 17 years old.”
“How do the seasons work?” Maria pondered aloud.
“There were two seasons. One for dying and one for living. One season grew the grass green and the other shriveled and killed it.” Miwiro quickly explained. “Two seasons in a year. So... King Kones wanted a fee for keeping the Kejir unharmed in the battle to come in the next day. King Taoni didn’t have any money, or goods to offer. So he sorrowfully offered his only daughter. The second that King Kones laid eyes on Misela he was entranced. She was the most beautiful girl that he had ever seen. Her purity radiated off her.” He looked around the room. Everyone’s eyes were on him as he told the stories he had been told as a child. “King Kones took the girl and gave her to his son. Gediro was also 17 years old and this was his first time in battle. Now. Prince Gediro was a handsome man and many women would have given their eyeteeth to be with him if only for one night but, he had been so far with his mother. She kept him soft and this time with his father was to prove his manhood.”
“How awful for that poor girl...” Diane murmured.
“They say she hated him... at first. Misela was treated well by Gediro but she could never really be more than a servant. She was made to sit at his feet if he chose to keep her, which he had. No man in his right mind would give up such a beauty. Her blood was royal even if her father’s land was doubted. Misela was a catch.” He nodded sincerely. “Rumors say that the prince fell in love with her and eventually she with him. They say she became with child a few years later. She feared what would happen if her child were one day made to rule. The official story was they sent her back to her family but she never made it, she died en route. There are rumors that Fervid helped her escape. That she lives somewhere with the heir to the throne.”
“That is so sad.” Maria whispered.
“What happened to the prince?” Max spoke up after sharing a look with Liz. Her confusion was written all over her face.
Miwiro blinked at him. His king should know this already. “Well, they say his heart broke when he was told his love had died. He was never quite the same. Some say he became cruel, some say his heart turned to stone. He did eventually marry again. A child not more then 31 seasons. She never bore him any children and then, Khivar stormed the castle one day. Killed all the royal family.” He saw the pained look on Isabel’s face. “Gediro’s sister, Vilandra... she was betrothed to Fervid but their ages were so vast and rumor has it that she once loved a servant of hers. A clown called Balei, he was put to death, he wasn’t good enough for her. Vilandra was never the same after he was gone.”
“Such sad stories.” Diane shook her head and ruffled her son’s hair. “Glad nothing like that happens today. How about I make some popcorn.”
A chorus of ‘Thank you, Mrs. Evans’ went up as she exited the room. Isabel spoke first. “Robert... tell us about your mother. What was she like?”
“Jana was wonderful.” He smiled broadly and turned to Liz. “You have eyes like hers. You remind me so much of my mother.” Then he turned back to the group. “The old women in the village never knew much about her past and Jana would never talk about it. They say she was beautiful once but she had an accident after I was born and it disfigured her face. I don’t remember what she looked like before but I never thought she was ugly. I could feel her purity. My Jana was a good woman. She would tell me stories about my father. She said he was a great warrior that would have loved me very much.”
“I’ve got a question.” Kyle spoke slowly, as if afraid to ask it or hear the answer. “Who is Hanu?”
“I apologize for my display earlier.” Miwiro ducked his head. “Hanu was my mentor after Fervid died. He took care of me. You could say he was a priest, a spiritual leader. He died two years ago. Two Antarian years that is. It was Hanu that told me all these stories. He had eyes and ears where no one else could have thought. It is by him that my lady Nehide has survived.”
“Wow, so he was like a father to you.” Maria whispered. “When did your father leave you?”
“I’ve never met him.” Miwiro looked to his hands. “I don’t even know his name. Whenever I asked Jana... she would just shake her head and begin crying. All she ever told me was that she loved him, that he loved her and that he was the greatest man ever to live. The village women told me that they had never met him. When my mother came to live with them, she was already pregnant... about... um... less than a season along. She told them her name was Nisai and that her husband had died in war. They took her in and nursed her during pregnancy. Then she began work at the refinery. That’s how her face got burned. She was still working there when I left to train with Commander Fervid.” A far off look crossed his eyes. “I only wish that I could have been there when she died. Khivar destroyed our village just a month after he stormed the palace. I didn’t find out for two years and I swore that I would do anything to avenge her death.”
[ edited 1 time(s), last at 13-Oct-2001 5:22:56 PM ]
|posted on 13-Oct-2001 5:31:57 PM|
Max watched Liz and Miwiro talk on the couch they shared. She smiled brightly at him as he showed her some hand games that Antarians play. with a pang he noted how she blushed when her eyes locked with his. A not unfamiliar feeling washed over him when they leaned in close to whisper to each other. It strengthened when she took his hand and disappeared down the hallway with him. Max was sure he was turning green with envy until he remembered that Liz had seen Miwiro naked. Then he knew he was jealous as hell.
Liz turned to Miwiro in the privacy of the bathroom. "You know... I'm sorry about walking in on you earlier..."
"It's okay. Really. I'm not embarrassed." Miwiro replied calmly. He had lived in such closed quarters with so many people that shyness had simply melted away.
"So Max said that I might be?" Liz asked shyly. She couldn't believe she was turning to a complete stranger for help on this but... Miwiro would know more than the others about these things.
"He wasn't sure and I told him, it usually takes many months to find out." Miwiro nodded to her. "I could help you find out."
"You could?" Liz's eyes widened. "How?"
"There is this... thing that I can do, called a fira. Would you like to try?" He asked.
"What is it?" She asked warily. It wasn't that she didn't trust him but she just met the guy and he was an alien. Like that had ever stopped her before.
"I would... touch you." He spoke slowly. "And then go into your head. Forgive my English, I am still learning much."
"You mean a connection?" Liz suppressed a grin. "You would match your breathing to mine, look in my eyes and then get inside my mind, then into my body?"
"Precisely. You have done this before?" Miwiro tilted his head at her. She nodded and slowed her breathing. Her eyes locked on his amazing eyes... so much like Max's. Did all aliens have eyes like that? She felt as if she had been rushed by a cold wind and then it was gone.
"No." He told her.
Miwiro gave her a half smile. "Not all aliens have eyes like mine. I get mine from my father. At least that's what my mother used to tell me."
"You really don't know who he is?" She asked, hopping up on the bathroom counter, momentarily forgetting why they had gone in there.
"No. I never understood what the whole secret was. I am 35 seasons now... and I don't have any clue where I came from. Not only do I not know my father, I don't know where my mother came from." He looked into the mirror beside her, sighing at his face. "How do you go about looking for someone that looks like you? I don't believe he's dead. I think he's out there somewhere. I wonder sometimes if he knows about me. If he's looking for me too."
"I hope you find him." Liz touched his shoulder lightly. "So um... am I? Pregnant?"
"No." He shook his head. "You have... the stomach flu as I believe you call it."
"Oh." Liz blushed suddenly. She had just jumped to the most severe conclusion.
"He genuinely loves you." Miwiro tipped her chin up.
"How could he not? You are Misela." He saw her eyes widen. "I'm sorry. I got some of your thoughts. Just like with your question about my eyes. It was hanging in the front and I couldn't help but see it." When he saw that she had calmed down, he continued. "You are very beautiful just like she was. I've seen pictures, usually of her sitting at his feet but it's you. Don't ever leave him. Never hurt him. She made him cold man when she left. I know you love him. Hold on to him. Our world could not handle a Gediro without your love, not again."
"So, who's going to tell them?" Kyle hissed to Isabel and Michael.
"I really wish Max could just see it." Isabel whispered.
"I guess I'll do it." Michael sighed. "I'm the one that helped her escape. He can't get any more pissed at me... right?"
"We'll just stay out of the line of fire." Kyle crossed his arms and sat back.
Maria munched on some popcorn and sipped at her cider. "I... I don't know what to think. I just don't. All of these memories and it's still like they don't know what to do with them."
"Think about Maria." Alex cleared his throat. "You lived your entire live up til now and then boom. There's stuff from before your birth that makes everything shift. You look at everything differently. I know I would."
"You do." Tess whispered from beside them. They both turned to listen to her. "I've been so sure I was in love with Max all these months and... I got my memories. I was afraid of him in my past life. He hurt me in so many ways because he was so cold to me. I didn't want anything to do with him after we were married. Then my best friend abandoned me."
"Who was your best friend?" Maria asked softly.
"You were. We practically grew up together. I looked up to you. Then after he got tired of being with me... you were too happy to jump into bed with him." Tess wiped at her eyes. "You and I are not friends, Maria. We never were but Jirena and Rila were. Rila was thankful that Gediro no longer went to her but it hurt that he went to Jirena... or rather... Jirena went to him when he snapped his fingers..."
"Oh my god... I was like... on something, right? No way would I sleep with Max." Maria's eyes got big.
"You wouldn't. Jirena would. She was... crazy." Tess smiled bitterly. "I remember she was always falling in love and sleeping with guys. Then when I got married... her tastes improved. First King Gediro and then Commander Fervid... you were my servant. That was your official class."
"So, if you were a slut... you were a high ranking slut. Not just anyone got to spend as much time as you ever did with him and Fervid." Tess sniffed and took a sip of her Tabasco laced hot chocolate. "This isn't stuff I would have thought about before but now... I think about everything twice."
Liz found Max staring out the window. She approached him slowly. "Hey... I hope you don't mind that I borrowed your clothes."
"Oh yeah... it's fine." Max turned at her voice. "You and... Robert are getting along."
"He's a nice guy. He's had it pretty rough." Liz had mulled everything over and she knew she hadn't been fair to Max that afternoon. "I'm sorry. I didn't understand what was going on. I kinda still don't but... I'm better about it."
"Liz. I hope you realize that I really do love you... every bit as much as Gediro did Misela." He raised his hand to her face, brushing a stray strand of hair behind her ear.
"Not every bit as much." Liz bit her lip. "I'm not pregnant."
"No?" Max gulped suddenly. A weight was lifted of him. "Ok."
"Yeah. It's great news." She smiled at him.
"M--I mean Robert performed a fira on me. He said it's all clear... you know... when this is all over... you should do something for him." Liz watched an unfamiliar look cross his eyes.
"Like what?" He asked stiffly.
"Help him find his father." Liz lifted her hand to touch his. "He's lost, Max. He grew up without a father. His master died so soon... his mentor died about two years ago. He told me that he held Hanu until he died of old age. Max... that isn't something that happens on Antar much anymore. If he found his father... he'd be a much happier person."
"You want him happy?" Max asked her slowly.
"What is with you?" Liz scoffed. She shook her head and looked away. "He's a nice guy. He's here to tell you your people need you and you've barely spoken five words to him." Liz locked eyes with him. "Why?"
Max just turned away.
"Should we really trust him?" Max whispered softly.
"Max, you said you got your memories back. Has he lied to you yet?" She lightly touched his arm.
"No but what if it's a trap?" He spun around and hissed at her. His urgency set off a light bulb in her head. She started shaking her head at him.
"I don't think that's what you're afraid of at all. I think you're afraid that he's telling the truth." Liz crossed her arms and backed away. "Make up your mind Max. You can't have it your way. I know you don't want to go back but... you have to."
"That's not it, Liz." He weakly tried to protest but she locked eyes with him and walked off. Right smack into Miwiro who had been carrying a drink in his hands. His hot chocolate spilt all over his shirt.
"Oh! Robert. I'm sorry." Liz gasped and looked around for something to clean him up with. When she didn't find anything, she chose a different route. "Here. Give me your shirt."
Max watched on in disbelief. Liz helped Miwiro out of the shirt. Holding it in her hands she quickly looked him over for burns and then gasped. "Oh my god..."
Liz's eyes were glued to a spot on Miwiro's well-built abs about an inch from his belly button. Max followed her gaze and furrowed his brows. It wasn't until Michael walked up that he saw it.
Miwiro didn't understand why they were all staring at his stomach. At least, not until Michael lifted up Liz's shirt to expose her belly button. Exactly an inch from both of their belly buttons was a dime sized shape. Max recognized it after a moment. It was identical to the smallest of their moons on Antar.
"What does this mean?" Miwiro asked.
"Your mother had one, too." Michael whispered to him. Letting go of Liz's shirt, he pulled Miwiro close. "You might have been my apprentice but you have a higher calling. Linao."
Miwiro sank to his knees and then looked up at his king. "Is it true?"
Max shut his eyes and the memories were upon him. Misela's lovely body was indeed ripened towards the end. She had been pregnant, he had thought so all along. "Michael, where did you send her?"
"Jinaso." Michael whispered, head bowed. The safest place in all of Antar was in his own home. A farming village with small factories and mills. While he might have been ashamed of his home when he first went to the palace, later he looked back on the memory with fondness. What better way to ensure the safety and anonymity than a small village like his?
"I am from Jinaso." Miwiro whispered. His head spun. He couldn't quite grasp the concept. How in the world could he be the Linao? His mother was a simple woman, who did simple work.
"That mark." Max dropped down to point to the birthmark. "Misela told me that only she and her father wore it. It was the mark of the Kejir." Looking over the boy that was his own age, he began to see it. His own eyes stared at him from features reminiscent of his own, her coloring on his flesh, a mingling of their hair on his head. "My son?"
The rain stopped and most everyone left. Michael and Liz stayed. Diane had insisted that Michael not be alone on a such a horrible night and told Liz that she could stay... Max wouldn't mind at all. To which of course, Max and Liz found the strength to blush at. A call to her parents settled everything. She could stay until close, then her father would go and pick her up.
The five of them sat around the living room, absolutely quiet, while pretending to watch a rerun of some old sitcom. Liz watched Miwiro with wide eyes. He was her son from a past life. Their son. She turned to Max for what felt like the twentieth time in as many minutes. He was in pretty much the same state that she was, maybe worse because he could remember the past life.
Max couldn't believe it. It had been barely 24 hours since his first memories had surfaced and in that time he had known in the back of his mind that somewhere there was a boy or a girl somewhere out there that belonged to him. Seeing him, was something else completely. This was actual proof that the past life had really happened. He tossed a glance to the hallway where his parent's light had just shut off.
It was Miwiro that broke the silence. "If I had known... I would have never come. I shouldn't have left her alone but she made me come."
"She?" Isabel whispered, already knowing the answer.
"Nehide, your mother... my grandmother I guess." He shrugged and wiped at his eyes, signaling to the rest of them how he was really taking this revelation. "Maybe... maybe I would have come, just to meet you all."
"I... I can't remember too much. I remember alot but not everything." Max whispered. "H-how did it end?"
"It feels like yesterday for me." Miwiro pulled his knees up to his chest, wrapping his arms around his legs. "It was the night before the wedding, Vilandra and Fervid's. The partying was dying down and last minute preparations were being made. I... I was spying on my master, Fervid. He was with the slut, I mean... um, Jirena." He blushed when he realized that the others were staring at him with a bit of shock. "I was curious." He shook his head in lieu of an 'anyway' and kept talking. "When the alarm sounded, we all raced down to the throne room. I remember that I was trying to be brave but I was so scared. King Gediro took one look at me and he blinked. I still don't know what was going through his mind. I often thought he was crazy for what he did next. He... just stared at me for a second and then pulled me aside.
"I remember my heart was beating so fast. I had been to war before, I had helped to fight before, but always under the protection of Fervid, and I was scared because the fighting had never been so close to home before. Two years of learning to fight and living in the palace... when the fighting had come home, it was too scary. I was frightened to death and my king was being familiar with me, as if I were his best friend and not a servant.
"He knelt down in front of me and put his hands on my shoulders. 'Miwiro,' he says, 'my mother cannot fight. She's distraught and you are too young to fight without supervision. I cannot risk either of your capture or your lives in what's going to happen here tonight. Take her through the secret passages to a safe place. Take care of her for me. When this is over, I will come and get you. Don't leave until I come. Do you understand? I am trusting you to take care of her and whoever else might find their way down the passages, understand? I know you're scared. We are all scared but now is the time to be brave. Tonight we all must bow our heads to destiny. Our fate rests on the events to take place, on our courage, on our loyalty. Do you understand me?' I told him I did. I kissed his hand and did as I was told. I have never forgotten his words to me. I took her to a safe place, deep within the castle but I couldn't sit still and it was taking so long. Hanu had already come with the Granilith, it took so long. I felt like I had been down in those passages for years. I had to do something.
"I... I left her alone with Jirena. She had found her way down to our hiding place on her own. I guess Fervid told her. I crept through the passages and the closer I got to the throne room, the louder the shouts and explosions got. I didn't come out, I hid just inside the entrance to the tunnel. That was the first time I had ever laid eyes on Kivar in person. Niko... I had seen him before but Kivar was scary. What was scarier was Vilandra. She was on his arm and it broke my heart. She had betrayed us all and no one found out until it was too late.
"Queen Rila had pressed herself against the wall, trying to hide from Kivar in the tapestries. She was so young... He kept scaring her, telling her about successions and how she had to die so that Vilandra could take her rightful place on the throne. Kivar sent a fireball out and it engulfed Queen Rila.
"Fervid and King Gediro were fighting fiercely... They killed every one in their path. Niko managed to pull my master away from king Gediro, away from his cover. By the time my master realized it, it was too late. I wanted to shout out and distract Niko but my place was to protect those who could not protect themselves. Fervid and Niko struck. I had to watch my master die and he knew in his last moments that his shot missed.
"I saw Vilandra's tears when Kivar turned his incredible power on Gediro and my king's shock when he was hit but he had enough strength to shoot out at her and she at him. They both died. Gediro weakened by Kivar's attack was killed by his sister's hand. Delicate and tired Vilandra killed by her own king and brother. I didn't know what to do. Kivar screamed something awful and knelt beside Vilandra. He wailed incoherently. I will never forget the cries he made, ever. They haunt my dreams. He called her horrible names and then told her he loved her. Who loves like that?" Miwiro turned his eyes heavenward. "He called her a slut, a whore, a... a iteori and then turned around and proclaimed his everlasting love to her beauty, to her wondrous spirit, to her goodness and light... Who loves like that? He tried to save her but it was too late.
"I don't think she could live with that sin on her soul. I ran back to the hiding place and I retrieved the Queen. We fled the castle through the tunnels. Jirena tried to follow but she fell behind. Hanu rushed us along. He knew where we could hide with the Granilith." Miwiro stopped and wiped the tears from his cheeks. He looked around to see Isabel also crying.
"That's horrible." Liz whispered. It sounded like a first hand account of any earth empire's demise. "You witnessed the fall of Antar?"
"All of it. Not just that night. The months that followed were hard. We found the scientists and we sent clones with the Granilith and as many protectors that we could spare." Miwiro sat up straight. "I see now the reason you were sent here. Time passes so much quicker here and you've matured faster. I thought maturation would occur in the pods but obviously I was wrong. It's a fourth faster I gather?"
"I don't think so." Liz leaned forward. "I've been thinking about this and if you're 17 and it's been just six for you and over 50 years for us... It's gotta be somewhere around nine of our years to one of yours." She stopped talking when she realized all eyes were on her. "So what? I happened to figure out the ratio and you all stare at me like I'm a geek."
"No. No. Um, that's good. Thanks." Max patted her knee gently and gave her a smile. He turned to Miwiro, his son. It still felt a foreign thought. "What will you do when you go back?"
"Me? You have to come with me." Miwiro started to panic. "I couldn't do it in all the years since you died. Just because now I truly know who I am... It doesn't make one bit of difference. We need you."
"I am not trained for this." Max protested, cover his face with his hands. "I have lived in fear all my life. My powers aren't developed... I've just learned who I am."
"What?" Miwiro looked around the room.
"Our ship crashed." Michael whispered softly.
"I don't think we were completely undamaged." Isabel added.
"How do you mean?" Miwiro got to his feet and looked at his father, his mother, his aunt and his master. "What? Tell me."
"I'll do it." Liz told them all and grabbed Miwiro's hand. "We'll talk in the kitchen."
"What is it?" Miwiro could barely contain the bubble of excitement in touching the one who would be his mother. He had often wondered what she had looked like before the accident. To touch just a piece of her soul was exhilarating.
Liz led him to the table and held onto his hand. "In 1947, the Earth year that you sent the clones down here, something went wrong. The ship crashed and our government, the American government, they tried to cover it up, pretend it never happened. We are all one race here, we're simple and difference scares us. Three of the crew died. One was taken injured and died in captivity and still another captured later for experimentation. Somehow the pods were gotten to safety."
"You mean they had not any training?"
"No. In fact the one captured eventually escaped if I understand it correctly. Nasedo never did give a straight answer about anything." Liz sighed deeply. "When he went to retrieve the pods... only Tess... Rila remained. The others had already emerged and set out on their own."
"Hold on. They were separated. Max and Isabel were found by the Evans, leaving Michael behind. They were raised so differently, but still human. They always knew they weren't human but they hid. Never wanting to be caught by the government and experimented on. I was shot a year ago. Max healed me, brought me back from the dead and there was no more hiding. That's when the running started. Nasedo and Tess have only been around since earlier this year, they've trained and honed their powers very little...
"They can defend themselves against human threat but they are in no way ready to go up against aliens. Max is a good leader but he won't fight without a reason and he doesn't even really remember what the fighting was about." Liz finished quickly. "Max is confused right now. They need a little time and I understand that we don't have a little time."
"You're right. We don't have time." Miwiro stood. "I need to... I need to breathe."
"Ok. Don't go too far. The back door's over there." Liz nodded and watched him make his slow way to the back door. "Is it weird?" He turned with a mask of confusion. "Seeing your father as he was at your age... literally."
"It's... strange. I cannot call him father anymore than I could call you mother but I know it's true. I need a little time. I've been an orphan for so long." Miwiro nodded his head slowly and continued his journey to the back yard. He raised his eyes to the skies as tears of frustration raced down his face. "Why? Why, Mother? Why, Father? Why did you do this to me? Hanu, why did you leave me alone to face this?"
He sank to his knees at stared up at the stars where they glittered through the wisps of cloud left over from the storm. "I am not Linao. I was not raised to be Prince. I don't know what to do. Give me a sign? Show me my destiny? What fate lies ahead from the events of this night? Tell me."
As if in answer, the skies sent a streak of light between the threadlike clouds.
Max saw Liz staring out the kitchen window and approached slowly. "Where is he?"
"Outside." She whispered. "He's so confused."
"I don't blame him. He realized that I was his father." Max rubbed a hand over his face. "I'd want someone to take back that tidbit of information, too."
"Max, don't say things like that." Liz scolded him and turned to look at him only to see that it was deeper than simple insecurities. "What is it?"
"He knows what kind of man I was, Liz... it's nothing to be proud of. The atrocities I committed, the way I treated my own family. Liz. I was horrible." Max turned to stare out the window at the shifting clouds and wet trees. "I... I was... an ungracious son to my father while he was alive. I treated my sister as if she were of no importance. I completely... let's just say that in the past life that Michael and I were not friends. and that's just the beginning.
"I had a new harem every year. I hated used goods. My wife..." Max let out a sob. "I practically raped her every time we were together, she was so young, too young. Then... I used her servant for myself... then tossed her off on Michael." He couldn't hold his head up. "I ignored Miwiro until I needed him to protect the mother that I had all but forgotten still existed in my life. You know, Hanu, he was a good man. Very wise and I never really listened to a word he had to say.
"There was only one thing I did not do. I never took daughters from their families for myself. Not after Misela. I couldn't. If that happened to be their line of work, who was I to judge but I never forced a girl out of her home for me." He was too afraid to look at Liz.
"You're not him. You might share his soul, maybe some genetics but you are not him." Liz wrapped her arms around him from behind. "I'm sure he realizes that too."
"Two years he lived in my house and I never gave him a second thought." Max sobbed and gripped Liz's arms tight. "Liz, I don't want to go back. I don't know what I'm doing. I don't want to leave you."
"I can't keep you here because I love you." Liz whispered into his strong back. "You always know what to do, Max."
"But I don't." He turned in her arms so he could look into her eyes. "Gediro would flip a coin. A coin. He rested the fates of thousands of his own men on the flip of a coin. I can't do that. You know why he used the coin, it had his face on it. I was so arrogant, how could I have been so self-righteous? I can't do that, Liz."
"Then don't go and fight as Gediro. Fight as Max." She met his gaze steadily. "I have faith in you. Passive won't work up there. You'd have to be aggressive to get back your kingdom but I believe that you can do it."
"And so do I." Miwiro spoke softly from the back door. He had been listening and it had never crossed his mind that his father had been a bad person even though Gediro was. Max had never seemed bad to him. When he had first arrived, he figured that Gediro would be eager to go back home but he had resisted. Then he had learned what sort of man Max was. He was a boy, just like himself. "I can teach you the layouts you don't remember on the flight back. I know all of Fervid's battle plans. I know which ones you liked best."
Max stared at the guy who would be his son and blinked. He believed that he had extraordinary faith in him. He glanced down at Liz who nodded. "When do we leave?
"Whenever you want." Miwiro held out his hand. "I found it in an old battle field and I kept it. I don't know why."
Max reached out and took the coin. His own face but 10 years older. A shudder ran through his body. He got flashes of the carnage that had taken place at that battle. He remembered.
It was the first battle that he had taken interest in since he lost his beloved Misela. Before he went onto the battlefield, he held a coin in his hands. A version of himself that his father thought he would be was on the coin. He flipped it and it landed on the side where an image of the castle lay. He took it as a sign that he had a duty to win. He fought on the offense, as if he had only more to gain by moving forward, as if he couldn't lose what little his father had claimed. He tore apart everyone that entered his path. Only Fervid had stuck by his side to make sure he wasn't caught off guard during his blinding passion. When it was over, he fell to his knees and cried. It would be the last time he cried, ever.
Max flipped the coin in the air and caught it in his hand. He noticed the shiver that ran through his son's body. He must have done it right. Opening his hand, he saw his own face. "Defense."
"We had a small stronghold. It's where I took off from. If we can get back there, we could slowly take back everything." Miwiro nodded. "We have the fire power and I've trained so many of the others in the past five years. We are ready. We've defended what little we had and we will continue to do so under your leadership."
"If it had been tails?" Max whispered.
"I would suggest going straight for the heart. The palace. Kivar sits on your throne. He thinks he's safe there but he doesn't know about the passages. We could surprise him and take him from behind." Miwiro spoke excitedly.
"No. Just because he's a coward doesn't mean I am." Max hissed. "If I take him down. It will be face to face."
"Begging your pardon. I've met with Kivar, face to face. He uses dirty tricks, comes at you from behind." Miwiro shook his head. "The passages are the best option..." He paused. "You don't have to kill him from behind but you can capture him. With Niko missing... it'll be easy."
"What?" Max blinked. Then he remembered. He had forgotten all about Nicholas for a moment. "Right. Right. Nicholas is here. I don't know where but he's here on earth."
"Then that's good. We'd have to leave before he knew that a ship was here." Miwiro argued quickly. "When do we leave?"
The doorbell rang just then. Liz groaned. "That's my parents. I have to go."
"We'll sleep tonight... We figure something out tomorrow." Max sighed and kissed Liz's lips softly. "Call you tomorrow."
"Bye." Liz groaned again and sent a smile Miwiro's way. "Bye."
Miwiro nodded and watched her leave the kitchen. "You're taking her... aren't you?"
"No." Max shook his head. "I have to talk to the others, first."
"Surely, they'll do as you command." Miwiro followed him into the living room.
"How well did you say you knew my sister?" Max almost laughed.
The three boys lay in Max's room, staring at the ceiling, talking softly. "I remember when I was recruited. It was two months of training and testing and then I was apprentice to the great warrior Fervid. My mother hated it but she wished me well... She always spoke well of the royal house, no matter what the other women said..."
"She did?" Max asked softly.
"She did. She never stopped loving you, I guess. She would never remarry. I remember that. Nearly every single man in the village could tell that she was pure and the fact that she never entertained a single man only reinforced that. For as scarred as she was, she was sought after."
"I remember purity... vaguely." Michael whispered from his sleeping bag. "It doesn't really have much to do with ... that... right?"
"No." Miwiro gave a smile in the dark. "It has to do with your soul... but sometimes... that... it takes a toll and tarnishes your soul."
"Jirena... her... ways... they ate at her soul, didn't they?" Michael's voice dropped a notch.
"Yeah. I think so. I watched everyone in the palace and she just wanted too much to have place and status. She fell in love too quickly to appease. She never did it for herself but for what other people thought of her. We all called her the slut because that's what we actually saw her as, not the King's concubine, or Fervid's lover. She was a mere moment of physical pleasure for both..."
"Rila was pure until I got my hands on her." Max mused.
"Her fear of you ate away at her soul." Miwiro agreed. "Because you had lost a huge piece of your soul. I told Liz what happened to you. Misela was very much a part of Gediro and without her, his purity couldn't last."
"It's not all. I knew she was pregnant. I saw the signs and before I could confront her, she was gone and that was all of me." Max barely breathed out the sentence. "I had nothing to stay pure for and I let go of it all."
"It won't happen again." Miwiro promised.
"We should sleep guys. We have a lot of talking to do tomorrow." Max ordered and shut his eyes.
Maria put away her cell phone and glanced at the other faces sitting around the table at the Pizza Pan. "That was Liz. She's grounded. Her mother found a pregnancy test in her room and until Liz gives an explanation her parents buy... she's locked in her room."
Max's nervous level went up a notch. He picked at his pizza and barely noticed that Miwiro was sitting beside him, still unsure what he was supposed to do with the triangle of food in front of him. "Okay. I guess we need to discuss this."
"What is going on exactly?" Kyle asked, inhaling nearly half his slice of pizza.
"Well, the war has come to a critical point. We have to act now. The real decision is whether or not we go." Max pulled a pepperoni off his pizza and wrapped it around a chunk of pineapple. He placed it in his mouth and chewed carefully.
"Is that even a decision?" Michael asked, his anxiousness apparent.
"Yes." Max nodded. "If we go, we'll be fighting. We will be killing and we have to take that into account. Could you handle that?"
"Not like I haven't killed before." Michael muttered and sat back. Maria pat his arm gently.
"It won't be the same as that, Michael." Max pinned his friend with a look. In that moment that their eyes locked, they remembered similar moments back on their planet where they had locked horns and all he had to do was stare his second in command in the eye to win. "Last time was an accident. You wanted him dead but you didn't mean to kill him. If we go... You'll be killing in cold blood."
"I'm with you, Max." Isabel spoke up. "No matter what. If we go, if we stay. I'm with you."
Alex kept sneaking glances at her but she wouldn't look at him. Kyle sat back to listen, tapping his fingers lightly on the table. Maria sat close to Michael but didn't touch him much. They were merely there to support and know, rather than be in the dark about what was going on.
Tess sat up and sipped her drink before she spoke. "I... I don't want to go back."
"Okay." Max nodded. "You don't go then." He saw Miwiro was about to protest but silenced him with a hand. "She shouldn't have to go if she doesn't want to. We didn't want this, it was decided for us but I won't force anyone."
"So, we're going." Micheal nodded. "When do we leave?"
Maria scoffed at him and left the table. He ignored her and waited for Max to say when they would leave. Alex made a tsking noise and went after Maria, Isabel looking longingly after him. Max sighed and shrugged. "We should leave soon but we need cover stories. We're taking Liz."
"Why?" Michael demanded in a harsh whisper. "She can't defend herself and you're going to be worrying about her instead of the task at hand."
"She has to go." Miwiro cut in. "Do you remember what kind of man he became after Mis-- after my mother was allegedly killed? Our world cannot bear that again. She strengthens him, makes him a more effective ruler. He needs her and... I do not believe that we are coming back to this planet in the near future."
Max paced in front of his son during his free period. He was waiting for Liz to show up and airing his thoughts. "Michael's not a problem. He doesn't have anyone to report to but Isabel and I... our parents and then there are Liz's parents."
He looked over at Miwiro, who was slyly meeting looks from girls across the lobby. He sighed and sat near him. "So... you never said if you had a girlfriend or anything back home.
"Oh." Miwiro blushed but quickly recovered. "I don't have time right now. I'd love to be able to let myself fall in love but I can't. I have keep her safe until Khivar is no longer a problem."
"You mean... you haven't..." Max trailed off not even knowing what he was asking.
"No. I've never been with a woman." Miwiro said bluntly. "It's not a problem really. I followed Hanu's example for two years and then when he died, I was running the show. Four years I've devoted to your mother and I don't regret a single one. We will overcome."
"So, you're just teasing those girls over there for the fun of it." Max tossed him a sly smirk. Miwiro met it and shrugged. "Just don't do like I did after I lost her."
"I won't." Miwiro nodded stiffly. "No one could do what you did." Then he started laughing at the look on Max's face. "You were notorious." The shock kept him laughing. "Did you really not think you were like that?"
"I knew I was bad, I didn't know that it was impossible for anybody else to duplicate." Max shook his head and almost didn't notice when Liz walked past.
"Liz!" Miwiro called out.
"M-- Robert." Liz smiled and headed over to them. "So what's going on?"
"We're going back." Max blurted out. She stood there stunned. "And... I'm... I need you to come with me."
“We don’t have time for this Maxwell.” Michael tried to keep up with Max as he stormed down the hallway to his locker. “You either need to throw her over your shoulder and get on the ship or leave her behind.”
“It’s not that simple.” Miwiro cut in, his stride matching Max’s perfectly.
“The hell it’s not.” Michael kept arguing but Max still ignored him.
“It’s not.” Miwiro stopped Michael as Max kept on going. Neither noticed a crowd growing. “She needs to go. He needs her with him but he can’t force her to go.”
“So why won’t she go?”
“She needs him to want her to go and he doesn’t. He needs her to go.” Miwiro backed off Michael and started after Max once more. Michael’s hand stopped him.
“What does that mean?” Michael wanted some answers and there was something that he simply wasn’t seeing.
“It means that…” Miwiro trailed off and shut his eyes. “He loves her too much to go without her and if she doesn’t go, there’s no guarantee that he’ll ever see her again. But the thing is… he doesn’t want her there, in harm’s way.” He saw that Michael was beginning to understand. “If Maria was going…”
“She’s not.” Michael straightened. “She’s not going. She’s staying here where it’s safe.”
“Exactly.” Miwiro pulled his arm out from Michael’s hand. “He needs her with him but he can’t make her go and she won’t go unless he wants her to and he doesn’t.”
Liz stared at her geology book but nothing sunk in. She wanted so much to cry. Max had yet to call her or come over. She had tried to tell him that she would go if he wanted her to but he said he didn’t. Miwiro kept saying that she had to go but Max was making every difficult. Her head hurt.
She didn’t even look up when her mother stood in the doorway. “Are you ready to explain the pregnancy test to me?”
“Mom. I swear to you. It was not mine. I bought it for someone else and I forgot I had left it here.” Liz lied to her mother the same lie she had been giving since the day before. “What do you want from me? I don’t know what you want me to say but… I swear… it’s not mine. I’m not even…”
“Liz… I just want to know what’s going on with you.” Nancy sighed and threw her hands up in the air. “I’m afraid that I’m going to wake up one morning and you’re not here.” As she left the room, Liz sank back into her desk.
“I can’t promise that.” She whispered. As if on cue, a knock sounded at her window. She reached over and shut her door before turning to greet Max. “Hey.”
“Hey.” Max swung into the room and shoved his hands into his pockets. “I need for you to listen to me.” He waited until she had taken a seat to continue. “I want you to know that I love you with all my heart and soul and I really don’t want you to go with me. I don’t want you to get hurt. I’d kill myself if I took you with me and you died up there. I need you to go though. I’m really afraid that if I go without you that I’ll turn into Gediro. I can’t become him again.
“Liz, you mean more to me than all those memories and that place but I have to go. If I don’t… billions of people will be forever enslaved and it will be my fault. I could prevent that. I could fix that. I could never live with myself if I didn’t go.” He stopped to look into her eyes. “Please say that you’ll come with me.”
|posted on 13-Oct-2001 5:39:14 PM|
The drive was silent. Max kept his eyes on the road and his hand locked with Liz’s over the gearshift. Isabel leaned her head against the back of his seat, her hand on his shoulder. Michael stared out into the desert as far away as he could get in the Jeep. Miwiro sat beside Isabel wishing there was something more that he could do.
Max and Isabel had left a note with their parents explaining that they had to find their real mother. Liz had left a runaway note that sounded nothing like Max’s. Michael hadn’t had to explain anything to anyone. He left Maria his key and told her to take care of his stuff.
“I told Alex everything.” Isabel spoke out of nowhere.
“Really?” Michael’s head whipped around. “What did he say?”
“I didn’t let him say anything. I told him and then I left. I’m a horrible person and now he knows it.” She turned her face away, taking her hand away from Max’s shoulder before he could free his hand from Liz’s to give his sister some comfort. “Least he’ll stop wondering about me.”
“Isabel…” Miwiro placed his hand on her back. “While I can’t dispute the horrible things you’ve done as Vilandra… You aren’t her. In the past two days I have seen not even a hint of the person she was save…”
“Except what?” She snapped her head around to face her would-be nephew. “Except what?”
“The depth of your soul, the depth of your love for your family and the lengths you would go to preserve that.” He let his hand drop. “All good qualities.”
The Jeep fell silent once again, this time to listen to Miwiro speak. Hearing his tales of the past life calmed them all down.
“Hanu enjoyed his invisibility I think. He always told me that the princess was restless but that her purity only waned due to constant ignorance. He told me that it grew brighter than he could ever remember it in the days before her father died. Then it grew dark once more and that’s when Balei was put to death. She was never the same afterward.” Miwiro sighed heavily, his eyes fixed on the speeding road ahead of them. “Searching for what mattered in the cling and clatter, dodging swords and ignoring words, purity fades might on the faithful night, choices made true lend us their hue, upon the final moment to us our purpose sent.”
The prayer rang in the night as the Jeep sped ever closer to the ship cloaked in the desert canyon. Too soon they pulled to a stop near the small reservoir where many discussions had taken place. Slowly, they got out of the Jeep, their attention immediately upon the vague shape on the far side of the canyon. Max squinted his eyes and still couldn’t make out a thing. “Miwiro, is that where you left the ship?”
“No.” The young man should his head at his king. “I… I saw a flash of light in the sky last night. I thought it was lightning. I didn’t think anyone had followed me.”
“Let’s go.” Michael spoke but kept still until Max gave the word.
Max turned to Miwiro, putting his hand on his shoulder. “Stay back here and take care of her.”
“No. Stay here.” Max insisted and turned to Liz. “I love you. You stay here with Miwiro and if it looks like we’re not coming back… get in the Jeep and go back to town. Hide.”
“Max, no. Don’t. Let’s just all go back and hide.” Liz shook her head at him even as his arms wrapped around her. She held her body stiff but she couldn’t deny him. “Okay. Go. Be careful.”
“I love you.” He kissed her forehead softly and then pressed the gentlest kiss to her lips, tears stinging at his eyes. Her tears mixed with their kiss, signaling to him that it was time. “Never forget that I love you.”
“I love you, too.” Liz managed to whisper before he released her into Miwiro’s arms.
Max hugged Isabel quickly, knowing instinctually that her mind was made up to stick with him. Sparing only one more look to Liz and Miwiro, Max took his sister’s hand and began the walk to the other side of the canyon. Michael turned back to Liz and Miwiro. “Stay back… Liz… tell Maria that I love her.”
Without waiting for a response, Michael rushed after Max. They quickly became small dots in the distance and darkness. Liz had to keep looking after them. She had to keep watch for their return. They were coming back. They had to.
Max approached the entrance to the ship. It was wide open. He ducked inside when Isabel grabbed his arm. “Max, look. Flakes.”
Michael bent to investigate. “Skins.”
“Skins.” Max repeated and looked around. “You don’t think they’re dead… do you?”
“Yes…” A voice rasped. “But not all of us.” The figure stumbled out into the chamber the three stood in.
“Khivar.” Isabel’s eyes widened as she recognized the figure leaning on a wall for support.
“Yes, my beloved. Come, let us off this wretched planet.” Khivar wiped a hand across his forehead, removing a piece of skin in the process.
“No.” Isabel clung to Max. “I’m not going anywhere with you.”
“Love…” Khivar pleaded.
“I am not your love. I am not Vilandra.” She hissed and stepped behind Max. Michael stepped up to help block Khivar’s view of Isabel.
Max immediately recognized the crushed look in his enemy’s eyes. He threw up a shield in time to catch the blast Khivar directed at them. “What have you done to her?! What have you done to my Vilandra?!” Khivar stumbled toward them with pure hatred in his eyes. “I’ll kill you Gediro for taking her away from me!”
Max eyes ran wild around the room. He had to think quickly. Slowly he pressed forward, meeting the wide eyed expressions from Isabel and Michael. He gestured to what looked like a control panel near Michael that had just become accessible to them by Max’s forward moment.
“You’ll never regain your kingdom…” Khivar started laughing. “I’ve killed any hope of you ever receiving the throne.” His laughter rose higher. “Everyone believes that you hate Antar… Everyone believes that you’ve abandoned them. They know all about this little experiment and they think it’s failed… It doesn’t matter anymore…”
“Khivar.” Max shouted out.
“What? Any parting words, Gediro?” His laughter rumbled throughout the chamber. “Speak them so that I may laugh some more.”
“I have a son.” Max stood straighter when Khivar’s laughter suddenly died. “He’s even now on Antar taking his rightful place on MY throne. You lost.”
Max dropped the shield and threw Isabel to the ground. Khivar and Michael threw out energy blasts at nearly the same moment.
Two explosions sounded almost simultaneously. Liz screamed. “MAX!”
Miwiro stared up at the smoke cloud that rose into the night sky. He had to do something. He turned to Liz. “Stay here. I’m going in.”
“No. We have to go. Max said we had to go.” She shook her head at him and clung to his arm.
He shook her hard and looked into her eyes. “Do you honestly believe for one second that he’s dead?”
She stared at him stunned for three seconds before answering. “No. I’m going with you.”
“No. Stay here.”
“No. I’m going with you.” Liz repeated and started on her way across the canyon.
“Liz, wait.” Miwiro jogged after her and placed her body behind his. “You aren’t getting hurt. I couldn’t protect my mother but I can protect you.”
Miwiro stepped into the wreckage of the ship. Motioning for Liz to stay back, he hopped over some wreckage. He spotted something moving further inside. The closer he got the clearer the mumbling became. “Vilandra… Vilandra my love…”
Rage flashed in his eyes as he stood over the figure. “Khivar.”
“Just finish me off, Gediro. You’ve already taken all that’s ever mattered to me.”
“You’ve mistaken me for my father.” Miwiro knelt down. “You’ve killed him again and I won’t let you get away with it. This time… I can avenge him.”
“Your father?” Khivar shook his head slightly. Then he raised his head and his eyes widened in recognition. “You. You’ve betrayed me. You’ve joined them against me.”
“No. I have always been with them. Now that I know who I am, I know what I have to do. You’ve been a good teacher Khivar. When I go back, your reign of terror will end.” Miwiro put his hand over Khivar’s chest. “This is for my mother and my father, my aunt and my planet.”
“Nooo.” Khivar moaned as his chest heated up. Moments later he burst into a cloud of skin flakes.
Miwiro stayed there stunned. He had never seen that happen before. “Hanu, this planet is strange.” He spoke softly to his dead friend. Standing he looked around at the burned and ruined inside of the ship. It looked nothing like the one he had arrived on. There were no hibernation chambers, or injection stations. How had they survived the trip over? How could they stand the environment? That’s when he realized that there were no other bodies or beings on the ship, just piles of skin flakes like the one at his feet.
More moaning caught his attention, as did a green glowing. Thinking quick, he chose the moaning over the glowing. Climbing over a door, Miwiro found Michael, a gash marred his face. Carefully, Miwiro planted his feet over Michael’s body and braced his body against the door to push it away. Even using his powers was making it difficult to make any headway. Finally, he put his weight on his arms and braced his feet up against the wall behind him. Gathering all the strength he had, he shoved off the wall, landing on the broken door with a thud.
“Miwiro? What’s going on in there?” Liz called out softly.
“It’s okay. But stay there.” He coughed into his arm when a cloud of skin flakes rose into the air. “I don’t know how sound the structure is.” He turned to check on Michael. He was breathing and his heart was beating. Summoning all this strength, he picked him up and threw him over his shoulder. That’s when he saw the fried panel. “Ja Tirnin.”
He rushed to get Michael out of the ship and near the water’s edge. Liz was by his side rattling off questions at him. “Where’s Max and Isabel? Miwiro, where’s Max?”
“Stay here with Michael.” Miwiro ordered her. “Stay as far away from the ship as you can… if anything happens… roll him into the water and jump in yourself.”
“What’s going on?” Liz cried out but knelt beside Michael all the same.
“I’m going back.”
“Wait!” She shouted after him but he was already disappearing into the ship again. “Michael.” She turned to the unconscious form beside her. “Michael. Michael! Wake up!”
Miwiro crawled back to where he had seen the green glow. Its light was fading fast. Using only his mind, he threw the debris out of his way. He didn’t have time. No time. He could almost feel the ship heating up around him. He had to get them out. “Max! Isabel!”
The green shield blinked out just as he uncovered them. Their linked hands fell in exhaustion. Max and Isabel had curled around each other in attempt to keep the shield small and strong against the debris. Isabel’s eyes fluttered closed and her head fell back against the wall. Max stirred slightly. “Get her out.”
“Max.” Miwiro flicked his gaze to the other man. His matching amber eyes cracked open a little.
“She hit her head. I think she has a concussion. Get her out… now.” Max ordered and untangled his sister’s limbs from his own. “Get her out.”
“Yes, sir.” Miwiro nodded and noted the grave expression on his leader’s face. “I’ll take care of them.”
“Tell… Liz I love her.” Max swallowed thickly. “Where’s Michael?”
“Safe.” Miwiro whispered and took Isabel into his arms. “I’ll be back for you.”
“No. You won’t.”
Liz looked up to find Miwiro rushing over with Isabel in his arms. Michael barely lifted his head from Liz’s lap. “Where’s Max, Miwiro?”
“Alive.” Miwiro muttered and kept glancing behind him.
“Where is he?” Liz asked again, not moving from her spot or jostling Michael in any way. She had to know.
“Still inside.” He stood after making sure that Isabel was comfortable looking. “I’m going back in there. Get them into the water.”
Liz felt so helpless as he raced back to the ship. That’s when she noticed the warmth on the side of her face from the glare of the ship. “Max, where are you?”
Coughing the fumes out of his lungs, Miwiro made his way back to where he had left Max. Max looked up and shook his head. “You should have left me here. You won’t be able to carry me out.”
“We’re going. I am not telling my mother that I left my father to die when we had a chance to get him out. Let’s go!” Miwiro held out his hand for Max to take. “Let’s go. We can still make it out.”
Max’s head nodded with the effort to keep from passing out. “My legs are broken. Just get out. Get out of here.”
The Linao didn’t know if he had the strength left to summon a power boost to his muscles… but he could try. “Come on. We’re getting out of here. Take my hand and brace yourself for pain.”
“Get out of here.” Max growled at him. “We can’t both die in here.”
“Now, see. This is the Gediro I remember. Stubborn as Flinreni. We’re going. Both of us or none of us.” Miwiro yanked his father, his king, his new friend up into his arms.
“You’re as stubborn as your mother, you realize that, right?” Max groaned and moaned as pain shot up his legs.
Liz gently laid Michael’s head down, pillowing his head on a rock so his face stayed above water. “How long do you think we have until it blows up?”
“Not long.” Michael rasped. Liz left him to haul Isabel into the water as well. “It could blow at any second.”
Isabel’s dead weight splashed into the water but Liz was able to keep her head out of the water. The water wasn’t too deep but it would be enough to drown in if they weren’t careful. The shock of the cool water sent the blonde’s eyes fluttering. Liz noticed and moved the taller girl to rest her head on Michael’s chest. “Isabel? Isabel, wake up.”
“Max… where’s Max?”
Liz’s eyes rose to the ship and could almost see the white hot heat emanating from it. “He’s coming. Just stay awake. He’ll be here.” She couldn’t see through the haze between them and the time bomb that once was a functioning ship.
“Liz, you better stop looking at it.” Michael warned, his voice still small and raspy. “Get into the water. Get your self wet… and wet our faces.”
“Why?” Liz did as told but felt she needed to know why.
“The mix of hydrogen and oxygen will keep the energy from igniting on our carbon based physiology.” Michael closed his eyes so Liz could pour water on his face. Liz felt the heat and immediately bent her body over Michael and Isabel’s faces. The explosion threatened to blow her away but she clung to the rocks tightly. Wave after wave of intense heat swept over them, warming the water they lay in.
When Liz woke up, she was on her stomach with her head resting on chin and forehead straps. In her blurry vision she could make out a table with a mirror just above her direct view of sight. When she tried to move her arms, her back started to throb. Then the tears washed her vision clean.
“You’re awake.” A voice said. “You shouldn’t try to move too much. It might aggravate your burns.”
“Um…” Liz had to clear her throat. “Where am I?… Um… What happened?”
“Let me just get the doctor.” The nurse’s face appeared momentarily in the mirror and was gone.
Liz could feel the panic rising. She had trouble remembering what she could have possibly done to end up in the hospital with a burned back, which was slowly but surely making itself known to her distraught nerves.
A creaking noise met her ears. “Who’s there?”
“Liz?” A familiar voice whispered. “Oh thank god or whoever…”
“Maria, could you leave us alone for a moment?” A second voice met her ears.
“Max?” Liz felt like crying as it all came crashing back to her. Max had been inside the space ship that had blown up. “Is that really you?”
“Hey, how are you feeling?” The creaking noise came closer as his face came into view in the mirror, but all she could see were his eyes and forehead. They looked unharmed enough to ease some of her mental strain.
“Max, what happened?” Liz noted that the angle of his face was different and closer than the nurse’s had been. “Are you in a wheelchair?”
“Yeah, I am.” She felt his hand in hers but then she felt it was his opposite hand and not the one nearest to her. “It’s not as bad as it seems.”
“What’s going on?” She tried to keep the tears out of her voice.
“Michael said you covered his and Isabel’s heads when the ship blew up. You saved their lives… but your back was exposed. You burned it and some of your hair… a lot of your hair…” He tried to smile at her reflection to show that it wasn’t so bad but it faltered and he could see the glistening in his own eyes. He had purposefully tilted his face so she couldn’t see the lower portion of his face. “You’re going to be okay… once the burns heal.”
“How long have I been like this?”
“Three days. I… they… Valenti helped. He got a story out about a gas line that exploded out there…” Max squeezed her fingers lightly. “Are you in a lot of pain?”
“I’ll live. What about everyone else? I… thought you were still in there.”
“He came back for me even after I told him to leave me there. I… I broke my legs in the first explosion and… then my arm in the last one.” Max shifted slightly in his chair. “Michael’s got a few cracked ribs and Isabel had a concussion.”
“What about… about Robert?”
“He’s okay.” He couldn’t stop his face from crumbling.
“Max… what happened to him?”
“Miss Parker. It’s good to see you awake. If you’ll excuse us Mr. Evans.” The doctor entered the room with a few nurses. Max was promptly moved out of the room. “Miss Parker, let me explain what’s happened to you and what’s being done to treat it.”
Max stared at his reflection in the mirror. He wanted to cry for the 100th time in the past few days. He had never been a really vain person and had pretty much taken his looks for granted. At least now a pimple was the least of his worries. He heard Isabel walk in. “I didn’t tell her and I didn’t… show her…”
“Max… she’ll still love you.” Isabel had to fight the tears that formed when Max went to touch the back of his head where the burns had been the worst, where the hair was missing. He was healing fast but even she knew there would be scar tissue for a very long time.
“I can’t be sure about that.” He swallowed thickly as his eyes fell on the side of his mouth. The area extended all the way up the side of his face, engulfing what used to be his ear. His nose was barely burned but his eyes and eyebrows were still there. “I can’t ask her to stay with something that looks like me.”
His tank top exposed the burned portions of his chest and neck to his view. They disappeared into his cast. The flesh looked wet and raw but he had to air it out twice a day or else risk infection. “Did you tell her about… Robert?”
“I told her he was fine.”
“I couldn’t tell her that he’s missing… that I don’t know if he blew up with the ship or if he got away. I know her. She’ll blame herself for letting him go back that last time.” Max bowed his head to stop looking at the grotesque way his mouth moved when he talked.
“Max, if he hadn’t… you’d be dead.” Isabel moved to kneel in front of his wheelchair. “I can’t say that I’d rather have him gone but I know I would rather have you here.”
“Isabel, can you leave me alone please. I don’t want you to have to look at me.” Max whispered softly. “I know it’s grotesque and disgusting. Don’t feel like you have to spend time with me.”
“Max, you’re my brother and I love you.” She gingerly put her hands on his knees. “Don’t think that you’re some kind of monster and that I can’t stand to be around you. I might be older here but you have always been my big brother. If it hadn’t been for you… I probably would have gotten hurt even worse in there. You saved me.”
“No… Robert did… I only kept you from being left in there.” He still wouldn’t look at her. “Go away Isabel. Leave me alone?”
“Okay but I’ll be back. Are you hungry?” She rose to her feet.
Michael shifted slightly on his bed. He couldn’t sleep. Every time he closed his eyes he saw Liz’s face inches from his, contorted in pain as the blast past over her body where it was out of the water. She hadn’t the time to soak her clothes enough to outlast the blast. It was his fault she was lying in that bed exposed from her neck to her ass.
He had passed out sometime after that last blast while trying to keep Liz awake. The next thing he knew, he was in a hospital bed with bandages around his chest and legs. The legs weren’t too bad, just first degree burns from the water… which would have been second degree like Liz’s had he not been in the water.
“Michael?” Maria’s voice filtered through the door. It creaked open slightly and she slipped in. “Hey, how you doing?”
“How do you think?” He muttered.
“Got some good news. Liz woke up this morning.” Maria didn’t know whether to laugh or cry when Michael finally turned to look at her. For the first time in three days he looked like he was alive… because of Liz. “I took Max in to see her before they discharged him.” He kept looking at her expectantly. “She didn’t remember how it happened, that’s what the nurse said. Max didn’t want to worry her so he didn’t tell her everything.”
“Did you see her?” Michael whispered.
“For a few seconds.” She nodded slowly and went to sit on the edge of his bed. “She was a little out of it but she just woke up. Her parents were crying when they came out…”
“Her hair is gone.” Michael whispered and turned his eyes back to the ceiling. “At least her face is okay.”
“Max is doing better… I think.”
“No he’s not. He’s just getting better at hiding it…” Michael shut his eyes and saw Liz’s pained face again. “Can you leave me alone?”
Isabel pulled her skirt away from her legs and held the jar for her mother. Diane was on the verge of tears. “Oh, Isabel, these are so awful…”
“Would have been much worse if Liz hadn’t gotten me into that water.” Isabel stared off into space. “Max said she had mostly second degree burns but that here and there… there’s third degree burns too.” She still had a hard time wrapping her mind around what had happened. “He’s scared that she won’t love him anymore.”
“What?” Diane paused in her application of burn ointment to her daughter’s legs.
“She woke up this morning. He talked to her but he didn’t let her see his face.” Isabel began running her hand through her hair. “I think I’m going to get a hair cut soon. Get rid of the singed parts. Maybe I could cut it off and have a wig made for Liz. We could dye it and everything.”
“Isabel.” Diane brought her out of her world. “Liz woke up?”
“Yeah… Max says she’s doing okay, considering.” Isabel nodded stiffly. “God… Mom, I wish she hadn’t gotten burned but if she hadn’t… Michael and I could be dead.” She started to cry for the first time since the explosion. “She is always sticking her neck out for us and for Max and to see her lying on that bed…”
“Sh.” Diane wrapped her arms around her daughter. “It’s okay, you’re okay.”
Liz wanted to roll over, she hated being so exposed. The drugs were excellent though, she could barely feel a thing. Her mother’s face appeared in the mirror, seconds before she felt her father’s hand in hers. “Hi sweetie.”
“Hi.” Liz whispered, her throat still hoarse. “Mom, Dad… I’m sorry.”
“Sh… It’s okay sweetie.” Her mom whispered. “Do you hurt much?”
“No… they just gave me some… morphine a while ago. It’s not too bad.” Liz tried not to move her neck too much. “I’ll be okay…. I’ll be okay.”