posted on 1-Jan-2002 12:20:39 AM
Title: Where the Heart Lives
Author: sablaine
Email: serianna⊕eudoramail.com
Rating: PG to PG13 (I've got a 14 year-old friend reading this. I've got to keep it a little bit clean.)
Disclaimer: I own nothing related to Roswell. This is purely for my own entertainment, well that and because Season Three is in serious need of help. I promise to return the characters drug-free!, happy, and intact. Thank you to all the true writers and owners of Roswell; you have given me many wonderful ideas and something to look forward to each week (even if you did kill Alex!).
Summary: Diane Evans is desperate to know the truth about Max and Isabelle. She recruits Liz to help her;meanwhile, Liz is on her own quest to find out the truth about Antar and the Granilith.
Note: This is my first fanfic. Compliments and criticisms and suggestions will be gratefully received.
Note 2: This story begins with season three's Christmas episode "Samuel Rising". I do quote from much of this episode as I work my own story into it and take off from there. There will be a couple of other quotes taken from season one Roswell episodes. If you ask me about a quote I will let you know which episode in particular it was taken from.

PROLOGUE


"Phillip," Diane called out as she entered his office, "I got off work early. I thought we could have lunch together. I picked us up some chicken from Pepper's Bar and Grill."

"I'll be done in a second, Diane," Phillip Evans called backed.

Diane saw the door to his office was ajar so she opened it and went in. "Oh, I'm so sorry. I didn't realize you had a client," she apologized, hand over heart, when she realized she'd walked in on a meeting.

"It's no problem, Mrs. Evans," said the man as he rose from his seat. "I was just leaving." He quickly exited the office.

Diane walked over to the chair in front of Phillip's desk and sat down. She opened up the lunch and began to pull out the utensils and napkins and then the chicken. As she set everything down on the desk she noticed that there were photographs of Max scattered before her. "What are these?" she asked her husband. "What are all these pictures of Max doing here? I don't remember taking any of these."

"Just more pieces to the puzzle," he replied, gathering them up.

"What do you mean, honey?"

"I don't know, Diane. I'm not sure yet, but Max is involved in something dangerous. When we were in Utah, the FBI contacted us and warned Max to stay away and stop… whatever he's doing. When I asked Max about it he wouldn't tell me. His girlfriend, Tess is missing, Diane. His jeep was found pushed over a cliff. At least one of the times he claimed he was going camping, he actually ended up in New York. He scares me, Diane. I don't know what he's involved in but it's bad."

"How can you say that about our son?"

"Diane, I think he may have killed Tess. And I think Liz Parker and Isabelle know about it and are covering up for him."

"Phillip," she said shaking her head in disbelief, "how could you even think this about Max? How could you investigate him like this? He's our son!"

"I have to find out the truth. It's the only way to protect ourselves."

"The truth about what?"

"The truth about Max and Isabelle, about Tess and Liz. I have to know."

"No! This is wrong. You shouldn't investigate your own son."

"Diane, I put my reputation on the line when I defended him and Liz in Utah and I want to know what it was all about! I need to know and I'm not going to stop until I find out."

"No, our family is already falling apart. This will only break it further. You have to stop if you ever want your kids back."

"I'm sorry, sweetheart, but it's time we learned the truth."

Diane shook her head as the tears started pouring out her eyes. "I can't do this and I won't give you my support in this either. No matter what it takes, I'm going to get my family back." With that she turned and fled from the office, looking for the one person with the power to make it all right again.


PART ONE


Liz took a front row seat in her sixth period class just like always, because as everybody knows: the people who sit in the front of the class tend to get better grades. She opened her backpack and took out her notepad and pen. She looked over her homework from the day before, checking for errors. It was definitely some of her best work. Okay, she was ready. She waited as the rest of the class filed in and took their seats.

Shortly after role call a student entered with a note from the office. The teacher read it and directed the student toward Liz Parker. Liz quickly gathered her things and headed out toward the office. 'How embarrassing,' she thought, 'everyone probably thinks I'm in trouble and the Dean wants to talk to me or something.'

She made her way to the office as fast as she could, hoping nothing was wrong. After all, there's rarely a good reason to go to the office. She remembered the time she and Max had been called there because of being caught in the Eraser Room. (Well, actually she got in trouble for that twice, didn't she?)

Liz nervously entered the office and looked around before heading to the front desk. "Hi," she said to the secretary, "I got this notice to come here." She handed the notice over.

"You're Liz Parker?" she asked.

"Yes."

"There's a woman here to see you. She said it was an emergency. She's in the waiting area."

"Oh, okay. Thanks." Liz turned around and walked to the seats. She saw Max and Isabel's mom sitting there, crying.

"Mrs. Evans, what happened? Did something happen to Max?" Liz asked.

"No. Yes. I don't know," Diane replied, "Can we go somewhere and talk? I really need your help."

"Sure," Liz nodded, "I've already left sixth period. The teacher won't expect me back. You want to go to the park or something?"

Diane nodded. "Thank you."

"No problem," she replied and handed her more tissue.


************************************
They sat on the park bench together watching the ducks and geese. Diane was still sniffling but she had stopped crying.

"Liz, I don't know how to say this, but… well, Phillip… he's… he's investigating Max and he thinks… he thinks…"

"It's okay, Mrs. Evans. We already know."

"You know? When did you find out?"

"Oh, well, we've known for awhile," she shrugged.

"We? You and Max know? Is Max okay? How long have you known?"

"Oh, well, I sort of discovered the bulletin board one day and I showed Max and so we - all of us know. And Max already talked to Mr. Evans about it but it didn't change anything." Liz threw some more bread at the birds.

"There's a bulletin board?"

"Yah, that's where Mr. Evans is putting all his evidence."

"I - I didn't know," she said as she started crying again. "This is just so awful. Oh and poor Max. I remember the one time I really tried to confront him about all his secrets and he just closed up. He seemed so scared… of me… his own mother. He begged me to trust him. And I have Liz. I really have, but things have just gone from bad to worse and he's slipping away from me - and Isabelle… Liz, you have to help me get my family back. Please."

Liz felt so helpless. "What do you want me to do?"

Diane turned and clasp Liz's hands in her own and looked directly at her doe brown eyes. "I think you know exactly what makes Max so afraid. I think you know what his secrets are. You can help me to help him, Liz, if only you want to."

Liz looked up to meet Diane Evans steady gaze and was suddenly assaulted with flashes:

*Flash* Max as a little boy healing the pigeon's broken wing.

*Flash* Diane coming home to find the house had been ransacked and Sheriff Valenti interrogating Max and Isabelle. He wanted to know why Isabelle looked in Max's room for something missing but not her own.

*Flash* Max and Isabelle as children, crying themselves to sleep every night.

*Flash* Asking Max how he could have put out a five-foot-high kitchen fire with a pan of water. Max refused to answer and left the house.

*Flash* Diane: "Max, nothing you are could ever turn me away from you. I mean, I love you. And you're my son. Do you understand that?" Max replied: "Mom, please don't ask about this anymore. It's nothing bad. It's nothing dangerous. I beg you to trust me."

*Flash* Sheriff Valenti showing Diane the police file from the day of the shooting at the Crash Down. He claimed that Liz had been shot and Max had put his hand on her and healed her. There had been witnesses.

Liz inhaled sharply and pulled her hands away. She'd never received flashes from anyone other than Max and Nasedo before. "No. No, I can't help you. They're not my secrets to tell."

But Diane knew she was getting to Liz because she saw tears in Liz's eyes, and this might be her only chance to get Max back, so she kept on. "Please, Liz. I'm desperate. I tried so many years to have kids, but I can't, Liz. I can't have children. And when we found Max and Isabelle it was like all my prayers had finally been answered. They are my heart and my soul and I feel like I'm losing them. I just… I just can't live without them in my life. And Max… he's so lost. I want to help him. I would do anything for him if he would only let me in. I'm losing my family. Liz, you've got to help me."

A war waged within Liz. There was no way she could tell her the truth, but she couldn't let her live in so much pain. What could she say? "I don't know what to say to you. I don't know a way to make you feel better, because I can't… can't tell you what you want to know. I wish I could, but I can't.

"Max and Isabel are special. Actually, Michael is too. I know you know what I'm talking about if you'd just think about it: the pigeon, the kitchen fire, the shooting at the Crash Down. But people would kill to know their secrets… have killed to know. As much as I want to, it's not safe for me to tell you."

"Can you tell me anything?"

Liz threw the last of the bread at the geese. She took a deep breathe to compose herself. "No, but I'll talk to Max if you want me to. Maybe…"

"Maybe it'll help?" Diane asked.

Liz nodded forlornly.

"Thank you. Thank you," said Diane as she hugged Liz.



[ edited 23time(s), last at 2-Nov-2002 2:23:49 AM ]
posted on 1-Jan-2002 12:22:09 AM
PART TWO


Christmas vacation arrived leaving everyone busy working extra hours so they could have extra money to do their shopping. Liz hadn't had the chance to talk to Max about his Mom at all, though it continued to plague her mind endlessly. It just seemed like every time she got the chance to tell him, something would come up.

To add to her guilt, just the day before, Diane had come by the Crash Down after work to find out if Liz had talked to Max. Liz had confessed that she hadn't. Diane replied: "That's okay, dear. I know how hard it can be to talk to Max. I'm not very patient, I guess."

The next morning Liz was more determined than ever to tell him everything about his Mom, but then Samuel happened. Samuel was a handsome, 7 year-old boy with autism. His mom had brought him to the Crash Down for breakfast at the same time that Maria, Michael, Liz, Max, Isabel, and Jesse were making plans to celebrate the holiday. Samuel fastened his gaze on Max and wouldn't let go, instinctively knowing that Max was different and that he could help him.

Max didn't know what to make of the situation. "Is that kid staring at me?" he asked.

"What kid?" Michael asked.

Max nodded his head toward Samuel and everyone turned to look. "Over there, sitting with his mom."

Michael, who was still upset with Maria, turned back around and said, "So what? It's Christmas. It's a load of crap."

"What?" exclaimed Jesse. "Are you kidding me? It's a great time to mellow out, watch some football…"

"Oh yah," Michael interrupted sarcastically, "You'll be watching lots of football."

Jesse turned to Isabel. "What does he mean by that?"

"Nothing," she replied. "We gotta go, honey. I've still got to make sure the senior Christmas is on schedule; I still haven't found a proper Santa for the Santa Village: and, oh, you still gotta change the lights on the window of our apartment."

"Enjoy mellowing out," Michael quipped.

Isabel turned to Michael. "You know, Michael, I too was miserable around the holidays until I found my calling."

Michael smiled. "Making other people miserable?"

Isabel smiled back. "Volunteering!" she said through closed teeth, "Helping the elderly, children, less fortunate find joy and happiness through the holidays."

As Samuel and Max continued to stare at one another, Liz and Maria jumped on the bandwagon, further filling their already busy schedule. "You want to know something?" asked Maria. "That actually sounds great - giving of myself. I think that's just what I need to take my mind off… other situations.

"Well, you have come to the right place."

"You know, I think I'd really like to do that too," joined in Liz.

"Is there anything we can do together?" asked Maria.

Isabel smiled. "Actually, I think there is."

Suddenly Samuel got up out of his seat and walked over to Max. "Daddy?" he asked Max.

Max, who was clearly uncomfortable, smiled at Samuel and gently said: "I think you've got the wrong guy."

Protectively, Samuel's mother walked over and said, "Did he just say something to you?"

"Yah, he… he just called me Daddy."

"That's impossible. My son doesn't talk."

Max looked back at Samuel and Liz could just see the wheels turning in his head. She knew he was hoping against all hope that this little boy might provide a new lead to help him find his son.

Liz got up from the table and went back to the break room. She was so frustrated. This endless search of his was never going to end because his son wasn't even on the same planet. And in the meantime it was completely taking over his life. How was she supposed to have a relationship with someone like that? How was she supposed to even have a normal conversation about something as simple as her boyfriend's mother, when he was so completely obsessed with his search?

"Lizzy, are you okay?" asked Maria who had followed Liz.

"Yes, I'm fine. I'm just looking to see where I left my antennas."

"Lizzy, please…" That was Maria, the one person who knew Liz better than anyone else. Maria could always see through her brave exterior into what really lay inside.

"Okay, I'm just frustrated because he's doing it again. I can tell. He has that same look on his face that says he's going to start another dead end search for his son and he's going to forget all about me."

"Pull the plug."

"What!" exclaimed Liz in shock. "I can't believe you just said that. Maria, all I've ever wanted was Max. I'm just so frustrated because it seems like there's always something in the way of our happiness. And his Mom - what am I supposed to do about her? I won't even be able to talk to him about her until he gets over this new… whatever this is." Frustrated, she sat down on the couch.

"Here," said Maria handing over Liz's antennas, "Look, just find a way to distract yourself until it's over. Maybe you could volunteer for extra hours or something; that should make the Christmas Nazi happy. And, what about finding your own way to help Mrs. Evans?"

"Like what, Maria?"

"I don't know. Maybe the best thing for her is to find a friend who understands. That could be you, Lizzy. You could go out to lunch together or go Christmas shopping… I don't know. But I bet you anything, she would just appreciate some attention. It's Christmas. Her family's gone. Nobody wants to be alone on Christmas."

Liz nodded. "You're right. That's perfect. We could go shopping together. That way I don't have to feel guilty and she doesn't have to feel alone."


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

Diane was thrilled when Liz called and asked if she would help her find a gift for Max, the perfect gift. Liz was sweet and kind and would obviously love her son through thick and thin. She was just what Max needed. And if Diane had really thought about it, she would have realized that Liz was just what she needed too. There was just something about Liz that made her feel like everything was going to turn out okay.

She had hoped they could spend the day together but Liz had told her she was volunteering to help Isabel at the Santa Village, so she picked Liz up in the early afternoon.

"Hi, Liz," she said as Liz got in the car.

"Hi, Mrs. Evans. Thank you so much for helping me."

"Oh, it's not a problem. So what exactly did Isabel recruit you to do?"

Liz rolled her eyes. "She made me and Maria be Santa's elves."

"Elves?"

Liz nodded grumpily. "Maria's Snowflake. I'm Candycane."

Diane laughed. "That's my Isabel."

They headed over to the Roswell Mall. Max was hard to shop for so they figured a place with 40 stores would be the best place to go, but if anything Liz seemed more lost than ever once they arrived.

"Do you have any ideas about where to start, Mrs. Evans?" Liz asked Diane.

"Sweetheart, at this point I think you know my son better than I do," she smiled, "but I do know one thing. Max is very sentimental for a young man. He had a shoebox in his room labeled 'Liz' that he kept under his bed. I think it must have contained every letter you ever wrote to him, every gift you ever gave him, and every picture ever taken of you. I found it one day and opened it, not realizing that it was such a personal collection, and then put it back when I realized what it was. And I bet you didn't know that he kept your third grade picture in his sock drawer for the last ten years. He's done similar things for Isabel too. Max has a big heart. Find something that appeals to his sentiment and I think you'll have found a winner."

"Wow. I had no idea." Liz had felt left out of Max's life so many times that sometimes she wondered how much he really loved her. Lately, he'd been so closed off and distracted in his search for his son that when they kissed she no longer received flashes from him. But this… this warmed her heart. And it gave her an idea. "Mrs. Evans, isn't there a memorabilia store in here somewhere?"

"Sure, it's over here," she said leading the way, "I buy gifts for my employees there sometimes."

In the store, Liz found a rather expensive men's silver watch and had it engraved with the date, 9-1-01 10:16 p.m. She inspected it after it was engraved to make sure it was perfect and then had it gift-wrapped.

"What's the significance of the date," asked Diane.

"It's the day his son was born," Liz said quietly.

Diane felt as if her heart had stopped. "Isabel told us a little bit about that situation, but I didn't realize he was born yet." She dropped her eyes to the counter, almost afraid to ask the next question. "Has Max even seen him yet?"

"No."

"Then how…"

Liz shook her head sadly. "He doesn't even know where he is. He doesn't even know what his name is. All he knows is that Tess gave birth to a son."

"Oh no. That's awful. Oh poor Max."

"Yah," whispered Liz, "but he's looking for him - searching every time he gets a chance. He doesn't have a clue as to where to start so he's basically grasping on to every loose straw he can. It's practically the only thing he cares about anymore."

"Liz," Diane began cautiously, listening to her strong mother's instinct, "that's not the only thing eating him up inside, is it?"

"No," said Liz, shaking her head.

"Can you tell me the rest?"

Though it seemed impossible, Liz spoke even more quietly than before. "No, I can't. Not yet."

Diane knew she was wearing Liz down, slowly but surely. And she knew that when the time was right Liz would tell her everything, and then she would have what she needed to pull her family back together again. Finally, Diane began to have a dawning hope.



posted on 1-Jan-2002 12:23:36 AM
PART THREE


Looking for something to distract her mind from the interpersonal problems of the people around her, Liz pulled a box out of her closet. It was a small moving box given to her by Mrs. Whitman, Alex's mom. Liz had never actually opened it because she was afraid of what it might contain - afraid it might hold more than she was ready to deal with at the time. But Liz was tired of being afraid and she was tired of secrets and more importantly, she was tired of hurting. It was time for Liz Parker to begin healing.

She cut the tape away from the sides of the box and lifted the lid. The first thing she found was Alex's old photo album. She pulled it out and opened it up. It was full of pictures of Alex, Maria, and herself. There were school pictures, camping pictures, and all sorts of miscellaneous other pictures. Liz just had to laugh at the memories of some of the things they did. But Alex, she remembered, took the cake; he was voted class clown in sixth grade. She touched the yearbook picture attributing to that nomination and thought about how much she missed him.

Next out of the box was a large, heavy-duty school binder. She opened it up and discovered that he had printed out every list he had ever done for his web site. Some of the craziest ones were: "Ten Most Disgusting Foods Known to Man", "Ten Things Women Should Never Learn About the Teenage Male", and "Tricks You Should Never Teach Your Hamster". Alex had a new list up every week. He had one of the most popular internet pages in high school.

Liz called Maria's house so she could read some of the lists to her best friend. Amy, Maria's mom, answered the phone. She said Maria was sick with the flu and couldn't talk right then.

"Really? That's weird because she was fine this morning," Liz told Amy DeLuca. "Maybe it's food poisoning."

"I don't know, Lizzy. She's just really sick. I'll tell her you called, okay?"

"Sure. Thanks."

Liz returned to the box and looked inside. The rest of the contents appeared to be pages and pages of notes, apparently the decryption's from the destiny book. They never had figured out how much he'd managed to decipher - whether it was only parts of the book or whether he'd managed to translate the whole thing - because Tess had hidden what she knew. Liz pulled out the notes and set them on her bed. She wanted to look at them and see how far he'd actually gone. Maybe she could even finish what he'd started.

She picked up the box to put it aside, to make room for her work. As she did so she heard a soft thump come from inside the box. She glanced back in and saw what appeared to be some old photos. Liz pulled them out and held them under the light where she could see them better. "Oh my gosh," she said to herself, for what she held in her hand were pictures of the alien writing in the cave on the Apache reservation. "What was Alex doing with these pictures?"

Liz stared intently at each photo in turn. When she got to the last one she was suddenly assaulted by a single intense flash.

*Flash* She saw Alex and Isabelle standing in the UFO center. Alex was talking. "There's something that I really have to show you. You know the drawing you showed me last night?… Well, it's been bugging me where I've seen something like it, so I came here. I looked around, and that's what I saw. It's this place. It's called Machu Picchu, right. It's in Peru, and it's full of stuff like this - I mean exactly like in your drawing." Isabelle was clearly irritated when she replied: "Yeah, well, next you're gonna tell me that spacemen came here thousands of years ago to share all their secrets with cavemen, right? Forget it, Alex. Don't you think we've checked all this stuff out? It's just some stupid rumor like those ridiculous crop circles…" Alex was persistent. "Well, what if this could help you find your planet?" Suddenly the owner of the UFO center, Milton Ross, interrupted them. "What did you just say?" he asked. "I don't appreciate your attempt at humor young man. We UFOlogists don't joke about things like that."

Just as suddenly as the flash began, it ended.

Liz sat there in stunned silence for a moment. 'My gosh. What is up with me?' Liz thought to herself. 'I don't even get flashes from Max anymore, but I get them from his mother who's not even an alien and now I'm getting them from old photographs? Photographs aren't even alive. How could I receive flashes of information from an inanimate object?'

'Breathe, Liz. Breathe,' she told herself.

Then it occurred to Liz that Alex's notes may have had nothing to do with the destiny book and everything to do with the cave writings, and she forgot all about being worried about the flash she just had. She turned quickly back to her bed and began comparing the notes to the photographs. And they matched. Alex was trying to translate the cave writings on his own and it appeared that he had been making some headway.

Something was nagging the back of Liz's mind, tugging at her thoughts. As she gathered herself together to figure out what it was she realized that it had to have been the Inca people who had lived at Machu Picchu in Peru. But the Inca's had no written language, so what had Alex been referring to? Alex must have known something the rest of them did not because he was managing to unravel the mysteries of the cave writings. Liz was determined to find out what that was.


********************************************
Working on the translations had done much to improve Liz's mood. In fact, it had completely taking her mind off of everything that had been worrying her. So the next morning she arrived at Michael's, ice skates slung over her shoulder, cheerful and ready for her date with Max.

"Hi!" she said as she walked in and hugged and kissed Max. "Hey, I'm so excited. I haven't gone Ice skating in so long."

Max still had Samuel on his mind and so right away handed Liz the picture the little autistic boy had drawn. "Take a look at this," he said.

"You did a really good job on this, Max. That's a great use of color there."

"Samuel drew it," Max replied, "He's never drawn a picture in his life, Liz. Not a picture of a person or a tree or a sun - just numbers." He folded his arms across his chest. "Yesterday he draws a spaceship and hands it directly to me."

"And that means…?"

Max walked over to the couch and sat down. "It means my son is trying to communicate with me."

'Here we go again,' Liz thought. "Max," she said warily.

"Even the psychologist said that's really unusual," he continued, oblivious to her discomfort.

Liz sat down next to him. "You're getting really involved in his life."

"Liz, you were the one who said you'd do anything to help me find my son. Well, right now this is my only lead."

"I know Max, but I just see you walking into the life of this child, you know - this special child. I don't want you to just get what you're looking for and then walk away.

"Liz, trust me."

"I do trust you. Now let's go ice skating and we'll talk about this later."

They both got up off the couch and Liz began walking toward the door.

"Uh…" Max began.

"What?" asked Liz, stopping and turning around.

"I told Rebecca that I would go over there this morning. Sorry."

"Right," said Liz, completely disappointed.

"What about tonight?" he asked.

"I can't because I'm an indentured elf all the way through Christmas Eve."

"Sorry."

"It's okay," Liz replied bravely. "We'll do it some other time." She opened the door and left without saying goodbye.



posted on 1-Jan-2002 12:25:04 AM
PART FOUR


Max stayed busy with Samuel through the rest of the days until Christmas. When he finally realized that Samuel was not going to be able to help him find his son he nearly gave up and walked away, but Liz wouldn't let him do that - not to himself and certainly not to Samuel. "Max, maybe there's some other reason he reached out to you," she explained to him. "He spoke to you. He obviously senses that you're different. Maybe he's trying to say something and he's looking for help to say it." Max stared at Liz in contemplation, and finally reached a decision about what to do.

In a moment of inspiration, Max asked Isabel to dream-walk Samuel. Even though Samuel couldn't communicate to his loved ones, perhaps Max and Isabel could reach inside him, read his heart, and make his dreams come true. As it turned out, all Samuel wanted was his family all together in one room, loving each other.

Isabel reached out to his parents, pulling them inside Samuel's dream, to show them Samuel's vision of a family. It was truly the most beautiful experience of her life, touching her deeply and permanently.

On Christmas morning, Max stopped by Samuel's house to bring him a gift and to see if the little boy's one wish had come true. He was as deeply touched as Isabel had been when he saw Samuel snuggled in his father's arms and his mother standing close by. That's what Max wanted - what would truly make him feel like he had finally come home - to have his son snuggled in his arms and to have his one true love standing next to him: Liz.

That evening he took Liz on the ice skating date she had wanted earlier. As they sat side by side putting their shoes on he broached the subject of his desire. "It must have been weird for you seeing me with this family."

"A little," she replied.

He needed to feel Liz out so he continued. "It might make you worry a little about when I find my son - what it might mean for us."

"Should I worry?" she asked.

"No," he said as he reached for her hand. "I saw Samuel this morning with his family. It made me realize something… that you, Liz… you're my family." Liz looked deep into his brown eyes and smiled.

Together, hand in hand, they glided onto the ice.


*************************************
Much later, on her balcony, Max presented Liz with a Christmas gift. "I know it's not much, but I wanted you to know exactly what I feel, what you mean to me," he said as he handed her the tiny package.

She removed the wrapping paper and found a small black box. When she opened it she saw a delicate silver ring, intricately set with rubies and tiny diamonds. "Max, it's beautiful," she said.

"It's a promise ring, Liz," he began, "a promise ring, because I promise you my heart forever. You hold the key to my heart. You always have. And I give you my promise that you always will."

"Oh, Max," she said as her eyes filled with tears. "I don't think you know what this means to me. I love you so much. Thank you." She threw her arms around his neck and held on for a long time.

Finally, she let go and wiped the mist from her eyes. "I have something for you too," she told him. She took a gift from under her tree and presented it to him. "Your mom and I went shopping together. She helped me to pick it out. I hope you like it."

"You went shopping with my mom?"

"Yah, actually we've been spending a lot of time together lately. Here, Max. Open it."

Max gingerly took the gift from her hands and, setting it on his lap, removed the wrapping paper. "Thank you, Liz. I've been needing a watch. It's perfect."

"No, Max. Look at the inscription," she said kneeling before him.

Max took the watch out and turned it over to look at the inside. "Nine, one, oh-one," he read, "ten, sixteen, p.m." He paused as he looked up at Liz. "That's when my son was born," he said in wonder.

Liz gently touched his hand. "We know how much your son means to you and how badly you want to find him, and we wanted you to know that we are behind you all the way - your mom and I - no matter how long it takes."

Max was rendered completely speechless.

"Max?"

"I don't know what to say, Liz. It means so much to me. But you and my mom? How did this happen?"

"Well, I told you we've been spending a lot of time together."

"Yes," he said wanting her to continue.

"Well, she came to high school, recently, to see me. I actually got pulled out of sixth period to go meet her. Anyway I found her in the office crying and crying."

"Why, Liz? What happened?"

"Your dad happened," she said. " She got off work early and surprised him at his office. He wasn't expecting her to show up and he had all these photos of you on his desk, and she sort of found out about his investigation of you. She was really upset."

"What did my dad tell her?"

"He said… oh, gosh Max. He said he thought you had murdered Tess and that Isabel and I were covering for you."

Max was visibly shaken. He got up and walked to the edge of the balcony. Staring off at the "V" constellation he asked, "Did my mom believe him?"

"No, she didn't. She stood up for you and told him he shouldn't be investigating his own son, and she told him that what he was doing was going to tear your family apart more than it already is. She left his office in tears, Max, and then she came straight to me."

"Why?"

"She thought I could help. She knows I know the truth, Max - about you and Isabel…"

"She can't know the truth, Liz. You know that. It's not safe." Liz could see the fear in his eyes as he spoke to her.

"I know, Max," she said, "But she doesn't. She begged me to tell her. She thinks it's the only way to get her family back. She said you and Isabel are her heart and her soul but that you're slipping away. Max, as scared as you are to tell her - that's how scared she is to lose you."

"No, Liz. If she knew the truth her life would be in danger and so would all of ours…"

"Max," she interrupted, "think about how desperate you are to find your son. She is just as desperate to get her son back."

"You can't know that."

"You're wrong. When I touched her I…"

"No, Liz," he interrupted. "She can't know the truth. Not now. Not ever."


posted on 1-Jan-2002 12:27:13 AM
PART FIVE



Liz needed more than some old photographs if she was going to complete Alex's work. She decided the best way to proceed was to physically visit the cave where Nasedo had left his writings. She had wanted Maria to come along for company, but Maria was suffering from some sort of "low-blood sugar" problem lately and frequently wasn't feeling well; so, Liz decided to do it alone.

Early Sunday morning she packed her car with supplies. Alex's notes were, of course, the most important. She also packed a lunch and some snacks and some camping-type supplies, such as lanterns. Then she was off.

She drove straight to the Mescalero Apache Indian Reservation in Otero County without making any stops. It really was beautiful there. Much of the reservation was timbered with timber pine, spruce, aspen, fir, white oak, juniper, and pinon. She drove in as far as she could and then hiked the rest of the way to the cave.

At the entrance of the cave, Liz stopped to light the lanterns. She had managed to search through every inch of her backpack before realizing that she had forgot to pack the matches. She sat back on her heels in thought. 'Now what am I going to do?' she asked herself. 'I wonder…'

Picking up one of the lanterns, she opened the door and held her palm out before it. She closed her eyes and concentrated. Within a few moments her hand began to glow a soft blue and then the wick inside the lantern burst into a small flame. She opened her eyes to look. 'Well, what do you know,' she thought to herself, smiling. 'It actually worked.' She picked up her backpack and walked into the cave where she lit the second lantern the same way.

Liz situated herself back in the area where the writings were most prominent. She realized that it wasn't just the symbols that needed to be deciphered, but the patterns as well. For instance, she remembered that Michael had been able to place five of the healing stones into the notches on the wall. The healing stones had begun to glow, illuminating a "V" shaped constellation. Antar, the home planet of Max, Isabel, Michael, and Tess, was part of this constellation - a constellation that was clearly visible from the earth's atmosphere.

Some of the symbols she recognized from Alex's notes. She fingered the one meaning "granilith". And there was the one symbolizing the whirlwind galaxy. This one represented the "royal four" and there was the one which meant "bride". Symbols like those, she could understand; but there were others that were obviously important that made no sense. Liz touched the figure that stood for "imposter or enemy". Here was one that indicated the need to "prepare". Another represented "light or power" depending on the context and here was one that stood for "child" but it was coupled with another symbol representing "war".

Liz could see from the photographs that Alex hadn't been studying individual symbols but, rather, clusters of them. He had believed that each grouping of symbols told a story or message regarding the more prominent symbol they surrounded. For instance, "isolation", "strength", "dreams", and "pivot" surrounded the "child" and "war" symbols. The "royal four" symbol was surrounded by "loss", "imposter", "order", and another symbol Alex hadn't deciphered yet. And these messages were all over the cave. As Liz sat studying and comparing notes she also began to realize that each cluster might possibly tie into other clusters creating a much larger message. It was going to be a monumental task to uncover what Nasedo had been trying to convey.

All day long she studied. Most of the time was spent merely familiarizing herself with the symbols and trying to memorize them. She lost track of time as her curiosity took control. She even forgot to eat lunch.

Only when her body began to feel too stiff and sore did she get up to stretch her legs. As she walked around the cave she let her fingers run trails over the wall. Finally Liz came to stand before a symbol that looked strikingly familiar to the silver handprint Max had left on her stomach when he healed her. She delicately moved her hand to trace the edges of it. At her touch the symbol began to glow brightly, almost as if it recognized her.

"You have done well, young one," said a deep voice. "You have completed the change. You are now worthy."

Liz spun around toward the voice, startled because she hadn't heard anyone come in. "River Dog," she greeted in recognition. "It's been a long time since I've seen you. Hi." She smiled at him.

"What brings you here?" he asked.

"These," she said fingering the hand symbol. She turned to watch it glow again. "My friend Alex used to study them. Did you know him?"

"He used to come here often."

"Hmm," she said thoughtfully, "he never told us." Then she turned to look directly at River Dog. "I want to finish what he started. I need to do it."

"Yes, you must finish this. Nasedo meant for you to understand it. It was to guide you in case he could not."

"Thank you."

River Dog walked deeper within the cave and sat down. He gestured for Liz to join him. "Tell me," he began. "It's been many months since I've seen your friend. Tell me the things that have happened."

Liz nodded and then started to tell him in her own words of the many events that had occurred since she last saw him. She told him of Max being taken captive by the Special Unit of the FBI and the subsequent destruction of it by Nasedo. She told of the appearance of the Skins and their many encounters with them, of the Dupes and the Summit Meeting in New York, of Laurie DuPree and the gandarium, and of Tess and her deception, and finally, the most painful event of all - the murder of Alex Whitman. "It's all been too much for us," she finally told him. "We're just kids. We didn't even know what we were doing half the time. We just knew we had to survive somehow."

"And now?" he encouraged.

"And now we're trying to put our lives back together. It's hard. I'm not sure any of us know what normal means anymore. Isabel seems to be doing pretty good. She just got married to a wonderful man from her dad's office. Michael's finally trying to settle down and plant some roots. Of course it might help if Maria would cooperate, but she's got her own ideas." Liz laughed and then continued. "Max is the only one who's really floundering. He can't find his son and he can't focus on anything else until he does."

"What about you?" River Dog asked.

"Me?" Liz looked at him and smiled. "I don't know. I guess I just want answers. I kind of feel like I'm a boat without a rudder. I need some direction in my life. I think if I can just find the answers to my questions maybe… maybe I'd know what to do."

"What kind of questions do you need answers to?"

Liz started to laugh again. "Okay, how about all the big ones: Why are we here? What am I supposed to do with my life? How do I deal with my overprotective boyfriend? What secrets are important to keep and what secrets are important to tell? And about a million more. I'm eighteen. I have lots of questions."

"You are young," he agreed. "You should have someone to talk to - someone to guide you."

"I don't have anyone," she told him.

"The spirits disagree. They say there is one who would guide you if you would be willing to share your secrets."

"I wish I could," said Liz as she began to pack up, "but it's not even a possibility right now."

"That's where you're wrong," River Dog told Liz. "You must bring her here. Only then will you begin to find your answers. Only then will you all begin to heal."

"Who am I supposed to bring here?" Liz asked.

"Diane," River Dog replied.

"Diane? How do you know about her?"

"I know many things, young one."


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


Liz tossed and turned in bed that night, unable to sleep. She knew Max felt strongly about keeping the truth within their group. It was safer for all of them that way. But sometimes there needed to be exceptions made. She also wondered if it was really his decision make anymore. Wasn't she developing powers of her own? Surely that qualified her to be part of the decision making process.

She turned over and began twisting the promise ring around in circles on her finger. Her decision was made. She wasn't going to change her mind. She only hoped that the promise Max made when he gave her the ring was true, because this would truly test the strength of their relationship.



posted on 1-Jan-2002 12:29:28 AM
PART SIX


Max and Michael were standing together, arms folded across their chests, staring across the quad. They were not happy with the scene that stood before them.

"What's going on, Maxwell?" Michael demanded. "I thought you took care this situation."

"It's not a situation, Michael," Max retorted.

"Oh, then what would you call it?"

They watched Liz, Maria, and Kyle standing with Diane Evans talking and laughing. Liz and Maria were each holding up an egg, explaining something, and Diane was obviously amused by whatever they were telling her because she had a grin running from one ear to the other. Kyle reached over and draped an arm around Liz's shoulder and pulled her close as he took the egg from her and continued the story. Maria picked up the conversation after Kyle and soon had Diane laughing so hard that she had to wipe tears from her eyes.

"Michael, lighten up. They're laughing. I don't think they'd be doing that if they ratting us out."

"Oh, yah?" Michael challenged, "then why is Kyle hugging your girlfriend?"

"Grow up, Michael," Max replied.

He began walking across the quad toward his mother and the rest of his friends, while Michael trailed behind. He smiled when his mother turned to greet him but his eyes betrayed his distrust of the situation. "Hi, Mom," he said. "What are you doing at school?"

"Oh, hi sweetie," she greeted back. "I'm just here to pick up Liz and Maria so I can help them with their homework assignment."

"Hey," said Michael gruffly, "what homework assignment?"

"Check it out, Michael," began Maria. "Our Economics 101 teacher, Mr. Peterson made us all get married so we can learn about the 'adult world' of balancing checkbooks and planning budgets. Liz was lucky. She got to marry Kyle, the only cute guy in class. I should have listened to my mother and stayed home because you know what going to school got me? No? Well, let me tell you. It got me married to the senior geek, Stuart. And look what he did to our child!" Maria thrust an egg in Michael's face. Someone had drawn a face on it with crossed eyes and glasses, buckteeth, and a pig nose.

Michael snorted. "Nice," he told her.

"No, Michael it's not nice. It's awful. This is my child we're talking about here. And Stuart turned him into a pig!" Maria turned the egg around so he could see the little curled pig's tail on the back. Max actually cracked a smile and Diane started laughing all over again. "Anyway, part of the assignment is to chose an occupation so you can write up a report about it and plan a budget and decide what you can afford in babysitting costs. So, Liz and I are going into the retail business, and Mrs. Evans here is being nice enough to show us the ropes."

"And what business are you doing, Kyle?" Max asked pointedly.

"Me?" asked Kyle, guiltily removing his arm from Liz's shoulders, "oh, I'm just going to be a mechanic. I don't have time to research anything else."

Max nodded in understanding.

"Well, we better be going girls," said Diane. "I'll see you later, boys." They stared to walk away.

"Hey, wait Liz!" Kyle called out. "You forgot to take our son with you." Max frowned. He didn't like how it sounded when Kyle said "our son" to Liz. That was supposed to be his line, wasn't it?

"No, no, no, no, no, Kyle," said Liz waving her hands in protest. "I've had the baby all day. It's your turn with Kyle Jr."

"No can do, wifey-poo. I'm not taking egg-boy to work with me. The guys would never let me live it down."

"Did you just call Liz, wifey-poo?" asked Maria.

"Did you just call our son, egg-boy?" asked Liz.

"Seriously, Liz, I can't take the stupid egg to the garage. It's more likely to get broken there than at the store and if it breaks we get an 'F'."

"Okay, fine," she said taking the egg. Then she smiled and said to the egg, "There, there, Kyle Junior. Daddy didn't mean it." She held the egg up to her shoulder and patted its little behind.

"Liz, you're taking this assignment way too seriously," Kyle told her, but she just laughed at him and walked away.

Liz and Maria spent the rest of the afternoon at Diane's store, which she affectionately called "Culture Shock" because of her love for different cultures. It was a curiosity shop filled with all kinds of cookbooks, music, clothing, and knickknacks from other lands and peoples. Diane spent hours drilling Liz and Maria about bookkeeping, cost saving budget planning, stock ordering, and employee hiring tips.

To anyone else that afternoon might have been boring, but Liz and Maria were having the time of their life. Not only were they going to get an "A" on the class assignment but also they were completely enjoying the attention Mrs. Evans was lavishing on them. First, while they were in the studio apartment above the store going over paperwork, she let them listen to whatever CDs they wanted to. Then she let them change the front window store display. They were to use their imaginations and create a masterpiece of their own design, keeping in mind, of course, that the purpose of it was to attract customers. Then Diane had pizza and sodas delivered while they worked into the evening doing bookkeeping.

It was quite late when Diane finally closed up shop and drove the girls home. Maria was really tired so she was dropped off first. Liz, on the other hand, had been energized by the time she spent with Mrs. Evans and so the two of them sat in front of the Crash Down talking.

Finally, the ringing of Liz's cell phone interrupted them. "Hi, Mom," Liz said into the phone. She paused for a minute and then answered, "oh, I'm sorry. I completely forgot about the time. I'm still sitting in the car outside the restaurant, talking to Mrs. Evans." She listened again and then replied, "Okay, mom. I'll be inside in just a minute. Bye."

"I'm sorry, honey," said Diane, "I didn't mean to get you in trouble."

"I'm not in trouble," said Liz. "I just have to go in now. I'm still on a curfew because of… you know, the Utah thing."

"I understand."

"Okay, so, I was wondering if I could ask you a huge favor," Liz told Diane bravely.

"What's that, dear?"

"I want to know if you'll go to the Indian reservation in Otero with me on Sunday. There's a friend of Max's and mine who I'd like you to meet. He said…" Liz was getting nervous. She knew Max would be furious if he found out, but she had to do this. She rushed the rest of her sentence out in one breathe. "He said he wants to talk to you about Max."


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


River Dog's house was completely different than Liz had pictured. He had always been somewhat of an enigma to her so she had assumed that his home would have than same mysterious air. Instead, it looked like every other house she'd ever been in: same type building materials had been used, normal everyday furniture, even paintings on the wall of faraway lands. There could only be found small differences that must have been unique to River Dog and his daughter with whom he lived. She assumed, owing to his namesake, that the collection of dog figurines scattered throughout the house was his. She also noticed baby items - toys and pacifiers and such - here and there, but that had to be from the fact that they had an infant foster son living with them. And then, of course, there was the incense - a larger branch sized piece rather than the delicate thin kind Liz was used to - smoldering in a bowl. This would probably have belonged to River Dog's daughter because she was a medicine woman and incense was used in their religion to aid them in worship.

They sat in the living room, drinking an herbal tea, as they listened to River Dog weave a story that would no doubt change both of their lives forever. Diane would soon know the truth about all of them and Liz would soon be dealing with the repercussions of that as it changed the dynamics of her close group of friends. She was surprised she wasn't more nervous as River Dog began to speak. Instead she felt a deep calm descend through her very soul and a sense of peace and restfulness she hadn't felt in a long time.

"Most people believe that we are alone in the universe - that humans are the sole inhabitants. This belief is presumptuous and ultimately wrong. Look at the world around us. Life can be found everywhere from the ants on the ground to the hawks that circle in the sky, from the tree that provides shade over your house to the fish that swim in the stream. Our religions also tell us that there is a Creator - another life form - and that he has many spirits, which would also be considered life forms. From there our beliefs diverge but this much we do agree upon."

Diane nodded in agreement though unsure of the reason the old Indian was explaining this.

"Many, many years ago a visitor came to our people. He was not from here. He was not human. Some of my people believed he was a spirit, perhaps an evil one. Others believed the story that he was a traveler from the stars. This visitor could take on many forms. When I first saw him he appeared to be a dog. Later he transformed before me into a man."

"Nasedo," Liz said softly to herself.

"Yes," said River Dog who had heard her quiet voice. "We called him Nasedo because it means visitor in our language. The man, Nasedo, came to trust the people who lived here and to befriend us all. Once, I saved his life. Once he saved mine. A poacher had left a steel-clawed trap in among the trees and it snapped closed around my foot. Nasedo touched the trap with his hands and the metal melted away without ever becoming hot. Then he put his hand over my wounds and they disappeared. It was as if the injury had never happened.

"After awhile, Nasedo began to feel nervous here. He said it was not safe for him here anymore, that they were going to kill him."

"Who was?" Diane asked.

"I don't know. He never told me. He only said that they were close to finding him and that he must leave. Before he left, he told me to look for others of his kind. He said they would come and that I must show them the things he had written down for them."

"Did they come?" asked Diane.

"Yes," River Dog replied. "Two years ago they the first of them arrived."

"Who was the visitor?" she asked.

"It was Max," he said.

"I don't understand. You mean Max knows the visitor?"

"No," Liz spoke up finally. "Max was the visitor."

"What do you mean, Liz?"

"Nasedo was an alien. He came from a planet called Antar. That's why he could change his shape and alter physical material and even heal. Someone named Kivar had overthrown the government of Antar. During the revolution the King, the King's bride, The King's sister, and the King's second-in-command were killed. In hopes of a future salvation, their essences were captured, brought to Earth, and combined with human DNA. It was hoped that in time these four would return to Antar to rule again and bring peace to the planet."

"So, what happened?" asked Diane, not sure whether to believe the incredible story or not.

Liz shrugged her shoulders. "Everything went wrong," she said. "First, their protector Nasedo was killed. Then it was discovered that their enemy had followed them to Earth. After finally destroying most of them, the bride betrayed the King. She left, destroying their only way back to Antar. Now the King, his sister, and his second-in-command are stuck here with no way home."

"I don't understand what this story has to do with Max," Diane said. "Are you saying this is why Max is so secretive? Does he know them? Is he protecting them in some way?"

"Yes," said Liz, "but not the way you think. Two years ago there was a shooting at the Crash Down. Two men were arguing. One pulled out a gun and it went off, shooting me in the stomach. I was dying. But Max… he saved my life. He put his hand over the bullet wound and healed me, just like he healed that bird so many years ago." She looked at Diane to see if she understood what Liz was trying to tell her. "He's your son, Mrs. Evans, but he also carries within him the essence of a great Antarian King. Are you afraid now that you know the truth?"

"I don't know what I am," Diane replied honestly. "This was hardly what I expected to hear about my son."

"Whatever you're feeling, it's okay, because we're all afraid. Michael, Isabel, and Max had a pact that they would never tell anyone about themselves. Max broke that when he healed me. He put all of their lives in danger to save mine. I was scared when I first found out. I didn't want to believe it. I was afraid that someone with that kind of power could kill as easily as they could heal, but I didn't take into consideration his heart. Max is noble and good. He cares only for keeping those around him safe. I'm not saying he's perfect, but only that what he is, isn't dangerous. Can you trust me?"

"Yes," she told Liz, "because you're right. For as long as I've known him, he has always been a gentle, quiet young man. He captured a place in my heart the first time I laid eyes on him. I love my son, Liz. So, no matter what he is, he will always have my love and support."

posted on 2-Jan-2002 3:23:36 AM
PART SEVEN


It really did take Diane Evans some time to get used to the idea that her children were alien hybrids and that they were the former royalty of an entire planet - a whole week, in fact. Liz hadn't told much beyond what had been explained while they were at River Dog's house, except to expand a bit on the reasons behind Max's desperate search for his son, but it was enough. Diane now felt she had what she needed to start putting her family back together. Phillip, of course, couldn't be a part of this. Diane had known that even before River Dog had told her it wasn't his time to know, but at least she could do something to help her kids. At least Max and Isabel wouldn't have to feel so alone and scared anymore.

Liz kept herself so busy that she didn't have time to worry about what was going to happen when Max, Isabel, and Michael found out about what she'd done. The economics project took a great deal of time and, when it was finally all said and done, she and Kyle had received a B+ on their assignment. (They would have received an A+ but Kyle had cracked Junior's behind and brought him to class with a Band-Aid on his butt. Mr. Peterson didn't feel they had taken very good care of their son and had docked them a whole letter grade.) She also ended up working every afternoon and evening at the Crash Down during the entire week. When she wasn't working her own shifts, she was covering for Maria who was still sick and now claiming to have "hypoglycemia". (Liz didn't know what was up with that, but she was planning on dragging Maria to a doctor soon if this kept on much longer.) Then, at night Liz spent time in her continued study of the cave writings. Amazingly enough, Alex had been able to decipher nearly half of the symbols and had made notations regarding the rest. Liz memorized everything he had translated and had even managed to translate a few more symbols on her own.

Saturday was the first free day of her entire week. She planned on spending the whole day at the reservation. She was very excited because she felt she was close to being able translate whole sections of the cave and understanding the meanings.

On her way out of town she swung by the Senior Center to visit with James Valenti Sr. He rarely spoke to her but she knew it still meant a lot to him when a visitor stopped by. He was having a bad day that day and was still in bed when Liz showed up, so she just sat next to him, reading portions of the newspaper and stroking his hand.

At last she noticed he had fallen back to sleep. Quietly she folded the newspaper and put it in the trash. Then she went back to his bed and stood and looked at him. Being with him reminded her of the times she had spent with her Grandpa Parker before he passed away and it made her feel good to also spend these times with Mr. Valenti. She reached for his hand to squeeze it in a goodbye.

As she did so she felt herself get pulled from the conscious waking world and into his dream. 'Good one Liz,' she told herself. 'Nice way to control your powers. Keep letting these kind of things happen and you're going to get yourself in a heap of trouble.'

She looked around his dream. She was in a park. There were trees and grassy hills and a stream running round about. Off to the right, on a bench a young man sat waiting. He kept looking at his watch. Finally, Liz saw a woman coming to meet him. As the woman drew closer Liz saw that the woman looked like herself.

"Hello, Liz," said the man standing to greet her. "How nice of you to come today."

"Hello, Mr. Valenti," said the dream Liz. (Liz realized that James Valenti Sr. must have been dreaming of himself as a young man.) "I've come to read to you."

"Not today, please," he said, taking the newspaper away from her. "I need to tell you something important."

"What is it?" asked dream Liz.

"It's about the shape-shifter," he said.

"What about him?"

"He's an imposter. He's dangerous. You have to stay away from him!" The dream Valenti was becoming distraught. He grabbed dream Liz's arm tightly. "Do you understand me? You have to stay away from him! It's not safe anymore!"

"I don't understand," dream Liz told him. "He's here to protect them. How could he be dangerous?"

"No! The shape-shifter killed the protector! He'll destroy you too! Promise me you'll stay away!"

"Alright. I'll stay away," dream Liz told him. The dream Valenti relaxed and loosened his grip on her arm. "Now can I read to you?"

"Of course, right this way," he said and led her to the bench.

Liz Parker felt herself tumble out of Mr. Valenti's dream. She once again stood in the Senior Center. She looked up at the clock and found ten minutes had past. 'Good grief. This is just getting totally out of control,' she thought angrily. She grabbed her purse and stormed out of the building.

Liz was too mad at the time to think about the valuable clue she had just received. Instead, she went out to her car and drove to the reservation, berating herself all the way. By the time she reached the cave she had calmed down quite a bit. She'd had time to think by then and reason things out, and she figured that if she practiced with her new power everyday that she would be able to get some control over it so that things wouldn't keep happening by accident.

As soon as she entered the cave, she forgot about being angry because she got lost in the work she was doing. She found herself drawn again and again to one set of symbols in particular - the ones dealing with the granilith. In that grouping she saw the "granilith" surrounded by the words "power", "gift", "protector", and "life" or "alive". 'What does this grouping mean?' she wondered. 'Power is the easiest word to understand. Future Max said the granilith has an enormous amount of power. And as for the word gift; the granilith could have been a gift to the Antarian people. That would certainly be a plausible explanation as to where it came from. But alive? Could it actually be alive? Was it some sort of living protector for the people of Antar? Because if it was, Tess may have destroyed it for good.'

So lost in her studies was she, that Liz failed to notice the shadow that darkened the opening of the cave. "Young One," the voice called out.

"Oh, hi River Dog," greeted Liz. "Have you been standing there long? I wasn't paying attention."

"Not long," he replied. "Come. We need your help."


****************************************
Diane nervously stood before the front door to Michael's apartment waiting for someone to answer. Finally, Michael opened the door. "Hey, Mrs. Evans," he said. "What's up."

"Hi, Michael," she said. "Is Max here? I have a family emergency I need to talk to him about." She wondered how much of stretch of the truth that could be considered, but she figured it was the only way that Michael would let her in to see Max.

"Sure, Mrs. E. Come on in," he said. "Hey, Max! Your mom's here!"

"Thank you, Michael," Diane told him.

"No problem," he said walking out the door. "I'll see you later."

"Honey, you don't have to leave just because I'm here. You've always been like part of the family. Why don't you stay and hear what I was going to say."

"Thanks, but I have to go work."

"Alright, dear. I'll just have Max tell you about it later."

She walked into the living room just as Max was coming out of the bedroom. "Hi, mom," he said. "What's going on?"

Diane smiled at her son. That was just like him to be suspicious. He would never assume she just wanted to talk to him because she loved him. "Hi, sweetheart." She gave him a big hug. "Is your sister here yet?" she asked looking around.

"No. Should she be?" he asked.

"Well, I called her and asked her to come."

"Why, mom? What happened?"

She looked back at her son. "There's a minor family crisis I need to talk to the two of you about, but… um… how about we wait 'til she gets here so I only have to tell the story once. Okay?"

"Sure."

Isabel wasn't too long in arriving after that. She must have rushed over because by the time she made it into the apartment she was out breath. "What is it, mom? You said there was an emergency. Did something happen to Dad?"

"Oh, no, dear," she said. "I'm sorry I scared you like that. I guess 'emergency' was a little too strong a word to use. It's just that I've uncovered a little bit of a family crisis and I was wondering if I could talk to the two of you about it. Can we sit down?"

"Sure, mom," Max replied casually, but his heart was already beginning to pound in trepidation. Isabel, too, was alarmed and stared at her brother with eyes wide. She reached for his hand and held on to it tightly. They instinctively knew that they were not going to like what they were about to hear.

Diane wondered how she should tell them. She could see that they were scared and preparing for the worst.
'Poor babies,' she thought, 'what must it have been like to live your whole life in fear?' She folded her hands and rested them on her chin. She shook her head. "I'm sorry. I just don't know where to begin," she told them.

"It's okay, mom," Isabel said bravely. "Whatever it is, just tell us."

Diane was silent for a long time as she thought about what to say. Finally she spoke. "Do you both realize how much I love you - I mean really love you."

Max stared at her in silence but Isabel responded, "Yah, mom, we do."

"I know you know I love you, but do you understand that my love for you is unconditional? That no matter what you do or say or think or become that I will still always love you? Do you really know that?" Neither of them responded. They just stared at her in confusion. 'God, why does this have to be so hard?' she asked the heavens in silent prayer. She continued, "You don't, do you?"
"Mom, why are you saying this?" Max asked. "What happened?"

She looked at her children's' fear filled eyes, took a deep breathe and continued. "Max, Isabel… Liz took me to meet a friend of yours at the Apache Reservation."

"What?" asked Isabel in shock. She only knew one person on that reservation and she didn't like what that implied.

"His name is River Dog."

"No," said Isabel again. She turned to her brother for help. "Max," she sought helplessly, but he was staring at their mother just as helplessly.

Diane continued. She had to if this was ever going to work. "He told me who you are - what you are…"

"How could she?" Isabel cried out. "How could she do this to us?" She turned away from her mother as her tears began to flow. Max, too, began to move away from Diane, positioning himself protectively near his sister. They were both so afraid.

Diane wanted to cry, too, at the pitiful plight of her son and daughter before her. But she couldn't - not if she was going to do this right. "Max, please don't be afraid of me. Isabel, sweetheart… it's going to be okay. You two have to understand how much I love you. This doesn't change anything - not for me."

Isabel turned around. "It doesn't?" she asked.

"No, princess, it doesn't." Diane moved forward so she could put her arms around her daughter and stroke her hair. Isabel began to sob uncontrollably out of relief.

When she finally quieted down she said, " I wanted to tell you for so long, mom, but we were just so afraid."

"I know, Isabel. Liz explained it to me."

Max, who had been standing alone and quiet in a corner, finally spoke. "How much did she tell you?" he asked. He was still sure that this was all going to backfire somehow and he was still terribly, terribly afraid.

"Enough," she told him, "enough to know that things have been pretty bad for you. Enough to know that you've been asked to deal with the responsibilities of a dethroned king before you'd even become a man. Enough to know that your life has been constantly in danger. Enough to know that you have a son who's never seen his father… Have I missed anything?" She had spoken to him so tenderly, in a voice so full of love, and for the first time in his life she had actually managed to reach through his protective exterior. Tears were softly sliding down his face and he was shaking with unspent emotion. "Max?" she asked.

"You don't hate me?" he asked taking a step toward her.

"I could never hate you," she told him.

"You aren't afraid of me?" he asked taking another step toward her.

"No," she replied quietly.

"You don't think I'm some kind of monster?" He took a final step toward her.

"Max," she answered, "you're my son. It's what you'll always be."

At that Max pulled his mother into his arms and held on like his life depended on it as he cried like a little boy.

posted on 3-Jan-2002 4:13:24 AM
PART EIGHT


It wasn't until they had actually reached River Dog's house that he spoke again. "Our foster son is very sick. We do not know what is wrong," River Dog explained to Liz. "The spirits tell us they cannot help him and my daughter says the child will not live much longer."

"Oh, I'm so sorry," said Liz. "I didn't know."

"My daughter believes he cannot be healed by her medicine any longer. She believes you may know of a way that she does not. Come. You must see the child."

Liz reached out for River Dog's arm to stop him. "River Dog, I don't know anything about medicine. I'm just a high school student."

"Don't worry," he told her, "just come."

They made their way through the house to a room in the back. It was a child's room, cheerfully decorated with bright pictures, lots of toys, and baby furniture. A woman with long, dark hair was waiting for them there.

"Thank you for coming," she said to Liz. "My name is Anna Littlewolf. It's a great honor to meet you."

"It's nice to meet you too Anna, but…"

"Did my father tell you about our foster son?" she interrupted.

"Yes," Liz confirmed.

"He's very sick. His mother died in childbirth five months ago and he almost died too. I was able to keep him alive and he seemed to do well for a few months. But during this past month he began to get sick again. His fever is very high. He's having trouble breathing and he won't wake up. I've done everything I can for him, but I cannot heal someone like him. Please, will you help him?"

Liz didn't understand why River Dog and Anna thought she could help. "I don't know what to do. Can't you just take him to a doctor?"

"I thought you understood," explained Anna. "He's a visitor like Nasedo. It's not safe for us to take him to the doctor."

Liz was stunned. She had thought Max, Michael, and Isabel were the last Antarians left on earth, yet now there was a child - an infant really - and he was dying. Liz shook her head. "I don't know how to help him, but I know someone who does. I'll get him for you."

"No!" Anna said sharply. "It has to be you. The spirits say it has to be you who heal him. Please, just look at him, hold him, see what you can do."

Liz truly didn't believe she could do anything for the baby - it was all a waste of time - but there was something about Anna Littlewolf that made one wish to obey, so she walked to the crib and looked inside. She reached in and brushed the blanket away from the baby's sleeping form. There before her eyes was the most beautiful infant she had ever seen. He was tiny and perfect, but, oh so pale. She gently picked up the blond-haired infant and was instantly alarmed at how limp he was - almost as if he were a rag doll instead of a living, breathing person. Despite this Liz was mesmerized by him.

"Young one," River Dog spoke, startling her, "remember that you have completed the change. This new power in you gives you a greater responsibility, not a lesser one. You must use it for the good of others. You must use it to heal the child."

Liz looked at River Dog but did not respond to his words. Instead she turned her attention back to the child. She gazed tenderly at the baby and gently brushed a lock of hair away from his forehead while she thought. Liz had never healed anyone before and she wasn't even sure if it could be performed on an unconscious person, but she was willing to try.

Quietly she began to pool her energy in the back of her mind, then she reached out and began to delicately tug at the spirit within the child. Anna had been right when she said the child would not survive. Liz could sense that his life spirit was ebbing and she was having a hard time grasping onto it. At last, when she was finally able to catch a wisp of it, she began to infuse some of her own energy into him. Anna and River Dog were excited to see color returning to the skin of the small boy, but the child had not revived and Liz was not done yet.

Now Liz began to look for a way to heal him. She searched his small body for the source of the problem but could not find it. She knew she needed help, so she started nudging his mind with hers, willing him to consciousness. 'Come on, little boy,' she called to him. 'It's time for you to wake up now. Come on now. I need you to wake up so you can help me to heal you. Please little one. Please wake up.' She kept on nudging him until his consciousness began to stir.

Suddenly, his mind latched onto hers and she could see flashes of images coming from him.

*Flash* Puppies frolicking in the yard.

*Flash* Anna rocking him in her arms and singing a Native American song to him.

*Flash* Crying and reaching out for a mind like his own.

*Flash* Puppies running through the house.

*Flash* Sudden loss as his mother died while holding him in her arms.

*Flash* "I love you Justin. Always remember that I love you. Don't ever forget that," Tess was telling him. These were her last words to him.

'No!' Liz cried out in her mind, pushing his mind away forcefully and severing the connection. The child's emotional pain was too great for her to handle. But Justin was awake now and his blue eyes held on to hers as he reached out to open a connection again. He touched her with his mind, stroking the connection to keep it open. He had seen the images of his father within her and he wanted to look at them again.

This time Justin was in control of the connection and he wouldn't let it close. Instead he continually stroked it, forcing Liz to endure it. But Liz wouldn't look at the flashes again. She blocked them with hers, pushed them away.

As Liz felt herself begin to calm, it occurred to her that the problem with the child might be the hybrid status of his parents. Hybrids on earth are almost never able to breed because they are sterile. A classic example would be the mule, a crossbreed of a horse and a donkey. On the rare occasions when hybrids are able to reproduce, their offspring are often fraught with problems such as physical deformities, and many don't survive. Unexpectedly, Liz had discovered the reason behind the child's illness.

She returned her focus back to the connection that Justin was holding open. She removed the block against the images flashing from his mind and used her energy to force the connection open even wider. The raw pain from the loss of his mother and the despair at not being able to maintain a satisfactory connection with his father hurt Liz deeply but she ignored it while searching for a way to fix the problems within him. She realized that it wasn't so much that he needed to be healed, but rather that his body needed to be altered so that it could survive on earth. She directed her power to change him from within.

When she finished her work, she could feel little Justin fall contentedly asleep in her arms, spent from the energy it took to keep a connection open with her. She gently finished closing the connection from her end and handed the sleeping infant to Anna. Then she collapsed into the nearest chair, exhausted. 'So this is Max and Tess' son,' she thought as she began to fall asleep herself. 'No wonder Max is so desperate for him. He's beautiful - absolutely beautiful. And he definitely needs his father.' She yawned and fell into a slumber.

An hour later she awoke rested and refreshed. She knew she needed to leave soon so her parents wouldn't miss her, but she needed to ask some questions first. She joined River Dog and Anna at the kitchen table and spoke with them over a cup of warm tea.

"There's something I don't understand," she told them. "You must know that Max is Justin's father. Why haven't you tried to contact him?"

Anna shook her head at Liz. "It's not safe Liz. He's a very powerful little boy, even though he's only five months old. He has the ability to project images, to make people see things that aren't there."

Liz nodded. "Like Tess."

"Yes," Anna confirmed, "he is like his mother. But we have learned that this ability poses a danger to humans. We aren't ready for this yet and it can hurt or even kill us. The spirits have taught us how we can ward ourselves to keep from becoming damaged, but if he is brought around others he might unintentionally hurt them. We can't allow that to happen."

"Okay, I understand that much but still…"

Anna interrupted Liz again. "Wait," she said, "there is more. Most of the time when he does this…"

"Mindwarp," Liz finished for her.

"Mindwarp," she nodded, "Most of the time when he does this mindwarp it is unintentional because he is young and innocent and he doesn't understand that he shouldn't be using his power all the time. He likes to make puppies."

"Puppies?" Liz asked.

"Yes," Anna replied. "You see, one day my father took him to see some puppies and he just loved them. Ever since then he's been creating images of puppies everywhere we go. As long as he's on the reservation he is safe because our people understand who he is and what he's doing. They are not afraid. But it would not take long for an outsider to figure out that he's different. They would take him away from Max and study him. They would hurt him Liz. We believe that the only way he can grow up safe and loved is if he stays here, with us."


posted on 4-Jan-2002 10:32:55 PM
PART NINE


Liz went back, once again, to the reservation on the following day. She wanted to see Justin and find out how he was doing.

Upon entering the house she knew that he had made a full recovery for there sat Justin in the middle of the room surrounded by a litter of puppies. He had created very young puppies with small, round bodies and wobbly legs. They were frisking about and tumbling over one another and Justin was just sitting there laughing and laughing. It was one of the cutest and funniest things Liz had ever seen.

Liz sat down next to Justin, narrowly avoiding stepping on one puppy's tail. She pushed the rest of the puppies over so she could get as close to him as possible, then she picked the baby up and held him on her lap. Right away the puppies vanished and Justin began to plant wet baby kisses on her face.

"Oh, you are too cute," she told him.

Justin grabbed took a fistful of Liz's hair in each of his tiny hands to pull himself up higher. "Oh, no you don't," she told him, turning her face away and disengaging his hands. "I already know that trick. Your father has used that one on me many times. You just want to get close enough to see into my eyes and then you'll open up a connection. Well, I don't think so little man. Not today, anyway." Justin cried when she wouldn't cooperate.

Liz only laughed softly at him. "Yah, your father doesn't like it when he doesn't get his way either. It's one of those nice alien traits you all seem to have." She patted his back comfortingly. "But you're just gonna have to get used to it, because I have my own ideas about things."

Little Justin eventually stopped his crying but his bottom lip still stuck out. "Oh my, aren't we grumpy today," she told him. "Well, we can't have that. I need you to come help me solve a riddle in the cave, but it's not going to work if you're in a bad mood. Here, how about some milk. It'll make you feel better." He grabbed the bottle she was tempting him with and relaxed into her arms to drink it. "Much better," she said, sitting down in a rocking chair.

As the bottle came close to being drained Liz started to notice the puppies appearing again, one by one. Then Liz saw herself appear across the room with Justin on her lap and she watched as she and Justin played with the puppies. "Nice touch, Justin, but no," she told him, "I don't want to play puppies right now." She took the bottle away from him. "You and I are going for a little walk now. Okay?"

Liz brought Justin to the cave where she had spent so much time as of late. "I have a theory, Justin," she said, holding him up so he could see the symbols, " and you are going to help me prove it, okay?" She touched the handprint symbol and watched with pleasure as it began to glow. Justin gazed at it wide-eyed. "I think this picture represents me. When your daddy healed me he left a handprint just like this on my tummy. You see? That's why it glows when I touch it; it knows me. And look at these other pictures that are around it - they glow when I touch them too. That's because they're about me. See these two right next to each other? They mean "timeline" and "alter", because that's what I did. In the other timeline you were never even born, but I changed history and now here you are." Justin liked the glowing symbols and watched with fascination as Liz talked.

Liz moved to another section of the cave. "I can't make any of the other pictures glow at all," she continued explaining to the infant in her arms, "because their messages don't pertain directly to me. But do you see these pictures? They say "child" and "war". I think these are your pictures, Justin. You wanna touch them for me?" She helped him to hold out his arm so that his small fingers would brush up against the symbols that had been coupled together. Instantly they began to glow brightly.

Liz smiled in triumph. 'I knew it! I knew I was on the right track,' she thought to herself. "What do you think little baby? You wanna touch some more?" She moved his fingers to touch the next symbol. Again it responded to him. "You see that? That picture means "isolation" because you are apart from your daddy and the rest of us. And this one means "illusion" because you can mindwarp like your mommy. And here is the word for "strength" because your power is very strong. I think it also means you will be able to resist attacks, which is probably why the sign that represents you is coupled with war. And here's your last symbol. This one means "pivot".

"I've thought a lot about this last symbol and I think I might know what it means. You see, a year ago your daddy came back from the future to warn me about the end of the world. In the timeline he was from the world was taken over by our enemies because your mom wasn't there and they weren't strong enough without her. But your daddy and I changed this timeline and now we have you. With your powers, you'll become the pivot on which the coming war will be won. And that means everything I've been through will have been worth it because the world won't have to end after all."

Justin, of course, didn't understand what she was explaining to him. All he understood was that here was a woman who spoke to him softly and kindly and who brought him things he liked - images of his beloved father, bottles of milk, funny glowing pictures to play with - and that she understood his way of communicating. And he liked her very, very much.

***************************************
Maria sat on the couch, snuggled in the afghan her grandmother had knit, watching Michael pace back and forth across her living room. She had already been feeling light-headed but looking at him as he wore a path through the carpet was making her sick to her stomach. She didn't know how much more of this she could take before the need to heave would come again. "Michael, would you please just stop and sit down?" she demanded.

Michael was extremely upset when he found out Liz had let Diane Evans know the truth about Max, Isabel, and himself. It didn't matter to him that the outcome had been good; it mattered that she had taken such a huge risk by doing it. So he went to the one place, the one person who could always comfort him. He went to Maria.

"Michael, please," she said a little more calmly. "Come 'ere." She patted the couch with her hand.

Michael stopped his pacing and sat next to Maria on the couch. He ran his hands through his hair. "Maria, you gotta talk to her. You have to make her understand."

"Make her understand what? Liz was right, Michael. She did the right thing," Maria told him.

"Maria, anyone who knows about us is in danger. Think about what happened to Alex. He would still be alive if Liz had never told him."

"What… so you're saying it's Liz's fault he's dead?" Maria was inflamed.

"No… Maria… I'm just saying that maybe it wasn't such a great idea to tell Mrs. Evans. Maybe her life is at risk now. Maybe…"

"Okay, Michael. I get it. Okay?" Maria told him. "I'll talk to her first chance I get.

"Look, not to change the subject or anything," Maria continued, "but I'm just feeling really, really sick and I think I might feel better if I ate something. Do you think you could go to the store for me?"

Michael frowned at her. "Why don't I cook you up something in the kitchen?"

"Well, that's really nice but there's nothing in the kitchen I want," she whined.

"Alright, what d' you want?" he asked. He was feeling generous because Maria had been nice to listen to his ranting.

"Okay, I was thinking something along the lines of liverwurst, peanut butter, and Tabasco sauce."

Michael looked at her in disgust. "You aren't planning on eating those all together were you?"

"Well, yah, actually I was," she told him. "Look there's some money in my purse. Just take it, okay?"

"That's all right, Maria," Michael said as he headed for the door. "It's on me."



*************************************
So many things had happened. So many questions were finally being answered. Liz knew it was more than time to tell the others. But first she needed to talk to Max. Alone. On the way back to Roswell she called and left a message on his cell phone to meet her at the park.

Night fell, the moon rose, and the stars peered out to twinkle. A heavy chill hung in the air. Liz stood waiting near the duck pond, warm in her thick jacket, waiting for Max to get off work.

At last she thought she saw his form off in the distance. As he drew closer her heart beat more quickly. She was so anxious. Would he be angry that she told his mom? How would he take the news of his son? What would he think of the change that had occurred in her?

And then he was there, standing before her in utter silence, lost in the depths of her dark eyes. 'Please talk to me. Please say something,' she willed him. She needed Max to take that first step - make the first move, speak the first words, anything that would let her know how he felt. Instead he just stood there staring at her. Her fear at what he might be thinking made her tremble.

Finally, he managed to utter one word - "Liz". Didn't that say it all? Liz was his life, his goddess, and the answer to his every prayer. He took her into his arms, pressing her against himself, kissing her again and again. His lips touched her face, her hair, and the delicate curve of her neck. He felt her relax into his arms and heard her contentedly sign.

Liz was amazed at his reaction to her. He hadn't been this hungry for her in such a long time. Didn't he know what she'd done? And his kisses were numbing her, making her forget about everything she needed to talk to him about. She needed to do something to… She didn't remember what she needed to do. All Liz knew was that she wanted more.

"Max?" she called to him softly. He stopped his plundering long enough to look longingly into her eyes before resuming his conquest. But it was enough. She could feel his soul nearby and she reached out to it but it recoiled from her touch. She tried again more gently this time, stroking it again and again, caressing it, pushing at it, pulling at it, teasing it to respond. Feeling it weaken and knowing it would open to her soon she reached out to it more urgently, stroking it faster and calling to it. She watched it as it began to vibrate. This was what she was waiting for. She sought its permission to enter.

"Liz? What are you… How are you doing this?" Max asked, trying to breathe.

"Shh," she commanded, pressing a finger to his lips. "Just let it happen."

Max felt the connection open between them and their souls merge, and he joined Liz in stroking their connection open wider and wider bringing them both unexpected pleasure. The last time he had done anything like this he had been with Tess, and she had taken over control of both the connection and him. She had taken advantage of him and humiliated him. He had never wanted to repeat that mistake again - that's why he remained closed, even with Liz. But this was different. Liz wasn't trying to control him; she was playing with him, dancing within him, teasing him to new highs. He had never experienced anything like this before.

As their connection pulsated faster and faster the flashes began coming to both of them. 'Finally,' Liz whispered across their connection. This is what she wanted - to see into Max's soul.

*Flash* Max as a boy fishing with his dad.

*Flash* Liz spending the night at Grandma Claudia's house.

*Flash* Max, watching Liz get shot at the Crash Down.

*Flash* Liz studying the cave writings and feeling joy at the glowing symbols.

*Flash* Max and Isabel crying in their mother's arms, relieved that she still loved them even knowing the truth.

*Flash* Liz connecting with his son Justin.

Suddenly the connection closed as Liz was shoved from his mind. She reeled at the impact of the force he used to propel her away. "Liz," he breathed, "what did you do?"



[ edited 1 time(s), last at 4-Jan-2002 10:36:52 PM ]
posted on 23-Jan-2002 4:10:45 AM
PART TEN


"Liz," Max breathed, "what did you do?" Nothing was making sense to him tonight. How was Liz able to open that sort of connection with him? Why was Liz studying the cave writings? Was it really true that she had found his son? He pressed his forehead against hers and waited for an answer.

Liz was still pressed up against him trying to steady her breathing and re-orientate herself to her surroundings. When she didn't answer right away Max started to worry. Had he closed their connection too fast and injured her? He brought his hand up to tuck her hair behind her ear in a soothing gesture. "Liz?" he asked.

"It's okay, Max," she replied softly, "just give me a minute." She had never experienced anything like that with Max before. When she had reached inside him she had been looking for something more than physical intimacy - something more like the flashes she used to have when they kissed. It had been so long since they shared those together. Instead, what she had done was open up a completely different kind of connection. It was the most intimate thing she had ever experienced and she needed a minute to recover from it.

"Max, that was so beautiful," she told him, "but what was it… exactly? Were we…" She didn't know how to finish and she felt vulnerable having to ask.

Max brushed his mind against hers again. "You mean this?" he asked her.

"Yah," she said, closing her eyes and clinging to him more tightly.

"That's part of how my people mate," he told her. He wondered how she could know enough to be able to open up a connection like that and then not understand what happened afterward. Without waiting for her to respond he went on, "Liz, I didn't mean to close the connection and shove you out like that. Are you okay?"

"I'm fine. It's just that was really intense and I needed to take a minute to, you know, calm down."

Max smiled at his precious Liz. "I'm sorry, sweetheart. It's just that I saw some things in the flashes and I needed to ask you about them."

"Alright," she assented, " but maybe I should tell you the whole story first before you start asking questions." She knew he must have seen something about his son in one of the flashes, and being that he was completely obsessed with finding him Liz was sure he wouldn't be able to focus on anything else until he had answers.

They moved over to the park bench and sat wrapped in each other's arms. "I guess the first thing you should know is that I discovered that Alex had been studying the cave symbols and that he had managed to translate nearly half of them before he died. It's really amazing, you know, so I've been trying to pick up where he left off. I've learned some really important things and I've even been able to translate some of the symbols myself. Maybe we could go there soon so I can show you what I've discovered."

"Sure," said Max, "we'll go whenever you want." It was more of a token response than anything else. He was still eagerly waiting what Liz had to tell him about what he last saw in the flashes.

"Okay, the next thing you need to know is that I've been developing powers like yours." It was hard to see in the dark but she was pretty sure his face showed surprise. "You were probably wondering why I was able to open our connection tonight. Well, that's why. River Dog says I've completed some sort of change. I still don't know how he knew but he does seem to be right. I seem to be able to make connections to people - just like you, to dreamwalk - like Isabel, and even to change molecular structure. It's all really new, so most of what I've done has been on accident; but I've been practicing and I'm getting more control."

"Liz, that's amazing."

"I know, Max, but listen. There's something even more important that you need to know." She took his hands in hers before continuing. "The most important thing you should know is that I now know where your son is. I found him yesterday. He is living on the reservation with River Dog and his daughter Anna Littlewolf. They've been taking care of him since Tess died."

"So, it's true - what I saw. You found my son?"

"Yes, Max. I found your son. I found Justin."


****************************************
"Michael got what?" Maria exclaimed in shock. She was sitting up in bed staring at Liz.

Liz winced. "He got suspended."

"Oh my gosh! Why?"

"Officially? Destruction of school property," Liz told her friend, "Only it wasn't his fault… exactly."

"Well, what exactly was his fault?"

"He decided to confront me about Mrs. Evans. That's what his fault was," Liz told Maria. "He actually made it to school before first period, interrupted my study session, and started yelling at me in the library. He was so mad that some of the overhead lights exploded."

"No way," said Maria in disbelief.

"Yes way. Then he grabbed my arm and was like… I don't know… being Michael, and I sort of… power blasted him into the bookshelves. Anyway, to make a long story short, three bookshelves toppled over and broke and a bunch of books were destroyed and he's suspended for one week."

"Oh my gosh. I don't believe it. Who does he think he is?" Maria exclaimed.

Liz shrugged her shoulders in response. "Maria?"

"Yah?"

"I can't seem to get these powers under control. I mean, if I'm purposely trying to do something I can do it, but - you know the power blast today? I didn't mean for that to happen." She blew out a breath of air. "This whole thing really scares me, you know."

"Yah, well, Michael doesn't have his powers under control either, and neither did Tess." They stared at each other in contemplation before Maria continued. "So, now that you've got these powers, do you think you could do me a favor?"

"Like what?" asked Liz, laughing, "Blow up Michael's motorcycle? Find out what Isabel really dreams about? Make Kyle believe that Buddha can talk to him?"

Maria giggled. "No, no, no, no, no, no. Not even close."

"Then what?"

Maria turned suddenly serious. "I want you to find out what's wrong with me. I need to know why I'm sick and why I can't seem to get well. Liz, I'm really scared that I might be dying."



TBC
posted on 23-Jan-2002 4:12:00 AM
PART ELEVEN


Jesse knew he wasn't officially part of 'the group' of Isabel's friends yet even though he hung out all the time, but he wished he were. During his brief stint with the FBI he had several encounters with the elusive agent Pierce (before he had been replaced by Nasedo) and was left with many questions about the Roswell incident. Pierce had even insinuated that Max, Isabel, and Michael were themselves aliens; yet from what Jesse had seen they were more human than most people he knew. It was completely by accident that, when he returned to Roswell to visit his mother, he had received a job offer from Mr. Evans. Certainly, Jesse could have turned it down and taken a similar position in New York for twice the salary he earned here, but then he might have passed up the chance of a lifetime to find out if anything he had heard from Pierce was true.

As it happened, he met and fell in love with Isabel Evans, the most beautiful woman he had ever laid eyes upon. And he knew that, in his love, he would do anything to protect her and make her feel safe and loved. Jesse didn't know if Isabel knew her dad was investigating her and her brother but Jesse was doing everything in his power to derail all of Mr. Evan's hard work. And for her sake, he pretended to be as ignorant as possible, even when it was obvious she used her alien powers to manipulate matter. This was his precious Isabel, this woman who had allowed him to experience things he had never thought of before, who had let him see into her soul.

So, on the very day that Liz sat with Maria, Jesse stood outside Maria's room with a basket of flowers just because Isabel had asked him to check up on her. (Oh, what he wouldn't do for that woman!) Amy had kindly let him in and directed him down the hallway before leaving to run errands, and so there he stood paused near Maria's door, captivated by the conversation going on within.

"Maria," Liz exclaimed in exasperation, "there's, like, no way you're dying. You're just sick and you need to see the doctor. I mean, I know you're into health food and homeopathic remedies, but sometimes you just got to go."

"Liz, I'm serious. I'm the first one of us to take the plunge, you know?" explained Maria. "You know how we always wondered if it were possible to safely have se… to get together with an alien. Well, what if it made me sick? I mean, look how you changed just because Max healed you. Well, what if being with Michael changed me too, only in a bad way?"

"Maria, you're totally being dramatic."

"No, I'm not. That's why I had to break up with him - the real reason. I feel changed, Liz, like I'm not really me anymore. At first I thought it was because I never pursued my music like I wanted to because we were always involved in all that alien crap, but that weird feeling's never went away. Now, I've been sick for weeks and I can't get better and every time I start to think about Michael I get sick again."

"Maybe that's just your body's way of telling you that you feel guilty for breaking up with him."

"No, Liz. I was starting to feel sick even before that."

"So, what are you thinking? That I can just connect with you and fix you up like I did with Justin?"

"Well, yah, why not?"

Liz, frustrated, got up to pace the small room. "Maria, this is more Max's thing than mine. I mean, don't forget what I did to Michael today. What if I do something wrong to you? I don't think I could take it if I did something to my best friend. Look I know Max is off work today. Why don't I just call him and have him come over. Okay?"

"Uh, uh," replied Maria adamantly. "That's like going to a guy doctor for personal woman's stuff. It's one thing for Michael to know the deepest most personal things about me but I don't think I want Max to. No offense, Liz."

"Okay, well when you put it that way then I don't want to have Max in that sort of position either. I wouldn't want to be jealous of my best friend getting flashes from my boyfriend."

Jesse wasn't sure if the term 'flashes' quite covered seeing into another's soul, but he was intrigued by how easily they seemed be able to talk to each other about alien matters. They so easily accepted what would frighten others, but then they had obviously been around a lot longer than he had and they had each other to talk to when things got too weird. He hoped that someday he, too, would be part of their group, able to discuss freely these things with them.

As for these changes they were referring to, well he had never considered that sort of thing before. Could being with an alien cause changes in a human? He didn't feel any different having been with Isabel, only hungrier for her every time he was with her, but that was normal, right. After all, he was a man.

"Okay, so like, what do you want me to do?" Maria continued. She had known Liz would capitulate if she pushed her hard enough and sure enough Liz had given in. She watched as Liz returned to sit on the bed, cross-legged, in front of her. "You need to look into my eyes, right?"

Liz laughed at her. "No," she said, shaking her head, "I think that's more Max and Justin's sort of thing. I just need to touch you, hold your hand or something." Maria nodded and laid her hands, palms up, on the blankets over her knees. Liz rested her hands over Maria's and took a couple of deep breaths before reaching out toward her friend. The connection opened instantaneously. Their years of mutual friendship, trust, and, love made the connection spontaneous and easy.

This connection was different from any Liz had experienced before - different than James Valenti Sr.'s disorientating dream, different than Mrs. Evan's motherly concerns and fears, different than Justin's powerful mind, different than Max's quiet yearning soul and warm touch. With Maria, Liz could truly feel the depth of loyalty her friend felt for her and see all the wonderful memories they had together. It was such a moving experience that Liz nearly forgot why she had opened the connection in the first place.

And then she felt a flittering brush passed her mind. She turned in question to see what it was and where it was going, and saw it fluttering nearby. Tightening a cord around their union to maintain Maria's awareness, she pulled Maria with her to investigate the fluttering, giving chase. Curiosity is what she felt from it and something akin to amusement. 'It's amused to find us here,' thought Liz. "Amused. Curious. But that means that if it feels it's alive and if it's alive here then… oh my gosh.'

Liz moved deeper within Maria, searching with purpose now. And there was her goal. She could see it, this tiny life. It was one and one half inches long, with arms and legs and tiny fingers and toes and a small steadily beating heart. As she watched it with amazement she could feel Maria's presence with her too - her fear, her joy, her excitement at the discovery of the child growing within her.

The silence emanating from the room was so long that Jesse finally decided to knock. When there was no answer he slowly opened the door and peeked in cautiously. He saw the two of them sitting on the bed locked in some sort of trance-like state. "Liz? Maria?" he asked but neither of them noticed his presence. "Isabel sent me over with some flowers she picked out for you. Hello?" They still had no clue he was there. So he stood awkwardly in Maria's doorway wondering if they were really locked into some sort of connection like what Isabel did with him? His dark eyes moved from one to the other in concern.

Within their connection, Liz began to examine the embryo. What was it that made this one seem so different? Liz couldn't put her finger on it, but she thought that it might be too well developed for it's probable age and size. That might make sense in context with what Nasedo had once told Michael. Nasedo had said that they had been programmed to be thousands of years ahead of other humans. Perhaps this little life was growing as would a human, thousands of years in the future. She looked closer and was shocked to see two umbilical cords rather than one. What could it possibly need from Maria to have two? And one appeared to be glowing. Perhaps, she reasoned, it wasn't so much that it needed the two, but rather it was searching for something Maria hadn't been able to provide for it yet.

Liz drifted away from the new life and began to examine Maria. The baby was trying to adapt to Maria but it was making her sick. Perhaps it would be better if Maria was adapted to the baby so that she could provide for its needs without getting sick. Maria needed to be changed, changed like Liz had been changed when Max healed her.

Finally, Jesse saw a movement from one of the girls. Would they perhaps come out of their trance now? Liz lifted her hands and placed one on Maria's stomach and one behind Maria's head, and then her hands began to glow. 'What is going on here?' Jesse wondered. 'Is Liz one of them or is this what she meant by being changed?' He found himself so captured by what was happening that he couldn't move from his position in the doorway. He knew if they caught him, his cover might be blown with all of them and then he would never gain their trust, but he just couldn't move.

Liz finished the minor changes she needed to make and then gently pulled out of the connection, shutting it down completely. Her hands dropped into her lap and she found herself staring at Maria with tears in her eyes. She had no idea that was what she would find. "Maria?" she questioned. "Did you feel it?"

Liz's voice shocked Maria out of her reverie. She had hardly noticed the connection close, so deep in thought was she. She looked up to see Liz's eyes moist with emotion and that's when it hit her. "Oh my gosh. Liz." She said as she threw her arms around Liz and began to sob. "I had no idea." Liz held Maria in her arms, letting her cry herself out.

Neither one of them noticed Jesse Ramirez standing there, looking on in concern, still holding a bouquet of flowers in his hands.






TBC
posted on 23-Jan-2002 4:13:54 AM
PART TWELVE


As Liz's tears stopped all together and Maria's began to subside, it occurred to Jesse that he should probably announce his presence before the girls discovered it on their own and decided the worse. He rapped on the door and cleared his throat. As both sets of startled eyes darted toward him he said, "Hey, I'm really sorry. I'm obviously interrupting something. I just… Isabel wanted me to bring you some flowers, Maria." He held the bouquet out to Maria, feeling as awkward as he looked. "They're a get well gift."

"Isabel bought these for me?" Maria sniffed. Since when had Isabel start doing good deeds? Maybe having her mother in her life in the way she had always wanted was mellowing the ice princess out a little bit. Or maybe Jesse was a good influence on her. Whatever the case, Maria was floored. Taking the flowers from him she said, "Thank you guys so much. I can't believe you did this. Thank you."

"Hey, no problem," he said as his cell phone began to ring. He pulled it out of his pocket and looked at the number. 'Bless you, Isabel,' he thought, 'you don't know how you just saved me.' Answering it he said, "Hi, sweetheart…yah, I just got here…yes, I did…yes, she did…okay, I love you too…bye Isabel." He put the phone back in his pocket and then noticed Liz was staring at him suspiciously.

"So," she began, "how long have you been here?" Her eyes were still somewhat red and puffy and Jesse decided that wasn't a good look on her.

'Long enough,' he thought. He had heard enough to know that being with an alien in a physical way could change a human and seen enough to have a pretty good idea what those changes might entail, but the prospect didn't frighten him. On the contrary, it intrigued him. To be able to share something like this with his wife, yes, that would be very nice. "Oh, Amy just let me in the house," he said aloud to Liz. He glanced anxiously around the room, not wanting to answer anymore questions. He didn't want to blow his cover of innocence until he was sure he would be accepted. "So, I'm just going to be going," he told her pointing over his shoulder. "I'm sorry I interrupted your girl thing."

"No problem," Liz told him. She wondered how much he'd actually seen and hoped this was just another close call. Liz felt a little bit more sympathetic toward Michael at that moment knowing how must have had such anxiety about another person knowing the truth.

"Hey, wait," she called to him as he turned to go. "Can I, uh… pick your brain for just a minute?" She got up and retrieved her backpack from the corner of Maria's room and started pulling out papers. "There's a project I've been working on and I was wondering if you might know anything about this subject."

"Sure, Liz," he said agreeably, relieved that neither Liz nor Maria seemed overly suspicious about what he's just witnessed. He wondered if they were just letting him off easy and if he'd hear about it later from Isabel.

Liz shoved some rough sketches Alex had drawn of the cave symbols at him. She knew that, having been to college already, he might have been exposed to something like them. She also remembered that Max had believed that Jesse had at one time worked for the FBI - although he had denied any involvement - and if that was true then he might know what some of these meant or if there were any more like them.

Jesse grabbed the pictures out of her hands and leafed through them quickly. He'd seen these before in some of Pierce's files. What exactly were these kids involved in? "Machu Picchu," he said under his breath.

"No way," Liz, who had heard him, replied. "Machu Picchu was an Incan city and the Incas had no written language. This couldn't possibly belong to them."

"Liz, how did you get this?" he asked urgently.

Liz glanced at him strangely. It was obvious he knew something. "Our friend Alex had been studying these. We found them in a cave, here, in New Mexico. He was translating them before he was… before he died. I've been trying to pick up where he left off. I think they might be important."

"Liz, listen to me," Jesse told her, "burn these. Forget you ever saw them. This is top secret government information and if anyone knew you had these…" He was thinking about the things Pierce had claimed to have done to people who got in his way or who knew too much. "Just get rid of them, okay? You're not safe as long as these are in your possession - none of us are."

Liz had been in danger before. They all had. And none of them backed down or ran away because something wasn't safe. So, she looked him directly in the eye and said one word: "No."

Jesse couldn't believe her. Didn't she understand?

"I'm sorry, Jesse. This is too important. I'd like to know what it is that you obviously know, but even if you don't tell me I'll find out anyway, because I'm not going to let this drop. Alex knew this information was dangerous. I'm sure that's why he was studying it secretly. I didn't even know about it until his mom gave it to me after he died. But now that I know, I'm going to find out what it's all about."

"Yah, Jesse," Maria finally spoke up. "This involves all of us: Liz, me, Michael, Max, and Isabel when she finds out. I mean, you have no idea what all of us have been through in the last two years. Our lives have been a living hell. We can't stop now when we're finally getting answers."

Jesse shook his head in grim disbelief. He knew this must be important to them, but important enough to risk their lives? If they were involved in this kind of stuff there would be no way he could protect them. "Look," he told the girls, "I can't help you with this. I don't want to be responsible for someone getting killed. And I don't want to see my wife get hurt. You should stop this now, while you still can."


********************************
It was their first big meeting since Tess had disappeared in the granilith. Michael was sitting, arms crossed, staring anywhere but at Liz. Maria was sitting next to Michael, feeling well for the first time in nearly two months. Kyle and Jim Valenti both sat on bar stools with their arms crossed. And Diane Evans sat in between Max and Isabel. They were all waiting for Liz to show up.

Diane didn't know what to make of the unearthly silence. Isabel had told her that they only called meetings like this when they had serious matters to discuss so she was guessing that everyone was just nervous. The other thought that crossed her mind was that there might be dissention in the group over Liz telling her the truth. And she really didn't know what to make of the Valenti's and Maria. How long had they known the truth?

Finally there was a tap at the door and Liz came in lugging an overhead projector, her backpack, and a large sheet of white paper. "Hi, everyone," she said looking rather harried. "I don't mean to be school-teacherish but there's a lot of people here today and there are a lot of things I need to show you. So, um, let me set up here and then I'll get started. Okay?"

Michael was mumbling in his corner of the room, but Isabel got right up to help. "Here, let me tape your paper up on the wall so you can set up the projector."

Liz was amazed. "Thanks Isabel."

Within no time they had set up and Liz was ready to begin a long overdue debriefing of the group. The first thing she did was pull out two Polaroids from her backpack and pass one to each side of the room. "I'm sure by now," Liz began, "that everyone knows that Max's son has been located. These are a couple of pictures his foster family gave me." She could see there were a couple of surprised faces in the room but she continued. "I know we all saw Tess leave in the granilith to return to Antar. I honestly don't know how it happened that Tess was here on Earth when she had Justin - that's the baby's name - but she was. It's possible she never left Earth at all. It's also possible that she did go to Antar and then returned for some reason. We'll probably never know because she died shortly after childbirth.

"What we do know is that Justin is very much like Tess in looks and abilities. In fact, he uses mind warping to communicate with. Shortly after he was born he started projecting images of Tess because he wanted his mommy. After awhile he realized she wasn't coming back and so he started projecting images of Max, which he still does. He also uses mind warps to express his other needs, like bottles when he's hungry and stuff. And he plays with the mind warps. His favorite thing to project is puppies, which is like, totally cute. He'll just be in the middle of the room with all these puppies, sitting there laughing and laughing.

"Right now he's being cared for by River Dog and his daughter Anna Littlewolf. They and their people have protected him from the rest of the world that might want to abuse or hurt him. But with his abilities, he's going to need all of us to raise him. Tess was raised without human love and was never taught to temper her abilities, to use them for good and unselfish things. We can't let him grow up like that. And while I think it's good that he's safe on the reservation right now, I don't think it's a good idea for him to be raised by defenseless humans. He's going to need people who are stronger than him - people who can be role models. Max and I have been discussing this but haven't been able to come up with any good solid plans. Um, so, if anyone has any ideas…"

Everyone looked at each other but no one spoke. They seemed perplexed by the problem. It was obvious that Justin couldn't live in Roswell. He needed to stay where he was at for safety reasons. And Max couldn't really go there because he still needed to complete high school. On top of that, Max still had to work to support himself.

Finally, Diane spoke. "I have an idea, honey," she said addressing her son. "Why don't you live in the apartment over my store? That way you could pick up Justin and bring him to Roswell and visit with him over the weekend. You'd have complete privacy to take care of him without any one being subjected to that mind warp thing and it should be safe. This will give you time to finish high school without rushing into anything you're not ready for or making any decisions that you haven't had time to really work out. Then I could visit my grandchild and the rest of you could visit and work with Justin on controlling his powers. What do you think honey?"

"But that's your office area, Mom," said Max.

"Well, it would still be my office area. You'd have to put up with your mother for a little bit every night, but I'd be willing to let you have it rent free if you'll help me with my paperwork." She smiled warmly at him.

"Thanks, Mom. That would be really great." Max couldn't believe his good luck. His mom was truly amazing.

"Finally!" said Michael. At last he would have his apartment back to himself.

"Michael, shut up!" Maria ordered, jabbing him in the side with her elbow. He crossed his arms and glared at her but didn't say another word.

"O-kay," said Liz, "Moving on… the next thing you all should know, in case you haven't heard already, is that I seem to be developing powers of my own."

"What? When did this happen?" Isabel exclaimed.

"It's been happening for awhile now, Isabel," Liz told her friend, "since Christmas time."

"I don't understand," Diane replied. "How could this happen to you? I thought you were human."

"I am, but two years when Max healed me he must have inadvertently changed me, making me more like him. I have powers now, just like the rest of them do."

"So, what can you do besides power blasting Michael across the room?" asked Kyle cheerfully. He had been studying with Liz in the library when Michael accosted Liz and had seen Liz throw Michael into the bookshelves. He thought Michael had it coming to him for a long time and was glad to see him get what he deserved. "Any powers to stop killer death looks?" he asked pointing at Michael.

"Kyle, cool it," Jim warned.

"Yes, sir."

"Yes, as a matter of fact. I can do things other than that power blast, which by the way, Michael, I am really sorry about that."

"Whatever," he said, not even looking at her. His arms were still folded and he was glaring at everyone in turn. Liz would have to deal with him later.

"Okay, well, most of the things I've done have been by accident, um… like the power blast," she said sheepishly. "But, so far I've been able to dreamwalk, to alter matter - you know, like light candles, open locks, stuff like that. I can open connections with anyone and I've also been able to heal."

"Heal! You put us at risk again by healing someone?" Michael exclaimed standing up. "Can't you ever keep this kind of stuff to yourself or do you want the white room to happen again? Maybe it'll be you this time instead of Max!"

"Michael!" Maria yelled. She grabbed his arm and tried to pull him down with her. "Will you shut up and sit down! Do you want to get power blasted again? You're just sticking your foot in your mouth 'cause you don't even know the whole story. Sit down!"

Max had grown visibly pale by Michael's mention of the white room. No amount of time had ever healed him from the terror he had experienced there.

Diane noticed how white her son had become and how stiffly those in the rest of the room held themselves. "What's the…"

"Mom, no," Isabel said, trying to stop her mother from asking. She held onto her mother's arm and shook her head vigorously.

Diane knew this was probably another secret her children were hiding from her, one of the pieces to the puzzle that had so long kept her from being close to Max and Isabel, and she wanted to ask. She needed to know. "Isabel, sweetheart, what are you hiding? I thought we weren't going to do this anymore."

"Ma'am," said Jim, "this is kind of a personal matter you might want to ask your son later. I don't think he wants to discuss it here."

"No, sheriff," Max said quietly. "It's okay. She's right; I did promise her." Liz moved to his side, kneeled on the floor, and held his hand. She could tell how hard this must be for him. Max clenched her hand tightly, painfully until the whites of his knuckles showed. "A special unit of the FBI… took me… into custody about a year and a half ago. They… did things… to me. I'm lucky to have made it out of there alive. That's when the sheriff and Kyle found out about us. They helped everyone to rescue me."

"Oh, honey," she said taking his other hand and looking at him with tears in her eyes.

"It's okay, Mom," he told her, "it's over now. Liz, why don't you keep talking. I'll be okay in a minute. Just… why don't you tell us who you healed."

"You son, Max. I healed you son. His body wasn't adapted well for life on this earth so I changed him. I know that must seem strange, but hybrids - earth hybrids - can't usually breed or successfully reproduce. Almost always, their children died or are horribly malformed. I don't think your people took that into consideration when they created you or when the saddled you with a 'destiny'. Justin almost died. He would have died if River Dog hadn't brought me to him when he did."

"You saved my son's life?" he asked. Liz nodded in response. "Thank you." He took her face in his hands and kissed her.

"Get a room," said Michael.

"Michael, what is the matter with you today?" asked Maria. "Will you grow up?"

"Liz, is there anything else you'd like to tell us?" asked Isabel. She wanted to get things back on track and break the mounting tension in the room.

Liz nodded and walked back to the front of the room. She flipped on the light switch on the overhead projector and place a transparency of some of the cave symbols on it. "Okay, everyone. I know we all thought that when Tess left and the skins were destroyed that we were finished with 'destiny' and all the alien crap we've been dealing with for the past two years. But I'm here to give you some really bad news. According to the symbols in the cave on the Mescalero Apache reservation the worse is yet to come. The war is coming to Earth. The cave writings were a warning, a 'heads-up' if you will, to prepare us to lead the oncoming war and to save earth."

"Dear God," said Diane Evans.

"How can that be?" asked Isabel. "Tess destroyed our only way home. We're not a threat to Kivar anymore. And I destroyed any interest he might have had for Vilandra when I sent him through the portal."

"Who is Vilandra?" asked Diane.

"She was the royal princess of Antar, whose essence lives on in Isabel," Liz explained. "And, yah, Izzy, I know, but the symbols clearly tell of a coming war."

"Yah, but Liz," Max began, "Nasedo was the one who put those symbols in the cave and he was a traitor. Even if we could decipher all of them, how could we trust what they say?"

"That's a good point, Max. The thing is, I don't think the Nasedo we knew was the real Nasedo. I think he was an imposter."

"What makes you say that?" asked Jim.

"Your dad, actually."

"What does my dad have to do with this?"

"Well, when I was visiting him the other day I sort of got pulled into his dream. In other words, I dreamwalked him. Anyway, in his dream I saw him as a young man and I was with him. He was dreaming about me, you know? And I saw him warn me to stay away from the shapeshifter. 'Shapeshifter' - that was the exact word he used. He said he was dangerous, an imposter, and that he killed the protector. Now, I know this is only an interpretation, but according to Tess the Nasedo we knew had a deal with Kivar to turn all of you over to him as political prisoners. Well, why would someone who was sent as your protector do that? It doesn't make any sense, unless Mr. Valenti was right. Maybe you real protector was killed. I don't know.

"I will say that River Dog told me something interesting in this regard. He said that Nasedo left the writings in the cave to guide us in case he could not. Also, if you remember, River Dog told us that Nasedo was scared before he left the reservation. He thought 'they' were close to finding him, whoever 'they' are. Perhaps, the one we know as Nasedo found your protector and killed him, then took his place. Your real protector was probably afraid something like that would happen and left you information to guide you when he was no longer there."

"Liz, you can't base theories on the dreams of a crazy old man," said Jim.

"Yah, Liz, I have to go with the sheriff on that one," Isabel said. "I mean, you can get a lot from dreams, but most of it's just people's imaginations."

"Isabel, Sheriff, wait," Maria interjected. "Liz, I know you don't want to, but they have to know everything. No one's gonna believe you unless you tell them about the whole future Max thing."

"Maria!"

"No, Liz. You can't keep this from them anymore. You have to tell them. Everyone here deserves the right to know."

"What's she talking about, Liz?" asked Max.

Liz breathed out a worried sigh. "Last year, right before the summit meeting, I had a visitor. He had used the granilith to travel back 14 years in time to come to me for help. In his time, the whole world was about to end. Everyone he loved had either been killed or was about to be killed. Earth had been taken over by the skins. And he needed me to help him change this timeline, the one we're in now, so that when the war comes we'll be strong enough to win this time." Liz paused and took a shaky breath. It was really hard for her to talk about this.

"Go on, Liz," Max encouraged. He knew Liz was strong and that whatever it was must have upset her a lot for her to react like this.

"Well, the thing of it is," Liz said looking to Max for support, "is that Tess's powers were essential to winning the war on Earth. In the other time line she left Roswell. Disappeared completely. She couldn't deal with the fact that Max and I were together. So, she left. But without her we couldn't win the war and everyone died."

"Yah, but Liz, she's not here in this time line either," said Kyle, "so, if a war really is coming then we're gonna lose."

"No, we're not Kyle," Liz told him confidently. "Because we one thing in this time line that the visitor didn't. We have Justin."

"What are you saying?" Max asked. He didn't like where this conversation was headed.

"Max, according to the visitor I had, there will be a war some 14 - well, now it would be about 13 - years in the future. I don't know if that's when it starts or if that's simply when it ends, but the fact is that there will be a war that we'll all be fighting in. Tess's type of powers is needed to win this war. In the first time line we lost because she wasn't there. In this second time line, she's dead, but she's left behind a legacy - her son. Max, I know the last thing you want to hear is that your young son will be fighting in a war, but according to Nasedo that's what will happen.

"If you'll notice the symbols from the cave," she said directing everyone's attention to the overhead projector, "you'll see this one here. It's a combined symbol meaning child and war. When Justin touches that symbol it lights up. It's the only one in the whole cave that responds to him like that. That's because it's his symbol. This child/war symbol is his because when the war comes he will still be a child.

"The symbols that surround the 'child/war' foretell important things about him. This first one means 'isolation'. I believe that's referring to the way he's being brought up. He has no mother. It's not feasible for him to be with his father. And he's growing up apart from all of us. He's isolated. The next symbol means 'illusion' because that's where his power lies. He has the ability to mindwarp, to create believable illusions. It is a unique ability that none of us seem to have except him. The third symbol means 'strength'. Strength isn't just a physical ability; it can also mean the power to resist attacks. So since this is a child of war we are talking about, this strength symbol probably refers to his position in the war. This last symbol means 'pivot' which is the central part or person upon which something turns or depends. In other words, Justin is the pivot that will turn the war in our favor."

"Liz," said Diane speaking for her son, "this is just a little baby you're talking about. Do you even understand what you're saying here? If you've interpreted these symbols correctly then that means that sometime in the future we will be using a small boy to win a war for us. What does that say about us that any of us would do this to a child?"

"Mrs. Evans, look around this room. Except for the sheriff, not one of us is over 18 years of age, yet in the last two years we have fought many battles together. Most of the time we barely escaped with our life. We've given up our childhood for a war on a planet none of us has even seen before. We've had to deal with betrayal by one we thought was our own. We've had to sort through countless lies. Our best friend was murdered by one of our enemies. We've been attacked by an enemy race known as the 'skins' on several occasions. You're sitting in a room of battle weary soldiers. We will do what we have to do to survive and to save those that we love because we don't have a choice. We never have."

"Mom," Max said, his were eyes full of hurt and resignation at the same time, "Liz is right. If a war is coming to earth in the future, especially if it's one led by Kivar, we'll be forced to use every resource we have. And if the only way we'll win is to allow my son to fight, then that's what we'll have to do."

"Oh, honey," Diane said pulling Max into an embrace, "I'm so sorry. I don't want to see you hurt and I don't want to see my grandson hurt, but there are things happening beyond any of our control. Max honey, you have to try to give your son the childhood he deserves now, while you still can. Because when the war comes it will be too late, and trust me, you won't want to look back with regret. And honey, whatever you need to help you be a good father just know that I will be more than happy to help you with."

"Yah, Max," chimed in Michael, "me too. I'm there for you man."

"Me too, Max," said Maria.

"We'll all help you," Isabel told her brother. "We'll make sure Justin has the best childhood a kid could ask for."

Max was so overwhelmed he didn't know what to say and before he could even think of a reply there was a knock at the door.

"Ooo, pizza?" asked Maria hopefully since she was starving. "Did you order pizza for us Michael? I'm totally starving."

Michael shook his head from side to side. "Didn't invite anyone over either."

They all glanced at one another nervously until Isabel decided to get up and see who it was. She looked through the peek hole and was shocked to see her husband. Immediately, she opened the door to let him in. "Jesse," she greeted with an overly cheerful smile, "what are you doing here?"

"Hey Isabel." He kissed her and then asked: "Mind if I come in?"

"Sure," she said nervously.

Sixteen eyes stared at him as he entered the apartment. 'This is a tough crowd,' he thought. 'I hope I know what I'm doing.' He could just feel the tension in the air as Isabel closed the door behind him. He walked over and stood beside Liz in front of the projector. Speaking directly to her he said, "I thought about our conversation earlier. I wasn't lying when I said that these symbols are dangerous. Just having pictures of them in your possession puts your life at risk. But my wife is involved and I can't let anything happen to her. So, the only way I know how to protect her right now is to tell you what I know and to give you whatever help you need."

"Jesse, you recognize these symbols?" Isabel asked her husband.

"Yah, I've seen them before," he told her, "in some files in Agent Pierce's office in one of the Federal Bureau of Investigation buildings."




TBC
posted on 23-Jan-2002 4:15:19 AM
PART THIRTEEN


The room became deathly silent. Fear seemed to hover in the air. And then a new emotion emerged. Anger. Jesse watched Max rise slowly from his seat. His eyes were dark and frightening. "Get out," Max told him. "Isabel, move out of the way so he can leave."

"Max, no," Isabel said. She was clearly frightened but she wasn't ready to give up on her husband that easily. "I want to hear what Jesse has to say."

"Max," Liz consoled softly, "those probably weren't the best opening words for him to come in here with, but he doesn't know what happened. I asked Jesse about these earlier and he refused to tell me. He told us we should burn them, that even having these in our possession puts our very lives in danger. I think he knows things we don't. We should hear him out." She moved gracefully to him and gazed thoughtfully into his eyes. "Please?"

With a barely perceptible nod, Max returned to his seat on the couch taking Liz with him. She rested on his lap, comfortable in his embrace, waiting for Jesse to speak again.

"Go ahead, man," Michael directed. "Enlighten us." He was leaning back in his chair and had his arms folded and was staring at Jesse in a challenging way.

Jesse looked about him at the room full of frightened women and angry male posturing. His heart beat steadily in his chest urging him to run away, but his head ordered him to tell what he knew and to make it good. "I didn't lie when I told you I never worked for the FBI. I'm not an agent for them. I never have been. What I am, is a linguistics expert. It's not something I learned from a formal education; it's something I was taught by my father. All the men in my family have a natural ability to pick up languages. Whatever we're around we learn to speak. My father could speak some 64 languages fluently and was able to read nearly 200 others. My grandfather could supposedly speak around 80 languages and read about 250 more. I'm probably a genetic throwback because I can only speak 32 languages, but I can read anything my father exposed me to.

"I work as a lawyer. That's how I support myself. But as a linguistics expert, I am sometimes called to testify in court cases or am called on by, say, government agencies for special projects. About four years ago Agent Pierce of the FBI called on me to examine symbols just like these. I met up with him in Vermont where he showed me files and files of photographs, illustrations, and notations taken from a site in Peru called Machu Picchu."

At this point Liz spoke up. "You said before that these symbols were the same as those from Machu Picchu. Our friend Alex believed the same thing. But I don't understand why you both believe that. The Inca people had no written language. Everything they knew was passed on by word of mouth. No one has ever been able to find anything written by them. There has to be some sort of mistake."

Jesse nodded an acknowledgment. "What you're saying is true. The Incas had no written language. Never the less, there is an underground area in Machu Picchu where these symbols are found. It is highly top secret, for reasons I will tell you in a minute, and no visitors are allowed to view this area. Only those who work for the Multi-national Cooperative of the Study of Extraterrestrial Influence, the MCSCI, are allowed to view them."

"You're kidding me, right?" asked Jim Valenti.

"I wish I were. Unfortunately, this organization really does exist and it functions similarly to the special unit of the FBI, only its sphere of influence is far greater and the people who run it are far more powerful. It's goal is to determine how often Earth has been visited by extraterrestrial life and in what way it has influenced cultures and peoples throughout the ages. Its secondary goal is to destroy anything alien they find. It's a huge cover-up operation, spanning across the globe. They've destroyed countless alien artifacts and killed hundreds, possibly thousands, of people who knew too much or who simply had the misfortune of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. As far as I can tell, they have also been responsible for killing the few visitors we've had from other worlds during the final part of the twentieth century." He paused to see if what he had just told them was sinking in.

"You're saying you believe that aliens from other planets have come to Earth," asked Kyle in his most incredulous voice, "And that there's an organization out there run by lunatics who are bent on destroying them?"

"Yes, I do believe that Kyle," Jesse said evenly. "And my best guess is that everyone in this room believes it also. You see, there is no other reason to be interested in symbols like these - at least, none that I've ever found."

Behind Jesse Isabel laughed uneasily. "I think I better sit down for this."

Jesse waited for Isabel to return to her seat next to Diane before continuing. "My first exposure to these was in Peru when I was about 7 years old. My father liked to take me with him when he traveled so that he could teach me, so that summer I went with him to Machu Picchu to learn how to interpret the symbols. I spent three months with him and he taught me everything he knew about them: how to interpret the meanings of each symbol and how they fit into the context of the greater whole. The symbols are quite complicated to interpret and can't even be read in a straight line like English or even most languages for that matter. The people who left these writings behind literally wrote in circles. And as we translated each circle of symbols we would learn another part of the story.

"It took nearly two years for my father to complete his work. When he was done we were able to read the history of an ancient people from a planet in the Whirlwind Galaxy. According to what we found, this people was given a gift many thousands of years ago from a visiting race. It was so long ago that the people didn't remember who that race was or why they had been given this gift. All they could remember was that they were to protect and cherish this gift and that if they did this then the gift would in turn protect and cherish them."

"What was the gift?" asked Liz.

"It was hard to interpret what the gift was because it didn't match any concept we currently have in our languages here on earth, but the closest we could get was that the gift was some sort of living machine."

"Wait. You mean this?" asked Liz jumping off Max's lap and rushing over to the projector. She quickly leafed through her transparencies and found the symbol she was looking for. She placed it on the overhead projector so that everyone could see.

"Yes, this is it," confirmed Jesse. "And the reason why it doesn't translate well is because the concept of it is so broad. It's a machine, but it's alive. It was cherished by the people but not worshipped. They protected it and in some way it was able to protect them in turn. It held a great deal of power and was somehow able to exist in multiple timelines simultaneously, thereby serving as a guide for the people, yet it needed the people to direct it in how to function and use it's power."

"Liz," said the sheriff, "a little English please."

Liz was almost too excited to organize her thoughts enough to speak. "Okay, well, this symbol is the one that Nasedo used to depict the granilith." She pointed to the one she was referring to. "And Jesse just confirmed what Alex and I thought - that the granilith is alive. Now you have to remember that on Antar time exists in multiple subsets which is why the granilith is depicted though different timelines. It also explains why the Antarian people would have revered it the way they did and why they are so desperate to have it back. As long as they looked to it for guidance and used its power appropriately, it would be able to safely guide them in all their decisions. The granilith was probably able to prevent all major wars from happening at all because if it saw one occur in the first timeline it would direct the people away from making those same mistakes in the second. It would be as if it never happened at all. In the same way it could prevent food shortages, terrible diseases, and deaths caused by natural disasters.

"It also explains how war eventually came to Antar and how the royal family was deposed and then killed. According to what I've been able to interpret, the Antarians stopped relying on the wisdom of the granilith to guide them. When King Zan tried to force his people to obey the granilith they rebelled. It opened the way for Kivar to take the throne and enslave the people. The Antarians had no protection against Kivar because they had rejected the granilith. It also put the granilith in a terrible position because now it resided on enemy soil with an enemy king who wanted to use it for his own purposes. That's why the few faithful people sent the granilith away with the reborn royals. They hoped that in time the royals would return with the granilith to save them."

"Liz, how were you able to figure all that out? These writings are by far the most complicated language my father and I have ever encountered. There are only a handful of people who have ever been able to read them, and out of those I'm the only surviving member. Everyone else has either been killed or has disappeared, including my father. So, how could you have just figured all this out on your own?" asked Jesse.

"I didn't," Liz volunteered. "I had help. Alex had already translated half of the symbols before he died. All I had to do was study what he had done. Once I figured out what he had been doing I was able to translate most of the rest."

"That's really amazing, Liz, but what you did earlier - showing me the symbols - you can't ever do that again. You and I are the last two people alive on this planet who can read them. I've managed to play these people's game by giving them little bits and pieces of information when they ask and playing dumb the rest of the time. They think I'm a non-believer in extraterrestrial life who just happens to remember a little bit of what my crazy father showed me when I was young, when in actuality I can read this stuff fluently. You obviously can too, but if you go showing it around to people sooner or later you'll run into the wrong person and you'll disappear too," Jesse told Liz. He continued, "That goes the same for everyone in this room. You may not be able to read this, but you know the interpretation. You can't ever talk about this in public. You can't even mention it.

"There's something else you should know, too. Now, the special alien-hunting unit of the FBI was disbanded as of about a year ago, according to my sources, and Agent Pierce has disappeared; but Agent Pierce had a big mouth. He told everyone about his belief that extraterrestrials were infiltrating our planet, about the Roswell incident, even that… well lets just say that he claimed to personally know of several aliens living here in Roswell in disguise as humans. So, there are people out there to this day that have all his stories in their head, people who would probably like to find out for themselves if they are true. The thing is - and I'm sorry that I don't know how to break this to you gently - he personally told me (which means he probably told other people too) that you: Michael and Max and Isabel are aliens."

"What?" asked Isabel in disbelief.

"That's just great," mumbled Michael, throwing up his hands.

"So, what do you believe?" asked Liz directly.

Jesse turned to look at Isabel. "I think it's true. I always have. And I feel so blessed that I get to be a part of all your lives."

"You've known this whole time?" Isabel asked her husband.

A big grin crossed Jesse's face. "Yes, ma'am," he told her.

Isabel began laughing. Finally, her husband knew the truth and she didn't have to try to hide from him anymore. "I can't believe you didn't tell me!" she exclaimed and then she grabbed a pillow off the couch and threw it at him.

"People," yelled Liz, "could we get back to the symbols here?" Everyone settled down and a grim seriousness once again overtook the group. "Jesse, I need you to stay with me in case I've translated anything wrong or don't know what a symbol means. Okay?"

"Sure. No problem."

"Okay, and you should also know that some of the next things we are going to be addressing may come as a bit of a shock to you so, uh… you should probably try to be mentally prepared."

"O-kay," Jesse replied, wondering what they could tell him that he didn't already know.

"Okay, before I go on, are there any questions up to this point?"

"Yah, I have one Liz," said Maria. "Okay, well when Tess left in the granilith we all watch it fall, like, completely apart. If the granilith was alive, does that mean she killed it?"

"I don't know," Liz replied. "I think we're going to have to make a trip out there and check it out, preferably as soon as possible.

"The granilith is here?" asked Jesse.

"Yes, it is," Max told him. He had finally relaxed somewhat and was trying to give Jesse the benefit of the doubt and trust him. "It's not only here on earth, it's very close by."

"But someone named Tess destroyed it?"

"That's what we think," Liz replied. "Tess was an alien hybrid. In other words, she was half Antarian and half human - the same as Isabel, Max, and Michael. We all trusted her because of who she was, but she betrayed us. About six months ago she used the granilith to leave this planet and return to Antar. In the process she destroyed it and we aren't sure of the condition it's in now."

Liz put a new transparency of symbols on the overhead projector. "These are the cave symbols Nasedo inscribed to refer to Tess. Here you see the word 'bride', because she was the reborn royal who had originally been the bride of King Zan. Around her are descriptions that, if we had been able to interpret earlier, would have saved us a great deal of heartache. The bride is described as an 'imposter' or someone who imposes on others for the purpose of deception. Um… the other way this could be translated is 'enemy' or one who is hostile to another or one who seeks to overthrow."

"Well, there's a shock," quipped Maria.

Liz glanced up briefly and then continued. "Her power is described as 'deception' because… well, I think we all know why that was used."

"I don't," said Jesse.

"Oh, um… she was able to do something that we refer to as a mindwarp. She could make people see and feel things that weren't there and she could also superimpose false memories on people."

"Really?"

"Yah," Liz affirmed. "Okay, now here we see the sign for death. In the Antarian language this word denotes more than just a person dying. It also indicates that the person has ceased to exist for all time, that there will never be a revival or rebirth of that person. So, we have thankfully seen the end of Tess.

"The final sign given to describe her is the child/war symbol, obviously because she gave birth to him. The only other time this symbol is found is over here…" at that she switched transparencies, "as part of the description given for… Max, who is our reborn King Zan."

"You're King Zan?" asked Jesse in disbelief. Isabel snorted and rolled her eyes in response. Max just smiled and shrugged his shoulders. "I can't believe it. As a little boy I used to go to bed at night imagining stories about the great King Zan. Those stories I read about him in Peru were the stuff dreams are made of for a child."

"Please, my brother's head is big enough," Isabel warned him.

Liz watched Max playfully flex his muscles like the body builders like to do. "Max," she said, "we really don't need to see that."

"You're absolutely right," he told her, "so, please go on. Tell me more about me."

"You're impossible. How 'bout that?" replied Isabel in her best ice princess voice.

"People, could we," said Michael gruffly. "I need to go to work in a few minutes."

"Yah," said Jesse, "let's do one more. How about this one with the handprint symbol? It matches one of the descriptions for King Zan. I know it means healing. Is that your power Max?"

Max nodded in reply. "Yah, that's my strongest power."

"Okay, so here it's used as an adjective to describe your ability to heal people, but over here it stands alone as a central symbol, no longer an adjective but a noun. That would have to indicate that this Nasedo was using it to represent a person. Do we know who it is yet?"

"It's Lizzy," explained Maria as if it should be obvious to everyone.

Max turned to Liz. "Is that true?"

"Why would Liz be mentioned in the cave symbols? She's human," said Jim.

Jesse pointed to one of the surrounding description symbols. "Is this why?" When Liz nodded he began to explain to the group. "This is the symbol for 'replacement'. It denotes more than just taking the place of something. The full definition would indicate that the person who is doing the replacing is a trained individual who is assigned to a unit to replace a loss or complete a quota. Now, I know Liz is human, but I saw her use her powers earlier to heal Maria. (Sorry ladies. I didn't mean to spy.) That would probably qualify her as a trained individual under this definition. And as far as completing a quota… I don't know. Maybe someone can enlighten me."

"Yah, who's she supposed to replace?" asked Kyle. "Alex, because she's, like, the brain of the group?"

"Or how about Max now that she can heal too?" smirked Isabel.

"Tell them," Maria ordered Liz.

All eyes turned to Liz for the answer. "The bride," answered Liz softly.

Max looked at Liz with his intense dark eyes. "What?" he whispered.

"I was chosen to replace Tess," came her only reply.



TBC
posted on 23-Jan-2002 4:17:17 AM
PART FOURTEEN


"What do you mean you were 'chosen'?" Michael asked Liz. He couldn't figure out why everything always seemed to revolve around Max and Liz. What was it about those two?

Max wanted to know the same thing. Who had 'chosen' Liz as the next Antarian queen? He knew if he'd had any say in the matter he would have chosen her himself, this dark haired beauty that had captured his heart so long ago. But he hadn't been the one to choose her. He hadn't been the one to elevate her to this new station in life, one that truly made her like him. So, who had made this decision for him? Who had graced his Liz by elevating her to this new royal status?

Jesse, who had been leafing through the transparencies, answered. "It has something to do with the 'royal four' doesn't it?" When the group seemed to confirm his suspicion he continued. "It seems like there has to be a complete number for some reason - there has to be four members of the Antarian royalty represented here on earth. So, Liz, do you see this symbol here? This one would mean 'elevate' or to rise in rank or station, to ennoble. It appears that you are to take the place of the former bride. You are to become the queen."

"No offense Liz," commented Kyle, "but how can we be absolutely certain that you're supposed to replace Tess? I mean, what if there's someone else - another alien or hybrid - that's supposed to come along? For all we know it could be Ava."

Liz answered Kyle, "Well, if it were it would make a lot more sense to me, but the thing is - well, you how the 'child/war' symbol only glows for Justin? Well, at the cave, these symbols glow for me. It's almost like they recognize me." She reached out and touched the symbol on the transparency that represented her, fondly remembering how she felt when it lit up in recognition.

"So, that makes you Max's queen," said Diane amazed. She adored Liz: her gentle beauty, her quiet strength, and her charming personality. There was no one better for her son than Liz. She couldn't think of a more perfect future queen.

Max couldn't seem to remove his eyes from Liz's small frame. Even though she still hadn't answered Michael's question it still mesmerized him to actually hear Liz referred to as his 'queen'. Time seemed to stand still for a moment as Max held her gaze and smiled his quiet smile. "My queen," he breathed.

"That's it. I'm outta here," said Michael. He couldn't take any more Liz and Max scenes, especially while he and Maria were still broken up. "I'm goin' to work. I can't take any more of this." He pushed out of his chair and stomped across the room. "Lock up when you leave," he said as he went out the door and slammed it behind him. Everyone ignored his outburst.

"So, Liz," said Jesse, "explain this one to me." He was pointing to a double symbol meaning 'timeline/alter'. "How did you change the timeline?"

Liz did not want to answer that question. She had just narrowly made it through the explanation of it a few minutes before because no one had directly asked her that. She didn't know if she could pull that off again. Jesse could read the Antarian writing. He would have a better idea of what kind of questions to ask. "Oh, well, um… I had a visitor from the future about a year ago and we worked together to ensure that the bride, Tess, would stay around here in Roswell so that when the coming war arrives she would be there to use her powers to help save Earth. The bad news was that she didn't end up staying. The good news was that she gave birth to a son, Justin, that has powers just like hers and according to the cave writings Justin will be taking her place in the fight."

"So, what did you have to do?" he asked again. "What I'm trying to get at is that in order to change the timeline - at least according to what I know - you'd have to be working with the blessing of the granilith. In some way you have given your allegiance to the granilith which is probably why you have been accepted as a replacement for Tess. So, I'm just curious what it was you had to do."

The granilith had 'chosen' Liz as the new queen? Max was startled by this new turn of events. He had hardly expected this. He remembered the previous year when she had warned him to protect the granilith when he went to the Summit meeting. He hadn't known at the time how she even knew of it since none of them had told their human friends about it. What sort of connection did Liz have with the granilith?

Liz was embarrassed. How was she supposed to tell everyone that she pushed away her soul mate into the arms of another woman? How was she to explain that she had ripped out her heart and stomped it to pieces in order to save the world? There was no way to describe the sacrifice she had made. She had given up everything important to her because it was the right thing to do. But there was no way around Jesse's direct question. "I just… I don't really feel comfortable talking about it. It's kind of personal and… I'm sorry." Her heart was beating within her just to think about what she had done.

Max felt confused. Why wouldn't Liz answer? Liz had never been one to back down from a situation. She was the most steady and brave of them all. What had she had to do that made her feel so uncomfortable? He wondered if he might have had anything to do with it. What had Maria called the visitor? 'Future Max'? Did that mean that at some point in the future that he would come back to this time and with the granilith's blessing ask Liz to do something she was afraid to talk about later?

"No, it's all right," Jesse reassured Liz. "I was just curious; but you might want to think about what you can tell everyone, you know… later. I think if we're going to win the war we will need the granilith's blessing and we're all going to need to know how to get that."

"We? As in you're willing to help us?" asked Isabel. She wondered if Jesse could prove himself any more amazing that night.

"Of course. How else am I going to protect my wife?" He had lost his father when he was very young because of these Antarian symbols. Now his beautiful wife was likewise involved with them, was in fact a part of their very prophecies. He couldn't lose another part of his family like that again and he would go down fighting if he had to. He was not going to let Isabel suffer this road alone.

Liz had really had enough of question answering. She didn't want to talk any more about Future Max, the granilith, or herself. Besides all that, Jesse had brought out some interesting points she hadn't considered and she needed to think things out. "All right people, let's call it a night. We've already lost Michael. So how about we reconvene this weekend?"

As soon as everyone agreed, Maria grabbed Liz and pulled her into Michael's bedroom for a private chat. Max hadn't even had a chance to protest before she disappeared. Whatever it was about the granilith that made Liz so uncomfortable, Maria knew.

"What was that all about?" asked Kyle.

Max grimly answered. "I wish I knew."


*********************************************
"Liz, you can't keep this from him anymore. You have to tell him about Future Max."

"No, I don't Maria." Liz was resolute in her decision.

"Didn't you get anything Jesse said? We can't win this war unless we have the granilith's blessing. You have to tell Max. You have to tell everyone." Maria gestured toward the bedroom door, outside of which a very confused group of people still stood.

"No, Maria. What I did was just… it was really personal. I can't just… I can't go telling everyone that I pretended to sleep with my ex-boyfriend to save the world. No one needs to know that."

"You're letting your guilt hang on to the past," Maria threw out at her.

"What?"

"You feel guilty for lying to Max. You feel guilty for letting him see you in bed with Kyle. You feel guilty for pushing that murderous tramp toward your soul mate. You feel guilty because our best friend Alex is dead. You feel guilty because Justin is Tess's child instead of yours. You feel guilty that that perfect life you had with Max in the other timeline never happened. You feel guilty, and you're letting your feelings get in the way of doing the right thing."

"Which is what, Maria?" asked a very upset Liz. "Telling everyone that I'm a liar? Telling them that the agony of this past year would never have happened if it weren't for me? That Alex would still be alive? Because if that's what you're saying, it's not gonna happen."

"Liz," said Maria softly, "you can't start regretting what you know you had to do. You've been chosen to replace Tess. It's not going to be an easy life. If it were she would still be the bride. But she couldn't handle it and that job's been given to you now. Changing the timeline was only the first hard decision you had to make and live with. There's going to be so many more. You're the queen now, even if in name only, and you have to be strong. If you let your guilt or your regrets get the better of you, what kind of ruler will that make you?"

Liz shook her head. "How can I not regret that Alex died young? How can I not regret hurting the people I love most?"

Maria placed her hand on Liz's shoulder. "These things happen. There are always unforeseen consequences to our decisions. But we have a war coming, Liz. You have to be strong enough to make decisions that might cost people their lives. If you can't push aside a little guilt now, how will you be the brave leader we need in the future?"

"Brave leader?" she asked Maria. "I'm not a brave leader. I'm the smallest of small town girls. I'm just trying to make it alive to the next day just like you and everyone else."

Maria rested her hand on her stomach where the new life was growing. "Liz, my child deserves to grow up in better than a war torn world. He - or she - is part Antarian because of Michael. That means you're responsible for my child's safety as the Antarian queen. You're in a position to make a better life for this baby. I'm begging you to be the queen you were meant to be."

Liz was close to tears. She was beginning to get a glimpse of the unbearable pressure Max must have been under since learning he was the dethroned king of Antar. How was it had been able to bear that kind of responsibility? "Maria…" she began.

"No, Liz, listen. I'm not just telling you this because I'm your best friend and you need to hear it. This whole Future Max thing isn't just about you any more. It's about all of us. It's about Max as king and you as queen. It's about everyone in the room next to us as your loyal subjects. It's about my child's future life."

Maria could see how upset Liz was and how she was fighting back the tears that threatened to pour down her cheeks, but she also knew she had to get through to her. "Liz, the granilith believed in you enough to make you queen. Max believes in you. Mrs. Evans believes in you. Jesse believes in you. And I believe in you." At that, Maria dropped down to her knees and bowed her head. "I pledge fealty to you as my queen and as my child's queen."

And with that she had finally broken through Liz's fears and regrets and reached into her heart. For Liz to see her best friend pledge fealty on bent knees moved her more than anyone or anything else could have. She dropped down onto her own knees and pulled Maria into a tight embrace, finally letting loose the floodgates of tears that needed to be freed. Maria returned the embrace and patted Liz's back and stroked her hair. "It's gonna be okay, Liz. It's gonna be okay. Just let it out," she soothed.

In the next room over everyone tensely waited. Although they couldn't hear the exact words used, they could tell an argument was ensuing between Liz and Maria that finally ended in Liz's sobbing. None of them could ever remember a time when Liz had cried before. It made everyone very uncomfortable and edgy. The only thing that kept Max from going in there was that his mother felt he should leave the girls alone to work out whatever it was among them.

At last the bedroom door opened and Liz emerged, escorted protectively by Maria. Her face was tear stained and red and Maria didn't look much better.

Max took a step toward the girls. "Liz," he began, relieved to finally see her. He hoped that now he could find out what was wrong and hopefully fix it.

Liz put out her hand and shook her head. "Not now, Max," she told him. "Jesse was right. There are things I need to tell you, all of you. But it's really hard to talk about and I really need to sort some things out first." She turned to leave.

"Liz," Max said again.

Maria stepped in his way to prevent him from following her. "Not now, Max. You have to let her go. She'll tell you when she's ready."

Max couldn't help but feel that the love of his life was walking away from him yet again and his heart simply shattered to pieces. He reached out a hand wanting to touch her one last time before she disappeared completely. Immediately, his mother and sister were at his side. "It'll be alright, Honey. You'll see," said Diane. "Just be patient." But her words sounded hollow, striking the emptiness within him as Liz walked out the door.





TBC
posted on 23-Jan-2002 4:18:57 AM
PART FIFTEEN


Liz sat for hours on her balcony wrapped in her warm quilt, contemplating the V-shaped galaxy so far away. Future Max had been unwilling to share much about his timeline, telling her only what was necessary, but she had learned much from him anyway. In the last dance together, before he faded away, a strange sort of connection had flared between them. She had felt what he felt, seen what he'd seen, and lived the life that was his. Physically, he had disappeared - vanishing for all time - leaving not a part of himself to be buried. Yet a piece of him had remained - because Liz had been connected to him at the time and had been unwilling to let go, she had captured his spirit into her soul, making him a permanent part of herself. Through his eyes she had married her soul mate, lived a life of utter contentment surrounded by family and friends, and then fought a war against one of the most deadly races known to humankind. Liz truly knew the hefty cost of the sacrifice she had made as no one else ever would. But she also knew that because of what she'd been willing to do that the rebellious anarchy controlling Antar and the other planets in the V-shaped galaxy would no longer have a hold over Earth's future.

As the last of her candles burned themselves out Liz fell into a troubled sleep. The five distant planets she had been contemplating became five flickering flames. The air around Liz was cold, dark, and still and she kept reaching out toward the flames for some sort of warmth but her fingers never quite reached them. It was as if she simply couldn't close the distance between herself and the fire. Slowly she turned away to face the darkness behind her. In the distance she could hear the shrill sounds of war - bombs exploding, gunfire cracking, the cries of dying men. She winced as she heard Max call out to his sister, "Isabel! Nooo!" " Max, we have to get out of here!" Liz heard herself order Max. "I can't leave Isabel! I can't let her die alone," he told her. "Max, if we don't leave now we're gonna be next!" she heard herself cry. The sounds of fighting became louder and then light exploded all around her.

Her dream shifted. Kivar appeared in the blackness, leering and distorted. "You don't even have an inkling of what the granilith is capable of. It's of no use to you. Return it to me and I'll leave your precious Earth alone." "Never! I'll never allow you to control it!" she heard Max yell. Kivar's eyes lost their color and completely blackened. "Then let their blood be on your head. Every child's scream will haunt your dreams. Your family will disown you. Those closest to you will wish they never knew you. You will be the reason for all their deaths." "You've grown too confident Kivar and you've gone too far. Your reign of terror will soon be over even if I have to die again to make that happen!" Max threw out at the dictator.

"Liz?" Max spoke softly. Her dream had shifted yet again and she turned to see Future Max standing near the five flames. "Why are you still here?" Her heart beat with emotion as she beheld him standing there. "This life is over Liz. You need to let it go."

She shook her head. "But I don't want to let it go," she told him. "I don't want to let you go - the you I never hurt."

Future Max closed the space between them and gently brushed the backs of his fingers against her cheek. "I know. I wish it could be different too." Liz grasped his fingers in her hand and laid her head against his well-built chest. She closed her eyes and swallowed hard.

"Give me a chance, Liz. Give the 'me' of your time a chance. Let me prove to you that all the sacrificing was worth your while." He lifted her chin up to better see her and then closed in to kiss her. It was simply electrifying. As her body began to warm with every taste of him the air no longer felt so cold. In fact the darkness faded and light began to shine forth.

Her dream shifted once more and she found herself standing on her balcony. Future Max stood at her side while they watched the sun rise. "In every lifetime Kivar has taken away what is most precious to me," he explained. "My kingdom, my friends, my family, my life. I trust you, Liz, to stick this through. I trust you to make this right for me and for all of us. Please, don't give up now."

Liz sighed softly. "But Max, the granilith wants me to represent Antar as queen elect. I knew I had been chosen to replace Tess as bride and I was so happy because that meant we could finally be together, but to be queen… What if I can't handle it? The responsibility is just so enormous."

"Oh Liz," he spoke lovingly, "I believe you could do anything you put your mind to. This is a whole new world. There's nothing you can't do."

Liz turned to stare silently over the city of Roswell. A lone tear slid down her face. "It's 'a whole new world' all right. Would you believe Maria actually got down on her knees and swore fealty to me?" she laughed, shaking her head sadly. "I didn't even know she knew what the word meant."

Future Max chuckled softly. "Oh that Maria. She never did do anything half way, did she?"

Liz pondered this Max quietly. He was untainted by the betrayal, hurt, and lies this past year had put her Max through, but perhaps his scars ran deeper. This Max had lost everyone that had ever meant anything to him. And yet he believed in her. Oh what she wouldn't give to heal his pain. "I won't betray your trust, Max," she told him. "I'll keep doing whatever it takes to keep the end of the world from happening again."

"I always knew you would," he said tenderly.

He bent down to taste her lips once again. He could feel her relax into his arms, weakening at his very touch, and watched her close her eyes. "My lovely queen," he murmured to her. Their connection slowly flared to life, opening like a flower's petals in the morning sun. He crushed her body against his, deepening the kiss, and made her come alive with a restless energy. Her skin began to pulsate in silver flashes of light. Her breathing quickened to match the beating of her heart.

"What's happening Max?" she asked him.

He paused only long enough to answer, "I'm making you my queen." Then he tugged at her hair to position her better before continuing his plunder. The silver pulsing came faster and the sound of a rushing wind blew furiously about them. Her hair flew violently free.

All at once the wind stopped and they were forced apart by an upward surging blue light, and Liz shivered from the loss of his touch. Slowly the blue light descended and disappeared. And there, hovering between the two of them flickered the five flames. As Liz watched, the five flames hardened and crystallized into small fire colored stones that glimmered in the rising sunlight. Future Max reached for the stones, plucking them from the air, and fastened them like a necklace around her neck.

"It is done," Future Max informed her.

"What's done?" Liz asked confused, touching the V-shaped necklace that hung about her throat.

Future Max smiled and bowed his head slightly before her. "The granilith accepts your vow. You are now officially 'queen elect', as you call it. Kivar of Antar and the rulers of the four sister planets shall be notified immediately that a queen has been chosen and that she serves the interests of the granilith. Any who resist this declaration shall be considered enemies of the granilith itself."

"That doesn't make any sense," Liz said in frustration. "I'm a girl - a human girl. I have no ties to the granilith and I have no ties to Antar. This is supposed to be about King Zan or you. Shouldn't the granilith be avenging the King's death or your losing the war?"

Future Max sat on the ledge of her balcony and crossed his arms. "Liz, I failed in my first life as King Zan and I succeeded in failing again in this one when I lost the war. I've made fatal mistakes in two different lifetimes because I relied too much on myself and not enough on the granilith's wisdom. You, on the other hand, have served the interests of the granilith unswervingly. You've never wavered, never faltered in doing the right thing no matter what the cost to yourself or those around you might be. You are exactly what the granilith needs to restore the Antarian throne to its rightful ruler."

"I didn't do it to save the world, Max," she told him quietly. "And I certainly didn't do it to serve the 'interests of the granilith'. I did what I did because it was YOU that asked me to."

He took her small hands in his and smiled. "Thank you, Liz, for that. You gave me a chance to make things right. You gave the granilith the chance to make things right. Now I need you to do it again. Look." He turned her around to face the other direction. There in one of her lawn chairs sat Max - her Max - sitting watch over her while she slept.

"Is he really here?" she asked.

"He's been here for hours."


**********************************
Abruptly Liz was jolted awake. The quilt fell from her shoulders as she sat upright trying to reorient herself to the waking world. When she realized Future Max was no longer with her she dropped her head into her hands in sorrow. "It happened again," she whispered to herself. The cold air sent a chill over her skin but though she shivered she did nothing about it.

"Don't do that," Max's gentle voice soothed her. He was instantly by her side wrapping the quilt around her shoulders once more. "You'll freeze to death."

Liz lifted her head to gaze at Max in amazement. "You really are here." His mere presence evoked countless emotions in her, greatest among those was love.

"I was worried about you," he replied brushing the hair away from her face and tucking it behind her ears. It was then that he noticed the unusual necklace she was wearing. Five fire-colored stones hung upon a chain so thin it was hardly visible to the human eye. And each stone, small though they were, was shaped like the symbol representing the whirlwind galaxy. "Where did you get this?" he asked.

Liz glanced down to see she still bore the delicate necklace Future Max had given her in her dream. She covered her mouth as her heart began to beat wildly in her chest. She could hear Future Max's words running through her head. 'A queen has been chosen…and she serves the interests of the granilith.' "It's the necklace I just received in my dream," she told him, "but how did it get here?"




TBC
posted on 29-Jan-2002 11:28:56 PM
PART SIXTEEN


Maria had just finished dressing and filling her backpack for school when she heard a tap-tap-tap coming from her window. "This is just unbelievable," she mumbled to herself. And sure enough, when she turned around she saw Michael standing, waiting at her window.

"Michael, have you, like, never heard of a door?" she asked when the window was opened.

"I prefer my own way," he replied, climbing in.

"Well, that's interesting because, you know, I've been, like, wondering about that for a long time. I mean, what is it about the alien life in Roswell that they can never use a door? Is there, like, some sort of taboo about that among your people?"

"Maria, shut up and tell me why Liz had to heal you," he ordered cutting to the chase.

Maria made a face at him and mocked, " 'Maria, shut up and tell me why Liz had to heal you.' What makes you think you can just come in here and start telling me what to do? You're not my boyfriend anymore."

"Whatever…it's not as if you ever listened anyway. So just tell me because I haven't been able to think about anything else since I found out last night." He was standing there in his uniform, with his arms crossed, staring Maria down.

"As if you care," she replied. She was still hurt by how he had treated Liz the previous night.

"Of course I care. Why do you think I stayed on this planet… my health?" Michael knew he wasn't good at expressing himself, but hadn't he found a thousand other ways to show Maria how much he cared for her? "Maria, I left the only people I had ever thought of as family for you. I've been trying to get good grades in school so I can make something of my life. I'm working two jobs just so I can get my financial situation straightened out and hopefully save some money for us for the future. I don't know how else to show you how much I love you. Just… please tell me why Liz had to heal you, okay?"

"Alright. Alright, Michael. I'm sorry for biting your head off. Here, why don't you sit down," she said indicating her bed. She didn't know how she was going to break the news to him and she was even more uncertain as to how he would take the news. She sat down next to him and thought about what to say.

"Okay, well you know how I've been sick for weeks and I thought it was, like, hypoglycemia or something?" she finally asked. When he nodded an affirmation she continued. "Well, I started getting so sick that I thought maybe I was dying so I asked Liz to heal me. So, Liz formed this connection with me - kinda like what our connection is like only, um… not so passionate - and when she did we could feel that something just wasn't right, you know? So, Liz went to explore it and she took me with her and that's when we found it."

"What? What did you find?" he asked thinking it was cancer or something.

"A baby - a little tiny perfect baby. I'm pregnant, Michael," she told him.

"You're pregnant? And I'm gonna be…"

"A daddy," she nodded finishing for him.

Michael paused long enough to absorb the news Maria had given him. Then he jumped off the bed shouting, "WOOOOOOO!" and grabbed Maria up and spun her around the room. "A family, Maria! I finally get a family!"

Maria laughed at him. She had never seen Michael this happy before. "I can't believe you're not mad."

"Are you kidding me?" he asked her. "This is the best news that I could have ever hoped for. We're gonna be a family!" He bent down and kissed her happily and then told her, "You realize this means we're back together, right?"

Maria smiled back. "Of course."


***********************************
Max still wasn't sure what was going on with Liz. He knew she didn't want to talk about whatever it was and he knew better than to push her until she was ready. In the meantime, he figured he'd better be as supportive toward the love of his life as possible. So, when Liz said she wasn't up to going to school, he found himself driving her all the way to the reservation instead. It was a very quiet 2-½ hour drive, as Liz remained pensive and withdrawn.

When at last they reached the reservation and had driven in and parked, Liz led the way through scrubby brush and then through beautiful trees to River Dog's house. Max could see that Liz had spent much time up here, because even though there was no trail leading to their destination Liz seemed to know exactly where to go. The fact that Liz had this whole other life outside of him made him realize how much he had ignored their relationship while he pursued other goals.

He saw Liz smile for the first time that morning when River Dog opened the door. "Hello, Young One," he greeted Liz. "It's nice to see you again, Max." He stepped out to shake Max's hand.

Liz planted a kiss on the old man's weathered cheek and then laughed when several sheep pushed their way out the door passed River Dog. "I see he's moved on to bigger and better things since I was last here," she giggled.

"Justin did that?" Max asked.

"Ah, yes," sighed River Dog, "I made a big mistake when I took him to see my neighbor's sheep. Now there are always sheep in the way wherever I go. Sheep and puppies. This morning they were even in the bathtub. I have not a moments peace anymore." Max managed to look quite proud at his son's latest feat.

Liz and Max were welcomed into the house and ushered into the living room. Even though Justin wasn't in the room, Liz reached out with her mind to touch Justin. "Baby, we're here," she called to him. Then she sent an image of herself and his father to him. Instantly, Justin latched onto Liz's spirit with his own and opened up a rush of images, mostly of sheep in a green grassy field, but he had also picked out from Liz's own mind some images of Max and Liz together and projected these back to her. In his own infantile way he was greeting her. She was amazed to find out the amount of control he was learning. It was no longer random images being sent to her; he was choosing what he wanted her to see.

River Dog left Max and Liz briefly to retrieve Justin from his crib. As Max stared after him he was suddenly shocked to see image after image of Liz and him projected into the living room. Justin had taken his connection with Liz and broadcast it for Max to see. It was an amazing display of power, something Tess hadn't even shown an ability to do. "Liz, do you see what he's doing?" he asked.

"Yah, Max. He's pulling these memories from me and showing them to you. He's just… incredible," she told him.

"He's connecting to you now? He's not just showing me things he's seen from you before?" When Liz nodded he asked, "He can do that without touching you or seeing you?"

Liz shrugged. "He's a baby, Max. He doesn't have anyone telling him how to use his power or that it's dangerous. He doesn't even have any idea that there might be limits to what he can do. He's just learning and exploring."

"I know. It's just…" He suddenly saw an image of Future Max and Liz dancing together. His brows furrowed in thought. "Is that me?" he asked pointing his finger. He didn't remember that.

Oops. Liz hadn't meant for him to see that yet. She closed her eyes to return her focus back onto the connection. She didn't want to shove Justin out again; instead she wanted to strengthen the connection from her end so that she could gain control of it. (She had let Justin have the upper hand when Max started talking so she could focus on him instead.) 'Hey, little guy, look at what Lizzy has,' she enticed him. Then she presented the image of the five flickering flames she had seen with Future Max. She didn't know if it was such a good idea to let babies play with fire - she remembered what Tess had done with fire - so she hardened the flames into crystals like her necklace and gave those to him to play with. She watched as he manipulated the crystals in his mind, turning them and making the light glint off them. When he became distracted she gently closed the connection down and locked it off from him.

Satisfied, she opened her eyes to see River Dog entering the room with Justin. He placed the baby in Max's arms and Max was instantly lost in the wonders of his darling little boy. Justin planted slobbery baby kisses all over his daddy's face. It was kind of disgusting to watch, but very cute at the same time - this tender moment between the two of them. Liz knew the instant Max and Justin connected by the way they looked into each other's eyes. 'I knew it,' Liz thought to herself. 'It must be an Evans' man thing. One look into your eyes and it's all over.'

She turned to River Dog. "Is Anna home right now? I really need to talk to her."

"She has an herb garden behind our house that she tends to in the morning. You can find her there," he informed her.

"Thanks," she replied and walked outside.


*********************************
It was an unusually warm winter day, even for New Mexico. As Liz approached the garden, she could see Anna wipe perspiration from her forehead with the back of her hand. "Hi, Anna," Liz greeted. "Max is inside visiting Justin so I thought I would come out here and say hello."

"Hi, Liz," said Anna, "nice to see you."

"Thanks. Can I help?"

"No, that's okay," Anna replied as she continued to pull weeds. "You didn't come here to do that, I think. You came for spiritual guidance. Am I right?"

Liz nodded and sat down in the dirt next to Anna. "I received a vision," she told her. "At first I thought I was dreaming but when I woke up I knew it had really happened. In my vision I was given a necklace with small fire colored stones and when I woke up I found I was still wearing it."

"The one you have on now?" Anna's curiosity had been properly peaked.

"Yes," Liz replied.

"Explain your vision to me," the medicine woman Anna Littlewolf told her.

"Well, last night, before I fell asleep I had been star gazing. Well, more precisely I was watching a V-shaped constellation from the Whirlwind Galaxy. It's where the planet Antar is located… you know, where Nasedo and Max and Justin are from. In my vision I saw the V-shaped constellation again, only then it appeared as five tiny flames of fire. It was cold and I tried to reach out to the flames for warmth but I couldn't reach them. Finally, I got frustrated and turned around. When I did that I could hear the sounds of war.

"Last year I had a visitor from the future come to me. It was Max, Justin's father. He had come back to me to tell me that sometime within the next fourteen years a war would come to earth from his planet, led by his enemy Kivar. He said the world as he knew it was ending and everyone was being killed. He came back in time to ask me to help him change the past so that when the war does come we will be strong enough to win. I helped him and he disappeared when his timeline ended. But before he left me I was somehow able to retrieve and retain all his memories. In my vision, the sounds of war I heard were those he remembered.

"Next, I saw 'Future Max'. (That's what I call him.) He told me that I've been chosen to be the next queen of Antar and gave me this necklace. When I woke up I was still wearing it.

"Anna, I've been through a lot of strange things, but most everything I've seen or experienced seems to have some sort of explanation. But this… this defies all logic. I thought… well, I thought that as a medicine woman you might be able to help explain this to me."

Anna smiled thoughtfully at Liz. "Have you ever heard of Quanah Parker?" she asked her.

Liz shook her head. "No, who is he?"

"He was the son of a Comanche warrior named Peta Nacona and a white woman named Cynthia Ann Parker, later known as Naduah. He was one of the greatest war chiefs the Comanche ever had. In the late Nineteenth Century he fought hard to keep the white man from taking the Comanche and Kiowa-Apache lands. He led a guerrilla warfare that lasted for years. In the end, he realized that continued warfare meant suicide for his people and so he surrendered. After that he fought for his people in a different way. He became a successful politician who stood up for his people by dealing with the President, Congress, and Indian Agents sent from Washington. After he died his spirit was carried to the Great Spirit by an eagle. Does any of this ring a bell yet?"

"No," Liz replied.

"Hmm, well I'm a little surprised. You see, Liz, you are a descendent of the great Comanche warrior chief Quanah Parker and according to your vision you are to become the future queen of Antar. It would seem that the spirits are very interested in you. You must seek them for wisdom and guidance if you are to use your power effectively and to make sure your power is used for good and not evil purposes."

"I never knew any of this. My family never told me." Liz believed what Anna had told her was true because her grandmother Claudia Parker had been a friend of the Apache and she may have told them family stories. "How do I seek the spirits for guidance? I have no way of contacting them unless they bring me another vision." Liz assumed that the granilith and the memories of Future Max qualified as spirits and that they had been responsible for bringing her the vision. She needed to know how to tap into these if she needed them again.

"Use your necklace," Anna told her. "This spirit - this 'Future Max' as you call him - gave it to you for a reason. It will help you to contact the spirit world where he will guide you. You must look to him as your guardian spirit and heed his advise. Trust in the instructions you receive from these visions. They will help you to prepare for and fight the coming war."

Liz was trying to take all this in and find a practical use for it. "So, okay… say I wanted to contact my spirit guardian now. How do I use my necklace to do that?"

Anna sat back on her heels and thought for a moment. "I don't know how it should be for you. Your path to becoming a medicine woman is very different from what I am familiar with. Your power to heal is stronger than any I have ever seen. Your spirit guide manifests himself in very different ways than mine and he has the power to bring your visions into the reality of the physical world, as he did with your necklace. I think you may have to find your own way with this because I do not know how to guide you. Perhaps you should try to recreate the way in which your vision came about the first time. Trust your intuition in this matter."

Liz nodded her understanding. "Thank you Anna. I think Max will be taking his time in there so I'm going to go to Nasedo's cave and see if I can figure this out. If he asks for me will you tell him where I am?"

"Of course."


TBC
posted on 29-Jan-2002 11:31:01 PM
PART SEVENTEEN


As Liz walked back around the house she was surprised to see Max sitting outside in the dirt, teaching Justin how to manipulate molecules. The proud father had a small piece of wood setting in front of them. He waved his hand before it and changed it into a toy car, complete with revolving wheels. He made engine noises and drove it around. Justin giggled with delight. Liz just shook her head.

"Liz, Liz," called Max when he noticed Liz observing them, "you gotta see this. Watch what I taught Justin to do."

Liz joined the boys as Max tried to get an uncooperative Justin to perform. Finally, Justin moved his small hand over an equally small rock. His hand briefly glowed blue and immediately the rock was turned into a small puppy. "Did you see that, Liz?" he asked, his face aglow with paternal pride. "We've got a whole pile of puppies and sheep going over here. Isn't he amazing?"

Liz had never seen Max like this before. She just had to laugh. "Didn't I tell you?" she asked, wrapping her arms around Max and kissing his cheek. "He's totally adorable and very smart."

"Just like his father," replied Max smugly, trying to bait Liz.

"Oh, you think so, huh?" Liz asked. Max nodded his head. "Hmm, well I thought it was because he learned it from me. I mean, we've bonded so well and everything." She smiled at her own joke.

"Very funny," Max said. Then he pushed a protesting Liz to the ground and began to tickle her mercilessly.

"Max, stop!" she yelled, laughing. Max had her arms pinned above her head with one hand and was tickling her with the other. "Justin, save me! Save me from Daddy! Use your mindwarp on him!" Her pleas just made Max tickle her more. Justin clapped his hands in delight.

"Tell me I'm adorable and smart and I'll let you up," Max told her.

"Never," she laughed. "Justin, mindwarp Daddy quick!" Justin was crawling closer to the action but, of course, he wasn't doing it to save her. He just wanted to join in the fun.

While still pinning her hands above her head, Max covered her body with his own and moved onto more sensitive and ticklish areas. "Noooo!" she screamed, still laughing. She couldn't even wiggle her way away. "Okay! Okay! You are adorable!"

"And cute?" he asked.

"And cute!" she answered.

Max let up with the tickling and she lay beneath him panting for breath, flushed from exertion. He couldn't think of another time when she had looked more beautiful to him. He would have liked to kiss her but it was at that time that Justin finally reached them. Justin crawled right onto Liz and put his own very wet baby kisses on her chin. Max grinned. "Hey, that's my job, son," he said softly.

Liz smiled up at Justin and Max and wiped the slobber off her chin. "Okay, you two. Let me up." Max sat up and took Justin onto his lap so that Liz could stand and wipe the dust off her clothes. "Okay, guys, I'd love to stay and play but I've got some work to do. Max, can you meet me at the cave when you're finished playing?"

"Do you want me to go with you now?" asked Max. He really wanted to spend as much time with his son as he could, but he also couldn't forget what the last two days had been like for Liz, so he was willing to go along with her if she wanted him to.

"No, have fun with the baby while you can. You can come get me when he goes down for a nap. Alright?"

"Thanks, Liz. You don't know what it means to me to finally have Justin in my arms. I'll get over there as soon as possible."


***********************************
'Medicine woman,' thought Liz to herself as she used her power to kindle a fire toward the back of the cave. 'Am I a medicine woman? I guess I might qualify according to certain tribal beliefs… Well, it sounds nice anyway, but it has no meaning. A medicine woman without a tribe to serve. A queen elect without a people to govern. It almost makes dating an alien seem normal.'

When the fire was hot enough Liz sat before it and tried to relax. She wrapped herself in a sleeping bag she had left at the cave previously and took slow deep breaths. She concentrated on the way the flames flickered and leaped and curled around the dead branches. When she felt calm enough she closed her eyes and, holding the necklace in her hand, she tried to picture the way the stones hung in the air in her vision. "Max, I need you," she whispered. "Please come back. I still need to ask questions."

She was startled to suddenly feel a warm hand on her shoulder. "Max!" she cried. "You came back!" She was thrilled to see Future Max once again, crouched beside her in the cave. She tossed the sleeping bag off at once and threw her arms around her leather-clad warrior. She loved the way he smell, the way he looked so much older and wilder, everything about him really. His very presence was intoxicating. Someday she would have to figure out why she felt drawn to him in this way.

Future Max held her for awhile, stroking the braids in her hair, before pulling away. Then he took her hand in his and led her away from the cave. "Come here. I want to show you something," he told her. Hand in hand they moved, almost seeming to glide over the air although they still moved their feet in step. The land seemed to pass away from them in a blur as they covered a great distance in just minutes. At last they came to stop over a great stretch of desert.

Not far below her, Liz could see the pod chamber which housed the granilith. "That's how it used to look," she told Future Max, "before Tess used it as a Star Trek transporter back to Antar. Now it's just a pile of stones. I'm not even sure if it's alive anymore."

Future Max chuckled at her description. "Liz, this is the granilith as it appears this very minute… it's very much alive."

"How can that be? I saw the granilith crumble when Tess used it to escape earth. We all saw it."

"The granilith is immortal. It cannot die," he explained. "You already know that it has a great deal of power. Well, it used that power to regenerate itself." He could see that Liz was plainly shocked by that little piece of information. "Come. Let me show you." He pulled Liz into his arms and held her close as they drifted lower and lower to the ground. Then he led her to the chamber that housed the granilith.

Liz stood before the powerful, glowing blue life form in awe. She had never been quite this close to it before. "I didn't remember it being this beautiful," she told Future Max. "I guess I must have been too distracted the last time I was here trying to save Max and everyone from that murderous traitor."

Liz walked slowly around the granilith's perimeter to get a complete view of it. "Hey, Max, why do you think the granilith left Antar? I know it was unhappy with the political conditions of the planet after Kivar took over, but couldn't it have just changed the timeline like it did with us? I mean, it could have prevented Kivar from ever coming into power. Right?"

Future Max pushed a strand of hair behind his ear that had come loose from his ponytail and replied, "That's a question you should ask Jesse. He and his father read the story on the walls of Machu Picchu."

"Hmm," said Liz as she continued to prowl around the granilith. She had barely heard him. Her scientific mind was rapidly turning over a thousand and one questions she wanted answers to. Was the granilith a living machine or an actual being? Did it think like humans? Did it have emotions? How did it function and what made it work? How did it communicate? How did it travel to earth and why? Her concentration became solely focus on discovering the secrets the granilith held. She reached out a hand to touch the pulsating, cylindrical portion of it.

Instantly, Future Max was at her side pulling her hand away before she could even touch it. "Not yet, baby. You have to wait a little longer for that." He wasn't just physically restraining her from the granilith; he was also mentally shielding her from it. She could feel his spirit holding her back like a parent would hold back a young child from danger.

"Why?" she asked him in confusion.

"You're not ready for that kind of step or commitment yet. Touching the granilith will change you," he explained patiently. "In some ways you have already committed to the granilith and in some ways you have already changed, but there is so much more that needs to be accomplished before you commit to the granilith to that degree. Please don't touch it until you're ready - not with your hands or your mind. Promise me this."

Liz nodded her compliance. "I promise," she said. She didn't really understand, but she trusted Future Max unconditionally and would do anything he asked of her.

Future Max dropped her hand and released his mental shield from her.

Liz returned her gaze to the granilith. "I still need my questions answered about the granilith. I want to see Machu Picchu for myself. Can you take me there?"

Future Max nodded his head and right away the granilith chamber blurred and spun away. Liz felt a wave of dizziness hit her as the scene before her changed. They had emerged high upon the mountain Machupijchu in the fortress city of the ancient Incas.

Machu Picchu was nothing like Liz had imagined. Miles of terraced stonework, carpeted in green surrounded her. An array of buildings stood before her built from cut granite, each stone block weighing nearly 50 tons. Mountains covered in lush vegetation surrounded the city shrouded in mist. It was ethereal and moving. Liz felt as if a great power were emanating from the city. She hardly dared to breathe.

Future Max indicated a path that would lead them through the heart of the sacred city. After walking it for awhile Liz began to make out the voices of women chanting. She grabbed Max's arm to get his attention. "Do you hear that?" she asked him.

Future Max paused to listen. "Yes," he replied, "those are the voices of the guardian spirits of Machu Picchu. They are the Virgins of the Sun and other priestesses who lived and worked here hundreds of years ago. They have been waiting for you for a long time now. Machu Picchu is sliding off the mountain. It may only have fifteen years left, if that, but the guardian spirits have slowed its decline so that you would have time to come here and find the answers you seek."

"Why me?" Liz asked. "Why not Max?"

"The symbols you read in Nasedo's cave are in actuality the ancient written language of the granilith. It is said that at one time all the people of Antar could read it, but now there are very few who can actually decipher more than a handful of the symbols. Only those chosen by the granilith can truly read and comprehend what they see. These people are considered the mouthpieces of the granilith and are to serve special positions in Antarian society."

"So then, that means that Jesse will…" she wasn't sure exactly how to finish.

"Jesse will likely have a very high position on Antar after the war is won, perhaps as a royal advisor or as a prophet," Max finished for her. "He may even be able to help unite the people in service of the granilith again. Whatever happens, his name will be in history books for thousands of years to come."

"And the granilith foresees me as future Queen, which means I would have the power and position to sway the people to comply with the wisdom of the granilith. I think I'm beginning to get it now." Really, Liz was beginning to get a headache as she realized the responsibility she would undertake in the future.

Max and Liz continued to push their way up the path. They now found themselves walking between the ancient stone buildings which towered above their heads. The drystone walls were cracked and weathered and moss grew up where water dripped. The chanting seemed to echo through the corridors.

As they walked Liz began to notice oddly shaped colored stones tossed in a haphazard way upon the ground. "Max, look at the stones," she said, "they look just like the ones on my necklace." She picked one up and rolled it in her hand until the symbol became apparent.

"What does it say?" he asked her.

"It says 'victory'," she replied.

"You should save these stones," he told her. Then Max pulled a leather pouch from his pocket. "Here put the ones you find in here. These are made from Cylic Crystal, a very rare and very precious stone on Antar. They will help you later." Liz collected all the stones she found as they continued to walk on the pathway.

At last they reached one of the higher points of Machu Picchu. There they saw before them the great stone sundial known as Intihuatana and many native women dressed in white garments. The women seemed to be waiting for Liz and Future Max to do something.

Max moved forward and pressed his hand against a lower portion of the rock. Suddenly the whole sundial slid backward and a hole was revealed in the ground. "Now we go in," he said leading the way. Liz followed closely behind. As soon as they entered, the sundial slid back into place, sealing Max and Liz inside in utter darkness.



TBC


To view photographs of the real Machu Picchu go to the following link:
http://www.raingod.com/angus/Gallery/Photos/SouthAmerica/Peru/IncaTrail.html

[ edited 1 time(s), last at 31-Jan-2002 12:51:43 AM ]
posted on 30-Jan-2002 12:53:55 PM
PART EIGHTEEN


At first it seemed to Liz that the hole in the ground she had just entered was completely dark, but as her eyes adjusted she could see that it was dimly lit by billions of tiny filaments. These tiny lights were just enough to provide illumination for the narrow stairway and passageways she and Future Max had to traverse. Max led her by dozens of rooms but entered none of them. His destination was slightly further away.

Finally, after Liz felt completely lost in the cavernous tunnels and pathways, they entered a large grotto. It was well lit and appeared almost metallic in substance. And every inch of wall space was taken up by the same symbols she had seen in Nasedo's cave. "So, this is it," Liz said looking about her in awe. "This is the cave Alex was talking about, and this is where Jesse and his father studied." She was so overwhelmed that she didn't know where to begin.

"Well, it's about time someone showed up," said a voice from nearby. Startled, Liz looked around until she saw a middle-aged man standing toward the left side of the grotto. "I've been waiting nearly a year, you know."

"I know you," Liz said, "you're Max's boss…I mean, you used to own the UFO Center before Brody Davis bought it."

"Milton Andrew Ross at your service, ma'am," he replied with a grin and a slight bow.

"Are you alive and somehow taking part in my vision or are you a guardian spirit like Max?" she asked him.

"Oh, I'm very much alive, my dear."

"Then how did you get here?" she asked.

"Well now, I got here the same way you did, I guess," he replied giving her a playful pat on her arm, "best way to go on a free vacation."

Liz grinned at him. "I hadn't thought about it that way, but now that you mention it…" She winked at him. What a charmer Milton was. Liz knew she always liked him. And, if he was here on a vision quest in this particular place then that might mean he could be an asset to the growing group of the "I Know a Czechoslovakian Club".

"Not to change the subject or anything, but I don't know how long this vision will last and I need to get as much done as possible. Is there a way to contact you during the waking world? I think we may need your help."

"Is the one claiming to be Nasedo gone?" he asked somewhat apprehensively.

"Yah," she told Milton. "He was killed by one of the skins. We think it was Vanessa Whitaker."

"And our renegade bride?"

"Tess? She's also dead," Liz replied. "She died after giving birth to Justin, our child of war."

"Really? The child has been born and our enemies are deceased? This is wonderful news," he told her. "Hmm, let's see…I think I can be back in Roswell in about a week. How's about that?"

"That would be wonderful," smiled Liz. In the back of her mind there was always the thought that they must prepare for war and this thought meant to her that they must collect every bit of information and every person that could help them. It was probably a residual sense of urgency she had from Future Max's memories."

"Excellent. Well, in that case I better get going. I have plans to make," Milton said rubbing his hands together. His body then began to quiver and become slightly transparent.

"Wait!" Liz cried. She could tell he was about to leave the vision from his end. "I just have one more question."

"I'll see you all soon, my dear," he said before vanishing entirely.

Liz stared in disappointment at the place where he once stood and that's when she saw it - a small oddly shaped stone just like the ones she had been collecting. She picked it up and turned it around until she could read what it said. "I don't believe it," she told Future Max, "I've seen this symbol before in Mr. Ross's office. It was like, the emblem he had on everything…his letterheads, his business cards, everything. I think this symbol represents him. If the granilith left this for us to find then it must mean it wants him to be a part of everything that's going on. It means he's supposed to help us."


*****************************
For Max, seeing Justin had been love at first sight. He thought Justin was just the most darling wonderful little boy there ever was and it was hard for him to even think about leaving him behind when he went home. But River Dog and Liz were correct. The Apache reservation was the safest place for him to be. So after Max had worn Justin out with playing, he had fed him his bottle and put the little boy down for a nap. And then he walked away. He knew he would come back as soon as possible but it was still heart-wrenching to have to leave him now that he had finally found him.

He walked away, his thoughts slowly turning back to his soul mate, Liz Parker. He still couldn't fathom what she had done for the granilith that disturbed her so much, but he had a sneaking hunch that it had something to do with him. He hoped that she would be able to tell him soon because he was very worried about her.

At last he reached Nasedo's cave. He walked inside and found Liz sitting on the floor wrapped in a sleeping bag. She faced the fire before her, eyes closed and unmoving. "Liz?" he said trying to find out if she was okay. When she didn't respond he bent down and touch her cheek softly. "Liz?" he said again. She still remained unresponsive. He would have been more worried but she was breathing and her skin was still pink, so that meant she was okay, right?

As he looked more closely he could see that she was holding the necklace from her dream. It was clutched tightly in her hands and was giving off a glow that reminded him of fire. It struck him as so odd that the stones always appeared to hang upon nothing that he wanted to examine them more closely. They were a mystery and he felt they might be a part of whatever it was Liz refused to talk about. So, he reached out a hand to touch them hoping that he might at least get flashes from them.

As soon as he did so he was transported into Liz's vision. He could see his Liz kneeling in the middle of the grotto examining something on the ground, and there was a man with her she was animatedly talking to.

"No, look," he heard her say, "I can prove it." She took the man's hand and placed something in it. Immediately a brilliant glow emitted from his hand. "You see," she said triumphantly, " with these anyone can come here at any time. We can go where we need to go at any time and we don't have to worry about safety factors or cost or anything. And if all of us work on this together we should have no problem finding out what we need to know."

The man, who's back was still turned to Max, seemed to breathe a sigh of relief as he placed the small object back into Liz's hand. "It's easy to see why the granilith chose you, Liz," he told her. "It never occurred to us to look for answers here in my time. There were so many things we didn't know. We wasted so much time…"

"Don't say that. Okay? Your life wasn't a waste of time," Liz responded quickly. "How could you regret what we had together? Those memories are what's kept me going every time things got to be too much to deal with. Like when Alex died…

"Don't you get it? You loved me and believed in me and it made me believe in myself even when no one else would. And whenever I felt lonely or hurt I would remember our life together and it gave me a peace inside." She stopped speaking when her eyes started to fill with tears and the lump in her throat prevented her from saying any more.

"Shh, Liz it's okay. I didn't mean it that way. Please don't cry," the man told her. He wiped the tear from her cheek and kissed her forehead.

Although Max had never dream-walked anyone before he was sure that's what must be happening. But nothing he saw made any sense. Who was Liz talking to and what did she mean and what the heck was another man doing kissing her? It made him uncomfortable to see her with another man. He wished he could ask her about what he'd seen, but Isabel had said the dreamers hardly ever knew anyone had entered their dream with them. Still it wouldn't hurt to try. At the very least he might be able to distract Liz from the other man she was obviously with.

Max stepped out of the shadows of the large open cavern and into the light. "Liz?" he called to her.

"Max?" she asked in surprise, unsure of how Max could have entered the vision. "What are you doing here?" She felt a little bit guilty because she knew he must have seen Future Max just kiss her.

Max was shocked that she was aware of his presence in her dream. 'Well, that blows Izzy's theory out of the water,' he thought to himself. "You fell asleep back at Nasedo's cave. I'm dream-walking you," he told Liz.

"Oh…um…Max, this isn't a dream. It's a vision," she replied apprehensively. He had caught her at a very awkward moment and she didn't know how much he had seen or how much she would need to explain to him, but this was probably going to be the moment of truth. She hoped she was ready for it and that Max would take it well. "Max, I'd like you to meet my visitor from the future who helped me to change our timeline. This is my spirit guide. Max meet…Max."

At that Future Max arose and turned around.




TBC
posted on 31-Jan-2002 4:35:20 AM
PART NINETEEN


To say that Max was shocked would be putting it mildly. Standing before him was a replica of himself. Granted there were differences. This other version appeared to be slightly older. His hair was longer and pulled back into a ponytail. And he definitely had a thing for leather. And Max didn't understand what Liz meant by 'spirit guide' because the man he saw standing before him looked just as real as Max himself did. And Liz obviously had feelings for this other version, so that meant he was alive, right? Then there was the question of this other Max being a visitor from the future. Was Max staring at his own future? He simply couldn't fathom what the presence of this man meant.

"Liz, I don't understand," he managed to choke out. He hadn't even moved from the spot where he stood.

"I know, Max. And I know I should have explained this to you a long time ago, but I didn't know how to do it without hurting you or anyone else for that matter." She took Future Max's hand into her own in a vain attempt to gain the strength she would need to tell him the truth. Their eyes met briefly before she continued. "Max, you were my visitor from the future and you came back in time to stop the greatest disaster this world has ever known. In thirteen years Earth will be taken over by our enemies and everyone we love will die…Isabel, Michael, everyone. Kivar wins…or at least he won in Future Max's timeline."

"Future Max?" the future version of Max asked. "Is that what you call me?"

Liz blushed visibly. "Well, I had to have some way to distinguish you from present day Max. Anyway, I really can't take credit for that. It was Maria who thought it up."

"Ah, well that explains it," he said laughing softly.

"So, anyway, Max," she said trying to return to the situation at hand, "The reason we lost the war is because we needed Tess's powers and she wasn't there for us. In the other timeline she left because we were together. She wanted you for herself and when she couldn't have you she left and never returned. And we couldn't find her when we needed her and then it was too late."

"So what are you saying, Liz?" Max asked.

Liz couldn't even answer because just thinking about it hurt. Everything she had done had hurt everyone, especially Max, and it had torn their group apart. It didn't matter that it had been the right thing to do; there would always be a part of her that would never forgive herself. She closed her eyes and swallowed hard.

Future Max squeezed her hand in comfort. "Let me do it, Liz," he told her. Then he addressed his younger self, "What Liz is saying is that everything she did was for the sole purpose of keeping Tess in Roswell. And I made her do it. I made her lie to you and tell you she didn't want to die for you and that she wanted a normal human relationship. I made her go to Tess and try to help her catch you as a boyfriend. I stood by as she wept because she knew she had hurt you, but when everything else failed, I made her pretend to sleep with Kyle so that you would…well, so that you would stop pursuing her and go after Tess instead."

"Liz never… You made her… Oh, God…" And Max actually stumbled forward and fell to his knees when the overwhelming realization of what had occurred hit him. Liz had done all of that to change the timeline? And he had betrayed her goodness and innocence and turned to Tess despite his overwhelming feeling that Liz could never have done what he thought he'd seen her do? And then he had mistreated Liz and tried to hurt her back? He buried his head in his hands. No wonder Liz had never said anything about it.

In that instant Liz was at his side, wrapping her arms around him. "Max, I'm so sorry. I never wanted you to know. I didn't want to hurt you. I just…it's all my fault…everything…Alex dying, Tess betraying us, hurting everyone. Can you ever…would you ever forgive me? Please," she begged. "Please. Max?"

Max looked up at his Liz's fear filled eyes. "Oh, Liz. There's nothing for me to forgive…but I think there's a lot that I need to ask your forgiveness for."

Liz shook her head. "No, Max. You did exactly what we needed you to do." She gave a strange sort of sad laugh. "You saved the world."

It was Future Max's turn to speak. He joined Max and Liz in kneeling on the floor as he explained. "I really messed up the last timeline. Well, actually we all did. After the skins were killed we thought we didn't have to worry about our destinies anymore. We thought we could just live our lives as we pleased. Liz and I got married right after high school. We really thought we were going to have one of those fairy tale happily ever after endings. Isabel and Alex got together and were married too and had three little girls. And Michael and Maria got married and moved to New York so she could pursue her musical career. We all went our separate ways and were just so happy with our quiet, safe lives. We never gave a second thought to preparing to meet Kivar in an all out war. We were caught completely off guard."

"Why did Kivar come to Earth? We're no threat to him," Max asked.

"He wanted the granilith. He wanted to enslave it and use its power for his own evil purposes," Future Max replied. "When I wouldn't turn it over to him he decided to wage an all out war against earth. The humans hadn't done anything to him but in his sick twisted mind I was a part of them - genetically - and he wanted to wipe out everything that I was and everything that I cared about. And he did."

"So, what happened? Did he ever get to the granilith?" asked Max.

"No," said Future Max, "at least I don't think so. When you got together with Tess everything changed and my timeline ceased to exist."

"But you're still here," said Max.

"Only because Liz won't let go," replied Future Max sadly. He traced the line of Liz's braid. "I still don't know how she did it, but before my physical body ceased to exist she somehow managed to latch onto the essence of what I was - the same essence our people used from King Zan to combine with our human donor. She's kept it inside herself all this time, hanging onto the memories of what we had in the other life and of what we lost."

"Why, Liz?" Max asked her tenderly.

"Because in that life I never hurt you. I never hurt anybody. And we had this wonderful perfect life. And you really loved me," she replied, barely audible.

"But Liz, I do love you," Max told her tenderly. "I always have. And there's nothing that could happen in this life or any other that will ever change that."

"Really?" she asked him.

"Really," he nodded. Then he leaned forward and softly brushed his lips against hers, tasting the salt of her tears. "And I promise you, Liz, to make you mine forever. Do you still have your promise ring?" When she nodded he continued. "I meant it, Liz. I meant everything I said when I gave it to you. You own my heart forever. You always have and you always will." He traced the circle of the ring around her finger.

Liz sniffled and asked, "Then will you do something for me?"

"Okay. What do you want me to do?"

Liz took the leather pouch from her pocket - the one Future Max had given her - and poured out its contents. The Cylic stones fell to the ground and scattered. She searched through them until she found the one she wanted. "See this symbol, Max? It means 'transfer'. I want to give you Future Max's lifetime of memories. He's right. They don't belong to me and I've held onto them long enough. I need to move on. Will you take them from me?"

"How do I do that?" he asked.

She took the 'transfer' stone and placed it in Future Max's open hand. "All you have to do is take the stone from him. I can't explain how I know it, but if you do that everything he is will be transferred to you. It will make you complete." She looked at Max with eyes full of trust and hope.

Max and his future self looked at one another for a long time. Liz was afraid Max might not want to do it or that Future Max might not want to give his memories to his younger self. But then, she saw Max slowly move his hand forward in an almost apprehensive fashion and Future Max moved his cupped palm forward with the stone.

The moment they touched a powerful blue glow surged around them. It became brighter and brighter until Liz had to shield her eyes and turn away. Then just as the light had grown in brightness, it dimmed away to nothing. Liz turned back around to see what had happened. Max sat before her. His future version had vanished leaving only him behind. His face was that of stunned disbelief and in his hand he held the Cylic crystal.

At last he spoke. "Oh Liz. I remember everything. I remember us. I remember our life. I remember how it all ended…" He was simply overwhelmed by it all. "This time, Liz, we're gonna make it right. We have to. I can't bear to lose you again." And with that he reached forward and kissed her. Their connection was instant and infused with all the passion of two lifetimes of love.


TBC
posted on 7-Feb-2002 12:40:11 AM
PART TWENTY


When Liz had Future Max's memories, they were just that - memories, almost like the flashes she would get from others. But when Max took on the memories of his future self they became something more. They became a part of him in a completely different way. It was as if he had actually lived those fourteen years. He had lived a whole lifetime without Tess. He had married his one true love, Liz. He had become a successful lawyer like his dad and was well known for taking on charity cases because of his soft heart. And he had fought a war against the most vicious evil he had ever known. He was a husband, a lawyer, a friend, and a warrior king. Max was still Max but he had, in a matter of minutes, matured years beyond his age. He was now the sum total of both his and Future Max's lifetime of experiences.

Within their connection Liz could feel the difference. Max was moving within her in, entwining his spirit with hers, in a most sensual and erotic way. She could feel his unyielding love and joy at finding her still alive and unharmed by Kivar as well as the inspiration he always felt when he was with her. She could feel their connection pulsating as if it were pulling her in tighter and closer. It was possessive. It was undeniably arousing. It was by far the most beautiful thing she had ever experienced.

Max could feel Liz relaxing, letting go of every fear and anxiety she had, and falling captive to his enticement. He continued pulling her ever closer - stroking and pulling their connection, pulling and stroking. He wrapped himself tighter around her spirit, awakening it and making it his. Their very beings began to merge almost as if they were becoming one, pulsating in the same rhythm, inseparable, 'cemented' together. Liz was truly his now. She could belong to no other and he would never let her go. A peacefulness and rightness coursed through their connection.

Through their connected awareness they began to notice the unseen, yet powerful presence of another. It wasn't exactly a part of what they were but they could sense it was nearby, observing. Their awakened awareness must have sensed it in a way they could not before. While they both longed to reach out to it, to communicate with it they held back. As one they remembered that they must not touch the granilith until they were ready to form a commitment to it.

They broadened their reach further and felt to the boundaries of Machu Picchu. They could see inside every building, follow the movements of every guardian spirit, and see the tiniest insect moving upon the ground.

Max could remember using this connection he had with Liz before to locate their enemies and keep track of the people they loved. Together they now reached out to his sister and found her studying at the campus library. Although they didn't try to impose contact directly on her, Max could remember times when mental telepathy had been their only way to communicate, especially toward the end. He also remembered how in the beginning, when they had emerged from their pods, how they had been able to communicate through their minds. They moved again to search for Michael. To Max, the memory of Michael dying in his arms was still strong, so to find his strong presence in class harassing one of his teachers was thrilling. They moved on to check each of their other friends in turn.

Slowly they withdrew their awareness and focused it back onto each other and began to separate back into their own persons. Liz could feel herself back in her own body and Max could feel himself in his; but unlike before, their connection wouldn't close. It remained switched on - like a night light - awaiting the awakening of either one should they need to open it again. And so, there they sat in silence, awed by the awareness they still felt of the other. Their emotions and thoughts still spilled through as well as their desires.

'This is the most incredible thing that's ever happened to me,' Liz telepathed to Max. She couldn't take her eyes away from his. Her soul mate was truly hers now and she knew she would never have to feel alone again. And the best part was, there would be no more secrets between them because now Max knew everything.

'To us,' Max corrected. "This is the most incredible thing that's happened to us." He knew now that this is what Tess had been trying to do to him when she took control over their connection. She hadn't just been using her Antarian-mating prowess; she'd been trying to bond him to herself to make him hers forever. Thank goodness it hadn't worked. Besides the fact that Max didn't want to be with her, the political implications were simply enormous. Liz was whom he belonged with. Liz was his equal in every way, the love of his life, and in her own quiet way a natural born leader. She was the perfect wife and the perfect queen.

"To us," Liz agreed, "but I'm not your wife yet. We're not married in this lifetime, Maxwell Evans." She was still very much aware of his thoughts and feelings and she sensed that in his heart he already thought of her as his wife.

"I beg to differ," Max replied. He held out his left hand and displayed a simple gold wedding band.

Liz's eyes widened and her jaw dropped. "You have Future Max's wedding ring? That shouldn't be possible. The memories were the only things that were supposed to be transferred."

Max smiled coyly. "Well, Elizabeth Evans," he said for emphasis, "it looks like that's not the only thing that was transferred over. It appears our wedding vows from the other timeline are still impressed upon us."

"That's impossible," she said again. Her mind was working rapidly trying to puzzle out how the ring could have remained with Max and why. It was one thing that really didn't belong to her Max. It belonged to a life neither of them would ever have - a life of freedom from worry and unrequited love. It was given to Future Max by the Liz she would never become.

"You're wrong, Liz," Max told her. He took her hands in his. "You are so much more than she ever became. She never did half the things you've done and she never developed powers like yours. And she is definitely not the one I love.

"And there's something else, Lizzy," he said softly watching the way her brown eyes reacted. "I think you are the one who gave me this ring. I know it wasn't intentional but I think, unconsciously, you wanted me to have it. I think you want what we had in the other timeline and that somehow, it translated into this ring remaining with me."

"Max," she began. She didn't want him to think she was going to hang onto the dreams of another life. She would probably never completely forget the things Future Max had shown her - maybe never stop wishing in the back of her mind they were true - but she wasn't going to stop living this life or love her Max any less. And, already, having just given the essence of Future Max to his younger self had relieved much anxiety she'd had about this other life and what she'd had to do for this one.

"It's okay, Liz," Max told her. "It's what I want too. I want us to be together forever. I want us to live in a world where we don't have to worry about war and death and what our enemies will be doing next." He touched the pink of her cheek tenderly - almost in worshipful reverence - and implored her to understand what he would say next. "I want you to be my wife and have my children. I want you to fight at my side to make the world a better place for our little ones. And I want you at my side when I reclaim my throne, as my queen." Instantly, their connection flared to life again and they were once more dancing within each other's souls, weaving about one another. It was almost as if time and place ceased to exist, so lost from the world they had become.

Max took Liz in his arms and pulled her onto his lap. He gazed longingly at her and then traced his fingertips down her arm and watched a trail of silver light follow. It was happening again - that arousing feeling of necessity to be together. Liz shivered as the strange sensations it caused spread throughout her body and awakened every part of her. She closed her eyes and fell in closer to Max wanting more.

But Max had other ideas. "Do it to me," he whispered. Sensing her immediate apprehension as she remembered the last time she had tried and had been unable to do it, he whispered again, "I know you can do it now. I want to feel you do it to me." Her eyes met his and promptly melted under his longing gaze. She could deny him nothing. She moved her fingers to trace the line of his arm and was astounded to see that she could duplicate his silver light touch.

As soon as she touched Max the room they were in started to imitate the nature of their passion. The metallic-like walls began displaying streaks of silvery gleamings shooting here and there amongst the curvatures of the walls. The symbols on them continually flaring forth and dimming. The motions were pulsating, the rhythms continually quickening in pace. And Max and Liz, through their connection, could feel a thrumming hum through them, building in volume and intensity, and driving them to further their intimacy.

Their connection took on a far more physical nature as their desire to consummate their union overrode all other thought. 'Do you really believe our vows transferred over to this timeline?' Liz telepathed through their connection. Her heart was pounding with desire but she still wanted it to be right, despite the way events beyond their control seemed to keep pushing them together.

'I think the granilith has given us a gift of being able to redo the events of this timeline, while retaining what was most important to us in the other - our love and devotion to each other and our marriage vows,' he softly whispered within her soul. 'And the only reason I can think that it has happened this way is because for some reason we will need these vows for each other. Don't you feel this within you?' he asked her. In some way Liz, deep within herself, could feel that he spoke the truth and so she willingly gave herself over to the pleasures of their passionate connection and all that came with it.


*****************************
The fire, having been untended for nearly two hours, had burned low. It was mostly embers, though a flame still flickered here and there providing light for Nasedo's cave. Max had been the first to come out of the vision and so he lay there watching the fire burn itself out while waiting for Liz to awaken. He mused to himself over how many changes had occurred since sitting with Liz on her balcony that morning. Liz, so amazingly strong, had accomplished so much in such a short time and all on her own. Finally, Max could be a part of everything that happened and would continue to be so.

He could feel Liz's mental stir within the vision she was still experiencing. The scientist in her was becoming active. While no longer part of that vision himself he was still, through their connection, experiencing the thoughts and feelings that emanated from his soul mate. Already she had turned once more to the symbols written on the walls surrounding her in Machu Picchu, certain she would find meanings and reasons. She truly had a boundless faith in the wisdom of the granilith and trust that it would always provide what they needed at the right time. Despite this, he could tell she was disappointed to find that this room was more of a history lesson than an explanation of current and future events. Max may not have understood the symbols himself, but as Liz (who had become ever more proficient in translating them) read along the walls he was able to understand what she saw through their telepathic connection.

She was doing no more than skimming the histories but it was quite clear that Antar had once been a gleaming spectacle of the five planets in their solar system, always prosperous and always at peace. The reason being that the citizens of Antar, which incorporated a melting pot of peoples of many different planets, relied solely upon the granilith. Whatever the spokesmen of the granilith commanded, the people did. In turn, the aristocracy of Antar protected the granilith and it's interests.

However, during the time of the reign of King Zan's grandfather the people had lost interest in listening to the granilith, thinking such a way of life was old-fashioned and ridiculous. Surely they could make their own decisions and fend for themselves, the people believed. The prophets and even the King tried to turn the people back to the way of the granilith but they would not listen. Instead they began to murmur against the King. Zan's father was deeply swayed by the interests of Antar's citizens and followed their ways, even so far as to have the prophets killed. By the time Zan came to power he could see what the dissent was doing to Antar. The people had become difficult to rule and civil war seemed imminent. While not believing in the wisdom of the granilith himself, he still saw the granilith as a tool to control his people and unite them once and for all. His move to unite the people in this way was the last straw for an already crumbling society. War broke out and the reigning aristocracy was overthrown and their King was killed.

Factions began to appear all over Antar. Some supported the new King Kivar. Others supported what was left of the King Zan's army under High Commander Rath. Still others secretly supported the queen mother. It was under the latter's guidance that King Zan, Princess Vilandra (who was sacrificed by her lover Kivar for getting in his power lusting way), High Commander Rath (who had been murdered by a lackey of Kivar), and Zan's bride to be Princess Ava, daughter of Hanar were cloned. Their essence was captured and combined with that of a human donor. The supporters of this latter faction hoped that they would someday return to Antar and free the people from their miserable condition.

Unfortunately for the troubled Antarian people, the granilith had tired of their wayward ways. It abandoned the planet of Antar and made its way to Earth. It would search out the reborn rulers and teach them its wisdom without the interference of the differing factions. After their training was complete it would empower them to overthrow the reigning government and then use them to turn the people of Antar back to its wisdom. It would bring a new era of enlightenment and peace. In the meantime, perhaps the people would learn to humble themselves and see that they were not capable of making history-shaping decisions.

Max thought the information was useful. At least now they would know what they would be dealing with when they returned to Antar…that is, assuming they won the war this time around. Something of his thoughts must have permeated the connection, even though it was considerably dimmed by Liz being separated from him by the force of the vision, because he felt Liz mentally acknowledge his feelings.

Within his arms he saw Liz begin to stir. He gently brushed her mussed hair away from her eyes so he could see her when she awoke. Would she remember everything that had occurred during their vision together? Would she have any regrets when she realized that everything that had happened between them had also translated into the real waking life? He suddenly found himself nervous, but Liz felt it and sent a soothing calm through their connection to him.

At last her eyes fluttered open and a smile lit across her face when she saw Max's dark eyes staring back at her own. They were tangled together, wrapped in one another's arms. She moved to feel if Max still bore the wedding ring from his future self and was thrilled to see that it had come through the vision with him. Her strong sense of satisfaction coursed through both of them. She pulled at his hand so that she could examine the ring more closely.

What she saw was so startling that she sat up immediately. The sleeping bag fell from her beautiful form revealing all the paleness of her skin. "Max, look!" she exclaimed.

He found himself as startled as she was to see embedded in his wedding ring five fire colored stones - stones that had not been there before in the previous timeline. "What does it mean?" he asked Liz, but no sooner were the words out of his mouth then he began to absorb the full meaning of what it meant.

"It means the same thing as my necklace," Liz explained. "The stones symbolize Antar and the four sister planets. The granilith gave it to me through Future Max to give weight to the granilith's claim to make me the queen elect of Antar. Somehow the granilith has even had this proclaimed to all the planets of that solar system. The fact that you now bear the same symbols on your wedding ring can only mean that the granilith has also made the same proclamation regarding you. Apparently you are now King elect of Antar."

"So, any who oppose the proclamation…?"

"Are automatically considered enemies of the granilith," Liz finished for him.

"Then it is done," he said repeating the words of Future Max when he gave Liz her necklace. "This is how it begins in this timeline. The proclamation has been made, the people will be given time to decide whose side they are on, and then the war for rulership of Antar will begin. Do you think we are ready?"

"No, but we will be by the time war comes to earth," she replied with confidence.

Max moved slightly so that he could kiss the slope of her neck. "You know," he said slyly, "your ring has changed too." He watched her glance down at her promise ring. Once a simple piece of jewelry, it was now a beautiful, slightly tiered, diamond wedding ring. He felt the shock ripple through her. "Apparently, Elizabeth Evans, the granilith feels Antar's future king and queen should be properly married."

Their eyes met as they decided immediately to give honor the granilith's decision.


TBC
posted on 16-Feb-2002 12:06:40 AM
Thank you Anya. I think I will hold off on any description of a wedding right now - only because they did a quicky Justice of the Peace type wedding and because I want to focus on Philip for a little while, but I will get back to it and everyone's reaction later.


PART TWENTY-ONE


Philip hung up the phone, his heart heavy. Max and Liz had got themselves into trouble again and this time there would be no way for either of their parents to help them out. Jeff Parker had just informed him that they had been married by the Justice of the Peace that very evening. Jeff was furious and Philip wasn't far behind. What were those kids thinking? They hadn't even graduated from high school. Neither of them had a decent job. They had no place to live unless they planned to 'crash' at Michael's for the rest of their lives'. And how would they be able to afford to go to college or raise a child? More than likely it had been Max's idea. He had obviously been behind the impromptu hold-up in Utah. He had probably dragged Liz into this too. It grieved Philip deeply to see his son making such unwise decisions - decisions that would very likely adversely affect the rest of his life and that of Liz Parker's as well.

He poured himself a strong drink and then returned to the bulletin board, now filled with 'evidence' of Max's meanderings. Again, he wondered what Max was up to. The past months had given way to many, many more clues but he still could not puzzle out what they meant. And it all seemed to start about 2 ½ years ago when there was a shooting at the Crash Down. According to police reports Max and Michael had been there when it happened. Witnesses reported that Liz Parker had been shot and that Max had gone up to her stilled figure on the floor and healed her. Of course, that didn't make any sense to Philip, but what did make sense was that Max and Michael had fled the scene.

Not long after the date of the Crash Down shooting, two speeding tickets were issued not too far from Marathon, Texas on highway 285. One was issued to Michael who was driving Maria DeLuca's car and the other was issued to Max who was driving the jeep. That was the time when Max, Isabel, Michael, Maria, and Liz had gone missing over night. Neither Max nor Isabel had been forthcoming with answers when they returned and according to Jeff, Liz hadn't either.

Shortly after their return from Marathon, a burglar ransacked the Evans' house. It had scared his wife to death and the kids seemed stunned as well. Nothing appeared to be taken, but Max's room was worse than the rest of the house and Diane had been upset when the sheriff wanted to know why. Now, as Philip looked back on the event, he too wondered why that room had been worse than any other. It was yet another clue that made no sense.

Then there was the camping trip incident. Every year a father/child camping trip was organized and many of the community took advantage of it. The last time Philip had taken his kids was during their sophomore year. The very first night of the trip Maria, Liz, Max, Isabel, and Michael had gone missing. Liz and Maria had been found first by the search party and had claimed to have become lost when they went into the woods to go to the bathroom. Hours later, Sheriff Valenti had located Max, Isabel, and Michael. They found were miles away and yet, they too claimed to have been lost. But Philip remembered that the Sheriff seemed to think they were hiding something.

Later on during the year Max and Liz had disappeared again. First Diane and Nancy had been called to the high school because Max and Liz were caught making out in the 'eraser room' after having cut two classes. Then, that night - despite the trouble both kids were in at home - they had sneaked out and spent the night with each other. They wouldn't say where they had gone or what they had done and so, they had been punished accordingly.

Next Max, Michael, Isabel, Maria, Alex, and Liz had disappeared for nearly three days and the sheriff with them. A search was put out for them all the way to Albuquerque. The sheriff had brought them back single handedly but would only say he found them on the old highway. None of the kids would explain anything under questioning. Every single one of them had clamed up and had appeared to blanch white with fear. Threats of punishments had done nothing to get them to talk. Isabel was anxious and nervous, jumping at her own shadow. Max kept having nightmares and would wake up screaming Liz Parker's name. Both of the kids were at each other's throats. Philip and Diane had put Max and Isabel into therapy after that. It was a waste of money because the kids wouldn't talk to the therapist either.

Toward the end of their sophomore year a very strange thing had occurred, an event that made headlines. A geologist named Grant Sorenson, who later dated Isabel, found the remains of a badly malformed person. The skeleton was reassembled by forensics investigators who discovered that part of the rib cage had been 'melted' and fused together. Police believed the remains to be that of a murdered victim and Michael Guerin was arrested in connection with it. Apparently his knife had been found at the scene of the crime. The allegations were later dropped and Philip could find nothing about the incident.

Around Thanksgiving time of his junior year, Max disappeared for five days. He left without saying goodbye and only called two days later to say he had gone camping. Diane and Isabel had cried all through Thanksgiving dinner believing that Max didn't want to be with them. In reality, Max had gone to New York to do God knows what. Philip had discovered two plane tickets in Max's room. Why would a seventeen-year-old boy leave the state and travel all the way across the country?

Then there was the Laurie DuPree event. Apparently, Sheriff Valenti, with the help of Max and Isabel, had discovered Laurie buried in the ground in Frazer Woods. He had known she was a missing person even before a missing persons report had been filed and had gone looking for her, and Max and Isabel had helped. Because he had abused procedure in taking the kids with him, he was suspended. But that didn't stop him from continuing his investigation, nor did it stop the kids from helping him. The FBI was brought in and Max, Isabel, and Sheriff Valenti were questioned numerous times. Isabel's boyfriend, Grant Sorenson filed a $15 million lawsuit against the sheriff for harassment during the Laurie DuPree investigation only to disappear and never be heard of again. Isabel seemed to be distraught over his disappearance but couldn't contribute any help in locating him. Laurie returned home to Tucson, Arizona but was unavailable for any further questioning regarding the incident.

More recently was Tess's mysterious disappearance. Isabel claimed that Max had got her pregnant but she left before the child was born. Max was so crazy with anger that he had pushed his jeep over a cliff. Former Sheriff Valenti said Tess had gone back east to live with an aunt and uncle but refused to provide an address or phone number.

The Utah robbery was still bothering Philip. He had put his reputation as a lawyer on the line and for what? Max and Liz wouldn't say why they'd done it but it obviously wasn't for money because they had left all the money in the cash register. All Philip knew was that Max wanted to get down those stairs - the stairs that led to the government owned property below the convenience store. He had even returned to the scene of the crime after his arrest just to get down there. Why? What was Max after? And why did the FBI become involved in a robbery committed by two teenagers?

Phillip also wanted to know why Max had made an impromptu trip to California after being questioned by the local police. All they had wanted to know was why Max's license plate number had turned up in the car of Joey Ferrini who had died under mysterious circumstances. According to the LAPD, a freak lightening strike had killed him, yet Max had taken this seriously enough to go to Los Angeles himself.

Ah and here was the most puzzling piece of evidence of all. The very same private investigator, which had followed Max and Michael to the desert, had also managed to recover the items they had buried. He said it had taken four weeks because the 'dirt was melted' over the area where the strange stones, necklace, and metal book had been buried. Phillip opened the book and once more puzzled over the odd writing and the engraved pictures within. On one page there were four pictures of children. One looked like Michael as a young boy, another like Max, and another like Isabel. The fourth was of a child he had not seen before, but he assumed it was of Tess because of the next page. The next page held these same four individuals but as they appeared when grown. Michael and Isabel's likeness appeared at the top and Tess and Max's appeared at the bottom. On each page there also appeared strange, foreign writings, the language of which, Philip had yet to discover. The stones and necklace held similar engraved symbols.

And then there were Tess's letters, which had been buried with the stones and the book. Someone named Nasedo had written them to her. The references made in the letters were obscure and hard to understand. He had written to her about the 'royal four' of which she was supposedly a part of. She was instructed to remember that she must someday return home and to always keep uppermost in mind the arrangement he had made for her. He ordered her to keep 'Zan', 'Vilandra', and 'Rath' under control by whatever means necessary and not to let their friends interfere. She was to locate the 'granilith' and find a way to take it 'home'. There was much more but it made very little sense to Philip, who had no basis for understanding it.

He wasn't sure what the four of them - Max, Isabel, Tess, and Michael - were up to but he was certain that Max was the leader of it all. He was also certain that their friends - Liz, Maria, Jesse, and at one time Alex - were involved too. Somehow they had managed to get former Sheriff Valenti to protect them. And now Diane appeared to be equally involved. He didn't know if she knew any more than he did, but it was obvious she didn't care. Philip shook his head in disgust. She was going to be a part of Max's life even if it meant hers, and what would Phillip do about that? Max was involved in something terribly dangerous and terribly frightening. Philip actually felt afraid of his own son. And the one person he needed the most to be there for him in this time of trial - his wife - was slipping away from him. His family was falling apart and there was only one person to blame: Max.


********************************
Philip could hear the murmur of voices as he walked up the stairs to the apartment and the wail of a small child. It was hardly what he expected when he stopped by to tell Diane the bad news. Diane always stayed late after the store closed to do book keeping and she never had company. He couldn't imagine what was going on…that is, until he opened the door.

Shock, betrayal, hurt, anger - those were all emotions that played through his mind when he saw the scene before him. Liz sat on the couch working on Diane's books. Diane had a small boy cuddled in her arms and was doing her best to quiet him. And Max was sitting on the floor putting a crib together. It was obvious that, not only did Diane know about the marriage of Max and Liz, but also she had given her blessing and had happily offered them the store apartment. And in her arms was the reason for it all - the infant son of Max. Philip found himself shocked to speechlessness.

Max looked up from the instruction book and finally took notice of Philip standing in the doorway. He immediately rose and walked to him. "Dad, I'm so glad you stopped by tonight." He smiled at his dad and, putting an arm around his shoulders, led him toward his mother. "There's someone I'd like you to meet. Dad, this is my son Justin Alexander Evans." His pride was obvious to Philip and something else - something he hadn't seen in Max before - a sureness, a confidence, an almost regal bearing seemed to emanate from him. This change in Max was almost as mysterious as his secret, but at least one thing had been cleared up. Max did have a son.

"How did you find him? Isabel told us that Tess left Roswell while she was still pregnant and you didn't know where she'd gone," Philip said.

"That's true," Max replied, "but Liz was able to finally track him down."

"Where was he?" Philip asked. Max seemed like he was in a good mood - maybe good enough to finally answer some questions - so, he figured he better ask them while he still could.

"Here in New Mexico," Max answered. "I'm not completely sure where Tess went when she left Roswell, but Justin was born in New Mexico not too far from here. What made him so hard to track down was that Tess died in child birth and Justin was left alone and so, he was put into foster care until I could be located." He patted Justin, who was still being held by Diane, tenderly on the back as the little boy sleepily tried to keep his eyes open. What Philip couldn't see was that Max and Liz were connected to Justin and were soothing him to sleep, cradling his tiny life spirit within their own.

"So, what are you going to do now? Drop out of high school to take care of him? Or now that you're married, maybe Liz can drop out and take care of him for you." Philip's anger was let out a little bit at his undisciplined son. Did Max really think that getting married would fix the fact that he was a teenage father with an out-of-wedlock son? And did Max suppose that he wouldn't find out?

Max nodded his head in understanding. Having Future Max's memories gave him the unusual perspective of understanding his dad's viewpoint. "You bring up the main crux of our dilemma. Liz and I are naturally too young to drop out of school and so neither of us can be available to take care of Justin during the day. We also both have jobs in the evening so we can't take care of him then either. That's why we have reached the difficult decision to leave him in his foster care home and just have visitations with him on the weekend…for the time being, that is."

"So, you're too young to take care of Justin, but you're not too young to get married? What were you thinking when you decided to do this?" he asked.

"Philip!" Diane exclaimed. "It's a little late to be scolding them, don't you think? They're not exactly children anymore."

"It's okay," Liz soothed. "He's right. We are young and we are still in high school and I'm sure it looks like we've just made a very foolish mistake." She rose from the couch and joined her family. "I think my Dad wanted to get out his shotgun and shoot us. But the thing is, Mr. Evans…uh, dad…we just need to be together. We're no good apart. We need each other to deal with all the…things that happen in our life."

"What things?" Would Liz willingly answer any of the questions he had posted on his bulletin board?

"You know…things…like Justin, like Tess dying, like when Alex…" She sighed at the thought of Alex's murder. "We've been through so much for someone our age. You know, when you go through so many trials it either pulls you apart or draws you together. In our case, it's brought us together and made us inseparable. We just can't stay apart anymore. It's too hard. I know you're not happy about it, but it's what we need for us and we're just going to have to deal with the consequences of it."

"So, getting pregnant had nothing to do with it?" he asked. Why else would two people, as young as they, rush into marriage.

"Philip!" Diane exclaimed again.

Liz looked at her father-in-law oddly. She tilted her head to the side and asked, "Is that what you think? That the only reason Max would marry me is because he got me pregnant?"

Max didn't even give his dad a chance to respond. It hardly mattered what Philip thought anyway because matters were out of his hands. He could scold. He could investigate. He could fear his own son. But there was nothing he could do to change any of it. He needed to accept things the way things were - at least that's what Max believed. In the other time line, Philip Evans had found a way to overlook the mysteries of his adopted son; surely he could do the same in this one. "Why don't you have dinner with us, Dad? We were just about ready to sit down and eat. Mom, let's put some blankets down on the floor for Justin and let him sleep there for a little while, then we can have a quiet dinner with the four of us."

Philip didn't know what to think. He had come over to vent to Diane over the latest escapade of Max and Liz, but nothing was as he expected it to be. Max seemed to have matured overnight - carrying himself with a confidence and bearing he never had before, speaking as a man instead of a scared little boy, and seeming to accept all of life's greatest responsibilities as an adult. The ever quietly determined Liz, too, seemed to have changed overnight, almost as if she had become something…more. Philip didn't know quite how to describe it, but that was what it was. She had become something more. Justin was a shock. He hadn't believed Isabel for a minute when she said Max had a child, yet here was an infant looking every bit like Tess. And when Max looked at Justin there was that unmistakable look of love in his eyes - the kind of love only a parent has for his child. He could certainly understand why Diane was supporting Max the way she was. Even in the little bit of time he had been there, he could see that Max had changed - perhaps for the better now that he had a child to think about.

Philip watched as Liz spread soft baby blankets on the floor near the couch and Diane reluctantly placed her grandson down. Then Liz and Diane moved over to the kitchenette to set the table for dinner while Max sat down on the couch to play the guitar and sing softly in Spanish. It sounded like he was crooning his son a lullaby. (When did Max learn to play the guitar or speak Spanish? Philip wondered if Max would ever cease to surprise him.)

'I don't think you're dad knows what just hit him,' Liz telepathed to Max. 'He thought he would find two teenagers hiding out hoping to have got away with something or two babies playing house. Instead he sees two adults who have been in love for a long time starting out their family.' Max could feel her amusement through their dimmed connection.

'Don't get too excited, Lizzy,' he telepathed back. 'There's a reason my dad is such a great lawyer. It's because he has a good eye for the details others overlook. He doesn't miss a thing. Wait and see.'

Liz stopped what she was doing to gaze at Max with a raised eyebrow. 'Well, then maybe someone should dreamwalk him later to see what he's figured out. We might be able to use what we find to throw him off track.'

'Couldn't hurt,' he shrugged. 'I'll ask Izzy to do it tomorrow.'

'I can do it!'

'You can?'

'Well, it was an accident when I did it before, but I think I could do it again.'

'Okay, let's try it tonight…if you're not too tired.'

'Why would I be too…oooohhhhh.' Liz blushed visibly but tried to hide it by returning to the kitchen activities. Max allowed his amusement to ripple through their connection as he continued to lightly strum the guitar.

Philip had been studying Max the whole time. "When did you learn to play, Son?"

Max chuckled softly. "I learned the guitar in an attempt to court Liz's affections. If I'd had any idea it would have such an affect over her I would have learned it a long time ago." He glanced toward Liz to see her reaction.

Her back was still to him but she did respond. 'Max Evans! I know for a fact you've never had a lesson!' she telepathed to him.

'Too true, sweetheart, but 'Future Max' did and I see no reason to waste such perfectly good talent,' he telepathed back.

"So this is a recent thing?" Philip asked.

"Very recent," Max replied. He continued to play while his dad figured that one out.

"And the Spanish…do you speak it as fluently as you sing it?"

"Yes," Max nodded, glancing briefly at his dad, "I thought it might be useful to know later on when I enter the field of Political Science."

"Political Science?" he asked in disbelief. Who did Max think he was kidding? He chanced a peek at his wife to see if she was buying any of this but she was busy getting dinner ready.

"Um Hum." Max noticed his mother glance at him with raised brow, warning him to go easy on his dad. He ignored her silent warning and continued. "Originally, I planned to go into Law and become a lawyer because I want to help people the way you do, but I changed my mind. I still want to use the legal system, but I want to use it to make the laws. I want to make a difference in people's lives by making the whole world a better place to live in."

"And how do you plan on doing this? I mean, think about it, Son. You're not even out of high school and yet you already have a wife and child to support. How do you plan on affording all that?"

Max just smiled as he set his guitar aside. "I'll be inheriting a great deal of money when I turn twenty-one. It will be enough to put both Liz and I through college."

'Max,' Liz telepathed, 'Are you serious?'

'Do you doubt me?' he asked.

'Max, please. You're totally messing with your dad's head…and enjoying it. I just want to know if it's still possible for us to go to college."

'Yes, baby, it's true. We'll be coming into a great sum of money when we are twenty-one, but I'll have to explain that later. It's from your grandparents and it's kind of a long story.'

"Oh, Max," Diane sighed with her hand on her heart, "I'm so glad, sweetie. I think that would be just wonderful if you and Liz could get a good education before you take on so many responsibilities."

"So, where is this 'great deal of money' coming from?" Philip asked. He was supposing it was from some sort of illegal activity, if it was true at all, and was wondering what sort of lie Max would come up with to cover it up.

"At the moment, the donor wishes to remain anonymous. It's part of the preconditions of the inheritance," Max shrugged. He got up from the couch and moved to the dinner table, completely ignoring the look on his dad's face. Philip just stared after him in disbelief. He couldn't figure out how Max did it. Max always had an excuse or a justification for his every action and everyone seemed to rally around him in support. The police covered for him. The FBI covered for him. His family covered for him. Even his friends covered for him. How was it that one man could become involved in so much trouble and yet never face any of the consequences? What exactly was going on, he wondered for the thousandth time.

Dinner continued on in much the same tone. Philip asked questions and Max answered truthfully but in a way that would sidetrack his dad from the real story. Philip was more confused than when he arrived and Diane and Liz were having a hard time not laughing at his bewilderment. Everything Max said was completely true but since Philip didn't know about aliens or time travel he was unable to place anything in context.

At last dinner was over and Philip had decided he'd had enough. He would puzzle out later how Max had suddenly matured over night, how he could now speak another language fluently and play an instrument he'd never seen him play before, and figure out where he'd inherited this vast knowledge of the law - the kind of knowledge that would take years of law school to gain. Philip was tired and confused and he just wanted to go home and go to bed.

Max gave his dad a hug goodbye. "I'll see you later, Dad. Stop by any time, okay?"

"Yah. Yah, I'll do that," Philip mumbled. Maybe he should. Maybe when he finally figured out what had happened with Max he might want to go back and ask more questions.

Liz hugged her father-in-law goodbye next. "Bye, Dad. You take care," she told him.

"Thank you," he replied. He took a step back to leave and then stopped, noticing something he hadn't seen before. He returned to Liz with a frown on his face. "That's a very unusual necklace," he told her.

Liz looked down at it. "Yes, it is."

"What is it made of?" he asked. He couldn't place where he'd seen stones like hers before.

"I was told it was made from Cylic Crystal," she replied.

"I've never heard of that before. What exactly is that?"

Liz shrugged. "Honestly, I don't know. It's just what I was told."

Philip looked a little more closely. "What is the design I see on each one? Does it have any special meaning?" He'd seen that symbol before in the metallic 'destiny' book.

"Again, I can only repeat what I've been told," she responded. "This symbol is supposed to represent the Whirlwind Galaxy. It was given to me by a very dear friend who wanted me to aim high - to aim for the stars, you know?"

"That's…that's very interesting," he said, uncommitted. "Well, I'll see you all later. Thank you for dinner."

Liz held her breath until he was really gone. 'I see what you mean about him never missing any details,' she telepathed.

'I can't be sure, but I think we definitely better dreamwalk him tonight.'


TBC
posted on 21-Feb-2002 12:51:32 AM
PART TWENTY-TWO


Liz sat crossed-legged on the bed in her pajamas, preparing to dreamwalk her father-in-law. The lights were turned off and she had lit candles all over the room. She focused all her attention on the candlelight, closing her mind to all other thoughts. The crystals of her necklace were rolled between her fingers. The stones from Machu Picchu were spilled before her on the blankets.

Max, with Justin snuggled tight against his chest, sleepily watched as Liz slowed her breathing and entered a trance-like state. The crystals began to glow and softly pulsate as Liz was pulled deeper and deeper into the trance. Max felt the instant she entered the dream plane - the way her emotions flickered between astonishment, surprise, and then finally curiosity. Then the stones lit up, each in turn, and Max could tell through the connection that Liz was sorting through them from her end in the dream plane. At last, the stone with then symbol representing Isabel lit up and remain alight, glowing almost too brightly to look at. Max closed his eyes and turned his head away waiting for his turn to join the dreamwalk, and slowly drifted off to sleep himself.

Isabel looked about her in confusion. Everywhere she turned she saw green - from the rolling hills, to the trees, to the hedges dividing the properties. Bleating sheep were scattered about here and there. An immense castle stood tall and proud in the distance, surrounded by a great wall. And immediately before her was Liz in the most unusual clothing she'd ever seen her wear - a traditional Irish dress of green and red velvet, with a complicated design embroidered into it, and lace sleeves. Her brown hair was flowing and long - down to her waist - and held back in a beautifully designed headband. A cream colored cloak hung over her arm. And in her hand she held an oddly shaped stone with a glowing symbol on it - the one Liz said represented Isabel.

"Where are we, Liz?" she asked her. "What's going on?"

"We're dreamwalking your dad," Liz explained. "I hope you don't mind that I pulled you into this but I didn't want to do it without you. I'm not used to the dream plane or how it works and I feel more comfortable with you here in case I need to ask a question...besides it's your dad and you should be a part of what's going on."

"How did you bring me into this? I can't even do that…I mean, if you were touching me I could maybe understand, but we're not even in the same building…"

"I know, um…you know, I have been developing alien power of my own, but what I'm doing right now is with the help of the granilith," she said in short explanation. "I only opened the connection. I'm pretty sure the granilith did the rest of the work for me."

She knew Liz was developing powers - that in fact she had been changed - but this…this bringing along of another into the dream plane was something she'd never been able to do. It must be taking an enormous amount of power and control. And if the granilith was helping her then Jesse was right, Liz had formed some sort of alliance with it and they all needed to know how she'd done it…but first things first. Isabel needed to know why they were in the dream plane to begin with. "Okay," said Isabel with a frown, "so we're here to dreamwalk my Dad because…?"

"He's getting too close to the truth about you guys and it's worrying us. We want to find out what he knows."

"Who's 'we'?"

"Max and I," replied Liz. "I'm about to bring him here also." She opened her other hand to reveal another stone with the symbol representing Max. It, too, began to glow brightly and suddenly Max began to appear. He looked like someone standing behind a tank of water at first because he hadn't been pulled completely into the dream. When, at last, his form solidified he looked around him in curiosity.

"Have you seen my Dad and do we know where we are yet?" he asked Liz. Max was as oddly clothed as Liz was, and Isabel could plainly tell that he wasn't the least bit confused to be here. He must have organized the whole thing.

"I'm not sure," she replied, "but judging from our dress I would say Ireland."

"Ireland…okay," he acknowledged looking down at himself. He was dressed in simple traditional Irish clothing - plain but sturdy shirt, pants, shoes - complete with a full length black cloak. He almost wished he could see himself in a mirror.

Isabel, too, was trying to see what she wore and found herself clothed in dress similar to Liz's minus the unusual necklace. Her hair had changed back to its natural color of yellow and hung in a long braid down to her waist, with ribbon woven into it. Had Liz put her in these clothes and changed her hair when she pulled her into the dream or had it happened of its own course? She was pulled out of her musings with Max's next question.

"So, where's Dad?" he asked.

"He headed that way." Liz nodded her head in the direction of the afternoon sun where a maze of hedges had been trained up.

"Alright, lets go," Max said and immediately began walking in that direction, his cloak swishing about his ankles. Liz followed closely and Isabel trailed behind.

Isabel was still trying to figure out what had happened. Weeks ago, Liz had been as human as the rest of their friends; now she appeared to be more powerful than the Max, Michael, and her put together and in some ways more mysterious too. It was obvious she knew things they didn't. And now Max…he appeared to have changed as well. He seemed so much more sure of himself…and older. She could almost see in him the king he would someday be; his presence was stately, noble, and commanding. And something else…Isabel could tell that Max now knew things as well. What was going on with these two? They didn't even seem like the same people.

They overtook the labyrinth and entered into it. Max continued to lead the way once inside as if he knew exactly where their dad had gone. Isabel felt as lost as she knew she was. Each pathway was of grass and hedged in by tall green bushes, so tall that she could not see over. The silence was stifling and uncomfortable. She didn't know which way to go unless she followed her brother and she didn't know which way was out should she turn back. Normally, she would never do anything she felt uncomfortable with while dreamwalking someone, but she didn't feel she had a choice here.

At last she began to hear voices. They turned the final corner and found themselves in a hospital room. A dream image of Max stood next to a bed where Tess lay still weak from giving birth. "You've ruined everything," the dream Max told Tess. "I never wanted to be a father. I wanted to have fun, do my thing, you know? Now what am I supposed to do?" Tess lay there in silence, gazing toward Max with pleading eyes. "I'll tell you what I'm going to do. I'm going to make sure that you never interfere in my life again. I'm not gonna let you screw me over." And with that Max picked up a pillow and smothered Tess until she died. The dream Max turned to face Philip, in whose dream they still were. His smile was of pure evil. "You're next, old man. If you get in my way, you're next," he told him. And then Philip, in fear, turned and fled from the room.

Max, Liz, and Isabel ran after him and out through the doors of Tess's hospital room. They were already in shock over the contents of his dream that they had just witnessed but they didn't want to lose him. As soon as they left the room they found themselves back in the labyrinth. Philip was running madly before them, trying to escape his nightmare beliefs but all he did was run further into the maze. Alien symbols began to appear within the bushes that made up the walls that hedged them in.

Philip turned another corner and disappeared. When Max, Liz, and Isabel followed they found themselves in his office. Philip sat behind his desk with all their alien artifacts spread before him - the stones, the destiny book, all of Tess's things. He took a drink of strong liquor and spoke aloud but to himself, "What is this, Max? What are you hiding from me?"

Isabel felt her heart drop down to her stomach when she realized what he had before him. She turned to her brother, "Max there's no way this could be part of Dad's dream unless he's actually seen it or has it. I thought you and Michael told me you guys buried this stuff."

"We did," Max replied. "I don't know how he found it but we're going to have to get it back." He looked grimly back to the dream sequence.

Philip picked up the destiny book and leafed through its metal pages. "It doesn't make any sense," he mumbled to himself. "What language is this? Why are the kids pictures on these pages?" Suddenly the dream Max appeared again. He ripped the destiny book from Philip's hands. "What are you doing with this?" dream Max demanded from his dad. "Are you trying to get us all killed?" The dream Max vanished only to be replaced by a dream Diane. She looked sad and mournful. Shaking her head she asked, "How could you investigate your own son? Why would you do this to him?" Philip ignored her. He gathered the artifacts together and, turning his back to his wife, placed them in his wall safe and locked it up tight. Then he walked right passed her and out the door. Max, Isabel, and Liz followed only to find themselves back in the labyrinth.

"Why do you think he keeps coming back to the maze?" Isabel asked. "Most people dream about things that are at least somewhat familiar to them, but Dad has no background with Ireland or anything there. This doesn't make any sense."

"Actually, Izzy," said Max calling her by her pet name, "this makes perfect sense. As a child Dad's best friend had family in Ireland and every summer he and Dad would go there and stay with the grandparents for a month or two."

"Dad never told me about that," Isabel replied.

"I know," Max nodded. "He doesn't talk about it…not to anyone. The memories are too painful. He and Danny served in Vietnam together when they got to be adults, in the same regiment. One night there was an ambush and Danny got shot. He died in dad's arms. There was blood everywhere. Dad feels all this guilt - like it was his fault that he couldn't save him."

"So, how'd you get him to talk about it then?" Liz asked.

Max shrugged. "I don't know. It was just something he mentioned one day when I did something that reminded him of Danny."

"That's really weird," Isabel replied as they continued to walk through the bewildering course.

Another corner was turned and this time they found themselves in Utah. Philip stood with Agent Burns in a private meeting in the same spot where he and Max had met with the FBI agent previously. "Tell me what you're afraid of," he insisted of the agent. "We've been watching Max for some time now," Agent Burns replied. "He's a very dangerous young man. Don't ever turn your back on him." Philip looked at the agent in disbelief. "Why would the FBI be interested in an eighteen year old kid that tried to rob a convenience store?" he asked the agent. "He's not a kid, Mr. Evans," the agent replied. "He's a murderer and I'm gonna prove it." Philip was about to reply but then he looked down at his own hands and saw they were covered with blood. In panic he fled from the scene and re-entered the labyrinth. Max ran hard after him, his black cloak flowing out behind him. Liz and Isabel struggled to keep up with the men.

"Why…blood…Iz?" Liz asked out of breath as they ran.

"Symbol…" Isabel replied, equally out of breath, "lots of…symbols…in dreams." This dream had taken on a frightening reality to Isabel. All her experiences in the past led her to believe that dreams were insubstantial things to be seen with the eyes and felt with the heart, but never to take on any sort of physical reality like that of the waking world. She wondered again what Liz had done. They weren't just in her dad's dream. The dream had taken on some sort of real world qualities as well - it had been changed. Isabel could feel the warm sun beating down, hear the birds in the sky over head, and was struggling to catch her breath as she ran. Her clothing and hair were changed as well and try as she might she couldn't change them back. It was as if she were locked into this dream body she had been given. And then there was the dream itself - normally bubble-like in substance and hazy toward the edges - this dream was different. It was clear and crisp allowing the participant to gaze far and wide just as in real life.

The maze seemed to move about them, twisting and turning in ever more complicated patterns as the four of them tore through it. At last, when Isabel thought she could run no more, the labyrinth opened up to the rolling hills and they were able to exit its pathways. Philip slowed his pace to a jog as he made his way across a green field to the dark haired man sitting on the low stone wall playing the violin. A lively Celtic jig filled the air.

"Danny!" Philip called out to him. "You old son of a gun! What are you doing here?"

The violin music stopped abruptly as Danny saw whom it was. He laid his instrument aside and rose to greet his friend. "Philip Evans, it's good to see you, me old friend. It's been a long time since you came to see me."

"I know that. But I've been caught in a nightmare," Philip grumbled.

As they broke from their embrace Max, Isabel, and Liz were shocked to see that Danny was the mirror image of Max. "I think we just found your human donor, Max," Liz said quietly glancing at her husband.

"Why is that, Philip? What have you got yourself into?" Danny asked his friend.

"It isn't me, Danny," Philip explained. "It's Max. He's in trouble but he won't let me help him. I think he may have killed a woman."

"Oh, come now. I'll not be believin' any of that. Max is a good lad. If he's in trouble it's because someone is causing it for him, not because he's the cause."

"Danny, you're not listening to me," Philip tried again. "The FBI is interested in Max. They're watching him. They believe he's dangerous. And I've been doing my own research and I think they might be right."

"Philip! How ken you say that? I entrusted me son into your care and here ye stand accusing him of murder. I'll not stand by and listen to you speak ill of the lad." Danny looked simply aghast.

"What does he mean by 'me son'," Liz asked Isabel.

Isabel shrugged, her heart still trying to slow itself. "If this is what Danny really looked like, then subconsciously Dad must associate Max with him."

"Look, I'm sorry," Philip said. "I don't mean to accuse Max of anything without proof and I didn't come to make you angry. But the fact is that Max is in some sort of trouble and I need your help to figure out how to get him out."

"Philip," said the Max look-alike clapping him on the shoulder, "whatever he's done, it's not his fault. He only did what he had to do, what any man would do to protect his family and friends from the enemy. I can't see that he's any different from the likes of you and me."

"What enemy?" Philip questioned.

Danny smiled a paternal sort of smile. "Now isn't that somethin' ye should be askin' the lad yourself?"

"You're not going to tell me are you?" asked Philip, disappointed but not really expecting an answer. "You know, you and Max are so much alike, what with your quiet manner and your secrets…I wish you could have known him. Maybe he would have opened up to you…with me, he just clams up." He shook his head. "Can't you tell me anything that might help?"

"Trust him," Danny told him. "Just trust him."


******************************************
Philip faded from the dream as he contemplated the words of his friend, yet the dream continued on. "Max, this shouldn't be happening. When someone finishes dreaming, the dream orb disappears and the dreamwalker gets push out. It doesn't make any sense that we're still here," Isabel said.

"It's okay, Isabel," Liz explained. "I'm holding the dream open so we can finish up here. I want to talk to Danny and ask him some questions. Do you mind or do you want me to let you go?"

"No, I'll stay," said Isabel mostly because she was curious. How was Liz doing this? "Why do you want to talk to Danny? He shouldn't be able to answer things correctly unless Dad was here to feed the information to him subconsciously."

"Danny's no more a part of this dream than we are, Izzy," Max told his sister.

"He's dead, Max. There's no way he could be visiting Dad's dream like us. He's part of Dad's memories. Dad feels guilty for letting him die and he feels guilty because he's letting you get into trouble. You saw the blood on his hands. It's like everything is his fault. Everything you see around you is a symbol of what's going on in Dad's head. And this dream is part of how he's trying to sort things out."

"You're right, Isabel," said Liz as she rested her hand on Isabel's arm, "except for Danny. He's as real as we are. If I'm right, he's your Dad's spirit guide." She walked forward to meet the man who looked so much like Max.

"It's a pleasure to meet you," she spoke to Danny.

"Aye, but the pleasures all mine to be sure, lass," he replied glibly. "And what did you be sayin' your name was again?"

She smiled as her brown eyes met his. "I didn't say but my name is Elizabeth Evans and this is my husband Max and his sister Isabel." She could feel Isabel's eyes popping out behind her when she said her last name was Evans. They had yet to inform her that they'd been married only that day. "Could we…would you mind if we asked you some questions?"

"Well that depends," replied Danny.

"On what?" asked Max.

"On whether or not you'll be tradin' tunes with me."

"I'm sorry," said Max not understanding.

"I'm getting sorely tried playing the same songs over and over again. Teach me a jaunty new tune to play and I'll gladly answer your questions," Danny spoke in his lilting Irish accent.

Isabel actually thought she saw a twinkle in Max's eyes as he moved to pick up Danny's violin. He placed the instrument on his shoulder and held it securely with the side of his chin, then placing the bow to the strings he played the "Swallowtail Jig". Danny clapped his hands and danced with music. Isabel felt her heart rise into her throat; she didn't know if she could take any more surprises from Max and Liz today. When on God's green earth did Max learn to play the violin?

"Aye, that was a good one Max me laddie, but I've heard it before. Give me another," cried Danny.

"Alright," said Max with a nod. "Have you heard of "Johnny Jump Up"?" Max asked. When Danny said that he hadn't Max played the fast rhythmed Irish jig. Danny loved it and danced with abandon. Liz laughed and clapped her hands and Isabel couldn't help but smile.

When Max finished playing, Danny spoke, "Now that was worth me time. Come and ask your questions and I'll do me best to answer them."

"Who are you?" Isabel blurted out right away.

"Me name is Danny O'Keefe, and it be a pleasure to meet you," he said sitting himself back down on the low stone wall. "I'm the one who keeps watch o'er your father."

"Why?" she asked.

"Guardian angel, spirit guide…I'm what ever you want to call me - it's me job to watch over Philip."

While Isabel pondered over that Max and Liz took over the questions.

"Are you my genetic human donor?" asked Max. "I know it's not important but I'd really like to know."

"Aye, that I am," Danny said with a nod. "I guess that kinda make me like yer father, doesn't it?"

"How did it happen?" asked Liz.

"I'm not really sure," he replied. "I have lapses of memory for days at a time. Me family always thought I'd run away from home and I couldna tell them what really happened. They'd never have believed me. But I do remember strange looking creatures with large black eyes and bein' in a bright white room. I can't remember what they were doin' to me but I know I felt no pain. And then after a few days I'd be returned to earth."

"Wow, so this all must have happened before Vietnam, right?" Liz was trying to sort her facts out in her head.

"Aye," he replied with a nod.

"That's interesting because we had always assumed that the human genetic code had been mixed with the alien DNA well before the crash of 47," said Liz more to herself than to anyone else. "So, Danny, what does Mr. Evans suspect about Max and Isabel anyway?"

Danny O'Keefe shrugged his shoulders. "He be thinkin' Max is involved in some sort of Mafia-type ring but he doesn't know anythin' for a fact. It's all supposition at this point. However, if there's anythin' you can do to stop it you might want to be doin' it. If he asks the wrong people the wrong questions it might turn attention back onto Max."

"What do you suggest we do?" asked Max. "Do you think we should tell him the truth?"

"Nay, I don't," Danny O'Keefe told him. "He couldna handle the truth when I was alive and he still isn't ready for it, but you will have to tell him somethin'. Make him as much a part of your life as you can and try to tell him just the parts that are 'normal'…although I be knowin' that's hard to judge. Perhaps he will accept the fact that you're not an American and that, knowin' this, you've been searchin' for your people. He might even be able to accept that you descend from royalty and were sent to America when your people's government was overthrown…for your own safety. I canna be certain sure about anything but I know it canna hurt to try. Just remember that whatever you decide to do, you must stop his investigation. It's not safe for you or your people."

Max nodded in understanding. "My wife and I have learned that we can take objects of use from the dream plane to the waking world. Is there anything you can give us that might prove helpful when I talk to my Dad?"

Danny paused in thought looking ever like Max when he was serious. "I think I may have something that might be of use to you," he said finally.



TBC
posted on 21-Feb-2002 8:15:00 PM
PART TWENTY-THREE


Isabel stormed into Max's apartment early the next morning. She didn't even knock; she just opened the door with her power and let herself in. "Max, what the hell happened last night?" she demanded. She was expecting to find Max alone but what she saw instead was Liz and Max in bed together. "Oh my god…you two really did do it, didn't you? Mom and Dad are gonna freak." She covered her eyes with her hand. "Please tell me you're both dressed because I have to tell you that as your sister I could be deeply scarred if I see anything."

"Isabel shhhh," Max whispered with his finger to his lips. "Justin and Liz are still asleep." He noticed Isabel peeking through her fingers as he got out of bed but she didn't fully remove her hand until she was sure he was decently dressed. "Come here and look at the baby." He waved Isabel toward him.

Isabel walked forward to see Justin asleep in bed with Liz. He was nestled in her arms under the covers. "Max, he's…he's totally adorable," she whispered, "and I'm sure that later, when I'm not so mad at you, I'll be able to appreciate the little guy. But right now I think you owe me an explanation."

"I'm sorry, Iz," he whispered back. "Liz wouldn't dreamwalk Dad without you. She wanted you there in case she had any questions."

"Yah, Max, I already got that. But what I want to know is how she did it," Isabel said in exasperation.

"I'm not really sure. I don't even think Liz knows how she did it. All we know is that since she changed the granilith has been using her to bring us closer to the answers we've always been looking for and it's been encouraging her to use her powers."

"I know, but Max, she's still human. I can understand how she might develop powers like ours but this…this is unbelievable. The range of powers she's displaying is far beyond anything we can do. And the amount of energy she must be pooling to do it is…unfathomable. Where is it coming from and how is she able to control it? I mean, don't you think that's something we should know?"

"Isabel, calm down," Max said. "This is how the granilith works. It picks someone who is receptive and willing and uses that person as a mouthpiece. It trains them to use their powers and then guides them to help others."

"I'm sorry, Max, but this is seriously freaking me out," she said sitting down at the table. She didn't like the idea of another entity toying with their lives even if it was trying to help them. "I mean, the things I saw last night…"

"I know…"

"No, Max, you don't know," Isabel contradicted him. "My god, she made the dream so real that when I woke up I still had that dress on and my hair was still blond and braided down my back. I thought I was in the "Twilight Zone" or something. Jesse nearly jumped out of his skin when he saw me."

Max laughed softly. "Yah, I can imagine," he said shaking his head.

"It's not funny. He woke up and thought I was some strange woman and he panicked and tried to get away from me and fell out of bed." Max only laughed harder at the mental picture of that.

"Max," she asked quietly, "how'd she do it?"

"I think it's just the way her power is gravitating," Max explained. "We all have specific abilities. I heal. You dreamwalk. Tess could mindwarp. Michael can power blast. We can each do other things as well, but we all have one area that is stronger than the others. Liz's strength is visions…and she probably has that strength in specific because of her ancestry. You see, she has Native American blood running through her veins and the Native Americans are a very spiritual people. She probably inherited her abilities from her ancestors and now, with the changes happening to her, her naturally emerging abilities have been strengthened."

"So then, last night when she tried to dreamwalk Dad…what happened?"

"I don't know how she did it. You'll have to ask her when she wakes up. But the way she explained it to me was that she connected with Dad, entered his dream, and then anchored it down somehow so that he'd be stuck in one place long enough to allow us to find answers."

"Which was Ireland."

"Yes," he affirmed.

"Okay, I think I understand that much, but how is it that objects pass from the visions to the real world? I mean that just doesn't even seem like it should be possible."

"Well, that much I do understand," said Max. "Anything that passes through from one world to the next - whether it's information, other timeline memories, or objects - are gifts from the granilith. Right now, that's how it's communicating with us because none of us have been willing to directly connect with it. Remember the dreams you and Michael had? Those were from the granilith when it was trying to awaken our alien side. And before that, it intensified the feelings and flashes Liz and I had with each other to help us find the orb that was buried in the desert. It's been trying to communicate with us all along…to teach us and train us and help us to find our way. We just haven't been listening. But now it has Liz and it's using her abilities to bring us together and provide us with the answers we've been searching for.

"Liz told me that the objects that come through the visions into our world are for our use in connection with the will of the granilith. Liz was first given a necklace, which she uses to open up her visions. Next she was given the stones with the symbols engraved on them like the two you saw last night…"

"Right," interrupted Isabel, "one had the Vilandra symbol on it and the other had the Zan symbol on it."

"Yes, those are the ones," Max continued. "The granilith gave them to her to allow her to influence the visions from the inside. Each stone has a different symbol on it, and she can use specific ones to either bring people in or out of the vision or to cause something to occur while she's there."

"Like what?"

"Well, I guess the best example would be me. I finally got her to tell me who the visitor from the future was…and apparently it was me. My future self came back in time and asked her to help him change this timeline. When she did and the timeline was sufficiently altered enough, his timeline disappeared and he vanished but not before she was able to capture his memories within her own. During the first vision I was able to join her in, she used one of the stones to transfer all his memories to me."

"Oh, so that's how it happened," Isabel said finally putting two and two together. "You're just not even the same person, Max. You seem so much older…like you've lived this whole other life. And when you played Danny's violin last night…oh my god, I didn't know what was happening…So are you still my brother - the one I grew up with - or are you the other Max?"

"I'm kinda both," he replied. "I remember everything from the other timeline, just as if I'd really lived it. I can speak Spanish now because he did. I can play the guitar, the violin, and the piano because he could. He studied law extensively and was a very successful lawyer, so I have all this knowledge of the law. But I'm still me. This is still my life and you all are the people I love. Nothing will change that…ever."

"Okay," said Isabel, "okay, that's good…So, how does that explain my dress? Why would that come through? I mean, it's not like I'm going to wear that again."

"Would you have believed what happened if it hadn't?" Max asked his sister as he got up to make some tea.

Isabel thought about that for a minute. "No, I don't think I would have. I would have chalked it up as a nightmare and gone about my day hoping to forget about it."

Max brought her back a cup of tea with Tabasco sauce mixed in. "What is this? You know I don't drink tea," she told him.

"Trust me. You used to drink this all the time in the other timeline," he informed her.

She looked at him funny when she took the teacup from his hands and then promptly drank down the whole thing. "Wow, that is good. Who would have thought?" she said.

"Alex…he spent a lot time in the other timeline trying to create recipes you would like."

Max felt Liz begin to stir as she woke up. 'Good morning, sweetheart…want to join us?' he telepathed to her.

'Yah…I mean no. I would like to but I think I'll just stay here. I don't want to wake up Justin.'

'You sure? Because we have some really good tea over here.'

'Yah, right Max. I know what you made for Isabel and I'm telling you right now that you're never going to get that stuff down me.' Max laughed at her reply.

"What, Max?" asked Isabel who hadn't been privy to their mental conversation. "What are you laughing about?"

"Oh, Liz…she and I have this connection now and we can hear one another telepathically," he tried to explain. "So, anyway, she says she doesn't want any of this great tea. I just don't understand it. Do you?" he asked innocently.

"I can't imagine why that would be. You sure about that, Liz?" she called out quietly.

"Funny, Isabel…very funny," Liz whispered back.

Isabel turned back to her brother. "So, what are you guys gonna do about the parents. I mean, Mom and Dad are gonna freak."

"Actually, Mom and Dad took it pretty well. I have to admit that was a surprise…but Liz's parents didn't take it so well."

"So, what are you planning to do about them?"

"Do?" asked Max. "Nothing. We're not going to do anything. We eloped in the last timeline and her parents freaked out then too, but they got over it once they saw how happy we were. They'll be fine given time."

"I hope so because the last thing we need right now is any more attention drawn to any of us," said Isabel. "Which reminds me, what are you going to do about Dad anyway? We have to get our things back from him and he's gonna want an explanation about them. Are you planning on telling him what Danny suggested?"

Max shook his head. "I appreciate his suggestion but I'll have to figure out what to say on my own. The keepsake he gave me has given me a couple of good ideas though, so maybe this afternoon I'll go talk to him and retrieve our things. And in the meantime, I have a job for you to do."

"You have a job for me?" she asked.

"Yes, I want you to keep dreamwalking Dad every night on your own."

"What? Like hell I will. There is no way I'm going back into his dreams after what happened last night," she cried in exasperation. What was Max thinking anyway?

"No, listen. We only experienced the dream that way because Liz had locked it down and Dad was forced to relive his nightmare until we could find out what was going on. Liz can't dreamwalk the way you do. So, I need you to go into his dreams each night and subtly influence them."

"How?"

"Show him who we really are in the dreams - how we arrived on this planet, our powers, the things we've been through, anything you think would be helpful to ease him into the truth about us. Maybe someday he will be ready for us to tell him the truth, but in the meantime we can use these dreams to…you know, psychologically prepare him. I know you have the power to do that and I really need your help."

Max really was asking her for her help. Now that was a first. Usually he took everything onto himself. He had changed more than he realized when he took on Future Max's memories. "Alright, Max. If that's what you want then I'll do it."

"Great," he said thankfully, "we really appreciate your help."


TBC
posted on 10-Mar-2002 6:13:59 PM
PART TWENTY-FOUR


Michael was trying to eat lunch without looking at Maria. She was eating a pickle, cream cheese, and peanut butter sandwich and he was sure he would be sick himself if he saw her take another bite. Her weird food cravings were just getting too out of hand. At least she wasn't insisting he eat them with her…yet…but he had a horrible feeling that wasn't too far away.

"So," she said between mouthfuls, "did you hear the latest about Max and Liz?" She was still thinking about the phone call she'd received an hour before.

"No, what did our fearless leader do now?" Michael figured, with the way Liz had left the group meeting in tears, that Max had done something stupid like try to follow her and upset her and her parents or something. The guy just had no sense when it came to Liz.

"They got married yesterday…Justice of the Peace. Can you believe it?" she asked rolling her eyes. She was still peeved she wasn't invited to the impromptu event.

That was the last thing he expected to hear. Michael slammed his burrito down on the table. "They what?" Would Max really be that stupid?

"See," Maria replied gesturing in the air, "I knew you'd agree with me. I mean, if anyone has a reason to be married it's us! We're the ones expecting a baby. And - oh my gosh! - Liz and I promised each other in like, fourth grade that we would be each other's bridesmaids and she totally skipped out on me! Is this, like, the most unbelievable thing you've ever heard of? And they're going to be the only married people in high school. It's gonna be a total scene."

"This is freakin' unbelievable!" he exclaimed. "Do you realize the attention this is gonna put on us?" This was the last thing they all needed right now, what with Philip's investigation coming ever closer to home.

"Hey! Don't yell at me. Save it for the 'fearless leader'." She gazed at him grumpily out of the corner of her eye and then went back to eating her sandwich. 'Michael is just way too paranoid,' she thought to herself. She could just feel the frustration and anger rolling right off him. Max might be impetuous when it came to Liz but it wasn't like he was endangering him. Maria thought Michael really needed to get a grip.

It was at this point that a strange realization came to Maria. She could 'feel' Michael, really feel him. She grabbed his arm. "Michael," she said startling him, "I can feel you…like, like you're angry…really angry."

"Of course I'm angry," he replied in exasperation. "His dad is gonna really freak now. It's going to make him try that much harder to find out the truth…" He pushed the hair out of his face with his hand and took a deep, calming breath. "You know what? It's gonna be okay. I'll just go talk to him and we'll work out a plan."

"Michael, did you not hear what I said?" Maria asked. "Could you just focus here for a minute? I can 'feel' you - like all the emotions in you. Liz must have done more than she thought she did when she changed me. She must have changed me like Max changed her."

Michael stared at Maria for a couple minutes as he tried to process what she had said. Then, as he realized all the possibilities this new turn of events might entail, a dopey grin spread across his face.

"Michael, what?"

"Race you to the Eraser Room," he said.


************************************
"Justin," Liz squealed holding out her hands, "come're baby." Justin was all the way across the room on his blanket quietly entertaining himself with his toes, but when he heard Liz's voice he went crawling right to her. He gave her a big toothless grin as she scooped him up in her arms and spun him in circles. "Oh, you're just the best baby in the whole world," she told him.

Justin loved the attention he was getting and he especially loved his Liz. He stuck his fat little fist in his mouth to suck on while gazing up adoringly at her eyes. He could feel her love through their connection and simply thrived on it.

"Oh, Max, I so do not want to take him back today. This is gonna be so hard," she said to Max.

"I know. I know. I hate this myself," he told her. Max was sitting on the couch watching the two people he loved most in this life. It was killing him inside to have to take Justin back to the reservation but until Justin could learn to control his powers this was how it was going to have to be. They were fortunate Justin had fallen asleep last night when he did, otherwise Max's dad might had seen an eyeful. At least they could spend the rest of the day with him - that is, after Max had gone to talk with his dad.


************************************
"He just received all your attendance records for the past two years yesterday. He knows every time you've ever been absent," Jesse informed Max.

"Really," mused Max nodding, "well, you have to give him credit for being thorough." He wasn't too worried about that. Details didn't add up to much when they couldn't be seen with the whole picture…besides, he had a plan.

"Wait, there's more," Jesse said.

"More?"

"Yah, he's been talking to Michael's social worker. I don't know how he did it. I mean, foster kid's records are supposed to be sealed, but she's given him all kinds of information…including reports that say Michael is psychic or something like that." He waited for Max's reaction but didn't see one. He wondered if Max understood how close Philip was to discovering the truth and exposing them all. "I've been trying to cover for you guys but he's still finding things out. I don't know how much longer it will be before he starts putting two and two together…or before he asks the wrong person the wrong question and puts you guys under the FBI spotlight again or worse."

"He's already putting two and two together. He's just adding them up the wrong way," Max explained. "He's thinking we have some sort of Mafia connection or something."

"We have to stop this."

"Yes, we have to stop this," Max agreed.

"So, what are we going to do?"

Max and Jesse were standing in front of the bulletin board examining its contents together. Max was calm and relaxed. With the memories of his future self still burning strong within him, he had an idea of what might work to halt the investigation - something that had prevented his dad from ever suspecting in the other timeline. Jesse, however, was a bundle of nerves. His experience had taught him that exposure of these kinds of secrets got people killed. But Max only shrugged and proclaimed, "Do? I'm going to derail his whole investigation…lead it down a new path. And, if we're lucky, we might get some new answers along the way."

"And how do you plan on doing that?" he asked in amazement. Max must really have something good up his sleeve if he was that confident.

"I'm going to tell him the truth."

"You're kidding me."

Max laughed and clapped him on the shoulder. "Not in the least. And what's more…you're going to help tell it with me."


**********************************
When Philip walked into the office after the court case he was surprised to see Max and Jesse talking and laughing together. He didn't realize they had become so close, but he supposed it was only reasonable that they eventually would.

"Hey Dad," Isabel said coming up behind him and scaring him half to death.

"Hey Sweetheart," he replied giving her a hug. "What are you doing here? Is this a family reunion?"

She flashed her famous Isabel smile at him. "No, nothing like that. We have a favor to ask you…something we thought you could help us with."

"Well sure, why don't we sit down and you can tell me what you want." In the back of his mind he was hoping this wasn't going to be some sort of ploy for Max, who now had a wife and child to think about, to ask for a loan. The last thing he wanted to do was to give his irresponsible son money.

"Okay," Isabel replied. The smile on her face was really a cover-up for the way her heart pounded anxiously in her chest. She hoped beyond hope her dad would fall for their story. After witnessing his dream last night she knew he was not ready for the real truth and that his continued investigation would only endanger all their lives, including her mother's now that she knew about them.

The two of them joined Max and Jesse around Jesse's desk. "So, what's up you guys?" he asked.

Isabel sat down next to her husband. "We wanted to talk to you about your investigation. We want to answer some of your questions if you'll help us answer some of ours." She could see the way her open declaration startled him.

'So, that's what they wanted,' Philip thought to himself. "Fair enough. Go ahead."

Max began the story - a version of the truth they had carefully calculated would sidetrack his investigation and yet still provide answers - things that he had known and accepted in the other timeline. "I'm not sure how much you've discovered about us - Isabel and I and Michael and Tess - but the four of us have some very unusual things in common. Some of the things we don't have explanations for, some we do. It's the ones we don't have explanations for that we need your help with."

"Such as what?" Philip asked. The conversation had already taken a turn from what he was expecting. He couldn't wait to hear more.

"Such as: did you know that all FOUR of them were found naked in the desert a mere few days apart?" Jesse asked.

"I knew about Michael, but Tess?" Philip asked. He had just found out about Michael from the social worker, but he hadn't known about Tess. Now that was interesting. He knew that had to be more than coincidence.

Isabel nodded. "Max and I knew when we met Michael in grade school that he was like us. There was just this connection, like we remembered each other or something. It was the same when we met Tess. There was something about her that was so familiar."

"What was familiar?"

"We're not really sure how to explain it, Dad," Max explained. "It's just like we knew her or something. And when we started asking her questions we found out things that connected her back to us."

"We had already started searching for answers to our past. We didn't want to upset you and Mom, but we needed to know, and Tess had answers to our questions," Isabel said. "Questions such as: who are we?"

"Where are we from?" Max continued.

"Why can none of us remember anything before age six?" Isabel asked.

"We started finding clues on our own. Some were easy. Some were close to home. Some took us across state lines." Max watched his dad's face carefully for a reaction but he was unreadable. He knew his dad had discovered about their trips to New York, Texas, and Arizona.

"Why? What did you find?" asked Philip. They must have concocted some story if they were ganging up on him like this but at least he would play along and enjoy the ride. Besides, he figured he might find some answers in their story somewhere.

"We're clones, Dad," Isabel replied with a half laugh. "It's unbelievable, but it's true."

That bought a reaction forth. "Clones?" he asked with disbelief clearly written across his face.

Max and Isabel met one another's eyes. "Show him, Max."

Max his dad two photographs - one of Ava and Zan and another of Rath and Lonnie. "These are our duplicates. The one that looks like me is named Zan. He was killed in a car accident last year. The one that looks like Tess is named Ava. She came here to Roswell to meet us. These other two are Rath and Lonnie," he said pointing to each one individually. "Tess and I went to New York to visit their 'crib' and to find out more about ourselves."

"According to Rath and Lonnie, the New York set was cloned first. Then Tess, Michael, Isabel, and I were cloned next."

"And I suppose you have proof of this," Philip said. He remembered 'Lonnie'. Isabel had dressed up for that part in the getto version of "Romeo and Juliet". She had the weird New York slang down perfect. Although, come to think of it he had never actually seen her act the part in the school play.

"Actually, yes," said Jesse. He handed another picture to his father-in-law. "This is Charles DuPree of Tucson Arizona, Michael and Rath's genetic donor. He died in 1995 leaving Laurie DuPree, his granddaughter, heir of his estate. According to what he told Laurie, he had been abducted numerous times. For years he wouldn't talk to anyone about these 'abductions' but as he got older he started to speak about it more and more. His family used it to institutionalize him and take over his estate." He placed a manila folder in front of Philip and then continued. "These are some of the documents we able to find on him - news paper articles indicating different times he was declared a missing person, medical reports, things like that…The oddest finding about him was all these strange internal scars made by surgeries he'd reportedly never undergone."

"You're kidding me," said Philip. This was, by far, the most bizarre story he'd ever heard. He opened the folder and briefly leafed through its contents. If this was a concocted story the kids were trying to sell to him, they'd gone to an awful lot of work digging up verifiable sources like these.

"Yah, we wish we were," said Isabel.

"So, this Laurie DuPree," began Philip, "isn't she the one you and Max were helping the Sheriff to locate…the case that caused him to get fired?"

Max nodded. "The Sheriff has been helping us for a long time. Because of the nature of our background and the kind of questions we've had to ask to find answers, we've unintentionally put our lives in jeopardy many times. There are people out there who would rather the eight of us not even be alive. They believe our very existence is a threat to them. I'm sure you've read about the controversy of cloning humans. Well, imagine how these same people would feel if they found out it's already been done. The Sheriff has not only helped us in our investigation, he's helped to protect us as well."

"You should have come to your mother and I about this from the beginning," Philip told his kids. He still wasn't sure if he should buy their story but he felt he should play along and keep them talking. As any good lawyer knows the longer any person keeps talking and expanding on their story the more obvious the holes in their fabrication become; besides which, he should be able to verify anything they said.

Isabel shook her head. "Up until now it's just been too dangerous. We didn't want to bring you and Mom into this."

"So, what's changed?" he asked. "What makes you decide to tell me now?"

Max looked up to meet his father's eyes. "We found Zan's and my donor." He waited to see if his dad had any mental inclination as to where the conversation was next to lead. He knew from visiting his dream the night before that his dad's subconscious, at the very least, knew who he was.

Philip was startled. It suddenly occurred to him that if any of this was true there could be only one person who might be Max's genetic donor. He wondered if Max could have found out about Danny and if he had from whom, because he knew he had never uttered the man's name since he died in his arms in Vietnam. "Who, Max?" he asked.

Max bent down and picked up a simple wood box. He opened it and then set it on Jesse's desk and slid it toward his dad, waiting for his reaction. "Do you recognize this?" he asked.

As Philip gazed into the box he felt the hair on the back of his neck prickle. He never thought he'd see that again. "It's Danny's pipe," he whispered almost reverently. "It's been in the O'Keefe family for generations. No one knows how the family came into possession of it but it's supposed to protect the one who smokes it from the Cluricaunes - the little people. Supposedly, they don't like smoke and it drives them away." He picked up the ancient, beautifully engraved pipe. The markings on it were distinct, including the family emblem. There was no doubt it had at one time belonged to Danny.

"Dad?" Max asked trying to break him away from his memories. "Why didn't you tell me about him?" Philip had talked about him to the Max of the other timeline but lacking that close relationship in this timeline, the subject had never come up. He needed to get his dad talking, focused on a new subject of investigation. He only hoped this would work.

Philip exhaled and gently placed the pipe back in the wooden box. "I've never been able to get over how much you look like him," he said softly, "It's almost like you're his son or his twin or something. You don't just look like him. You walk like him. Your mannerisms are the same. Even your personalities are alike. I always knew what to get you for Christmas and birthdays because I knew you'd like whatever he liked. But I could never figure it out. He died so long ago, that I could never figure out how the two of you could really be connected. I thought the similarities were just my imagination. He was my best friend, you know…and he died in my arms and…I've never stopped missing him or wishing he were here with me. So, I kept telling myself it was just a coincidence that the two of you looked so much alike…" Philip stopped and took a shaky breath.

"It's not a coincidence, Dad," Max said gently. "According to what we found, Danny was abducted almost as many times as Charles DuPree. The only difference was he didn't talk about it because he knew people would think he was crazy. He wrote about it instead." He pushed what appeared to be an old photo album toward his dad.

Philip hadn't seen this since he was a teen. It was Danny's personal keepsake album filled with newspaper clippings, photographs, and awards ribbons. He leafed through the worn black pages with the white faded lettering. "Max where did you get these things?"

Isabel answered for him. "We've made a lot of contacts in the past two years, mostly through Tess…people who had answers."

"The problem is that most of the people are scared to give up what they know for fear of exposing themselves. It's hard to get them to divulge information and even harder to verify what they say," Max continued. "This album is some of the best evidence we've discovered to date."

Jesse picked up the story. "Danny documented every time he was abducted and what he remembers happening during those times. Some of it, of course, seems a little far fetched," he said with a shrug trying to appear as if he didn't believe it himself, "but that was probably due to the drugs they gave him so that they could perform the genetic experiments on him." He pulled a picture away from the album page and handed it to his father-in-law.

Philip shrugged. "It's a picture of Danny and me. What about it?"

"Turn it over."

"Saints preserve us," he mumbled under his breath when he saw what was written.



TBC
posted on 14-Mar-2002 12:52:59 AM
PART TWENTY-FIVE


Liz and Diane had taken Justin to the park to feed the ducks and geese while Max went to the office. Justin squealed with delight at first sight of the large birds. Liz, who could pick up stray thoughts through her connection with him, could tell that there was something about the way the birds walked that he found delightfully amusing. He just laughed and laughed at them.

Diane took charge of Justin most of the time. She was completely smitten with the baby and had every intention of spoiling the poor darling rotten. She cradled him in her arms while showing him how to throw bread to the birds.

When they finally ran out of bread and the birds started to move away, Justin was so disappointed that he stuck out his bottom lip and started to sniffle. "Oh, poor baby," Diane said patting his little back. "Did your birdies go away? There, there Sweetie. Grandma's here." She tried to rock him but the determined little child kept on pushing her away. She finally set him down on the ground to see what he would do.

Justin pulled himself into a sitting position and held out his little hand to the birds. He was opening and closing it like little babies do when they want something badly. When that didn't work, he held out his arm even further and opening his hand he willed the closest goose to come to him.

"Oh my gosh," gasped Diane putting her hand over her heart "His hand's glowing. What's he doing? Is anyone around that will see?"

"Relax Mom," Liz replied, "there's no one here right now. Everyone's at work or school. It should be okay."

"Okay. Okay. It's okay," said Diane sounding very much like Isabel. She was willing herself to calm down. This was the first time she'd seen anyone use their power and she wasn't sure what was happening.

"He's just…I feel him like, pulling the bird to himself. I think he's trying to connect with it," Liz explained.

"Can he do that?" asked Diane.

Liz only shrugged. None of them had ever tried their power on an animal before but that didn't mean it couldn't happen.

Liz could feel the instant a connection was opened with the bird as strange foreign thoughts spun uneasily around her mind. It gave her a dizzying sensation and bent forward to rest her head in her hand to try to steady herself.

"Are you okay?" asked Diane.

Liz moaned softly. "Yah, just give me a minute. Justin connected with the animal but it's just…oh, he's trying to filter their thoughts but I don't know if he's strong enough. I'm going to try to help him."

Liz pushed their connection open wider so she could assist him. She thought she could understand what he was doing - viewing the bird's thoughts and memories and then looping them back toward the bird in a continuous cycle. She added her strength to his and locked the cycle into place. 'What are you trying to do, baby?' she telepathed to him. He started flashing image after image to Liz of the bird walking over to him.

All of a sudden Diane gasped. "Lizzy, he's doing it!"

Liz started to laugh. "Yah, he is. Oh, I wish Max were here to see this!"
A huge blue-eyed goose actually meandered toward the baby. When it got close enough it tucked its feet under itself and lay down calmly. Justin crawled over and delightedly stroked the bird's back and then examined the wings, head, neck, and tail of the creature, and the bird let him do it all.

Diane was wide-eyed in amazement. "Have you ever seen anything like this before?" she asked.

"Never," breathed Liz. "None of them can do anything like this."

It was at this point that Liz felt the connection she shared with Justin expand yet again to include another. Both she and Justin turned as an image of Milton Ross came into view. She watched as he knelt down next to Justin and tenderly touched the boy's cheek. 'Hello, young prince,' he telepathed softly. 'That's quite a gift you have there.' The connection dimmed slightly as Justin focused on Milton and projected rushes of images toward him for a few minutes. Then, tiring of that, he turned his attention back to examining the bird and Liz was able to feel the connection open back up again.

'I didn't expect to see you today. Is anything wrong?' she telepathed to him. (Diane was oblivious to the presence of Milton or of the conversation ensuing before her - she only watched in fascination as her grandson gentled the wild creature before her.) Liz couldn't think why Milton would appear to her since he had said he wouldn't arrive for a week.

'Wrong? No. No my Dear. I just wanted to let you know that I'm on my way.'

Liz breathed a sigh of relief. 'Good. You almost had me worried.'

'My Dear, you must let your mind rest at ease. The granilith is more than pleased with you. You have nothing to fear.'

'It's not the granilith's approval that has me worried Mr. Ross.'

'Got the weight of the world on your shoulders, hmm?'

'Oh, not really…' She rubbed her eyes. 'I've got the weight of two worlds on my shoulders, two irate parents to deal with, a small child to worry over, and a reputation as a normal high school student to maintain…and now I can add being a wife to that.' Liz sent a laugh through their connection. 'I was just hoping you weren't going to add anything else to that because then it really might have been too much.'

Milton chuckled. 'You sure? Because I'm certain I could think of any number of…'

'That will be quite alright,' Liz interrupted with laughter. 'So, you're on your way? Is there anything you need for us to do before you arrive?'

'No. No dear. But I would like it very much if you would start working on building and refining your power with me. Can you meet me each night…say around ten-ish…in the vision plane?'

'Um, sure. I think I can manage that…but, you should know that my life is really busy right now with work and school and everything that's been going on, so I can't make it every night…'

'Lizzy, you worry entirely too much. Try to relax. Just come when you can.'

'Good,' Liz telepathed to him. 'Now, answer a question for me. Who are you that you can help me to refine my power? You're obviously more than just an obsessed UFOlogist.'

Milton smiled at Liz. 'I'll tell you what. You join me in the vision plane tonight and I'll answer any questions you want.'

'Okay,' Liz nodded. 'But what about the others? Will you train them too?'

'Eventually…if they want training,' he told her, 'but it's you the granilith is most interested in.'

'Why?' But Liz could see he was beginning to fade from their connection. She wondered if he did that on purpose so he wouldn't have to answer her questions.

'Just come tonight and I'll explain everything,' he telepathed to her before he disappeared. She felt the connection slam shut, leaving her alone with Justin who was still taming the wild bird and communicating with it in some fashion Liz had yet to understand.


*****************************
Philip Evans couldn't get over what he was seeing. It was the code he and Danny had invented when they were boys so they could pass notes to each other in school without anyone understanding enough to read them. It had evolved over the years to become quite a complicated piece of work, with some symbols representing letters and some symbols representing whole words or parts of words. Put all together it would be quite hard for the average person to decipher. And yet, here was their very code written on the back of the picture detailing exactly what Jesse, Max, and Isabel had said. He pulled more photos out of the album and, turning them over, discovered the same thing. Danny, who had never been willing to openly discuss his numerous disappearances, had left a written message for Philip detailing every one.

There had always been a quiet vulnerability about Danny that had made Philip want to protect him, stand up for him, and fight his battles for him. When he started disappearing as a teenager Philip didn't know what to do. It was obvious that his best friend was in trouble, but he couldn't find out what it was and since Danny wouldn't talk about it there was nothing to be done. But the last straw was in Vietnam the night Danny died. It was at that point that Philip truly felt as if he had failed Danny because he hadn't been able to bring him back safe to his family like he had promised.

And now here was a gift of Danny's own words - a private message just for him - explaining everything. Philip placed every photo on the desk before him, arranged by date, so that he could read the whole story. In it Danny described how 'the wee white folk with the large black eyes' had taken him again and again, infused in him what Danny guessed must be a drug, and performed strange surgical procedures on him. Each time he was left with the feeling that he had been an enormous help to the strange people, although his memory was fragmented and missing large portions of time. He knew it should frighten him, but instead he felt an odd sort of peace and the overwhelming need to protect them. So, why had he written all this down? On the back of the last photograph he explained: "I owe it to you of all people Philip Evans - the truth, that is. Even though you never understood anything, you never abandoned me or made me feel any less of a man for keeping secrets. I know my life will be cut short and that I'll never be given the chance to explain while I yet live. But for your faith in me, I leave you this. Thank you for everything Philip. I hope you know what your friendship has always meant to me. Your friend always, Danny."

Max, Isabel, and Jesse waited patiently for him to finish reading. When at last he seemed to be done Max said, "We had hoped to avoid bringing you into all of this Dad. We didn't want to put your life in any sort of danger and we didn't want to cause you any pain, but the things we have learned give us no choice. You have answers that we need. You knew my 'father'. You might even be able to help us find Isabel and Tess's donor."

Philip glanced up briefly, pain written across his face. "Dad," Isabel said, "are you disappointed in us…for who we are?" She needed to feel him out. She needed to know if he could accept even this little bit about them.

Philip took a moment to answer. "No, not disappointed in you…just disappointed in me." He shook his head and got up. "Excuse me. I think I need to take a walk, get some fresh air." Three pairs of eyes watched him walk away.


TBC
posted on 31-Mar-2002 3:58:27 PM
Note: Please keep in mind that this is a PG/PG13 fiction. I know I've got at least one fourteen-year old reading this so I can't get too graphic! But we do need some good Max and Liz scenes, right? Okay, just so you know…

PART TWENTY-SIX


At last they were alone. Justin was with River Dog and Diane had closed the store and gone home, and Max had Liz to himself for the rest of the night. He leaned back against his pillows as he watched Liz - his wife - get ready for bed. She was standing across the room in her undergarments searching for something to wear. His stomach was in knots at the very sight of her, so beautiful was she. He saw her pull out a pair of sweats and a thin T-shirt and put them on and then walked on toward the bathroom to brush her teeth, her dark hair swaying gently behind her as she moved.

It was still hard to fathom that this perfect woman had agreed to marry him, thereby accepting his alien heritage and destiny, his child by another woman, the strange role she was slowly but surely assuming, and the dangers that all this involved. He never really thought she'd do it. There were so many times when she could have walked away - for good - but she hadn't. She had supported him (all of them really) even when none had realized it at the time. Even when decisions caused her hurt or regret she never looked back, instead forging ahead to carry out what needed to be done simply because it was the right thing to do. But he didn't want tonight to be one of those nights.

'Lizzy, how much do you remember from Machu Picchu?' he asked her telepathically. Once she had awoken from the vision she had focused her attention immediately on his wedding ring but had seemed shy to talk about what had occurred between them. Did she remember but was embarrassed about it or was she not completely aware of what had happened between them?

'What do you mean, Max?' she hedged responding in kind.

Max could feel her discomfort at his question so he knew she must understand what he was getting at. He would have to be more specific. "Do you remember sleeping with me in Nasedo's cave?" he asked gently.

'Wouldn't you like to know,' she replied coyly. He knew she was smiling at him - he could feel it through their connection even though he couldn't see it - but she was going to make him work for an answer.

'Yes, I would. So, how about you tell me what you remember.'

He felt her embarrassment when she realized she would have to explain. 'It's just that…I remember what…what we did during the vision, but I can't remember how it transpired over to the waking world - just bits and pieces, parts that slipped through our connection into Machu Picchu. And it's just…embarrassing to have holes in my memory,' she said finally. Now Max understood. They had consummated their bond during the vision in Machu Picchu but under such unusual circumstances that their physical bodies had actually responded in the waking world as well, and it was this physical response that she couldn't fully remember. No wonder she felt apprehensive.

Max pushed aside the covers and moved away from the bed. He knew he probably remembered more than she did because he had been pulled from the vision before she had. The metallic walls in the grotto had been pulsating with a silver light as their souls entwined around one another. Their passion and desire increased with every kiss and every caress, and then (before he had even realized it had occurred) Max found himself back in the waking world in the arms of his soulmate. Liz had however continued within the vision but her body was responding to his and he had needed her so badly. Still, he had paused for a while to explore their connection to see if she understood and, amazingly, found that she desired him as much as he desired her.

He began to cross the room toward her. 'What specifically do you remember?' he asked, still conversing with her telepathically.

Liz met him just outside the bathroom door. His brown eyes studied her with intensity as he waited for an answer. She bit her bottom lip as she met his gaze. Just having him this close was intoxicating. She wished she could remember every bit of it all but she just didn't. Now it was Max's turn to know things about her that she didn't know, and such intimate things they were too. His scent washed over her as she answered, "I remember being with you, wanting you, and we were in each other's arms, kissing. I remember how our connection opened up…and the flashes…" Her lips were dry and she ran her tongue over them uneasily. "The connection - it was so intense. It was like we were flying…and then our souls wrapped themselves together. And I remember…being…with you and then waking up in your arms but I…I just don't remember all of it."

Max took her small hands in his and slowly, silently led her across the room, never taking his eyes from hers. He stopped when they reached the bed and standing there, softly caressed her face. She hadn't given him as detailed of an explanation that he would have liked so he was left to wonder how she felt about being intimate with him. "We don't have to do anything you don't want to do," he whispered to her gently.

Even though his desire for her still burned within him Liz could feel the sincerity in every word he said. If she wanted it, he would sleep with her without ever touching her or expecting anything. He was a gentleman through and through. She shook her head slightly. "That's not what I meant, Max," she said quietly letting her own desire drift through their connection.

A smile lit across his face a Max heard her words. She wanted him. He kissed her forehead and said, "Stay here." Then he moved through the room dimming the lights and lighting her candles. He waved his hand passed the CD player and a soft tune began to play. Max turned back to Liz and held out his hand. She accepted and they moved together to the rhythm of the music. Max could feel Liz relaxing within the circle of his strong arms, could feel her warm breath on his chest as she pressed closer to him. His heart beat wildly at her touch. He was intoxicated by her very presence and again he was struck by the realization that she was really his - his forever. His Liz.

But it would never be enough; he needed so much more. His hands moved down to her waist and under the thin fabric of her shirt, his thumbs stroking the silky softness of her skin before pulling her even closer to his firm body. Then he took possession of her delicate pink lips, partaking possessively of the sweetness of them and knowing that he was truly in heaven.

Liz was simply overwhelmed by his need as well as hers. When had this all happened? When had she ever been so willing to give herself over to a man? When had her heart ever belonged so completely to anyone? Her pulse began to beat faster as she felt herself respond to his passions and she longed to open their connection all the way to fully feel all that was in his heart.

Max sensed her awakening desire and began to stroke their connection open, all the while exploring more and more of her small body with his hands. "I love you so much," he whispered in her ear all the while nuzzling her neck and placing kisses upon it.

Slowly he lowered himself to the bed and brought Liz to rest on top of him. He rolled with her to the side and cradled her within his strong arms, entwining his legs within hers. Tonight was going to be a night she would remember forever. He would make sure of that.


********************************
"Find me," Liz heard the voice command. She was half-asleep and so wasn't really sure if she had imagined it or not. Warm in her sleeping husband's embrace she wasn't inclined to find out either. She wanted nothing more than to drift off to slumber in his strong arms. But the voice sounded again, "Lesson one: find me." This time it was clearer and more demanding.

Liz gasped and sat bolt up right. "The vision plane," she whispered to herself. "I almost forgot." Max certainly was a distraction.

'I'm coming, Mr. Ross,' she telepathed to the empty room. She didn't know if he received her message, but his insistent demand subsided and she felt a calm descend over her. She reached for her necklace - the only thing she was still wearing - and unclasped it. Holding it in her hands she closed her eyes and tried to relax.

As Liz began to transcend the physical world the Cylic crystals took on an unearthly glow, casting strange shadows through the room. The flickering light awoke Max. He opened his eyes to see Liz entering into a trance, her breathing slow and rhythmic, and her eyes vacantly staring ahead. He could feel her pooling her energy - see it, really, as it began to physically manifest itself in ribbons of silver sliding over her skin - and he wondered at her yet again. He sat up in bed to watch over her should anything go wrong. He would wait as long as needed.

Liz entered a place of blackness, similar to her first vision. She knew her first goal was to find the man who would teach her to use her new power more efficiently. Probably this was her first lesson, that is locating another person. She did it when she was connected to Max. Could she do it alone?

Liz reached for her energy source within, building it into a burning fire and stroking it ever higher. She could feel Milton Ross but he seemed so far that she wasn't able to distinguish where he was. She would need a massive amount of energy if she were to find him. She could almost feel the heat of it coursing through her body. Still she built it until it became nearly impossible to maintain.

At last she released it, using the force of the release to thrust herself toward Milton. She felt herself hurled, not over the surface of the earth but through space itself. Stars flew past. Still she found herself flying through space. So, Milton wasn't on Earth. Liz hadn't expected that.

Beside her stilled form in bed, Max continued to watch over his beloved Liz as she trained in the vision plane. The silver ribbons had coursed over her skin faster and faster until she seemed to actually glow silver. (She had looked more alien than he was.) Then a great burst of light emanated from her body, searing his skin and blinding his eyes, and then disappeared all together. She sat there, still and pale, but human again. But Max couldn't feel her. It was as if, wherever she'd gone to was so far away that their connection no longer mattered.

"Where are we?" asked Liz of Milton Ross. The were standing side by side on a large grassy valley stretching out for miles and surrounded by blue mountains. The sky appeared pink and yellow as the planet's 'sun' arose to wake the morning. A warm breeze blew their robes around their ankles.

"Ah, that's what I like about you, Liz," replied Milton with a laugh. "Nothing strange seems to faze you. You take it all in stride."

Liz looked sideways at him. He seemed thinner here and his eyes had lost their color becoming only black. "Do I have a choice?" she asked.

"I suppose not."

"So, where are we?" she asked again.

A voice from behind answered. "We're on my home planet Zapoteca and I am Emperor Hanar. I wish to welcome you Empress Elizabeth. We have waited a long time for the granilith to chose a new ruler for Antar."

Liz turned in surprise. Before her stood a very stately Emperor, robed in red and purple with gold embroidery. He appeared human, although thin like Milton and with the same black eyes. "Thank you, Emperor," she replied, trying to keep her fear at being before true royalty from showing. Was this a lesson or a test? Or perhaps the granilith really did want her to begin representing it. Whatever the case she knew she would not fail this. "Where exactly on Zapoteca are we?"

"We are on some of my personal private property outside of Capital City. It's lovely isn't it?" replied the Emperor with pride. He gestured widely with his arms as if to encompass all that was his.

Liz smiled at him. "Yes, it is. I don't think I've ever seen anything quite as breathtaking." For as far as her eyes could see that world seemed untouched and unspoiled by 'human' hand. The lush green grass waved blithely in the morning breeze. A rainbow of colors splashed across the sky from the sunrise. Flocks of birds flew overhead.

Her comment obviously pleased him. "I knew you would appreciate true beauty. Kivar hates this place - refused to ever come back here, in fact. He even tried to bomb it in our last war. It was fortunate we had just strengthened our planet's shields. But I see that you are different. Come, I will show you something."

They walked away until they came to a little knoll in the ground where they kneeled down quietly. There was a hole in the side and the Emperor reached inside to pull out a squirming bundle of gray fur. He placed the little creature in Liz's arms and watched her face.

Liz was awestruck by the darling creature. It was a small and soft, with bright blue eyes and small round ears on either side of its head. It reminded her of a koala bear except for its size. "What…what is it?" she asked softly.

"Do you like it?" asked the Emperor.

"It's so cute," she answered.

"It's a sisper," he explained, "our national animal. We put pictures of it on our flags and royal seals to represent our planet Zapoteca. Very few people can actually touch one. They are rarer than your gold and fiercely protective of their territory. It is rare indeed for one to allow a person to come this close to its nest, let alone hold it. Anyone who can do what you are doing is considered blessed by the gods. It is said that they will be a great leader among their people." He waited for her reaction.

She met his eyes in wonder, trying to discern what the man behind them was thinking. What could he know about her except that the granilith elected her to be queen of a war torn planet and that a wild creature had allowed her to hold it? It seemed that he placed as much faith in her that Future Max and the granilith had and all in so little time. "Thank you…for this. I don't know what to say - it seems such a great honor you have given me by bringing me here. Thank you." She turned back to the sisper, which was contentedly resting in her lap and purring.

Milton Ross positively gloated at the emperor. Hanar had been leery when the granilith chose a young human female to retake Antar in its behalf. True, humans were descendants of immigrants from their sector of the galaxy - many of them Zapotecs - but they had evolved so very differently. It was one thing for the hybrid of Zan to retake his throne - he had supported this himself - but what would a full-blood human understand of their 'alien' ways. He had refused to support this new turn of events until he had seen the human for himself. So, Milton had agreed to bring her here. "Ha!" he shouted triumphantly. "Pay up old friend. I win this time!" He slapped the emperor on the back.

Hanar grudgingly handed Milton a dark leather bag. Milton poured the contents into his palm and examined the Cylic crystals that spilled forth. "Fifty, the agreed upon number…you're going to make ma a rich man, Hanar. Care to make any more bets?"

"Not today you filthy beggar," replied the emperor. "Tell me something. When was it that you became so greedy?"

"Me?" asked Milton innocently, "Why, ever since I realized you always lose your bets." He rolled with laughter as he put the crystals back into his bag.

Liz looked at the two men in outrage. "I can't believe you guys placed bets on me," she said indignantly. The sisper sat up and hissed at Milton and Hanar.

The emperor looked contemplatively at the sisper. "They're empathic, you know. That's why it's so hard to get near them. They don't accept any impure emotions such as haughtiness or jealousy. One must be kind-hearted and noble and self-sacrificing to be accepted by them. The grandfather of this sisper nearly lamed Kivar when he came near its den. He still walks with a limp."

Liz laughed softly. "He probably had that one coming," she replied. She placed the small creature near the opening in the knoll and watched it disappear inside.

"Now, gentlemen, I believe I was promised some answers," she told them. "Or do you have any more tests for me?"

They nodded at one another and Milton answered, "Alright. Ask away."

"Okay," nodded Liz, "who are you really, Mr. Ross? I'm talking species, planet, occupation - I want to know what you are to Max and everybody and how you're connected to the granilith."

"Fair enough," Milton Ross replied. "As you can see, I am a Zapotec like his majesty here. I was born in Capital City but traveled around a lot as a child because my parents owned merchant vessels. I spent most of my childhood in space, though I was allowed on shore leave at every opportunity. One day, when I was sixteen standard years of age we traveled to Antar to bring Zulian cloth to King Zan's father. It was there when I first felt the call of the granilith. It is rare for a Zapotec to be chosen as a spokesman for the granilith, but chose me it did. My parents were beside themselves with joy and willingly allowed me to answer my calling. Unfortunately, in time most of the spokesmen were hunted down and killed. Since then the rest have died of old age. I am the last remaining spokesman for the granilith left alive."

Liz studied him for a moment deep in thought. "Are you River Dog's Nasedo?" She remembered the warning the senior James Valenti had given her - that the shapeshifter had posed some sort of danger to Nasedo causing him to flee, though she hadn't believed that he was killed.

"I am," he replied proudly. It had always amazed him how she was able to fit the pieces together to find the answers. The misfit band of hybrids would never have survived without her.

"So, you knew the shapeshifter was nearby. What was he? A hit man sent by Kivar?"

Milton nodded. "Yes. You see, I was spokesman for the granilith and protector of the royal four. Not only did Kivar not want the royal four to survive; he didn't want it to become known that the granilith had abandoned Antar. I was a loose thread. Cutting me out of the picture would have solved both problems at once. He sent a shapeshifter after me. Shapeshifters are the galaxy's best trackers and the most heartless killers. I would never have survived had I stayed."

"Okay, so you left the cave symbols for us to find in case you were killed and then you fled. The shapeshifter took your place as Nasedo, raising the queen, Tess, as a bargaining tool in his deal with Kivar. You waited until he was gone and then took up residence nearby, hiding in plain sight as the owner of the UFO museum. When Nasedo reappeared, you left Earth entirely. You came to Zapoteca to hide out until it was safe. Have I got it correct so far?"

"Pretty much," he agreed, "except that it was the granilith that directed me and not fear. I cannot interfere with the timeline unless directed to do so by the granilith. Sometimes I am asked to take a direct action and other times I am told to sit back and wait while the timeline follows its natural course. This is why sometimes I stayed nearby to assist you - yes, there have been times when I have helped you kids, although it was very much behind the scenes and in ways you might not have noticed. Now, as for why I came to Zapoteca…the granilith sent me here to prepare the way for you, Elizabeth."

"Why me? I'm nobody. I'm human. The granilith could have chosen anyone to change the timeline for it: you, Isabel, Michael, anyone. Why me?"

"I have often asked myself the same thing? 'Why me?' What is it the granilith sees in us? Some say it is purity of heart. Others believe the granilith chooses whoever will most favorably benefit the timeline. In all honesty, I don't know why the granilith chooses the way it does. All I can say is that it is wiser than we are and it is in our best interests to listen to it."

This made sense to Liz when she thought about it. "So, what does it want from me then? Queen, bride…I can understand some of that if it relates directly back to Max, but it seems like there's a lot more to it. Why am I the one to receive special training? And my power…it IS stronger than theirs. I think Isabel was offended about that the other day, but it's true. Why is this happening to me? Who am I to become?"

"You are to take my place a the head spokesman for the granilith. Never has any member of the royal family been in such a position. The temptation to abuse the power is far too great. But the granilith believes in you. You will be queen of all Antar as well as the head spokesman. You will be used to unite not only the Antarian people, but the populace of the five planets as well. The granilith will lead you to bring peace to all the peoples."

"Wow," whispered Liz. She was overwhelmed by her own future.

"Which is why, my dear, that you must train harder than Max or Isabel or Michael. Your powers are new and need to be learned to be controlled, true, but more than that you need to learn to use them in conjunction with the granilith's direction and that can be much harder. There will be times when you will have to allow the granilith to take control of your power to use it in your behalf. There will be times when the granilith will ask you to take control of its power to perform a specific action. Many times you will use a combination of those powers while forming a connection with the granilith. The latter can be significantly disorientating so you must be in control at all times.

"Emperor Hanar," Milton continued, "will do much of your training in the beginning. The Zapotecs have powers very similar to your own…you know, visions and healing and such things. He will teach you to strengthen the skills you have already manifested as well as teach you new ones. You must also learn from him what it means to be a wise ruler. He has been very good for his people and you will learn much from him."

"And what about you?" asked Liz.

"Me? I will continue your training once Hanar feels you are ready. At that point I will teach you to connect to the granilith, to become one with it, so that you may use one another's powers freely and so that you can learn to speak for it."

"No," replied Liz, "that's not what I meant. You said I am being trained to take your place. I don't understand why. What's going to happen to you?"

He regarded her quietly for a moment. "I'm dying," he said at last. "I'm very old and this body of mine has seen far too many battles. Oh, don't look at me that way. I have many years yet to come - the granilith has slowed down my death considerably - but it doesn't change the facts. I need a replacement and you are the one the granilith wants. Jesse will also become a spokesman, though he will be under you. When the granilith returns to Antar it will also choose some new spokesmen from there also, but you will always remain as head."

Liz merely nodded. "That's kind of a lot to take in."

"I know. It was for me when I was your age, too, but you'll be okay. The granilith never asks you to do anything you can't handle."

"So, what about Max?"

"Max will become a great king," Milton replied. "You will fight at each other's sides to retake the throne. Once you reach Antar, there won't even be much of a battle since most of it will have taken place on earth and the people of Antar are already tired of Kivar. You will practically be welcomed with open arms."

"So, that's it?" asked Liz. Something in the story just wasn't adding up right for her. She wasn't sure what it was but it was wrong, whatever it was.

"That's it," confirmed Milton.

Liz shook her head and said, "No, it can't be. When was the last time you connected to the granilith?"

"Nearly a year ago," Milton replied, "why?"

"Things have changed. Max is destined to be much more than merely a great king. Didn't you know he connected with the granilith?"

That grabbed both men's attention. "Why would he do that?" asked Emperor Hanar. "You are the only one of royal blood who was supposed to form a connection with it and you are to have training to do so. How could the hybrid of Zan make this connection?"

Liz frowned as she addressed the emperor. "His name is Max, Emperor Hanar, and he is the King elect of Antar. He connected with the granilith to save our world."

"So soon? I did not expect this at all. The granilith never told me Kivar was to make a move so early," said Milton. "Tell me how this came to be."

Liz did her best to tell him what happened with the shortest description possible. She was getting tired of retelling the story. "No, I think you've misunderstood me. It was in the future that Kivar ravaged Earth. He killed everyone. So, Max came back in time to one year ago using the granilith. He talked me into helping him change the timeline. When we were successful he disappeared, his timeline being severed, but I captured his essence within my own. Two days ago, with the granilith's help, I transferred this essence to Max. He now has all the memories and abilities that his future self had. I can only assume that includes whatever sort of connection he formed with the granilith to travel back in time…"

"Not necessarily," interrupted Milton, "while it is amazing that he now has his memories and abilities from the future, it seems unlikely that he would retain that connection. He should still be the same person he always was."

"I think you are wrong," Liz told him. "Everything transferred over, including our wedding vows…his memories, his abilities, his knowledge, our vows, even our wedding rings. The granilith seemed to want everything to remain status quo. I cannot imagine that he would have received everything like this and then not receive that connection too. Besides that, I sensed the granilith's presence when we were joined together."

Milton appeared to be quite startled. "This changes everything," he said.

"Indeed it does," agreed Hanar. "He must receive training at once."

"You may be right," he told the emperor. "I must consult immediately with the granilith to see how we should proceed."

Liz just rolled her eyes heavenward. It was going to be very interesting being taught by these two.


******************************
Max had been keeping watch over Liz for nearly 2 ½ hours. In all that time she had hardly moved or breathed, appearing as pale as death itself. Yet, a part of him knew, could sense that something of her still remained. At last a blue light filled the room and seemed to converge on Liz's small form. She made her first movements in hours, rolling her shoulders and taking in a deep breath. The glow vanished from her form and her eyes flashed open.

"Liz?" Max asked hesitantly. He'd been afraid to touch her while she was in the vision but now he reached out a hand to gently grasp her shoulder. "Sweetheart, are you okay?"

"Max!" she cried and lunged herself at him. "I missed you so much! I was so far away that I couldn't feel you anymore." Then her arms were around his neck and she began to kiss him everywhere.

Max wrapped his arms around her and caressed her with his lips. He inhaled the vanilla scent in her hair and felt instantly at home. She was back. "Where were you?" he whispered huskily.

"Mmm," she moaned enjoying his touch. "I was on Zapoteca with Emperor Hanar and Milton Ross. They've agreed to train you, Max! They've agreed to train everyone!" Liz explained all the while trying to reacquaint herself with her husband.

Max moved his hands down her slender form. "I'm sure I should be letting you tell me about it but I think I'd rather show you how much I missed you too."

"Mmm Hmm," Liz agreed knowing that there would be plenty of time for the good news to be told later. Right now they needed each other.



TBC
posted on 9-Apr-2002 1:24:35 AM
PART TWENTY-SEVEN


Michael was still mad by the time he ran into Max the next day at high school but not as furious as he had been. It seemed that Maria's newfound empathic powers had already had the positive effect of mellowing him out. He couldn't be too upset when the one he loved most in the world was giving him, not only a family, but also a deeper understanding of what it was like to be 'alien'. (And he'd already found many uses for her new power.)

Even still, he gave his best friend a thorough tongue-lashing when he saw him next. Max jeopardized their 'normal' status by marrying Liz while they were both still in high school. He reasoned that Philip Evans would no doubt use this as another excuse to continue investigating Max and anyone involved with him, and that endangered all of them. Max listened quietly to what Michael had to say and then explained how they'd managed to derail the whole investigation. Michael couldn't have been more relieved.

There was still more news that Max and Liz had to catch everyone up on. So, Saturday evening the whole group got together at Michael's apartment once more: Diane, Max, Liz, Maria, Michael, Kyle, Jim, Isabel, and Jesse. Jesse and Liz finished sharing explanations of the symbols. Liz had to share what she'd learned about Milton Ross and the decision to train everyone to use their powers more effectively, as well as that she and Max had officially been declare King and Queen elect. And lastly, Max told the group about his future self and how he now had all the memories and abilities since that they had joined together. It was an exhausting meeting for everyone, but it needed to be done. Milton would return to Roswell within a few days and they needed to be ready.

It was Liz who really caused the greatest stir. Quiet Liz, whose new destiny was to outshine their own. She did try to play down the extent to which her role in the future would play itself out, but most everyone could read in between the lines. She was their queen, their reason for being alive, and their future. And they all owed her their devotion and allegiance. It was funny how things always came back around to Liz. It had really all started when Max saved her life and it seemed to have simply carried from there. Max may be their king but Liz was so much more…would always be so much more.


********************************
Jeff Parker pushed a glass of Pepsi across the counter to Philip Evans. "I don't know what shocked me more: the robbery in Utah or the running away and getting married. What has gotten into these two?" He shook his head in disappointment. He would never have thought that his straight A student, Liz, would ever get in this much trouble.

"You'd be surprised," quipped Philip.

"I take it you've found something," said Jeff. He hoped the investigation was finally paying off because he'd like to know what in Hades was going on. Where had Liz disappeared to all those times? Why did she let Max talk her into robbing a convenience store? And what had possessed her to get married while she was still a kid in high school?

"You could say that," replied Philip. "Do you mind if we take this to the back?" Jeff and Philip walked to the back of the Crash Down restaurant and into the office. Jeff shut the door and the two men sat down. "The kids must have realized how close I was to finding out the truth because they panicked and confessed everything."

"It's about time," mumbled Jeff. "What'd they say?"

"They basically told me that they'd been trying to trace their background, locate their birth parents, stuff like that…and they didn't want to tell us because they thought they'd hurt our feelings. At least, that's how it started. But then once they got started they realized they were in over their heads."

"Why is that?" asked Jeff.

"They're clones," answered Philip.

"What?" He must have misunderstood because he thought Philip just said his kids were clones.

"I know. When they told me that I thought they were lying. But I checked their sources. From what I can tell, Michael and Max are definitely clones. There's an unbelievable amount of proof to verify that what they told me is true. They also claim that Isabel and Tess are clones as well…and they asked me to help them find out who their donors were."

"Are you serious?" asked Jeff. "I mean, do you realize the possible repercussions if this is true? The world is already up in arms over the whole cloning issue. Most countries have even gone so far as to ban human cloning. So if Michael, Max, Isabel, and Tess are…my god, their lives could be in danger." If Liz knew about this it would explain so much of her behavior in the last two years.

"Not could, Jeff…have. Their lives have been in danger and the Sheriff has been trying to protect them…well, at least until he lost his job," Philip explained.

Jeff shook his head in disbelief. "How did they keep this hidden from us so well?"

"Because this was the last thing we would ever have suspected. We all just automatically assumed that they were involved in drugs or sex or some sort of teenage crisis," answered Philip. "As it turns out, they were just looking for answers."

"And Liz has been helping them." Jeff should have realized this. Liz was certainly smart enough to help the teens find out anything that they needed to know.

"Yes, she has," Philip said. "You know, your daughter told me something interesting the other night. She said that problems either tear a couple apart or bind them together, making them inseparable. And that she and Max have been through so many things together that they've found out that they're better off together than apart."

"Liz said that?" Jeff wondered when his little Lizzie had become so wise.

Philip nodded.

"Do you think they're gonna be okay?" asked Jeff.

"I don't know," answered Philip, arms folded across his chest. "They're so young, but if they've been through half of what I think they've been through and they've made it this far, they're a lot smarter than we've given them credit for. They might just make it."

Jeff smiled for the first time in days. "Of course it wouldn't hurt if we helped them out a bit…you know, without their realizing it."

Philip leaned forward. "What did you have in mind?"


************************************
Milton stepped out of the granilith chamber and into the bright earth sunshine. He took a deep breath of dry desert air as he reveled in the penetrating warmth of the sun. He had forgot how much he missed being on this planet. The two days within the granilith had seemed like an eternity but he now felt ready to continue his job.

The granilith had revealed years into the future. Milton, himself, had never dared to hope that things would turn out so well. Certainly there were still variations of time that could occur. The granilith would need to cull through the various times and shape them to its will, thus ensuring that the best future for the most people came to pass. He was never more satisfied than at this moment that he had chosen to listen to that 'calling' so many, many decades ago.

A decidedly feminine voice interrupted his musings. "Hey!" the voice called. "You gonna stand there all day or do you want a lift back to Roswell? I didn't ditch school just to hang out in the desert." Then he heard her mumbling something under her breathe about aliens and their own agenda and something else that failed to translate. He turned to glance over his shoulder at the beautiful, young blond sitting on the hood of a Jetta with her arms crossed.

"Maria?"

"The one and only," she quipped. She gestured toward the car door. "Could we? My mom's already mad that I've missed so many days of school this year. I really don't need another lecture."

"How'd you know to come here?" he asked her. The granilith had arranged for someone to come and meet him but he had thought it would be Max or Liz, maybe even Michael or Isabel, but certainly not Maria.

"Please, this is me we're talking about," she said hopping off the car. She patted her tummy. "You know, alien baby, new powers, best friends with royalty…" She looked at Milton to see if he was following her but apparently he didn't have a Maria filter. "I had a dream. Okay?" she finally spelled out rolling her eyes.

Milton hadn't even moved. He just stared at her in disbelief. Was she really to be the royal advisor? His opinions of the granilith's plans were just shaken down a notch or two.

Maria turned around and got in her car, slamming the door. She hated being ignored. She started the Jetta and began to slowly pull away…without Milton. He had to run to catch up. "About time," was all she said before hightailing it down the highway. Milton learned a new respect for the seatbelt law.


********************************
Liz gasped as she felt two strong arms encircle her waist and warm breath behind her ear. "Max, you scared me," she said. She leaned back against him and rested her hands upon his. She could feel his scent washing over her from behind and the warmth of his muscular body soaking through into hers.

"You didn't meet me at the car, Baby," Max addressed her tenderly.

"I got distracted," she answered. "I felt the granilith…I don't know…stir. I think Milton's coming. And I think we're supposed to wait for him here."

"I felt the granilith too, but are you sure it's Milton?"

"Um hmm."

"Okay," he said, "Then let's wait." He took her by the hand and led her to the nearest tree. He wanted to rest his back against it while she sat on his lap. And so they sat watching the rest of the student body evacuate campus as they waited. Max wrapped his arms around her and Liz rested her head on his shoulder. They looked so peaceful together, as if they were always meant to be this way.

That was how Milton Ross found them an hour later, sound asleep in one another's arms.


TBC

[ edited 1 time(s), last at 22-Jun-2002 4:03:24 PM ]
posted on 23-Apr-2002 12:45:03 AM
PART TWENTY-EIGHT


No one would recognize her now dressed as she was in ragged peasant garments. Her grey robes were torn and the edges stained from the clay roads. A long strand of grey hair peaked out from under the simple head covering. Yet, she was Nahtuah - mother of the former King Zan and Princess Vilandra and wife of the Great Emperor Inhuatu (who in his later years tried to kill the prophets).

Nahtuah surveyed the empty streets before her. The great stone buildings and temples were darkened by the rain Emperor Kivar had brought on the people for the last week and a half. The smell of blood hung in the air from the constant sacrifices he demanded. The market places were closed. The frightened people of Antar hid within their homes. Kivar had discovered the granilith's declaration of intention to bring his reign of terror to an end and install its own King and Queen and he was furious. He wanted to make sure the people knew he was their 'true' sovereign and that they would remain loyal to him. But Nahtuah was not afraid.

She hurried across the great plaza and ducked into one of the smaller thatched-roof buildings that were clustered on the northern end. It was hot inside, a blazing fire burning inside the pit dug into the center of the room, and steam hung thick. Nahtuah removed her head covering and some of the outer layers of her clothing and placed them on the low table near the door. This was the home of her long time friend Bratal, of the chameleon-like species from one of the neighboring planets. She searched the room diligently for his form, which she knew would be blended into the surrounding walls. At last she thought she saw his form moving slowly through the room. Her face lit into a smile. "Bratal," she said softly.

His form shimmered slightly as he changed colors and took on a more human-like appearance. "How do you always know?" he asked her.

"Practise…lots of practice," she answered. Nahtuah crossed the room and placed a kiss on his scale-roughened cheek.

"I'm surprised you came out today." Bratal returned the kiss and then led her to the room in the back. "I take it you have news?"

"Perhaps," she replied, "if my sources are correct." He black eyes seemed to darken as she nervously tried to brush back her hair and smooth her long robe with her slim hands. She wished she could look more like the queen she once was instead of merely a filthy peasant.

Bratal caught her hands in his and held them fast. "You look fine," he soothed. "Emperor Hanar will understand."

She nodded mutely as Bratal pulled the dark cloth off the illegal telespan device. What she was planning was dangerous. If Kivar caught her transmission to Emperor Hanar and traced it back to its source it would mean death for Bratal and possibly herself, but she had to know if it were true. "Can you encode the transmission?" she asked.

"I have something even better," he answered using one of his eyes to look at her. The other eye was turned toward the screen as it powered up. His six fingers flew over the keyboard causing a flush of symbols to appear.

Nahtuah gasped. "I know this. It's the ancient language of the granilith. My father could speak it."

"I speak it as well." His eyes darted absently around the room before returning to her face. "You don't know everything my queen. I still have a few tricks up my sleeve." Nahtuah could swear that he was gloating. "You will record your message and I will have it translated into the ancient Antarian. Then I will send it through my own channels. It will take longer and you won't be able to speak to Emperor Hanar personally but it will be safer this way. And…if…Kivar picks up the transmission he will be unable to understand it."

"Oh," she breathed a sigh of relief, "the gods will bless you for this. Thank you."

She waited for Bratal to finish before seating herself in front of the tele-span device. "Emperor Hanar, I am Nahtuah. It has been a long time. I wish it were under better circumstances that I find you but I'm afraid the situation on Antar grows worse. We have news here in the streets that the granilith has chosen a new king and queen to replace Kivar. Kivar is furious. He has darkened our skies for twelve days now with rain. The lower regions have been deluged, homes destroyed, and crops washed away. Thousands have been reported missing and even more have been rounded up to be sacrificed to Kivar's godship." Nahtuah's seething spilled forth into her words but she continued on. "My sources tell me that you have met the queen and that you may also have news of the others…that they have indeed survived. Of Vilandra and Rath we have heard no news as of yet. However, of Zan we have heard that he was ordained by the granilith itself to become our King once again. And of Ava - we do deeply grieve with you over her loss knowing how you wished to see her reborn - we have heard that she has been replaced by a human and, that this human was also ordain as queen by the granilith.

"My sources were completely confident as to the truth of this otherwise I would not have risked contacting you. At this point it is imperative that we begin to make preparations for their return and so I seek your help. There is much we still do not know. We seek to learn what you know not only about the reborn but about the granilith itself. Please contact us as soon as it is safely possible. Thank you." She bowed her head in the traditional Zapotecan sign of honor as Bratal ended the recording.


**********************************
"Lizzy. Max. Guys, you gotta wake up," Maria said. "Milton's here and I have to get going. My shift at the Crashdown starts in half an hour." She bent down and tried to nudge them awake.

"Um, yah Maria, just give me a second. Okay?" Liz said. She was just coming out of a pretty intense dream about Antar and she wanted to ask Max about it.

"No problem whatsoever," she answered. "You guys do look pretty cozy."

Liz glanced sideways at her friend to see her smirking. Milton was next to her looking rather amused. Liz decided it must have been an interesting ride into town with the two of them in the same car.

'Max,' she telepathed, 'I had a dream.'

'I know,' he answered back, 'I did too…about Antar?'

Liz nodded as she got off his lap and grabbed her backpack. 'Yah, it looked pretty bad. Kivar is killing people because of us.' It was an upsetting thing to learn - necessary but upsetting. They both were all too fully aware of what war had been like on Earth because of Future Max, but now they also knew how he conducted things on Antar as well. They were learning more about their enemy.

'I know, but Liz,' Max telepathed also rising from the ground and gathering his things, 'we can't do anything to help those people yet. We have to prepare ourselves to save Earth first.'

'True, but what about Nahtuah? She'd be like your grandmother or mother or something. It looks like she's running some sort of underground operation there. Don't you think we should try to contact her and find out more?' Liz asked, still speaking within her mind.

'I can't see how we would contact her, Liz.' He was remembering that in the dream Nahtuah was using some sort of communication device to contact Hanar. They didn't have any equipment like that.

They broke off their conversation then as Max and Liz both greeted Milton and said goodbye to Maria.

"We need to ask you a question," Max began as the walked back to the student parking lot. "Is there any way to contact Antar?"

Milton smiled. "Do you plan to retake Antar already?"

"Good one but no," Liz quipped. She was getting used to Milton's unusual sense of humor. "We want to contact Nahtuah to find out more information about the resistance movement. Max and I think she may be the head of it."

Milton did look genuinely startled then. "You know about Nahtuah? How did you hear about her?"

Liz shrugged. "We dreamed of her. We learned she's King Zan's and Princess Vilandra's mother. Kivar is persecuting the citizens of Antar because of the granilith's announcement about Max and I. We saw her trying to contact Emperor Hanar to see if the announcement was true and to see if he could add to it - to give more information about Max and Isabel and Michael - so that she and her followers could prepare for our arrival."

Milton remained pensive for a minute and then replied, "It's not possible to contact her. I'm sorry. We don't have any long-range communication devices at our disposal." The man looked genuinely discouraged.

"Hmm, well maybe I can bring her into a vision and speak with her that way," Liz said thinking out loud.

"That won't work either. She doesn't have the abilities that you and Max have. She's not telepathic nor does she seem to be able to enter other's dreams or to create visions. Her gift is healing. These abilities that you all seem to have, Liz, are mostly human."

"What do you mean by 'mostly'?" asked Max.

""The definition you have for 'human' is quite narrow. Human beings are not a pure bred race. In ancient times many other peoples have both inhabited and interbred with the human race. Some of your abilities are therefore human, while others are gifts you inherited from your alien ancestors," Milton tried to explain.

"You're kidding me," Liz remarked.

"Not in the least, young woman. Think of all the ancient legends of gods and fairy creatures and mythological beings. The core of each of these stories is essentially true, although the content may have changed over time. These beings really did visit earth. Many stayed and took up residence. Some even intermarried with humans."

"That's incredible," said Max, "but it does seem to make sense."

"And it also sidetracks us from my question: How do we contact Nahtuah? If she's the Antarian underground then we should be working with her and coordinating our efforts," said Liz.

Milton sighed deeply. "There may be a way but we should discuss this with the others."



**********************************
Maria looked around the Culture Shock trying to spot Liz. There were a couple of women looking through the utensils in the cooking aisle but no one else seemed to be around. Finally she saw Diane enter in from the back. "Hey, Mrs. Evans," she smiled.

"Hello, Maria. Are you here for Liz?" asked Diane.

"Yah, is she around?" She was still gazing about trying to locate Liz. It was almost closing time at the Culture Shock so Liz might be upstairs in the apartment doing homework or helping out in Diane's store below.

Diane laughed. "She's upstairs reorganizing my bookkeeping."

Maria rolled her eyes. Yes, that was Liz. She was always arranging something or organizing things or making lists. There was just no stopping her. Maria decided that if Diane wasn't careful, Liz might just take it to mind to reorder the whole store. "Somehow that doesn't surprise me," Maria replied. "Okay, well I'm just gonna go up and see if I can knock some sense into her." She started to walk toward the back where the stairs were.

"Maria, wait," said Diane suddenly very serious. She moved closer to Maria and put her arm around her. "Honey, how far along are you?"

Maria stiffened under the older woman's embrace. She turned slightly to see the motherly concern on Diane's face. "What do you mean?" she asked hesitantly.

"Come here, Honey. Let's talk." Diane led her over to the counter where the register was. There were two stools behind it and they each took one to sit on. She rested one of her hands on Maria's knee. "I know you're pregnant," said Diane.

"Oh my gosh. You're gonna tell my Mom, aren't you?" It wasn't that Maria was scared. She had battled evil aliens and come away without flinching, but her mother was a different story. There was no telling what her mother might do.

"No, Maria. I'm not going to tell your mother - especially not if it's Michael's," she told her, "and it is, isn't it?" She saw Maria nod.

"So, what are you going to do?" Maria asked. If Diane wasn't going to tell her mother then why was she asking? It made her nervous. She wasn't used to talking about personal things with anyone but Liz.

It made Diane a little sad to think how none of the kids seemed to have anyone they trusted to turn to. There was no one to give them answers - no one that understood the predicament they were in. "I'm not going to do anything, Maria," she said. "I just want to know what you're going to do. Have you even been to a doctor yet?"

Maria shook her head. "I can't go. Michael's blood isn't human. Probably the baby's isn't either. I don't know about pregnancy and stuff - I don't read a lot like Liz and Max - but what if something from the baby's blood gets into mine? All I know is that if I go to the doctor and he takes a blood test from me he might find out that the baby's not human…or he might think I'm not human. It would put us all in danger.

"Besides," Maria continued quietly, " Tess said their pregnancy only lasts three months. I know this baby is more human so it will probably take a little longer, but it's been three and a half months for me already and Liz said the baby is already bigger than she expected. We don't even know what to expect ourselves. How do we know that the doctor won't like, find something weird?"

"Sweetheart, I don't want to scare you or anything, but being pregnant is dangerous. Without a doctor you take a chance of losing either the baby or yourself. There must be something we can do," said Diane. She was very concerned for Maria. This was an alien baby she was carrying. What if she weren't equipped to carry it? For heaven's sake, Tess had died in childbirth and she was supposed to be designed for this sort of thing.

"You're right, Mrs. Evans. It is dangerous," Maria admitted. "I was already getting really sick - sick enough that I thought I might be dying. But Liz healed me…"

"Is that why?" Diane interrupted. She remembered there had been some mention of that at one of their group meetings together.

"Yah. Liz said I wasn't 'adapted' to carry the baby…like, its human side was way too advanced. So, she changed me. She 'advanced' me too, so I'd be the same as the baby - the same as Michael and Max and Isabel. I'm not stupid enough to think that everything's going to be okay. I know it's dangerous. But Max and Liz can heal and they're gonna take care of me."

"So, you think you'll be okay?"

"Yah," Maria nodded, "I'll be fine. It's my mother I'm worried about. She's gonna freak out. I'd tell her right away and get it over with except that she might try to make me go to the doctor or forbid me to see Michael or ask questions I can't answer right now. You know, like, when is the baby due? Stuff like that. Michael and I aren't sure what we're gonna do right now. It's all kinda up in the air."

"Oh, Honey," Diane said sympathetically, "you kids…I used to think that if I knew what it was you were involved in, that if I just knew your secret I would be able to help you. But I don't have any answers for any of you and I don't know how to help." She pulled Maria into a comforting embrace. "Maria, you know if there's anything you want I'll do it for you."

"Thanks," returned Maria pulling back, "that's really nice of you. We haven't had anyone but the Sheriff for so long, you know…and he doesn't understand the girl stuff so much. I'm really glad Liz told you. It's nice to have someone else on our team." Her thanks made Diane smile.

"Hey, am I interrupting anything?" Max surprised them by asking. They hadn't been aware that he had come downstairs.

"No, Honey, we're done talking," his mother answered. "Do you need anything?"

"Just Maria," Max said. "We need to discuss some things with Milton. You coming?"

"Yah, I'll be right there." Maria kissed Diane on the cheek and then followed Max up to the apartment.


TBC



posted on 28-Apr-2002 6:31:00 PM
katmcken - I'm glad you were able to find this story, too.


PART TWENTY-NINE


Max personally escorted Maria up to the apartment. She was the last to arrive, having worked late at the Crash Down. When they walked in the door she noticed everyone sitting, waiting for her. "What?" she asked. "I had to close. And then Mrs. Evans decided to have a heart to heart with me as soon as I walked in the door." She was still dressed in the restaurant uniform.

"Anything I need to know about?" Michael asked right away.

Maria arched an eyebrow. "Not really, unless like, her figuring out that I'm pregnant is a problem." She walked across the room and sat next to Michael on the couch. "Which reminds me, considering how perceptive she is, how did you guys keep her from finding out about your powers all these years?"

Isabel covered her mouth in surprise. "You're pregnant? Michael's gonna be a father? Oh my god."

Michael glared at Isabel. "Shut up," he told her and then turned back to Maria. "So, is this a problem?" he asked. He still wasn't used to Diane knowing their secret.

"Nah, she's cool. She's just worried because I haven't seen a doctor yet; and, you know, Tess died and she thinks the same thing might happen to me or something," Maria tried to explain. "Anyway, I told her Max and Lizzy are taking care of me so everything will be alright."

"Still it wouldn't hurt for you to be seen by a doctor," Milton surprised everyone by suggesting. "Hanar is sending a complement of doctors, teachers, and scientists aboard Marignac. That's a passenger class star vessel in case you're wondering. It's scheduled to arrive here sometime at the end of April."

"Wait a second, Milton," Max said. "Remember, I lived the other timeline and nothing like this ever happened. Hanar never offered us any help at all. Why now? What aren't you telling us?"

Milton shrugged. "It's a rather long story that you would be better off asking Hanar than me, but suffice it to say that he has taken a personal interest in our Elizabeth here." He gestured grandly toward Liz. "He wants to make sure that she succeeds and that all who support her have whatever means they need at their disposal. This is going to mean a major restructuring of your lives. If you had grown up on Antar you would have been schooled all your life. You would have understood class structures and customs. You would have a comprehensive knowledge of history, science, and language. If you had powers - which are admittedly very rare on Antar - you would have been separated from your peers at an early age and trained to use them. And, you would most certainly have had the best doctors available to you. As it is, you know next to nothing of where you are going nor what your roles will be."

Liz was the only one in the room who seemed unfazed by this announcement. She had been training every night with Emperor Hanar so she was familiar with his plans and intentions. He didn't just want them to become more skilled in the use of their power. He wanted them to have knowledge of their planet, their star system, and of the Alliance all the technologically superior races supported. These latter would be vastly important if they were to have any hope of achieving their goals. And Liz not only agreed with the emperor, she had helped him to plan for their training.

Isabel was more than a little concerned by the amount of training they were to receive. "Mr. Ross, we all have school and work to think about. It's not just that we want to do these things or that they make us seem like normal humans; they're how we support ourselves. Exactly how much training are we talking about?"

"First of all, Princess, you may rest your mind as far as livelihood is concerned. If any of you need to cut back on your hours or to quit work all together, understand that you will be compensated. From this point forward, everyone in this room is to consider themselves royalty," Milton explained. "You will all be provided for whether that means financially or with housing in mind or to whatever caretakers you need. Of course, what you are to receive will depend largely on the role you are to assume and the amount of training you will need. With that in mind, I will be addressing each of you individually tonight to explain what you can expect."

Milton waited for the chorus of nods to indicate that everyone in the room was paying attention. "Liz, I'll start with you. You are to continue training with Hanar. He alone will teach whatever you need to learn. So, finishing high school won't be a problem for you. Also, if you want an after school job, you should be able to have one so long as it doesn't interfere with your nightly meetings with him, but you might want to think about going easy on your schedule. Using your powers is tiring and opening visions can take a lot out of you." Liz nodded. None of this was new information to her since she'd already discussed all of this in detail with Emperor Hanar. She'd pretty much decided to only help Diane with her books and not think about getting a job. (She hadn't worked at the Crash Down since she'd married Max.)

"Now as far as you go, Max, arrangements have been made for you to train with Zan's old friend Larek. You won't need any help with your power since you retain all of your memories from the other timeline. You should be fully skilled in the use of them, although Larek will probably test you to see what you can do. Most nights I will come here and help you to enter the vision plain so that you can meet with him. Occasionally, he will visit you in the form of Brody Davis, but that will be a rarer event. Under Larek's tutelage you will study political science, history, language, and technology. Even more important, you will need to study for exams for entrance into the Alliance of Planets. When Kivar overtook Zan's throne Antar was banned from the Alliance for failure to follow, among other things, Alliance amendments. It will fall on your shoulders to rejoin Antar to the Alliance."

Max ran his fingers through his dark hair, which had been growing longer ever since he merged with Future Max. "Sounds like a lot to study," he commented. "High School graduation is only three and a half months away. I'm sure I can go to school during the day and then study with Larek at night, but that doesn't leave much time to work. I'm probably going to have to quit. What will the financial arrangements be? I'm just asking because we're still trying to keep my Dad from finding out the truth about us."

"Max is right," Jesse added. "If we start doing anything suspicious, it could start his investigation anew. And that would include doing anything out of the ordinary be it failing to graduate, changing jobs, or of suddenly having money without having actually worked for it."

Milton spread his hands in defeat. "I still have a lot of money from the sale of the UFO Museum. We can open up our own business together. Jesse, you could become our legal advisor. Max and Michael, the two of you can be my business partners. It would hardly be against Alliance regulations to introduce into Earth society technology that is already being experimented with by humans. Also, it would give reasonable employment to our visitors from Zapoteca. And it would allow the three of you to pursue your studies as you need to without arousing any further suspicion. What do you think?"

"It's perfect," Max answered first. "There's nothing suspicious in being hired by my former employer. And if I happened to get my best friend hired on as well…"

"Yah, I could definitely go for that," Michael chimed in. "Working two jobs is killing me as it is."

"Count me in," said Jesse. "Maybe I could take you on as one of my clients while I finish working on the cases I have right now. Then, after things get rolling in your company you could officially hire me on as your legal advisor."

"Hey, what am I? Chopped liver over here?" Maria asked. "What am I supposed to do? I mean, when my Mom finds out I'm pregnant she's gonna freak out and then she's gonna start asking questions like 'How do you plan on supporting this baby, Maria?'"

Michael took Maria's small hand within his strong one. "Not to sound chauvinist or anything, but we're not leaving the baby with a sitter. You're gonna have to be a stay-at-home mom and let me support you. By me working with 'Ross Incorporated' over here, it will be the perfect cover story for your mother."

"Yah, my Mom's gonna love that one. So much for the Women's Lib. Movement," Maria said.

"Maria, it's not like you have much of a choice," Liz told her friend, trying to assuage the situation. "It's the same problem we've run into with Justin. You can't leave a half-alien infant with just anybody. What if he has Michael's power and he blows things up when he gets upset because he has a dirty diaper?"

"Easy for you to say, Lizzy. You guys have a babysitter," Maria retorted.

"Not because we want to," Liz answered. "And you know how hard it is not to have him with us. First chance we get, we're going to bring him to live with us permanently."

"Maria, if you want to work I'll baby-sit for you," Isabel surprised everyone by saying. "It would have to be part time because I'm going to try to stay in college for as long as I can, but I'm willing to do it."

"Right. Right. Thanks Izzy," Maria replied, trying to calm down. "I guess I'm just really nervous about breaking the whole baby thing to my Mom."

Everyone smiled. They knew how Maria was. She needed her periodic freak-outs to keep her calm and rational the rest of the time. "It'll work out, Maria," Michael reassured her.

Then turning back to Milton he asked, "Okay, so what sort of training are the rest of us supposed to get?"

"The rest of you will receive training from the teachers Hanar is sending. You'll need to be taught political protocol, basic technology and science, history, a language called Standard (which is spoken on most of the Alliance members), and tactical skills necessary to win the coming war. After that, you'll each receive training specialized to you're the specific role you are to play. Michael, like your predecessor Rath, you will again be the King's second-in-command. Your powers will need to be strengthened and controlled. You will have to be taught command structure as well as strategic skills. You will also need to have the most comprehensive knowledge of our technology. You are going to learn to fly spaceships, Michael, and to build defensive weapons." Milton grinned at Michael. He could see that the young man was excited at his prospects for the future.

"Maria, your future role is to be beside our King and Queen as their royal advisor," Milton continued. He could easily see that Maria was really thrilled with her later role. "Therefore, you will have to be especially trained in social customs of Antar as well as most of the neighboring planets. You will need an extensive knowledge of history so you can help prevent their majesties from repeating history's mistakes. You will also need to learn about the planetary governments of the lead members of the Alliance. Your powers are also new and uncontrolled, so you will need to have someone help you to strengthen those."

"Isabel, you will have two roles to fulfill. Your first role will be as a warrior. You will be working with Michael to battle plan and defend Earth and to retake Antar. So, your most immediate training will be similar to Michael's. Your secondary role will take you much further. Once Antar has been taken from Kivar's grasp and Max has rejoined the Alliance, you will become an emissary for Antar. You will travel to other planets as well as to the Alliance home world to see to it that the people of Antar have their interests properly represented."

"Looks like the 'ice princess' has found her niche in life," Michael mumbled under his breath.

"Shut up, Michael," Isabel retorted. Turning her attention back to Milton she asked, "You make it sound like there are more than just the five planets in the Whirlwind galaxy. Exactly how many are we talking about here?"

Milton gazed toward the ceiling as he tried to remember. "Last time I checked I think there were some three-hundred ten planet members of the Alliance. That leaves some four hundred odd planets that are simply not technologically advanced enough to join, including Earth. Most of them are isolated planets with no knowledge that there are other life forms in the universe let alone that these other beings are capable of space travel."

"Wow, so where does this leave me? I mean, what sort of things do I need to learn to become an emissary?" Isabel asked.

Milton started rattling off subjects, "Psychology of alien species, Sociology, planet histories and customs, political science, government policies, mediation…You have more to learn than anyone else here and you'll probably have to give up college to study all this, but if anyone can do it you can."

Jesse looked at his wife in awe. "Wow," was all he said. Could Isabel get anymore amazing?

"Jesse," said Milton, "if I may distract your attention from your lovely wife…" He saw Jesse smile guiltily at him. "You will first receive training along with Isabel, Maria, and Michael from the teachers Hanar is sending. At the same time the scientists will be working with you to alter your genetic code and introduce alien DNA. We want you to be able to have powers similar to the others but by having the scientists advance you genetically there will be more control as to what powers you do develop. Also, we want to introduce DNA from the Hestronian species. They're a chameleon-like race that has the ability to change their color and form. Having that kind of ability would enable you to infiltrate enemy areas without their knowledge. After your training and genetic alterations are complete you will be directly under my tutelage. You are to become a spokesman for the granilith. I have to make sure you are mentally prepared to handle this sort of obligation, because once you connect to the granilith you will be locked into its service for life."

Jesse had paled visibly throughout Milton's speech to him. Genetic alteration, alien DNA, powers, lifelong service to the granilith: those were things he had never planned on. His life was organized to a fault; he had never signed up for something like this. War he could understand, even evil alien hunters. This was something he wasn't mentally prepared for. This was going to take some getting used to.

"Jesse, are you okay?" Isabel asked. She'd never seen him so pale before. It really worried her.

"No one's going to force you to do anything you don't want to, Jesse," Max told him.

"No. No. It's okay," Jesse finally said. "I knew the risks when I married Isabel…well, maybe I didn't have this in mind, but I knew about the special unit of the FBI and the Multi-national Cooperative for the Study of Extraterrestrial Influence. When I fell in love with Isabel I knew her life was at risk and that mine would be too. I got involved anyway. I'm in here for the long haul guys. So, if this is what you want me to do, I'll do it." He was already mentally resigning himself to the coming events, even to being experimented on by alien scientists.

"Cool. He's gonna be a lizard," Maria said. She didn't know why she found this so amusing but it was a funny thing to think about.

"He's not going to be green, Maria," Milton said. He didn't want to alarm Jesse any further that night. "He'll simply be programmed with natural Hestronian abilities. Jesse will still look like Jesse. No one will be able to tell the difference."

"Darn," said Maria.

"Maria!" Isabel warned.

"What? It's my mother's fault. She has all these little green alien things all over the house." Maria crossed her arms defensively. "And yet every alien I meet looks just as human as me. Why is that? When do I get to meet a green alien? I want to meet a green alien."

Milton sat back and watched as a free-for-all pillow fight broke out among the young people, with Maria as the main target. Laughter and yelling followed as the teens sought to relieve their tension in their childish games. Looking at the antics of the group it was hard to imagine the significant roles these six individuals would play in the future and yet they would. These young people were destined to become the greatest leaders Antar had ever known.


TBC

posted on 3-May-2002 10:17:12 PM
katmcken - LOL, thanks a lot! Here you go.

PART THIRTY


"I think I finally found something," Jeff said pushing a manilla folder across the desk toward Philip.

Philip took a sip of his coffee and then proceeded to glance through its contents. "You're kidding me? All the way in Florida?" he asked.

"That's the last known address I could find for her. I've tried calling and writing but there was no response," Jeff explained. "It's possible she's moved or is no longer alive. I think the only way to find out is to go there ourselves."

"Orlando's kind of pricey this time of year," Philip mused.

Jeff shrugged his shoulders. "My sister lives in Winter Springs. That's not too far from there. She's all alone in a five-bedroom house and I'm sure she'd love to have us visit all of us. What do you say?"

Philip sat back and thought about it for a minute. "Hmm, you know I could use a vacation. Kids are out of the house. Wife might like a little trip. We could send the girls off to Disney World while we do a little P.I. work."

"Great," said Jeff. "I'll call Julie and see when she wants us." He stood up to leave.

"By the way, Jeff, how'd you trace the information so quickly?"

Jeff turned back around in the doorway. "Lizzy had to get her brains from somewhere," he teased. "It just so happens I was valedictorian of my high school and had training in criminal science."

"Training in criminal science, my foot," said Philip. "You were a juvenile delinquent. I never have figured out how you made valedictorian with all your 'after school activities'."

"Philip, that hurts." Jeff staggered backward as if he'd been shot.

Philip Evans laughed out loud, then more seriously said, "Still, we're going to have to track her down once we get there. That may take some work."

"Nah, finding this woman will be the easy part. Getting her to talk…now that's going to take some work."


*************************************
Liz was progressing very fast - maybe even faster than anyone except Max realized - thanks to the help she was receiving from the granilith. She surpassed what even Hanar was able to teach her. Her power continued to grow in strength and broaden in abilities until he was forced to bring teachers into the visions with her, teachers that could challenge her. Even these she outgrew although it had only been six weeks since she had begun training.

Her language skills also progressed rapidly thanks to the helpful boost the granilith was giving her. She mastered Standard in less than four weeks and was already beginning to learn the local languages: Antarian, Zapotecan, Hestronian, Lianese, and Tyrian. More teachers were brought in to instruct Liz in these as well.

Emperor Hanar continued to educate her in other areas himself. While on Earth Liz still seemed to be a normal teenager in high school, on Zapoteca her manner was assuming more and more the aura of a queen. The emperor was acquainting her with customs, etiquette, political structure, law, and in general what it meant to rule a people. He made her part of the decision making process with his own people, consulting her for ideas and thoughts, as a way to guide her. And he made her responsible for decisions regarding her friends back home. It was actually Liz who had picked out which teachers and scientists and doctors to send to Earth. It was she who chose how her friends were to be educated and trained. And it was Liz who had the final decision to make on how to incorporate these many individuals into Earth's society. These couldn't have been better decisions for Liz because it truly gave her a sense of being responsible for other people. No matter what happened now, it rested on her shoulders to make sure her people were safe and that everything went smoothly.

Back in Roswell, Milton Ross had picked up training Liz where Hanar had left off with regard to her powers. These were no longer emerging powers anymore. They were boundless in strength and effortless in use. It was time for her to begin to learn to work with the granilith.

"The first thing I want you to understand about the granilith is what it is. Haven't you ever wondered what exactly it is?" Milton asked Liz who was sitting attentively at the dining table in her apartment.

"Well, yah, I mean at first we thought it might be some sort of religious icon, but then when Future Max used it as a time machine and Tess tried to use it to go to Antar I thought it might be more of a tool. Now we know it's alive but that still doesn't explain what sort of life form it is," Liz answered.

"That's because you're still thinking very linear. You can't see past what you know," Milton explained. "Think about it this way. It was a great stretch for you to believe in aliens but you did it. It was even more of a stretch to accept that there was an evil race of skins after your friends and that Isabel, Max, Michael, and Tess were saddled with a destiny. You got past that too. Then you were asked to believe in time travel. At the time you thought that was scientifically impossible, yet now you accept that as a simple fact of life. You even have powers now, something you never believed to be possible. These last two years have stretched your imagination, challenged your beliefs, shaken the grounds of everything you hold true. If all of this had been thrown at you at the precise moment you were healed, would you have believed it?"

Liz shook her head. "No, it would have been too much, too soon. I don't believe anything unless I have proof."

"Exactly," said Milton, pointing his finger at her. "You needed proof." He paused for a moment to let this sink in. "The problem with that sort of thinking is that some things aren't so much a matter of 'proof'. Some things are a matter of having an open enough mind to allow belief. Let me qualify that. Did your 'Future Max' tell you why you weren't ready to touch the granilith?"

"No, he didn't."

"Was it because he thought you weren't capable of understanding or did he simply not understand himself?"

"He couldn't tell me," answered Liz. "He remembered everything up until the point in which he entered the granilith. After that it was a complete blank. I could feel his connection to it, but I could never see what actually happened. Why is that?"

Milton smiled. He admired her curiosity. She liked her world orderly and reasonable and yet anytime she was exposed to something outside her realm of understanding, her curiosity took over and she was instantly ready to explore it. "I'll tell you why. Max wasn't prepared to enter the granilith. He couldn't understand what he saw and it scared him. He touched it so he'll always have that connection, but until that time in which he is mentally prepared he'll never understand what he sees nor will he remember it. It's the same reason he told you not to touch it. You weren't ready because you hadn't been prepared."

"Okay," said Liz, "so, what do I do?"

"We start off slow," he told his young pupil. "First you learn to understand what the granilith is, then we let you touch it - just a small part of it. Once you understand what the granilith feels like you'll begin to know when it's helping you and guiding you. You'll be able to understand what it wants and needs. You'll begin training with it, opening yourself to it a little bit more each time - the granilith responding in kind. And finally, when you feel you're ready, Elizabeth, you will join with it."

It was a Saturday evening when Milton sat with Liz. Max and Justin were also present but were sitting quietly at the other side of the room, trying not to interfere. But Max couldn't help but overhear all that was being said between the two. And he was curious. If he had connected with the granilith before why couldn't he do it again. "So there will be a time when I'll also be prepared to connect with the granilith and understand it?" he asked.

Milton turned around. "Of course, but your wife is first." Both the granilith and Milton had a good reason for training Liz first, as she would no doubt figure out before the evening was through. "Your time will come, however. In about two years both you and Jesse will join with the granilith. I expect the others to join in the following year."

"So, all of us…" Max started to ask.

Milton nodded. "The granilith wants all of you," he answered before turning back to Liz. He saw she was staring at him, her face void of expression, her hands folded on the table before her. "What are you thinking about?" he asked.

She studied him a bit longer before answering. "I'm thinking that it's not so much that the rest of them have to wait to join with the granilith, as that I'm being rushed into this. I'd like to know why," she told him. She sat back, folded her arms across her breast, and waited.

"Yes, well, perhaps we ought to get started so we can find the answers you're looking for," he fumbled. "So, as I was saying, the first thing you need to learn is what the granilith is and what it is not." He laid a piece of paper on the table and drew a straight line across it. "How many dimensions does this line exist in?" he asked her.

Liz looked down at the paper. "One," she answered, "if we're to assume that this is a representation and not an actual dimension."

"Correct," he said. Then he bent down and drew a square. "Now how many dimensions are represented here?"

"Two," she answered. "A two dimensional being would be able to move forward and backward, and side to side."

"Correct again," Milton said. Next he turned the paper over and drew a box - two squares with their corners connected. "What dimension is represented here?"

"The third dimension," Liz replied. "Third dimensional beings can move forward and backward, side to side, and up and down."

"Excellent," Milton told her. "You are obviously familiar with the different dimensions." He slid the paper across the table toward her. "So, how about you draw the fourth dimension for me."

"I can't," she said.

"Why not?"

"The fourth dimension is thought to be the same as the time-space continuum. It is unfathomable from a three dimensional perspective," Liz answered. "The closest analogy we have would be boxes within boxes within boxes, but our human brains cannot comprehend this." She drew the multidimensional boxes on the paper. "This is as close as we can come to an explanation but even this is not wholly accurate."

"Then how do you know a fourth dimension exists?" Milton asked when he could get a word in edgewise.

"Math," she said simply. "Math proves or disproves everything. Abstract mathematics offers proof of the existence of a fourth dimension."

"So, you say you believe in the existence of the fourth dimension and yet you have no idea what it looks like," Milton challenged. At her nod he continued, "So, then how would you know if you were confronted by a being from that dimension?"

"I might not know. It's possible I might not even see it. If I did see it, the likelihood of me recognizing it for what it was is nearly impossible. Let me give you an example." Liz got up and retrieved a bowl of water from the kitchen and a quarter from her purse. "I'm going to demonstrate from the second and third dimensions because that's easiest. This is the second dimension," she said showing him the face of the coin. Then she tilted the coin so that both the face and the sides were visible. "This is the third. How would a second dimensional being recognize an object emanating from the third dimension? He probably wouldn't." She pushed the bowl of water toward the center of the table. "Lets assume the surface of the water is the second dimension. How would second dimensional creatures view the coin? If I rest the coin like this, face down, on the surface of the water they would perceive a flat round circle. If I begin to turn the coin so that half of it is below the water and half of it is above the water, they would only see a flat line across their plain. They would fail to see either the top or the bottom. And no matter what, they would never perceive that it had a side. It is beyond their realm of experience.

"So, as for your question: Would I recognize a fourth dimensional creature? Probably not. I might not see it at all, and if I did I wouldn't perceive it correctly. To make the situation worse, as soon as it moved its appearance would change. How would I recognize it again? How would I understand? How could I possibly communicate with it?"

"And yet," Milton told her, "those are exactly the things you must learn to do because the granilith resides in the fourth dimension." He paused to see how she was taking this piece of news, because once again he knew that everything she believed in had just been challenged once more. "You appear to be intrigued by this. That's good. I know you can sense the granilith now when it's really pushing you to do something, but you don't really understand what it wants or needs. You don't know how to communicate with it. You can't perceive its world. And you certainly can't use its abilities. We're going to change that starting tonight. Are you ready?"

"Am I ready for what?" she asked somewhat nervously.

"To touch the granilith," he explained.

"Explain to me how it's possible first," she said. "How can a third dimensional human being like me possibly understand a fourth dimensional being like the granilith?"

"Because you are fourth dimensional being, not third. You are affected by height, depth, width, and time," Milton answered. "As a human you only partially able to understand time - you perceive it only when it moves forward - and because of your perception you are only able to partially control it. Humans perceive the world three dimensionally because of this, yet it doesn't change the fact that they reside in the fourth. As you begin to understand time and space more fully, you will be able to join with the granilith completely. It will no longer seem strange or foreign to you. It will simply be a part of who you are and what you've become."

"I'm still not sure that I understand this completely. If I exist in the fourth dimension then why don't I perceive time and space the same as the granilith? Why can't I control them?" asked Liz. "It doesn't make sense."

"Of course it doesn't make sense to you yet," he replied. "Humans use less than one percent of their brain. But the granilith has been expanding your mind for months now. You have the ability to do this; you just need to have an open mind." Milton brushed her concerns away with a wave of his hand. He wanted to get on with the business at hand. "Now…I'm going to open a connection with the granilith from my end. When it is established I will partially connect with you. This will allow you to 'see' and 'feel' it although you won't be able to explore it. All we're trying to accomplish tonight is to give you a 'feel' of the granilith. You still don't understand enough about it to communicate with it or connect with it more fully, but at least this is a start."

Liz sighed. "Okay. Let's just do it." She was nervous. Would it change her? Could it hurt her? Was she going to feel different afterward?

She knew Max could feel her nervousness through their dimmed connection but she was surprised when Justin appeared to feel it as well. The small blond haired boy leaned forward in his Daddy's arms and holding out a chubby fist said his first word: "mama". His voice was so small and sweet and he sent with it feelings of concern. He'd never projected pure emotion before and it touched Liz deeply.

"Oh, baby," she said softly. She got up from the table and walked across the room to kneel before him. Kissing his forehead she told him, "It's okay, baby. Mama's fine." She had never referred to herself that way before, although Max always called her that in front of Justin, but for the first time it felt right. She telepathed feelings of reassurance to soothe him.

Returning to Milton feeling calmer herself, she apologized and readied herself to connect with him. Milton placed his hands on either side of her face, much like Max did the first time he had reversed the connection he had with Liz to allow her to see inside of him. The connection was instant and Liz realized that he must have already contacted the granilith while she was distracted with Justin.

It was like a doorway had been opened for her. Time lost meaning, with future possibilities taking precedence. Space seemed infinitesimal, as if it could be traversed in mere seconds. But most overwhelming of all was that Liz had encountered the most powerful mind she could ever have imagined to exist. It was incomprehensible. It was ageless. It wanted her to understand something, but before she could discover what that was the doorway closed and her world collapsed in on her.

She was alone with Milton, their minds connected together. He was trying to close their connection as well but slowly so as not to hurt her. She was still mentally reeling from the overwhelming touch of the granilith and he was trying to steady her enough that she could stand alone. As she began to gain strength she started to receive flashes from him - glimpses of his life. She saw him as a small boy causing mischief on his parents' merchant vessel. She felt his wonder at being called to service by the granilith and his sorrow at having to say goodbye to his parents. She felt his love for his soul mate and his overwhelming grief when she died in his arms. She felt his fear when the order went out by Zan's father, Great Emperor Inhuatu, for the granilith's prophets to be killed. She saw the argument he had with his daughter when she chose to work with the underground on Antar instead of fleeing to safety after Zan and Vilandra were killed. She saw how he enjoyed working with Max at the UFO Museum and the friendship he had with Emperor Hanar. And lastly, she felt his sadness at knowing he had not much time left to live and his hope the she, Liz, would be able to take his place soon. And then the connection ended.

Milton helped her to sit down. He knew the brief connection to the granilith had drained her. She had tears in her eyes when she asked, "How much longer do you have left?"

He shied away from her gaze when he answered. "Three months, give or take."

She swallowed hard. "Why didn't you tell me? This can't be good for you. I felt how much it took out of you to bring me into the connection with you."

"Listen to me," he said sternly, "I'm the last spokesman left alive. You have to take my place and I'm the only one who can train you. Neither of us have a choice right now." He sat down with a sigh. "Besides, I don't want to die knowing my only daughter is still enslaved by Kivar. You're our last hope. By helping you, I help her. Don't you see?"

Liz nodded sadly. "Who is she? How do we find her?"

"Her name is Nahtuah, and there's no way to contact her right now."


TBC

posted on 31-May-2002 12:15:46 PM
Thanks for the bumps and feedback everybody. Now on to the next part!


PART THIRTY-ONE


Kivar had finally been forced to stop his ravage of Antar by the sending storms and requiring of sacrifices. It wasn't as though he did this willingly; he was simply forced to desist because he'd lost ten percent of the working population and most of the crops had been destroyed. The trade embargo restrictions imposed by the Alliance of Planets had been increasingly tightened during the years of his reign of terror and the planet had been forced to learn to be self-sufficient; therefore, lack of crops and loss of workers meant less food and supplies for everyone. Everyone suffered, but Kivar the more so. He had always thought of himself as the greatest ruler Antar had ever had, even proclaiming himself to be a god, yet with every turn of the planet it became glaring more obvious that he was by far the worst dictator to have lived. The people were starving. Families were broken apart by death and enslavement. Cities were desecrated by poverty. Sickness and disease spread rapidly wiping out whole segments of Antar. He had truly ushered in a Dark Age.

Meanwhile, the Alliance was sitting back watching over the goings on with great interest. The granilith had finally been located on the technologically backward planet called Earth. It was discovered that Antar's previous royalty had been cloned and was also residing on Earth, protecting the granilith and training to someday retake their home planet. Kivar was quickly losing support of those who had originally backed him due to the tyranny he imposed over the Antarians. And, most interesting of all, it came to their attention that Emperor Hanar of Zapoteca had sent over a compliment of scientist, doctors, and teachers to join the reborn royals on Earth. Now that was something they were going to have to investigate since Hanar had sidestepped normal protocols in sending citizens to a world on the "No Contact" list.

Kivar, too, was watching with interest, though with more morbid thoughts in mind. He had already tried to get Zan to return to Antar, a king in name only, while leaving the power to him [Kivar]. He had tried to kill the royal four, only to have his 'skins' destroyed. Next, he had coerced 'Tess' to become pregnant with the heir to the throne of Antar, bringing with her the other royals to be publicly executed. For some reason, she had never shown up on the designated day and the remaining 'skins' still on Earth were never able to locate her. Lastly, he had located Vilandra and had tried to bring her back to Antar with him in hopes that their marriage union would bring more power to his throne, as well as give his throne a legitimacy that the Alliance would recognize. But, at the last minute, she had turned against him obviously having been swayed by the emotions of her human host. The human race was most certainly going to pay for these failures, but first he was going to have to kill the royals. If it was the last thing he ever did, he was going to bring them to their knees.


**************************************
"Jesse you're so quiet this evening. Did something happen at the office? Did my Dad say anything about why they're going to Florida with the Parker's?" Isabel asked. She had been trying to carry on a one-way conversation with her husband for half an hour and he hadn't heard a word of it.

"Um hmm," he responded absently. He still wasn't really listening and Isabel knew it. It was just one of those half-hearted responses husbands so often give their wives. In reality his mind was a hundred miles away.

Isabel decided to give it one last try. "Jesse, so…do you like my hair. I dyed it blue to match the pillows on the couch." She hadn't really dyed it blue. Actually, it was still blond and shoulder length. (She had changed it back after the Ireland incident with Liz. Jesse had made such a big deal about how much he liked her as a blond.) She was just trying to see if he was paying any attention at all.

"Yah, sure," he told her, his mind obviously elsewhere.

Isabel dropped her utensils onto her plate with a noisy clatter. "God, Jesse! You're not even listening tonight."

That woke Jesse up. He looked at his wife like a man without a clue. "What?" he asked innocently. "What did I do?"

She made an exasperated noise before answering. "I've been trying to get your attention all through dinner but it's like you're in some other world. What's going on?"

"Oh, honey, I'm sorry. I've just been trying to puzzle something out about the symbols that doesn't make sense to me," he explained.

"Why? I thought we had finished with those."

"Well, so did I, but there's one little thing that's been bugging me. About Tess." He waited for his wife's reaction.

"What about Tess?" she asked nervously. She hated every time the evil blonde's name was mentioned.

Jesse scratched his head absently. "Well, Tess is dead for all times, right? She'll never be recreated, reborn, or anything like that. You follow me so far?"

"Yah, so what about it?" Isabel asked. "We're left without a queen to make up the royal four so the granilith has chosen Liz to take her place. Obvious choice. Max has been in love with her forever. It's not like Max would go for anyone else."

"That's the point, Isabel. Why is Liz the obvious choice? Ava is still out there somewhere. She appears to have a good heart. She helped you guys to save Max's life. She carries part of the essence of the original Ava," Jesse explained. "So, why choose Liz? I'm not complaining or anything. She's more than capable to handle what's expected of her and has proved her worth more times than I can count. But why did the granilith pick her instead of Tess' replacement? Ava was designed to be part of the royal four. Where is she? What happened to her? Why is Liz being picked as queen instead of her?"

Isabel had to sit and think of that for a minute. After the whole dupe incident, none of them had ever given a thought to them again. Where was Ava? Why hadn't she come to take Tess' place? Had Lonnie and Rath somehow managed to track her down and kill her? There had to be some sort of explanation. "I don't know," she finally said.

"Well, let's think about it this way," Jesse said, trying to present his thoughts to her from a different direction. "Kivar was determined to take you, as Vilandra, back to Antar, wasn't he?"

"Yah, so I sent him away and he hasn't tried to bother me since. Why? Is that what's bothering you?" she asked him.

"No, just hear me through for a minute," he told her. "Why did Kivar pick you over Lonnie? Lonnie's desperate to go back to Antar, whereas you've never wanted to go back. Lonnie tried to help Kivar; you've only ever done what you could to alienate him and destroy his efforts. What is it that you have that Lonnie doesn't?"

"Oh, god, you don't think…" Isabel began. "Do you mean, that only I have Vilandra's essence? That Lonnie couldn't replace me even if she wanted to…because she doesn't have any part of Princess Vilandra?"

Jesse nodded. "Tess is dead, not to be reborn or whatever…but is her essence gone? The essence from the Antarian Ava. Is it gone for all time or has it been transferred to someone else? That's what I've been trying to figure out and I just keep coming back to the same conclusion."

"Liz," said Isabel. "Everything always comes back to Liz. Always."

"Okay, that's the answer I keep coming up with too," Jesse told her. "But if that's the case, when and how did this occur, and does she know?"

Isabel laughed softly. "Trust me. If it's a part of her, she knows. She's just like Max, is all. She tells us things on a need to know basis. Seems to think she's protecting us or sparing us needless worry or some sort of drivel like that." She quietly thought about that bit of information for a minute. "You know, the more I think about it, the more sense it makes. I mean, we've all been wondering why Emperor Hanar is so eager to help her. Well, Ava was his daughter. What if he sees Liz as some sort of replacement for her?"

"Where'd you hear that?"

"Oh, something Milton said," she responded absently. "He's always tossing out all this useless information that he seems to think we should know. I don't see why he bothers. Most of it's ancient history anyway. But that's just one of his little facts that stuck in my head."

"Maybe his useless little facts aren't so useless after all."

"Maybe."

"Okay, so that still leaves one question," Jesse said. "Why can't she mindwarp like Tess? If she has the essence, shouldn't she be able to do that?"

"I don't think we know the half of what Liz can or cannot do," Isabel told Jesse. "But the thing is, our powers are human, not alien. So since Tess is gone for good, with her go the mindwarping powers - Justin seems to be the only one of us with them. The essence is something completely different. If Liz has that then that must be what gives her the right to be the queen."

"Wow, well that solves that little puzzle. She certainly is more than meets the eye, isn't she?" Jesse was pleased to have worked that out.

"Always has been," Isabel replied, "But you shouldn't go looking so pleased with yourself yet. You just opened up a whole new can of worms."

"I did?"

"Yes, you did," she smirked. "We still don't know why Liz was chosen over Ava. I mean, if the granilith could transfer the essence to her then why couldn't it have just as easily transferred it to Ava? Or has her being designated our dupe given her some other purpose, destiny if you will, that she has to serve out?"

"Thanks a lot, Isabel. You've just managed to replace one headache of a problem with another."

"Well, apparently that's what it takes to get my husband to pay attention to me these days," she smirked.

"Oh, you think so, huh?" he asked playing her game. He saw her nod towards him. His grin grew wider as he thought about how much fun it was going to be to prove her wrong.


**************************************
Their friends were starting to notice subtle changes about them. Of course, with the exception of Jesse and Isabel, they all just assumed it was the training they were receiving each night in their visions - Liz with Hanar and Max with Larak. But no one cared as long as they still stayed 'Max and Liz'…and they did. Whether it was the goofing off Max and Michael did every time Milton turned his back or the girl time Liz and Maria had at the mall, they were still kids at heart. There was even one night when Max and Liz sneaked over to Kyle's house and made his Buddha statue talk to him. It was a practical joke they still laughed about every time they saw him.

When Nancy Parker finally got over her hurt at Liz's 'running away' to get married while still in high school, thereby depriving her of a mother's right to help her daughter prepare for the wedding of a life time, even she noticed how Liz had changed. She couldn't quite put her finger on what it was that was different about her, but it both pleased and frightened her at the same time. Why hadn't she noticed that Liz had grown up? Why hadn't she noticed that Liz had matured beyond her years? When had it happened? She wasn't sure if it was a good or bad thing. All she knew was that her daughter was a married woman…and she was happy. Liz was actually happy for the first time in three years.

It was an odd sight. Homework was spread on the dinner table. Baby toys and blankets lay across the room. And there was Liz, happily bustling about the kitchen preparing tea for her mother. Max stopped in briefly to let her know he had to work late and that Milton wouldn't be in tonight; then he kissed her and left. Nancy simply didn't know what to make of it. Liz was a high school student, a mother, a wife, and something even beyond that. Call it mother's instinct, but Nancy knew there was something more to Liz. If she'd had more time she might have tried to discover what it was, but they were leaving for Florida that night and she wanted to make peace with her daughter before she left.

"So," Nancy began looking about the room, "this is nice."

Liz smiled. "Thanks, Mom. This little apartment has been perfect for us, but we're gonna be moving soon. After graduation, we're going to be moving to the North side of Roswell. We found a house."

Nancy could tell she was excited by the prospect. "That's wonderful, Honey. But how can you afford that?"

"Oh, well, Max and Michael and a friend of ours, Milton, have gone into business together. M, M & M Sound Technologies," Liz explained. "Interested investors from all over the world have already placed purchase orders and we've barely even started putting out our products. It's been absolutely amazing."

That explained why Michael had quit working at the Crash Down so suddenly. "What exactly is 'Sound Technologies'?" Nancy asked.

"Well, we've been looking into some of the ancient technologies from, like, thousands of years ago…kinds of sciences that no longer exist on Earth today. The one we found most interesting was the sound technologies. Take the pyramids as an example. We found out that situated around every single pyramid in the world, whether in Egypt or South America, are these tall, hollow buildings called pylons. And every single pylon, no matter where it's found, will resonate at the same frequency when hit." Liz was trying to keep the explanation simple enough for her mother to follow. "Well, scientist have become very interested in these pylons in the last few years. One of the things they've done is to recreate them in laboratories. They set them up at opposite ends of the room and strike them both at the same time. What they've found is that, by doing this, sound waves so strong are created that objects can be floated on top of them. They're beginning to think that ancient people may have used these pylons to help build their pyramids, perhaps floating these huge building blocks upon the sound waves to put them in place.""

Nancy just looked at her daughter in awe. "So, you're taking these same ancient technologies and turning them around and making modern day products with them?"

"Yes," said Liz proudly. "We've discovered dozens of ways to use sound technology in this day and age. And we're the only company in the whole world to do anything like this."

"Lizzy, you might change the world with this," Nancy told her. "This is so incredible."

"You don't even know the half of it, Mom. This is the most exciting thing that's ever happened to us." Liz was fairly bursting at the seams. She couldn't tell her mother everything. She couldn't say that aliens were going to be helping them run the factory or that these very technologies would probably help protect Earth from the ravages of Kivar, completely unbeknownst to humans. She could never tell her all the alien activities this 'factory' would be helping them to hide. But she could explain how it would affect her 'normal' human life. "We'll never have to worry about money or where we're going to live. What we're doing could potentially revolutionize the world, make Earth a better place for people to live on. And most important of all for us, this means that we'll always be able to take care of our families: you and Dad, Diane and Philip."

"Liz, I'm so proud of you," Nancy told her warmly. "You and Max are so young, but you really do know what you both want out of your lives. I still wish we could have done the big wedding thing for you, but knowing you're this happy means so much to me. And knowing we'll never have to worry about how you and Max will make out is such a good thing for parents to know. I'm so proud of both of you."

"Thank you, Mom," Liz said. She was so happy her parents were finally coming around. She hated being at outs with them, hated hurting them. But everything seemed to be working out much better than she had hoped for. She hoped it would continue on this way.

"Oh, and Honey, before I forget. Your father and I are leaving for Florida tonight to go vacation with the Evans'. And your father wanted me to give this to you." She handed Liz a large manilla envelope.

"What is it?" Liz asked out of curiosity.

"I think it's your father's poems."

"You're kidding me," said Liz as she pulled a small stack of papers out, al penned with her father's handwriting. "I thought he didn't have these any more."

"He saved a few of them and stuck them in the attic. I guess he couldn't bear to forget her. Throwing them out would have been like throwing out a part of himself. The other day he went up there and took them out. He wanted you to have them." Could Liz possibly understand what it meant for Jeffrey to share this part of himself with her?

Liz shook her pretty brown head. "I don't know what to say. I never expected this. Tell him…well, tell him I said thank you…and that I love him."


**************************************
It was a couple of days later when Max found his Liz sitting alone in the science classroom staring at the star charts that lined the walls. She was biting at her nails (something she never did) and appeared to be trying to figure something out. "Hey," he said quietly, "We missed you at lunch."

"I know. I'm sorry. I'm just trying to figure out why the Marignac is two weeks late. It should only take a month to travel from Zapoteca to Earth." Liz got up off the desk and moved over to one of the charts. "They wavered off course about a week and a half ago to stop over here." She pointed to a cluster of stars known in other parts of the galaxy as 'the Sisters'. "There's a planet and several moons colonized by empaths over there and the Zapotecans told me they picked up a passenger there, an ambassador of the Alliance. It's supposed to be real hush-hush but they think that the Alliance may be sending him here to check up on us."

"Who's they?" Max asked.

"My friends on the Marignac," she answered. "They say the ambassador's an empath too, and that they can't read him. But the officers on the star ship believe he's being sent here. If it's true, we could be in trouble."

"We should discuss this with Milton."

"I agree," Liz answered. She closed her eyes briefly in concentration and then told Max, "Milton wants to meet tonight at the factory."

"I hate it when you do that," he told her, pulling her close to him. He'd discovered that Liz could connect with any of them, not just him, and sometimes he wished she shared that ability only with him.

"You're just jealous," Liz teased him, "but you know, if you're a good boy I might make it up to you."

"Hmm, what did you have in mind?" he asked.

"Well, maybe some of this," she said standing on tiptoe to kiss him softly. "And maybe some of this." She moved a bit lower to graze her lips on his neck. Then she pulled away from him with a giggle, "but only if you're good, of course."

Liz pretended to ignore him while she walked away to get her backpack, but Max grabbed her arm and pulled her back against him. "I'm always good," he growled. Immediately he caught her in a passionate kiss, all the while stroking their connection into a heated flame. Then abruptly, as quickly as he had opened it, Max released the connection leaving a very out-of-breath Liz standing before him.

"That," she breathed heavily, "remains to be seen." It was a challenge, a game. How far would Max be willing to take it? As far as she was concerned he had already won, but she was having far too much fun to stop it here.

His reply to the challenge was hardly what she expected. "Get your things. We're going," he ordered stiffly.

"Wh-what?" she stammered. Had she said anything to change his mood so quickly? But then she saw the look in his eyes. It was pure, unadulterated desire.

"We're going home," he told her. "I think my wife needs to see what a good boy I can be, and then she has some 'making up' to do." He had turned the tables on her, catching her completely off guard.

"Well, if you insist," she said, grabbing up her backpack and throwing it over her shoulder.

"Oh, I do," he responded. This was going to be a memorable afternoon.



**************************************
"Approaching Earth, sir," the helm officer announced.

"Shields up," the tactical officer ordered. "Cloaking device activated."

"Excellent," replied Captain Tual of the passenger class star vessel Marignac. "Take us into orbit and let's get this over with as quickly as possible. Keep in mind that we're already two weeks behind schedule and the Durillians are talking about sending their trade negotiators aboard the Pilgrim if we take much longer." He turned to his liaison officer. "You have my permission to use the transporter if you need to. I don't care how much energy it wastes; I do not want to lose the Durillian account. Just get those people off my ship."

"Aye, sir," she replied and turned to exit the bridge. She knew the captain wasn't ordinarily this grumpy. He just despised having to take orders from the Alliance. So, when they had ordered Captain Tual to pick up Ambassador Quirino and deliver him to Earth as well, significantly adding two weeks to their journey, he had rightly felt his independence challenged. He had complied, but only because he knew they could have his shipping license revoked otherwise.

Also irritating was the fact the both the Alliance and the ambassador refused to explain the sudden interest in Earth. While they had a 'no questions asked' policy aboard the Marignac it was still curious. Why was Hanar sending such valuable members of Zapotecan society to the backward little planet Earth? What did the Alliance mean by sending the Ambassador with them? Obviously, more was happening on Earth than met the eye, but what? Perhaps the best question was: why had the Alliance, under Article 4 subsection 64, purged all records of their journey to this forsaken planet and ordered restraining documents against every member of the crew to prevent knowledge of their presence here from leaking out? For heaven's sake, she wasn't even allowed to tell her mother where she was!

She entered the conveyer and silently made her way to deck seven. Honestly, she wanted these people off the ship as much as the captain did. As liaison officer she was used to dealing with many different peoples from many different cultures, but it wasn't often that she encountered a true telepath. In fact, in her nine years aboard the Marignac she had met only three yet, here, forty surrounded her and it made her terribly uncomfortable. No doubt they would already know the vessel had arrived at their destination and were already packing their things, even though no one had yet to inform them.

The conveyer arrived at its destination and opened its doors. She was about to step out when she noticed that all forty Zapotecan telepaths were lined up in the hallway waiting for her. She had been wrong. They weren't getting ready to go…they had completely finished packing their things and were waiting for her. How did they do that?

"We're ready to beam down," spoke a voice from the right, startling her once again. She hadn't even noticed anyone standing there. She turned to see the ambassador who was also packed and ready to go. Good grief, was he a telepath as well? The plan had been to shuttle everyone to the planet's surface, and that plan had only been changed just a few minutes before yet he was already well aware of it.

The liaison officer quickly pulled herself together and replied, "Of course, if you will follow me I will take you to the transporter room." She began her way down the hallway as the telepaths quietly trailed behind her.

It was time to go to Earth.


TBC

posted on 11-Jun-2002 10:42:47 PM
PART THIRTY-TWO


Diane was so irritated. Everyone knew Jeff and Philip was up to something when they decided to take a last minute vacation in Florida, but what? Only an hour before they were to leave she had received a phone call from Isabel insisting that the two men had found her genetic donor and were attempting to investigate.

"How do you know this, Isabel?" Diane had asked her daughter quietly. She was still trying her best to keep Philip from finding out the truth until he was ready to hear it and until the kids thought it best for him to know.

"I dream-walked Dad," she explained. "I saw him and Liz's dad talking to an old lady. She was telling them that she was kidnapped by aliens and experimented on and that I'm her clone. That's why they're going to Florida. They want to find her and ask her questions."

"Oh no," Diane whispered, "What do you want me to do?"

"No, it's okay, Mom. We set Dad up to do this part of the investigation for us. We knew he might actually find something. Just keep an eye on him, okay?"

"Yah, sure, Honey. I'll do whatever I can," she said. "And whatever they find, I'll make sure to call you and let you know."

"Thanks, Mom. You're the best," Isabel returned.

That conversation had taken place two days ago. Since then, the men, while acting very suspicious, had done their best to see that Diane and Nancy were having the time of their life. They did the whole Disney theme park thing, brunches at exotic restaurants, and even shopping with their wives. But it didn't go unobserved that the two men had another agenda going on at the same time. Whispered conversations, telephone calls at odd times, and the refusal to spend the afternoon of the next day with them without explanation didn't go over well.

Diane finally decided to have a few choice words with her husband before bed that night. "I know what you and Jeff are up to," she told him.

"Excuse me?" he asked. There was no way she could really know, but he was curious as to what she thought was going on.

"I said, I know what you're up to tomorrow," Diane answered firmly.

"Oh? And what's that?" Philip looked at Diane as if he could tell what she was thinking. His eyebrow was quirked up and his forehead was wrinkled.

"You're going to track down that poor little old lady that you two think might be Isabel's human donor." She folded her arms and waited to see how he was going to answer that one.

As stunned as he was that Diane had actually got it right on the first try - how could she possibly know? - he was, perhaps, more surprised with the phrase she used: 'human' donor. What did she mean by that, he wondered. He'd had so many dreams - at least one each night - in which Max, Isabel, Michael, and Tess were aliens reborn as humans. (There was no way he could have known that Isabel was subtly influencing the content of his dreams each night.) He had never mentioned these to Diane because they were so strange, but now her peculiar reference to Isabel's human donor gave him pause to think.

Diane didn't even realized what she'd said or the valuable clue she'd just given away. She merely plunged forward. ""Philip, I swear, you cannot leave me out of this. Isabel is my daughter, too, and I have the right to know. I'm going with you."

That got his attention. "What? No, you can't Diane. Nancy doesn't know yet and we don't want to scare her. You've got to keep her distracted tomorrow."

Diane grudgingly had to accept that he was right. "Fine, but you're going to tell me everything when you get back no matter how strange, no matter how scary, no matter how foreign what she says may seem to you. Deal?"

"Alright, Diane. You have my word."


*************************************
The next day Diane played her part to the hilt, insisting to Nancy that the two of them have a girl's day out doing all the things the guys hated doing. Philip had a pretty good idea that she was going to make him pay dearly for her part in this later, but Nancy left willingly and Jeff and Philip were finally free to pursue a little private investigating.

They arrived at Gwendolyn Davis' house around noon and knocked on the door. Neither was sure what to say but they were hoping for the best.

"Who is it?" a woman's voice finally asked through the door.

Here goes nothing, thought Philip. "Hello, Ma'am," he said. "My name is Philip Evans. I'm trying to help my daughter with a research project and I was wondering if you might be able to assist me. I know this will sound strange to you but she insists that she is a clone…of you." He paused for a moment waiting for an answer, but hearing none and not knowing what else to do he decided to continue. "I have a picture of her with me. I'll just…um…slip it through the mail slot in your door so you can look at it."

Jeff handed Philip the picture they had agreed to show the elderly woman and Philip shoved it through the mail slot. On the other side of the door Gwendolyn picked up the photo with trembling hands to look at the face of it. What she saw nearly took her breath away. Max, Isabel, Michael, and Tess had posed for this picture almost a year and a half ago, but she couldn't have known that. To her, time flew away as she remembered the familiar faces of Danny O'Keefe, Charles DuPree, Alicia Hafers, and herself.

Slowly the front door opened to reveal an elderly woman with Isabel's face, still youthful and lovely, and shoulder length white hair. There were tears in her eyes. "Who are you?" she asked slowly, as if she was afraid of who they were or what they represented.

"Hello, Mrs. Davis," Philip answered. "I adopted Isabel, the one that looks like you, and Max when they were about six years old." He pointed out which one was Max and then continued. "My wife and I found them walking naked down a New Mexico highway. Six years old is a guess. We didn't know where they came from, who they were, why they couldn't speak any language. They were a complete mystery. But we took them into our hearts and into our home. Recently, Max and Isabel came to me and confessed that they had been secretly trying to find out about their origins and their birth parents. They said they, along with their friend Michael and their friend Tess, were clones and they asked me to help them prove it.

Philip gestured to Jeff, who was standing slightly behind him. "This is a good friend of mine, Jeff Parker. His daughter, Liz, is married to my son Max. Together we're trying to find answers to help our kids."

"How do you do, Mrs. Davis?" Jeff greeted.

"I…um…would you like to come in?" Gwendolyn had finally found her voice and her courage and decided the front porch was not the wisest place to be discussing these things. In all her years, no one had ever managed to put those four faces together - never connected the role these four had played to help alien beings. These men were sincerely looking for answers - answers only she could provide - and she was determined she would help them.


****************************************
It was decided that the entire group should be on hand to greet the incoming Zapotecan telepaths and the ambassador. So Max and Liz, Isabel and Jesse, Michael and Maria, and even Kyle and Jim all showed up at the Sound Technologies factory. (Milton was there as well but chose to look on from the background.)

It was in the dark hours of the early morning when the beam-in began. The first members to arrive inside the factory were the families with small children, then the senior members were next, and finally those that fell somewhere in between - be it single persons or married couples with no family. Each person was greeted as a guest and made to feel comfortable while they waited.

It was going to be a long night for everyone. Milton had managed to secure twelve large houses for the Zapotecan guests, to be shared among them, all within walking distance of the factory. But they were going to have to be shown to their homes and instructed on how the earth technology worked. (It may have been archaic but it was still unfamiliar.) Besides this, the hybrids and their human friends would have to be on hand as much as possible over the next few weeks to help them all to adjust and incorporate themselves into human society, not an easy task since both finals and graduation were coming up. Still, they figured the first night would be the longest, especially so because neither Max nor Liz would be available to help since they would be preoccupied with the ambassador.

The humans of the group: Maria, Jesse, Kyle, and Jim were struck by the beauty of the people before them. All were tall and slim with large black, alien looking eyes, and they wore the most beautiful robes, brilliantly colored with gold designs embroidered upon them. Watching them complete minor shape-shifts to appear more human did nothing to alter their rare beauty. Their clothing was still a dead give-away as far as making them appear to be foreigners so that had to go as well. Isabel worked with the women, giving them American clothes to wear, and then altering each garment to fit; and Michael worked with the men. It took quite a while and all were adamant about not wearing anything that showed their legs, so the lengthened the time it took to perform alterations.

Maria finally had to ask Liz what that was all about. "Lizzy, do you know what's up with the no legs thing?"

Liz, who had not been helping with the alterations, had to filter what Maria was asking. "What no legs thing? Oh…OH!…you mean that they don't want their legs to show?"

"That's what I said," Maria replied, slightly offended.

"It's a cultural thing," Liz explained. "In our culture, we consider breasts to be sexual objects so we tend to want to cover them. But in their culture, it's legs. They think legs are very…sexy."

"You're kidding me," Maria deadpanned. When Liz shook her head she responded, "Well, what's gonna happen when they find out how we dress here?" She was thinking about their first reaction to seeing someone in a bathing suit or a mini skirt or shorts and sandals.

"Maria, they know. It's not a part of their culture, so they don't want to dress that way. But they understand that showing our legs is a part of ours. They're okay with it."

"Well, I would hope so," Maria said as she huffed off, her long blond hair swinging behind her. Maria must have relayed the information to Isabel because the latter's eyes opened wide and she pursed her lips, but she returned to her work with a determined expression.

Then it was time for the ambassador to arrive. No doubt his choosing to be last was to leave Max and Liz on edge, giving him the upper hand. But the future King and Queen of Antar had been trained well in the last six weeks and were fully prepared to greet him on nothing less than equal footing. Michael, Isabel, Maria, Jesse, Kyle, and Jim had been apprised, as well, of what to expect, so while they waited anxiously by the side they made no move to interfere. The Zapotecans stood by uncertainly but maintained composure in imitation of their hosts. Milton merely watched in curiosity.

Ambassador Quirino shimmered into view looking entirely human both in appearance and dress. He was obviously well prepared for his assignment on Earth. And the large trunk by his side indicated he might be planning to stay for awhile.

Quirino was immediately on alert, trying to locate the future monarchs of Antar. He recognized the Zapotecan immigrants and so disregarded them as possible candidates. But intermixed among them stood several others. Some were obviously human, but three of them 'felt' different - giving off vibrations that were counter-species to their environment. There should have been a fourth, at least by the testimonies he had heard tell, and he was puzzled as to why he could not locate her. Then he saw two of them begin to walk toward him, moving so smoothly they almost appeared to be the same person.

As Max and Liz walked forward to greet the ambassador a purple whirlwind seemed to swirl around them, hiding them from view, and then reforming itself. As it disappeared from view everyone could see that Max and Liz had changed. Liz' hair had swirled itself atop her head and was pinned up by a tiara. Her jeans and T-shirt were gone and in their place was a floor-length gown, much like the Zapotecans had been wearing, only this was more ornately adorned in intricate patterns of golden symbols. Those who could read the symbols would have seen an impressive lineage spanning generations. Max, too, had changed. His hair was combed back and a crown had appeared on his head as well. His high school clothes had been traded for a white knee-length tunic and pants, delicately embroidered in green and gold the flora common to Antar. But most unexpected of all were their eyes, which had completely blackened. They seemed to be completely different people and everyone alike was taken back in amazement, even the ambassador.

"Isabel, what the heck is going on?" Maria demanded in a whisper. "What just happened to their eyes?"

"Shh," Isabel replied, trying to quiet her friend so she could hear what was happening. "Zan and Ava have taken control. I don't know why, but I want to see what happens."

"Ava's dead," Maria whispered back.

"Tess is dead. Ava's essence is very much alive."

Maria's eyes widened in shock. "What?"

"Shh!" Isabel dismissed her. Zan and Ava had approached Ambassador Quirino and were about to confront his presence on Earth. The original plan had been for Max and Liz to confront the ambassador but this was definitely better. The ambassador looked as if he were a deer caught in headlights and it became apparent to all that this was the last thing he had expected.

Speaking in Standard, Zan addressed Quirino. "Why have you come here? The Alliance has no business on this planet."

"Neither do you…King…Zan," he said. It wasn't an answer but he would explain once he had proof that this young man standing in front of him truly bore the seal.

"But we are human," Ava replied, "and this is our planet."

Quirino looked her up and down, trying to judge her physically. "You are human," he said finally. Then turning to Zan, "but you are not. I sense Antarian energy emanating from you. You are hybrid." He said it as if being human were a distasteful thing.

"We deny nothing," replied Zan, glaring at the ambassador as an adversary. "Now, answer us: What are you doing on our planet?"

"I do not answer anything until you prove you bear the seals." It was the one thing the Alliance wanted to confirm more than anything. This order came down from the highest channels and was spoken to him directly.

Zan and Ava turned their gaze to one another and appeared to be communicating silently. Then, turning back in unison toward the ambassador, they replied together, "We agree to this."

Slowly they dropped down to their knees as the ambassador moved around behind them. Placing a hand just inches away from their heads, his palms began to glow with a brilliant white light. Suddenly that light shot out toward Zan and Ava and - almost as if it actually shone through them - then appeared before them and formed the V-shaped symbol that was the seal. Everyone in the room was now a witness that these two were truly the future monarchs of Antar.

Ambassador Quirino stopped the flow of energy and backed away to allow Zan and Ava to stand. "You are truly the King Zan and Empress Ava of Antar, but how is this? King Zan, your hybrid body had been designed for this. That much is apparent. But Empress, you inhabit a human body…and you bear the seal. You will forgive me, but the Alliance will want to know how such a mistake could have happened."

"Mistake?" Ava fairly hissed. "I had a hybrid body. Tess was her name. And she was a betrayer, a murderer, a liar, and untrustworthy. When she died I chose a new host, someone loyal and true, intelligent, brave, honorable, and most of all loved. I would never have been loved or respected with any other. But this human, Liz, is loved and trusted by all and she has proved her worth again and again. Zan's host, Max, loves her with his very soul. He even risked his life for her. The granilith approves of her, wishing to make her the next head spokesman. And I approve of her. Trust me ambassador. There was no mistake."

Quirino was fairly taken back by this…all of it really. A human host? Next head spokesman? And chosen by the very essence of Ava herself and then sealed by the granilith? This petite brown haired, brown-eyed beauty must be more than meets the eye. "I see," was all he could say.

Somewhere in the interim the room had taken on a deathly silence and Michael, Jesse, Isabel, and Maria had taken up a protective stance around Zan and Ava. It was almost an instinct. They didn't interfere but they had moved closer in order to defend them if necessary. Ambassador Quirino made them nervous and they'd learned to listen to that instinct a long time ago.

"I hope you do. I want no further misunderstandings between us," Zan told the ambassador. "Max and Liz are the future King and Queen. You will listen to them." He watched for Quirino to acknowledge what he said and then continued on. "Now, contact the Alliance. Tell them we are here. Then be prepared to meet with Max and Liz. You will tell them exactly why you are here and you will be prepared for their instructions on how to safely incorporate yourself into this culture. And if you ever try to pull rank on them again, be assured you will find yourself off planet so fast your head will spin."

As soon as he finished his words, the purple whirlwind spun around them again. When Max and Liz emerged they were themselves again, clothes, hair, and eyes back to normal. Liz stepped forward first to greet the ambassador properly this time. "Welcome to Roswell, Ambassador Quirino." She gestured toward his trunk and with her powers lifted it neatly from the ground to hover in from of them, yet again startling him. How had a human come to have powers like that? "If you will follow us, Max and I will personally make sure you are taken care of." Then Max and Liz turned to lead the ambassador to more private accommodations in the factory. The ambassador followed behind quietly, definitely humbled, and definitely keeping a nervous eye on his trunk as it followed them.

As soon as the three had disappeared, everyone on the floor burst into uproarious laughter. Perhaps it was to relieve the tension. Perhaps it was because everyone had been caught so off guard by what had just happened. But whatever the reason, the ambassador had been shown his place and it was unlikely that he would cause trouble for anyone again.


****************************************
Gwendolyn brought some warm tea out to the living room and set it on the table. She poured herself a cup and then stirred in several drops of Tabasco sauce. Jeff looked at her like she was nuts. But Philip looked at her with a dawning realization, almost as if he could see where Isabel got her peculiar taste from. "You'll pardon me, gentlemen," Gwendolyn began when she sat down, "but I'm a little nervous about sharing such personal information with you. It's not something I usually care to talk about. I'm a little surprised, too, that your children haven't told you more about themselves."

"I'm sorry. I don't understand," Philip replied. "They told us they were clones. That sort of information isn't exactly easy to come across let alone prove. Are you saying there's more to it than that? That there are still facts they are hiding from us?"

"You really don't know, do you?" asked Gwendolyn.

"No, we don't," Jeff answered. "But we're trying to find out. The only way we can help our kids is if we have all the facts first."

Gwendolyn stared at them in amazement. "So, what did you expect to find out from me? Were you thinking this was some sort of…genealogical…search you were conducting?"

"Are you saying it's not?" asked Philip, answering a question with a question.

"Honey, if you think this is what it's all about you've got another thing coming to you."

Philip cleared his throat. He was pretty sure things were about to get really, really interesting. "Perhaps you better start from the beginning."

"The beginning," she murmured, deep in thought. She wasn't sure how to tell these two men the truth or even if they could handle it. If their kids hadn't told them, there might be a good reason for it. Perhaps she should begin with a test. "Let me show you something," she told them. She set her teacup on the coffee table. "Watch very carefully," she instructed. Then she waved her hand over the cup using a small amount of power to freeze the hot tea. Jeff and Philip sat up a little straighter, not sure if they'd really seen what they thought they just saw. Waving her hand over the tea again, she set turned it so hot that the tea actually boiled out of the cup, spilling over onto the coffee table.

Jeff and Philip slowly moved their gaze from the teacup to Gwendolyn, looking at her as if she'd grown a second head. She ignored their stares, knowing full well that they had never seen anything remotely like that in their life. "Power, gentlemen. That was just a little bit of power." She paused to see if it was sinking in. "It's what they did to us," she whispered.

Philip swallowed and then bravely asked, "It's what…who…did to you?"

"The aliens," Gwendolyn answered. "It's what the aliens did to us all."




TBC
posted on 21-Jun-2002 10:45:31 PM
PART THIRTY-THREE


Jeff just looked at Gwendolyn in disbelief. Surely she must be joking. Magic power? Aliens? Could any of this be any more far fetched? In his mind, he thought what he had seen must have been some sort of magician's trick. And as far as aliens went, he lived in Roswell, for heaven's sake. Aliens were a joke, a tourist attraction, not a reality. Perhaps the old woman was losing her mind. "You don't really expect us to believe any of this do you?" he asked her. They had come to Gwendolyn to confirm whether or not she had been Isabel's genetic donor, not to try to discover if life on other planets existed.

Gwendolyn did not reply, but merely raised her eyebrows toward him and nodded toward Philip, as if to indicate that he should answer that question.

"Jeff, I…I think she's telling the truth," Philip said. He had a look on his face as if, suddenly, everything made sense to him, like all the pieces of the puzzle had finally fallen into place.

Jeff sort of laughed at him. He still had no reason to believe anything he had seen. "Philip," he began, but his friend cut him off.

"No," Philip replied, "no, listen. I don't know why I didn't see this before. I mean, they practically handed me the information. I was just too blind to see it at the time."

"What are you talking about?"

"The documents they gave me to prove they were clones…the men both claimed to have been kidnapped by aliens. They described in detail the things that happened. The kids laughed it off like the stories couldn't really be believed, but if Mrs. Davis here…"

"This is crazy," Jeff interrupted.

But Philip ignored his comment and continued on. "And then there was the shooting at the Crash Down…I have police reports stating that several eyewitnesses had seen Liz get shot. But Max and Michael were there. Max went up to Liz, even though Michael was trying to stop him, and he put his hand over the bullet wound on her stomach. The witnesses claimed to have seen him heal her. Afterward, they fled the restaurant and told the police they'd never been there."

"It was ketchup. No one was hurt," Jeff told him.

"Then why was Liz called in to the police station a couple days later? She was pulled out of class to do this. Don't you think that's a little strange if no one was hurt?" Philip asked. He didn't even wait for an answer, but continued on. "Then there was the fire incident at my house. Diane had been cooking when a grease fire started. The thing reached almost to the ceiling. She was terrified, but Max came in and put it out. He said he used water, but no one believed him - not even the police."

Jeff owned a restaurant and knew from experience that a large kitchen fire like that couldn't be put out with water, but he didn't allow himself to be distracted for long. "This still doesn't prove anything. There could be any number of reason for these."

"No, think about it…all the times they disappeared, all the strange things that happened, the police involvement, the FBI involvement, their protectiveness of each other, even the chemical they found in the basement of that store in Utah. Did you know that chemical cannot even be found on this planet naturally?"

"So what are you saying? That you believe they were cloned by aliens?" Jeff was actually getting a little bit irritated.

"You know what Diane said to me last night?" Philip asked. He was only half paying attention to his conversation with Jeff anyway. His thoughts were still trying to grasp the rapidly converging pieces of the puzzle. "She said she knew we were trying to track down Isabel's 'human' donor. That's what she said: 'human'. My god, she must have known all along."

"I see you're beginning to get the picture," Gwendolyn broke in to their conversation. "Illusion is not one of my stronger powers. That was Alicia Hafers' specialty. But I can still do it well enough to help you get the picture." She waved her hand slowly through the air, creating a small holographic spaceship floating in mid-air above the coffee table. "This is a spaceship, of course. As near as I can translate, it's name meant 'wayfarer'. Its occupants were your typical aliens that you hear tell of so often in stories…small, white, large black eyes. They took hundreds of us, experimented on us, wanting us to meet their qualifications, whatever those were. We understood so little at the time. The only thing we knew was that we were helping them to accomplish something very important. In the end, only four of us met their specific demands: Charles DuPree, Alicia Hafers, Danny O'Keefe, and me."

All along she had been controlling the image she was displaying. She showed them the beings on the ship, the humans who had been taken, experiments that were performed, and finally the four humans who were chosen. And Jeff, who truly didn't want to believe any of it, found it hard to not to trust his eyes. "Why you four?" he asked her.

"I don't know if I can give you the answer you're looking for because they really didn't tell us very much. In fact, their only communication with us was always by telepathic link, but their minds are so different from ours…and so advanced…most of what I could tell you would be conjecture. All I know is that there was once a body of four beings who ruled a planet in the Whirlwind galaxy. Their government was overthrown and they were killed. The aliens wanted to recreate them using our DNA. But they couldn't just pick anyone; they needed humans that would be compatible with the aliens. We sort of had the idea that the qualities they were looking for were truly a rarity among humans.

"After they narrowed their search down to us, they began to change us," Gwendolyn continued. "Alicia always believed they were trying to advance us along the evolutionary scale…of course, her faith in God was severely shaken after her encounters with the aliens. Whatever the case, we all shared a sort of link - a connection with one another - and we began to develop powers. We could manipulate molecular structure, move objects without actually having physical contact, change the temperature of things, and make blasts of energy…"

"Blasts of energy?" Philip asked.

In reply Gwendolyn glanced around the room and, deciding on the fireplace, raised her hand. The men watched in fascination as her glowing hand emitted a fiery pulse that exploded across the room, lighting the logs into roaring flames. Then she turned and smiled somewhat guiltily, wondering if she'd managed to frighten them with this display, but they looked more shocked than scared. "That, my friends, was a blast of energy."

"Mrs. Davis, that was incredible," Jeff told her in amazement. "Why if I'd had that in High School…"

"If you'd had that in High School, you would have hidden it from the world," Gwendolyn stopped him. She spoke in utter seriousness. "Have you ever heard of the Special Unit of the FBI?" Jeff and Philip both shook their heads in the negative. "They're a secret alien hunting branch of our beloved government that hunts down anyone they believe to be an alien. Alicia wasn't careful with her power and they found her. I tried to get help but Danny was dead and Charles was so afraid of his own shadow that he'd locked himself away in a home-made bomb shelter. I wasn't strong enough on my own…" She couldn't finish. She shut her eyes as a tear slid down her face.

"What happened?" Philip asked. He could just picture Isabel and Tess in that sort of situation.

"They killed her," she finally said, "after they raped her of everything she was. They took away her rights, her dignity, and eventually her sanity. She wasn't a person to them…" Somehow she had held herself together admirably throughout the telling of the story even as tears flowed down her cheeks. "Mr. Parker," she addressed Jeff, "if you had these kinds of powers you would never tell anyone…not your best friend, not your parents, not anyone. It is a lonely, lonely place to be in."

The room shuddered in the silence that followed as each one was left with their own thoughts. Finally, Philip broke through the quiet to ask, "Why did you trust us? You let us into your home. You showed us your power. You told us your story. What if we were from the FBI? How did you know it was safe to tell us?"

"I got a flash when I touched the photograph," she explained quietly, seeming so fragile.

"What's a 'flash'?" Jeff asked. He, too, felt fragile. He was learning things he never believed possible. It was as if the world as he knew it was crashing in on him, and he knew instinctively that her story wasn't even close to being over.

"Flash is a word Danny made up to describe the mental images we receive from touching something or someone," Gwendolyn told him. "That was the other thing we could all do…receive flashes. Mostly it would happen during a period of intense emotion. When that happened we would be flooded with images from the other person of things that happened in their life or maybe a series of events that occurred with the use of the particular object. In the case of the photograph, I saw what preceded the picture…laughter, friendship, grabbing a fellow student to take the picture for them. I knew the photograph wasn't anything doctored up so that you could worm your way in here. I knew you were safe."

Jeff could remember an obscure argument Liz and Maria had nearly two years before about 'flashes'. It had been something along the lines of Liz getting flashes when she was with Max but Maria didn't get any when she was with Michael because he was too closed off. He didn't know why he was remembering it now. It didn't make any more sense to him at that moment than it had when he first overheard it, but somehow he thought it might be important. "Liz gets flashes. I heard her say it. She gets them from Max."

"I expect she would," Gwendolyn commented. "My husband used to get flashes from me as well. Just a kiss was all it took. It was in that moment of physical closeness, couple by the strong love that we felt for one another, that we would see flashes of each other's life. It was as if we could see into each other's souls." She sighed remembering her precious memories of him. "The link it created between us was unbreakable. I expect your Max and Liz are just as inseparable."

"That's got to be the understatement of the year," Jeff mumbled under his breath.

Philip gave Jeff a knowing look. He knew that Max couldn't even function without Liz by his side. "So what does this mean for Max and Liz?"

Gwendolyn wondered if they could truly understand the depth of the young people's connection. "I'd say it means they will never be with anyone else but each other, that their love for one another grows a hundred fold every day, that 'til death do us part' has no meaning for them because even death will never separate their hearts from one another. I'd say their souls are connected in ways you cannot possibly imagine and that they complete each other wholly and unequivocally. One begins where the other leaves off. It's like they're one person."

"How can that be possible? What you're talking about sounds like something from a fairy tale." Actually, to Jeff, it seemed to be something so foreign that it might be alien, and that frightened him, shaking him once again to his very core. How deep was his Lizzy involved in this? Was this something she truly wanted or was she even given a choice in the matter?

"No, not a fairy tale," Gwendolyn told him. "I told you. The aliens were trying to re-create four beings that had been killed in a government take-over. They did advance our human bodies, altered our genetic sequencing to speed things up. Then they did something more. They introduced alien DNA to complete the changes. When they were done we were no longer fully human, but a sort of mix. What I'm saying is that your Max - because he's a clone of Danny - is a hybrid mix of human and alien DNA. Some of what he's able to do is human, like the powers. We developed those before they introduced the alien genes. But some of what he does is completely alien, like his connection to Liz. Those flashes, the connection he must have to her, is from his alien heritage.

"I know you must be wondering if she became trapped into this somehow. You must wonder if she was ever given any choice in the matter of any of this. The answer is yes. She always had a choice. My husband said he could feel our connection through me. He constantly felt the pull of it on him. But it wasn't until we married and became intimate, that the connection cemented us to one another. It was only at that point that it became irreversible. Up until that point he could have left at any time. Liz had that same option all along."

"But would she have wanted to?" Jeff asked aloud, more to himself than to anyone else.

Gwendolyn answered anyway. "I don't think she would have. The flashes are only a small part of the connection. Your emotions come through as well. She would be able to feel what he feels for her, all his love, all his compassion, and all his desire. That's a hard thing to walk away from."

Again silence passed through the group as each one sat in his own thoughts. In the back of Jeff's mind he had found some small sense of peace in knowing that his daughter had truly found love - love that could never be broken - and that even in this alien way she had recognized it and known it all along. And he had a growing sense of pride as well that she must, obviously, have seen past what Max was - an alien hybrid sort of being - and returned his love despite this. No wonder she had changed so much since Max had walked into her life.

Philip, too, was lost in thought. Max had hidden so much of his life away from them, fearing to tell his own parents the truth. And yet in Liz he had found a soul mate - his other half - and had so freely committed his life to her. To have opened himself up to her and shared so much of himself with her had to speak volumes for this petite dark-haired beauty. How had he missed what she was to him?

And yet, what about the others? How did the others play into all of this? "You said before that Alicia was better at creating illusions. What did you mean by that?" Philip wanted to know. He was as deeply shaken as Jeff was. His kids had managed to hide their whole life from him. What kind of father doesn't know his own children? As disturbing as all this was, he was bound by loving devotion to find out the truth.

"We all had special gifts. Danny could heal and create power shields. Charles could do these incredible power blasts of energy - not like what I showed you. I mean of such destructive force that he could explode boulders. It was so strange that such a powerful man let his life fall apart like he did," she mused, then getting her thoughts back on track she continued, "Alicia could create illusions so powerful it was akin to brainwashing. She could selectively pick any person or group of persons and make them believe they'd seen something that was never even there. She once told me it was easier to make people see what she placed in their minds that to make them see what was really in front of them."

"What about you?" Jeff prompted.

"Me? I see dreams," she told the men sitting before her.

"You see dreams?" Philip asked.

Gwendolyn nodded. "I can go into anyone's sleep and see what they're dreaming about. I can even subtly influence their dreams if I wanted to."

A thought suddenly sprang into Philip's mind. "Do you mean you could show me things while I slept? Say you wanted me to know something but were afraid to say it in real life, you could introduce it to my dreams every night?"

"Why?" Gwendolyn asked.

"Ever since the kids told me they were clones I've been having dreams every night in which Tess, Michael, Max, and Isabel are aliens. Sometimes the dreams are light hearted and humorous. I see quirky things they've done with their power, like when Max and Michael went to Isabel's apartment to change the color of the paint on the walls. They almost got caught when Isabel's husband, Jesse, came home unexpectedly." He chuckled at the remembrance of this dream. "But some of the dreams leave me drenched in sweat form fear. In the one I had last night, the kids were trying to destroy a blue crystal called 'gandarium' that had escaped from a crashed spaceship." He couldn't finish telling her about the whole dream because the emotions it had left him with were still too strong. Instead, he looked away and wiped away the sweat from his brow.

"I'd say it's a strong possibility that Isabel is sending you those dreams. You did say you were 'helping' your kids track down their donors, right?" At Philip's nod she said, "I think they want you to know but are afraid to tell you. Perhaps they are afraid of how you'll react to the truth. I think they're trying to show you what their life has been like on our planet, perhaps to prepare you to one day learn the truth."

"Do you think they really want us to know all this? They've kept the truth hidden from us for so long," Philip replied.

"It would appear that way," Gwendolyn answered. "Why else would they have left you so many clues as to who and what they are?"

"There's still one thing you haven't told us," said Jeff.

"And what is that?" Gwendolyn asked.

"You haven't told us why they wanted to recreate the four dead rulers."

"I haven't?" She paused, unsure how to continue. These were their children they were talking about. How would they feel to learn the full extent of the truth?

Call it lawyer's instinct, but Philip knew when a client was stalling to tell the truth. Gwendolyn didn't want to tell them something. "What is it?" he asked.

"They weren't designed to stay here…on Earth. They were created to retake their planet from the enemy and to save their people. They were born for a destiny and, by god, they must do it otherwise everything…everything we've done has been in vain."

"But they're just kids starting out their lives. How could they do this? Why would they want to do this?" Philip asked.

"It's what they were designed for," she told them.

"But what about Liz and Jesse? They've already 'cemented' that connection you're talking about. For that matter, I think Maria probably has too. They'll have to leave them behind," Jeff said.

Gwendolyn shook her head. "I told you, nothing can separate that kind of connection, not even death. Jesse, Liz, and Maria are now a part of that destiny. Their connection will drive them to join their mates wherever it takes them. There won't be anything you can do to stop it."


***************************************
"Lord High Chancellor, I'm ready to give report," Ambassador Quirino said. He had contacted the Alliance as Zan and Ava ordered him.

"I'm surprised to hear from you so soon. What have you learned? Are the reports true that they live again?"

"Yes, Chancellor, the reports are more than true," Quirino said tightly. "And may I say that I should have been warned? I was informed that they had been cloned and reborn, not that they actually lived on in a host body."

The Chancellor ignored the irritable ambassador's remark. "I had thought as much," he mused. "There are ancient records indicating that the Iiridians had the sort of technology to capture the essence of a person, even a dead one, and transfer that essence to a new body. Amazing if you ask me. What a shame it is that they find themselves so superior to us that they only communicate with the granilith of Antar. We could learn so much from them. That being the case, you will remember that our only hope of ever allying ourselves with the Iiridians is to give our whole-hearted support to the granilith. Is it too soon to hope that you've managed to locate it?"

"It is here. That much I know," Quirino replied. "Ava claims that her host, Liz, is to become the next head spokesman for the granilith."

The Chancellor leaned forward in interest. "What do you mean? I thought you said Ava was in charge of the host."

Quirino shook his head. "I don't understand this myself. It was Ava who first spoke to me, but when she finished speaking control of the body reverted back to the host. Apparently, this Liz is the one who retains foremost control. It is she who will rule Antar. And it is she who will become the next head spokesman. What is more, Liz is fully human. She is not the original host the Iiridians designed for Ava. The original host died and Ava chose Liz as her replacement."

"What!?" the Lord High Chancellor exclaimed. "We can't allow a human to retake Antar!"

"You will excuse me, Lord High Chancellor," the ambassador interrupted, "but human or not, she bears the seal. I have verified this myself. Besides which fact, Ava has chosen her as her host, Zan accepts her as his bride, and she has the full backing of the granilith, which as you just stated we must ally ourselves with. Our options are quite limited here."

The Chancellor sat back to contemplate this information. He looked as if he were getting a headache. "Is there anything else I should know?" he asked wearily.

"Uh, just one more thing, my Lord."

"And what's that?"

"This human…she has great telepathic and telekinetic powers," he explained. "She has been altered in some way that I do not understand as yet. I have never felt such a power being in all my life. I think…"

"It's not your job to think," the Chancellor barked. "It's your job to make sure the Alliance knows what's going on and that the involved parties cooperate within Alliance regulations. Find out what's going on down there and get back to me. And while you're at it, make sure Earth isn't being unduly affected by their presence there or that of their Zapotecan guests."


**************************************
"Max," Liz laughed, "what are you doing?" They had just found a private place for the ambassador to use while he contacted the Alliance. As soon as Quirino had disappeared into the room, Max had turned to Liz and backed her into the room across the hallway and melted the lock on the door.

Max gave his most utterly dashing smile, his whole face alight with his playful mood. "I'm just trying to spend a few quiet moments with my beloved wife," he replied as he jiggled the doorknob to make sure it was secure.

"Okay, you know what? I find it really disturbing how good you've got at melting door locks," she teased him.

"Hmm," he murmured, eyeing his wife hungrily, "how 'bout we see how disturbing I can be, shall we?"

Liz knew what he was planning, could feel his desire building within her soul. It was if the surging forth of Zan and Ava had once again awoken a primal need within them both, a need that sought to be satisfied…now. Still, she had no intention of giving in without a fight. "No," she told him, unable to wipe away the silly grin that spread across her face, "no, we cannot do this, Max. The ambassador's right across the hall." She was backing away from him, but he was stalking her like prey. And in their proximity to one another the silver glowing began to trail its way over their skin with a life of its own. They weren't even touching, yet it happened still the same. The sensation was so strong that Liz couldn't even fight it and she rolled her head back, eyes closed, to welcome its onslaught.

As soon as she gave in, Max was at her side and their connection flared like a burning fire to life. He wanted her, needed her with every fiber of his being. His body ached to be inside her. His soul longed to wrap itself around her until they became one. "Liz, please," he whispered hoarsely, "please, baby. Let this happen. I need you and I know you need me too."

"Yes, Max," she murmured softly, "I need you too."

And that was all it took. In that instant, their souls merged completely, surging forth to fly like an eagle high above in the skies, vibrating with the passion that invigorated it. The power, the pulsating silver glowing, their merged souls - all of this left them intoxicated with one another. They were breathless, their hands moving aimlessly over the other not knowing where to go, their lips locked into an embrace as Max slowly lowered Liz to the floor. He covered her with his body, pulling at her clothes, all the while feeling as if he could never be close enough to her.

Liz, too, couldn't seem to get close enough and kept arching upward in an attempt to crawl inside him. She needed a release. He needed a release. "Max," she begged, "please do it now. I need you now."

That was all he needed to unite their physical souls along with their spiritual ones. They joined together, seeking relief in each other's arms, their world aglow with a brilliant purple light.

The forceful energy from their connection billowed outward so powerfully that everyone in the building felt it, felt the wave of it push against their skin. And the ambassador, who was especially sensitive to such things, felt as if his body was on fire. And then, just as quickly as it had surged outward, it pulled back in leaving all who had encountered it feeling almost naked without it.

(Uncomfortably, Michael exclaimed, "Darn it, Maria. I've had it with those two. I swear to you we are not buying a house if it comes anywhere within a mile of where they're living." "Cool it, Spaceboy," she responded, somewhat winded from the experience, "I happen to be with you on this one.")

And Max and Liz, their connection cemented even stronger, held each other close. Their hearts beat as one, their love the only home they would ever need. Something had changed within them once again, pushed them to become something more, linking their minds, hearts, and bodies in an ever more permanent bond. There was nothing they couldn't accomplish as long as they remained together, nothing they couldn't achieve. And perhaps it was as simple as that, a reminder that their need for one another was their very key to survival and that of everyone else's as well. It was through the strength of their love that two worlds would be saved.


TBC

posted on 13-Jul-2002 8:15:51 PM
Thank you for the feedback. I live for it!


PART THIRY-FOUR


'Finally,' thought Liz, 'we have access to a telespan device.' Her relief was overwhelming. She had wanted to contact Nahtuah for nearly two months now, and was anxious to get communication underway. Emperor Hanar had agreed that it would be best for Liz to contact Nahtuah herself, but it would still take some time. Transmission would have to be encoded, sent to Zapoteca, and then relayed to Antar to the home of Bratal. Liz hoped with all her might that the message would not be intercepted by Kivar and decoded, but she would just have to trust in the granilith to prevent such a thing from happening.

"Begin recording now," Demoira told Liz, who sat nervously before the screen of the telespan device. The message needed to be short enough so as to be less likely detected by Kivar's men, yet packed with as much information as possible. They wanted this to be a message of hope to the Antarian people and especially to those of the underground.

"Nahtuah," she began in Standard, "my name is Elizabeth Evans. I am Queen Elect of Antar, wife of Max Evans who bears the essence of King Zan, Prophetess of the granilith, and bearer of the essence of Empress Ava. I, too, wish that I could bring you glad tidings but it is true that these are hard times in which we live. We are deeply grateful to learn of your perseverance under the dire circumstances, which exist on Antar, but we must ask you to wait for us a little longer. It is our understanding that Kivar means to bring war to Earth, the planet on which we currently live, and we must be here to defend this planet. The humans here are innocent and naïve, not even aware that life on other planets exists. They will not survive without us.

"Please be assured, however, that we have not forgotten the plight of the Antarian people. It is our every intention to return to Antar and free its people from bondage and slavery and to end the carnage that defines Kivar's rulership. It is also our intention to return the granilith to its rightful home on Antar. We promise to bring you relief as soon as possible.

"On a more personal note you asked, also, about Vilandra and Rath. Vilandra's essence lives on in a young woman named Isabel Ramirez and Rath's essence lives on in a young man named Michael Guerin. The four of us together, along with our mates and our friends, are training and working very hard to prepare for a time in which we may end Kivar's tyranny and bring peace to both our peoples.

"May you have peace of mind in knowing that the things you have long fought for will soon come to pass. End transmission."

It was a short message, but Liz hoped it would be enough. A fight and a destiny that had once belonged only to Max, Isabel, Michael, and Tess had somehow become hers and she hated knowing that, even though she had the power, she still had to wait…and waiting meant more lives being lost all the time. However, the granilith insisted this was how the timeline must evolve and Liz knew it was true. Each night, as Milton helped her to open herself to the granilith more and more, she was able to see the things that would occur in the future. Kivar would lose this time around but it wasn't going to prevent the all out fight that was to occur on Antar nor the skirmishes that they must battle on Earth. The timeline had changed enough that they no longer expected a war to occur on Earth, but enemy Skins were still present and there was no doubt that more would arrive before Earth was completely protected. That being the case, there was no way they could afford to leave Earth before it had been cleansed of the enemy and protected from all future attacks on its people.

Liz hadn't moved from her seat since the end of the transmission and it worried Demoira. Much revolved around the dark-haired beauty that sat before her, so anything that concerned Liz would necessarily concern the rest of them as well. "Empress," Demoira began, "is everything alright?"

Her voice startled Liz out of her reverie and she immediately stood up and turned to face the woman in charge of communications. "I'm sorry, Demoira. I was just lost in thought," she told her. "Encode and transmit the message to Emperor Hanar. He knows to expect it."

"Yes, Empress," she replied and immediately got to work as ordered. To be here with the future queen of Antar and host of Empress Ava was such an honor. She had been chosen for this out of thousands who had applied for the position. Knowledge and teaching ability, technical skills, telepathy, and connections within the Alliance and the government of Zapoteca were just some of the qualifications Liz had demanded from those she had handpicked for the assignment on Earth. Demoira felt honored to be chosen to help this young queen and was devoted to satisfy any demands she might give.

'How did it go?' Max telepathed to Liz.

'All right, I think,' she telepathed back to him as she exited the communications room. 'Demoira's encoding the message right now.'

'Good,' Max sent to her. 'I'm going with Kyle and some of the other men to start setting up the power pylons to shield Earth. We're just installing one today, somewhere southwest of Ghana, so that we can learn how to do it. I got Isabel to watch Justin for a few hours so that I can be freed up to do the work and you can check on the parents. How does that sound to you?'

Liz breathed a sigh of relief. 'That'll be perfect. No one's heard from your mom in two days so we have no idea what's happening. I really need to check in on her.'

'Good. Do it,' Max telepathed back, 'and let me know what you find out.'

'No problem.' Finding out would give Liz one less thing to worry about. Finals were a week away. Graduation was a week after that. Jeff and Philip were on a mission to find out the truth. The Zapotecans were working to set up residence on Earth and blend in. Shield pylons were being set up around the Earth to provide at least some immediate protection for the humans against any fleet attack sent by Kivar. Factory production was now on schedule. And any number of other smaller events were under way as well. Liz was exhausted with keeping everything organized and Max was just as tired, but they both had to admit that it was a relief to get everything underway.

'Love you, Liz.'

'Love you, too, Max,' she returned. 'Bye.'


****************************************
Maria had been feeling Michael's nervousness for half-an-hour now, ever since he'd gone in with the doctors. He hadn't wanted to go, but when they insisted they needed to know more about him in order to understand his unborn child he'd relented. But in the last few minutes, his nervousness had changed to fear and was increasing by the minute, almost to the point of panic.

"What is the matter?" Isabel finally asked in exasperation. She was doing her best to take care of Justin but Maria was making her nervous with her pacing.

"I don't know," Maria answered as she continued to pace. "It's Michael. Something's wrong."

Isabel adjusted Justin to her other hip. "Come on, Maria. It's just a doctor visit. How bad could it be?" It was a vain attempt to reassure her friend, for at that moment Maria took off in a panic to race to the other side of the factory, to the area designated for laboratory and other medical purposes. Isabel was doing her best to keep up with Maria but it wasn't easy since she was carrying an eight-month-old baby.

Maria, blinded by Michael's spiking fear, wasn't even paying attention to what she was doing. She only knew she needed to reach Michael. She raced haphazardly toward the examination room and placing her hand over the door knob, proceeded to walk right through it, without even having opened it. Isabel's eyes opened wide with amazement. They all knew that Maria was empathic, but she hadn't seemed to develop any new powers beyond that…until now.

Maria rushed to Michael's side as he fought his way off the examining table, not even aware that she had just 'ghosted' through a closed door. He had thrown the blanket on the floor, power blasted the medical technician across the room sending scanners and other instruments flying, and shoved the biobed sensor away from his body. He was endeavoring to get up from the table when Maria reached him. "Michael, what's wrong?" she demanded. "Just tell me what's wrong." She wrapped her arms around him, willing him to feel her love and support.

It stopped his fight instantly just to have her in his arms. He buried his face in her hair drawing comfort from her scent. "I'm sorry, Maria. I just can't do it. I just can't do it," he told her. His fear was still pouring through her in waves and she could feel him trembling.

"What, Michael?" she asked gently. "You can't do what?" Maria couldn't imagine what would make her brave, strong warrior so afraid.

"It's like the white room," he told her, hoping that would pass for an explanation. He didn't know what else to say. He wasn't even sure, himself, what caused his fear to soar to such an extent.

"Michael, look at me," she ordered. "Please." She waited for him to sit up straight and meet her eyes. "Are you saying this reminds you of when Max was taken to the white room?" Out of the corner or her eye she could see the technician had picked himself up from the floor and was listening intently to their conversation. He may not have understood much English at the time, but through telepathy he was able to discern most of their conversation.

Michael nodded an affirmation. "Max used to have nightmares sometimes. When I'd wake him up I'd get flashes of what they did to him in the white room."

Isabel listened carefully to what was passing between Maria and Michael. She knew exactly how Michael felt, having received flashes from Max on several occasions when waking him from bad dreams. She may not have been Maria, able to comfort him through her touch, but she knew what she could do in her own way to help him. Jesse was in the next room receiving his own examination. If she brought him in he would be able to translate the Standard the technician spoke into English. That alone might help Michael to feel more at ease. She retreated quietly to go get her husband.

Michael was trying to push his way off the biobed again but Maria stood in his way. Holding him back she said, "Michael I can't let you run away from your fear. Nothing bad is going to happen. I'll stay here with you and hold your hand but you have to do this…for our little girl. Please."

That stopped him. "A little girl?" he asked her with wonder, his fear pushed to the back of his mind. He'd always imagined the baby would be a little boy, never a delicate little girl he'd need to protect from the world. (Truth be told, he thought he was too powerful to produce female offspring.)

"Yah, Michael. The doctor told me it was a girl." She could sense how he was just awestruck by this news and how protective it made feel. "The thing is, even though I'm still not showing at all, she's progressed really fast, like way faster than a human baby would. They think she's only a month away from being born, but they won't be sure until they know a little more about your physiology. And there's still, like, the really weird thing with her having two umbilical cords. They don't know what that's about, but we're all pretty sure that comes from your side of the family." She smirked about the last part.

"Sure," he told her, "blame it on me." But his fatherly instincts were already taking over and he let Maria help him lay back down on the table. The technician, moving a little more cautiously now, returned to Michael's side and closed the biobed sensor over him once more. He patted Michael's shoulder and softly told him something in Standard in hopes that it might reassure his nervous patient. Maria stood next to him and held his hand.

Isabel returned with Jesse and was relieved to see Michael had calmed down. Truthfully, she probably would have responded the same way in that situation, but the difference was that Michael had more fire power than she did and he could potentially do a great deal more damage. She wasn't sure what Maria had said to calm him down but he still wasn't totally at ease. He had Maria's hand in a death grip and he was glaring at the doctor. Never the less, he was behaving himself and letting the examination resume its course.

"Hey, man," Jesse greeted him. It was funny how much he'd become a part of their group in the past few months. No one questioned his presence among them any longer, nor did they worry over his motives or the fact that he was a human. "They're all done with my preliminary examination. You want me to stay in here and translate for you?" he asked Michael.

"Yah, if you don't have anything else to do," Michael responded. He was trying to sound brave although relief was clearly written across his face.

Jesse said something to the doctor, probably an explanation of why he was in the room, and then listened patiently while the doctor began to give him a long, drawn out speech of sorts. Jesse's eyebrows were steadily creeping up higher and higher. He asked a couple of questions to help clarify what he had been told and then relayed the whole message to Michael. "Well, it looks like you're forty-five percent human, forty-five percent Antarian, and ten percent of something they haven't identified yet," Jesse explained.

"Run that by me again," Michael responded.

Jesse shook his head as if he were still a little bit puzzled by the explanation himself. "Yah, well, the thing is, they think it might by Iiridian. That would have come from the alien beings who created you. It's looking like they added a part of themselves into the mix, so to speak. And the really weird thing is that they also found Iiridian DNA in Maria and me, which means somehow you guys are passing a part of yourselves onto us."

"Oh, I, like, so knew that," Maria commented, shaking her head. "I totally felt different even before I got pregnant. That's what scared me so much. And then when Liz…changed me…and I started developing empathic powers it was like, I just knew I wasn't all the way human anymore."

"Tell me about it," Isabel told Maria. "You were trying to get to Michael so fast that you totally 'ghosted' through the door. I had no idea you were getting powers like that."

"I what?"

"'Ghosted' through the door," Isabel answered. "You walked through a closed door, Maria, as if it weren't even there."

Maria looked momentarily stunned as she thought this over, then she brightened suddenly. "I did, didn't I? Oh my gosh, that is like, so cool." She made her best Superman pose and quipped, "More powerful than a melted lock. Able to walk through closed doors. It's a bird. It's a plane. No, it's super Maria." She ended in a fit of giggling.

All the talking had distracted and relaxed Michael further. He hardly noticed the continuous scans the technician and the doctor were running. "Yah," he told her, "I can see it now. Our poor daughter…she'll never have a moment's privacy."

Maria just laughed at him. She knew he was proud of her and, perhaps more than that, pleased that she was becoming alien herself. "Neither will you, Spaceboy," she told him. "Neither will you."

The scans didn't take much longer and, with the samples they'd taken from Michael's pod, the doctor seemed satisfied that he would find the information he was looking for. He let a very relieved Michael get up and told Maria he wanted her back in two days to go over the results. With that the ordeal was over and the group was dismissed.

But the doctor was left with his own thoughts. Over the past few months he had come to know the Empress Elizabeth and had been impressed enough with her to leave his home and drag his family halfway across the quadrant to serve at her side, but the others he had long wondered about. They were very human, very much a product of Earth, but they were also close-knit and strong, completing each other in unexpected ways. It was obvious there was potential in them that hadn't even been tapped yet, and he was sure he was going to enjoy watching them grow and change through the coming months and years.


*************************************
She found her father-in-law Philip with Danny sitting in the local pub drinking poteen and singing bawdy drinking songs. She would never thought either of them to be the type, but she guessed they must be trying to relieve their stress over the whole 'alien' situation, or perhaps Danny was trying to help Philip relax. She wasn't too sure. Whatever the case, she guessed Philip must have dreamed himself back to a time of the Vietnam War because the whole pub was filled with soldiers and both Danny and Philip were in uniform. Liz anchored the dream into place and expanded it into the visionary plane, then walked into the pub.

Danny was the first to notice Liz had joined them. Quickly rising he greeted her. "Saints preserve us, Elizabeth, you came back."

"Yah, um…can I join you?" she asked tentatively. She trusted Danny to do his job in caring for Philip but she thought - considering the circumstances - that she should be present to answer his questions before he headed back to Roswell. When she had telephoned Diane a few minutes before she had learned that Philip and her dad hadn't come home until the wee hours of the morning and that they were both, currently, sleeping off their intoxication. By all appearances, Philip looked completely frazzled. No doubt his safe, reliable world had been shattered by the confessions of Gwendolyn Davis - though Liz couldn't be sure how much she had told the men - and he simply didn't know how to deal with it. She hoped Danny would let her help him.

"Liz?" Philip asked looking up in confusion. He couldn't imagine what she would be doing in a pub.

"Hey," she voiced too softly to be heard over the din.

"Get up, Philip. We're leaving," Danny said, tossing money on the table. "We can't be responsible for letting Max's girl around this motherless lot." Danny walked around the table, noticing Liz staring at him. "What is it?" he asked.

Liz shook her head slightly. "It's just you look just like Max, and…so amazing in uniform." She gave him a shy smile as thoughts of what she'd like to do to Max if she ever really saw him in uniform. Danny blushed to his ears and turned away, mumbling something Liz couldn't quite hear.

He was about to pull Philip to his feet when Liz stopped him. "Here, let me," she told him, then she bent forward and placed her hand over her father-in-law's chest. She used her power to remove every bit of alcohol from his blood, wanting him sober for whatever might follow.

He gazed up at her in amazement. "What did you…? How did you…?" He wasn't really sure what to ask. Gwendolyn had only indicated that Max, Isabel, Michael, and Tess would have power like that.

Liz steadily returned his gaze. "We have a lot to talk about," was all she would say. Later, she would recall how calm she felt, believing it must be that she was used to helping people come to an understanding about the whole 'aliens are among us' thing, but at the time her only thought was to get done what she had to do. In the back of her mind she sensed that there was something not quite right - not with her father-in-law - but with her friends. She wasn't sure what it was; she only knew she must hurry up there so she could return to the 'real' world and find out the cause of her feeling.

They left the pub then and entered into the bright light of day. It was quieter outside and their conversation could proceed freely. "I got flashes when I touched you in the pub,' Liz told Philip. She wanted to break the ice, let him know that she knew, and that there would be no more secret keeping. "I have to admit I'm surprised Gwendolyn Davis was able to understand as much as she did, and even more surprised she was so willing to tell you everything."

"Aye, it surprised me as well," Danny confirmed. "It surprised me as well. Gwenny was never the one t' blather about it knowin' as how it could get us all killed. I can't imagine what made her change her mind."

"She said she got flashes from the photo we gave her," Philip explained. Liz filed his comment away in the back of her mind. (Whether she knew it or not, Isabel should be able to get flashes from inanimate objects just as Liz, and according to the flashes she received, Isabel should also be able to create illusions - just not as powerful as Tess, of course. The problem was just as Nasedo had once said. They hadn't even begun to tap into what they were capable of. They'd been too frightened for too many years.)

"Come on," Liz said. "I need to show you both some things."

At Liz's words the small Irish town, with all its peoples and activities, seemed to slow down and then stop. Women were frozen in their shopping. Men clasped hands in a greeting but appeared to be immobilized. Children and small dogs which had been running and playing in the street ceased to move, becoming living statues. Birds, motionless in flight, seemed to hang in the sky upon nothing. Even the air itself stilled with an almost deathly silence.

Philip felt his heart begin to pound within his chest. He was afraid. "What just happened?" he asked.

"I've taken control of your dream and pushed it into the visionary plane," Liz told him. "Before you talk with Diane and before you talk to my dad, there are some more things you need to know."

"How are you doing this?" He just couldn't understand how Liz, a human, could display such power.

"Max changed me when he healed me. He advanced my humanity in much the same way as the Iiridians did with Danny, Alicia, Gwendolyn, and Charles. I'm like him now." It was a simple comment and really did no justice to the whole story, but it shook her father-in-law to his core.

Philip looked at Liz with utter shock written across his face. He felt as if the earth had been shaken from its foundations. Nothing he believed in was true anymore. No one he knew was who he thought they were. As an attorney he was used to a life filled with cut and dry facts and black and white rules. You're either guilty or you're innocent. You're either who you say you are or you're not. Right or wrong. Yes or no. Possible or impossible. Except now he was being told that the improbable was true, that fiction was reality, that life was not as he believed it to be. Where did all that leave him? Perhaps it took him right back to square one: define the situation, establish the facts, and discover the truth. "That's why you're here," he said.

"What?" she asked.

"You're here to help me understand the truth. I know Isabel's been sending me dreams and Gwendolyn tried to explain what she knew, but neither of them told me the whole story," Philip answered. "But you will, won't you? You've known all along."

"Well, not all along, but, yes, I'm going to explain things to you. Hopefully everything will make more sense then," Liz confirmed.

"Aye, there do be a few things I'd like to know meself," Danny replied.

"Then let's get started," Liz said to the men. "Look." She turned and pointed behind them.

When Danny and Philip turned to see what Liz was pointing to they found Ireland had vanished and in its place, the desert land outside of Roswell. High in the sky a mysterious flying disk appeared. At first it seemed to move on a steady course to the planet's surface but then, abruptly, there was what appeared to be an explosion, and the spaceship tilted dangerously forward and took a nose-dive. Its plummet to Earth was soundless and frighteningly fast. When it hit the ground the deafening boom and the force of its impact sent a reverberation that knocked the men from their feet.

Their military instinct kicked in instantly. With never a thought for their own safety they grabbed Liz, who had been thrown to the ground with them, and shielded her with their bodies. Metal debris was flying through the air and a storm cloud of dust was sent in all directions. The air was thick and difficult to breathe and they felt as if they might choke. But after a few minutes silence reigned again and the air began to clear.

Danny and Philip stood up and helped Liz to her feet. They three of them were filthy, covered in dust and sand. They hardly noticed, too engrossed in the scene before them. Pieces of the spaceship, the Expedition, littered the ground. Philip picked one up, crumpled it into a ball, and then watched it unfold itself and move back to its original shape. Before them was a shallow trench, several hundred feet long, at the end of which lay the Expedition. Danny and Liz were walking toward it and Philip followed them, putting the piece of metal in his pocket almost as an afterthought.

Philip could hardly begin to understand the devastation that lay before him. The enormous ship was in pieces, terrible holes torn into the sides of what remained. Several alien beings had been thrown from the vehicle and now lay stilled in death upon the ground, their eyes dark and vacant. He thought he might be sick but Danny had finally broken the silence with his quiet words to Liz and he wanted to hear what he was saying.

They were bent over an alien who had somehow survived the crash. His movements were stiff and small and he was obviously in a great deal of pain. "I would ha' nary thought it would end this way," Danny said softly to Liz as he gazed upon the injured Iiridian.

"This isn't the end," Liz explained. "This is the beginning. He saved all of them."

"He saved all of whom?" Philip asked.

"Max and Zan. Isabel and Lonnie. Tess and Ava. Michael and Rath," she answered gazing up. "Their pods were in that ship and they survived somehow. This man saved them and brought them to a safe place until its sister ship, the Wayfarer could pick them up. There he combined their essences with human genetics to create the hybrids."

"Man?" Philip had never thought of an alien as being a 'man'. Why they weren't even human.

It was then that the alien being turned his head to gaze at Philip with his large black eyes. He opened his mouth as if to say something but no words came out. Philip was abashed, somehow knowing that this strange being had heard his words and understood what they meant.

Liz appeared not to notice. "We'll take him to the granilith chamber. He will be healed there," she told them.

"What's the…?" Philip began but left off as the world shifted around them.

"Granilith chamber?" Danny finished as he stared with awe at the huge pulsating crystal.


************************************
"Uh, Max," hedged Kyle. They had been working steadily for over an hour now on the first of many shield pylons that needed to be installed on Earth. Once each one was completed and activated they would form a power grid to protect the planet from the forces of Kivar. Of course that did nothing for those few skins still left on the planet nor did it prevent Kivar from sending in reinforcements in the meantime, but it would be enough to prevent an all-out war.

"Yah, what is it?" Max asked. He was breathing heavily from the exertion it took to install some of the parts. It certainly wasn't the easy job he had thought it would be.

"Listen, I…I've had such weird feeling ever since we got here, like something's not right, you know?" Kyle was really hoping Max wouldn't think he was going crazy or something. "I thought it was all in my head but then I started to notice how there's nothing here - no birds, no insects, no reptiles."

Max stopped working long enough to try to figure out what Kyle was saying. "What are you saying?"

Kyle wiped away sweat from his forehead with an old mechanic's cloth. "Well, it's just that there should be something…flies, alligator lizards, a sparrow, something, but there's nothing. It's dead quiet here, Max. It's giving me the creeps." He looked at Max to see if he was following his train of thought. "Anyway, I think I found out why."

Max's heart nearly stopped when he saw what Kyle held in his hands…the shed skin of a Bida, black and thickly scaled. He could only stare in horror. What would a Bida be doing on Earth? "Kyle, this is very important. Where did you find this?" he asked.

"Over there, near the river, where I was scanning for geological abnormalities. Why?" Something about Max' demeanor was sending shivers down his spine.

"Signal the others and tell them we've got a Bida on the loose. They need to gather themselves into pairs or join us back here," Max told him. "Oh, and make sure you stay near me. Bidas eat people."


TBC


posted on 2-Nov-2002 2:09:33 AM
PART THIRTY-FIVE


Having studied interplanetary relations and species distribution with Larek, Max was well aware of the Bida. They were an insidious serpentine race, both sentient and powerful. It was said they were able to control the weather and heal their own injuries in seconds, even re-growing a new head should the old one be severed. Anyone who set foot on their planet was never seen or heard from again. Max knew if Liz were present he would be able to join with her and they would be able to sense where the great serpent was, but without her he was on his own.

Kyle had contacted the others and the Zapotecans were running back in. Some were already beginning to pack up. Others had weapons out and were standing at alert. But Bida or no Bida, the shielding device needed to be installed so some would have to stay behind to finish that. The rest of the crew, which made up the survey team, could be sent back to safety. "Kyle, I'm sending the A team back to the sound factory. I want you to go with them. Find Liz and the others and have them beam back over here. We may need them for back-up," Max instructed.

"No problem," Kyle replied. There was no way he wanted to stick around and face a giant man-eating snake.

"And Kyle?" Max continued. "I need you to make sure they bring Justin with him. He's the only one who can mindwarp and we may need his powers."

Kyle couldn't believe Max would be willing to risk his son so soon. Why the child wasn't even a year old. "Yah, but Max…"

"I don't have time to argue with you…and I don't need your opinion. Get my son and round everyone up. I need them here now," Max ordered. He didn't have time for this. They had to do more than just protect themselves from the Bida if it happened to show up; they would also have to destroy the great serpent, tracking it down if necessary. Such a creature could not be allowed to survive on Earth.

His sharp tone drew stares from those around him. Always, the visitors were alertly trying to learn about the 'royal four' and their companions. Max was a puzzle to them. He was young and boyish, even playful at times, yet always serious and ready to command. For the few who had known the self-possessed King Zan in his previous life, Max was a refreshing change. He was simple, observant, resourceful, and above all caring, yet he retained the former's commanding style. They hadn't understood his words to Kyle but they recognized the tone. He would protect them.

Kyle wasn't used to accepting orders from Max, but under the circumstances he thought he might just do it that time. He returned with the others to the sound factory and went in search of Isabel, Michael, Liz, and Justin.

As soon as the A Team had beamed out Max turned to those who were left. "Varhein and Ruan, I need to to do a continuous scan for any lifeforms in the area. Also, make sure you're checking for traces of scheelite. Some of the more ancient literature indicates Bidas may use tungsten as a source of power. Let me know the minute you pick up anything." The two men acknowledged his orders immediately by beginning their scans. Turning to the others he said, "See how quickly you can work to finish this. The faster this gets done, the faster you can all get out of here."

"My Lord," Hiendal, the head technician said, "you will be returning with us when we finish, will you not?"

"Not until my job here is done," Max answered shortly. Future Max's memories of battle filled him with a raw anxiety to get this thing done. Earth may have been destroyed in the previous timeline but he was determined to prevent that from occurring again. Things must be put right in this time. Earth must be spared whether from the likes of Kivar or from the insidious presence of hostile alien beings. This Bida was going to come to its miserable end very shortly.


*************************************
Philip stood staring at the granilith crystal in disbelief, trying to comprehend how something that looked as if it must be from a bad sci-fi movie could actually be alive. "The granilith is a living machine, sentient, and very powerful. It's what our enemies want more than anything," Liz had explained to them. "You remember the dreams Isabel sent you. You've seen what our enemies are capable of. We will do whatever we have to do to protect this being." She had been right. Philip did remember all his dreams in vivid clarity. He had seen the evil Skins' actions, how they had endangered human lives and tried to kill the hybrids, and knew that they had been determined to find this 'granilith'. Powerful machine he could comprehend, but 'alive' he could not understand.

There was some sort of invisible barrier between the granilith and him, one that neither he nor Danny could cross, but it didn't seem to affect Liz. (He wondered if she might have created it.) She crossed right through it to help the alien that lay in pain on the floor of the chamber. Tenderly and ever so gently she helped him to get up and move toward the granilith. The alien truly was a person, a 'man', to her. Then, suddenly, it was as if the giant crystal reached down and grabbed him for he was no longer standing unsteadily on his feet but floating inside the granilith itself. Liz reached out a hand in silent communication toward the alien before he vanished completely.

Dismissing the incident she turned back toward the men. "I have more to show you. Follow me," she instructed. The growing sense of wrongness, maybe even of danger, was plaguing her mind strongly and she wanted to finish up as quickly as possible.

She took them through the backside of one of the pods, the only exit from the chamber. When they turned to see what they had crawled through, they found the opening had vanished. In its place were perfectly sealed pods with tiny babies inside.

"What is this place?" Philip asked with wonder.

"Saints preserve us, it's the children," Danny uttered under his breath. "Which one be Max?" he asked Liz.

Liz couldn't help but feel a little bit proud. Danny might have claimed to remember very little about his 'abductions' and such, but he didn't seem to have any trouble piecing clues together. She suspected he knew more than he let on, which would be a very Max-like trait. She glanced at him, noticing the way his hair fell over his forehead and resisted the urge to brush it away, and then abruptly turned away. "This one over here," she answered.

Liz walked along the row of pods, indicating the name of each one inside. "Max, Isabel, Michael, and Tess." Tess' pod glowed briefly when she touched it, recognizing the presence of the long deceased Ava within her. "After the Iiridian scientist was healed by the granilith, he went back and rescued the pods. Four of the children were left here and the other four were brought to New York."

"Why?" Philip asked suddenly. He'd heard about the 'dupes' from Max and Isabel and had received dreams about them.

"We're still not sure. We think they may have been some sort of back-up or something, you know, like in case one of them got killed there could be a successor to their position." She saw his puzzled look and knew his thoughts were on her. No one had ever told him she'd replaced Tess but he was smart enough to figure it out anyway. It was how he was. It was why he would never be able to grasp the truth unless he was given all the details. She sighed softly and looked away. "King Zan never loved the Empress Ava and Max never loved Tess, even though he tried. When Tess died Ava needed a new host. The granilith gave her a choice of Tess' duplicate or me. She chose me because I'm the only one Max has ever loved and that's what she missed most out of her life. She just…wanted to be loved."

Danny nodded as if he understood. "I couldna ever ha' been with Alicia. Twasn't me type,' he commented wryly.

"What if you knew it would save the world?" Liz asked Danny softly. She had turned her attention back to him. She still found his presence a little bit awkward. Were he older it would have been easier for her to accept him as Max's 'father', but Danny was so young and so innocent looking, without the worries and weights of the world her husband had to shoulder. It was endearing and reminded her so much of the Max that had saved her life three years before.

Danny shook his head. "I don' know. I might ha' tried but I don' think me heart would ha' been in it. She wasn't exactly the marryin' kind. She always wanted more outta life than life was willin' to give her."

"Sounds like Tess," Liz murmured.

Glancing back toward Philip she could see that he had thoroughly explored the pod chamber while they were talking. Now he was knelt before Tess' pod and was peering at the infant inside. "You know, Justin looks just like Tess," he commented.

Liz thought she might be sick.



*************************************
"Girlfriend," Maria addressed Max as soon as she arrived. (The transporter, amazingly enough, hadn't fazed her at all.) "What's this about you calling for back-up against some big snake?"

"Is that what Kyle told you?" Max snapped irritably. He didn't wait for an answer. "It's not just a snake. It's an alien snake…with powers like ours. It's fast and it's big. Flat on its belly it would come up to your thigh."

"Oh god, Max…we thought…I mean we didn't know and we couldn't get Liz…" Isabel began.

"Why not? Where is she?" Max demanded.

"She's doing her thing with the visions. We couldn't wake her. And we thought…we didn't," Isabel tried to answer. If they had known what they were up against they might have tried harder to rouse Liz from her vision. "What are we gonna do?

"We're going to link our powers together, join our minds, make ourselves a force to be reckoned with."

"How do we do that?" Michael demanded. It sounded like a good idea. He liked the idea of controlling power like that, but how? They'd never done anything like that before nor had anyone ever suggested they do it. Furthermore, how on earth did Max know how to do that?

"I can connect to each of you, one at a time, until we are all joined. We'll have access to all of each other's power and abilities but it will be like we have one mind," Max explained.

"Like what Tess did in Copper Summit when she let her strength flow into yours?" Isabel asked. The skins had ganged up on them when they had tried to attend Senator Whitaker's funeral. Max had protected them with his shield for awhile but then he had begun to weaken. Tess had lent her powers to him and enabled him to keep his shield going for a little longer.

"No," Max answered. "This will be an actual connection. We'll see and hear each other's thoughts and feel what each other feels, just like when we're connected to our mate. But our powers will be stronger, more intense."

"We'll need Maria and Justin," Michael volunteered. With Max's shield, Michael's power blasts, Maria's ghosting ability, Justin's mindwarp, and Isabel's ability to contact people subconsciously they might just have a fighting chance.

Max nodded. The sky was darkening and he could feel a powerful presence approaching. Max knew there were risks involved in merging this many people together - sometimes there was too much power to hold and sometimes people became so fused together they were unable to separate - and it wasn't going to help that none of them were experienced, but Max felt this was the best way to battle. In all the stories he'd heard of Bida, no one had ever been known to survive. "Isabel, you're first. You're already connected to Justin so I can grab both of you at the same time. Michael, connect to Maria. I'll take the two of you next. The Bida's coming. I can feel it. We need to hurry."

*************************************
"Liz! Liz! Come on!" Kyle demanded shaking her. He was still trying to pull Liz from the vision she had opened. Isabel, Maria, and Michael had finally given up and left to join Max but Kyle had stayed to continue trying. It was pretty much a given that Liz was now stronger than all of them put together, although Max was certainly a close runner up.

"Why don't you just slap her? That always works in the movies," laughed a voice behind him.

"You think?" Kyle asked. He was never sure what to think of Milton Ross' comments. Half the time he was serious and the other half of the time he was joking.

Milton sighed softly and shook his head. "You humans do not know how to take a joke. Move over before you hurt yourself. Let an expert handle this."

Kyle gladly gave up his spot to Milton. Obviously he wasn't capable of awakening her but he knew her teacher should be capable of it.

Milton kneeled down and began to reach out to Liz but then stopped. Turning back to Kyle he asked, "What is the problem anyway?"

"Max says there's a Bida on the loose."

"A Bida? Oh, they must mean Ouagadou. That serpent is almost two thousand years old. He's ancient. He's harmless. He'll give them a run for their money but I'd be greatly surprised if they can't contain him," he told Kyle. "Oh, but um…don't tell them I said anything about it. They need some practice using their power." The old man finished speaking and then he actually winked at Kyle. He couldn't believe it. Milton saw this as nothing more than a joke or at best a practice session.

Kyle watched as Milton turned back to Liz and was able to form an instant connection with her, simply by touching the necklace she was holding. He pulled up a chair and sat back to watch the two stilled figures before him…until they both disappeared.

"What the hell?" Kyle stood up so quickly that his chair was thrown backward onto the floor. What sort of alien magic could have caused that to happen? Better yet, where had they gone?


*************************************
The Bida was much larger than anyone had expected. The black scaled serpent looked to be about eighty feet long. Flat on its belly it rose about three feet from the ground. Its eyes glistened menacingly and its tongue flickered out toward them. They should have been terrified but linked as they were the fear seemed to disappear. Instead they were angry - angry that such a beast should be on their planet, angry that it was filled with such blood lust (for they could feel craving for death and the way it felt superiority for this), angry that it should feel so sure of itself that it would come to challenge them outright.

Their link was secure and strong. They could feel each one the other. There was Max, Isabel, Michael, Maria, and Justin, as well as the presence of Zan, Vilandra, and Rath. And strangely enough there was something more. The memories of future Max included odd recollections of this creature, how it had allied itself with the Skin forces in the previous timeline. It was a menace that must be dealt with before it could join forces with their enemy. But that was the last thought they had before their essences slammed into one another, merging completely, and producing a power so strong that a brilliant aura emanated from the group.

The Bida, for the first time in a millennium, hesitated. These were not humans, could not be humans, for he had not felt such great power on this planet in hundreds of years. It swayed its head slightly to and fro - an old habit meant to disconcert the prey - and spoke telepathically, "This land belongs to me and you are trespassing. Surrender."

They answered in one voice, "This land belongs to no one except humankind. You have no business being here. And we will not allow you to stay any longer."

The Bida laughed at this (or it was something that might be equated to a laugh). Did these puny beings honestly intend to battle him - Ouagadou, the greatest Bida who had ever lived? (Ouagadou had portrayed himself to be a god to the people of this land for so long that he had long ago begun to believe the lie himself.) Well, if it was a battle of wills they wanted then it would be a battle of wills they would get, and he would be the victor.

Rain began to pour down onto the dry land. Ouagadou had left the land in drought for so long that the whole area was parched and hard. Water was unable to soak directly in the ground and so began to puddle. Lightening flashed and thundered. Ouagadou was secretly pleased with himself knowing this should distract the people and give him the upper hand.

Ouagadou suddenly lunged at them with all his might expecting to collide with the group and, literally, knock them off their feet, but he struck nothing. They had accessed Maria's newly emerging power and had ghosted the snake right through them. The serpent was confused and lunged back again but was ghosted through a second time.

Before he could re-orientate himself the "humans" disappeared, a jungle grew up around him, and another Bida appeared to be slithering his way. What was going on? This didn't make any sense. He had lived on Earth for nearly two thousand years. How had he suddenly come to be back on his home-planet Bidador? Were they truly so powerful as to send him home…after all these years?

As the other Bida came closer he recognized the distinct smell of a female in heat. It was her time and she had chosen him. Ouagadou called forth a weather display to affirm her choice in him and his acceptance. Clouds descended from the sky and fog surrounded the area. It gave their courtship privacy and served as a warning to other Bida to stay away.

She approached closer, wending her way toward him. Her scent became more distinctive, like a name, defining who she was. And that's when he remembered. This is what happened before on Bidador - his last memory before he was tricked into leaving. This was Narama, his mate, who had died not long after their joining. Their offspring had somehow managed to survive but she had not. What was this? What was happening, he asked himself again.

And then it occurred to him. His mind was being warped, molded into another's way of thought. It was how he had been tricked into coming to Earth so long ago, as well as tricked into being abandoned here, and now he was being tricked again. He reached out and shoved the powerful mind from his, wrenching the warp away.

Ouagadou's anger lashed forth, a seething rage. He called forth the lightening to hit only ten feet away hoping to startle and blind them. The ground shook beneath the humans' feet. The noise was deafening. Sparks split off and flew through the air. But as it turned out, only Ouagadou was impressed with that little display, for he was suddenly struck by a massive power blast of energy. His rain glistened body was scorched and impaled and set forcefully back. He screamed in pain and outrage. How dare they?

Before he had a chance to heal himself another power blast raged toward him…and then, mysteriously, dissipated in mid air. Ouagadou saw a human girl had appeared, stepping through a portal - a doorway of sorts that appeared in midair. It was she who had protected him - she alone - and she had positioned herself between him and the group of beings seeking to kill him. Such extraordinary behavior. It was a shame he would have to devour her later. Perhaps he would keep her around for awhile.


TBC
posted on 2-Nov-2002 2:13:18 AM
PART THIRTY-SIX

Linked as they were, the five of them had an unbelievable amount of power coursing through them and they wanted action. They wanted to fight. But the human girl was in their way. They hardly even knew anything except their frustrated need to battle, but one voice whispered across the connection. One name was breathed through them all, awakening them and helping them to remember who they were: "Liz". Yes, it was Liz who was somehow shielding their power, preventing them from destroying this creature. They would have tried to destroy anyone else who tried this, fought them with all their raging power, but somehow memories of her importance were coming through.

*Flash* "So, I called like, 37 times," Maria said. "I know. I'm sorry," Liz answered. "Liz, what happened?" she asked. "What do you mean, Maria? You were there. You saw everything." "Did I?" Maria asked, "cause, um, this isn't ketchup. This looks a lot like blood to me. What did Max do to you?"

*Flash* "Are you crazy? This is dangerous. This isn't like a game! We don't even know what could happen!" Maria exclaimed. "Look who's talking. You were the first one to take the plunge, Maria!" Liz exclaimed. "Michael and I just kissed," Maria answered quickly. Then at Liz's angry glance, "Okay. Fine. We did a little more than kissing. But, look, I wasn't getting visions, and I didn't have glowing hickeys and rashes and…look, the bottom line is that we don't know what this is all about, all right? Female spiders can, you know, bite off the male's head after they mate. What if they need someone to mate with to get certain information, you know? And then…Blttt! You know?" Maria was losing it and Liz knew it. "What're you trying to say? That Max is just gonna bite my head off?" "Uh, no," Maria answered, "What I'm saying is, how do you know he's not, like, using you?" Liz didn't even have to think about this. "Maria, because it…it feels right…It feels right in a way that nothing has felt right in my life before."

*Flash* "Liz won't tell anyone. She's different," Max told Michael and Isabel. "Really? So how'd she react when you told her? 'Great. You're an alien. That's fantastic,'" Michael said sarcastically. When Max looked away he knew what had transpired. "No, I didn't think so," he said, throwing the keys onto the seat of the jeep and storming off. "Thought I was pissed," Isabel mumbled.

*Flash* "Listen, I heard Liz's grandma isn't doing so well. She could probably use someone to talk to," Isabel told Max. "You're the one who's always telling me I have to stay away from her. What are you saying, Is?" Max asked. Could he dare to hope that she might be coming around to see in Liz what he's seen all along? "I'm just saying that, you know, if something like this happened to grandma or grandpa, I wouldn't want to be kept away from who I really needed."

*Flash* "You could have put us in an awful spot, Liz," Michael said. "Roswell's not exactly the town you want to be unique in, if you know what I mean. You have to know who your friends are. I had to know the risk, so I had to know what your journal said." Suddenly it dawned on Liz who was responsible for her missing journal. "You took it." "I never meant for things to get out of control," Michael said in what was as close to an apology as you could get from him, "it's nice to know we have at least one friend in this town." He handed the journal back to Liz. "But why didn't you just destroy this, Michael?" Liz asked, "because anyone who found this would know all about you." "No, they'd know all about you, Liz," Michael told her. "Thank you for giving me one more reason to envy Max Evans."

*Flash* Justin watched his mama Liz laughed when his daddy Max tickled her. He wanted to be a part of it and so he crawled closer and planted wet baby kisses on her face.

*Flash* "We don't tell anyone. We sort of think our lives depend on it," Max explained. "So, when you healed me you risked all of this getting out, didn't you?" Liz asked. "Yea," Max answered. "Why?" Liz asked. Why would he risk everything just to save her? "It was you," came his simple reply.

*Flash* "You saw my fantasy?" Liz was horrified. "I had to know if…if…what I saw was…really from you or if it was just my imagination, which…it definitely…definitely could've been. Except…I've never been in the girl's locker room, and now that I see it, and…well, it…it is the same room…I know I didn't make it up," Max tried to explain without embarrassing her or himself. "This is really horrible," Liz murmured. "No, Liz, it's incredible, really," Max gently told her. "This is not incredible," Liz protested again. "Wait. Please? Listen. Please," Max pleaded with her. "The main thing is…I didn't just see what you saw. I felt…what you felt…when you saw me. And I never thought anyone could really…ever feel that way about me."

Slowly the memories brought their individuality back. While they still held the raging power, their own personalities were pulling apart. Now, instead of their one sole focus on the enemy, they began to understand other elements in play around them, one of which was Liz.

Liz had precariously placed herself in between them and the Bida and was somehow shielding both. They knew she must have accessed some of the granilith's power because even with their combined powers they couldn't break free from the shield she'd placed around them, a shield which neither allowed them to move or to battle, and it seemed neither could the Bida. They nudged the shield she had placed around them, not wanting to push too hard in case it injured her, but wanting free all the same. How could they destroy the serpentine creature if they were encased in the shield, and how could they protect Liz? She was fending them both off alone, and while she didn't seem winded, she was endangering her life. But Liz didn't see things their way. She never did. She held both shields fast and continued on with her own agenda.

Ouagadou was certain he could defend himself against one small human girl, but not until he had healed his injuries. What he needed was time. He would keep her talking to distract her, while he patched the gaping hole in his side. Then, when he was finished, he would show his true strength. (Or that was his intention.)

"Who are you?" he demanded of her. "You are more than human. This I know. No human has this much power. Where are you from?" She was like the others he was battling, unafraid and powerful, though human in appearance. Even the pouring rain, he had called forth, was seemingly ignored by her. It ran down her face, plastered down her hair, saturated her clothes, and puddled at her feet and yet she acted as if it were nothing…just like the others. He knew it was no coincidence they had all shown up at the same time. And in all honestly, knowing one's prey made them easier to capture.

Liz considered him for awhile before speaking. It was true that Bida were some of the most dangerous creatures in all the galaxy - it was why their planet Bidador was off limits - but they were not invincible nor were they the cold-hearted creatures they were made out to be. "You're a long way from home," she said at last. "How did you come to be on our planet?"

He laughed at her then. So she knew something of his species. It made her interesting prey, but still prey. Yes, he might keep her around for awhile before devouring her. His injury was closing up, but it wasn't complete yet, so he decided to humor her and answer the question. "I was tricked into coming here through a portal, like the one you came from. Then I was abandoned. But I was not alone. The people of this land served me well. In exchange for a virgin girl I helped them to win battles, kept the land well watered, and made sure they found plenty of gold. Their animals had grain and grasses to eat and their crops grew well."

Liz tried to view the land through the pouring rain. It certainly didn't seem green anymore - more like a country struggling to survive. The ground was so parched that it couldn't even soak up the water that poured down upon it. "So, what happened?"

Ouagadou had almost healed himself but he still needed to buy a little more time, so he decided to answer a little more. "One year they promised to give me their most beautiful young woman. Her name was Sia Jatta Bari. There was no one who could compare to her beauty, they said. But her lover, Mamadi was not willing to give her up, even though she pleaded with him. Mamadi was proud and only cared for himself. He was not willing to serve me to protect his own people.

"On the day Sia Jatta was to come to me, Mamadi produced a most deadly sharp sword. We battled. But he learned tricks from the priest and was able to use them. He cut off my head and, before I could heal myself, he ran away with his bride. The clansmen of the town chased him away, but later I learned that they had welcomed him back. They betrayed me and so for this I cursed them. No rain fell for seven years and seven months. They could no longer find the gold they needed. Their animals had no grain to eat and their crops did not grow. The land fell into decline and was overrun by invaders. I would have returned my favor to them if they had come to serve me again, but they did not. Instead they adopted the Islam the invaders brought."

Liz saw a change come over Ouagadou as he finished his story. His black eyes began to gleam brightly and his body rippled with the power that coursed back through it. He had completed the healing. She knew he was ready to battle now.

As he began to mentally search for a weakness in the field she had placed around him he asked, "Now, human, I've told you about me. It's time you tell me about yourself. Who are you?"

"That depends," she told him. She was pushing him into a compromise. She didn't want him on this planet anymore than Max did, but she felt a peaceful agreement could be reached if the Bida could be made to see reason.

"On what?" he asked. He was still looking for a weakness, but was surprised to find none. What had she done? This was not like any other shield he had ever encountered. It was as solid as rock and as transparent as glass.

Liz studied the giant creature before her trying to determine if he was ready to hear the terms she was going to offer. He was using stronger and stronger power pulses to escape from the enclosure, but was getting no where.

Max and the others had stilled behind her as they watched the scene before them. She could feel their worry mounting as they realized they were just as imprisoned as the Bida, but also their trust in her. They, too, had tried to use their combined power to escape but had been unable. Now they were waiting for her - watching and waiting.

The Bida gave one last attempt - a burst of energy so strong it was blinding - then he stopped. He wasn't resigned yet, but he was willing to listen. "On what?" he asked again.

"On whether or not you're ready to go home," she said.



TBC
posted on 2-Nov-2002 2:15:56 AM
PART THIRTY-SEVEN


Ambassador Quirino had been sensing that something was wrong all day, but now it had peaked. The Zapotecans were afraid. He leaned back in the chair and closed his eyes, letting his mind relax enough to absorb the thoughts of those in proximity to him. Images came rushing to him - images of the royal four and their companions - dueling with a Bida! 'But on earth?' he asked himself. Indeed, the battle was being engaged on this very planet. 'The fools! They'll get themselves killed before they can even fulfill their destiny. This is intolerable!'

He was determined to discover what was going on and try to aid them if possible. It was part of his commission to make sure they kept alive long enough to retake Antar. The Alliance had never approved of Kivar's tyranny and had long ago, in a closed-door clandestine pact, decided to support any means necessary to regain control of the planet. It had been more than fifty years but the pact still remained and, of those who had made the agreement, most still held some position within the Alliance.

He hoped he would not be overstepping the boundaries they had laid upon him when he set foot planet-side by deciding to help them. "If you ever try to pull rank," King Zan had told him, "you will find yourself off planet so fast your head will spin." It was his original hope to gain control over the royal four to guide and train them, but plans had changed. The ambassador now knew it was more important that they remain alive long enough to fulfill what they were prophetically fated to do.

He grasped flows of spirit, air, and fire he had used to secure the large trunk he had brought and untied them. Using his power again he opened the lid and removed several engraved objects that looked remarkably like the healing stones. Quirino closed the trunk and resealed the lid with the flows, warding it at the same time. Anyone who tried to look in the trunk while he was away would find a nasty little surprise waiting for them.


*******************************
Thoughts were slipping quickly between their connected minds as they tried valiantly to find a weakness in the shield Liz had placed over them, the lonely sound of pelting rain splashing above their heads and running down the transparent curvature of their prison.

'What the hell is she doing?' came Michael's demanding thought. 'When is she going to learn that we don't need her kind of nobility. She's not helping us by getting herself killed!'

'She's not trying to help us, Michael,' countered Maria. 'Can't you feel how angry she is at us?'

'At us? We haven't done anything except try to protect earth like we're destined to do!" Isabel exclaimed.

'Hey, hey. Don't get mad at me,' Maria retorted. 'I'm just telling you what I feel from her. She feels angry with us for trying to hurt it and protective of the Bida. She's trying to help it.' Shock and panic ran through their connection.

While their conversation ran, Max remained silent and puzzled. He could always expect the connection he had with Liz to close like a door slamming shut when she had entered a vision, but it always reopened as soon as she returned. Yet here she was, not more than a few feet from them, and he couldn't even connect to her. He was absorbing all their shared power and focusing it toward her, yet all he was getting from Liz was a few emotions gained through Maria's empathic ability.

Puzzling as well was the incorporeal doorway she had emerged from. How had she done that…or had the granilith produced that for her? He knew exactly just how powerful she was becoming. (He wasn't far behind her in training himself.) But this was a completely new power for her, if that was what it was. Even the flashes he'd received from her never showed him that she could do that.

Then there was the matter of the shield she had created around them - a crystal clear holding cell - which they were unable to penetrate. It looked almost like glass, nothing like the kind of shield he formed. It was woven of a completely different material. It felt familiar, like an old memory, but he couldn't understand how she'd formed it nor why it was able to hold so well no matter what they threw at it. They'd tried power blasting it, exploring its length to search for weak spots, and pushing their power at it uniformly to hopefully pop it like a balloon that had been stretched too far but nothing worked. It had neither budged nor weakened.

Michael was right about one thing. Liz was endangering her life. And unless they could find a way to remove the shield they might lose her…an unacceptable loss that Max was unwilling to live with. How could he? She was the other half of his soul.

As Max searched deeper for the reason why the shield seemed so familiar to him, he touched on an old memory of King Zan's. Zan had been a private luncheon with Kathanal before relations had turned sour. They had been discussing the great power so many Hestronian's seemed to be able to perform, when Kathanal had let him in on a little secret. It wasn't that Kathanal's people were so powerful, it was the way they used their power. They were trained from an early age to understand how to gather power from the elements around them and to weave it in very specific ways. Then he had demonstrated a shielding weave, slowly so that King Zan could duplicate it himself.

The weave was nothing complicated. Kathanal had funneled little bits of power from the wind, water, and earth around him - three distinctly different powers - and begun an intricate braiding. The pattern he created formed a most unusual shield. He had set it up around King Zan to let him play with it. Once formed that shield appeared to be transparent and the weave nearly impossible to detect. The harder King Zan tried to get out the stronger it became until he gave up exhausted. "I don't understand," he said finally. "Why doesn't it weaken?"

"Take another look Zan," Kathanal replied. "It siphons power from you, so the more you fight the stronger it becomes. The only way to be free is to let your power rest. You must not make any move to use it at all. Only then will it disappear." Zan let his power drop until he could no longer feel it coursing through his veins. As soon as he did the weave unraveled itself (each of the powers returning to their original source) and the shield disappeared just as Kathanal had said.

'Yah, Max,' began Maria who was always just as aware of the things moving around her as she was of the conversation she was involved with, 'like I can so see it now. This whole thing is one big funnel.' Once she said it everyone could see the way the shield was redirecting the energy that came from them.

Liz was nothing if not clever, especially now with the way the granilith was encouraging her progress, though how she had learned these things was beyond him. She did seem to be continuously growing in knowledge and new abilities by leaps and bounds. The fact was that if Max hadn't been so determined to keep an eye on her he might have fallen far behind himself. He hadn't received nearly the training she had. True he worked each night in the vision plane with King Larek of Tyree and Milton had finally conceded to work with him a bit. He also learned things from his connection with Liz and their subsequent flashes. Still he had to work hard to keep afoot with her for she had one thing he did not…direct help and communication with the granilith. 'We'll have to drop our connection to each other, as well as any power we're still holding afterward,' Max directed. 'That should cause the shield to collapsed in on itself.'

Yes, his Liz was quite clever - his perfect match - and he was certain she counted on him to understand what she'd done and why she'd done it. Liz must have been trying to buy time - time to let them give up hope to battle when she obviously had a peaceful solution in mind, time to allow his connection with the others to lessen somewhat so that they wouldn't become trapped in a dangerous mind-merge, time to engage whatever plans she had in mind without interference from the others. That would be very Liz-like.

'But that'll leave us vulnerable to the Bida,' Michael complained. He wanted the power - no, needed the power. It was like a high he couldn't get enough of. A carryover from Commander Rath who had reveled in the feel, the very flow, of power coursing through him. It made him feel safe, in charge, and on top with nothing to fear from the enemy. Deep down, Michael knew it was an unrealistic desire but he couldn't help how he felt. Protect Max and Isabel. That had always been the driving force behind his actions. Later it had been stretched to include their human friends. At the moment it incorporated Earth itself from the terrible, frightful creature - the Bida. No, he absolutely did not want to release the power.

'Liz must have shielded the Bida, too, otherwise it would have already killed her,' Max reasoned. In all honesty, Michael had no control over the connection. Max did because he was the one that opened it. That was how a multi-person link worked. Still, he wished to leave Michael with an explanation.

'Fine, do what you want,' Michael answered. He would follow Max's lead whether he liked it or not, but never expect him to comply completely. 'But as soon as the shield crashes I'm gonna be ready to use my power again.'

'So will I,' Max replied. 'Isabel, Maria…'

'Got it Max. We're with you on this one,' Isabel responded. She wasn't quite sure how she would fight with a baby in her arms but Isabel sure hoped it would work. Maybe if she linked back up with Justin after the shield fell they could fight together. He wouldn't mind. He thought this was all a great game anyway.

'Yah, girlfriend, we got your back,' said Maria because there was no way on earth she was going to let Liz deal with that…that thing alone. She admired her best friend's courage and intelligence and stoicism, but sometimes Liz carried things way too far, and by Maria count this was one of those times. She didn't know if she could actually control her newfound powers well enough to help (without a mental link to someone who could guide her) but she knew she was going to try.



************************************
'No human has that much power,' the Bida said, continuing their telepathic conversation. He didn't believe she could send him home and yet…she was displaying extraordinary abilities. Was it possible?

'That is true,' Liz answered. She wasn't afraid, not with him encased in the shield she'd set up around him. He was in her power. And her mind was closed to anything except their conversation, so it wasn't like he would be able to find out how to break through his prison. It wasn't an actual link between minds, such as what she and Max had or how she and Justin could connect, but simply a telepathic conversation.

'Then what are you? You look human.' His enormous body seemed almost a shadow in the darkness of the storm, but his many-faceted eyes shone like glittering jewels.

'Looks can be deceiving. I am part human, but I also have Iiridian in me.' She was actually quite proud of the changes that had occurred in her. They had opened up a whole new world for her in which no question would lay unanswered and where she had the power to offer protection to those most important to her. While the future sometimes seemed impossible and frightening, she had unending optimism that all would be well now that she could serve at Max's side forever.

'You're a time-keeper,' he said credulously. It was what the Iiridians were known as among his race. If what she said was true it would explain so much - not only her power but the other's as well.

'Close enough,' she answered. 'But I didn't come here to talk about me. You don't belong on this planet or even in this time period. I can send you home through a doorway like the one I just came through.'

'To what?' Ouagadou countered. 'My mate is dead. My children will no longer recognize me. My territory has no doubt been taken over by others. There is nothing there I want. Here I have power.'

'Power for what? To kill small animals?' Liz countered. She knew that had to be what he lived off of for no humans inhabited the area. What a sad life for such a powerful creature to sink to. He had once ruled the land. Now he was old and lonely and had nothing to show for his one-time greatness. 'Listen to me. You have nothing left here. The people you once ruled are long gone. The area is dry and desolated. I'm offering you your life back. I can open a doorway to anywhere and anywhen. You want your mate and your kids. Fine. I'll send you then.'

'There must be some way you can prove your ability to do this.' Trapped though he was, Ouagadou still felt powerful enough to achieve his own ends if he so wanted. He would even question this human-timekeeper hybrid if he so chose. Her words were tempting to believe but he wanted more proof than that.

Liz removed the necklace from around her neck and clutched it in her wet hands. Yes, she could prove this. She closed her eyes and focused all her energy through it, feeling an immense presence emerging in the back of her mind. 'The doorway,' she petitioned, 'I need a doorway opened to Bidador to two thousand years past. Ouagadou must return home.' The granilith would understand. It had been watching earth and its peoples for a long time, and it knew that it was now imperative to begin protecting earth from outside influences. Nothing would be accomplished until earth was completely safe.

She could feel the granilith taking control of her power, pulling it into its own, and creating a weaving of time and space and air. The powerful crystalline structure was trying to demonstrate through deliberate slowness the pattern it used, willing her mind to expand enough to understand it. 'Simple weave,' it communicated to her.

'No,' Liz told it, 'intricate, complicated, unfathomable. It is beyond my understanding. Explain it, please.'

'Not ready. More training needed. More power required.'

'I have no more power,' she said. Liz was already feeling the complete drain of everything she had become. The granilith could pull its source of energy from anywhere, stars even. Yet even when it tried to be gentle in directing her power it tended to deplete her reserves entirely.

'Find more. Gather storm.' The granilith paused its weave, waiting for her to comply.

Liz wondered why she hadn't thought of that before. Of course she would need to find sources outside herself to replete her power. She was changed and her body now required that alien power to course through her veins. Without it she could become sick or even die. She opened her pouch filled with cylic crystals and removed the one marked 'gather'. She used it to help focus her thoughts toward the storm.

As Liz had become more advanced, Milton had explained to her that the cylic crystals were actually teaching stones. When power was sent through them, they mechanically performed a weave according to the symbol each one bore. If she paid close enough attention to the way the teaching stones performed she would be able to learn how to do many things. So now she watched the crystal 'gather' the storm. It created a large weaving of air, water, spirit, and fire, casting out a net of threads in the shape of a giant bowl.

The angry storm naturally gathered itself into the bowl, dark and swirling, losing its power at every turn. That same power was filtered through the net and back into Liz. Before the eyes of Max, Isabel, Michael, and Maria and the very astonished Bida, the storm disappeared and the warm sun returned.

'How is this possible,' the Bida demanded. 'Even the timekeepers…' But the creature never had a chance to finish, for before him a doorway opened - a doorway hanging upon nothing, a doorway to another place and time. Bidador was on the other side.



**********************************
Ambassador Quirino arrived (by transporter) just in time to see it all and was yet again in awe over Liz's - a mere human - amazing power. She stood ahead of him, near the shielded Bida, arms extended and hands cupped together. A glowing teaching stone lay nestled between her palms. Her head was tilted back as though she gazed at the swirling storm above yet her eyes were closed in concentration. He could see exactly what she was doing. The storm was being sucked into a powerful bowl-like depression and the energy from it drained. Liz was absorbing the resultant energy into herself. The sight was so amazing he hardly noticed the ankle deep water in which he stood - water from the storm that still had yet to soak into the parched earth.

He endeavored to pull himself away from the hypnotic sight by shaking his head. He had things to do, foremost of which was protecting the hybrids. They were not too far from him, also enclosed in a shield-like prison. They, too, stood entranced by Liz's display of power and were making no effort to free themselves. Didn't they understand how to do it?

Quirino sloshed through the water until he reached them. "Your highness," he called out. The wind from the storm roared overhead and he had to yell to be heard over it. "You have to release your power to collapse the shield." He was positive Liz had created their glassy prison and though he had no idea why she had felt it necessary to do so, he wanted to free them so they could fight if need be. He only hoped he wasn't overstepping any boundaries.

"We know," Max yelled back. "We have, but my son doesn't understand and he keeps trying to use his power. We're having a hard time getting him to let go." The truth was, Justin thought all this was a great game. He liked the Bida. He liked sorting through the serpent's thoughts and throwing them back at him. He liked being connected to his dad and auntie and all their friends. He liked the way Michael's powerblast felt when the group thrust it at Ouagadou. And it was fun when the Bida, thanks to Maria's power, went slipping through them. His alien powers were a great game to him and he just wanted to play some more.

"Okay, I think I can help you," the ambassador called out. He brought out one of the objects that looked like a healing stone and held it out so Max could see.

Max nodded in understanding. Larek had shown him power stones before. They functioned like the healing stones but with a less specific purpose. Flows of energy could be woven through them, the stone serving as a catalyst to catch, collect, and soften the flows before they served out their function. Max relayed what was going to happen to his sister and friends since the conversation had taken place in Standard. "The ambassador's got a power stone," he explained. "He's going to use it to collapsed the shield."

Overhead the sun began to show through and the expanse of blue sky could be seen. A flock of birds flew high above. But no one paid any attention to this. They were caught between watching Liz and trying to see how ambassador Quirino demolished their prison. Only it wasn't demolition he had in mind. Instead Quirino created a small opening in the fabric of the shield. It wasn't very big but it was enough to allow the group of teens to crawl out. They were all soaked and muddy but they were free. The shield collapsed behind them with a hiss.

"Remind me to have a little talk with Liz when this is all over," Maria mumbled to herself. Liz had a lot of explaining to do later, and it wasn't going to be over the cozy comfort of ice cream.

"Everyone get ready," Max ordered. He had taken Justin from Isabel when they were crawling out and the little boy was now cradled in his daddy's arms eagerly awaiting the next game. "But don't do anything unless Liz or I instruct you to. For the moment, I think Liz has it under control." Or at least he hoped she did.

Max had been the first one to emerge through the doorway, and when he had moved to stand up he had seen Liz turn to look at him over her shoulder. Her eyes were flashing between Liz's chocolate brown to Ava's rich black and her necklace was shining so brightly it seemed to burn like fire. He knew she must have connected to the granilith on her own and his worried heart sped up in his chest. Always before Milton had helped her, but this time she had done it herself and it was obviously difficult enough that Ava had emerged enough to help her. He hoped she knew what she was doing.



TBC
posted on 2-Nov-2002 2:17:50 AM
PART THIRTY-EIGHT


Once the young royals were released, Ambassador Quirino could only stand back to watch in awe the scene that played out before him. Such things he had never seen before. The display of power the human empress demonstrated was unbelievable. Of course, he knew the granilith must be helping her, but only legends described what he was seeing. If he hadn't beheld it with his own eyes he would never have believed it. Then there was the Bida. History had long described the ferocity of those creatures. The Alliance of Planets had banned any contact with Bidador. Some had even questioned the sentience of the violent serpentine race. Yet, here Empress Ava (or Liz, as she now was known) not only seemed to be in control of it, having done so without any harm to herself or the others, but, by all appearances, she was able to communicate with it telepathically thus proving the ancient stories of Bida mental power to be true.

Of course, what he found most puzzling, yet just as amazing, was the way the young royals worked together. He had been observing them since he had arrived and had noticed the quirkiness that emanated from the whole group. They were so different from one another it was hard to see what it was exactly that bound them together. Still, when it came right down to it they supported one another no matter what. Even now, while it was obvious that the empress had come in and taken over their battle with the Bida, imprisoning them in the process, they were willing to support Liz. They had taken up a stance around her, hands extended and poised with power should she need the backup. Even the young prince Justin had his hand extended in imitation of the rest of the group and somehow Quirino had no doubt the small boy was quite capable of using his abilities to defend his mother. (The dynamics of the group still eluded him and he didn't as yet know that Justin was not Liz's son.)

As he continued to watch he saw Liz begin to unravel the shield around the Bida. She paused briefly in what appeared to be silent communication. He had no doubt she had warned the creature that she would tolerate nothing except his exit through the portal, for it turned it's black-eyed gaze at the people before him and then gave an almost imperceptible nod toward Liz. At that she pulled down the remainder of the shield, thereby releasing Ouagadou.

Ouagadou used his vast speed to propel himself through the portal, almost as if he thought the opportunity to go home too good to be true and wouldn't last. Or perhaps he simply didn't trust the powerful group and wanted to be as far away from them as possible. Whatever the case, he disappeared through the portal with lightening speed leaving a massive indention in the mud path behind him. All breathed a quiet sigh of relief at his departure.

Ambassador Quirino was the first to move afterward. He wanted to examine the way the portal had been created and so trudged closer to examine it. It was truly an amazing piece of work. Quirino was quite advanced in the use of the different powers himself and could usually see how things were done, but the weavings of this were not even visible to his trained eye. It seemed as if such a portal shouldn't even exist. He could still see to the other side - to Bidador, which was amazing enough considering it was probably the only opportunity he would ever have to see the planet. He could even see where Ouagadou had paused to gaze about. But he could not 'see' how the portal, itself, was made at all. What could it mean?

Quirino turned back to Liz in question. There were so many puzzles he wanted answers to. He would have liked to have asked but he noticed she looked less than pleased. "You interfered," she stated, rounding on him.

"Forgive me, Highness." He wasn't sure what he could say to appease her.

"Max sent all of our guests back…to protect them, but you came anyway. You do not listen." Quirino, though his intentions were seemingly good, was a thorn in her side. She did not approve of his interference.

He wished he could read her mind. He was almost always able to see what others were thinking and feeling; he was a telepath, after all, and almost all races were an open book to him. But she was closed off just like the rest of her group. He couldn't read any of them, not even Maria or Jesse. Something prevented him. It made him unsure because he never knew what was going on or where he stood or how he should proceed. It was the first time he'd ever been thrown into a situation like that.

"Excuse me, Empress, but I was sent to this planet to make sure the 'Royal Four' succeeded. I could hardly stand by while any of the four of you are in danger of being killed." He hoped that explanation would satisfy her. Actually he hoped the explanation satisfied all of them for they were standing in a semi-circle behind her looking as unhappy as she was.

Liz put up a hand to stop him. "I am not interested in your excuse. The fact is that you do not listen. I should send you away." A man like the ambassador could potentially put their lives in danger. They were racing against time to put up a protective barrier around Earth and to round up the remaining Skins so that they could return to Antar. Quirino was a loose thread that could unravel all their plans.

Max and the others had been observing the conversation between Liz and Quirino. Michael, Isabel, and Maria may not have understood much more than the fact that Liz was displeased with the ambassador, but Max understood quite well. He whispered to the group, "Liz is angry with Quirino. She wants to send him away."

"Fine with me," Michael whispered back. "We didn't ask for him to come here and we sure as hell don't need him." He couldn't care less that ambassador had freed them from Liz's shield; he trusted Liz had a reason for that. The problem was that the ambassador had his own agenda and Michael didn't trust the man. Ambassador Quirino reminded him too much of Nasedo. He demanded respect yet did nothing to earn it. He acted as if he had more rights than anyone else. He obviously had answers he wasn't willing to share with anyone else. He wasn't completely up front about who he was, where he was from, whom he was working for, or what his purpose was.

"Yah, let her do it. That guy like, totally creeps me out." Maria didn't like him either…hadn't liked from the moment she'd laid eyes on him. She got goose bumps up her spine every time he walked into the same room with her. Sometimes she'd even get them before he walked into the room.

"I don't like him either Max," Isabel said softly, "but he's our only connection to the heart of the Alliance right now, and remember Grandpa Milton said we need to help Antar rejoin eventually. He may be a resource we'll need. If the Alliance is interested enough to send him here, we should be interested enough to keep him around."

"That was my thought as well," Max replied. Then he turned back to Liz who was edging closer and closer to the ambassador. She looked like she might actually go through with the idea to send Quirino away. But was she really angry enough to dispense with him to Bidador? The portal was still open and she looked for all the world as if she was willing to drive him through it. Her arm was extended and her hand was glowing and she was inching nearer and nearer to the poor frightened man. He had to stop this…now. "Liz," he said sharply, "let him go."

She turned abruptly but her arm was still raised threateningly toward the ambassador. "No," she rebelled, her eyes flashing dangerously. "I've had it with him. I want him out of here. He jeopardized everything. He could have got you all killed. I'm sending him through the portal."

"Liz, you can't take advantage of the granilith like this. Let him go and we'll deal with him later…in our own way." Someone took the baby from him so he could move closer to Liz. He couldn't touch her while she was still connected to the granilith, but he could talk to her and try to soothe her turbulent emotions. He stepped just a breath away from her and stared deeply into the eyes he loved. "Lizzy," he whispered, "don't do anything you'll be sorry for later."

Liz closed her brown eyes and let out a deep breath of air. Deep down she knew Max was right, but, oh, how she would like to just dump that irritating man on Bidador, shut the portal, and let the great serpents at him. Instead, she focused on the enormous power she was holding, letting it dissipate from her hand. Then she reached out with her mind and began gently undoing the weaving of the powers holding the portal door open and let it fold in on itself until it was no more.

Liz then opened her eyes to gaze fiercely at the ambassador, who couldn't have looked more relieved that the portal was closed. "Don't think I'm letting you off that easily," she told him, pointing her finger. "You will be answering to me later."

Focusing once more on the granilith she sent a silent 'thank you'. The granilith had helped her to save the lives of her friends and the Bida by sharing its power and knowledge with her. Thank goodness Max had been there to prevent her from taking advantage of that awesome power.

The granilith sensed more than her words, but also her thoughts and feelings. The enormity of its mind still eluded her but she caught bits and pieces. 'Max. Liz. Balance,' it sent to her.

'Yes,' she replied, 'we balance each other.' Of course it knew what she had thought to do.

'Connection. Sever.' It was a warning that the granilith was going to disengage its consciousness from hers. A sliver of worry ran up her spine. Could she really do this on her own, without the help of Milton Ross?

"Liz?" Max questioned. He could sense the presence of the granilith leaving and he didn't know if she would be okay without his Zapotecan grandfather Milton there to help her.

"The granilith," she murmured. She'd just run out of time. She could feel the granilith severing their connection, could feel herself weakening. And the last thing she remembered before her world turned black was the way Max's arms felt as he caught her falling form.

"Lizzy!" Maria called out, terrified. She had never seen Liz after connecting to the granilith and had no idea it would drain her so.

Max heaved her into his arms, cradling her close to his chest. She was limp and unresponsive, but she was still breathing. "I can't do anything for her here. We need to get her back to the factory," he told his friends. She needed his energy but he wasn't going to do it by laying her down in the mud.


*******************************
After transporting in Max carried Liz to the back of the factory where the medical offices had been set up with Michael, Maria, Isabel, and Jesse just behind him. The doctor greeted him and showed Max to the bio-beds. Max gently set his wife down on the bed, brushing a strand of hair away from her face. He hadn't expected anyone to still be at the sound factory since night had already fallen in Roswell, New Mexico, but the Bida scare had obviously kept everyone around to wait for news of how it turned out. Apparently anticipating the worst, the medical offices had a full staff on duty when Max walked in.

"What happened?" the doctor asked as he brought out his scanning devise. The small party looked awful - dirty and wet, tired and pale - but, thank the gods, they were alive and unharmed…all except Liz, that is. What had the Bida done to her? He couldn't find any obvious signs of injury, like broken bones, but her bio-signs were weak.

"Nothing," Max answered…well, nothing the doctor could help with anyway. "She's just drained from her connection to the granilith. I need to give her some of my energy." He didn't even wait for the doctor's response. Placing his hands on either side of Liz's pale face and he began an immediate infusion of energy. He didn't know if he should be scared or not, but he was. He'd never seen her this drained after a connection with the granilith before. Tired and shaky, yes, but Milton had always been there to help her through it. This was the first time she had ever connected on her own, and the first time she had ever used the powers on such a vast scale. It was just too much for her.

"Come on, Liz," Max whispered as the doctor continued scanning Liz and the rest of the medical staff gathered to watch in rapt fascination. They had all heard about his ability to heal, an amazing ability considering that he'd never been taught to do this. "Come on, Sweetheart." If he could get her to wake he would be able to send a lot more energy into her but until then all he could do was infuse a steady trickle.

"Her blood," the doctor told Max. He wasn't even sure Max was paying attention. "You have to infuse directly into her blood stream." He'd finally been able to get a good reading from Liz. Just like he'd seen in Jesse, Michael, and Maria, Liz had energy receptors throughout her body. It was like nothing he'd ever seen before…in any species, but it was obvious that, like a sponge, the receptors were meant to be full. And as near as he could tell, her circulatory system was the quickest way to saturate her receptors with the energy they needed.

Max let go of the power briefly to change position. He didn't want to take any more time than necessary. She was more drained than he had originally thought and it scared him. He pulled her shirt open and placed his hand between her breasts and began sending power directly into her heart. His brow was creased in concentration as he focused on helping Liz without causing permanent damage. He was worried about how her heart would take it.

One minute passed then two. "It's not working!" Max exclaimed in frustration, looking up at the doctor. He was wearing out - he'd been using his power all day - and he didn't know how much longer he could keep infusing power.

"You're doing fine. Just keep going," Doctor Aymara told him quietly. Max was doing amazingly well. How had he learned to accomplish such a feat? Was it an instinctive ability?

At last her eyes fluttered open. "Max?" she asked, seeing his face. She winced as she tried to sit up. Her whole body shuddered in pain. She put a shaky hand to her head as Max pressed her back down. "What happened?" Liz whispered.

Max was almost as shaky as she was and nearly as spent. "Shh," he said as he laid a finger across her lips. "It's okay. You just did a little too much today."

Liz groaned, closing her eyes against the bright lights. "I let the granilith burn me out. I did it all wrong."

"No, you were fine." Max was trying to comfort her, to get her to relax. "You just need a little more time to learn how to connect on your own."

Liz opened her eyes but then promptly closed them again when another wave of pain hit her. "Oh god, I hurt." She draped her arm over her eyes to block out any light filtering through her eyelids.

Max and the others hovered over her as Doctor Aymara scanned Liz again. Her nervous system was shot all to pieces. She would need to rest to heal that.

"I can give you something to take away the pain temporarily," the doctor told her in Standard. When she nodded he used a hypo-spray on the side of her neck and watched relief cross her lovely features as the neural-block took effect. "That should stop the pain, but take it easy. You need to rest," the doctor told her.

Liz nodded. The pain was easing already and she let Max help her sit up. She noticed Isabel, Michael, and Maria all nearby, worry written across their faces. "It's okay," she reassured them. "I'm okay."

"God, Liz. You scared us so bad," Maria said.

"I know, Maria. I'm…I'm sorry." Liz didn't know what to say to Maria. What they'd done was dangerous - that's why she's had to stop them - but what Liz had done was dangerous, too. Still, it was her job and she'd done what she was meant to do.

Maria wiped the moisture away from her eyes. "Don't worry about it, Babe. Just go home and get some rest and I'll like…I'll like, check on you tomorrow."



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Maria didn't arrive home until nearly one in the morning. She was tired and dirty and still damp from the rain. Emotionally, she was completely overwrought both from Michael's outburst that morning - was it really only that morning he had been so scared of the medical exam - and from the terror of fighting the Bida and then watching Liz pass out from overextending herself with the granilith. The only thing she wanted was to take a nice hot bath, burn some incense, listen to some soothing music, and then go to bed. Imagine her surprise to find the lights on in the house and her nervous mother wearing a path through the carpet with her pacing.

"Mom," she said in surprise, "you're back from New York. I didn't expect you until Tuesday."

"Oh my god, Maria!" she exclaimed taking in the sight of her daughter. "Where have you been? What happened to you?"

Maria almost didn't know what to tell her mother. It had been so long since any alien dilemmas had come up - at least, one that was noticeable to an outsider - that she was unprepared with an explanation…well, that and she hadn't thought she'd need one with her mother supposedly across the country. She opened her mouth to answer and then changed her mind. Still standing in the doorway she asked, "Um, when did you get in?"

"Maria, I've been home for almost eight hours. I've called you, I don't know, like a million times and you never once called me back. I'm losing my mind with worry here. Where have you been?" Amy demanded.

Maria opened her mouth to speak again, but incredibly could think of nothing to say.

"Well, say something," Amy demanded of her again. Maria was infuriating.

Finally, Maria spoke. "Mom, I'm like, really glad you're back. The house is lonely here when you're gone. Anyway, I was out with Liz and Max and Michael and Isabel. It's been a really long day and I'm…I'm really tired. You look tired too. I'm gonna to go take a bath and go to bed. I guess I'll see you in the morning." She shut the front door behind her and started to walk across the living room.

"Wait a minute. Just hold it," Amy said in exasperation. She was all geared up to fight Maria but when Maria stopped to look at her there was no defiance in her eyes, just…something there she hadn't seen before. A complacency, a calmness, a maturity…yes, that was it. It suddenly dawned on Amy that Maria was no longer a child but a young woman. God, how much had she missed of Maria's life that past year with all of the business travel she'd done? That realization took the fight right out of her. "I was lonely without you too. And I was worried when you weren't at home." She sighed. "I guess we don't see that much of each other anymore. God, you must have like, your own life by now. You wanna, um…would you mind hanging out in the morning? Maybe we could have breakfast together and talk." The last part came out more like a question.

Maria nodded her head. "Yah, sure, Mom. That would be great. There's some stuff I need to talk to you about anyway."

Amy moved to hug Maria wondering how much longer she'd be able to hold on to her only daughter. She pulled Maria to her and wrapped her arms around her shoulders. Maria responded in kind and the two women embraced. "I love you, Maria."

"I love you, too, Mom," Maria said quietly.


TBC