posted on 4-May-2002 7:56:40 PM
Here are all the parts so far. There are several more to come and I will begin those now. Enjoy! *big*



a dupe jones



Rating: R for now (rather salty language - The Dupes are kinda rough.)

Disclaimer: I don't own any part of Roswell: the TV show, the book series, or the town.

Summary: The New York Royal Four, better known as the Dupes (but don't call them that to their faces), have received a message from "out there". But hold the press! That's not the latest news. It just ain't easy being a king or a synesthete. (A what?)

Category: Zan and Syn (Who's Syn?)

Textual Note: "Tck!" represents the sound of someone, usually a female, "sucking her teeth". Actually, she's sucking the roof of her mouth, but anyway...I felt like explaining that.

Author's Notes: This story is for Roswellians in general, Dupe Appreciators in particular, and for LUSH (the first to let me know I wasn't the only Zanatic alive) and the Truckstoppers especially.

Syn – Think “Dupe Liz”
Lucia – Think “Dupe (Roswell Pilot) Maria”
Wheat – I bet you can guess.
There might be more dupish folk later. I'm not sure.
Okay that’s it for the spoilers! Read on, my Roswellian comrades.



part one


Zan was bored. It had been the same thing every night for a week. He and Rath would go to the Black Juice around 12am and talk bull all morning with guys they knew. All kinds of girls would circle Zan like sharks, often voracious in their attempts to claim his attention. Rath would end up fighting and Zan would have to restrain him from using his powers. Of course Rath would occasionally become reckless enough to down a shot glass and then Zan would have to almost carry him home half comatose. He watched from across the room as even now Rath was getting louder and more animated talking to some preppy college football types who were as out of place as two priests. Yeah, he’d have to intervene again. The whole Black Juice scene was tired.

But the night before last something weird happened here. As soon as Zan walked in the door strange vibes hit him. Rath said he didn’t feel anything and, before Zan could stop him, he plunged into the crowd without giving it a second thought. Typical. He couldn't tell what the source of the vibes was from where he was standing, so he would do two things: get Rath out then find it. The first goal wasn’t difficult since once again Rath had wasted no time getting a drink. It must have been potent sutff 'cause he was already slumped in a corner, head lolling. No one was paying him any attention. Rath wasn’t stupid. He just knew that when he messed up, ‘King Zan’ would take care of everything like he always did. When Zan took him to the coatcheck (as if the Black Juice’s clientele would pay a buck for that), the tall blond stationed there, who was mindlessly chewing her orange-tipped micro-braids stood almost at attention. With a Pepsodent smile she let him leave Rath just inside the doorway.

The Black Juice was ultra packed even for a Saturday night. Zan could feel the ‘vibrator’ moving around one side of the room. It even seemed to dance to the house music beat at times. He eased past the writhing bodies on the dance floor and the smashed goons licking spillage off the bar counter. Every time he thought he was close to it, when the sensation would become acute, the source would move. Then all of a sudden it disappeared completely off his radar, just like that. So he went back for Rath, deftly avoiding braidy-blond’s shiny orange lips, and jetted.

As he made his way to the crib, lugging Rath’s dead weight, Zan wondered if he was supposed to know what that feeling meant - if this was just one more thing their protector failed to tell them about. He couldn’t figure out what the h*ll kind of plan it was to assign Korn to protect the Royal Four. Korn’s name was actually Drakorin and he didn’t like the nickname. But since they’d spent the first seven months of consciousness outside the pods as little kids trying to fend for themselves, Zan figured they could call him any friggin thing they wanted. He was a young, rather nervous shape shifter with no sense of humor. He always reminded Zan of a socially functional dope head. Korn had told them a lot about their identities and history, but he was holding back just as much. Some things just didn’t fit. If Rath had previously been his trusted second in command, why’d he rarely agree with him about anything? Why didn’t he wholeheartedly trust his sister Lonnie if they had ruled so well together on Antar? She hadn’t done anything specific, but the fact was Lonnie was as sneaky as sh*t. How could he have had such a great passion for Ava back on Antar and married her instead of the other chick his parents had chosen for him in order to secure the desperately desired peace between Antar and Bhorduin, two of the five planets between which the fiercest battles occurred? She was cute but she left his pulse slow. Frankly, Zan thought their protector was full of sh*t half the time, and he was sick of him – even though he was usually nowhere to be found.

Two sharks in stiletto heels broke from the pack to try their luck. They whispered suggestively in his ear, thrusting their considerable endowments in his face. His gaze flicked over them indifferently. Zan had been with one of them once, but getting off wasn’t at the top of his ‘to do’ list these days. Besides, Earth girls were boringly easy – at least the ones he’d met. When the girls began to intimately rub his bare chest exposed by a black leather vest, he waved them away.

“Step off.”

The girls pouted but slinked reluctantly away, knowing it was no use. Zan was either interested or he wasn’t. They never had to guess if the party was over before it began.

As his watchful eyes moved around the dim room barely illuminated by tiny wildly flashing lights and filled with music loud enough to melt his ears, Zan contemplated the summons they received yesterday and two days before that. All these years with no word from “home” and all of a sudden the E.T.s want the teenaged Royal Four, who were still clueless as far as he was concerned, to represent at some meeting. On top of that they wanted to do something to him, the nature of which had yet to be unexplained, to make sure he was the king. They must be nuts!

He saw that it was time to get Rath who was wearing that sick anticipatory look, signaling impending mayhem.

“Yo, let's go.”

Rath grinned at him and turned to his companions. “Hold up a minute.” To Zan, “Yo, you want in on this? They’re talking cah-ray-zay and I’m getting ready to stomp ‘em good.”

“We gotta go.”

“Go? Go where? We don’t gotta go nowhere, man. Why you always so uptight?”

“'Cause you're too loose. Why you always want to show off what we are?”

Rath got loud. “It don’t even matter if you don’t answer the summons.”

Zan stepped close to him, putting an arm around his neck, and spoke succinctly. “It matters ‘cause I say it does. Let’s go.”

Rath wanted to argue him down but he learned a long time ago how near impossible that was. And since he’d taken that sip of beer, he wasn’t up to the attempt anyway. So he turned to the beefy squares. “Gentlemen, some other time if you’re lucky. Peace out.”

Outside, they found Lonnie waiting for them against the wall far away from the light. “What do yous get in there besides STDs? Free meals?”

“Ooo, waiting for me, baby?” When she blocked Rath's attempt to kiss her, he added, “Come on, you know we can’t get sick. And that’s perfect ‘cause some of them mucky twat hoes are tight.”

Lonnie smacked his lingering hand away from her. “And ‘cause you just a nasty freak bastard. What’s up with yous? Yous been coming here every friggin night for a week.” Her lips twisted mockingly. “Hm. Is this where the summit’s gonna be, Zan? What are yous doing in there?”

“Dayummm! She’s definitely your sister, man. Why don’t you check it out yourself instead of ball bustin’? Yous don’t want me to have no fun and you won’t answer the summons. What the f*ck do yous want??”

“Chinese,” Zan said. “Where’s Ava?”

“Chick is home sulking. You must not be handling your biz, brother.”

Zan was preoccupied with watching for something – he didn’t know what – when he answered, “Sounds like you worrying about it more than me.” His sixth sense or whatever had been pricked on and off since that morning, a totally different feeling from the one he’d had in the club. All these friggin unexplained sensations were getting on his nerves. Something was coming. Whether it was good or bad, he couldn’t tell. But since he disliked the unknown, it was bad by default. Let the boogieman jump out so they could stomp him already, damn.

Lonnie stepped close to him. “I worry about a lot of things, brother. I’m just concerned that you don’t. I’m not spending my life stuck in the sewers of a primitive planet when I was made to cream.”

Rath massaged her neck with one hand. “That’s what I’m saying. Zan, if you don’t represent at the summit we’ll never get no answers.”

Zan smirked. “Why not? We got that protector you love so much.”

Rath jumped in front of him. “Man, why you playing? This ain’t no joke. I’m sick of stealing just to eat, and I’m sick of living like a rat. Some Royal Four we are! Living in sh*t!”

Lonnie picked at her nails, looking bored. “Cut the drama. Let’s just chill ‘til we eat. I’m mad hungry.”

Zan said nothing while Rath tried to stare him down for a few seconds. They went underground and Zan paid their fares as a sub approached. Lonnie clucked her tongue. “Check you out – putting tokens in the little slot. Aww! Where’d you take them from?”

“I bought ‘em.”

That caught Rath’s disgusted attention. “You bought ‘em?”

“I bet it’s worse than that,” Lonnie said. “You sold another painting that you actually painted, didn’t you? Psh! Why you insist on acting all limited like a human is beyond me – really beyond me, brother.”

Rath shook his head. “Man, that is sick.”

Zan ignored all their little barbs. He didn’t have time for their bullsh*t; he needed to stay alert. In Chinatown they bought food with money Lonnie stole yesterday. They ate there and Zan brought some back to the pod crib for Ava, who snatched the bag without speaking and plopped down in a corner with her back to them. Rath laughed, going over to lean on her, singing in a falsetto voice, “ ’After the love is gone! What used to be right is wrong!’

“Get off me, fool!”

Lonnie's pupils rolled almost up into her head as she stared at the shorter girl before turning to Zan. “We need to talk about the summit.”

He sat down on the plush, if tattered, armchair and closed his eyes, wishing he could just bail. “So talk.”

Rath came back over and on and on they hammered at him. Zan figured he should let them get it all out because he was about to close the topic once and for all. He opened his eyes. “Okay, my turn. We don’t know enough to go to no summit. And friggin Korn ain’t made an appearance for like two months, not that he’d make a difference anyway. How did they know how to contact us? Why does Kivar, of all people, basically know exactly where we are? Aren’t we supposed to be a secret from our enemies? I mean, who are these people, things, whatever? What is really going down on Antar? Let’s face it. We don’t know sh*t about sh*t. And I ain’t gonna be moved around like a chessboard king about to get checkmated. And neither are yous. F*ck that! And this, my royal peeps, is the end of the discussion. Peace out.” He turned to Ava and said, “Let’s walk.”

She shrugged, getting up, while Rath barked out his indignation. “I don’t believe you, man! We been talking ‘til we blue and that’s all you got to say? That you’re afraid? You don’t want things to change. You want the friggin sewers. You don’t want to go home! What the h*ll kind of king are you, Zan??” As Zan walked away, taking Ava by the arm, Rath said to Lonnie, “It can’t be him. I’m the friggin king!”

Feeling a jolt of adrenaline, Zan stopped and without turning around held up a hand. A green bubble surrounded Rath where he sat and carried him suspended about a foot in the air to the other side of the room. Lonnie slowly stood up, gaping at the sight.

“Man, stop playing!” Rath exclaimed. “What the h*ll is this?”

Zan put his hand down and the bubble disappeared, dropping Rath to the floor in front of him. “This is I don’t want you to get confused, brother. Know this. I am the man. I’m the man!” He put a finger to his temple. “The proof is I think with a cool head. Are we on the same page?”

Rath looked mutinously above his head.

“I said are we on the same page?”

“Yeah, man, we are. Whatever.”

Ava was smirking at Rath as she followed Zan out. Rath breathed deeply. “We gotta do something about him.”

“Chill, yo. Let me think.”

“Why didn’t he tell us he could do that, huh? Why he ain't taught us, huh?”

“Who knows why Zan does what he does these days?”

“Well, that’s your brother, Lonnie. You don’t know how to put him in check?”

Lonnie sat back down, unperturbed. “Don’t worry, Number Two. We’re getting off this lame planet soon.”

----- ----- -----

The hairs on Syndara Morgan’s neck rose when she felt the dingy green aggressively bathing her left side.

“Ay, Dawdek! Man, where you been? I know you ran out of chucky beads before now,” exclaimed her brother Mack, standing on the cash register’s side of the counter.

“You’re not the only game in town.”

“But the best one. That's why you’re back.”

The other guy smiled rather gruesomely and said, “Ten bucks, right?”

“For some weak sh*t, sure man.”

Dawdek handed over fifteen dollars and received a small pouch without change. “How’s about throwing this little girl in with it? I could get these for nine at the Talisman.”

“Don’t be crude, man. This is my sister.”

“Whatever.”

Mack’s blond good looks froze. “See you ‘round, Dawdek.” It was a dismissal. Syndara shuddered inside at the dull red emanating from Hanson Dawdek to mix with the slimy green. He glared at Mack and then raked his eyes over her. Immediately the ugly colors faded with his exit.

“His shade of green is so disgusting! Why do you hang out with that creep, Mack?”

“I don’t. But I ain’t gonna stop him from spending his money here. Anyway, I notice you see that green with any guy who’s ugly and broke. And Dawdek ain’t got two pots to piss in.”

“I’m not kidding. It’s not just ugliness. He’s bad news, and this is a sick job you got. I can’t believe you.” She made a face, looking all around the store. “I’m helping you get another one ASAP ‘cause I’m never coming in this motha again.”

“Give it a rest. You coming home for Thanksgiving or what?”

“I’ve only been away a few months.”

“So? They want to see you.”

“I need to be away from the parents, all right? I can give thanks for my blessings and theirs right here.”

“You can’t still be mad about the divorce.”

Syn looked down, turning a jar of wheat germ over and over in her hands. “It’s not right,” she murmured in a low voice.

“I gotta take these boxes in the back.” She slowly followed him into the storage room. “Not everybody believes what you do, Syndara. Not everybody thinks they’ll go to hell if they don’t deny every earthly pleasure known to man, woman, and dog.”

“Don’t even try to front, Mack. You were an altar boy for as long as I can remember until you graduated and then you spent two friggin years in the seminary. So please. Don’t pretend you’ve seen the light of hedonism.”

“Okay, Sister Michael Margaret Mary. I just have one question. Is that your order’s new habit or did someone accidentally cut your skirt too tight and ten inches above the knee before piercing your bottom lip? All this while you were performing devotions, oblivious to the world of course.”

“Screw you, Mackenzee.”

“What’s screwed is you sulking like a brat and trying to punish two grown people for minding their own business. That’s what the divorce was. Just like your decision to travel halfway across the USA to live on your own at age eighteen. Granted, you picked the city I lived in – "

“Lucia and Wheat live here, too.”

“ – but I know you don’t think that was the hit of the year. Anyway, your alcoholic father, anorexic mother, and even your seminarian-turned-occult-shop-manager brother were amazingly supportive. Now you pull this sh*t. You should be ashamed. Move. This is heavy.” He brushed past her, carrying two hefty boxes full of ouija boards and bicolored black and white wigs.

“You can keep your wheat germ. I’ll buy my own,” she called down after him indignantly.

“Whatever.”

Syn stomped out ofthe store, taking the jar with her anyway.


----- ----- -----


Later that night she sat cross-legged on the bed in her apartment with her best friend Lucia, eating the Haagen Daz she brought over.

“So, how’s that fine brother of yours? What are his colors, Miss Synesthesia?”

“When are you gonna stop making fun of my unique sensory perceptions? I can’t help it if you can’t see people’s colors or taste sounds.”

“And I can’t help it if I wear the 80’s style better than Madonna.” Lucia held up her wrists, shaking about a thousand bracelets, none of which matched the design of her thick gold ‘Boy-Toy’ belt or pink sequined skirt short enough to get her arrested. “Now come on, did he ask about me?”

“Why would he ask about you? That would be so nasty, you dating my brother.”

“No, it wouldn’t. Mmm, I just love that Brad Pitt look he has. Plus, he’s got a nice ass.”

“Sometimes he is an ass. And ill! Do you mind not lusting after my brother around me please? It makes me squeamish.”

Lucia laughed. “You weren’t squeamish Saturday night when a certain someone was pushing up on you.”

“Well…”

“Ha-ha!” Lucia nudged her. “Go, Syn! It’s about time. I was starting to think Roman ruined your love life forever.”

“No, I’m just taking my time. I’m not even interested in being tied down like that. I mean, guys are nice to you at first – trying to woo you and everything, talking that sh*t they talk – "

“Mm-hm!”

“ – and then – BAM –suddenly you owe them the panties on demand.”

“Tell me about it.”

“It’s a shame ‘cause I really liked Roman but I had to tell him…look, I’ll let you know when it’s time. You don’t tell me. What’s wrong with these boys?”

“I don’t know, girl. I just pick and pluck through the barrel ‘til I find some fruit that’s not too bruised. If you’re too picky, you’ll be digging for years. I don’t have that kind of time.”

“Um, you’re eighteen like me. What’s the hurry?”

“No hurry. I mean, if I just want someone to hang out with, he doesn’t have to be perfect. He only has to have a good bod, a tolerable face, pronounce and spell my name correctly (what is so difficult about saying ‘Loo-sha’, and writing L-u-c-I-a??) and most importantly, he can not work my nerves. I get enough of that at home. But we digress. Roman’s out. Enrique’s in. Caught you a hot Spanish fly! Whoo-hoo!”

Syn smiled. “Stop. I don’t know. He seems all right.”

Lucia rolled her eyes. “ Please. He looks too good. That’s why I’m not all on it.”

“Hm. I gotta see him in the daylight first. How can you tell he looked ‘too good’? It was almost pitch black in there. I don’t know why I let you talk me into going to that stank club for the third time.”

“’Cause I’m your friend and you know the place is relatively harmless. And don’t worry. When it comes to guys, I see what I need to see. But the place is done. I’m tired of it. Now as I was saying, Enrique’s a no-no. See, an average looking guy is a humble guy. Gorgeous guys have too many special needs – like being worshipped and playing you for a fool. I need someone to cater to my special needs for a change. No more David Lipinskys for me! But anyway, I think you might have hurt Enrique’s feelings a li’l bit though.”

“Why you say that?”

“Well, a couple times while he was talking to you, you were looking all around – in the dark, mind you – for what, I don’t know. What were you looking for?”

“I don’t know. It was the weirdest thing! I felt like I was aware of someone that I never met.”

“Why am I friends with you? I can’t take this paranormal stuff. What color did you see during this ‘awareness’? Are you sure it was a person?”

Syn shook her head thoughtfully. “I’m not sure, but what else would be hanging out in the Black Juice? And I can’t see colors during loud noises.”

“Well, was it a good feeling or a bad feeling?”

“It wasn’t bad. It was just…like a pull, a magnetic thing, like I was supposed to be where it was.”

Syn thought about the incident while Lucia stared at her a few moments before shaking her head as if to clear it. “Okay, that’s enough of the weird for tonight. Let’s move on. Too bad Wheat decided to practice with that prima donna band of his – like I’m not good enough to front them with this voice.” Lucia belted out and held a soprano high note while Syn held her ears.

“All right, Kathleen Battle!”

Lucia grinned. “I guess we’ll just have to eat his share of the Haagie.” She flicked on the TV right in the middle of a ‘Friends’ episode and bounded off the bed to get the goodies.

Syn watched the tube without really looking at it. She thought of the times she’d felt that pull before. They were nowhere near as intense as the other night, yet still memorable. The first time was on the uptown ‘A’ train about six weeks ago. Although she looked carefully around, she knew it was no one in the same near empty car with her, but maybe in a car or two in front of her. She didn’t have time to investigate because she’d reached her stop. The other time she was in Chinatown, but it was very faint then. She didn’t see any colors either time. Syn didn’t know why she hadn’t mentioned it to anyone. As she popped open the pint of chocolate Lucia tossed her, she decided to stake out the Black Juice for a couple of nights to see what might…come up. She smiled at Lucia who was digging blissfully into the butter pecan and who didn’t know yet that she was coming too.



part two


Ava covertly watched Zan through her lashes. They had walked about five blocks up Broadway without speaking. She didn't know what this was about, but she was glad he brought her along. She was rarely ever alone with him. She wondered if he was finally gonna do her. Ava was sick of Lonnie and Rath's insinuations about how good it was between the two of them. Why didn't Zan want her like that if they really had the hots for each other in their past lives? And if she asked herself if she really loved him, she couldn't definitely say yes. She definitely wanted him. She even respected him, but she didn't really know Zan. He never let any of them too close to the person behind the leader.

"Yo," he said breaking into her reverie.

She glanced at his profile, then turned away frowning, feeling like a cornball. Why should he excite her so much like he was something new? She saw him every friggin day. But still...she knew for a fact that several girls had enjoyed his attentions - briefly - and she was mad jealous that she hadn't been one of them.

"What's your malfunction?"

"Huh?"

"You can't be hanging out alone. It ain't safe."

"I just need to chill by myself sometimes. I was at the crib. Ain't nothing gonna happen there." She hid a little smile, pleased that he seemed to care, even if it was only the 'Leader of the Alien Troops' kind of caring.

"Why you need to chill so much all of a sudden?"

"Tck! The rest of y'all do it. Why not me?"

"That's different. No more hanging out alone. That's it."

Ava bit back some sharp words just in time. What the h*ll difference did it make what she did? They all treated her like a little dork anyway. Sometimes she felt like leaving them and forgetting all the destiny sh*t Korn had pumped into them.

"Ava, man, you listening to me?"

"Yeah, I'm listening."

They walked on in silence. Broadway was still alive south of Houston at 3am. Zan stopped to talk to some old head punk guys he knew. And of course, out of the friggin blue, a couple of punk girls came drifting over with the dumbest come-on lines she'd ever heard. Ava wanted so badly to reach out and burn their ugly hair, but she wasn't too good with her powers. Anyway Zan would go ballistic if she did, so she just watched them with looks that really could have killed if she were Lonnie. Now that was one creep scary b*tch. No lie! Anyway he insisted they only use their powers when necessary or when no one else was around. Most of the time Zan really wasn't any fun. He said 'no' more times than a career virgin with a tight frame. She watched him now, deep in conversation, but she knew part of his brain was constantly on guard, aware of their surroundings and who was standing where.

Finally he motioned for her to come on. On their way back home, Ava kept staring at her favorite burger joint as they passed by it. She was debating whether she wanted a Monterey Jack enough to bother saying anything when she tripped on the uneven pavement and feel on her knee. She screamed through gritted teeth as she lay on her side unable to move it.

"Lay straight on your back, Ava." Zan hunkered down and placed a hand on it for two seconds. "You a'ight?"

"Yeah, thanks."

He pulled her to her feet. "You need to watch where you going. What's the matter? You hungry again?"

"You know it. That Chinese goes right through me no matter how much meat's in that jawn."

He smiled wryly. "A'ight."

He took her in and bought her what she wanted. And he didn't even rush her like the others did because she always ate a lot and always ate slow.

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

A couple days later Korn showed up. It was about 11am and three of the Four were asleep. Zan insisted that at least one of them be awake at all times to guard the others. It was Lonnie's shift. Korn came up behind her.

"You gotta do better than that if you trying to sneak, Korny," she drawled without turning.

Korn came around to face her. Lonnie looked him up and down. His taste in looks wasn't bad, but nothing really to write the home planet about. For all of the ten years they'd known him he normally appeared in the shape of the last person he killed, some slender preppy dark haired Joe College type - or so he claimed. She doubted that 'cause that would mean he hadn't burned anybody for ten years. Even though he seemed to bounce from nervous, whiny weasel to stern, steadfast guardian in the blink of an eye, Lonnie sensed a mean streak in him that she could relate to. She smirked up at him from her usual spread-eagled position on the couch.

"How the h*ll are ya, Korny? Have a seat."

He stared blankly at her without moving. "Wake up the king."

"You're such a winsome guy." She held her hand over the case holding a CD until Eminem's voice threatened to crack the very ground beneath them.

"Yo!" Ava shouted, sitting straight up with her eyes shut tight and her hands over her ears.

Rath leaped up. "Whooo-Hoooooo!" And he started break dancing, spinning agilely on his neck like an 80's revue gone mad.

Korn shoved his hands in his trench coat pockets, his shoulders slightly hunched as he tried to keep from covering his own ears. Thoroughly annoyed he walked over to Zan who hadn't moved from his prone position. Zan stared up at him and casually raised his hand in Lonnie's direction. The music stopped.

"Wha's up?"

"Soon maybe your home planet, Zan - in the form of space dust - if you don't answer the summons."

Zan sat up slowly and rubbed the back of his neck. Ava blinked and turned away. She didn't feel like being turned on as usual by the sight of his bare chest. All she wanted was sleep. They'd all been out extra late that morning.

Zan looked at the clock. "You must be crazy coming up in here this time of morning, talking some bullsh*t."

Korn sighed with exasperation. "Representatives from the four other planets are ready to talk now. They want peace. Even Kivar wants to cut a deal." His eyes flicked over to Lonnie briefly. "The death toll increases daily - by astronomical numbers. At this point no one will really win the war and everyone knows that."

Rath played with his hockey stick. "See, Zan. We gotta go."

Zan looked from him to Lonnie and Ava. "How you know about the summons?"

Korn shrugged. "I'm your protector. I'm supposed to know about these things. So why haven't you answered it?"

"Maybe for the same reason you haven't answered the f*cking question I just asked you. Don't play with me, Korn."

"The orb, Your Highness."

"The orb, My Highness? Really? Well, then you already know why I ain't answered the summons."

"I'm sure I don't--"

"Yo," Lonnie broke in impatiently, "your little communicator ain't where you showed us no more, Korny, so E.T. can't phone home."

The shape shifter turned sharply towards her. "What do you mean, the orb is not there? That's impossible! It's secured."

Rath made a goofy face. "If that's secured, no wonder Antar is all f*cked up." The ball he whacked just missed Ava's head.

"Fool, watch what you doing?"

"Sorry, baby," he said innocently, twirling the hockey stick like a baton. "What I don't get is, why would they try to hide something from outer space in the basement of friggin Bloomingdale's, man?" He laughed. "That's some stupid sh*t, ain't it?"

"Well, this is the same task force that left us in the sewers, Mohawk. Bloomingdale's. Sh*t, why not attach it to a pothole at 42nd and Broadway?" Lonnie said, smiling as Korn's demeanor changed form guardian to weasel.

"Oh no no no! This can't be--I can't--then this changes some things, Zan. I'm afraid the time for talking might be over in light of this...new development--which I'll check out personally of course, but another emissary's been sent as a...back up if the summit doesn't happen as planned. This other emissary--its mission is to physically remove a king of Antar--alive preferably--from this planet."

"It?" Ava said uncertainly.

"You saying 'a king' like there's more than one legit," Rath said.

"Don't forget the back up set of the four of you, the duplicates."

"Ah yeah," Lonnie drawled, "the much debated dupes."

"Debated maybe, but real nevertheless. If Zan One doesn't go to the summit - and it must be the original Zan hybrid that attends the summit - then either Zan One or Zan Two will be removed from this planet. Whichever can be reached first." Only Lonnie's eyes moved as they exchanged a glance with Rath, then slowly rolled to Zan.

"Removed to where? Why?" Ava demanded.

Korn gritted his teeth. "Away form here. I don't know where or for what purpose right now, okay? But I can find out." Then he swallowed, turning to Zan. "I do know that this second emissary will grab you on sight. You could be on a crowded bus or on the toilet." Korn looked around at the others. "In case you're all wondering, once the king is taken, all loose ends on this planet will be...eliminated."

"Whoa, Korn," Rath sputtered. "What are you saying, man? We're the Royal Four."

"Well, now you can see why this meeting is more important than you think. Emissary Two is probably now close by and may or may not have found you yet. If it has, it's doing nothing but watching your movements and waiting for a signal, which because you've been uncooperative, it may be receiving as we speak. Your only advantage is that you might be able to sense its presence. It's a shape shifter of some kind so it can be destroyed - if you get to it before it gets to you. So with these uncertainties in mind it would behoove you--"

Rath mockingly mouthed the word 'behoove' at Lonnie.

"--to answer the first one, the representatives' emissary, in the affirmative as soon as possible."

"But we just told you--" Ava piped in until Zan motioned for her to stop.

Korn shifted nervously under Zan's prolonged stare.

"A'ight.

Korn's chest lowered as if he was holding his breath. "Good! Your Highness, there may be a peaceful end sooner than we think. You'll be revered forever for this. I know it seems too risky to come out in the open, but it's the right thing to do." He looked around at each of them. "It's what you all were made to do. I will return immediately after you attend the summit. Good luck!" Then he was gone.

"So wha's up, brother?" Lonnie asked. "You know that orb ain't there. Korn must really be on crack if don't remember what we told him a minute ago."

Rath looked quizzical. "Yeah but you ain't say nothing 'cause one of yous got the orb. Right?"

"Nah, nobody's got the orb," Lonnie answered without taking her eyes off Zan. "You ain't got no intentions of going to that meeting, do you? You gonna let all our people die."

"What? Man, yous don't have it?? Korn!!"

"Enough!" Zan said. "I can answer the summons and I can go to the summit. But that can wait a couple hours, no matter what the shape shifter said. We don't need Korn and yous don't need to worry about the orb. We need to sleep, yo. I'm taking over the watch."

"That's okay, brother--"

"I'm on watch. That's it."

Lonnie rolled her eyes and lay down. Rath gave Zan a warning glance and lay down beside her. Ava curled up near Zan and was the first to fall asleep. About two hours later the room was full of snoring and Zan said to Lonnie, "You can't fake-snore no better than that?"

"Tck!" Her alert eyes opened wide to glare at him and then she finally turned over, letting sleep claim her.

Lonnie was the first to awaken late that afternoon and as she feared, Zan was gone. Damn!

Around 11 that night Zan was at the top of the Empire State Building. He sometimes went there alone when the city was lit up, and it felt like he was in another reality. He looked with an artist's eye at the scene, but the sense of peace he usually felt there eluded him.

It was clear to him that Korn couldn't be trusted anymore whether he was too stupid, too out of his mind, or too much in the pocket of their enemies. The New York Four were expendable and probably always had been. They were probably just decoys and now they were in danger. But after observing Lonnie and Rath earlier a thought occurred to Zan that really shook his equilibrium. Maybe it was only the king who was in danger.

There were too many questions the answers to which couldn't be anything but bad news. No one was supposed to know about that orb, yet it was missing. If Korn or one of the other Three took it, why did they and why were they lying to him about it? And if none of them took it, then who did and what was the thief doing with it? It was more than just a communicator.

A feeling in his gut told him what Korn said about the second emissary was true. Maybe that's what he felt in the Black Juice and in a couple other places. Maybe this emissary was stalking them - him. And since no one knew that he definitely had no intention of going to a summit where anybody could try to kill him or that he had no way of responding to the invite anyway 'cause he didn't have the friggin orb, he had the upper hand temporarily. But Zan felt like time was running out. It seemed like a good idea to find the second emissary, before the motha found him, and kill it. 'Cause he d*mn sure wasn't going to be taken - 'alive preferably' - off the mothaf*cking planet.

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

It was a little after midnight. Lucia glared at Syn who was bobbing her head and tapping a foot encased in a thigh length black leather boot to the thump of a Linkin Park baseline.

"Syn," Lucia screeched, attempting to be heard, "why did I let you talk me into this again? Do you see him? Do you see?" She thrust a finger in 'his' direction.

A tall lanky boy sporting a crew cut leaned down into her ear. "See who? I can't see nothing."

"Wheat, watch your drink! Don't spill it on me!"

"What?"

Lucia grabbed him and Syn by the arms and marched them over to a slightly less noisy corner.

"Nooo, look you spilled beer on me, Wheat! D*mn!" Lucia was brushing at her red silk blouse fringed around the short sleeves with red glittery shimmies.

"Sorry if I ruined your shoot, Twiggy, but this is the risk of frequenting a place like this - a place where...You. Can't. See. Sh*t."

Syn was barely paying attention to her friends. She was edgy. This was the fourth night in a row that she and Lucia had come to the club. They coaxed Wheat into coming this time so that he could be their ride. It really sucked whenever Lucia's car broke down, which was often. Syn thought maybe she should forget about the whole thing until it happened again somewhere else. After all, if she were meant to know, one day she would know. Besides, her inheritance from Grandma Sena hadn't made her a millionaire or anything, and the Black Juice wasn't all that cheap. But...she was almost obsessed with the memory of that other night. She fingered her black rosary bracelet.

"I know you ain't praying for the souls in here," Wheat said after a swig of beer. "There ain't enough 'amen's' in the world to help these mothas."

Syn smiled. "Not praying this time. It matches my outfit."

Lucia pursed her lips. "You drunk already, Roebuck Wheaton? You know very well the girl's got more rosary bracelets than I got clothes and accessories put together."

"Tolja 'bout calling me that." Wheat held his cup over her head and Lucia grabbed his wrist.

"No! No, Wheat, okay I'm sorry!"

"That's better."

"Touchy, touchy. See Syn, this is what I didn't want to happen. I didn't want to run into David and watch him crawl all over that thing he dumped me for!"

Wheat smirked. "Tawny Lovell ain't just a 'thing'. She's a very good thing, so I heard, and generous if you catch my drift. Guess Davy was tired of waiting for you to give it up. I thought you were over the dude anyway. He ain't all that."

"I am over him. Go chase some females. You're working my nerves right now."

"Nah, not me. These chickens are diseased up in here."

"Whatever. Syn, I can't believe this. It's not jealousy. It's just weird and yucky. Look at the way he's touching her. He used to do the same thing to me." Just then, David spotted them from halfway across the room and his face froze up. "Ol' phony. Bah!" Lucia rolled her eyes and flung up her hand as she twisted with a flourish on her four-inch heels, her red skirt billowing out prettily. "N E way...Wheat, gimme a sip. That's Heineken, right?"

He thrust the cup at her and said, "Earth to Syndara. What are you looking for? You looking all around like the FBI on a stakeout. Why is it so dark in this club, man? You can't tell what you're dancing with until you take it home and then it's too late." Lucia handed him an empty cup. "Oh, you are so ignorant."

"A-heh. Excuse you. Ask somebody else if they would like a drink next time you send one of your 'of age' friends to the bar for you. Okay, chico?"

"That is it. I gotta get away from you. I got my cell phone. Yous call me when yous ready to go."

"How do you like that?" Lucia said, watching him disappear into the crowd. "Syn, this is the fourth night and nothing's happened. Maybe the other night was a fluke. Y' know, a sensory overload or something. Maybe your wires just got crossed with another synesthete like you. Wait, let me get this hair thing." She pinned a lock that had escaped from Syn's upsweep.

Syn sighed with disappointment and spoke into Lucia's ear, "Let's go to the Blue Room. It's too noisy here to talk."

The adjacent Blue Room was almost as dark as the main dance floor but wasn't as stank, in Syn's opinion. Fittingly, it was illuminated by soft blue light and had its own bar. There were mix-matched chairs everywhere surrounding small round tables individually illuminated by little silver lamps in the centers. Gratefully the girls sank down into two huge puffy chairs in a corner and quietly savored taking a load off.

Finally Lucia looked over at Syn's outfit with interest. "Hmm, dressed to kill tonight, aren't we? Ultra short black leather jacket, black leather bra, the quintessential skirt of the same material. But the absolute piece de resistance are these funkadelic shiny black thigh boots! Oh yes, I need to wear this outfit to Jennifer's party next week."

"Tck! I'll think about it."

"Oh please do. And isn't that my ruby navel ring?"

"It certainly is not." Syn laughed. "Would you stop browsing through my clothes while I'm wearing them in public? Thank you."

"Well, I just...Ooo, Syn, look! I didn't know Mickie was tending bar in here tonight."

"You know what that means."

They grinned at each other.

"I'll be right back!

Syn watched Lucia strut away, admiring her ability to tip on those needle thin heels of hers. A guy approached Lucia while she was chatting away with Mickie at the bar. Syn could see she kept giving him one-syllable answers. Suddenly he stooped all the way down and Lucia punched him hard in the head. Syn was over there in two seconds, her hand already wrapped around the switchblade in her purse. But a very large bouncer already had the guy, struggling to get to Lucia, in a neck clamp. The creep's eyes were full of malevolence. Syn saw a maggoty shade of yellow emanating from him and smelled rotten eggs at the sound of his obscene threats. Mickie was screaming obscenities right back until the bouncer took him out.

"Bastard! I keep telling them they gotta keep him outta here, but he's like the owner's cousin's friend or some sh*t. They wait about a week after one of his little performances and then let him in again. G*ddammit!" She turned sympathetically to Lucia. "First round's on the house for both of you. Be right back."

"Lucia," Syn exclaimed, holding her friend's arm. "Are you okay?"

Lucia patted her short straight hair of which not a strand was out of place. "Oh I'm fine as wine."

"What did he do?"

"I told the worm 'no' once and I don't like to repeat myself. So like a thief he thought he could just take the goodies."

"F*cking freak asshole. Unbelievable!"

"Understatements both. Maybe I should stop wearing red. Shees! Oh now, don't look at me like that. I am fine. I have an Italian father, a Puerto Rican mother, but I'm a natural blond. Honey, I was born cool as ice." With slightly trembling hands, she took the tray of drinks and a bowl of Chex snack mix that a smiling Mickie handed her.

"Don't drop my Sweet Nina Long Island Ice Teas. I made them with extra special care this time. Do not gulp them down. I'm warning you! See, I gave you little glasses of ice on the side. Use 'em!"

"Thanks, Mickie."

They walked back to their seats.

"Oh my g*d, this is so not watered down, Lucia. I gotta pour this on ice."

"Whoo-hoo! Must be 1000 proof. Ice is right."

The time passed uneventfully for them, thank goodness, while they sipped their drinks and laughed, watching some of the locals act out. Then something in the air changed. Syn felt a slight vibration. She leaned forward unconsciously.

"What is it, hon?"

Syn's eyes were wide. "I think it's happening again. Just follow me and don't talk at all, okay?"

"Ohhh-kay. You're the boss lady. Whoo, do I feel funky!" Syn took a giggling Lucia by the hand, pulling her along.

In the main room again they stood along a sidewall and the sensation increased steadily by degrees.

"Oh I meant to - hic - call Wheat. Too loud here. Be right back."

Syn grabbed her hand. "Wait--"

"I'll really, really, really be right back. We gotta go home. I'm done." Lucia tipped carefully away.

Syn felt a small panic rising. The curiosity and sense of adventure that filled the past few days waned quickly to almost nothing. Now she just wanted to be home and safe and bored. She pressed her back against the wall, her breathing becoming shallow as the sensation took on a more definite form. Although she couldn't yet locate the body it came from, she could see a rich ocean of purple edged with gold. Then it became a pure sharp magenta wave that washed over her. It ended up wrapping itself around her securely like a blanket and squeezing her gently like a steady pulse.

She'd never felt anything like it before in her life.

Everywhere bodies were jerking frantically to the wild head-banger music. The only people who were motionless were she and the guy standing just two feet away from her against the wall. She didn't turn her head to see for certain, but she felt his maleness - and a lot more. It was clear to her by the warmly intense suction pulling her body towards his that he was the one. It took considerable physical effort on her part not to stumble over into him. He was ground zero of the whole experience threatening now to make her faint with a real sensory overload.

Oh my g*d! What is he?

The desire to see his face was almost too great to bear, but even greater than that was her desire to get the h*ll away. Despite the fact that he wasn't looking at her, she could tell she had his complete attention by the way the magenta was flowing into her skin. He was after something and wasn't going to just let her walk away. A spurt of adrenaline freed her petrified limbs and before she could break into a dead run like she planned, she was quickly pulled back against a hard body as soon as she pushed away from the wall. She gasped aloud, her head falling back against his shoulder, and he placed a hand on her neck. His arm around her bare waist flexed, pressing her closer and she could feel his heart beating as fast as hers.

After an eternity he spoke into her ear, "Move and I'll end you right here."

Syn hoped that her trembling didn't count. His deep voice, rough yet smooth as butter, ran through her, marking her inside. His warning was frightening, true, but she knew she wasn't in the presence of evil - not with the taste of spicy hot apple cider in her mouth...



part three


Zan barely got the words out past his tight throat. They had lost meaning and were just a product of his thoughts before he approached the wall to stand next to her. He hardly knew what he was doing now. Her little body curved into his, burning him with her heat. He stood still with her like that for he didn't know how long. The sounds of the club came to him from far away like muffled echoes down a tunnel, as his body seemed to configure itself to hers, their hearts beating in time together. She fit perfectly into him, as if she was the missing piece of his puzzle or the answer to the first question he ever asked but never got the answer to. He didn't want to move, even as he tried to distance his brain from how right she felt.

His hand stirred on the soft skin of her neck, finding her pulse there and lightly rubbing circles around it. Her soft whimper fascinated him. He wanted to hear it again and started to…Wait, yo…he had to get control. And he would have if she hadn't touched him, her hand lightly sliding along his forearm at her waist. A frisson of familiarity went through him. This wasn't the emissary - no, not making him feel this way. She couldn't be ‘cause he didn't want to let go of her, so the natural thing to do was…He turned her slightly towards him, cupping her jaw line. He couldn't see her face and it didn't even matter. Zan brushed his lips against hers and heard her soft gasp but was unprepared for the jolt of bliss that went straight to his head and then through the rest of him. What the-? As he turned her, unresisting, completely around in his arms, she sucked her breath in sharply when he scraped the palm of his hand against her navel ring. He barely noticed and without pausing to look at her, brought his mouth down on her closed one. Her hands slid slowly up his arms to grip his shoulders but she wasn't letting him in. And Zan had to get in.

“Open your mouth,” he commanded roughly against her lips as he tried to urge them apart with his, his hands roving up and down her back and pressing her firm bottom, molding her to him.

“Please,” she managed to whisper breathlessly, briefly turning her cheek to his mouth. He sucked her lips back to his. He knew what she wanted. But he didn't know if he could be gentle with her right now, whoever she was. The need to possess her, this faceless girl in his arms, surged through him as if she was as necessary to him as his next breath. Sh*t, what was she doing to him? Her lips parted slightly again, to say something perhaps. But as if he were starving, he wasted no time tasting her fully. Zan groaned, immediately overcome by her potent flavor…peaches. Oh, he loved him some peaches! Right now he could eat them…all night. He dug his hands into her thick hair, loosening the pins holding the silky dark mass in place as his tongue mated with hers, leaving no part of her mouth unexplored.

In her head Syn felt like she was alternately sky diving and drowning. It was scary but it felt so right, as if she was created to be with only him like this, at this moment, forever. It was mad crazy, but she couldn't stop! Her arms slid around his waist, up his back and all the way down in open invitation, mimicking the way he had caressed her, and demanding that he lose himself in her as completely as she was lost in him. And she was definitely lost. Ooo…or had she been found at last? With an uncontrollable passion bordering on violence, they kissed on and on in the dark until her hands took hold of the front of his vest, ready to pull him to the floor to complete what they started, when a tiny glimmer of sanity ripped a little tear in her blanket of magenta and grew. She pulled back a little between each kiss, now attempting to draw breath and maybe express a coherent question. “Oh…I…” There was a rushing noise around them and her unknown captor paused his eager feasting on her to look toward the commotion. Too late. A tide of people knocked into them shouting and screaming, disconnecting the two of them and smashing against the wall with raucous cheers. With a functional piece of her mind Syn stumbled back even further out of the way, trying to get her bearings. The air was thick now with the odor of whiskey breath and sweat…but the taste of his wild strawberry kiss was still in her mouth and on her swollen lips as she licked them feeling bereft and vulnerable without his warmth.

Someone grabbed her arm.

“Man, did you see that?” It was Wheat with a frantic Lucia beside him.

“Oh Syn, I'm sorry! It took Wheat sooooo friggin long to answer his d*mn phone.”

“I turned it off for a while. Sue me.”

Lucia turned away form him, holding a hand up to his face. “Like that makes some kind of sense. Syn, are you all right? I saw the Slamming Pr*ck coming and thought, ‘Oh my g*d!’ I knew I left you somewhere over here—"

“The what?” Syn shook her head, trying to get back to a lucid state. She felt like she was just regaining gravity.

“A bunch of guys get really drunk, and they're so drunk they think slamming their bods into walls is fun. It’s a new rave thing,” Wheat offered, steering the girls towards the exit. “Anybody got a coat or hat to pick up or steal?”

“Ay, slow down, thug!” Lucia demanded. “These heels get a little higher after I get my mint julep on.”

“Nobody told you to ‘mint julep’ a couple of Sweet Ninas.”

“Oh, I only had one!”

Still smirking Wheat turned to Syn with a startled, “Damn, Syn. What the h*ll happen to you? Your hair is shaped like Gumby’s head all chewed up.”

Lucia poked his side. “She probably got to grind through about five songs with some of them hard bodies in there while I was squatting with diarrhea in that nasty 'ladies' room, trying to reach you on the friggin phone. Now can we go! I'm really and truly done.”

A relieved Syn climbed into the roomy back seat of Wheat's great-grandfather's 1978 Chevy.

“I swear, you need two lanes for this monster.”

“Lucia, don’t go there unless you wanna be left on this corner to hook your way home.” He pulled off with a screech of tires.

“Blah, blah, blah…gimme some of them Skittles.”

“Greedy ho!”

“Just pass ‘em, Roebuck.”

“You are so lucky I’m driving right now it’s not even funny. You just wait—“

While Wheat and Lucia kept up a steady banter, Syn put her head back and watched the Manhattan lights endlessly fly by leading the way across the bridge finally to a more subdued Brooklyn. Wheat dropped them off at Syn’s apartment. Lucia fell asleep almost as soon as her head hit the pillow. Syn, of course, lay awake thinking about the one she had joined with, whose face she never saw. Yet she…knew him. She touched her lips often. It had been a feverish dream, one she wished were true. But Syn was practical and she didn't really like being that out of control. He was a complete stranger and she had been more than ready to...! Syn moved restlessly. She preferred to see things as they were, not as she wanted them to be. And what she wanted right now was too sublime and probably as impossible as feeling a certain color after it’s moment had passed. Finally, facing her window and watching the dawn come, she prayed as usual for her family and friends, for peace among all people and peace within herself. And she prayed for her stranger, whoever and wherever he may be.

----- ----- -----


When the wave of revelers hit them Zan put his hand out, shocking a couple guys who fell to the floor. Then he quickly checked himself ‘cause he felt like putting down the whole crowd, everyone who had just separated him from her. He shoved people out of the way, checking the floor to make sure she hadn’t been trampled. Nothing – not even the guys he dropped. He was minimally satisfied that he hadn’t killed them with his unrestrained reflex. Where was she? Sh*t, who was she? He couldn’t feel her anymore. He searched the entire club. Where the h*ll had she gone? As soon as he had walked into The Black Juice he felt it. The emissary or something else was in the joint. His senses led him straight to the wall across the room. And there she was – sending strong, warm pulse waves through him and acting like she didn’t know he was there. He stood near her to see what she would do. She was as aware of him as he was of her and that told him she wasn’t the alien stalker because she hadn’t snatched him off to La La land or bitten his head off. Suddenly he felt a little burst of energy from her and knew she was preparing to make her move, whatever that would be and he was ready…or so he thought. The moment he put his hands on her he was caught. She wrapped him up tight and he didn’t want to get loose. If anything, he wanted to get more ensnared in her. And now Zan felt like a part of himself had been cut off.

The air outside the club was bordering on cold but it didn’t bother him. It was just what he needed. Why was he getting so worked upover swinging a little episode in the dark with some strange chick? As if he hadn’t done some sh*t not even mentioned in the Kama Sutra. It was just a kiss, for crysakes! That’s all. He probably would’ve just done her against the wall for the h*ll of it and jetted. He walked a little faster down Broadway, looking more intimidating than usual to passersby, as he tried to convince himself. Well sh*t, what was there to convince? His Luke Skywalker problems hadn’t gone anywhere, not to mention he wasn’t sure he could even trust his own family. He had to focus on staying alive and more specifically – what the f*ck he was gonna do now. He felt like he needed to rethink everything, like he was slipping or something. Not good. So he would lay low for a few hours in a calm spot where he could get his sh*t together again. Having decided that Zan slowed his pace and felt his stress level drop little by little. He had nearly arrived at his chosen chill-out destination when suddenly an appetite for peaches assailed him and wouldn’t leave his head.

Sh*t!

----- ----- -----

Lonnie lay there, staring up at the crystal chandelier, wondering why anybody would put one as large as that over a bed. Freaks. At first she got a kick out of being there, but now… She hated feeling uncertain and out of place. She needed to be in total control of every situation or she went nuts. It had been a mistake to come here. Some of Rath’s impulsiveness must have rubbed off on her, making her weak. She turned her head to stare at the empty champagne bottle and an empty bottle of pills. It was nice to know that there was a way they could enjoy alcohol without passing out. But so what? Lonnie rolled her eyes and fixed them on the chandelier again as she contemplated her fork in the road. The ends were sharp. Somebody was gonna bleed and it wasn’t gonna be her. But she had to think everything through. She just wasn’t sure which way she wanted to roll and no one was gonna friggin rush her either. She turned her head the other way. Especially not him, no matter how good he was. When his hand stirred and began to caress her bare stomach, she closed her eyes, biting into her bottom lip. And oh, he was good. She could feel his eyes on her now, intense eyes that either put her on the offensive, taking no prisoners, or put her body beneath his (or on top – depending on her mood.)

“You'd better be careful, Vilandra.” He stroked her cheek. “This is either the beginning or the end.”

She turned her head, casually knocking his hand away. “Even if it’s both it don’t matter.”

He waited a beat, his eyes narrowing. “Well?” he demanded with an edge.

Lonnie smirked at him. “I don’t give up the 411 just ‘cause you do me good.” She raked a hand through his curly hair. “But try an encore and see where it gets you.” He sat up abruptly and she chuckled. “I don’t have to remind you of the magnitude of this situation. Don’t make the mistake of forgetting. Even you can get burned by this and there is no turning back.” He ignored the warning glitter in Lonnie’s eyes as he got dressed.

“You ain’t even gonna shower?”

He smiled slightly buttoning up his shirt. “No, I like the smell of you on me.”

In a stony silence she went to wash up in the fancy bathroom. When she came back out, she noted without surprise that he was gone. Lonnie packed her bag, of course stripping the room of everything that wasn’t nailed down, and jetted, heading uptown towards Bloomingdale’s.



part four


Lucia absently watched the sunlight that filled Syn’s small cheerful kitchen. “You ever get homesick?”

Syn, covered with a frilly granny apron, looked up from the stove. “Well sometimes. You know my parents have several issues that made it real easy to move fifteen hundred miles away. But…I still love them. Mack keeps asking me about Thanksgiving, but I don’t know. He doesn’t know I had a real nasty argument with Mom right before I left.”

“You need to patch that sh*t up, girl. You lucky to have your Mom around.”

Syn studied Lucia’s downcast face. Oh d*mn. She’d forgotten that today was the seven-year anniversary of Lucia’s big sister’s death. Rachel had been their age at the time. Syn hugged her.

“I’m all right. I just still really miss her.” Lucia’s wave of grief passed as quickly as it had come – for now. Then she turned her full attention to her friend. “Okay, don’t think I didn’t notice, Syn.”

“Huh? Hold up. Let me do this first.” Syn concentrated on flipping a large pancake with two thin spatulas and smiled with satisfaction when it landed perfectly on the other side.

“That one’s mine, right? Okay, I was way too tired last night to get the scoop. But Wheat was right about your hair, you know. It looked like you’d been worked over. What happened?”

“It was very…unusual,” Syn said hesitantly. She carefully lifted a pancake from one of the pans onto Lucia’s plate.

“No, I want the one you just turned. Please!”

Syn exhaled loudly.

“Thanks a bunch. Okay. So don’t stop there, ho! Spill!”

Syn suddenly felt a little shy about the incident. “Well…I finally met the person giving off those vibes – sorta.”

“Sorta?”

“He – “

“He? Well, this is getting good. Go ahead.”

“I’m trying, thank you! Anyway, he was standing right next to me and the feelings were so strong that I got scared. I was gonna run, but he grabbed me and – “

“Did the s.o.b. hurt you?” Lucia had the avenging angel face on. “‘Cause we can go back there and yank that fool’s vibrating ass.”

“No,no, Lucia. Will you let me tell it?

“Well, I’m listening.”

“He kissed me.”

“Oh my g*d! Was it good? What’d he look like? Better than Roman or Enriqué or that yummy brother of yours?

“Well, I don’t know.”

“What do you mean, Syndara? You kissed a guy without getting a good look at him? His mouth could have been crusty. Girl, you gotta look for these things! Was there tongue action?

“It just happened - !”

“Oh my g*d!”

“It was dark. I was drawn to him and it just felt so right. Plus, his kiss tasted like strawberries. You know I love strawberries and I’ve never experienced that before - so it didn’t matter what he looked like.”

“Maybe he just ate some before he ‘bumped into’ you, Syn.”

“No, he didn’t. I can’t explain it. It was something about him that made him taste like strawberries and that meant it was…right to kiss him.” Syn had to laugh. “I’m not crazy! I know this doesn’t make any sense. Here, hold your plate up.”

“Mmm, this looks so good. Thanks. Well, maybe I should meet Mystery Dude and get a taste myself so I can understand what you mean, hm?”

“I don’t think so,” Syn replied with an only half-playful glare.

“Just kidding. Whoo, look at you! All jealous and don’t even know what boy looks like. Mm! He sure put the mojo on you. But don’t say it doesn’t matter what he looks like. If he was Quasimodo, you’d hesitate just a li'l bit, so lets keep it real, k? So did yous talk at all? I mean, what led up to this fruit-flavored Kiss of Kisses?”

“He told me he was gonna ‘end me’ if I moved.”

“Hmmm…since when do death threats turn you on?”

“Tck! Of course it wasn’t that. Look, you’d have to be there to understand.”

“Well, then what - ?”

“Let me sum it up for you.” Syn poured syrup as she spoke. “We kissed until that drunken crowd of goons nearly trampled us. We got split up and at that point you and Wheat walked up. We didn’t exchange names or phone numbers. We each don’t even know what the other looks like. I’m sure he couldn’t see me. I’ll probably never meet this guy again. I’ll…It was a fluke. It was hormones. It was the Sweet Nina. Strawberries or no strawberries, it wasn’t real. It was just…this Twilight Zone occurrence. Weird and amusing enough to record in my diary later. End of tale.”

Lucia chewed and nodded slowly. “Reeeally? Is that why you have pancake flavored syrup on your plate?”

“What?” Syn snapped before setting the Aunt Jemima bottle down next to the pool she just made. “Ohhh, sh*t – “

“You don’t mean any of that. All those feelings you said you had – they must mean something. Why don’t you go back, see if you can find him, and drag him into the light, please, so you and I can see what kind of fish you caught?”

Syn cast her an irritated glance and dumped her soaked pancake in the freezer garbage bag. “I thought you didn’t like ‘all this paranormal stuff’.”

“I don’t. But this is sounding romantic – weird, but romantic - and I’m all about the romance.”

Syn sighed before sipping her strawberry tea, considering the suggestion. She got the feeling she’d be asking for trouble if she went looking for him. But oh what sweet a trouble it could be! Mm. It was true she wanted to see him face to face, but she wasn’t going back to the Black Juice this week. She had too much to do. However, Syn believed in a flexible kind of fate. A contradiction? Sure. Nothing was really fixed but what will be, will be.


----- ----- -----


That night in the basement of Bloomingdale’s Rath paced and Lonnie, picking her nails, weaved from side to side without moving her feet.

“Yo. He said he’d be here by now. I don’t trust that li’l pipsqueak.”

Lonnie’s eyes began to follow his restless movements.

“What we gotta do? Wait ‘til this motha opens in the morning? Where is he??”

“Will you quit pacing? He’ll be here. Just chill.”

“Yeah well, he said he’d be here with the friggin orb at 12:30am and here it is d*mn near two oh-f*ckin-clock. I coulda been at the club, man. This ain’t no way to do business.”

Suddenly a voice came from nowhere. “Ha! Pod Boy, please. What business do you know how to do – except creep out the locals in this city of slime?”

They turned quickly to find Nicholas standing there.

“F*ck you! You late.”

“Such a charmer you have here, Vilandra.”

Lonnie rolled her eyes. “Cut the crap, Nicky. You got the communicator or not?”

Nicholas handed it to her. “Now, are you remotely capable of getting him to at least meet with the emissary? He needs to see something in the Zan Kapol shar-Kelos Hod hybrid’s brain – such as it is.”

“You a smarmy li’l dude. You know that?” Rath sneered.

“I know something relevant to the situation at hand. I know that the representatives of the four other planets aren’t available to you anymore.”

Lonnie stepped close to him. “Don’t f*ck with me, Nicholas.”

Nicholas smiled with guile and admiration as he looked her up and down. “I’d really love to actually.”

Rath stalked towards them. “What you say, man??”

Lonnie pressed a hand to his chest, holding him back. “Rath, chill. We ain’t got time for this. Look, Nicholas, the shape shifter told us about this other emissary who was gonna get ill if Zan didn’t meet with the first one.”

“Get ill?”

She sighed impatiently. “Korn said this dude was gonna try to wipe us out if Zan didn’t step up.”

Nicholas laughed. “Ah, for once Drakorin has made himself useful. First of all, you should’ve had a clue that you weren’t the real Royal Four when they dumped you underground on this forsaken ball like so much refuse. And if the little bells didn’t go off then, they should have as soon as that wastoid finally showed up claiming to be your ‘protector’. It’s sad really.”

Rath was almost at the end of his short rope. “F*ck that! We real enough. You standing right the f*ck there looking at how real we is. Yo, Lonnie, why we dealing with this fool?”

All traces of humor left Nicholas face and it became a cold mask. “Because you don’t know what the f*ck you’re doing, Mohawk. You think I don’t have better things to do with my time than lead you around by the nose? If it were up to me we wouldn’t be dealing with you test tube rejects anyway. You were a stupid idea from the very beginning – all eight of you – which is a sure sign that the House of Kapol has lost it and that someone with a viable vision of the future should be – and is – on the throne now.”

Lonnie held Rath back again and smiled. “Well, Nicky, you must not have better things to do ‘cause you here. Everybody in this big ol’ universe wants something. We wanna go home. And you want…?” She raised her brows.

Nicholas stared at her face and warmed up just a little. “Just get him to take the test within fourteen days. Like I was saying, the reps aren’t available right now. The Five Planets are calling a two week cease fire for the Holy Days.”

Holy Days?”

“Don’t ask me. I’m not into that mumbo-jumbo. Just have the ‘king’ ready to receive the reps when they come back in fourteen days. They will expect to meet with him within an hour of their return. And then – . Vilandra, stop picking your nails. Listen to me. There will be no other contact with you if he doesn’t show. Then the second emissary – I guess that’s a less alarming word for it – will be activated. And believe me, my dazed and confused space children, you don’t want that.”

Lonnie rolled her eyes way up. “Yeah yeah okay. Um, next time you decide to take the orb, give us the heads up, k?”

“How many times do I have to say that I didn’t take it?”

“Look, li’l man,” Rath spat out. “Either this is the same one you stole from here or you stole it from somewhere else. Either way, since this has one of the Kapol symbols on it, you ain’t supposed to have it – you being a f*ckin traitor and all. All I gots to say is, I’m watching you…Nicky.”

“You, um, do that, k? I’ve gotta go. Just don’t screw this up. You’ve got everything to gain and nothing to lose but this sh*tty life you’re living…in the sewers no less. G*d! Anyway, don’t call me, I’ll call you.” His gaze lingered on Lonnie, then he was gone.

Lonnie pressed the orb into the spot on the wall where they originally saw it. It lit up briefly, went dead, and then became invisible.

“Where is Zan anyway, yo? He been gone since we seen Korn.”

“He’ll show up. My brother’s a responsible guy. He’ll be back soon,” Lonnie said, lightly tracing the edges of the orb that she could no longer see.

“He better or things are gonna get kinda precarious around here.”

“Don’t worry, be happy. Let’s go.”

“I wanna go to The Razor. It stays open ‘til six.”

“No, Mohawk…I want some. Now.”

Rath leered at her look of invitation. “Word?”

She linked her arm in his. “To your motha.”

All was quiet for a good five minutes after they left and then suddenly…

Mothaf*ckas!!

…a bunch of boxes full of clothes near the orb’s wall were shoved violently, some landing sixty feet away, accompanied by a string of vicious cursing. Clothes were strewn everywhere.

Zan jumped out and began pacing the floor like a trapped animal, looking all around with eyes glittering with frustrated rage. All these years of being together, of being a f*ckin family, didn’t mean sh*t to these mothaf*ckas! He was about to put his fist through the friggin wall. “Sh*t!” But instead he laced his fingers behind his head, shutting his eyes tight and trying to think of something else besides different ways to kill them. They were busy meeting aliens behind his back and making plans – about him! And not just any aliens either. Nicholas! Zan was so enraged at the thought he was almost nauseous with it. Nicholas’ real name was Deshamos Sartor and he was as treacherous as the worst f*ckin snake. He had been a trusted and valued member of the Antarian court. Now he was with Khivar Sorhl Daumeyn, that mothaf*cka. Oh no, Zan couldn’t think about the crown thief right now or he might go permanently ballistic. But Lonnie and Rath. It was unf*ckinbelievable! But a voice whispered inside him, Was it really? And where the f*ck did Ava fit in all this – if she fit at all? Bad memories of events long ago, memories he hadn’t forgotten but locked away inside himself, came through the red haze to the forefront of his consciousness. He squeezed his eyes shut. He didn’t want to remember...

They had huddled together, back to back in the squalor of an unfamiliar place, fiercely attempting to fend off the hands that reached for them with intentions they could not name but could only feel were horrible. It was a time just after they broke out of the pods too soon. That vulnerable time when walking took effort and before they learned speech. They had no protector and no powers, only each other. That’s when they had first bonded. But then…

Stop!

Zan braced himself against some pipes running low against the wall, willing the memories away and trying to get a grip on his anger. Okay, what the f*ck are you gonna do now? What do you want? Inexplicably he had a flash of his hands plunging into a luxuriously thick head of hair and lips that clung sweetly to his in the dark. He coldly shoved the image away. He didn’t have time for no Mickey Mouse bullsh*t. Turning his thoughts to his ‘family’, it was clear that he wanted nothing more than to f*ck their sh*t up but good. Yeah, but you need a plan for that, ‘king’. Well, he didn’t have one. He had nothing. He didn’t have anything or anyone.

When his heartbeat slowed and the violence in him cooled down enough for him to think clearly, he approached the spot where Lonnie placed the orb and stared at it. He was tempted to snatch it down and smash it. But no. He’d go back and pretend he knew nothing. ‘Cause the truth was he really didn’t know anything except his peeps weren’t down with him anymore – if they ever had been. No, he’d see how they acted and what they said. He had no choice but to take the sh*t one step at a time – within two weeks or less.


----- ----- -----


Ava had some real misgivings about what she’d done. It was plain stupid. She looked down at the orb in her hands. She just didn’t want to go back to Antar. She didn’t want to be in a war or be a queen or any of that sh*t. She wanted to stay on Earth with Zan. Lonnie and Rath could do whatever the h*ll they wanted. Scottie could beam them up and they could rule the whole friggin universe. Ava loved New York, but not the sewers although she was used to them. There was no reason she and Zan couldn’t live a little better - get a nice apartment aboveground in Manhattan and live like real people instead of a bunch of half ‘n’ half alien life-forms hiding out and waiting to be ‘summoned’ to more than likely die a second time. Thanks but no thanks. Ava handled the orb gingerly and watched it glow every time she moved her finger over the symbol at the center. Still, taking it was too risky. Anyway, with her luck Korn would get a replacement or something. Ava sighed looking blankly around the room. She hoped Zan would come back soon; she was getting worried. Something wasn’t right. Uh-oh, someone was coming. She hastily hid the orb in her bag thinking, damn, she should have just dropped it in the Hudson River but something made her keep it. Yeah, a “Lonnie finding out and killing her” something. Dumb, dumb! Ava thought, watching her two least favorite aliens stroll in. Why couldn’t one of their pods have been the leaky one instead of hers?

“Avaaaa!” Rath came towards her with outstretched arms. “Feel like a three-way tonight?” Then he laughed at the look on her face.

Lonnie moved close behind him and wrapped her arms around his waist. He turned quickly and they started to kiss crudely, open-mouthed, tongues writhing like snakes. Ava left them. She’d watched their wild humping one time too many. She went down a few corridors, then up some steps to a cramped little spot she found where she could get some sleep or just chill whenever the two freakazoids got it on. They never cared if she or Zan were there. It probably turned them on. She dug into her bag and played with the orb again. Hmm, too bad it wasn’t a little longer and a lot thinner…

Lonnie lay back, arms stretched above her head, staring blankly at the ceiling while Rath looked down at her, his face contorted, and rode her like racehorse. Rath was pretty good most of the time but his stuff wasn’t working for her tonight.

Rath really messed up by sinking his teeth into her shoulder. Larek never did that. The other one did but she didn’t want to think about him. “G*ddammit, Rath, you - !”

A round rubber object hit Rath in the head and his temple bumped into Lonnie’s.

“What the - ?!”

“Stop f*ckin. I wanna sleep.”

Lonnie and Rath whipped their heads around.

“Zan,” Lonnie said, roughly pushing Rath out of her.

“Oww!”

“Where you been?” Lonnie asked, wiping the stickiness from her inner thighs with Rath’s shirt.

“D*mn!” Rath exclaimed, snatching it from her and shaking it. Then he smirked. Boy, was it soaked! “Your timing is way off. You know that, right?” he said, still trying to catch his breath.

“Whatever. Where’s Ava?”

“In one of her holes somewhere. She took the hint – unlike some other peeps.”

“Well, I’m back now,” said Ava walking in without her bag, looking anxiously at Zan. She wanted to be around when he came back, and felt relieved that he was standing there now – even if his expression was nasty. She moved to her own bed. She wasn’t gonna say nothing else ‘cause he was clearly in an ugly mood.

“What did I tell you, Ava?"

“Well, they was doing it, and I ain’t feel like watching no live porn tonight.”

Zan ignored them all as he stripped and dropped down on his bed. He didn’t respond to any of the rapid fire questions launched at him about the summit or anything else.

“Well, d*mn! He gonna cock-block me then sleep. I guess I’ll take the first watch ‘cause my sh*t is messed up.”

“Yeah, it is,” Lonnie muttered, rolling over.

“Excuse you?” Rath snapped.

“We’ll talk later, Casanova.”

Rath shook his head. “Boyyyy…everybody’s a smart ass tonight.”

Minutes later everybody seemed to be asleep while Rath played Donkey Kong, cheering silently every time he scored.


----- ----- -----



Syn’s phone rang, jerking her awake. “Hello,” she murmured groggily, face down in the pillow.

“Heyyyy,” returned an overly cheerful but familiar voice.

“I hope this isn’t who it sounds like.”

She heard raucous music and drunken laughter on the line and in the background. “Sorry…I’m sorry…Let me…I just wanna…um. Can we get back together? You and me, y’ know.”

Syn sat up. “Roman?”

“Yeah baby.”

“You must be completely out of your mind calling me at somebody’s…” She glanced at the clock. “…at somebody’s 3:58am talking some nonsense.”

He tried unsuccessfully to stifle his laughter. “I know. I know. I’m sorry. But I couldn’t get up the nerve to say nothing before. I miss you, Syn. Let's get back together. None of these other hoes mean anything to me. I wanna be with you. Plee-eease!”

“I do not talk to drunks and I don’t talk to nobody at four in the friggin morning. Good-bye!”

“Awww, baby…”

Click!

Syn had just tuned over angrily in bed and stopped shifting the covers when the phone rang again.”

“What??”

“ I love – hic – you. ”

Syn slammed the phone down then took it off the hook.


----- ----- -----


“Well, are you gonna give him another chance?”

The girls were lingering near a hotdog stand in front of St.Vincent’s Hospital in Greenwich Village.

“Are you kidding me?” Syn began with her mouth full, pausing to swallow. “You were the one so happy I was over him and talking to other guys.”

Lucia was staring down at herself and chewing as they walked slowly towards a bench. “Maybe we should have changed out of these clothes. The candy striper look just isn’t me.” She sighed. “Maybe if it was gold lamé…”

Syn shifted the book bag on her shoulder and sing-songed, “Hello? Real world calling Lucia Gotti.”

“That’s me! L.G. Don’t make me call Papa John, and I ain’t talking about the pizza man either.” It was a running joke that Lucia was related to the mob boss of past fame. “Well okay, yeah I was glad ‘cause it seemed like you were just pining away for him. He was a jerk that one time, but before that he was good, right? Maybe you should listen to what he has to say. It’s not like yous have to be exclusive again. And speaking of amour…what’s going on with Enriqui-qui-qué, huh?”

“First of all, yeah, Roman was nice but he was used to girls offering before he even thought about asking. When I didn’t follow suit, he had a problem with it - more than once. Plus, that was d*mn rude calling me like that last night! And second, Enriqué is sweet and all, but …when he took me out last night he talked an awful lot about his so-called ex-girlfriend, Gabriela. So, ah, I’m thinking a reunion is eminent.”

“Aw dag. Well…he was gorgeous.”

“Gorgeous and still taken. I’m not one to come between true love or true obsession. I don’t need the drama.”

“I hear you. Been there, done that.”

They sat in silence, eating. It had been a long morning of classes at NYU followed by three hours of volunteer service at the hospital. And the day still wasn’t over for Lucia who had to meet with her voice coach, the eccentric Madame Zeehandelaar.

Syn laughed. “Is that even a real name?”

“It’s on her drivers license. But no, Zee Zee’s not gonna work my nerves tonight. I got something for her if she tries ‘cause I’m too done today. Do you know last week she had a number one royal fit when her nephew came downstairs and started talking to me? Oh, Syn, she carried on like a Byberry revue! Screeching and screaming about her broken concentration. But she was in the kitchen making coffee at the time! That lady…I just don’t know sometimes. She’s a great coach but…”

Syn had stopped listening because someone’s color had crept up on her. It was sharply pointed at her face. She was being watched – or stalked – by a slimy green uniquely mixed with a dull red. Dawdek.

“Let’s go. I want to stop by Mack’s new job,” she said, looking around and not finding the culprit.

“Aww, I can’t go see him! I gotta go back across the bridge to deal with Madame Cra-Zee,” Lucia whined, trying to keep up with Syn who was walking briskly towards the subway entrance at 14th Street. “So he quit the managerial position at one of Satan’s gift shops, huh? Where’s he working now?”

“Um, I don’t know where he’s working. He just gave me the address and said it was a surprise.”

“Ooo, sounds intriguing!”

“Yeah.”

They reached the platform and the downtown train was approaching. Syn was breathing more easily now that the colors had faded.

“Syn, what’s the matter? You looked scared. What were we just running from?”

“I felt this ugly person’s ugly colors. He was watching me I think.”

“Who?”

They stepped into a near empty car.

“Some creep named Hanson Dawdek.”

“Never heard of him. What did he do?”

“Well, Mack knows him from his neighborhood and he patronized Mack’s occult shop too. There’s just something really horrible about him. But I’m not gonna worry about it unless a pattern of him popping up develops. Let’s not talk about him anymore.”

“About who?” Lucia answered, patting her friend’s hand. “Well, here’s your stop. Call me after nine. I should be home by then. I wanna hear all about Mr. Mackenzee Brad Pitt Morgan.” She batted her eyes, her face full of dreamy longing.

Syn laughed. “You silly!…All right, Lu. See ya.”

Ciao, babe.”

The subway doors swished closed.

Syn walked over four blocks to the address Mack quoted over the phone yesterday. It turned out to be a three-story barn of a place, painted neon yellow-green with floor to ceiling windows. Way up near the roof was the name of the store made of four-foot high, bright red metal, shaped into the name “Artislife” in calligraphy.

She walked in and immediately saw Mack behind the counter, facing a long line of twenty-something art students and some hang-tough hippies mixing it with the William F. Buckley types. Smiling, she waved and caught his eye. He waved back and motioned for a clerk in a nearby aisle to take over for a minute.

“My little sis!” he said, walking over and hugging her liked he didn’t just see her a week ago.

“Mack, you are so sneaky! When and how did this happen? Why didn’t you tell me until last night?”

He put an arm around her shoulders while they strolled around the first floor. “What can I say, kid? It’s me. Robby lost the shop. It turns out he owes money to everybody in New York State. So I called up one of my old seminarian professors who’s teaching at your NYU. I felt kinda funny ‘cause I hadn’t spoken to him in two years. But screw it. I needed a d*mn job!”

“You sound like you were thirty seconds away from being homeless. You know I’d have helped you out. You’re my brother.”

“I know that, Syndara. But this ain’t no city to live in unemployed. I’d go back home before I went out like that. So anyway Father Gibb hooked me up good. His niece owns this store. She’s kinda cute too.”

“Uh-oh.”

“She’s like kah-POW! Oo-la-la!”

She hit his shoulder lightly. “Silly!”

“Yeah well, I gotta get back behind the counter. I’m not the manager, but I make as much as I made at Whimsies ‘n’ Such. So it’s all good minus the headaches.”

Syn hugged him again. “I’m so glad, Mack.”

“Yeah. So why don’t you browse around. There’s more than paint and brushes here, y’ know. We got just about anything you can think of to decorate a home – especially up on the third floor. Check it out. I’ll see ya later, k?”

“Okay.”

The store directory listed ‘Kitchen Crafts’ on the third floor. Hmm, is it possible they had something useful like teakettles? She started up the steps. Wheat had burnt to a crisp her lovely little pink rose teakettle a month ago and she hadn’t found another one like it yet…


----- ----- -----

Zan was strolling through SoHo feeling really out of wack. He needed to do the only thing that would restore the balance inside him, but he’d run out of supplies. A whole day had passed and his anger was still simmering to the point that he might tip his hand and they’d know he was onto them. He stopped in his favorite art store, Kaegan’s, but they didn’t have the drawing paper he used in stock, which didn’t make any sense. There was a first time for everything, but this was just plain sh*tty. So Kaegan’s wasn’t his friggin favorite no more. He went to two other places and it was the same d*mn thing. It was like something in the cosmos had it in for him today. Zan decided to try this other place. Artislife. It always looked too phony to even consider – like a McDonald’s kind of art store. But if they had what he wanted…epic.

He was about two blocks away when something woke up inside him and started to get happy. He was anticipating something and didn’t know what it was. Aw, d*mn, what weird alien sh*t did he have to deal with now? He wasn’t ready, but he kept walking. Que sera, que sera. What will be, will be. One block away from the store the vibrations started and slowly changed into a warm pulse. He stood stock-still. Oh sh*t, his Peach Kiss was here! She was somewhere nearby. And it was daylight so he could finally see that face. Zan was annoyed by the weird fear flooding his abdomen. The closer he got to the Pee Wee Herman Playhouse of an art store, the stronger the stroke of the pulse got. He hesitated at the entrance. He was trying to be objective ‘n’ sh*t but it wasn’t working. He was excited and not just in his mind ‘cause judging by the outline of his pants, anybody looking would know. And he wasn’t even thinking about getting off! He took some deep breaths and thought about making it with a wildebeest. Right on time his shaft became a dangling rope. Zan smirked and shook his head as he entered the store…





[ edited 3 time(s), last at 27-Nov-2002 6:48:39 PM ]
posted on 4-May-2002 7:58:40 PM
Part Five:

“Girl Meets Alien – Again”


“Aw hon’, that’s adorable. Ma. Ma! Com’ere and look at the little teapot,” said a woman noticing the contents of Syn’s shopping basket.

‘Ma’, a short, heavyset lady in gray stockings and black slippers, frowned and shook her head, tapping her cane once for emphasis. “No!” Her attention was immediately recaptured by the brass spittoons adorned with images of Greek gods.

Her middle-aged daughter rolled her eyes and asked Syn, “Where’d you get that, hon’?”

“In aisle three on the back shelf,” she replied hiding her amusement.

“Thanks, hon’.”

Syn continued to browse around. While she hadn’t found a pink teakettle with red roses all over it, she did pick up a fascinating one completely colored in by a representation of a 19th century English tea party on a manor estate. She hoped they had some pillows to match her loveseat, she thought as she eyeballed a juicer. Move on, girl. The purse is not even like that. But ooo, look at that wok! Next pay, next p--. She stood still as if listening to something. No, it couldn’t be! But she felt it, that vibe. And it was turning…purple. With gold edges. Sh*t! Oh my g*d! He’s here in the friggin art store! Syn’s breathing got shallow. Was he…was he coming for her? Syn didn’t know what to do. She was torn between curiosity and fear. Why did she feel him so strongly? What was he??

She slowly crept to the mouth of the aisle and peeked out. She didn’t see anyone unusual. Looking all around she walked quickly over into the ceramics section and noticed the color faded and then slowly increased again, moving in her direction. He was following her. Okay, Syndara, what now? Maybe she should run. But she remembered how fast he was before like he knew what she was thinking, and how his arms wrapped around her like they belonged there… And if she ran and actually got away, then she'd miss the opportunity to find out what this was all about. What will be, will be, right? Okay, Strawberry Man, reveal yourself. Here I am. She was facing the back wall of the aisle, pretending to examine the coffee mugs. The purple and gold got clearer, sharper and Syn started to hum her mother’s lullaby as she picked up another cup with a slightly trembling hand. The color was deep magenta now and it rolled steadily towards her, then washed over her in warm waves settling down to swirl slowly around her ankles. Just as slowly she stopped humming and folded her arms without turning. She was no longer alone in the aisle.

“Who are you and what do you want?” Syn couldn’t believe her voice was so calm and cool when she could feel the thudding pulse of the vein in her neck.

“When I see everything, I’ll let you know.”

She couldn’t hold in a small shudder. His voice was deep and silky, flowing into her like brandy going down easy - but cocky. Cocky guys irked her. “What’s everything? Everything in the universe or everything left in the bathtub after you washed this morning?”

“Nah, just everything on the menu in front of me.”

Syn reached far back on a shelf. “Well, maybe you should start with this.” She held over her shoulder a rather badly hand painted ‘South Park’ mug that read ‘B*tch! Made ya look!’

He promptly took it without touching her hand and set it down. “Stop playing. Turn around.”

Butterflies went crazy in her stomach as she slowly did so, her eyes downcast so that his black hiking boots were the first things she saw. He didn’t move or say anything as her eyes wandered upward along his baggy pants. The first sight of skin she caught was his large, strong-looking hands, hanging relaxed at his sides, with silver rings on three fingers of the right one. He wore a thick leather band with silver studs all over it on his left wrist. Moving on up… Oh l*rd, he had gorgeous tats! They only enhanced the lean muscular beauty of his smooth arms. Her imagination leaped into the picture his snug-fitting teal colored tee suggested under the black vest. His goatee came into view. Hm. She wasn’t into th – . Syn froze, lips parting slightly. Her eyes blinked at the sight of his face – a face so…arrestingly handsome that she unconsciously raised her hand to touch him, but snatched it back when she noticed a smug smile creep up the left side of it.

“Well?” she demanded bluntly.

Taking his time he looked her over thoroughly, the smile disappearing. “Who are you?”

“Syn.”

“Really?” The crooked smile came back, his eyelids drooping a little.

“S-y-n. That’s what they call me. Who are you?”

“Z-a-n. That’s what they call me.”

Then he stepped right into her personal space, completely unnerving her, and Syn held up her hands. “What are you doing?”

“So you a candy striper or Girl Scout or something, huh? How old are you? 15?”

“Excuse you. First of all, you gotta back up. Second, you followed me here. So I repeat, who are you and what do you want?”

“Hm. We doing all this talking and ain’t saying nothing, so…”

In a fluid motion he looped an arm around her waist, and pulled her into a brief kiss. A bliss bullet went straight to his head like before and he still felt the press of her lips even after he pulled away. What was this? She wasn’t even his type – well, not that he really had a type besides clean. He’d been with girls of all shapes, sizes, colors and walks of life and even with some bonafide women. It wasn’t nothing to brag about. It was just like that. Shortie in his arms here didn’t stand out from the rest in no obvious way, but she did have some curves and stuff going on. Nice face. Kinda innocent looking though - like a little street smart angel. Yeah, she had attitude. He liked that.

She was studying him now with those big pretty browns. And he stared into them, drawn back into the voodoo they must be putting on him. Females had turned him on before but this was…d*mn! Sliding his fingers up through the hair at her nape, Zan brought his mouth down on hers for a slow munching kiss. A soft groan came from each of them as he broke it off, only to come back to her sweet mouth again and again, increasingly unable to get enough her flavor. Syn whimpered, putting her arms around his neck, caught up in his scent, the erotic tickle of his goatee, and the rhythm of his strawberry tongue alternately playing and fighting with hers. When his mouth grazed her cheek, she felt vulnerable and safe at the same time as she offered her neck to him. He didn’t hesitate but teased the excited vein there with the tip of his tongue from her delicate jaw line to her collarbone. Her soft cries drove Zan over another edge within the blaze of desire melting his self-control. He groaned deep in his throat, tightening his hold on her, and opened his mouth to eagerly suck the tender flesh along the same path. Pressing her back against the shelves, his hands sensuously kneaded her small, plump breasts and rubbed them in wide circular motions before his thumbs sought and found the hard nipples that were straining to meet them through her clothing. Syn was so overcome that she gasped aloud, briefly raising her arms straight over her head and arching herself into his hands. But her fingers immediately returned to grasp his shoulders, his warm neck, and his head as it moved on her body, his passion cresting and breaking over her in humid waves. There weren’t any colors or fruit flavors now. There was only Zan. Only Zan….

“YAAAG-hah-haaaah!” Tap-tap-tap-tap!

Nearly jumping out of her skin at the sound of the harsh cackling, Syn yanked away from Zan who whipped around.

“Meggie! I found whatta wan’ ova here. Lookit! Ooo-hoo!” Standing at the aisle entrance was the old ‘spittoon’ lady, throwing her head back in laughter, her toothless gums moving in time to the vigorous tapping of her cane on the wood floor.

Without looking at Z-a-n, Syn hurriedly picked up her book bag and shopping basket and walked away just as Meggie came over.

“Who you bothering now, Ma? Oh, our teakettle friend and…yeow! He kinda rough around the edges but I could sop up that hottie with a corn pone biscuit! Looks like J.D. back in his high school days, don’t he, Ma?”

“YAAAG-hah-haaaah…!”

Syn could feel the heat flooding her face. What in g*d’s name was she doing? Well, it definitely wasn’t in h*s name! She didn’t know this guy from Adam and the two times they’d kissed – no, he kissed her – she’d been more than ready to give up all the tenderness. There was no way she was gonna be out of control like that again. It wasn’t natural. It was too out of this world. The thought sent a little zing through her and slowed her steps even before Zan took hold of her upper arm to stop her headlong rush down the stairs.

“We ain’t finished yet, shortie.”

Pulling away Syn whirled around, putting a hand up in front of her. “Now, look. Okay, so we kissed at the club and again just a minute ago. So what? There’s nothing to finish. What’s the matter?” She barked out, trying to hide her apprehension. “You ain’t had none in so long, you stalking girls you don’t know?”

“Let’s get to the point. You been sending me vibes and signals all over the place for a while.” He spread his arms. “Well, here I am.”

Syn was about to deny it completely, but it was logical that he had felt her like she felt him. “I – You’re the one sending signals.”

“Okay, so we got like a sixth sense link between us. All I wanna know is, are you from another world or what? What do you want? What you come here for?”

“Er, well…” Syn was wondering if ‘hottie’s’ elevator went to the top floor - or if hers had been stuck on the third since they first kissed. “I was born and raised in this world, on this planet,” she said slowly. “And all I want to do is pay for this teapot and leave.”

He stared at her intently and took her face between his hands, his eyes following the one he slid to her neck. In the working part of her brain that hadn’t drowned in his sea of hazel, she hoped she wouldn’t have to make a scene if he really was a nut.


Zan rubbed one side her neck in circular motions. His hickies were starting to glow and, as much as he wanted to leave at least one on her, he smoothed them all away. He frowned at evidence of his alienness fleetingly reminding him of the messed up sh*t waiting for him back at the ranch. But it was real fleeting - ‘cause when he looked back into her eyes, he felt the sunshine spread through his gut and he was all-human again. He grinned. D*mn, that was cornball, but so what?

Syn wondered at his changing expressions, feeling a reluctant concern at the flash of bitterness in his eyes. Then as if she’d only imagined it, it was gone. He took her book bag.

“Whoa…”

“I’m just gonna carry it for you.” He started to walk away.

“Look, I think I’ve had enough of this,” she said reaching for it. “You – “

He turned suddenly and kissed the side of her mouth, dragging her lip ring a little with his teeth as he drew back, leaving her aroused again. Then he smiled that lopsided smile of his minus the cockiness. It was too cute, curse him.

“Stop putting your mouth on me! I’m not a free meal.”

“You might be,” he shot back, his eyes raking over her. “But first we gotta find something. Come on.”

Syn sighed in exasperation and followed him, having little choice since her property remained securely on his shoulder. Mm, his shoulders…. Down, girl, down. What was this ‘Zan’s’ story? And which chapter was she in? There was definitely something unusual going on between them because if he were anybody else, she’d be putting his smart ass – sexy though it was – in serious check.

“Listen…Zan. I gotta go. I need to get home and study for a big test tomorrow, so if you don’t mind…”

He didn’t say anything, didn’t even look behind him. Gritting her teeth, she wound up in the sketch pad section on the first floor.

“Yeah,” he said with satisfaction, picking up a large one and putting it in the basket she was carrying.

Syn fake-laughed incredulously. “You gonna have a rude awakening when I get to the counter.”

He took the basket from her. “Relax, little peach. I got this.” He grabbed a big box of colored pencils without breaking his stride.

“Wait a minute…”

There were three cashiers at the front and of course Zan would pick Mack’s line which wasn’t even the shortest. Syn turned her back to Mack who had just looked up at them. Oh boy. Something must have happened. He was in an evil mood.

“I’m not through shopping,” she said in a low voice. “ Take your things out and give me the basket and my books.”

Zan nodded thoughtfully at her curt expression. “A’ight.” When he didn’t do anything, she reached for the book bag but he held it away from her. “If you gimme another bite of that apple.”

“I wish you would stop referring to me as food!” A few people turned in their direction and Syn looked behind her. Mack was watching them and the line moved up with only two customers in front of them. Oh boy. This was gonna be embarrassing. She was tempted to make a grab for her teakettle and run like a fool, but that would be dumb. She didn’t know why she was even thinking such a thing except that this guy was making her loca in more ways than one! Anyway, it’s not like she could leave the store with it. Plus, he’d still have her books. Plus, Mack would get all involved and as easygoing as he usually was, he had a nasty temper sometimes. It looked like now was one of those times.

“Fine. Then you may pay for my teakettle. Thank you,” she stated primly without another word.

When they reached the counter, Mack said, eying Zan, “Syn,what’s this?”

What wants to know?” Zan replied, staring right back.

Time to de-escalate – a little. “This is Zan, honey. He’s just helping me out,” Syn said cheerfully, placing all the basket’s contents near the cash register. Zan looked slowly back and forth once between her and Mack.

“Is that so?” Mack said, barely taking his eyes of Zan and making no move to pick up the merchandise in front of him. “Where you know Syn from?”

“From where I know her. You writing a book?”

“Naw, I ain’t writing no book, man. I’m asking a simple question.”

“Well, here’s a simple answer, duke. Ring up my sh*t.”

“When you stop jerking me around, duke, your sh*t’ll get rung.”

“You don’t seem to know it yet, so I’ll tell you. You wanna stop f*cking with me.”

“Look, motha – “

“Time out!” Syn interrupted. “Mack, this is my new…friend, Zan. Zan, this is my brother, Mackenzee. So yous can put all the testosterone away now. Shees!”

Zan looked at her. “Oh, your brother.”

“Yeah, oh.”

Zan seemed to relax and view his opponent differently. “Yo, man, look. I met Syn a week ago at a club – not that it’s any of your business. But yo, she a nice girl. She get buko respect from me, word. I just wanna buy her a…teapot.” He looked like he wanted to laugh.

Mack looked at Syn who raised her eyebrows and he copied the gesture. “Whatever.” He rang up the purchase without another word. Zan paid, handed her the bag, and walked away her schoolbooks. Obviously her Zan-caper wasn’t over yet.

“What’s wrong, Mack?”

“Nothing, Syn, nothing.”

“I’ll call you later.”

“Yeah, you do that. I wanna talk to you.”

She rolled her eyes. “You did get rude first.”

“Whatever,” he said, just before a bunch of students lined up across the counter and started firing questions at him. “Yo! One at a time or yous can all get out.”

Whoo, Mr. McNasty! Shaking her head she turned around and it was like the class of 2004 of every school in New York was in the place. And Zan was nowhere to be seen. She ran outside and saw him strolling a block away. Did he run? She raced after him and he let her snatch her bag off his shoulder without resistance, then shoved his hands in his pockets.

“What took you so long, peach?” he said without sparing her a glance.

“All right. Playtime is over. I gotta go now, so I’ll make this short but sweet. Thanks for the teakettle.” She took it out of the Artislife bag. “Please take your stuff and I’ll be on my way.”

“Okay, I’ll help you study. Let’s go home.”

“H*ll no!” Zan chuckled. “Come on. I wanna quiz you on anatomy and physiology. You take good notes. You really do. Got me a smart girly. Syndara. That’s a pretty name. And you can even make us some tea, yo – not that I’m in love with the stuff. I really ain’t think you was a college chick though. You look like you in like – eighth grade.”

“Screw you! Hold up.” Syn stopped, putting the backside of her hand on his shoulder to make him stop too. “You been in my bag!”

“Well, you was taking so long, I needed something to read.”

“Uh-uh. Stand right there!” she commanded, riffling though the bag. “If you took something, you will return it or I will try my best to kick your ass right here, and I’m not playing.”

Zan held up his hands in mock submission. “D*mn, baby. After all the things I bought you…all that good loving I gave you, you gonna threaten to jack me up? It ain’t right.”

When Syn was satisfied that nothing was missing, she set Artislife bag on the ground. “Well, it’s been real. Ciao,” she said turning away.

“Tu appartieni a me.”

When she turned back sharply, his expression was serious. “What did you say?”

“I said I’ll see you tomorrow.” And he walked away.

Syn stood for a minute, waiting for her body’s inexplicably joyful response to his words to fade a little. That’s not what he said. She began walking slowly at first, then picking up speed as if trying to outdistance something.

No, that’s not what he said at all.



part six


“What do you mean, ‘what did he say’? You know exactly what he said!”

“Come on, Lucia! My Italian is rusty.”

“Is he Italian?”

“I don’t know.”

“Well…do you?” Lucia asked smirking.

Syn gripped the phone, her patience wearing thin. “Do I what? I told you I don’t know what – “

“Do you belong to him?” Lucia started laughing.

“I thought that’s what he said!” Syn was disturbed that some part of her agreed. She couldn’t stop thinking about Zan and felt like an idiot because she missed him already – a perfect stranger. So what if his smiles – cocky or sweet – warmed her heart? So what if his kiss turned her completely out? So what if she had the weirdest desire to…protect him? She was loca! If anything, she needed protection from him! But not really. She was somehow intimately connected to this perfect stranger. Syn didn’t like being bewildered like this.

“Boy, I could write a book. What do you think of this title? - The Paranormal Romantic Adventures of Syndara Morgan.”

“I don’t think anything of it.”

“I soooo have to meet this guy! You sure he isn’t some wacko stalker?”

“Yeah, I’m sure, but he is different.”

“Different. Hmmm. So where is he meeting you tomorrow?”

“Well, it wasn’t like we made any plans. I didn’t suggest or consent to meeting him anywhere. I don’t know how he would know – I mean I don’t think I had any information in my bag that he could…” Her voice trailed away. Or did she? “No, he was probably just flirting. Some guys – sh*t, a lot of guys just like to play their little games when the opportunity comes up. You know, just for practice.” Syn felt a niggling disappointment at the possibility.

“Did yous kiss again?”

“Um…yes.”

“Eee-heeee! Well, how was it?”

“It was…nice.” There was something so intimate about her ‘Zankisses’ that Syn didn’t want to share them even with Lucia.

“Come on! You can do better than that.”

“Oh, he was just fooling around.”

“Uh-huh. Okay.” Lucia sounded skeptical. “So when am I gonna meet him?”

“Look, I’m probably not gonna even meet him – again. So just chill.”

“Oo-hoo. Excuse me.”

“Well, let me go. I need to finish studying ‘cause this anatomy is gonna try to kick my butt.”

“All right. You’ll do fine anyway, girl.”

“I hope so!”

When they hung up Syn actually did a very good job of concentrating on her work even though the warmest shade of hazel had firmly attached itself to her thoughts.

----- ----- -----

Zan sat in a corner with an easel in front of him. Lonnie was staring at him intently but he ignored her. It turned out he wasn’t in a pencil mood after all. His chalk flowed over the page with the speed of his thoughts. And he was thinking about Syn Morgan. He just couldn’t figure himself out. He felt so different with this girl, man. He felt…lighthearted. Zan had never teased or smiled so much in either of his lives. He frowned as his hand moved in quick short upward strokes across the page. He felt happy and content around her. At peace. And d*mned excited, too. She was way better than the top of the ESB, that’s for sure. It was weird ‘cause he didn’t know much about her except that she was a part of him – the good part, he guessed. And he didn’t like feeling that way. She made him forget who he was, made him feel all-human. And made him say weird sh*t in different languages! Zan smiled ruefully to himself. Tu appartieni a me. ‘You belong to me.’ j*sus! Cornball, man. His smile died away. The real crazy part was he meant it. He didn’t want to just do her. And g*d knew how much he wanted that. He’d eaten the last five peaches they had in stock a minute ago just dreaming about being naked with her and her hands touching him everywhere, about her sweet little body opening up to welcome his….

“D*mn.” He picked up the broken pieces of the chalk he’d just snapped in two. Well, he had plenty of black. A feeling like a little red light blinked on in his head and without looking up, he caught the ball Rath sent flying near him. Hm, that was strange. He never had color-coded signals before.

“Yo, Van Gogh, “ Rath said. “You cut both ears off already? I asked you wha’s up, man? When you meeting the emissary?” He was pacing slowly and twirling his favorite hockey stick in time with Metallica. “This ain’t nothing to be dragging your feet over.”

“Next week,” Zan bit out. He hadn't spoken more than fifteen words for two days.

“Psh, man! Next week? Why next week?”

“’Cause next week’s good for me.” The reason he was there right now trying to act like nothing was wrong was to practice self-control, something he’d been lacking recently. And it was hard as h*ll when all he wanted to do was throttle them all.

“Yo,” Lonnie said, standing up to brush off her skirt, never once taking her eyes off him. “Next week it is.” She walked over to the easel and arched her eyebrows. “That’s a really nice…big brown eye, brother.”

“Thanks.”

“Come on, Mohawk. You’re getting me something to eat. Ava, let’s go.”

Ava didn’t look up from her Cosmo magazine. “Nah, I wanna stay here.”

Lonnie smirked looking from Zan to her. “Well, good luck. Rath, will you put that g*ddamned hockey stick down and come on!”

“I know at least one time you more than loved what I could do with this g*ddamned hockey stick. And if you’re real sweet I’ll do it again.”

“Hm. I think that was just a one-off, duke.”

Rath’s voice echoed from down the open space. “Yeah a’ight. We’ll see…”

After a long silence during which Ava’s eyes often flicked over to the corner, Zan said as he turned to a fresh page, “Wha’s on your mind?”

She bit her lower lip. “Staying here.”

“What?”

Ava put the magazine down. “Zan, why we ain’t never do it?”

Zan sighed impatiently. “We already been through this, yo. I told you I don’t feel you like that. Period.”

Ava pursed her lips. “I don’t know why not. I ain’t ugly or nothing. When we was on Antar we was hitting it night and day. Why not now? Korn said – “

“Yeah well, what Korn said and what I know ain’t related. Wha’s your problem, huh? You got your little Playboy bunnies on the side. I know you been hitting it so – “

“Yeah but I ain’t been hitting it with you,” she said standing up and strolling toward him slowly, the hem of her ultra short skirt riding up even higher. “And I really want to.” He caught the panties she took off and threw at him. They weren’t dry. “I don’t know what the big friggin deal is, Zan. You done a lot of hoes and I know you wasn’t mad jonesing for none of ‘em, so I don’t get why you can’t f*ck me.” She stepped very close to him, thrusting her pelvis in his face.

Zan put his palm flat on her crotch and pushed her firmly away. “You being real sloppy. Where’s your dignity? You s’posed to be a queen, remember?” he added mockingly.

“I never asked for any of that sh*t,” Ava said angrily, hands on her hips.

“Then don’t take it.”

“What are you gonna do, Zan? Are you really gonna go through with the summit?”

He watched her carefully. “I said I was, didn’t I?”

“Yo, do you really feel anything for this other planet? We ain’t never seen that place, Zan! Not in this life. Plus we friggin died there.”

That’s right, he thought. Keep talking. “What you trying to say, Ava? Spit it out.”

“I want - !” Ava realized she was almost shouting. “I…want to stay here. In New York.” She went over an knelt down beside him, putting her hand on his arm. “Zan, I want you to stay with me. I think you were right before. We don’t know enough. We know less then when they…killed us and I don’t – I don’t want to die again!” She burst into tears.

Zan stared at her and finally reached down to lift her chin. “We was created for this. What about that? What purpose we gonna have if we just stay here?” He paused. He was trying to see where she stood, but the question was real enough. What the h*ll were they without their destinies? “And what about our peeps on Antar? You got the same memories I do. The loyal ones is dying up there in bad ways. Khivar is foul as sh*t. He likes killing and he likes being creative with it. So duty calls.”

“Well, I don’t hear it! They shoulda just let us stay dead. Yeah, I do remember, Zan. You was the new king. You was stubborn but you was good. And you died. That’s the ultimate f*ckin sacrifice. How much more you s’posed to give?” She stood up. “I know I ain’t got nothing else.” They stared at each other.

“What you telling me? If I say we going back, you gonna refuse? You gonna disobey your king?”

Ava looked down sullenly. “I’m telling you I don’t know.” She sat back down and picked up the Cosmo. “I’m saying I wanna stay here and I don’t wanna stay alone.”

----- ----- -----

At about midnight Lonnie was strolling through a section of central Park called The Ramble where not even the riffraff frequented often anymore. She left Rath at The Razor. She never looked after him like Zan did. She wasn’t no babysitter. Sh*t, if he was destined to get another shot at surviving the war, then he’d better be able to watch his own ass in some club on planet Caveman.

Lonnie pulled her jacket tighter around her as she carefully stepped over the knarled roots in her path. Anyway, she was to meet Larek here soon to tell him her decision and then get laid of course. Things seemed to be going smoothly but after careful observation, she felt something wasn’t right and didn’t want to take any chances. She simply had to leave Earth. Lonnie couldn’t stand always being surrounded by weak humans and their weak culture and weak habits. She was certain her memories of the Royal Four’s alien lives were the strongest. What a long, hard fall from grace it was to go from being nearly pure energy, pure light with all the speed, knowledge and freedom that came with it to being trapped in a snail’s life. Sometimes she hated her mother, Nira Kapol, so much for making hybrids out of them and leaving them here that she wanted to kill her – if she wasn’t already dead. Yeah sure, nobody planned the crash - but sh*t, where was the backup plan for their safety if they were so f*ckin important to the survival of an entire race?

Lonnie was lost in her thoughts, not really paying attention, when she heard rustling foot steps behind her. Okay, she was being followed. She didn’t want to play that game so she stopped and waited, hearing only a light wind sweeping up the leaves.

“Ahmph!” she cried out as a hand covered her mouth. She wasn’t afraid. It was kinda funny really.

“Easy,” a male voice whispered in her ear. “It’s me.” He removed his hand.

“Well, me, is this how you normally get the chicks?”

“Just one.”

“Okay, boy. Let’s see what we got.” She turned around slowly and squinted. “Well?” She could see his teeth flash.

“It’s Larek, Lonnie.”

He pointed a flashlight right in her face and she turned away, holding her hand up. “Ay! You ain’t funny, man.” He turned it on himself. “So wha’s this, a new look?”

He cut the flashlight out. “I need to give the Brody Davis human a rest. Commuting in him from Roswell is a waste of energy.”

Lonnie smiled slowly. “Well, this is an improvement. Who’s this guy?” She ran her fingers through his straight hair and suddenly grabbed a handful and tugged hard, laughing as he caught her wrist and pushed it away.

“What are you going to do, Vilandra?” ‘Larek’ demanded.

“Psh! Uh-uh, pal. Who you think I am? Cindy Brady? Tell me a couple things only Larek would know.” She waited with her arms folded while the silence stretched. “Pah! I guess that answers that, dud’n it? Well, don’t choke on the weed, Sam Sneed. See ya!” When she turned to go, he grabbed her ass with one hand and pulled her back. “Okay, that’s familiar, duke, but it ain’t enough. So if you ain’t gonna be a little more forthcoming than that but had the nerve to grab my ass, I’m gonna hurt you and then leave, k?” Lonnie decided to snap his neck if he wasn’t really Larek. She let him turn her around and tried not to respond when he kissed her roughly. Yeah, it was one of Larek’s kisses.

“So how about answering my question?” he asked with his arms around her unresponsive body.

“We all got questions, but we all don’t got answers. Maybe those of us living without them should just make do.”

“If you’re going to f*ck me one way, Vilandra, I insist you do it the other way as well,” he said in a cold whisper, his hands gripping her waist hard. When she laughed again, his aggravation mixed with a sharp desire. Larek rammed his tongue into her mouth for a long insolent kiss before nipping at her chin. He grabbed a handful of her short hair, pulling her head back as he covered her throat with rough little bites.

Lonnie’s arousal was building slowly into a heavy thickness at her core. “Larek, you…” she breathed out lazily.

“Shut. Up.” He yanked her arms from around his neck and shoved her back against a sharply bent tree.

Eyes closed, Lonnie lay against the tree drained, waiting for her heartbeat to slow down when suddenly she was covered with Larek’s heavy warmth.

Lonnie felt weightless and exhausted, her pelvis throbbing as if it had been in a fight. Whew, Larek had really worked her over this time - and outdoors too. This was new for him. Well, she guessed there were a few situations that she didn’t mind not being in control of. She smiled.

“All f*cking is done for the night unless you really want me to pass out,” he whispered against her skin. “Now tell me what I want to know.”

“Next week,” she breathed out sleepily. “I’ll do it next week.”

She felt him smile against her. “Let’s get you into a nice soft bed at the Plaza. Don’t wash until tomorrow. I want to smell me on you all night…”

----- ----- -----

Syn was walking out of the science building after her test late the next morning. It was long and hard but she felt fairly confident about her answers. She really liked the human sciences anyway and was seriously considering one as a major. Probably biology. Right now, she was hungry as usual after a big test. She was about to cross the street to get in the long line at everybody’s favorite Chinese truck on campus when a bright red Nissan Pathfinder screeched to a halt in front of her, blocking her view of the whole friggin world. She so hated big ass trucks!

“Need a ride?”

“No thanks.” She started to walk around.

“Syn, come on. Don’t be like that. I wanna talk to you.”

She rolled her eyes impatiently.

Please. I’m sorry for calling you like that the other night.”

“Well, you should be. That was d*mned ignorant, Roman.” He was looking good but he left her pulse slow – although not totally dead. Hm.

“All right, all right. I know! That’s what I’m saying.”

The driver behind him honked angrily. Roman waited for Syn to back up onto the pavement before he took his time pulling over. “Syn, would you just get in the car. You’re making me feel like a criminal or something the way you’re looking at me.”

“I don’t feel like this right now, Roman.”

He looked away from her, shaking his head in annoyance. “Well, can I call you later? This is important. I got a couple things I wanna say.” When she didn’t respond, he looked over to find her attention somewhere else, like she was listening to something far away. “Well d*mn! I bore you that much now?”

“Huh? Um, no. Why you say that?” Out of nowhere purple and gold pressed warmly against her face and Syn tried to hide her excitement behind a bland expression. She looked around and didn’t see him but she knew he was nearby – watching her. “You can, um, call me later if you want. Before 11pm, k? I sleep at night.”

“All right. Later.” He pulled off without warning in front of another car and sped down the street. If he really became a cop like his Dad, she wondered if would he pull over people who drove just like him.

Syn squinted against the sun. Of course while he was taking up her time, the line in front of Panda Chow’s had almost doubled and her stomach was growling now like a mug. Well, it would be worth the wait. As she stood in line, she was expecting Zan to come up to her. But he didn’t, not during the twenty minutes it took to get her food or the fifteen minutes it took her to wolf it down. She began to think maybe this time the color perception was just her imagination. Weird but it was possible.

She flipped open The Canterbury Tales. Syn just loved Geoffrey Chaucer, especially in the original Middle English. It was an absolutely beautiful day, warm this time of year for November. The sounds of campus life and the gentle breeze relaxed her and she let Geoff tell her the Miller’s Tale until suddenly a well-worn Timberland came down beside her from behind. What the - ? A large hand on her shoulder prevented her from getting up as the matching boot came down on the other side of her.

“Hey!” she said, twisting around just as Zan slid down behind her, his body pushing hers forward. He rested his chin on her shoulder, his body enveloping her as he started flipping through her book.

“Chaucer, huh? Yeah, he’s good, he’s good.”

Mmm, apple cider…very spicy. She closed her eyes briefly, trying to keep her breathing normal as every nerve in her body pulsed with pleasure. Then the soft brushing of his goatee on her chest seemed to scramble her brain even further, if that were possible. In a rather high voice all she could think to say was, “What are you doing here, Zan?”

He turned to the Knight’s Tale. “Guess.”

“I think you been watching me like a stalker for almost an hour.”

“Nah, more like forty minutes. How you do on the test?”

“Pretty good.”

“I knew that.”

Syn shivered a little as he deftly moved off the bench the same way he came. When he cam back around to sit beside her, he threw an 17 x 20 sketchpad in her lap. She opened it and on the first pages were very intricate sketches in pencil – truly lifelike portraits of people in motion and some dazzling NYC landscape views.

“Wow, these are really good. You got a fine hand.”

Zan smiled at her, waiting. When she came to the last two used pages, her eyes widened. “What?? This is me standing in line to get my food just now. Oh my g*d, and this is me eating it!” A little embarrassed, she giggled. “I don’t believe you, man! What do you –? Do you do this a lot?” She looked up into his suddenly serious expression. She didn’t know a guy could have eyes as beautiful as his.

“Who’s that guy you was talking to?”

Syn blinked at the switch in topic. “Which one?”

“Dude in the red toy car.”

“Oh.” She kept staring at the sketch of her with her mouth full.

When she didn’t say anything, he leaned close, putting his arm behind her on the back of the bench. “He pretending to be your man or what?”

“Pretending? No, he’s not.”

“Which is it? He ain’t pretending or he ain’t your man?”

“Mm, no,” she said with a small smile.

“Oh, you wanna play. Who is he, Syn?”

“He’s…Roman.”

“He Italian?”

Her smile grew wider. “No, that’s his name – which really isn’t any of your business. I don’t why I told you.”

“Roman?” Syn laughed at his scornfully quizzical expression. “Well then he ain’t nobody. That ain’t no real name. He sound like a fake dude on one of them soaps - The Young and the Stupid.”

“Tck! Whatever,” she said still smiling. She’d always kinda felt the same way about the name.

“So how about one o’clock?”

“How about one o’clock what?”

“Ever been to the Cloisters?”

“Not yet.”

“Then that’s where we going tomorrow.”

Syn stood up, feeling an inexplicable little panic. “Um, I don’t know.”

Zan stood up, too. “I’m paying. I’m driving. What don’t you know?”

“Whether or not I wanna go there with you!”

He seemed to consider the dilemma carefully. “Well, I think I can clarify that for you.” He leaned forward and kissed her cheek softly, sliding the barrette out of her hair.

She blushed, not liking her desire to kiss him back. She stared at his mouth. “Hey.”

He put it in one of his pockets. “The ponytail’s cute but I been wanting to see you with your hair out.” He picked up a thick lock of it, letting it slide through his fingers before twisting the end around his pinkie. His eyes darkened and roved over her face. “You ain’t said yes so maybe you need more…clarification,” he drawled, slowly pulling her closer to him.

“Yeah okay,” she answered a little desperately. “I’ll go. But you gotta let me go ‘cause I gotta…go.”

He did so, giving her his lopsided smile. “Chicken,” he said softly.

“Gimme back my barrette. How you expect me to go out with a thief?”

“I’m just borrowing it. I’ll give it back tomorrow, peach.” He put a hand to his chest. “Word is bond.”

“Yeah, sometimes ‘word’ is bullsh*t.”

He laughed. “You such a tough girly. You scare me.”

Syn rolled her eyes. “One o’clock tomorrow. If you’re late, I’m rolling.”

“If you roll, I’ll find you.”

“Goodbye.” Syn spun away on her heel without looking back. Her thoughts were racing. Oh my g*d, what am I doing? I am tripping over this guy. He knows where I live! But maybe he doesn’t and forgot to ask and then I’ll be free and clear. But in her heart Syn knew that he did know and he’d be on time and he’d take her to that museum, the Cloisters. And he’d return her barrette. She sensed that he only said what he meant even when he was teasing her. ~Tu appartieni a me.~ Oh l*rd…!

Later that day when she finally got home, Syn dropped down on her bed, staring at the ceiling and worrying about spending Saturday with Zan until she was tired of worrying. She was not going to be intimidated or swept away by her attraction to some guy. She was annoyed with herself for indeed being ‘chicken’ and giving in. She should have just kissed his brains out and then walked away cool as a cucumber. She sat up thinking about that, then rolled her eyes at herself. Yeah, like the last two times. She didn’t like acting out of fear – especially fear of a kiss. She wouldn’t do it again, but she’d keep her word and go out with him. But she wouldn’t be putty in his hands either. Syn’s eyes narrowed as she walked to her closet.

Zan had asked for it. Well, he was gonna get it. And she was going to get what she wanted too. What was really bothering her was that there was something about Zan very different – entirely different – from anyone else she’d ever met. He wasn’t just some incredibly handsome, charismatic guy she was exchanging special vibes with – although that alone had her spinning. She felt clearly now that this difference was something she was supposed to know – something she had to know, especially before she fell for him like a ton of bricks, which she was in near danger of doing.

Yes, there was something about Zan. And she was going to find out exactly what it was.


posted on 4-May-2002 7:59:06 PM
Part Five:

“Girl Meets Alien – Again”


“Aw hon’, that’s adorable. Ma. Ma! Com’ere and look at the little teapot,” said a woman noticing the contents of Syn’s shopping basket.

‘Ma’, a short, heavyset lady in gray stockings and black slippers, frowned and shook her head, tapping her cane once for emphasis. “No!” Her attention was immediately recaptured by the brass spittoons adorned with images of Greek gods.

Her middle-aged daughter rolled her eyes and asked Syn, “Where’d you get that, hon’?”

“In aisle three on the back shelf,” she replied hiding her amusement.

“Thanks, hon’.”

Syn continued to browse around. While she hadn’t found a pink teakettle with red roses all over it, she did pick up a fascinating one completely colored in by a representation of a 19th century English tea party on a manor estate. She hoped they had some pillows to match her loveseat, she thought as she eyeballed a juicer. Move on, girl. The purse is not even like that. But ooo, look at that wok! Next pay, next p--. She stood still as if listening to something. No, it couldn’t be! But she felt it, that vibe. And it was turning…purple. With gold edges. Sh*t! Oh my g*d! He’s here in the friggin art store! Syn’s breathing got shallow. Was he…was he coming for her? Syn didn’t know what to do. She was torn between curiosity and fear. Why did she feel him so strongly? What was he??

She slowly crept to the mouth of the aisle and peeked out. She didn’t see anyone unusual. Looking all around she walked quickly over into the ceramics section and noticed the color faded and then slowly increased again, moving in her direction. He was following her. Okay, Syndara, what now? Maybe she should run. But she remembered how fast he was before like he knew what she was thinking, and how his arms wrapped around her like they belonged there… And if she ran and actually got away, then she'd miss the opportunity to find out what this was all about. What will be, will be, right? Okay, Strawberry Man, reveal yourself. Here I am. She was facing the back wall of the aisle, pretending to examine the coffee mugs. The purple and gold got clearer, sharper and Syn started to hum her mother’s lullaby as she picked up another cup with a slightly trembling hand. The color was deep magenta now and it rolled steadily towards her, then washed over her in warm waves settling down to swirl slowly around her ankles. Just as slowly she stopped humming and folded her arms without turning. She was no longer alone in the aisle.

“Who are you and what do you want?” Syn couldn’t believe her voice was so calm and cool when she could feel the thudding pulse of the vein in her neck.

“When I see everything, I’ll let you know.”

She couldn’t hold in a small shudder. His voice was deep and silky, flowing into her like brandy going down easy - but cocky. Cocky guys irked her. “What’s everything? Everything in the universe or everything left in the bathtub after you washed this morning?”

“Nah, just everything on the menu in front of me.”

Syn reached far back on a shelf. “Well, maybe you should start with this.” She held over her shoulder a rather badly hand painted ‘South Park’ mug that read ‘B*tch! Made ya look!’

He promptly took it without touching her hand and set it down. “Stop playing. Turn around.”

Butterflies went crazy in her stomach as she slowly did so, her eyes downcast so that his black hiking boots were the first things she saw. He didn’t move or say anything as her eyes wandered upward along his baggy pants. The first sight of skin she caught was his large, strong-looking hands, hanging relaxed at his sides, with silver rings on three fingers of the right one. He wore a thick leather band with silver studs all over it on his left wrist. Moving on up… Oh l*rd, he had gorgeous tats! They only enhanced the lean muscular beauty of his smooth arms. Her imagination leaped into the picture his snug-fitting teal colored tee suggested under the black vest. His goatee came into view. Hm. She wasn’t into th – . Syn froze, lips parting slightly. Her eyes blinked at the sight of his face – a face so…arrestingly handsome that she unconsciously raised her hand to touch him, but snatched it back when she noticed a smug smile creep up the left side of it.

“Well?” she demanded bluntly.

Taking his time he looked her over thoroughly, the smile disappearing. “Who are you?”

“Syn.”

“Really?” The crooked smile came back, his eyelids drooping a little.

“S-y-n. That’s what they call me. Who are you?”

“Z-a-n. That’s what they call me.”

Then he stepped right into her personal space, completely unnerving her, and Syn held up her hands. “What are you doing?”

“So you a candy striper or Girl Scout or something, huh? How old are you? 15?”

“Excuse you. First of all, you gotta back up. Second, you followed me here. So I repeat, who are you and what do you want?”

“Hm. We doing all this talking and ain’t saying nothing, so…”

In a fluid motion he looped an arm around her waist, and pulled her into a brief kiss. A bliss bullet went straight to his head like before and he still felt the press of her lips even after he pulled away. What was this? She wasn’t even his type – well, not that he really had a type besides clean. He’d been with girls of all shapes, sizes, colors and walks of life and even with some bonafide women. It wasn’t nothing to brag about. It was just like that. Shortie in his arms here didn’t stand out from the rest in no obvious way, but she did have some curves and stuff going on. Nice face. Kinda innocent looking though - like a little street smart angel. Yeah, she had attitude. He liked that.

She was studying him now with those big pretty browns. And he stared into them, drawn back into the voodoo they must be putting on him. Females had turned him on before but this was…d*mn! Sliding his fingers up through the hair at her nape, Zan brought his mouth down on hers for a slow munching kiss. A soft groan came from each of them as he broke it off, only to come back to her sweet mouth again and again, increasingly unable to get enough her flavor. Syn whimpered, putting her arms around his neck, caught up in his scent, the erotic tickle of his goatee, and the rhythm of his strawberry tongue alternately playing and fighting with hers. When his mouth grazed her cheek, she felt vulnerable and safe at the same time as she offered her neck to him. He didn’t hesitate but teased the excited vein there with the tip of his tongue from her delicate jaw line to her collarbone. Her soft cries drove Zan over another edge within the blaze of desire melting his self-control. He groaned deep in his throat, tightening his hold on her, and opened his mouth to eagerly suck the tender flesh along the same path. Pressing her back against the shelves, his hands sensuously kneaded her small, plump breasts and rubbed them in wide circular motions before his thumbs sought and found the hard nipples that were straining to meet them through her clothing. Syn was so overcome that she gasped aloud, briefly raising her arms straight over her head and arching herself into his hands. But her fingers immediately returned to grasp his shoulders, his warm neck, and his head as it moved on her body, his passion cresting and breaking over her in humid waves. There weren’t any colors or fruit flavors now. There was only Zan. Only Zan….

“YAAAG-hah-haaaah!” Tap-tap-tap-tap!

Nearly jumping out of her skin at the sound of the harsh cackling, Syn yanked away from Zan who whipped around.

“Meggie! I found whatta wan’ ova here. Lookit! Ooo-hoo!” Standing at the aisle entrance was the old ‘spittoon’ lady, throwing her head back in laughter, her toothless gums moving in time to the vigorous tapping of her cane on the wood floor.

Without looking at Z-a-n, Syn hurriedly picked up her book bag and shopping basket and walked away just as Meggie came over.

“Who you bothering now, Ma? Oh, our teakettle friend and…yeow! He kinda rough around the edges but I could sop up that hottie with a corn pone biscuit! Looks like J.D. back in his high school days, don’t he, Ma?”

“YAAAG-hah-haaaah…!”

Syn could feel the heat flooding her face. What in g*d’s name was she doing? Well, it definitely wasn’t in h*s name! She didn’t know this guy from Adam and the two times they’d kissed – no, he kissed her – she’d been more than ready to give up all the tenderness. There was no way she was gonna be out of control like that again. It wasn’t natural. It was too out of this world. The thought sent a little zing through her and slowed her steps even before Zan took hold of her upper arm to stop her headlong rush down the stairs.

“We ain’t finished yet, shortie.”

Pulling away Syn whirled around, putting a hand up in front of her. “Now, look. Okay, so we kissed at the club and again just a minute ago. So what? There’s nothing to finish. What’s the matter?” She barked out, trying to hide her apprehension. “You ain’t had none in so long, you stalking girls you don’t know?”

“Let’s get to the point. You been sending me vibes and signals all over the place for a while.” He spread his arms. “Well, here I am.”

Syn was about to deny it completely, but it was logical that he had felt her like she felt him. “I – You’re the one sending signals.”

“Okay, so we got like a sixth sense link between us. All I wanna know is, are you from another world or what? What do you want? What you come here for?”

“Er, well…” Syn was wondering if ‘hottie’s’ elevator went to the top floor - or if hers had been stuck on the third since they first kissed. “I was born and raised in this world, on this planet,” she said slowly. “And all I want to do is pay for this teapot and leave.”

He stared at her intently and took her face between his hands, his eyes following the one he slid to her neck. In the working part of her brain that hadn’t drowned in his sea of hazel, she hoped she wouldn’t have to make a scene if he really was a nut.


Zan rubbed one side her neck in circular motions. His hickies were starting to glow and, as much as he wanted to leave at least one on her, he smoothed them all away. He frowned at evidence of his alienness fleetingly reminding him of the messed up sh*t waiting for him back at the ranch. But it was real fleeting - ‘cause when he looked back into her eyes, he felt the sunshine spread through his gut and he was all-human again. He grinned. D*mn, that was cornball, but so what?

Syn wondered at his changing expressions, feeling a reluctant concern at the flash of bitterness in his eyes. Then as if she’d only imagined it, it was gone. He took her book bag.

“Whoa…”

“I’m just gonna carry it for you.” He started to walk away.

“Look, I think I’ve had enough of this,” she said reaching for it. “You – “

He turned suddenly and kissed the side of her mouth, dragging her lip ring a little with his teeth as he drew back, leaving her aroused again. Then he smiled that lopsided smile of his minus the cockiness. It was too cute, curse him.

“Stop putting your mouth on me! I’m not a free meal.”

“You might be,” he shot back, his eyes raking over her. “But first we gotta find something. Come on.”

Syn sighed in exasperation and followed him, having little choice since her property remained securely on his shoulder. Mm, his shoulders…. Down, girl, down. What was this ‘Zan’s’ story? And which chapter was she in? There was definitely something unusual going on between them because if he were anybody else, she’d be putting his smart ass – sexy though it was – in serious check.

“Listen…Zan. I gotta go. I need to get home and study for a big test tomorrow, so if you don’t mind…”

He didn’t say anything, didn’t even look behind him. Gritting her teeth, she wound up in the sketch pad section on the first floor.

“Yeah,” he said with satisfaction, picking up a large one and putting it in the basket she was carrying.

Syn fake-laughed incredulously. “You gonna have a rude awakening when I get to the counter.”

He took the basket from her. “Relax, little peach. I got this.” He grabbed a big box of colored pencils without breaking his stride.

“Wait a minute…”

There were three cashiers at the front and of course Zan would pick Mack’s line which wasn’t even the shortest. Syn turned her back to Mack who had just looked up at them. Oh boy. Something must have happened. He was in an evil mood.

“I’m not through shopping,” she said in a low voice. “ Take your things out and give me the basket and my books.”

Zan nodded thoughtfully at her curt expression. “A’ight.” When he didn’t do anything, she reached for the book bag but he held it away from her. “If you gimme another bite of that apple.”

“I wish you would stop referring to me as food!” A few people turned in their direction and Syn looked behind her. Mack was watching them and the line moved up with only two customers in front of them. Oh boy. This was gonna be embarrassing. She was tempted to make a grab for her teakettle and run like a fool, but that would be dumb. She didn’t know why she was even thinking such a thing except that this guy was making her loca in more ways than one! Anyway, it’s not like she could leave the store with it. Plus, he’d still have her books. Plus, Mack would get all involved and as easygoing as he usually was, he had a nasty temper sometimes. It looked like now was one of those times.

“Fine. Then you may pay for my teakettle. Thank you,” she stated primly without another word.

When they reached the counter, Mack said, eying Zan, “Syn,what’s this?”

What wants to know?” Zan replied, staring right back.

Time to de-escalate – a little. “This is Zan, honey. He’s just helping me out,” Syn said cheerfully, placing all the basket’s contents near the cash register. Zan looked slowly back and forth once between her and Mack.

“Is that so?” Mack said, barely taking his eyes of Zan and making no move to pick up the merchandise in front of him. “Where you know Syn from?”

“From where I know her. You writing a book?”

“Naw, I ain’t writing no book, man. I’m asking a simple question.”

“Well, here’s a simple answer, duke. Ring up my sh*t.”

“When you stop jerking me around, duke, your sh*t’ll get rung.”

“You don’t seem to know it yet, so I’ll tell you. You wanna stop f*cking with me.”

“Look, motha – “

“Time out!” Syn interrupted. “Mack, this is my new…friend, Zan. Zan, this is my brother, Mackenzee. So yous can put all the testosterone away now. Shees!”

Zan looked at her. “Oh, your brother.”

“Yeah, oh.”

Zan seemed to relax and view his opponent differently. “Yo, man, look. I met Syn a week ago at a club – not that it’s any of your business. But yo, she a nice girl. She get buko respect from me, word. I just wanna buy her a…teapot.” He looked like he wanted to laugh.

Mack looked at Syn who raised her eyebrows and he copied the gesture. “Whatever.” He rang up the purchase without another word. Zan paid, handed her the bag, and walked away her schoolbooks. Obviously her Zan-caper wasn’t over yet.

“What’s wrong, Mack?”

“Nothing, Syn, nothing.”

“I’ll call you later.”

“Yeah, you do that. I wanna talk to you.”

She rolled her eyes. “You did get rude first.”

“Whatever,” he said, just before a bunch of students lined up across the counter and started firing questions at him. “Yo! One at a time or yous can all get out.”

Whoo, Mr. McNasty! Shaking her head she turned around and it was like the class of 2004 of every school in New York was in the place. And Zan was nowhere to be seen. She ran outside and saw him strolling a block away. Did he run? She raced after him and he let her snatch her bag off his shoulder without resistance, then shoved his hands in his pockets.

“What took you so long, peach?” he said without sparing her a glance.

“All right. Playtime is over. I gotta go now, so I’ll make this short but sweet. Thanks for the teakettle.” She took it out of the Artislife bag. “Please take your stuff and I’ll be on my way.”

“Okay, I’ll help you study. Let’s go home.”

“H*ll no!” Zan chuckled. “Come on. I wanna quiz you on anatomy and physiology. You take good notes. You really do. Got me a smart girly. Syndara. That’s a pretty name. And you can even make us some tea, yo – not that I’m in love with the stuff. I really ain’t think you was a college chick though. You look like you in like – eighth grade.”

“Screw you! Hold up.” Syn stopped, putting the backside of her hand on his shoulder to make him stop too. “You been in my bag!”

“Well, you was taking so long, I needed something to read.”

“Uh-uh. Stand right there!” she commanded, riffling though the bag. “If you took something, you will return it or I will try my best to kick your ass right here, and I’m not playing.”

Zan held up his hands in mock submission. “D*mn, baby. After all the things I bought you…all that good loving I gave you, you gonna threaten to jack me up? It ain’t right.”

When Syn was satisfied that nothing was missing, she set Artislife bag on the ground. “Well, it’s been real. Ciao,” she said turning away.

“Tu appartieni a me.”

When she turned back sharply, his expression was serious. “What did you say?”

“I said I’ll see you tomorrow.” And he walked away.

Syn stood for a minute, waiting for her body’s inexplicably joyful response to his words to fade a little. That’s not what he said. She began walking slowly at first, then picking up speed as if trying to outdistance something.

No, that’s not what he said at all.



part six


“What do you mean, ‘what did he say’? You know exactly what he said!”

“Come on, Lucia! My Italian is rusty.”

“Is he Italian?”

“I don’t know.”

“Well…do you?” Lucia asked smirking.

Syn gripped the phone, her patience wearing thin. “Do I what? I told you I don’t know what – “

“Do you belong to him?” Lucia started laughing.

“I thought that’s what he said!” Syn was disturbed that some part of her agreed. She couldn’t stop thinking about Zan and felt like an idiot because she missed him already – a perfect stranger. So what if his smiles – cocky or sweet – warmed her heart? So what if his kiss turned her completely out? So what if she had the weirdest desire to…protect him? She was loca! If anything, she needed protection from him! But not really. She was somehow intimately connected to this perfect stranger. Syn didn’t like being bewildered like this.

“Boy, I could write a book. What do you think of this title? - The Paranormal Romantic Adventures of Syndara Morgan.”

“I don’t think anything of it.”

“I soooo have to meet this guy! You sure he isn’t some wacko stalker?”

“Yeah, I’m sure, but he is different.”

“Different. Hmmm. So where is he meeting you tomorrow?”

“Well, it wasn’t like we made any plans. I didn’t suggest or consent to meeting him anywhere. I don’t know how he would know – I mean I don’t think I had any information in my bag that he could…” Her voice trailed away. Or did she? “No, he was probably just flirting. Some guys – sh*t, a lot of guys just like to play their little games when the opportunity comes up. You know, just for practice.” Syn felt a niggling disappointment at the possibility.

“Did yous kiss again?”

“Um…yes.”

“Eee-heeee! Well, how was it?”

“It was…nice.” There was something so intimate about her ‘Zankisses’ that Syn didn’t want to share them even with Lucia.

“Come on! You can do better than that.”

“Oh, he was just fooling around.”

“Uh-huh. Okay.” Lucia sounded skeptical. “So when am I gonna meet him?”

“Look, I’m probably not gonna even meet him – again. So just chill.”

“Oo-hoo. Excuse me.”

“Well, let me go. I need to finish studying ‘cause this anatomy is gonna try to kick my butt.”

“All right. You’ll do fine anyway, girl.”

“I hope so!”

When they hung up Syn actually did a very good job of concentrating on her work even though the warmest shade of hazel had firmly attached itself to her thoughts.

----- ----- -----

Zan sat in a corner with an easel in front of him. Lonnie was staring at him intently but he ignored her. It turned out he wasn’t in a pencil mood after all. His chalk flowed over the page with the speed of his thoughts. And he was thinking about Syn Morgan. He just couldn’t figure himself out. He felt so different with this girl, man. He felt…lighthearted. Zan had never teased or smiled so much in either of his lives. He frowned as his hand moved in quick short upward strokes across the page. He felt happy and content around her. At peace. And d*mned excited, too. She was way better than the top of the ESB, that’s for sure. It was weird ‘cause he didn’t know much about her except that she was a part of him – the good part, he guessed. And he didn’t like feeling that way. She made him forget who he was, made him feel all-human. And made him say weird sh*t in different languages! Zan smiled ruefully to himself. Tu appartieni a me. ‘You belong to me.’ j*sus! Cornball, man. His smile died away. The real crazy part was he meant it. He didn’t want to just do her. And g*d knew how much he wanted that. He’d eaten the last five peaches they had in stock a minute ago just dreaming about being naked with her and her hands touching him everywhere, about her sweet little body opening up to welcome his….

“D*mn.” He picked up the broken pieces of the chalk he’d just snapped in two. Well, he had plenty of black. A feeling like a little red light blinked on in his head and without looking up, he caught the ball Rath sent flying near him. Hm, that was strange. He never had color-coded signals before.

“Yo, Van Gogh, “ Rath said. “You cut both ears off already? I asked you wha’s up, man? When you meeting the emissary?” He was pacing slowly and twirling his favorite hockey stick in time with Metallica. “This ain’t nothing to be dragging your feet over.”

“Next week,” Zan bit out. He hadn't spoken more than fifteen words for two days.

“Psh, man! Next week? Why next week?”

“’Cause next week’s good for me.” The reason he was there right now trying to act like nothing was wrong was to practice self-control, something he’d been lacking recently. And it was hard as h*ll when all he wanted to do was throttle them all.

“Yo,” Lonnie said, standing up to brush off her skirt, never once taking her eyes off him. “Next week it is.” She walked over to the easel and arched her eyebrows. “That’s a really nice…big brown eye, brother.”

“Thanks.”

“Come on, Mohawk. You’re getting me something to eat. Ava, let’s go.”

Ava didn’t look up from her Cosmo magazine. “Nah, I wanna stay here.”

Lonnie smirked looking from Zan to her. “Well, good luck. Rath, will you put that g*ddamned hockey stick down and come on!”

“I know at least one time you more than loved what I could do with this g*ddamned hockey stick. And if you’re real sweet I’ll do it again.”

“Hm. I think that was just a one-off, duke.”

Rath’s voice echoed from down the open space. “Yeah a’ight. We’ll see…”

After a long silence during which Ava’s eyes often flicked over to the corner, Zan said as he turned to a fresh page, “Wha’s on your mind?”

She bit her lower lip. “Staying here.”

“What?”

Ava put the magazine down. “Zan, why we ain’t never do it?”

Zan sighed impatiently. “We already been through this, yo. I told you I don’t feel you like that. Period.”

Ava pursed her lips. “I don’t know why not. I ain’t ugly or nothing. When we was on Antar we was hitting it night and day. Why not now? Korn said – “

“Yeah well, what Korn said and what I know ain’t related. Wha’s your problem, huh? You got your little Playboy bunnies on the side. I know you been hitting it so – “

“Yeah but I ain’t been hitting it with you,” she said standing up and strolling toward him slowly, the hem of her ultra short skirt riding up even higher. “And I really want to.” He caught the panties she took off and threw at him. They weren’t dry. “I don’t know what the big friggin deal is, Zan. You done a lot of hoes and I know you wasn’t mad jonesing for none of ‘em, so I don’t get why you can’t f*ck me.” She stepped very close to him, thrusting her pelvis in his face.

Zan put his palm flat on her crotch and pushed her firmly away. “You being real sloppy. Where’s your dignity? You s’posed to be a queen, remember?” he added mockingly.

“I never asked for any of that sh*t,” Ava said angrily, hands on her hips.

“Then don’t take it.”

“What are you gonna do, Zan? Are you really gonna go through with the summit?”

He watched her carefully. “I said I was, didn’t I?”

“Yo, do you really feel anything for this other planet? We ain’t never seen that place, Zan! Not in this life. Plus we friggin died there.”

That’s right, he thought. Keep talking. “What you trying to say, Ava? Spit it out.”

“I want - !” Ava realized she was almost shouting. “I…want to stay here. In New York.” She went over an knelt down beside him, putting her hand on his arm. “Zan, I want you to stay with me. I think you were right before. We don’t know enough. We know less then when they…killed us and I don’t – I don’t want to die again!” She burst into tears.

Zan stared at her and finally reached down to lift her chin. “We was created for this. What about that? What purpose we gonna have if we just stay here?” He paused. He was trying to see where she stood, but the question was real enough. What the h*ll were they without their destinies? “And what about our peeps on Antar? You got the same memories I do. The loyal ones is dying up there in bad ways. Khivar is foul as sh*t. He likes killing and he likes being creative with it. So duty calls.”

“Well, I don’t hear it! They shoulda just let us stay dead. Yeah, I do remember, Zan. You was the new king. You was stubborn but you was good. And you died. That’s the ultimate f*ckin sacrifice. How much more you s’posed to give?” She stood up. “I know I ain’t got nothing else.” They stared at each other.

“What you telling me? If I say we going back, you gonna refuse? You gonna disobey your king?”

Ava looked down sullenly. “I’m telling you I don’t know.” She sat back down and picked up the Cosmo. “I’m saying I wanna stay here and I don’t wanna stay alone.”

----- ----- -----

At about midnight Lonnie was strolling through a section of central Park called The Ramble where not even the riffraff frequented often anymore. She left Rath at The Razor. She never looked after him like Zan did. She wasn’t no babysitter. Sh*t, if he was destined to get another shot at surviving the war, then he’d better be able to watch his own ass in some club on planet Caveman.

Lonnie pulled her jacket tighter around her as she carefully stepped over the knarled roots in her path. Anyway, she was to meet Larek here soon to tell him her decision and then get laid of course. Things seemed to be going smoothly but after careful observation, she felt something wasn’t right and didn’t want to take any chances. She simply had to leave Earth. Lonnie couldn’t stand always being surrounded by weak humans and their weak culture and weak habits. She was certain her memories of the Royal Four’s alien lives were the strongest. What a long, hard fall from grace it was to go from being nearly pure energy, pure light with all the speed, knowledge and freedom that came with it to being trapped in a snail’s life. Sometimes she hated her mother, Nira Kapol, so much for making hybrids out of them and leaving them here that she wanted to kill her – if she wasn’t already dead. Yeah sure, nobody planned the crash - but sh*t, where was the backup plan for their safety if they were so f*ckin important to the survival of an entire race?

Lonnie was lost in her thoughts, not really paying attention, when she heard rustling foot steps behind her. Okay, she was being followed. She didn’t want to play that game so she stopped and waited, hearing only a light wind sweeping up the leaves.

“Ahmph!” she cried out as a hand covered her mouth. She wasn’t afraid. It was kinda funny really.

“Easy,” a male voice whispered in her ear. “It’s me.” He removed his hand.

“Well, me, is this how you normally get the chicks?”

“Just one.”

“Okay, boy. Let’s see what we got.” She turned around slowly and squinted. “Well?” She could see his teeth flash.

“It’s Larek, Lonnie.”

He pointed a flashlight right in her face and she turned away, holding her hand up. “Ay! You ain’t funny, man.” He turned it on himself. “So wha’s this, a new look?”

He cut the flashlight out. “I need to give the Brody Davis human a rest. Commuting in him from Roswell is a waste of energy.”

Lonnie smiled slowly. “Well, this is an improvement. Who’s this guy?” She ran her fingers through his straight hair and suddenly grabbed a handful and tugged hard, laughing as he caught her wrist and pushed it away.

“What are you going to do, Vilandra?” ‘Larek’ demanded.

“Psh! Uh-uh, pal. Who you think I am? Cindy Brady? Tell me a couple things only Larek would know.” She waited with her arms folded while the silence stretched. “Pah! I guess that answers that, dud’n it? Well, don’t choke on the weed, Sam Sneed. See ya!” When she turned to go, he grabbed her ass with one hand and pulled her back. “Okay, that’s familiar, duke, but it ain’t enough. So if you ain’t gonna be a little more forthcoming than that but had the nerve to grab my ass, I’m gonna hurt you and then leave, k?” Lonnie decided to snap his neck if he wasn’t really Larek. She let him turn her around and tried not to respond when he kissed her roughly. Yeah, it was one of Larek’s kisses.

“So how about answering my question?” he asked with his arms around her unresponsive body.

“We all got questions, but we all don’t got answers. Maybe those of us living without them should just make do.”

“If you’re going to f*ck me one way, Vilandra, I insist you do it the other way as well,” he said in a cold whisper, his hands gripping her waist hard. When she laughed again, his aggravation mixed with a sharp desire. Larek rammed his tongue into her mouth for a long insolent kiss before nipping at her chin. He grabbed a handful of her short hair, pulling her head back as he covered her throat with rough little bites.

Lonnie’s arousal was building slowly into a heavy thickness at her core. “Larek, you…” she breathed out lazily.

“Shut. Up.” He yanked her arms from around his neck and shoved her back against a sharply bent tree.

Eyes closed, Lonnie lay against the tree drained, waiting for her heartbeat to slow down when suddenly she was covered with Larek’s heavy warmth.

Lonnie felt weightless and exhausted, her pelvis throbbing as if it had been in a fight. Whew, Larek had really worked her over this time - and outdoors too. This was new for him. Well, she guessed there were a few situations that she didn’t mind not being in control of. She smiled.

“All f*cking is done for the night unless you really want me to pass out,” he whispered against her skin. “Now tell me what I want to know.”

“Next week,” she breathed out sleepily. “I’ll do it next week.”

She felt him smile against her. “Let’s get you into a nice soft bed at the Plaza. Don’t wash until tomorrow. I want to smell me on you all night…”

----- ----- -----

Syn was walking out of the science building after her test late the next morning. It was long and hard but she felt fairly confident about her answers. She really liked the human sciences anyway and was seriously considering one as a major. Probably biology. Right now, she was hungry as usual after a big test. She was about to cross the street to get in the long line at everybody’s favorite Chinese truck on campus when a bright red Nissan Pathfinder screeched to a halt in front of her, blocking her view of the whole friggin world. She so hated big ass trucks!

“Need a ride?”

“No thanks.” She started to walk around.

“Syn, come on. Don’t be like that. I wanna talk to you.”

She rolled her eyes impatiently.

Please. I’m sorry for calling you like that the other night.”

“Well, you should be. That was d*mned ignorant, Roman.” He was looking good but he left her pulse slow – although not totally dead. Hm.

“All right, all right. I know! That’s what I’m saying.”

The driver behind him honked angrily. Roman waited for Syn to back up onto the pavement before he took his time pulling over. “Syn, would you just get in the car. You’re making me feel like a criminal or something the way you’re looking at me.”

“I don’t feel like this right now, Roman.”

He looked away from her, shaking his head in annoyance. “Well, can I call you later? This is important. I got a couple things I wanna say.” When she didn’t respond, he looked over to find her attention somewhere else, like she was listening to something far away. “Well d*mn! I bore you that much now?”

“Huh? Um, no. Why you say that?” Out of nowhere purple and gold pressed warmly against her face and Syn tried to hide her excitement behind a bland expression. She looked around and didn’t see him but she knew he was nearby – watching her. “You can, um, call me later if you want. Before 11pm, k? I sleep at night.”

“All right. Later.” He pulled off without warning in front of another car and sped down the street. If he really became a cop like his Dad, she wondered if would he pull over people who drove just like him.

Syn squinted against the sun. Of course while he was taking up her time, the line in front of Panda Chow’s had almost doubled and her stomach was growling now like a mug. Well, it would be worth the wait. As she stood in line, she was expecting Zan to come up to her. But he didn’t, not during the twenty minutes it took to get her food or the fifteen minutes it took her to wolf it down. She began to think maybe this time the color perception was just her imagination. Weird but it was possible.

She flipped open The Canterbury Tales. Syn just loved Geoffrey Chaucer, especially in the original Middle English. It was an absolutely beautiful day, warm this time of year for November. The sounds of campus life and the gentle breeze relaxed her and she let Geoff tell her the Miller’s Tale until suddenly a well-worn Timberland came down beside her from behind. What the - ? A large hand on her shoulder prevented her from getting up as the matching boot came down on the other side of her.

“Hey!” she said, twisting around just as Zan slid down behind her, his body pushing hers forward. He rested his chin on her shoulder, his body enveloping her as he started flipping through her book.

“Chaucer, huh? Yeah, he’s good, he’s good.”

Mmm, apple cider…very spicy. She closed her eyes briefly, trying to keep her breathing normal as every nerve in her body pulsed with pleasure. Then the soft brushing of his goatee on her chest seemed to scramble her brain even further, if that were possible. In a rather high voice all she could think to say was, “What are you doing here, Zan?”

He turned to the Knight’s Tale. “Guess.”

“I think you been watching me like a stalker for almost an hour.”

“Nah, more like forty minutes. How you do on the test?”

“Pretty good.”

“I knew that.”

Syn shivered a little as he deftly moved off the bench the same way he came. When he cam back around to sit beside her, he threw an 17 x 20 sketchpad in her lap. She opened it and on the first pages were very intricate sketches in pencil – truly lifelike portraits of people in motion and some dazzling NYC landscape views.

“Wow, these are really good. You got a fine hand.”

Zan smiled at her, waiting. When she came to the last two used pages, her eyes widened. “What?? This is me standing in line to get my food just now. Oh my g*d, and this is me eating it!” A little embarrassed, she giggled. “I don’t believe you, man! What do you –? Do you do this a lot?” She looked up into his suddenly serious expression. She didn’t know a guy could have eyes as beautiful as his.

“Who’s that guy you was talking to?”

Syn blinked at the switch in topic. “Which one?”

“Dude in the red toy car.”

“Oh.” She kept staring at the sketch of her with her mouth full.

When she didn’t say anything, he leaned close, putting his arm behind her on the back of the bench. “He pretending to be your man or what?”

“Pretending? No, he’s not.”

“Which is it? He ain’t pretending or he ain’t your man?”

“Mm, no,” she said with a small smile.

“Oh, you wanna play. Who is he, Syn?”

“He’s…Roman.”

“He Italian?”

Her smile grew wider. “No, that’s his name – which really isn’t any of your business. I don’t why I told you.”

“Roman?” Syn laughed at his scornfully quizzical expression. “Well then he ain’t nobody. That ain’t no real name. He sound like a fake dude on one of them soaps - The Young and the Stupid.”

“Tck! Whatever,” she said still smiling. She’d always kinda felt the same way about the name.

“So how about one o’clock?”

“How about one o’clock what?”

“Ever been to the Cloisters?”

“Not yet.”

“Then that’s where we going tomorrow.”

Syn stood up, feeling an inexplicable little panic. “Um, I don’t know.”

Zan stood up, too. “I’m paying. I’m driving. What don’t you know?”

“Whether or not I wanna go there with you!”

He seemed to consider the dilemma carefully. “Well, I think I can clarify that for you.” He leaned forward and kissed her cheek softly, sliding the barrette out of her hair.

She blushed, not liking her desire to kiss him back. She stared at his mouth. “Hey.”

He put it in one of his pockets. “The ponytail’s cute but I been wanting to see you with your hair out.” He picked up a thick lock of it, letting it slide through his fingers before twisting the end around his pinkie. His eyes darkened and roved over her face. “You ain’t said yes so maybe you need more…clarification,” he drawled, slowly pulling her closer to him.

“Yeah okay,” she answered a little desperately. “I’ll go. But you gotta let me go ‘cause I gotta…go.”

He did so, giving her his lopsided smile. “Chicken,” he said softly.

“Gimme back my barrette. How you expect me to go out with a thief?”

“I’m just borrowing it. I’ll give it back tomorrow, peach.” He put a hand to his chest. “Word is bond.”

“Yeah, sometimes ‘word’ is bullsh*t.”

He laughed. “You such a tough girly. You scare me.”

Syn rolled her eyes. “One o’clock tomorrow. If you’re late, I’m rolling.”

“If you roll, I’ll find you.”

“Goodbye.” Syn spun away on her heel without looking back. Her thoughts were racing. Oh my g*d, what am I doing? I am tripping over this guy. He knows where I live! But maybe he doesn’t and forgot to ask and then I’ll be free and clear. But in her heart Syn knew that he did know and he’d be on time and he’d take her to that museum, the Cloisters. And he’d return her barrette. She sensed that he only said what he meant even when he was teasing her. ~Tu appartieni a me.~ Oh l*rd…!

Later that day when she finally got home, Syn dropped down on her bed, staring at the ceiling and worrying about spending Saturday with Zan until she was tired of worrying. She was not going to be intimidated or swept away by her attraction to some guy. She was annoyed with herself for indeed being ‘chicken’ and giving in. She should have just kissed his brains out and then walked away cool as a cucumber. She sat up thinking about that, then rolled her eyes at herself. Yeah, like the last two times. She didn’t like acting out of fear – especially fear of a kiss. She wouldn’t do it again, but she’d keep her word and go out with him. But she wouldn’t be putty in his hands either. Syn’s eyes narrowed as she walked to her closet.

Zan had asked for it. Well, he was gonna get it. And she was going to get what she wanted too. What was really bothering her was that there was something about Zan very different – entirely different – from anyone else she’d ever met. He wasn’t just some incredibly handsome, charismatic guy she was exchanging special vibes with – although that alone had her spinning. She felt clearly now that this difference was something she was supposed to know – something she had to know, especially before she fell for him like a ton of bricks, which she was in near danger of doing.

Yes, there was something about Zan. And she was going to find out exactly what it was.



part seven


“So I’ll pick you up Saturday night at seven.”

Syn could hear the smug note in Roman’s voice and almost changed her mind. “Don’t get any funny ideas, Roman. I’ve been real straight with you. The minute you start acting up, I’m outta there.”

“Well if you feel that way, why you going out with me at all?”

“Because I don’t have anything else better to do.”

“Well d*mn!”

Syn laughed. “I gotta go now. Goodnight.”

“ ‘Night.”

After she hung up with him, she immediately dialed Mack’s number. She knew it was a bad idea to go out with someone you broke up with without any intention of reuniting, but somehow this was supposed to help protect her from being completely sucked into the vortex called Zan, which of course made no sense. The guy was scrambling her brain.

“Hello?” a voice finally barked in her ear.

“Shees! What is wrong with you? What happened while I was upstairs in the store? I came backdown and you were like ‘Sybil’ or something. Now you’re worse.”

“Why you calling me so late?”

“Um, it’s 9:30pm, Mack.”

“What?” Syn heard quick rustling movements and then a tired sigh. “I thought it was like 2am or something. I’m…sorry I’ve been acting weird but this headache came down hard like a motha. It keeps coming and going.”

“That doesn’t sound good. Maybe you should see Dr. Pacone.”

“Naw, I been taking some Motrin. If this doesn’t let up in a day or two, then I’ll go – but not to her. But hey, what’s up with that punk you was with?”

“Tck! Nothing’s up.” Syn nibbled on her bottomlip. “And he’s not a punk.”

“What do you want with him? He looked like a straight up criminal. He following you around or something?”

“Mackenzee. When I want a guard dog, I’ll buy one, k? Relax! I’m not ‘Amelia Sedley’.”

“Who?”

“I’m not some starry-eyed twit in a Victorian novel. You know, part of the reason I left home was to escape the constant third degree. Now all of sudden you want to pick up where the parents left off.”

“You’re only eighteen, Syndara, and I’m your big brother.”

“Psh! Man – “

“Look, my head’s pounding and I can’t go on and on about this right now. Is everything else all right with you?”

“Yeah, but – “

“We’ll talk tomorrow.” Click.

Syn pursed her lips as she looked at the receiver. Well, how do you like that? Miserable wretch.

When Mack hung up on Syn, he got up to look in the mirror. Frowning, he gingerly felt his throat. His tongue felt sore – as if he’d tried to lick away a lollipop the size of Mount Everest. Another thing, what was up with his f*cked up sense of time lately…?

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


Rath sat up, rubbing his eyes. After a night of total debauchery at The Razor, he didn’t get in ‘til d*mn near 10am. Now it was past noon and the slightest sound woke him up.

“Yo, Zan, what you doing?”

“Nothing.”

“Where the h*ll you going?”

Zan grabbed his jacket. “Betsons. Restock the grub and take Ava with you.”

Ava, who was on watch, stared balefully at him, saying nothing. She didn’t like how preoccupied he seemed lately with something – or someone.

“I’m out,” he said curtly, walking away.

Rath glared at Zan’s retreating back. He was tired of taking orders – king or no king. He lay back down, wondering where Lonnie’s whory ass was. She hadn’t let him watch her do another guy in a long time and she was sneaking off a lot lately. He’d have to chat with her about that…

Zan hopped into the silver 2001 Mazda Miata he ‘borrowed’ last night just for today. Nothing too flashy, but comfortable enough for his passenger-to-be. As he crossed the B-bridge over into Brooklyn, he toyed thoughtfully with his trimmed two-inch goatee. He shouldn’t be messing with this girl – vibes or no vibes. He couldn’t get caught up like this right now. As of yet, he hadn’t decided what to do about the Royal Three or the war. He was an alien and had a destiny to fulfill, even though none of that was moving him like this Earth girl. Ava’s question struck home the other day. No, he didn’t feel nothing for their solar system or nobody in it – not even his ‘mother’. Something was foul about that. If he didn’t feel nothing maybe that’s ‘cause nothing was as it seemed. And it wasn’t his style to jump without seeing where he was gonna land. Zan took Syn’s barrette out of his pocket and twirled it around his fingers. Somehow he felt like he’d already taken a plunge and now he was just free falling.

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

It was twenty minutes to one and Syn was pacing. Gone was her steely-eyed determination of last night. She felt hyped and downright giddy. Her main concern was -could she be with him all day without at some point becoming complete putty in his more than capable hands?

Annoyed with herself for pacing so hard she plopped down roughly in a chair. Ooo! She immediately jumped up to check for snags in her blouse. She decided on a relaxed look, hoping it would help her be the same – black jeans, Levi’s Relaxed Fit –the only jeans her butt and hips would tolerate – with a short matching jacket waiting to go on the bed, a plain but pretty fuchsia blouse, and comfortable short black boots. And since Zan seemed to like her hair down, she decided to wear it…up. She smiled coyly at her reflection.

She was debating whether or not to change her blouse when the bell rang and her heart lurched uncomfortably. Syn closed her eyes and took a deep breath before switching on the intercom.

“Hello?”

“It’s me. Is he up there yet?”

Syn’s shoulders relaxed as she hung her head briefly. “Lucia. g*d! No, just come up.” She buzzed her in.

Lucia burst into the room in a flurry, her platform shoes clapping merrily across the floor as she came toward Syn at full speed.

“Whoa! Down,girl.” Syn held her hands up reflexively, almost blinded by the neon sky blue her friend was outfitted in – from the bandana covering her short locks, the short jacket and Capri pants to the polish on all twenty nails.

“Lucia, isn’t it a little cool for the halter top?”

“How’s anybody supposed to see my little sapphire navel barbells? I’m glad that elevator’s been fixed or you wouldn’t even be looking at me right now. So I’m actually gonna meet Strawberry Man or Candyman or Lawnmower Manor – “

“Ha-Haaah! You silly.”

“ – or whatever the h*ll you call him. And it’s about d*mn time! I’m warning you though. If I think this guy is wack, I’m sure ‘nough gonna tell him to his face.”

“Oh no, you ain’t!”

Lucia cackled, rubbing her hands together like a silent film fiend.

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

In his agitation Zan made an ultra sharp turn down Flatbush Avenue, nearly stopping all traffic. He needed to stay clear-headed and focused on his situation, and Syn Morgan made him forget all that sh*t when he was with her. It made him weak. No, he should stand her up. He shouldn’t go out with her. Shouldn’t date her. Zan shook his head mockingly. He ain’t never dated no chick in his life. He ain’t never even talked much to one. He never gave a sh*t and the girls that approached him – invited or not – only wanted two things at most. The second thing was just to be seen with a ‘bad boy’. Anyway, the only problem was he couldn’t stop himself from driving toward her place, from pulling up in front of her door, from feeling excited as he rang her bell. A’ight. He’d go through with this little ‘outing’, but he was gonna be cool. No goofy smiles, no extras.

And no kissing her, king, if you wanna stay unscrambled.

Shut up.

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

Lucia rummaged around in the cabinets. “Hey, you’re out of peanut butter!”

“Sue me.”

She helped herself to some Ritz crackers. “Yo, is he running late or what? Wheat’s in the Tin Lizzie waiting for me and probably calling me everything but the m*ther of g*d.”

“Watch your mouth. No, he’s – “

Ring!

Lucia hurriedly took a seat at the table like a spectator, saying, “Bring him on!”

Syn gave her an exasperated look, glad however that her nervousness had almost disappeared.

“Hello?”

“Yo.” He dragged out the greeting with that smooth as butter voice of his, making her skin tingle.

“Yeah, come on up.”

The girls listened to the quick thuds bounding up the steps to the third floor.

“Mm. Nice and agile,” Lucia said with a saucy smile.

“You behave!” Syn hissed.

“Never!”

Syn opened the door at his bold knock, and his magenta immediately drenched her. Ga-ga! On most guys a black short sleeve tee was a little naughty. On Zan it was lethal.

“Ah…come in.”

He didn’t move immediately but just stood there looking her over thoroughly like he had all the time in the world. His eyes finally returned to her face. “Nice,” he drawled. “But I see I gotta fix your hair again.” When he slid his hand into it, she closed her eyes in an effort to hold in her reaction.

“Eh-Erm!”

Zan looked up but didn’t remove his hand. Blushing, Syn moved back out of reach to secure her pins again.

“Um, Zan, this is my friend, Lucia. Lu, this is Zan.”

Zan walked over to stand over Lucia, eyeing her critically. Lucia stood up with her hands on her hips, rolled her head around on her neck once, and looked up into his face with a goofy cross-eyed stare.

His mouth curved into an amused smile. “What’s this? Trick or Treat?”

“Neither. I’m too straight on to trick and you d*mn sure ain’t getting no treat from here. So next question…Scooby Doo.”

Zan chuckled.

“Lucia,” Syn warned. “Okay, introductions are over. Everybody, out.”

Lucia relaxed her stance and gave Zan a neutral once over. “Glad to finally meet ya, Zan-boy. Peace.”

“The pleasure’s all yours, bleach blond.” He snatched the bandana off her head and dropped it in her outstretched hand.

Syn tried not to laugh at Lucia’s expression.

“A-heh. You ain’t cute – in case ya didn’t know. Ain’t no bleach up here, boy!”

Syn held open the door. “Well okay, Lu, see ya.”

“Yeah okay, after you. It would be rude for me to just leave you two here all alone.” She waved them on in front ofher before closing the door to follow them. When they got outside, she hopped into Wheat’s great granddad’s still mobile clunker. Wheat looked steamed and didn’t even spare any of them a glance as he took off. Lucia precariously hung out the window á la Marilyn Monroe, waving her bandana. “Buh-bye! Have a great time, kids!”

Zan opened the car door for Syn. “She your best friend, ain’t she?”

“What makes you say that?”

“Y’all match – ‘cept she’s off.”

When he got in beside her, she said, “Nice ride.” She wondered how he was able to afford it. His parents? His trust fund? What did she really know about Zan anyway? She was linked to him somehow and his kisses sent her over. That might be enough for a Harlequin romance but not for her.

“Zan, what’s your last name?”

“Kapol.”

“What’s that? Polish?”

“It’s foreign like that.”

“How old are you?”

“How old are you?”

“Eighteen.”

“Me, too.”

“Where do you live?” He glanced at her. “Well, you know where I live.”

“Lower East.”

“With your parents.”

“Nah.”

“You’re not trying to tell me much, are you? It’s not unreasonable to want to know more about the person behind the wheel.”

Zan was wondering when the peach was gonna start asking certain questions. He was expecting that. What bothered him was being reminded that if she knew the truth about him, Syn Morgan wouldn’t give him the time of day – to say the least. He glanced defensively her way. Or would she? He didn’t like how much it meant to him either way.

“What’s that look about?”

“Nothing, baby,” he said coolly.

Syn studied him, deciding to be direct. “Look, if you’re one of those mercurial, moody guys that clam up for no reason or for some secret reason, I gotta tell you, this ain’t gonna work. I like my company warm and friendly.”

“Whoa, slow your roll, peach. I’m as warm and friendly as they come. Slide over here and see.”

“That’s not necessary. A smile and some genteel conversation will be sufficient.”

They came to a red light and Zan turned to her with a wry smile. “D*mn. You so – “ He slid a hand around the back of her neck. “Com’ere.” He took a quick deep taste of her. Which was a big mistake. Now there was a friggin tent in his lap. So much for ‘no extras’. A car honked impatiently behind them and he pulled off.

Syn turned her face to the wind, waiting for her pulse to slow down and the throbbing at her core to ease before she spoke again. All this pulsing desire was racing through her body and she’d barely been in his presence for twenty-five minutes! Either this was going to be a long day or a short one.

She heard him clear his throat. “So…what you gonna be when you grow up?”

Syn sighed with relief. “Well, I think I want to double major in biology and sociology. They just fascinate me.”

“What’s fascinating about ‘em?”

“Well, the way living things are put together. How life is sustained by the various organsand systems of the body. It’s almost like people are made up of millions of smaller living things. All our cells know exactly what to do instinctively. They’re programmed to do what they do but…they’re alive to me. And the way people interact is important to study anyway I think. Like how being in a group has a lot of influence on the behavior and thought processes of the individual members of the group. I mean, socialization is so powerful. It shapes who are as much as our physical and chemical make up. I…” Syn laughed a little self-consciously. “See. You shouldn’t get me started on this stuff. I could talk your ear off.”

“Nah, it’s all good. It’s cool.”

Syn looked at him intently. “What about you?”

“Yeah, you can study me too if you want.”

She grinned. “Hmm. Well, I’d be too scared to dissect you.” He looked at her a little strangely.

“You afraid of people different from you?”

“Depends on the differences.”

“What about completely different.”

“People are never completely different from one another. There are always some similarities. I prefer to look at them first before the differences.”

“Some differences can’t be overlooked,” Zan said with a slight edge.

Syn was quiet for a moment. “Zan.” He looked at her. “We don’t have that problem,” she said with a smile.

He smiled back a little. “You hungry?”

“I think so.”

“They have a café there. What you have for breakfast?”

“Ah – wheat germ.”

“Wheat what?”

“It’s like Grape Nuts crunched up but tastier.”

Zan scrunched up his face. “Grape Nuts?” Syn laughed. “You eat like a squirrel, peach. You don’t wanna – “ He started squeezing her thigh like he was searching for the right spot. “Uh! You don’t wanna lose none of this sweet meat right hee-ah.”

Syn grabbed his hand. “Stop. Eee! Stop, Zan, that tickles! Watch your driving!” Grinning, he let her go. Unable to resist, she reached over and pushed up his sleeve, exposing his biceps entirely. Mercy! “Your tats are beautiful, Zan,” she commented shyly.

Zan switched hands on the wheel briefly to tweak her chin. “Thanks.” When she reached in her purse and handed him a peach, he looked at her in surprise.

“This should keep your hands and mouth occupied for two minutes. I need a break.” She turned quickly away from the simmering amber gaze, sneaking quick glances at him as he ate the juicy fruit. He wasn’t just chewing. He was savoring it. Syn took a deep breath or two. Danger, Will Robinson!

It was a long ride uptown. They spent most of it in a companionable silence as if just being in each other’s company was enough and they didn’t need words as a buffer. Syn wasn’t expecting that. She observed his somewhat intimidating, but attractive, profile. The rings in his eyebrow and on his strong fingers, the thin chain around his neck, the thick one around his wrist and the labret stud right under his bottom lip were all gleaming in the sunlight. Silver metal had never looked better on anybody. He was such a toughie, but there was something very comforting about him when he was quiet. He was like a comfortable…bed. Boy, was she getting nutty! Anyway, she liked his young boy’s smile when he let it show.

The museum finally came into view at the end of a winding road in Fort Tyron Park.

“I’m liking the look of this already.” The recreation of a Benedictine monastery situated on four acres that was called The Cloisters, a branch of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, was like an enchanted alternate universe – at least compared to Midtown.

“Wait ‘til you see inside. It’s decent.” He’d been here lots of times but couldn’t help feeling anticipation because it was her first time. When they passed the admissions desk, he watched her slowly walk into the first exhibit room.

“Zan, this is awesome! Look at this.”

She was such a bundle of life and he came from death. Nah, he wasn’t even gonna go there. Today the king of Antar didn’t exist.

She wandered into the majestic Fuentidueña Chapel at the end of the hall. On the altar was an statue of the Blessed Virgin and Child. With a small smile Syn made the Sign of the Cross.

“I ain’t know you was Catholic.”

She studied him quietly for a moment. “You ever been to a Catholic church?”

“Yeah.”

“What did you think?”

“Epic art. Ain’t nothing like stained glass done right. Love the candles.”

“Yeah, me too.”

Syn’s stomach growled and the next exhibit she wanted to see was the café which was in the lower level. Actually it turned out to be a cloister that the museum allowed patrons to eat in – but only the food and drink sold at the large stand in the corner. There were small tables surrounding the entire square, each with a full view of the garden in the center. Zan bought her sandwich and juice she asked for.

Syn noticed they sold beer. “Do you like beer?”

“Nah, I don’t drink alcohol.”

It sounded kinda funny coming from him. “Really?”

“Not good for my insides.”

“Oh.”

He leaned back in his chair and watched her eat.

“Zan, why you watching me eat?”

“I can’t watch you eat?”

“It’s a little unnerving,” she confessed.

He just kept staring so she closed her eyes and continued chewing. “You’re not going to unnerve me anymore.” She laughed, feeling silly but enjoying it. “See. I made you disappear, and you can’t m— “ She felt his hands holding her face a split second before his soft kiss on her lips. Her eyes flew open and Zan was in his original position as if he hadn’t moved, except for that crooked smile she sometimes wanted to scratch off.

“I like unnerving you.”

“Well, it’s not nice,” Syn said lamely, staring at his mouth.

He ate the last piece of her sandwich. “Who said I was nice?”

“Huh. Nobody, and you certainly won’t hear it from me.”

“Hurry up and drink the juice. We got a lot to see.”

When she was finished, she got up with her tray. “You sound just like my fifth grade teach, Ms. Dell, always rushing us through lunch during our trips.” She just couldn’t resist brushing her hip roughly against his arm as she walked past him to the trashcan. He was working her nerves.

“Yeah, you look like you still in her class.”

“Tck! Shut up. You look like you ain’t got no class. Now!”

A warning glint flickered in his eye. “Keep on. I got something for you.”

“You ain’t got nothing! You started it.”

He got up and pulled her along by the hand. “Yeah, yeah, yeah. Come on, juicy gut. I wanna look at some art and you eating ain’t it.”

“D*mn. Why you bussin me so hard?”

So I can keep my mind off exploring all your secret places and making you scream my name all night – in your bed, on the floor, in the shower, against the door—

“Zan?”

His hand had tightened its grip on hers. D*mn! “A’ight, a’ight.” He let go. “No more bussin. Truce.”

They walked all over the museum which was made up of four cloisters – open courts bordered by roofed and arcaded passageways – surrounded by exhibit rooms of mostly religious medieval art. Syn appreciated the aesthetic beauty of the paintings, sculptures and other artifacts. To her it was like a part of her own roots, not by bloodline but by a lineage of faith keepers.

Zan seemed to know everything about every display – like he’d memorized all the descriptive placards in the place. He pointed out and explained in depth the differences between the austere Romanesque style and the sort of mystic elegance of the later Gothic trend. Syn listened attentively. Normally art history gave her the ho-hums but Zan made it come to life for her with his street-talk version, making her laugh and learn at the same time. Plus, he was true to his word and didn’t tease her anymore – much.

“Whew,” Syn said, thinking they’d seen everything. “I feel like I just had half a semester of 13th century art in two hours. You really know your stuff.” She smiled at him. “I’m impressed. You should work for the Met as a tour guide.”

“Nah, doing same thing every day is boring.”

“Not if you like what you do.”

“I don’t like nothing that much.”

“Zan, what do you do anyway? Are you a student or a stock boy at Super Fresh? Or a stock broker?”

“Ask me no questions and I’ll tell you no lies.”

“If that’s the case you’ve been lying half the day!”

He took her hand again. “Let’s go. I wanna show you one more thing.”

“Yeah okay. Butyou’re not getting off that easy. We will return to this topic.”

He took her out on the terrace which overlooked the Hudson River and a vast lawn.

“This is lovely!” she breathed out lifting her face to the breeze with her eyes closed, missing the look of tenderness in his that came and went while he brushed back the loose strands of hair that swept over her face.

“Yeah, it is. Guess you don’t need your barrette back after all. You got like a gazillion pins up in this jawn,” he added, starting to pull them out.

“Zan!” She tried to pull his hand away.

“Stop, man. Your scalp needs to breathe.”

“You are so silly!” She started laughing and tried to duck out of reach but he wouldn't let her and her hair was soon hanging down past her shoulder blades. “I can’t stand you. I really can’t.”

“So? Come on.” He led her over to the end of the length of the terrace to a padlocked iron gate behind which the terrace continued, leading up to the ramparts and a tower.

Disappointed, Syn peered through from where they stood. “Aww.”

“Close your eyes.”

“Why?”

“It’s a surprise.”

She did so, heard a click, and felt his hand pull hers. “Zan, we’re not supposed to be in here!” she hissed. “How’d you do that? How--?”

He laid a finger across her lips, rubbing them a little. “You always asking questions.” He was taking a chance using his powers like this but it was worth it to see her face light up when they stood in front of the tower looking out over the river again.

“It’s like another world,” she said quietly.

I’m from another world, he wanted to say. How would she react to that if she believed him? It didn’t matter ‘cause he’d never know ‘cause he couldn’t tell her. As he stared broodingly out over the trees, she touched his back.

“Whatcha thinkin’ ‘bout, moody boy?” she asked playfully.

“I ain’t moody.”

“Yes, you are.” She turned away but felt him watching her profile. “Staring again, huh? Hope you find that pot of gold you must be looking for down my ear."

Zan smiled wryly. “Wanna go somewhere else you never been?”

“Yep! The StatenIsland Ferry.”

“As you wish, milady. But first, I need some real grub. I know this place not far from the ferry. Whatever you want, they got…”

He took her to this funky down-home restaurant where Syn ate the freshest seafood she ever tasted until she was about to burst. She learned that Zan was a steak and potatoes man at heart. They served a non-alcoholic drink there called Strawberry Rhubarb and Syn was in heaven. And Zan was just so out of his mind! They had a little grass roots/rock/blues band jamming in there, made up of a couple neighborhood guys just starting the circuit, and to her extreme embarrassment Zan pulled her out of her seat to spin her around the room like a crazily spinning top amid much applause from the collegians packing the place.

The sun was starting to set when they decided to walk to theshort distance to ferry depot. Syn got some bottled water from a drug store on the way.

“So how devout are you?” Zan asked suddenly, looking out towards Battery Park.

She knew what he was referring to. “Let’s say I’m a work in progress.” He didn’t respond just openly studied her. “What are you really asking me?”

“I’m asking if you’re a virgin.”

“Yeah,” she answered without hesitation. “Is that a problem?”

“Depends on how you look at it.”

“How are you looking at it?”

“I ain’t,” he said cryptically, taking her hand. “Come on. The ferry’s boarding and it’s one of the old ones. They’re better.”

There weren’t a lot of people boarding the large vessel so it was like a semi-private cruise. They stood starboard along the outdoor promenade. For a minute Syn watched Manhattan recede and said, “Okay, all that food, forced dancing and walking made me tired. I need to sit down.” She wanted to say ‘lay down’.

“Wanna sit out here?”

“Mm…no, let’s go inside.” It was cozier in there and they could still have a good view.

They sat on newly padded wooden seats in the main berth. Lower Manhattan looked like some kind of enchanted shrinking city. The evening light cast a pinkish glaze on all the skyscrapers, standing like proud soldiers saluting as they faded away. Syn leaned her forehead against the window after wiping it with a tissue. Sometimes she still couldn’t believe she’d had the nerve to come to this place, this big loud abrasive exciting city, to live on her own. She, Syndara Margaret Morgan (Syndie May to Grandma Sena), a small town girl. Well, it was an edgy small town – like where ‘The Waltons’ would live if John Boy was a small-time car thief. To be honest, she wouldn’t have come if Mack, Lucia or Wheat weren’t already here. But she was still pretty much on her own. Wow.

“You sleepy, ain’t you?”

“Mm-mm. Not me, bro.”

Zan pulled her back against his chest. “You can catch some Z’s here. I know I feel better than that dirty ass window.” He splashed some water in his hand from her bottle and rubbed her forehead good.

“Hey!”

“A’ight, sleep now. We got one more place to go after this little boat ride here.” She was stiff as a board lying on him. “Syn, relax. I gotcha.” After some moments of hesitation, she turned to rest her cheek and hand on his chest and closed her eyes. To her surprise she felt completely relaxed and then downright safe when he casually put an arm around her.

When the boat reached Staten Island they remained on board for the return trip. Syn half-slept for about twenty minutes. For a second or two she didn’t know exactly where she was. With eyes still closed to savor the tranquil moment she tilted her head upward, sliding it against something very warm. Her eyes flew open locking with Zan’s hooded ones. Only about three inches separated their lips, and Syn’s heart skipped two beats when he bit his lower one a little.

“You get heavier when you sleep, yo,” he drawled huskily. “Maybe you better lay off the wheat germ.”

“Shut up,” she said dreamily, parting her lips for a kiss. Suddenly a horn blasted, making her nearly jump out of her skin. “D*mn!”

“It’s a’ight, peach. They just like to play with the old horn sometimes.”

“Well, they need to retire that sh*t,” was her shaky reply as the boat docked. She wet a tissue and wiped her face, a little heated and a lot chagrined at the interruption.

It was almost 11:00 when they walked back to the car and Zan drove to the World Trade Center.

“You gotta see the city all lit up from the top of this place. You can’t beat it. It’s better than gold.”

Syn enjoyed the feel of his hand around hers, his thumb rubbing her knuckles, as she quickened her pace to keep up with his brisk stride. You’re better than gold,tough boy.

The admissions desk was closing up and luckily they caught the clerks there in a good mood. Or maybe they took one look at Zan’s face when they tried to turn them away. Once they reached the top floor, Syn’s eyes widened in wonder. Floor to ceiling glass surrounded her through which a city of lights winked up at her boldly. New York was beautiful! She was hearing the “I Love New York” song in her head and a big grin spread across her face. “I can’t believe this. This is too awesome!”

The observatory was lined with sub-level benches on whichvisitors could sit up close to the large windows. Zan and Syn stepped down to one and sat in silence, drinking inthe stunning spectacle of the City That Never Sleeps.

“Every dream I ever had seems possible from up here.”

Zan nodded in agreement. “Yeah. I’m on top of things up here. Everything’s crystal.

Syn faced him, resting her head on the bar in front of her. “Because you’re king of the world. See?” That must have been the wrong thing to say because his eyes slowly turned distant and cool – like a stranger’s. “But you can abdicate the throne any time you want to. That’s the advantage of being king.”

An unpleasant smile crept up the side of his face. “Not always. It’s past your bedtime, little girl. Let’s go.”

“Past my bedtime? But I’m not ready to go.”

He stepped up onto the floor. “I got a couple things to do. Let’s go.”

She didn’t move right away. “Zan, did I say something wrong?”

“Nah, baby, it’s just been a long day.”

Syn followed him without another word, her eyes narrowing on his back. A long day, huh?

The ride home was quiet but there was nothing companionable about it this time. Zan was preoccupied and barely responded to anything she said. Soon he was ignoring her altogether which was rude as sh*t. Something was very wrong and she hoped it wasn’t what she thought. If so, it was out of her hands and that was that. She wouldn’t do anything she didn’t want to do. Or rather - wasn’t ready to do. She laid her head back against the seat and tried to quell a sinking feeling in her heart.

Zan glanced at her when he saw movement in his peripheral vision. His lips parted at the sight of her exposed neck illuminated by the passing headlights. Frowning, he looked quickly away. He wanted Syn – bad. And that was…bad. He’d kept himself in check pretty good all day. Well, good by his standards. It hadn’t really been hard because he liked Syn Morgan. While she aroused him, she also put him at ease. It was easy for him to talk to her about almost anything. He even had to catch himself a few times before saying some really friggin revealing things. Things pertaining to alien sh*t. She listened to him like she was interested in what he had to say about whatever – like she respected him. And maybe even liked him too. Zan hated to admit it but that possibility thrilled and scared him at the same time. He enjoyed her company like she was a friend. He’d never been friends with a girl before.

And he found out she was a virgin.

He had mixed feelings about that too. On one hand, his code of ethics – that’s right, he had one - said he had to leave her alone. A chill passed through him as he remembered how he lost his own innocence. Zan gritted his teeth, willing the memory away. Anyway, he didn’t want to take Syn’s first fruits when he knew d*mn well he couldn’t stick around. Yet he was excited about the possibility that he could love her down first, be the first one she let in and always be the first in her mind. Yeah, he wanted to be the one. With her eyes closed Syn sighed and turned her head as if his heated glance was pulling her towards him.

Who was he kidding? He wanted to be her only one.

Feeling hurt and feeling weak because she felt hurt, Syn sat up after they crossed the B-bridge into Brooklyn. She had an awesome time with this guy today and now he was doing the quick change. Maybe today was all just meaningless foreplay and when he decided she probably wouldn’t f*ck him, she became a waste of his time. Her blood started to boil. Okay, Syn, calm down, calm down. The evening isn’t over yet. Reserve judgement ‘til you find out what’s up. Yeah okay, she’d reserve. But he’d better come correct soon.

When they finally pulled up in front of her apartment, Zan kept the car running and unlocked the passenger door. Syn waited in the ensuing silence.

“Zan, what’s wrong?” she finally asked evenly.

“Nothing.”

“So why are we sitting here like two stones?”

“I guess I’m waiting for you to get out,” he snapped.

Syn’s eyes flashed. “Wait a minute. What is your problem? I had a really nice time today - with you, if you can believe it. Now you gonna wait ‘til there’s twenty seconds left on the clock to play the jerk? Why are you acting like you’re mad at me – like I did something wrong?”

“I ain’t mad at you.”

“You ain’t glad at me either. Were you expecting sex with me tonight and now you’re mad because you’re not getting it?”

His eyes raked over her insolently. “I’m not?”

“Goodbye.” Syn started to get out of the car and he grabbed her arm.

“Look, I ain’t mad about that. I ain’t gotta get mad. I can get some whenever I want it. It ain’t gotta be you.” He let her go. “Anyway, am I s’posed to be grinning ear to ear like a chimp just ‘cause we hung out a few hours and you fed me some cheap fruit?”

“Better to grin like a chimp than suck like an ass!” She shoved the car door open without closing it and hurried to the door of her building, her hips switching with an attitude that the driver didn’t miss. Vibes or no vibes, his meanness totally cancelled him in her book. With tears threatening to sting her eyes, she fumbled to get the keys out of her purse, her ears alert to every sound behind her. Or so she thought. She heard the car door slam shut. “D*mn him!” she hissed to herself. She moved to stick the key in the lock.

“I think that’s already happened,” Zan said quietly behind her.

“Oh!” Syn dropped the keys and stooped to pick them up but he was faster.

“I wanna talk to you.”

She couldn’t read his expression but his magenta was agitatedly patting her all over. “You seem to have forgotten how. May I have my keys?” He gave them to her and she reluctantly waited for him to speak.

Zan was at a loss for words and it made him feel like a milk toast. Well, he deserved it. Kinda. “I didn’t mean what I said, a’ight? The fruit wasn’t cheap.”

Syn raised an eyebrow. “And?

And – it was epic kicking it with you today. Like I told your brother Macky-boy, you a nice girl. I was tripping and I’m sorry. Let me make it up to you.”

She softened just a little. “You can make it up to me by telling me why you were tripping.”

“Oh, you want me to get all Oprah, huh?”

“No. I just want…to know you.”

“Well that’s – that’s cool. A’ight. Here it is. You a virgin and that’s cool – for you. Whatever. But I don’t do virgins and I really wanna do you.” Syn blushed and after a moment’s hesitation he stepped closer. “But I could make an exception right here and now. The othert hing is that…I wouldn’t just be doing you. It would be more than that and I can’t be tied down with no heavy extras right now.”

“Am I a ‘heavy extra’ at this moment?” The magenta rubbed her around the waist in circles.

“Well, you ain’t exactly a lightweight,” he confessed. “So I wasn’t expecting sex with you but I want it and I was gonna try to get it – ”

“I’m sure.”

“ – but I changed my mind so now I’m stuck. Y’understand?”

Syn looked down at the tips of her boots for a minute. “Are you gonna go to another girl now to get…unstuck?”

“I could but that’s not what I want.”

Syn really really didn’t want that either but she appreciated his honesty. “Would you like to come up?” she heard herself ask, then quickly added, “Um, just for a cup of tea or coffee or something.”

Zan smiled warmly at her, looking almost like a young kid. “Yeah.”



part eight


When they went in, Syn discovered that the elevator was broken again. “That’s it! I’m moving out.”

“Why? You should do the steps all the time anyway. It’s good for toning your butt and thighs.” He pushed her towards the stairway. “Let’s go.”

“Hey, I’m toned enough. I’m not trying to look like Chynna on ‘The Smackdown’." She only lived on the third floor but there were a gazillion steps between each floor.

“Tck! You’d have to go a long way to get Chynna’s bulges. Plus, I don’t like no woman with more muscle than me. Been there, done that.”

“Oh really?”

“Yeah. Now move it.” He poked her sides, her back…

“Ah!” Syn ran up the steps but he poked her all the way up and she was sure she had awakened the neighborhood with her shrieks. When they reached her floor, she held her stomach, gasping out past her laughter, “Fool!

“See? You look toned up already, girly. Which one?” he asked, taking her keys.

“The second one.”

Syn had a rich feeling she couldn’t explain watching him move around in her small apartment.

“You got a homey little place here. I ain’t look real close before.”

“Thanks. So what will it be? Coffee, tea or – “ Or me? “ – or meat? I mean – !“

“I’ll pass on the…meat. I wanna drink some of your tea. It sure must be heaven in a cup the way you was all over that teapot, man.”

She put the water on. “You want to watch TV?”

“Nah.” He kept his eyes fastened on her as he dragged a chair around the little kitchen table to place it very close to its twin. “Come sit down. You gonna stand there and watch it boil?”

“Mmm…I was thinking about it.”

Zan patted the free seat. “Come on now. I can’t talk to ya from way over there.”

Syn unconsciously wiped her hands on her jeans and sat beside him. When he leaned closer, she jumped a little, feeling like a complete idiot, and he put a hand lightly on her shoulder.

“Syn, relax. I ain’t gonna try nothing. A’ight?” He kneaded the flesh beneath his hand. “D*mn, you tense.”

“Zan – “

“Turn around and let me get the knots out. You got a sack of rocks back here.”

“Why I gotta be a sack of rocks? That’s not nice.”

“Just turn around.”

“Psh!” She did so grudgingly, trying to hide fact that she wanted his hands on her. Who was she kidding though? She was flirting with danger just having him up here. And it wasn’t his behavior she was worried about. Well, that was before he pulled her blouse up out of her jeans. “Um…!”

“It works better skin on skin.” He tilted her backwards to see her face. “You can keep the blouse on. Look, I meant what I said.”

“Yeah I’m keeping it on and yeah I believe you! Go on.”

The moment Zan put his hands on her smooth flesh, he knew it was a mistake. They were alone at her place and he had her bare skin under his hands. A cup of tea. Hah! He slipped his fingers underneath the band of her bra. Mmm…no, he couldn’t do it right this way, so he unconsciously held his breath as he unhooked the bra and tried to quell the leap of his pulse at the sound of her soft gasp. They both froze until Syn shifted a little, giving him permission to continue - carefully. He then slowly molded and pushed and pressed all the muscles of her back until they became supple again.

“That feels good,” she half-whispered, arching her back against his hands. Zan was chewing the inside of his bottom lip, feeling the pressure building in him. His fingers were itching to massage something else besides her back. He had to stop in about thirty seconds before he became as hot as that whistling pot on the stove. He gave her shoulders a final squeeze.

“Yo, I gotta jet,” Zan said, getting up.

Syn quickly stood too, unmindful of the noticeable jiggle of her covered breasts. “Why?”

“There’s something I gotta do.”

“That sounds familiar,” she said, frowning. “What – ?“

“You better get that before you run out of water.”

He looked like he was going to leave as soon as she turned her back, and what she wanted became clear to her. “I gotta ask you something first,” she blurted out before turning off the stove.

“Well, what is it?” He was anxious to leave now. The memory of her peach taste was creeping into his mouth.

Looking directly into his eyes, Syn stepped very close to him and stated her request.

Zan blinked. “I know I ain’t just heard you right.”

“I’m not asking it because I’m trying to tease you. And…and I know this is like - an abrupt about-face on my part, but I just want to share…” Her voice tailed away under his intense scrutiny. “I’m sorry. This is crazy! Forget I said anything. Like you said before, it’s been a long day – “

“Stop.”

She stood before him, looking lost.

“So I heard you right,” he said softly, brushing her hair back. Okay, it wasn’t nothing he hadn’t done before. It wasn’t nothing at all compared to all the stuff he’d done. Certainly, he could handle this. Right? Anyway, a king had to have self-control. If he couldn’t handle this, what could he handle? Definitely not a kingship involving an interplanetary war. “You sure about this?”

For half a second she thought about changing her mind. “Yes, I’m sure.”

He stood watching her, gathering his wits because he’d d*mn sure need ‘em. “I need a big glass of tap water.

“I got chilled water in the fridge.”

“Nah, that’s too cold.”

“Ewww. How can you drink it like that?” But she went ahead and filled a large glass for him. Zan placed it squarely on the table and without missing a beat peeled off his tee. Syn gripped the chair beside her as she drank in the leanly muscled beauty in front of her. Then he smiled that slick grin of his. Devil! Oh g*d, what had she started?

Staring into her eyes as if he could see her every thought, he unbuttoned her cuffs and pushed the blouse off her shoulders and down, tossing it over the back of the other chair. Syn stood with her bra loose but still covering her, staring at him in fascination. Zan trailed a finger from her cheek to the middle of her breasts, missing none of her reaction to him. Then he casually slipped his forefingers underneath the straps at her shoulders and pulled them slowly down her arms, the cotton brushing against her now sensitive nipples making her draw a shaky breath. His gaze wandered down from her face to her round pert breasts and his mouth went dry. Zan’s flow of air was interrupted momentarily and his vision seemed to sharpen like a camera taking a clear picture of his lovely Syndara to store in his memory forever. Lovely. He never used words like that. He never even thought them. But here he was – thinking them. About her. And she was so very lovely to him right now. He took her hands and walked backwards to sit again. Letting her go and watching her with hooded eyes, he leaned back with his legs spread, tapping against the wood between them.

“Come on.”

Her temperature on the rise but trying to conceal it, Syn smiled shyly and moved to sit between his legs. He blocked her descending fanny but was unable to resist a firm squeeze, causing a quiet moan to escape from her. j*sus! She was soft and tight.

“Nah, facing me,” he said gruffly.

Avoiding his piercing gaze, Syn swallowed and then straddled him, resting her forearms on his shoulders. Zan immediately began to knead her thighs through the jeans, getting a good feel and working his way up to clasp her bare waist.

“Look at me,” he demanded. After a moment’s hesitation, she did so and her eyes reached into him to claim his softest part. “Syn…” He didn’t know what he wanted to say so he carefully hugged her fully to him and they both gasped as their flesh connected. They just sat there comfortably, safely - their pulses slowing down a little. Tenderness flooded Zan as he smoothed down her long hair and breathed in her scent. D*mn, she felt like home – the way home was supposed to feel, he guessed.

“How’d you get to be so sweet?” he whispered near her ear.

“Same way you did,” she replied in kind. A sense of peace settled over her. Again, her tough boy surprised her.

They sat like that for a long time just touching each other and whispering little playful, sweet words. It was the most intimate experience Zan ever had. He finally leaned back to look into eyes as slumberous as his but the still waters of desire between them were turning rough. Smiling, he pulled her arms from around his neck and began to rub them sensuously up and down, her breasts soon catching his awestruck attention. “Syn – man, look at you.”

“I’m too small,” she said quietly, observing his possessive look with pleasure.

“Nah, baby, you’re tighter than my pants.”

Looking down at herself, she giggled self-consciously. “Really? But your pants are baggy.”

“Yeah well, I’m running out of room.” He lifted her chin so she could see his seriousness. “You’re beautiful.” His eyelids drooped over twin flames. “Let me show how much, peach.” He tentatively brushed his open palms over her sensitive tips and Syn’s eyelashes fluttered as she gripped his shoulders, enticing him to take her fully in his hands. He gently squeezed her and opening his palms again, he rubbed her in circles before worrying her nipples with the concentrated brushing of his thumbs. And he avidly watched what he did to her. She felt so bare, so caught by him. Syn’s breath came out shallowly as she tried to hug him close like a boxers’ clinch to interrupt his erotic assault, but Zan wouldn’t allow it. However he did give her breasts a small reprieve by gently running his nails down her arms and tracing circles in her palms as he brought them closer and closer to his face, his expression wicked. Oh, he sure likes circles,she thought through a haze of pleasure. She received a jolt when he sucked on her fingers one by one, pinning her with his hot stare. Syn frowned a little and whimpered as if in pain, a plea for more or for mercy.

When he finished his little snack, his hands moved restlessly all over her front, her back and bunched up in her hair as if he was searching for an opening in her that he could crawl into. Syn helplessly arched this way and that to assist him. But then with a naughty smile on her lips, she closed her eyes and touched him back, his sinewy strength so arousing under her eager hands. She would drive him as crazy as he was driving her! She would—.

“Zan!” she cried out raggedly. She clutched his hair while the tip of tongue vigorously teased her taut nipple. She became even wetter - if that were possible - and reflexively moved her knees farther apart in the now uncomfortable jeans, pushing her pelvis tightly against his.

Zan groaned helplessly in reaction. His arms tightened around her, pulling her closer as took as much of her in his mouth as he could. Throwing her head back, Syn cried out again. His tongue swirled around her aureole over and over again before he suckled her wantonly, endlessly. Then he skimmed over to give her other impatiently trembling mound the same thorough treatment. Syn’s gasps and moans kept time with his rhythm that nearly drove her mad with delight.

“Zan, please!” she sobbed, not even knowing what she was asking for, but he was relentless. Only when he paused to rest his head against her shoulder, his breathing erratic, was she able to calm down a little, but then he returned to his torture for little rough licking nips at her aching pebbles and her clit became so tight that it hurt. Syn called out his name again, almost laughing because that’s all she could seem to say, and began to squirm, nearly mindless, but he anchored her to him, moving his mouth eagerly over every inch of her skin that he could reach – all except for her face. And that was driving her crazy too. Unable to stand any more, she dug her nails in his neck just enough to make him pause and hissed, “Stop! It’s my turn.”

Zan’s eyes narrowed at her challengingly until he felt her mouth open on his neck and she started to lick him in long strokes. He gripped her waist tightly. He was already inflamed, already burning for her but she couldn’t tell how much ‘cause he was holding back. He didn’t want to scare her. He didn’t want to lose control ‘cause they weren’t going all the way. She just wanted a li’l bit and it was his pleasure to give it to her. They were just—. Her teeth bit into him and his pelvis jerked involuntarily against her. j*s*s cr*st! The peach was giving him a hickey! And doing it well It was taking all his strength not to make their clothes disappear and join his body to hers right in this chair – forever. Syn Morgan was his! She belonged to him! She…was marking him inside and out.

Heaven help him.

For Syn his unique male taste was so heady it was making her feel both faint and energetic. Her attention suddenly shifted from his delectable neck to examine his tats. On his right upper arm was a large “X” with two small circles at the end of each point. Along his forearm was an elongated eagle and right beneath his collarbone on the left was a blazing sun. Enchanted, Syn felt him up to her heart's content and re-explored the territory with her mouth, his chest rising and falling with his excitement. Syn paused to look at his face. Her sultry eyes swallowed his molten amber stare, and she mimicked his signature cocky smile before fastening her lips on one of his nipples and furtively teasing it. Sucking his breath in sharply, Zan dug his fingers into her sides and pressed his forehead into her hair. Syn lightly raked her nails up and down his back as she continued her tender assault on him. He murmured her name, cursed harshly and burrowed his hands into her hair, pulling her away from him to roughly claim her mouth with his, the chair creaking with the suddenness of his movement. And he was going higher than he ever thought he could go. Right now her mouth was the center of his existence. The more he tasted her, the more his hunger for her grew. She was his glorious end and her image was being tattooed on his insides. He was growing mindless to anything else except these seconds that his tongue was whipping around hers. He had to get inside her. He had to get inside…

Syn wrapped her arms around his neck to accommodate the fury of his passion. Her heart wanted togive him everything, belong to him fully – forever. Only one thing in her life felt more right than this. He was meant for her! He was sent to her. Suddenly she felt a change – inside. Zan was a little bit inside her somehow. She pulled back slightly to see. She found his eyes as drugged by passion as she knew hers was. Then they seemed to become aware of something and questioned her. The special feeling left her immediately.

“No!” she whispered in protest, her hand to his cheek.

Her plea almost did him in. Zan wrapped his hand around her neck, pulling her closer so he could put his face in it. He sighed heavily against her, trying to catch his breath but unable to stop kissing and sucking her gently. He’d done some alien thing to her. He’d crossed a threshold inside her, just past her skin. It was like he was swimming in her and it felt so good. She was intoxicating on the inside. He’d never done that before. He didn’t know he could do it and didn’t know exactly what the h*ll it was. When he healed someone, he just made repairs. He never really touched anybody inside. He’d been out of control with this. What if he had hurt her? He swore aloud, still craving her and wanting to do the alien thing to her again.


“Zan? I – I guess we better…stop now.” It was the last thing she wanted to do. Her head was afraid of what had just happened, but her heart wanted to explore it very much.

He groaned against her in protest, tightening his hold again. It was the very last thing he wanted to do, but she was right. And they were on the same page until he noticed that feverish look growing in her eyes again. “Syn,” he said in a warning tone. His resistance level was zero.

“Just one more kiss,” she breathed against his lips before locking onto them in earnest, sweeping him up into her again. But now he was sensing these colors and knew they were hers – a warm dancing pink that melted into a demanding cobalt blue dotted with blinking silver points of light. What the - ?! But he lost the thought because she was like a storm overtaking him now, making his blood race uncontrollably. His heart was slamming against his ribs. Holding himself back from her was hurting bad and he knew he’d reached his limit. The alien thing was about to happen again and it was like a giant wave coming this time. He desperately broke the kiss off.

“Syn, if we gonna stop, we gotta stop now,” he rasped hoarsely in frustration, his cheek pressed against her temple. “I’m in critical condition here.”

“I’m – I’m sorry,” she managed to get out, trying to slow herself down, but her hands were still moving on him. She knew she was in trouble.

He stroked her hair and laughed huskily. “Nah, don’t be sorry. It’s a’ight.”

He barely heard her say in a trembling whisper, “H-Help me stop!”

If this was torture Zan wanted it to continue. He knew he was only thinking half-straight so he reached over and grabbed the glass of water, covering her hand which was already on it.

“Yaah!” They both gasped aloud as the watered splashed between them and they hugged each other tightly, shaking with a giddy laughter.

“g*d, that was cold!”

“Nah, baby, you just so hot. Hold on.” He slipped his hands under her hiney and stood up. She automatically wrapped her legs around him and they were eye to eye. She smiled trustingly at him and lingered at the kiss she placed on his cheek. Her affection was turning him all the way on again. If danger was a fruit, it’d be a peach, man! He became still and stared until her expression turned equally serious.

“Are you sure? ‘Cause we can go over to that bed and do this. I can make it so right for you, peach.”

Passion flared up afresh in Syn, making her eyes heavy-lidded. Zan felt a tremor start in his legs as she kept him waiting, wanting. Finally she sighed heavily, leaning her forehead on his shoulder and slowly letting her legs slide down to dangle against him. Not exactly the green light he was hoping for. He stood her carefully on her feet and without looking at her handed over her blouse, a tick working fiercely in his jaw. He was still burning.

Wordlessly, Syn buttoned up the blouse, forgetting the bra. She was burning too. She wanted him so much! But it was happening too fast. Syn liked to choose to act after careful thought and there was nothing thoughtful about passion. There was something that she couldn’t put her finger on – the same something she'd been determined to find out before. She sensed that strange feeling of him merging into her had something to do with the mystery, but for some reason she couldn’t ask him about it now – as if his answer would cause changes she wasn’t ready for. Or was her synesthesia producing side effects now?

“I think you know that I want to but…” she began, looking at his averted face. “Zan.”

He turned to her then, more or less under control. “It’s a’ight, baby. It’s like that sometimes. Plus, that’s not what you asked me for.” He touched her cheek. “I enjoyed doing what we did, yo. Call me up anytime for a repeat performance.” He knew he was full of it ‘cause he d*mn sure couldn’t go this far again without taking all of her.

Syn tried to read his calm expression. “I don’t have your number.”

“Gimme yours.”

“Give me yours.”

He gestured his regret. “Sorry. No phone.”

“Don’t bullsh*t me, Zan,” she snapped. “If you intend to disappear into the night and never see me again, just say so. Let’s not go through a corny script. This ain’t no Gene Kelly musical.” He backed her up slowly against the wall. “Come on. Stop playing. Leave if you’re gonna go. I’m tired.”

“What you trying to say? You tired of me?”

His mouth was so close. Would he start the madness yet again? No, she couldn’t take any more. She stared up at him bewildered, the whimsy of her whole experience with him suddenly coming down on her. “Who are you, Zan? Why are you here?”

“I’m somebody you don’t know,” he heard himself say. “But you know why I’m here.” He ran a hand from her neck down her arm and watched her shiver. “Gimme them digits and I’ll tell you all about me sometime. Or should I just pop up at your door any old time I…get the urge?”

“You are so friggin smug! You need to sing for supper sometimes, boy.”

Zan looked thoughtful. “Hm, I could do that.”

Syn’s face lit up. “You can sing?”

“Maybe.”

“Well, do it!”

“Nah,” he said grinning broadly and backing up.

“Why not?”

“’Cause I only sing over the phone, so I guess you’ll never have the pleasure.”

“Tck! Slickster. Wait here.” She went to get a pen and paper. “I know you not gonna call, so don’t think I’m gonna be waiting by the phone.”

“Mm-hm,” he murmured smugly, taking the piece of paper from her.

They just stood staring at one another until Zan pulled her to him for a surprise onslaught of passion. “Your lips are too sweet. I could just eat ‘em up,” he whispered against her ending in a low growl.

Even as the heat flooded her abdomen again, Syn looked up at him a little sadly. “I don’t like pain.”

He pulled away after one more kiss on her forehead. “I’ll remember that.”

Then he was out the door and leaping down a bunch of steps at a time. Syn squinted after him. Too many. It was odd-looking the way he did it – like it was easy. He was landing too lightly. The way he moved was like magic or something. Syn shook her head. She was being fanciful. Had Zan kissed her senseless? She needed to relax her nerves because he'd strung her out like wire. Her skin was tingling and her body was still ready for him. She didn’t want to think or analyze. That would definitely come in the morning after Mass. All she wanted now was peace.

Syn took a cool shower, climbed into bed, and watched a little late night TV in an attempt to feel normal. It didn’t work so she cut everything off, turned over to face the window, and said a quick prayer. Finally, she fell into a dreamless oblivion.






[ edited 2 time(s), last at 4-May-2002 8:12:13 PM ]
posted on 4-May-2002 8:29:28 PM
part nine


“Sneddy, you holding me up.”

Sneddy was squinting around the dance floor at the BlackJuice. “Aw, what’s another half hour? Your man’ll be there like always.”

“You still looking for that little blond b*tch that d*mn near punched your head into your f*cking neck?” Dawdek sneered. “You got a lot of blond pick through in here, ya know?”

Sneddy scowled at him briefly then returned his attention to his search. “At least I ain’t stalking mines like a f*cking freak all in love ‘n’ sh*t. What the f*ck’s next? You gonna call her daddy and ask for her hand? Huh! You acting like a li’l b*tch yourself.” Suddenly Sneddy screamed, doubling over in pain and holding his right cheek. The music was so loud and the place so dark that no one paid any attention.

Dawdek was dragging him away by the collar. Sneddy struggled but the other man was too strong forhim to resist. They stopped under a dim light near the men’s room and Dawdek brought his face close to Sneddy’s, drenched in blood. “I think you forgot who I am and who you are. Never mind about what the f*ck I do or who with. All you got to know is where my money is when I come to collect.” Dawdek stepped back, closing his barber’s razor as he watched Sneddy curse and rock back and froth against the wall. “Sneddy, I think I want my fifteen bucks for your haircut after all.”

“F*ck you!” Sneddygasped out.

The other laughed grimly. “You do got balls. But how about I fix up you up so only your mom will love ya, huh?” he said , opening the razor again.

“Dawdek, man, you coming or what?” said another guy rushing up to them. “g*ddamn, what’s this?!” he exclaimed, backing away.

This is none of your business, Ross, unless you want it to be.”

Ross stared wide-eyed in disgust. “All I want, dude, is to make some money tonight. You all up in here ‘Slingblading’ ‘n’ sh*t. D*mn, I’m getting sick! Sneddy, man, you better get to the ER up the street.”

Dawdek let the wounded man move quickly away and then left with Ross who watched him warily. Dawdek ignored him. He was glad his man wanted a hit tonight because he was running low on cash. He smiled in anticipation, thinking about this week coming. He had a sweet little flower he was ready to pluck.

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


Korn was walking nervously around the outside of Penn Station at 1am, chain smoking like mad. He hated to be kept waiting. He’d been circling the station for half an hour now waiting for his new dealer. His old one had relocated to Miami and recommended 'D.H.', who always had the good stuff but was rarely on time. Korn had gotten into the habit of telling him to come a half hour earlier than he meant. It worked for a while. Korn pursed his lips in annoyance. Humans. The only thing he wanted from this planet was the drugs. There was nothing like them in the Gamma sector. Yes, they recreational drugs back home but only those persons with the highest clearance could get near the quality stuff. The next best thing was becoming the light. He snorted humorlessly. His growth was so stunted from the years he spent on Earth that he had probably lost the ability to make the change.

Korn heard a shuffling step behind him and, pivoting quickly, threw up a protective shield. It was only a mangy German Shepherd which cocked its head quizzically and then probably deciding the situation was too weird, trotted quickly away. Korn brought his hand down wearily letting it smack against his thigh. What was a dog doing around here alone anyway? Midtown Manhattan wasn’t exactly stray animal-friendly. He threw the butt in his mouth on the ground, mashing it with his heel. He lit another smoke and continued his brisk walk. A year on this planet was like three – figuratively. And what’s worse was, they lied to him. ‘Redeem yourself with this assignment and you won’t be shunned anymore and when you finally return home you can take Ena and Habad with you.’ Ena and Habad. Dear Venn in Serenity! Were those two even still alive? Or had they been used down to nothing – especially lovely little Ena? A shaft of grief went through Korn and he stopped to lean against the wall to gain his composure. Two hobos nearby whispered to one another and stealthily approached him. When he looked at them and bent his neck at an inhuman angle so that his right ear was pressed against his chest, they quickly changed their minds about whatever and scurried away. Humans. All these years posing as one. All these years being a shapeshifter. The only thing worse was being a damnable Skin! They were like vampires and those kuggs were almost all completely in the hands of Khivar. If there was a ‘hell,’ as the humans called it, it could never be hot as hot as that cursed peturgot deserved! Damnable kugg! Korn angrily spat out saliva and the nearly whole cigarette and started walking again.

He had a hard decision to make and Korn was not good at making decisions. He was not much good at anything really. Why else would he have been sent to protect the Royal Four…er, rather the Royal Rejects? But…they were still of royal blood and therefore deserved homage, ragged and uncouth though they were. And they blamed him for not being there when they came out. Well, that was his fault because he had ODed and Timon put him underground for a slow resuscitation instead of just using the Vennd*mn healing stones. Hateful bastard! If he ever got the opportunity to kill Timon, he would.

When had all the lies ended, if ever? Korn regretted that his own stupidity proved to be longer lasting. They told him that the East Coast hybrids were the perfected ones and the West Coasters were only the prototypes and backups. Sometime in the middle of his ten year drug haze, he figured out that it just wasn’t possible. They would never send a known addict (socially functional though he was) to protect the key to the future of not only the Kieohl solar system but the whole damnable Gamma sector. Then when he confronted his superiors with his belated realization (stupid!), they threw Ena and Habad’s names in his face and told him they would be better off if he never revealed that or anything else to his charges. They didn’t care what his hybrids did or what happened to them as long as they were kept alive and didn’t relocate to - say…Alabama or somewhere like that. So they sent a throwaway to guard the throwaways. And to think he thought he’d prove to everyone back home that he wasn’t a zero. Hah! All that he proved was that he’d always be second rate and that he was easily duped – so to speak. He should have known the deal when they sent Timon to guard the other four. Timon went by another name on Earth – Nasedo. Korn smiled grimly. No one knew he knew that. One up for him. Great. But the worst thing for him was knowing now, without a shadow of a doubt, that they never intended to return his younger brother and sister. They didn’t intend for him to leave Earth - ever. And that crash in ’47 was no accident. Vennd*mned Timon!

Korn leaned against the wall again and slid to the ground, tired of thinking and wanting a fix so bad. That’s when out of the corner of his eye he saw a junkie preparing to shoot up behind a dumpster. Korn could smell the heroin. It wasn’t crack but it was the next best thing. Looking around carefully, he made a fairly easy decision this time, an ugly smile spreading across his preppy-handsome face. As the junkie was tightening the rubber around his upper arm his jaw dropped when Korn walked right up on him.

“Here,” Korn said, taking the needle from him. “Are you trying to kill yourself? If you want to escape from this reality –which I can relate to, believe me – let me give you a free one-wayticket.” He punched the other man’sheart out of place and he died almost instantly.

Korn immediately stuck the needle into his own throat and pressed the pump, pushing poison into him. With a sigh he finally yanked the needle out, throwing it to the ground. It was less messy paying dealers instead of robbing them and their clients. He didn’t want to leave a trail of bodies, risking discovery of him and his charges. Besides killing humans wasn’t all that amusing anymore, so he rarely bothered. He stood looking around blankly, waiting for the stuff to take effect. But it wasn’t enough. Would anything ever be enough? No, but perhaps he could get some revenge for that. He had an idea.

He suddenly squinted at a figure walking towards him. He smiled mirthlessly. D.H. Great. He’d get his stuff, then have a little chat with the dupe king of Antar - planet of petargots and kuggs.

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


Zan left the Miata on the Upper West Side near where he originally took it and caught the train back. He took a corner seat, propping his feet up on the one in front of him and staring blankly out the window. What was he gonna do? That paper with her number on it was burning into his thigh. She had completely turned him out. His body refused to calm down and it was d*mned uncomfortable. And somehow the craving to be near her was separate from his desire for her body. He felt like going back and asking her if he could just sleep in her bed – just sleep, if she really didn’t want nothing else. Sh*t, he’d sleep on the floor beside her, clutching her friggin slippers. He remembered them. They were covered in pink satin and fur. Zan smiled ruefully, almost laughing aloud. D*mn, he was putting the ‘–ipped’ in whipped right about now but he didn’t much care. He was all on fire for Syn Morgan. He had to have her soon, plain and simple. The thing was, there wasn’t nothing plain or simple about him being with her. Why was that so easy to forget?

As Zan got off at Canal Street and jumped down among the tracks and into the tunnel to walk the rest of the way, he realized he wasn’t thinking straight. There was no way he could do Syn and not end up revealing everything about himself. And he couldn’t spill the beans. He didn’t want none of that alien sh*t to touch her. Well, he liked being inside her but all that other space stuff…no way. He wanted her to want him in spite of what he was, and it wouldn’t be right to take her without her knowing what he was. It would be like stealing her love and he - . Her love? Oh. No. He swallowed hard. Was that it? Had he completely tripped himself up and fallen in love this girl? What else could turn him into such a friggin cornball like this? If it wasn’t love, it was still just asbad. Aww, sh*t…!

Zan stopped short in his tracks when he heard shallow breathing nearby. Then he saw the colors – orange, black and gray rings circling each other fast. It was some weird dizzy-looking sh*t and it felt like…Drakorin. Zan walked over towards where he felt the presence.

“Korn, what the f*ck are you doing here?”

There was a weak high-pitched twitter and right now Zan had no patience for Korn’s eccentricities. He raised a hand and lit up an old long-dead lamp in the wall.

“Ahhgg!” Korn covered his eyes. “If you know it’ssss meeeee, Your Hiiiiighness, why must you make light to see me?” He laughed strangely again, saying, “Light bright sun kite b*tch fight…Ha-Ha!”

“I knew it!” Zan exclaimed. “You a straight up crack fiend. We ain’t never caught you in ten years, but here you are. A d*mned junkie for a protector.” Zan shook his head, disgusted. “But when what you’re protecting don’t mean sh*t, it makes sense, don’t it?”

Korn rose up awkwardly, finally bracing himself against the filthy wall. He was still smiling that goofy smile when something startling seemed to dawn on him. He jumped away from the wall. “Yahg!” He snatched his long jacket off and began shaking it violently. “This is disgusting!” When he put it back on, suddenly he was calmand stoic. “Zan, have you met with the emissary yet?”

“Korn, you know what I don’t appreciate?”

The shapeshifter cocked his head. “Several things actually but which are you referring to this time?”

“Eh, this time it’s two things. One is your smart f*cking mouth. I’m getting ready to remove that sh*t off your face. The second thing is the rest of you. You said you wouldn’t be back until after the summit. Why am I looking at you right now?” He stepped menacingly closer. “This time think before you answer me.”

Korn bowed low before him. “Of course, Your Highness. There’s something you should know before you return home to Antar – one of the reasons why the war has lasted so long...” He paused dramatically, pressing his luck. But Zan just stared at him coldly and the silence stretched out, rattling Korn’s nerves. “Antar has a, um, a rather l-lucrative trade. In fact this trade is what gave Antar a position of dominance in the Gamma sector.” He hesitated again, watching the hybrid king carefully.

“So far you ain’t saying nothing, shapeshifter. You’re wasting my time,” Zan warned in an ominously low voice. He just about had it with this trick fool.

“It’s a slave trade,” Korn replied quickly.

“What?”

“Slavery. It’s Antar’s top trade.” Korn watched himslyly. “I thought it was something you should know.”

“Did you? So you think now, huh? Well, what the f*ck madeyou think this now?”

“Because it’s child slavery and two members of my family have been sold into it.” Just saying it out loud upset Korn and he forgot himself as his voice rose. “Child slavery! Do you understand that? The younger the better! Against the wishes of the council I thought you should be made aware of the fine sh*t you’ll be ruling over. Everything you own, everything your family has accomplished in the last three hundred years has been financed and otherwise made possible because of it. You and the ruling class,” he spat out bitterly. “Not to mention the ancillary benefits of having your own prepubescent harem of young flesh, male and female…” In half a second Korn was flat on his back with Zan’s hand splayed over his face and slowly increasing the painful pressure. If he keeps this up, he’ll crush my primary nerve – no great loss anyway, he thought dully, ready to die. However the king’s contorted face was unpleasant to behold.

In a voice that raised the hairs on Korn’s skin, Zan snarled, “Lying son of a b*tch! Why should I believe anything you say?” He wanted to kill him for what he said. But even then he sensed a grayish blue circle and somehow knew it meant Korn was telling the truth. Zan eased the pressure off his face just enough to hear his muffled answer.

“B-because I don’t care…anymore. You can believe…it or not! N-now you know what you are.”

Zan dragged him straight up by the throat against the wall, his feet dangling. “You’re a g*ddamn liar!”

“Am I? You’ll find out when you go back. If you go back.” And Korn laughed which was painful to do while choking to death.

It was more than Zan could stand. Without even thinking he gripped the sides of Korn’s head andclosed his eyes. Korn grabbed hiswrists in a panic, trying futilely to pull them away. Zan had gotten inside his head because he took him unawares. How did he know how to do that? He was searching through his memories but hadn’t gotten too far. The hybridis strong, too strong. Korn nearly bit through his own lip trying tohide most of his memories.

Zan didn’t know how he was doing it but he perceived himself – his alien self – in one of Korn’s memories. It wasn’t a clear picture like a movie. It wasn’t even a picture. It was…disturbing, but he knew it was him –temporarily in solid form like the others. He was at the trade house next to the palace. Many prominent citizens were there bowing before him as they passed by to check out the wares – children. All different races of children, even Antarians related to the dissidents on his planet. Looking into Drakorin Vosh-Hetel’s memory of this event, Zan could see that this was normal - that most thought nothing was wrong with this business. Then he saw himself – well, the real full-blooded Antarian king – walking over to a young female child, about five Earth years, and leading her away… Suddenly the memory disappeared. Zan’s breathing was labored and he was feeling that nausea again for the second time in his life. He shook Korn hard.

“Let me see the rest, d*mn you!”

“There’s n-nothing more! I certainly didn’t…follow you and the child. I would’ve been…beaten or w-worse,” the shapeshifter squeaked out hoarsely. With a snarl of anger Zan threw Korn and he landed hard a good ten meters away. By the time he shook his head and came to himself, Zan was standing over him.


“Listen to me very carefully. You’re gonna give me the 411 about everything or I’m going back inside your head and then I’m gonna hard scramble it on my way out. You understand me?” He smiled coldly again at the sullen shapeshifter. “Somehow I know how to do that. Go figure, huh?” For the next half hour Zan grimly saw that grayish blue…

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


Okay, not such a dreamless sleep after all.

Syn woke up throbbing and she turned over in bed moaning. That dream she had about Zan…well, it wasn’t exactly proper for a Sunday morning! Whew! She counted slowly to twenty and took an ice cold shower this time because in her dream they held nothing back from each other. Nothing. And she could feel in the dream that she loved him – so much… Syn turned the water off abruptly. Love. Was that it? Did she love Zan after such a short time - this stranger whose mouth set her on fire. Wasn’t it just lust? She stepped out of the shower and dried off quickly, still feeling tender in some places. What an ugly word – lust. She understood a guy getting her a little hot, but this feeling she had for him… It was more than that nagging physical itch a dog could ease by rubbing against a chair leg. No, she remembered it felt like they were permanently bound to one another – just like whenever they were really together. She leaned her head against the doorjamb of the bathroom. Oh g*d, please. She couldn’t love him! She still didn’t know him.

That first night he kissed you, you said you did know him.

That was just a dreamy goo-goo ga-ga thought. He’d just kissed me into next week! I might have said anything.

Roman was a great kisser but he never made you feel this way and he’s almost as hot as Zan when he wants to be. Face it. It’s just like you said. You’re bound to him, whoever he is – for better or for worse.

Shut. Up. You’re crazy! And so am I. Why am I talking to myself?

Syn hurriedly put on a dark blue blouse and a black pencil skirt that didn’t look as demure as she wanted since she was a little too curvy for it. She twisted in front of the mirror. Well, it looked okay a month ago when she last wore it. Was all the food going to her butt or what? Sighing, she slipped on her black pumps. She didn’t have time to change. It was her turn to be the lector at today’s 10am Mass. Before leaving she tried to call Mack to see if he’d come with her but there was no answer. She was worried about him. And she kinda wanted company but knew better than to call Lucia or Wheat this early on a Sunday morning.

It was a little brisk outside but the sky was pretty and clear, a classic fall day. As Syn strolled toward the subway entrance, she wondered if Zan would have come to church with her. He probably wasn’t a morning person either but she smiled to herself thinking he might agree to do it just because she asked him. She can’t believe she let him get away without giving her his number! Everybody living in the city had a phone, right? Shees!

She performed her duties at the service without a hitch and as usual was full of peace when she exited the church doors. However, she didn’t know what she wanted to do next. She didn’t really want to go back home but in her heart she really wanted to be there for that phone call. You know, the one that probably wouldn’t come. See, this is the part of the male/female ritual she hated! Waiting for those calls at the very beginning of a new…acquaintance. Ugh! Syn stood just inside the subway station, trying to decide which train to get on. Did she want to stroll around the park or window shop at Saks? No, maybe one of her friends wanted to hang out. Then again if she went out at all she’d miss The Call. If he called. D*mn!

Syn practically stomped down to the platform of the train that would take her home. She should never have pursued those vibes! He mattered too much to her already after just a couple of wild kisses, a few synesthetic flavors and one date. L*rd help her! And she had even more questions to ask him now than before. Well, her attraction to him wouldn’t sidetrack her next time. If there was a next time. D*mn!

After an hour of sitting around in comfy clothes, sipping Strawberry tea, and trying to read The Duchess of Malfi for her English class Syn couldn’t take anymore – not with that gorgeous sunlight streaming through her window. It was ridiculous to spend a fine Sunday afternoon waiting for Zan like a groupie. Funk dat! Sticking her tongue out at the phone, she snatched up the receiver, her frown deepening each time she dialed a number. Lucia’s cousin Ricky said she went out on a date with a sheikh. What the - ? Nah,she wasn’t even gonna speculate. She’d re-enter L.G. World soon enough. Wheat was still in bed and was just intelligible enough for Syn to understand that he had band practice. Mary Beth was working and Tré’Shevette had strep throat. And Mack still didn’t answer.

Syn threw on some blue jeans and a tee shirt. She’d go out alone then. No problem. As she reached for her jacket the phone rang. Ohmyg*d! Ohmyg*d! Ohmyg*d! Oh, I am such a dork!

“Hello!” There was a pause. She knew instantly that it wasn’t him and felt so deflated.

“That’s some ‘hello’. I hope I was the one on your mind.”

“Oh hi, Roman.”

He sighed. “Guess not.”

“What’s up?”

“What you doing?”

“Nothing.”

“Wanna do it with me? Ha-Ha!”

“Okay, I’m hanging up.”

“Wait! That’s not what I meant.”

“It must be because you seem certain it’s what I thought you meant, meaning you were obviously implying it therefore that is what you meant.”

“Okay, so to make amends, I’ll go corny on ya and ask you out for ice cream and a walk in the park. My Dad’s been treating me like a punk and I need to clear my head. Besides, don’t they have that Shakespeare-in-the-Park on Sundays? I know you love that stuff.”

“That’s in the spring. It’s kinda chilly out, Roman.”

“It’s not that bad. Plus, you slurp up ice cream all year round. Maple Walnut’s still your favorite, right?”

“I do not slurp.” Syn hesitated only for a second. She was in the mood for some ice cream. “Okay, I’ll go.”

“Cool. I’ll pick you up in fifteen minutes. Alright?”

“Okay.”

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


Zan suddenly sat straight up in the dark, still feeling an ebbing excitement. A sheen of sweat covered his nude body. He swung his legs to the side of the slat serving as a bed where they dangled two meters from the floor. He'd spent the morning here in an abandoned windowless storage room underground and not far from the pod crib. He cleaned the place up a year ago and turned it into another one of his private spots. The clock said 1:37pm. It was early yet.

His dream about Syn felt so real. He dreamt about what they did last night. He dreamt they didn’t stop. It was incredible! A tremor went through him and he rubbed his face and the back of his neck. He was drained and he was full. If loving her in a dream made him feel this way, what would it be like to have Syn Morgan for real. Would he lose his mind in her and never find it again? Because that’s what it seemed like. He still felt her skin against his lips – his delight in marking her as he inhaled her scent. Marking her with…hickies! Oh sh*t! He leaped down. Were they glowing on her now? They weren’t before he left her, but he should have passed a hand over her just in case. But of course his mind was somewhere else.

Zan went to a little side shed to shower. Alien technology came in handy in the sewers. Anyway he had an excuse to call her after he decided he wasn’t going to – ever. All that sh*t Korn laid on him really f*cked him up in his head and if it weren’t for Syn being in there too, he was sure he’d have done something stupid and desperate by now. But he had plenty of time for that - maybe the rest of his life if what the alien crackhead said was true. Zan's lips twisted disgustedly. He had to find out for sure because that sh*t couldn’t be true! But Korn honestly thought it was. Even now Zan’s mind – and his soul (because he must have one to feel this kind of pain) – recoiled from the shapeshifter’s revelations, delivered in a monotone that made them seem worse.

Zan swiftly dressed in some fresh clothes, going for the most intimidating look. He filled his face with metal and made his hair spike up straight like needles. The question smashing around in his head relentlessly now, overpowering the Syn-feeling, made him feel dead and dangerous. Was the essence in him – Zan Kapol shar-Kelos Hod, fourteenth Kapolite king of Antar – was he a mothaf*cking pedophile?? He had to know the absolute truth because that would change everything. Thoughts of Syndara slipped to the forefront of his mind again. cr*st, she was like a part of him now. But he couldn’t sully her with the son of a b*tch that was in him – that was him. But g*ddammit, it wasn’t him!

Zan looked around the room wildly, the rage boiling up in him. He whispered savagely, “I would never - !”, and put his fist in the wall, making a seven-inch hole in the solid packed earth. He leaned his head against it for a few minutes with his eyes closed. Then grabbing his jacket he stormed out, feeling out of control and trapped inside an alien.



part ten


Suddenly he was somewhere else. His vision took a minute to focus and it was almost as if something was trying to keep him unconscious but his drift to the surface was easy. It was like waking up from a deep sleep. He felt something soft on his chest -- distinctly feminine. Then a voice came towards him as if coming the cotton balls and then everything, sight and sound were clear but Mack was still just along for the ride. Someone else was speaking through him.

"...know I don't want Khivar, baby. He was too friggin controlling. Never wanted to smell the daisies or nothing. I ain't doing all this to go back to being his beck 'n' call lap dancer. Princess Sex Slave. F*ck that sh*t!" Lonnie stroked his chest gently, belying her angry words.

"Are you sure?" Mack heard himself say. "Because I would understand if you resumed your...liaison with him -- temporarily."

Lonnie rose up on her elbow and leaned over him. "What are you saying, Larek?"

Larek/Mack sighed. "I'm saying we have to get him in a complacent mood. And Sartor too."

"Nicholas?"

"Yes."

"Oh, so you think you gonna pimp me? Listen, I've f*cked all three of y'all but I did it when I wanted to do it, not as a part of nobody's intergalactic plans."

"Didn't you just say--?"

"I wanted Khivar then, a'ight? But I don't now and that's that. And I might not want you anymore either cuz you really working my d*mn nerves right about now."

"How's your brother?" he asked impatiently. "He still doesn't remember as much as you do, right?"

Lonnie lay back. "No, cuz he'd'a been said something. Anyway, he's glacial as usual.

"He wasn't always that way." Larek put a hand behind his head and stared blankly up at the ceiling. "Are we still on for this week, Vilandra?" Lonnie didn't answer him immediately and he looked quickly over at her. "You aren't having second thoughts, are you? Because this isn't a good time for your rather meager filial loyalty to kick in."

"F*ck you, Larek! What's with the third degree? If we not on for next week, I guess you'll find out next week. Sh*t."

He leaned over her, staring into her face and stroking her cheek. Both affection and warning in his eyes. "Don't toy with me, Princess." He traced her upper lip. "Yes, I'm near crazy about you, but there are more important things at stake than losing myself in your wet heat. Remember that, Princess." He smiled with amusement when she thrust him away.

"You dog! The flick of your d*mn lying tongue don't make or break my world either. So you remember that sh*t. You just a f*ckstop on my way to Antar and the business I need to take care of. Humph!" She turned over away from him and silence reigned.

Finally Larek spoke. "Oh really?"

"Yeah, really."

Larek suddenly flipped over and positioned himself between her legs and she instantly became full there of the wet heat he mentioned. Her breath came out in a hiss as she reached down and grabbed his hair. "I guess my 'd*mn lying tongue' should just humbly do the other thing it does best...

[center]***** ***** *****[/center]

At about 10pm Roman pulled up in front of Syn's apartment. Syn was bone tired. She hadn't expected to spend all day with him but he needed to talk and, when he wasn't talking, to just have company. She looked over at his hands flexing agitatedly on the wheel. Actually, she'd enjoyed spending the day with this emotionally open Roman Duvane.

"Thanks for keeping me company today," he said, staring stoically at his hands.

"Well, we all need that sometimes."

"Yeah. You, um, give pretty good advice too."

Syn smiled. "I wasn't trying to tell you how to feel but--"

"No, I know that. You made a lot of sense." He shut off the car and propped his arm against the door, staring pensively out the window.

"You still don't want to go home, do you?"

"Not really. My Pops is probably still up and he'll just start on me again as I walk in the door. I just don't feel like any more of his sh*t right now."

Syn was quiet a moment. It was on the tip of her tongue to ask him if he wanted to come up but two thoughts involuntarily sprang to mind: (1) no other guy should get 'Zan's invite' (Syn rolled her eyes at herself) and (2) nobody changed completely overnight. Roman might be acting like a decent dude right now but -- had she not noticed his amorous glances in her direction at least three times today when he thought she couldn't see? Hm.

Turning to her he said dejectedly. "Can I come up for a while, Syn?"

She was about to answer in the negative when a strong vibe went straight through her in a wild hot rush that almost pushed her into the passenger door. What the--? No definite form yet but it was getting closer. There! Purple. A swirling purple folding in on itself rapidly and totally without peace. The gold edges seemed to cut into the purple mercilessly.

It was Zan and something was wrong. Very wrong.

“Um, Roman, I’ve got a long day ahead tomorrow and I gotta be up at like, 6am. Plus, I need to do the laundry and st—“

Roman quickly held her head and kissed her thoroughly - tongue and all. Nice but so not Zan and so unwanted. The gold and purple were positively boiling now. Syn wrenched away.

"Roman, you have to leave now."

"Why you getting all bent out of shape? It was just a kiss...Hey, what are you looking all around for?"

"Look we'll, ah, talk all about whatever tomorrow. I just really need you to leave - now." Syn quickly climbed out of the Pathfinder. "Good night!" she said briskly, waving him away.

Roman looked at her steadily with annoyance. "You know, there was a time when my kiss didn't creep you out. In fact, it was just the opposite."

"Yeah, I know. Now leave."

"Are we even still on for Thursday?" he snapped.

The purple faded into a stormy magenta, spread out wide and undulating very erratically. It was rolling towards them and picking up speed. Good l*rd! "Roman, would you just get the h*ll out of here?! The English I'm using is very clear. j*s*s!"

With his jaw set he switched on the ignition and without another word shot away with a screech of tires. For a split second she stared after him regretfully but hurting his feelings was better than a confrontation between him and Zan. Or between herself and Zan, for that matter. She hurried over to the apartment door, unlocked it and pushed when suddenly the door pushed her back and locked itself. What the--?!

“{---}, baby?”

It was a quiet voice full of sharp apple cider and anger. The speaker wasn't more than a foot behind her. Syn was glad she didn't visibly jump and remained facing the door.

"Am I supposed to understand all these different languages you speak?" she asked in a low voice.

"Yeah, you are. I asked you what's your hurry. Didn't you feel me coming for you?"

Oh, his voice sounded positively unholy! Futilely Syn picked as discretely as possible at the lock, the hairs rising on her neck now that she was certain Zan made it close - somehow. Her question from what seemed to be way back when filled her mind. Who or what was Zan Kapol really? "No hurry," she said evenly. "It's just late and I'm tired."

"Tired from what? Turn around," he demanded in a hard voice which aroused her own temper.

He was friggin out of line and she was gonna put him in check! When Syn turned she backed quickly away, barely holding in a startled gasp. She'd never seen him look so wild. He began to circle her widely and slowly, never taking his glaring eyes off her. She kept turning to keep him in sight.

"What is wrong with you, Zan?"

"Why would something be wrong, Syndara?" His circles were getting smaller.

D*mn, he was closing in on her! "Stop this! Look, you saw Roman kiss me. It didn't mean anything."

Zan stood still and several different emotions flickered one after another in his fiery hazels but his voice was steady and unyielding. "Uh-huh. I guess last night didn't mean sh*t to you either."

"Okay, you're in a nasty mood and I don't have to deal with it. I know I didn't do anything to put you in it so...good night."

He laughed coarsely, blocking the door. "Nah, it ain't no good night, baby. And it ain't nowhere near over. Not hardly," he sneered. "So were you gonna invite the muthafucka up for tea and cookies?"

A warning glint came into Syn's eyes. "Be careful, Zan. Stop while you're three steps behind. You don't have any rights over me. We're not together. Now move out of my way." Was that pain she saw in his eyes and did it tug just as painfully at her heart, making her want to comfort him in any way he needed? His next words said no and no.

"Answer my g*dd*mn question!" he snarled at her. "Are you wet for him right now? Were you gonna let him eat you out until you screamed my g*dd*mn name?"

Syn smacked his face, trembling with anger and strangely -- grief. "Watch your d*mn mouth! Who the h*ll do you think you are?!"

Zan jerked her hard against him , his arms binding her tightly. "Let me show you!" He held the back of her neck with one large hand and kissed her fiercely, his tongue stud and lip rings abrasive against her mouth, but Syn kept it clamped shut. If she opened it to cuss him out, he'd dive in and she'd be lost. When she pushed somewhat halfheartedly at his chest, he put both hands into her hair and pulled her head back to expose her neck. After sucking on her chin, he nipped along the now prominent vein on one side of her neck then soothed the little wounds with the bathing caress of his tongue. As he moved to the other side for a repeat performance, Syn closed her eyes, trying to resist her rising passion for him. When he yanked up her tee shirt, her eyes flew open to collide with his stormy ones.

"Zan--!"

He immediately slipped his tongue inside her mouth, holding her face still. A soft voice in her head sobbed out her love for him and with a little moan, she surrendered to it and him, wrapping her arms around him. Zan's kiss was demanding, relentless, desperate...as if he were trying to take her inside himself. Syn began to rub his back and tried communicate with her lips the tenderness in her heart for him, trying to calm him. And slowly his kiss gentled, but he gave her lips no rest as if he were afraid they'd disappear the moment he let up.

"Zan, it's alright. Please!" she managed to gasp out, her mouth feeling like it'd been in a marathon. It's a wonder their jewelry didn't get stuck together.

He groaned against her, finally letting her come up for air but still hugging her to him, kissing her hair and playing in it. "You wore your hair out. For him?" he asked in a passion-roughened voice tinged with pain.

"No! Zan, what? Is? Wrong? You have to talk to me," Syn said a little hoarsely.

"Nothing. Nothing. I'm sorry. I just came here to--" He broke off and just stared at her.

Syn absently continued to rub him in a loose hug. "You're not making any sense tonight."

"Yeah, I know," he said bitterly.

Syn pulled back. "And you've been rude as sh*t. I don't allow guys -- or anybody -- to talk to me like that. I might be feeling you 'n' all but feelings can fade -- quickly."

"So you feeling me, huh?"

"Um, not right now, no -- so keep it zippered up, k?"

Zan expression turned stony. "You wasn't feeling me too much earlier either. I was calling you and looking for you all d*mn day. I knew you was somewhere in that d*mn park. I felt you. Now I find you sucking face with Fake-Ass Name Boy. D*mn, you was just with me last night. I mean, what the f*ck?"

Syn's jaw set. Love or no love, he had to be checked. "I'll tell you 'what the f*ck'! I - (Oh l*rd! You got me cussing on Sunday. j*s*s!) - Mr. Don't Have A Phone, did you really expect me to sit around waiting like a tree? I told you I wasn't. What don't you understand? I mean, I do have other things to do."

"Like what -- or who?"

"Like let me finish and stop being an ass! You have no right running up on me like a gorilla, looking like -- like an evil Edward Scissorhands 'n' sh*t (which isn't working for you fashionwise) and talking all crazy to me like you lost your d*mn mind! Unless there's something I missed, we ain't betrothed or nothing. And you won't even tell me straight out what's wrong. Then you...start kissing me. Don't try to mix romance with asininity." While Syn paused to catch her breath, Zan smirked at her in amusement. "Man, it's not f*cking funny! I should kick your ass!"

When she gave him a shove, he held up his hands, chuckling. "A'ight, baby, a'ight. Chill."

"Yeah, I'll chill alright. Good night!" She tuned to her door, but he caught her around the waist, turning her to face him. He stared at her sweetly pouting lips while she laid her hands flat against his chest, undecided on whether to give him another shove or not.

"You're right, a'ight? I was foul and I'm sorry. I got some bad mess on my mind and I was dumping it on you. Uncool."

"Well, this is the second time, so don't think I'm waiting around for the third strike for you to be out." He put a hand on her neck. "Hey."

"Just let me see something." He tilted her head form left to right, rubbing her neck and chest above her breasts.

"You are silly," she said trying to sound critical while melting inside. All he had to do was touch her and she got weak as water! This was so not good.

"So, um, you a'ight? Nothing...strange happened after last night."

"Yeah, you tonight. But nothing else. Should I even bother to ask what you're getting at? Cuz if I ask you what's wrong one more time and you don't answer me, I'm gonna scream."

"You're gonna be fine, peach," he said as if he didn't hear her. He was touching her lightly, his gaze roving over her face. "So you gonna be some kind of humanitarian scientist and save the world, right? You'll be good at it."

Syn looked up at him uncertainly, taking hold of his wrists. She didn't like what this was sounding like. "What are you trying to say? You're not coming to my graduation in four years? Is your calendar of events filled for that year?"

He stepped back, his expression shuttered now and serious. "Can't say."

"We are so not communication whatever's at the heart of this bizarre scene, Zan. Why can't you say?" She waited. "Soooo...how long are we gonna stare at each other and just emote, huh?"

Frowning hard, he looked like he wanted to tell her something but changed his mind. He reached for her and rested his forehead against hers and Syn's arms immediately went around is waist. I'm a sucker, she thought. They stayed like that while her rubbed her all over, face to butt and back. She became suddenly fearful and words just started tumbling out of her.

"Don't just disappear on me, Zan. I'd...really miss you. Who's gonna visit The Cloisters with me again? Nobody. It's okay if you're...different, y' know." She felt tears escaping her. "If you're telekinetic? I - I'm different too. I'll tell you how if you stay..." She couldn't say another word or she'd break down. What was happening here?

"You're perfect," he whispered brokenly. ??? Then he kissed her again, this time giving more than he took and ending it with a gentle sucking tug on her lip ring. If the expression in his eyes made her heart soar, his next words made it fall.

"See you 'round, baby." He pushed away from her and strode away, never once looking back, as she numbly watched him disappear around the corner.

[center]***** ***** *****[/center]

Roman went the Razor to hang out with his buds, but they weren't helping him out of his funk. He felt like getting laid so he could just forget everything for a while. His Pops, Sergeant Jack Duvane, Super Cop, didn't think his youngest son had the 'right stuff' to follow in his footsteps and made it plain every chance he got. And all the arguing all summer up to now about his decision to not go to college -- sh*t, when would that ever stop? He just wasn't Joe College and didn't have the least problem with the fact.

Roman took another swig of his Miller and looked away from the buds, who were already smashed, to scope the females. One or two caught his eye but his mood was weird. His mind just needed to be a total blank for a while. He didn't even feel like the little effort it would take to get off tonight. Anyway, he regretted acting like a jerk tonight with Syn cuz she'd been d*mn decent listening to his 7th Heaven crap. Well, he'd call her tomorrow and apologize out his ass and then maybe...who knows?

Somebody poked him and Roman turned to find all his friends, a horde of drunken goons now, staring at him.

"Where are you, man? You like a friggin space cadet. Serrano's been talking to you," Craig said.

Roman gulped down the rest of his beer. "So talk."

"As I was saying, somebody across the room wants to see you."

"Well, they're seeing me, ain't they?"

"F*ck you!" said Steve, the combative drunk. "Get off the downers, b*tch, cuz you been a drag for two f*cking weeks!

"Alright now, Stevie, alright. Just look over to your left, Rome." Cain had always been the peacemaker, but it was unnecessary because Roman wasn't even in the mood to fight.

He looked and there was this brunette-streaked blond, about Syn's height, looking straight at him. But she wasn't smiling. He turned away sighing with boredom. "I'm outta after one more beer. See ya."

"Party pooper."

"Mama's boy!"

"If you don't want her, boy, I'll take her. She looks wild!"

"Check ya tomorrow, Rome."

"I told you f*ck you! Get off the downers, b*tch..."

Their voices faded fast as he made his way over to the bar and ordered another cold one. They served minors in the Razor like there was no tomorrow. He often wondered how long the place would last before getting busted cuz it was only three months old. It was loud and noisy and he felt cocooned cuz nobody was paying him any attention now -- not even the few chicks he knew in there. So he just sat there savoring his brew, thinking finally about nothing. Yeah, this is where he wanted his mind to be...

"Yo, can I toss one back with you?"

A chick. Oh well... "I'm kinda in my own world right now. Maybe later," he said without looking up.

She got up on the stool beside him. "Tck! Don't be rude, man. Order me a beer. I seen you up in here before harassing chicks. So I'm returning the favor."

Roman looked over and found the brunetty blond -- still now smiling, but cute in serious goth/punk sorta way. At least she wasn't bald. "I'll get you a brew as long as you don't talk."

"Deal -- if you talk to me after I finish drinking it."

He smiled a little. "Yeah, whatever."

"No, pal, I'm not 'whatever'. I'm Ava."

"Roman."

"I don't know if Ava's a Roman name or not but--"

"No, that's my name.

"Well, that's different."

He motioned to the bartender. "Get her one of whatever she wants."

"Tequila Sunrise."

The bartender paused quizzically for a minute and then started mixing. Roman laughed a little. "Tequila Sunrise? What you trying to be? Discovered?"

"Screw you."

"Will you?"

"I'll tell ya, you're chances are getting slimmer and dimmer with each word outta your mouth."

Roman examined her thoroughly from head to toe, especially the fishnets. The bartender came back and placed the drink in front of her.

"While you're drinking, I'll think up some better words."

Ava crossed her legs and sipped through her straw daintily. "You do that, Romey."

[center]***** ***** *****[/center]

Syn picked up the ringing phone. "Hello."

"Syn, you don't sound good, girl."

"I know."

"Want me to come over?"

Syn rubbed her head wearily, worn out from crying. "No, Lucia, it's too late for you to be coming over alone."

"Bull! I just got in. It's like 12am. Since when is that late? Anyway, Wheat'll bring me. I wanna know what happened last night and today. Did Strawberry Man turn sour or something?"

"I can't talk about it right now. I just feel...crazy right now. I need to sleep on it. Will you stay over tomorrow night?"

"Girl, you know I will."

"Alright, I'll see you tomorrow. And you can tell me all about that 'sheik' -- which I of course am the last to know about."

"Tck! Ricky told you that, didn't he? My cousin is so stupid! Anyway, today was a story and a half, you hear me? A regular Grimm's fairytale. So tomorrow night we'll have ice cream, watch some UPN, and talk about the men, the boys and the worms!"

Syn was actually able to smile. "Okay, Lu. Goodnight."

"'Night, babe."

Syn got ready for bed mechanically. She didn't want to think anymore right now. But when she got into bed, she left the TV on, wanting some noise in her room. She was staring blankly at a 'Spin City' rerun (one of her favorite shows), when suddenly a weird chill came over her. She became very alert and looked towards her window. That slim green was making her feel sick. First cutting her lamp off and TV, she crept over to the window, keeping out of sight, and peeped downward at the street. Even as she was looking the nasty color was fading away, but she knew that Hanson Dawdek had come down her block. And she was d*mn certain that it wasn't a coincidence which messed up any chance of her going to sleep in peace tonight -- not that there'd been much of a chance of that anyway. So she might as well be proactive.

Syn turned the light and 'Spin City' back on and fired up the teapot. Then she went in a drawer and took out a little something her Dad gave her before she left home. It was a special kind of knife -- a kind that folks didn't usually carry around in the city. He'd taught her all the different ways to use it...er, effectively. She hadn't wanted to learn and his method of using surprise attacks was more than a little unnerving. But he meant well and she could appreciate it now. The pot whistled and she made some Strawberry tea. Mmm, still refreshing even though he...no, she couldn't go there anymore tonight. While Michael J. Fox made the Mayor of New York lose his cool, Syn sharpened her knife well. She finished her tea calmly, cut everything off, put the knife under her pillow and slept soundly. Tomorrow was another day...



part eleven


Zan sat on a bench in Brooklyn Heights overlooking the Bridge and the East River. Seconds turned into minutes turned into hours. He felt unbalanced inside. And the only way he could get that balance back was to return to Antar and find out who he had been. If the king really had been part of a culture that used kids, he’d have to change that or kill himself because he couldn’t live with it. He just couldn’t.

Loving somebody else now wasn't going to work if he was all twisted inside. And he most definitely loved Syn Morgan - loved her to the point that it made him bleed to see another guy taking her sweet mouth. It seemed like she cared for him a little too. Maybe. Walking away from her was hard, but as far as he knew he was dirty and she deserved better than that. So the only way he could even remotely have a chance with her was if he corrected his situation.

'Asininity'. 'Evil Edward Scissorhands'. Shees. Zan couldn’t help grinning. His peach was a funny, spunky li’l thing. His smile faded away as he felt how much he wanted her with him right now. All these years of not having anything or anyone touch his heart, of playing leader of the pack, of waiting around for ‘destiny’ to kick in because – what the h*ll difference did it make? It was like a script had been written for him. Well, he was gonna flip it. If kids were being f*cked up on Antar because of him and his family then he’d do a Moses and set 'em free - or die trying. Nothing was more important right now than that. Nothing. The sooner he started all this, the sooner it would be finished one way or another.

It was time to go to Bloomingdale's – alone.

About 3am he started walking towards a sub entrance. He caught a train going across the river and uptown and went straight to Bloomie's. Sneaking into the basement, he went directly to place where the invisible orb was supposed to be on the wall. He waved his hand over the spot and it appeared. A small blue light in the center of it was blinking which meant it was ready for use as acommunicator. He pressed the light and held his palm in front of the extended blue rays that scanned his palm. The entire orb turned a glowing blue and began to whistle and click. The preliminary ID was made and a fifteen-minute countdown in nanoseconds appeared in small 3D numbers projected a few inches in front of the orb. Zan sat on the floor against the wall and waited, fixing a brooding stare on the swiftly running numbers. Everything went dead after all zeroes appeared on the timer. Just when the silence got loud, a large dimly glowing oval outline about six feet high appeared in the wall next to the orb. Zan stood up cautiously as a silvery mass like liquid metal began to push forward from it until the clear sculptured image of a male human solidified and everything was still again. Zan thought it looked like the scene from The Empire Strikes Back when Han Solo was frozen in carbon. Unimpressed he watched as something gingerly tore through the silver image like it was foil and stood in front of him. The figure looked like a bald Caucasian male human with face that reminded Zan of a fleshier Emperor Ming from the Flash Gordon series. He felt vaguely disappointed. Was the alien part of his life just a combination of science fiction cliches?

After they just stood there studying each other, Zan asked, “Who are you, man? I don’t got all morning.”

“I’m Pakeen Hrek, a shapeshifter and an emissary sent by the Council of the Satesian solar system of the Gamma sector to confirm the identity of His Highness, Zan Kapol shar-Kelos Hod, previously deposed king of Antar,” he replied politely. “If you are not he, you will be disposed of immediately. Come.”

Zan could feel the being’s blue-gray ‘truth’ color. ‘Disposed of? He eyed Hrek. Sh*t, if it came to that, he wasn’t gonna be the only one. “Come where?”

“Closer to me.”

Zan complied until he was only a foot away. The em examined his eyes carefully before moving his hand slowly over Zan’s face without touching him. Then Hrek walked behind him and held both hands up to the back of his head. Zan didn’t feel anything but light was being projected from his forehead and a V-shaped formation of planets appeared in front of him. Just as suddenly it vanished and Hrek came around to face Zan with the slightest of smiles, opening a briefcase and holding it up to him.

“Did I pass?”

“Yes, Your Highness. Please press your hand into the black plate here.”

“Why?”

“As a signature confirming that the proper identification of the king has been made and that you will meet with the representatives.” Hrek’s blue-gray was steady.

“Where and when?”

“A room has been secured at the Plaza Hotel, suite 17. The meeting is scheduled for 10pm Tuesday night. The Holy Days aren’t quite over but the representatives are anxious to speak with you. Is this acceptable, Your Highness?”

Zan hesitated only a moment. “Yeah a’ight.” He pressed his palm onto the plate briefly, leaving a silver handprint.

Hrek closed the case and offered his hand which Zan shook. He bowed low before him and left the same way he came in reverse. It was a weird sight. Zan waved the lights off and stood still in the darkness for a moment. Then he went home.

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


Late Monday night Syn’s apartment was filled with the aroma of cheese steaks (as close to Philly style as possible) and French fries. Lucia was frowning, watching Syn gulp back the rest of her grape soda.

“This is what I don’t understand. Why couldn’t you sense Zan-boy in Prospect Park but he could sense you? I mean, you’re so wrapped up in this dude that his name might as well be tattooed on your ass, and you didn’t feel him. That means your synesthesia stuff might not kick when you really need it to. What if this b*tch Dawdek slithers around and you can’t feel his vomit green?”

Syn stared at the empty bottle. “I don’t know why I didn’t feel Zan. It could have been anything, something I ate, a momentary chemical shift in my body. I don’tknow.”

“Maybe we should take care of the situation before it gets out of hand.”

Syn stared at her. “Meaning?”

“Meaning you know I know some people who know some other people who can make problems like this disappear. Life is too short to put up with a lot of old bullsh*t.”

Syn shook her head emphatically. “No.”

Lucia blew her breath out hard, gesturing impatiently. “Syn, what do you mean ‘no’?”

“I’m not 100% sure this guy is definitely up to something, okay? If I make a move like that, I need to be sure.”

“You don’t need to be sure. You need to protect yourself if you even suspect some shady sh*t. Because the guilty b*tches always plead ‘not guilty’ and the burden of proof is always on you. Why go through all that when it can be prevented for the git-go?”

Syn saw that Lucia was getting upset and knew she was thinking about her sister Rachel’s death and the subsequent lengthy trial. Syn gently put her hand over her friend’s. “I'll be careful, Lucia. If something else happens, then I’ll do something.”

Lucia snatched her hand away. “I don’t want anything else to happen!”

Syn said nothing else because she looked more than ready to pounce on her next words. During their silent face-off the bell rang.

“Hello.”

“It’s me.”

“Me who?”

“Me who better still have some grub up there. You ain’t eat none of my fries, did you?”

Lucia got on the com. “Boy, ain’t nobody eat your food! Get your skinny ass up here. We got a situation.”

Syn shut off the com . “All right. That’s enough. It doesn’t help me if you blow this thing out of proportion.”

“I don’t know how you can blow being stalked by a d*mn psycho out of proportion. And neither do you.”

“Lucia – “

Wheat walked in, heading straight for the oven. Only after he sat at the table and took two huge bites of his sandwich did he even acknowledge their presence. “D*mn, I’m hungry! Cain was late for practice again. So what’s this situation?”

“Some jerkweed’s stalking Syn and she’s being all nonchalant which is stupid.”

Frowning, Wheat put his food down. “Stalking? Since when? Nobody tells me a d*mn thing anymore. What’s going on?”

“Wheat, it’s alright. Nothing’s going on. It could be something, but maybe it's nothing. I’m not sure yet, but I’ll let you know when I am. Promise.”

He studied her carefully for a moment. “Bet.” He took another big mouthful.

Lucia held her hands out in a questioning gesture, rollingher eyes upward and keeping them there. “Am I the only person in this room whose brain is not malfunctioning?”

“Look, Syn’s good with a blade, so for now take a chill pill.”

Disgusted, Lucia waved her hand at both of them. “Don’t talk to me. Neither one of you are making any sense whatsoever.” She plopped down on the bed, pretending to watch TV.

“You sure you're okay?” Wheat asked Syn. “I mean, if there really is a problem, Syn…something can be done about it, k?”

She smiled at him. “Yeah, I know. What would I do without you, Roebuck?”

He gave her a warning look and smiled back. “I don’t know. Something.”

Wheat left soon after he demolished his food because of Lucia’s foul mood. He had better things to do with his time than watch a girl sulk. The girls sat in silence until the Syn broke it.

“You wanna stop being an ass and tell me about this Sheik of Araby you running around with?”

Lucia sat up slowly to face her and sighed. “Yeah. He’s David’s cousin.”

“No way.”

“Yeah, I didn’t know.” Syn looked at her skeptically. “For real! I didn’t know. I knew they hung out or whatever, but – “

“They’re first cousins?”

“Yeah.”

“Aw, man! What’s his name?”

“Cain Hubble.”

Syn sat up straighter. “The new guy in Wheat’s band?”

“Yeah, but he likes to be called ‘Cristoff’ and he sometimes wears this sheik’s scarf on his head. He’s nice but he's kinda pretentious.”

“I’ll bet! Are you trying to make David jealous? It’s not like you to buzz around the friends of guys you split up with, so you must want him back. I mean, even if you didn’t know this Cain/Cristoff was his cousin, you know they roll together.”

Lucia shifted uncomfortably. “No, they used to until they got into some dumb fight about Cristoff’s great uncle. He was a way-out-there sci-fi freak - like an alien tracker or something, y’ know. And David was making fun of him one day and I guess Cristoff wasn't in the mood.”

“Mm-hm.” Syn grinned knowingly. “Don't try to sidetrack. Be for real with yourself, if not me. You’re still jonesing for David Lipinsky, aren’t you? Just admit, Lu! There’s no shame in it.”

“Stop riding me. You got a nerve talking about somebody jonesing. You putting the d*mn ‘j’ in that lately. Anyway, you need to be concerned with that psycho jonesing for you.”

“Oh, quit it, Lucia, will you?” Syn snapped, jumping up to clean off the table. “You’re seriously working my nerves now, alright? I’m so friggin sorry I told you!” She dropped the plastic plates in the sink. “D*mn it!” She sighed heavily, rubbing her forehead She was too tired of the topic to argue anymore and decided to just let Miss Hyper run out of steam. She felt a light touch on her shoulder and turned to find a contrite Lucia, eyes brimming with tears.

“I’m sorry, Syn. I – I just couldn’t take it if I lost you too like – like…” He face just crumpled and Syn hugged her tightly.

“Oh g*d, Lucia. I’m sorry! I couldn’t stand it if anything happened to you either. But nothing’s gonna happen, k?” They stood embracing for a long time until Lucia finally wiped her eyes.

“I so didn’t mean to freak out like that. I’ll drop the subject. Just…if he comes near you again, promise me you’ll let us do something.”

Syn answered reluctantly. “Okay.”

“Can I move in with you for a while?”

“No.” Syn valued her independence very much. And privacy was ultra dear to her, considering she never had any at home with her parents, who ran an unofficial halfway house for any family, friends, and others with a sob story. It was a place where the phrase ‘staying for a couple days’ had an elastic meaning. Her parents had their shortcomings, but they were big on performing the Corporal Works of Mercy - which often including giving her room to the new 'residents'. Besides, Syn didn’t want Lucia to assume the role of her protector. She wouldn’t permit her friend’s overworked imagination or Dawdek to make her live in fear. Either the bastard was gonna bring it on or not.

“I know how you feel, but just for a couple days.”

No I said.”

“D*mn, you’re one stubborn ho! Anyway, let’s go over the events of Zan Day again, shall we?”

“Uhh!” Syn walked over and threw herself facedown on the bed. “I can’t get a break!”

“You’re in love with him after one date, huh?" Lucia said, sitting beside her. "Let's see. Medieval art, a boat ride, cool food, tripping the lights fantastic Saturday Night Fever style...and last but not least, a way way up high view of 'da woild'. Mmm. Yeah, it's working for me. Sure he’s hot as a baker working OT. No lie! But you're acting like y’all were together for ten years and just broke up. I mean, what did you really do on this date? Did he put a spell on you or himself on you?”

Syn turned over and shook her head slowly, staring at the crack in the ceiling. “I don’t know! It’s weird, I guess. Am I feeling this way because he's the one for me in the normal boy/girl sense, or is it just the strength of the vibe between us making me think he's the one? Put another way, do I want him because of the vibe or are we vibing because I want him? Is it love or something else...or both?! Argghh! I'm going nuts!" She covered her eyes briefly. "But he was…the date was…” She smiled dreamily. “…great. I was just feeling him so much. He – whew!”

Lucia giggled. “Oh my g*d! You’ve been totally Zanned! Ha-Haaah!”

“He did work my nerves a little but then I invited him up.” Syn continued in a rush. “I boiled water for tea and then he left and yesterday I went out with Roman and Zan came by about the same time we got back and basically said ‘see ya when I see ya’.” Syn described how wild he had looked Sunday night. “…and that’s it.”

“Hold it! That ain’t hardly it. There's a couple things going on here." Lucia shook her head as if to clear it. "Let's review. Okay first - Zan kissed you, right? And y’all were all alone up here too? My question is, you only kissed, Syndara?”

“Well, I mean, I’m not going into intimate details.”

“Intimate?!” Lucialeaned over her excitedly.

“Calm yourself please. We didn’t go anywhere near all the way.”

“But you went a good part of the way! Ooo!” Blushing in spite of herself, Syn pushed her away as she sat up, her expression quickly growing somber.

“What’s wrong?”

“I think he’s different like me but even more. He might be telekinetic. I don’t know. Something more was wrong with him than seeing Roman kiss me -- "

"You forgot that li'l tidbit! Dag, who aren't you locking lips with?!"

Syn laughed. "Shut up. He's the one who made that move, not me. I was taken completely unawares."

"Uh-huh."

"Tck! Anyway...Zan was talking like he was going faraway somewhere and might never come back. I don’t mean to sound melodramatic, but that’s how it was. You’re right. It felt like we’d been together a long time and he was quitting me.” She looked down at her folded hands. “It hurts like that too. I still don’t know much about him except…I think I really do love him, and it's not because of his looks or his kiss. And now I'm sure it's not even the vibe.” She frowned then smiled wryly. “I'm crazy, huh?”

Lucia stared thoughtfully. “That would be my first reaction, but…why not? If it’s possible to taste sounds like you can, then it’s possible to fall in true love with a secretive intense hottie within twenty-four hours. But you did describe how he was looking and acting and he sounds crazy. What are you gonna do?”

“There’s nothing I can do besides obsess over him and I refuse to do that. Maybe some things aren’t meant to be understood. My life’s just beginning. I guess Zan is just one of the first of many…really amazing events to occur in it.” She bit her lip – just like he would do. She quickly let it go. “So he’ll get a few more pages in the diary and then that’s it.”

“It’s more like a journal, isn’t it?”

“I like the word diary better.” She stuck her tongue out. “Anyway, what’s important now,” she continued, getting up to finish the dishes, “is that kick-ass biology quiz next Monday.”

“Well, it’s just a quiz. You’ll ace it.”

“Huh. A quiz that’s20% of our grade!”

“Oh.”

“So you wanna stay over again tomorrow night too – only?”

Lucia pursed her lips, getting the message. “Yes, I do. I – aw, man! Nicole wants me tome to do her hair at my house 7am Wednesday morning.”

“7am?! You knowyou’re not hardly gonna be up at no 7am doing some hair. Just admit you’re eloping with David L.”

Please. No, Nicole’s paying me to do this. You know how she is and you know how I am. Believe me, if my teeth are brushed and I’m walking around lucid at 7am, I’m making lotsa bank. Trust me. If I had to leave from here though I’d never make it. Wanna stay over my place?"

"Nope."

"D*mn you," Lucia muttered, grinning. "Okay well, the night after I’m all yours, babe.”

“Cool. Well, I’m tired.”

“Yeah, me too. I must have been on drugs to sign up for that early Spanish class.”

Later while Lucia was sound asleep, Syn stared out at the starless night, feeling bereft and alone – missing him. Pitiful! He'd kept a chunk of himself hidden, then just cut her off. Yet he had her heart. Was it possible that she had his too? Had he felt anything for her that was real and not cotton candy in such a short time? And what did the d*mn vibes between them mean in the first place?! Syn turned over with a soft groan, burying her face in the pillow. She’d go nuts if she kept wondering aboutthat. Just put it in the diary, girl, and forget it. Move on, move on. If it were meant to be, it would be. If not, then something else would be. Something good.

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


Lonnie glared into Rath’s angry eyes as they stared each other down. They’d never opposed each other like this before.

“I asked you a question, Lonnie,” he snapped darkly.

“And I got the ears to hear it with. What do you want form me? An answer? My father’s dead. Who the f*ck are you all of a sudden?”

“I’m somebody you jerking around. Where you go when you stay out all morning? You hooking or what?”

“What d*mn difference does it make if I am, Rath? I mean, what’s your muthaf*ckin problem? You all up here like this…” She waved a hand in front of her own face. “…in my biz. Step off!”

Rath’s face hardened even more. “You know what? I see why we was killed now. You pretend you not down with your brother but y’all just alike. Check it, I like to go out and do my thing – blast off and whatever. But when it comes to our real biz, I’m all on it. But not y’all! Zan comes and goes any d*mn time he pleases to who knows where. So a Skin or that b*tch Khivar could come and smoke his ass and then where would the rest of us be? A-ha, that’s right! We’d be f*cked up the ass like first timers without Vaseline!”

“Look, Rath – “

“When he is here, he stomps around with a sh*t attitude like somebody done something to him when all the while he should’a been met with the g*dd*mn emissary so we can get the f*ck off this planet!”

“Will you shut up a minute, Rath?!”

But he was on a roll. “Then here you go wanting respect ‘n’ sh*t – like you a real princess or something – while spreading your legs and ass all over the place. What you should be spreading is the word the we ready to be up outta here. You lunching at a real inopportune time.”

Lonnie had to pause at that. “Inopportune?”

“Yeah, whatta you know? I read. And my point? You supposed to be handling your brother, not f*cking everything but me.”

“Rath, if I wasn’t so tired, I’d b*tch slap you right here.”

“Tired from what?” he spat out scathingly. “And the mood I’m in right now that’s something you don’t want to try. But I’ll tell you what, I’ve had it up to here with you and him. And I’m through with just words. That’s it.” Rath walked away from her and threw himself down on his cot.

Lonnie stood there incredulous, then went to stand over him. “What do think you mean by that?”

He kept his eyes closed. “Just what I said.”

“Tck! Eat me, Rath. You’re so full of it.”

“Nah, that’s alright. Crack-flavored AIDS p*ssy tastes sour to me.”

“You nasty bastard….”

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


When Zan arrived Lonnie was startled by his appearance. He looked pointedly at Ava's empty cot.

“A king’s gotta get used to disobedient subjects, brother, especially when that king is lax. Um, you on the warpath or something?”

Zan ignored her because if he kept looking at that d*mn smirk on her face, he’d bunch it up in his fist.

“So Zan, this is that ‘next week’ you was talking about. Have you meditated enough? Got your courage up, brother? I hope so! I’m really hoping your private contemplations were worth the thousands of ives lost in the meantime.”

“Yeah, they were.” He stripped, lay down and closed his eyes. He certainly wasn’t going to tell them about his visit to Bloomie's. Untrustworthy punks.

Rath was awake and listening when Lonnie stood over Zan, her hands on her hips. “Well?” she snapped impatiently.

“I said this week and I meant it. I’ll tell you when I’m meeting the em when I go to meet it. That’s all you need to know, Vilandra.”

“Sh*t! You like playing this cat ‘n’ mouse game. I’m your sister, the queen. Remember?”

Rath snorted.

“The queen?” Zan queried. “That’s Ava, isn’t it? You just the princess, princess.”

“F*ck Ava! She couldn’t be a queen bee. She ain’t do nothing on Antar except wait for you on her back and you know that.”

“Whatever. Zip it. I’m sleeping.”

Lonnie spun away and left.

“Where you going now?” Rath shouted after her. He breathed in and out deeply, his agitation growing. “Zan, you better be going this week like you said. I can’t wait no more.”

Zan knew he should play it cool but he was too on edge about his unknown and probably short future and he was missing Syn already. It was like missing his own breath. F*ck! He sat up, glaring at Rath menacingly. “You can’t wait? I better? Who the f*ck are you talking to?”

Lonnie suddenly appeared again. “Oo-hoo! Lookee what I found. The queen! Licking all over some asswipe human. Yeah, he had a li’l something going on, but how desperate can a ho be? Ava, who or what won’t you do until ‘Da King’ let’s you slide down his pole?"

Ava was fed up with just about everything at that moment. Not even the sight of Zan’s beautiful pecs was giving her the usual rush. “B*tch, look who’s talking?! Miss Ho-to-go!”

Lonnie raised her eyebrows. "Don't try to get balls this late in the game, half-pint, 'cause I'll cut 'em off."

“Yo, yo, yo, cut the crap. Mohawk here is telling me what I better do and here’s my response.” Zan looked only at Rath. “Y’all gonna shut the f*ck up and stay outta my way. I’m meeting the d*mn em like I keep telling you and we’re going back to Antar - this week.”

“What?!” Ava shrieked, taking a step towards him, and Zan pinched her mouth closed.

“Do not try me. I ain’t in the muthaf*ckin mood. All y’all b*tches is working my nerves. If I hear another word, I got something for each of y’all. Now I’m gonna sleep and y’all gonna leave me alone.” He released a furious but silent Ava.

Rath stood up angrily. “Oh, I’ll leave you alone alright, man! I think for the last year you been getting weaker and wacker, you know that? All I gots to say is, if you won’thandle the family biz, I will. And I mean that sh*t. I mean, what do you think this is, man? This is our lives. You can power trip by yourself.”

“Zan, I don’t want to go back! I’m not going back,” Ava said defiantly.

Zan’s lips twisted cruelly. “Boy, you can talk and talk but sometimes you just gotta do?” He held his hand out towards them, making green bubbles surround each of them.

“Zan, what the f*ck are you doing! Quit it!” said Lonnie, alarmed as she tentatively held her hand up close to the containment field.

“Stop it, Zan!” Ava cried.

Rath was incensed as he attempted futilely to get rid of the shield. “I am so sick of your sh*t, man! Get this thing outta my face now!”

Zan raised his hand slightly and the bubbles moved upwards until they touched the ceiling.

“You've finally gone off your d*mn rocker. Put us down!”

Zan didn’t respond to his sister as he lay backdown. Closing his eyes he said casually, “When I fall asleep, your shields will vanish. So chill.”

“You mutha – !“

“But Zan,” Ava began, nervously, “won’t we fall to the floor? Zan, it’s a long way down, yo.”

“Stay alert and land on your feet.” And with that he turned over.

“Yo, this ain’t right!”

“Quit f*ckin around, Zan!

“You mutha – !“

But Zan was able to tune them out completely and fall into a sound sleep, not witnessing or hearing their hard fall to the floor or his own shield rising to protect him when Rath tried to jump him where he lay.

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


After her French class ended at 10:30am Tuesday morning Syn went to Artislife to see Mack, who was a workaholic. He could be at a party until 6am and could still be at his 9 to 5 on time and energized, not allowing his body to crash until 5 on the dot. The store was nearly empty and she walked up to a female clerk whom she remembered seeing before.

“Hi, I’m Mackenzee Morgan’s sister. Is he here?”

The clerk was puzzled. “Like – no! We’re wondering what happened to him. He wasn’t here yesterday, he’s not here today and he hasn’t called in. No one’s answering his phone either.”

Syn was filled with dread and mumbled a distracted ‘goodbye’ as she walked toward the exit.

“Call us if you find out anything!” the clerk called after her.

Syn’s pace quickened when she got outside. She did have an 11:30 English class that she really shouldn’t miss, but family came first. She was about a block from the subway, deep in thought, when the unmistakable dirty green assailed her so suddenly she stumbled and a guttural voice said,

“Hey, sexy.”

She whipped around and there was Dawdek, smoking a cig and leaning against the wall of a used record store. His cold eyes were heavy-lidded as they groped her all over in a matter of seconds. She stared him down, her lips twisting in disgust. He wasn’t pleased.

“Com’ere, baby. I ain’t gonna hurt ya – yet.”

Her anger rose swiftly and before she let loose with a string of hair-raising insults ripe and ready on her tongue, she abruptly hurried away, looking back once or twice to make sure the fool wasn't following. She’d analyze the Dawdek situation later. Right now she had to find out what was going on with her brother. But a thought lingered grimly before finally fading into her subconscious by the time got off the F sub in Borough Park, Brooklyn. She had no warning of the villain until she’d walked past him.

Mack’s apartment building was huge but his unit was conveniently on the first floor. She rang the bell twice but there was no answer. Just when she was about to ring someone else’s bell to get inside, a croaking voice came out of the com.

“Hello.”

“It’s me, bro. Let me up.” She heard him sigh and make just-waking-up sounds. “Come on, Mack. It ain’t exactly spring out here.”

The front door was buzzed open for her and she walked straight down a long corridor then made a left down another one to the last door, a corner joint. Lucky him. She called out and knocked but the door didn’t open.

“Oh, for goodness sake! What’s going on in there? Openthe door, Mackenzee.”

It was yanked open suddenly and Syn slowly followed his quickly retreating back into his bedroom where he threw himself face down on it, like he was going back to sleep.

“Okay, you’re in here. Where’s the fire?” he said peevishly in a muffled voice.

“Turn over,” Syn snapped, tugging at his jean-clad leg. He complied and stared dully up at her, looking like he hadn’t slept for three days. “What the h*ll’s going on with you? At the art store they said this was the second day you didn’t show up for work and you haven’t even called in to call out. I can’t reach you on the phone. It just rings and rings and your answering machine’s not on. And you look a mess! So start talking and quit the zombie act. Don’t think I won’t call a hospital to come get your ass.”

Mack sat up and rubbed his face wearily, saying nothing. Alarmed even more Syn sat down next to him on the edge of the bed.

“Syn, look, I don’t want to get you all upset because I know how you are, but I think I’m cracking up.”

“Why?”

“I don’t know if I can put it into words without sounding completely out of my mind.” He looked at her then. “We’ve never lied to each other, right?”

“As for as I know that’s true.”

“Alright. Just listen and don’t say anything until I finish. Okay, I’ve been missing blocks of time only at night - but every night - for about a week…like I’ll be on my way home from the store at night at 8 or 9 and then all of a sudden it’s the next morning and I’m just waking up.” A tremor of apprehension went through Syn as she continued to listen quietly. “But last night…last night was friggin outer limits, man! I was here – right in here reading around 6 o’clock. The next thing I know I’m waking up in someone else’s mind in my body.”

“Are you sure that it wasn’t just a dream?” Syn said slowly.

“Yes, I’m sure!” Mack frustratedly raked a hand through his mussed sandy blond hair. “Look at me. Do I look like I only had a dream?”

“Alright. Calmdown. Tell me what happened.”

“Well, I’m trying – !“ He realized he was shouting and sighed heavily. “Like I said, it was like I was inside someone else’s mind in own body. Like somebody else had control of all of me but I was conscious. I was in a hotel – the Plaza – with this punk chick. I mean she was wild!” He looked to see if she believed him. He knew it was a toss up when she spoke.

“This sounds totally bizarre. You know that, don’t you?”

“Well, I do know that, but do you believe me?”

Syn hesitated. “I believe you experienced it, but I’m not sure exactly what it was. Did you sleep with this girl at the hotel?”

“Yes…no! I mean…damn it! My body did, but I’m telling you somebody else was actually…I was just along for the ride. It was somebody named ‘Larek’ and the girl’s name was…Vassandra or something like that. The last friggin thing I remember was this Larek going down on her a second time with my d*mn tongue! I can remember the taste and everything…”

“Whoa!” Syn stood abruptly, holding her hands up. “Too much information. Um, I get the picture.” Mack hung his head in exasperation while she paced in front of him. “Whatever this is,” she said, “it’s escalated from you missing a few hours of time – which is bad enough – to being aware of what’s happening during some of that lost time. It’s like somebody’s bodysnatching you. Was ‘Larek’ aware that you were conscious?”

“D*mned if I know! This sh*t’s too weird, man. But the - the worst thing, Syn, was that...I knew his thoughts. I was in his head while he was using my body. I mean, I'm hoping I'm just friggin crazy after all."

“Well, we need to find out exactly what’s going on. I'll have to stay here and watch you.”

“No.”

“What do you mean ‘no’?”

“I mean that’s a negative. You do college, you do candy striping, you have your own life. You don’t have time to be watching me and I don’t want you to. Plus, I can’t protect you if or when this thing happens again.”

“Be practical please. We don’t have much of a choice. It's not like this is something you can just live with indefinitely. It's not supposed to be happening. What if this…entity decides to completely take you over? Somebody has to be with you. You said it’s been happening every night, so if I stay just for tonight, we’ll find out.”

“D*mn! What the f*ck is happening to me?” Mack rushed up, yanked open the fridge and looked inside for he didn’t know what. He slammed it shut again and rested his arm on top of it. “Nothing I studied at the seminary prepared me for anything like this.”

Syn walked over and squeezed his arm gently. “Maybe those things matter more now than they ever did, Mack,” she said quietly. “To be honest, I really don’t know what to think about this, but I do believe something really not good and abnormal is going on here. And we have to find out exactly what it is so we know what to do about it, Mack.”

“You can’t stay here with me and that’s final.”

A little angered she pressed her nails into him. “So what are you saying? We stick our friggin heads in the sand until you become another missing person and then I have to go on Unsolved Mysteries and tell our parents and that dude with the creepy voice that I think aliens abducted you? Funk that! If you have a better plan, I’m listening. If not, I'm staying. Case closed.”

“Whatever, Syn. You’re giving me a headache now. I know you got another class or something. Just go.”

“Okay, but I’m gonna call your job and tell them you were in the hospital and didn’t have any ID on you – “

“Now wait just a minute – “

“I know. I don’t like to lie either but you need to save your job. You sure can’t tell ‘em the truth. So just stay put and relax. I’ll take off a little early from the hospital and swipe some paperwork for your boss if you need ‘proof’ of your stay. Oh and since you don’t want me to watch you alone, I’ll send Wheat over with his PlayStation since you gave yours away. I’ll probably have to stay at the hospital until at least 5, so y’all can do the guy thing in the meantime.”

Wheat? Oh, jeez.”

“Watch your mouth.” Syn stood on her toes and kissed his cheek. “And wash up. Okay, I’m going but I’ll be back soon. I’ll cook…lasagna! And we’ll watch movies ‘n’ stuff.”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah…” He was practically pushing her out the door.

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


Back at NYU, while she was waiting in a fortunately short line in front of Panda Chow’s, she felt the slimy green mixed nastily with a moldy dull red. She breathed deeply in resignation. There was indeed a situation and it would have to be dealt with immediately. He picked the wrong one. As she placed her order she fingered the strap of her book bag, thinking about the Davy Crockett-like knife she had inside. Tonight she’d have a little chat with Wheat in private….








posted on 4-May-2002 8:43:13 PM
part twelve


Clutching five thick hardback books Syn walked quickly into the private room and plopped down in a large cushioned rocking chair. It was 4 o’clock at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Greenwich Village and she had just finished her library cart rounds to all the rooms she had been assigned. Three other volunteers had called out during the day including Lucia. Madame Zeehandelaar (that can’t be a real name!) changed the time of her lesson today for some way-out eccentric reason and Lucia decided to humor her. So Syn was doing triple duty and her last stop of the day turned out to be Room 405.

An eighty-nine year old elegantly coiffed lady, who looked like a fifty-nine year old version of Michelle Phillips of the singing group The Mamas and The Papas, was sitting up in bed smiling approvingly at her. “Hello, dear, it’s so good to see you. My, your hair is lovely!” Their hairstyles were the same, a sort of beehive French twist, except hers was pure white and neat and Syn’s was jet black and disheveled.

“How are you, Mrs. Miniver?” Syn managed to smile but she didn’t feel like reading anymore. She loved visiting the patients, especially the elderly ones, but she was bone tired right now.

“I’m fine, dear. Am I your last visit today?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Ooo, goody! There’s a lot I want you to read for me tonight – " The lady paused awkwardly, holding a dainty white-gloved hand to her chest as a pained look came over her face.

Concerned, Syn leaned towards her. “What’s wrong? Do you want me to get your nurse?”

“N-no, dear. I’m alright. Just a little indigestion.”

Syn couldn’t imagine what she could have eaten to give her indigestion since Mrs. Miniver’s meals were made ultra bland because of her diabetes. But the lady was now perky again and clasped her hands in anticipation. “I see you have the very books I requested. Delightful girl! Letters A and B of the Encyclopedia Britannica, the Koran in English, Wuthering Heights, and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. That last one keeps the child in me alive.”

Syn smiled effortlessly this time. “I don’t think you need Tom for that.” The older woman’s tinkling laughter filled the room pleasantly and Syn was reminded of Grandma Sena which made her feel a little sad.

“Let’s start with the Koran, dear. From the beginning.”

“Um, Mrs. Miniver, I’m only gonna be here an hour longer.”

“Awww, shucks-a-roo!” They both laughed. “Well in that case, let’s stick to Tom Sawyer and forget the rest, shall we?”

“We shall.”

Mrs. Miniver settled back comfortably with a sigh of satisfaction as Syn began to read…

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


Right outside Syn’s apartment Zan sat and stared at the floor between his propped up legs, his forearms resting casually on his knees. His increasing respiration rate made him feel anything but casual. D*mn, why’d he come here? His lips twisted in self-mockery. Because he was a friggin idiot, that's why. He wanted to just go inside and never leave. He wanted to wait for her to come home and then…then…. Then what, fool? Anything…anything she wanted – a tea party or a kiss. Both and more. Whatever. But it wasn’t gonna happen. Not hardly. Not now. Yet he was fighting wild mad temptation! The taste of peaches just wouldn’t leave his mouth. It had been with him all d*mn day and it was driving him nuts! The worst f*cking thing he could’ve done was to come here to Peach Mecca like some masochistic freak bearing a gift for his goddess. He had slipped it under her door, something he was sure she’d like even if she now thought he was a number one s.o.b. Scowling, he stood up and paced in front of her door. Why was he trippin’? He hadn’t even slept with her, had barely touched her…well… His pace slowed as a memory instantly flooded his veins with heat and yearning. Barely touched her. Hah! He’d been under her skin and the very thought of it made him high. Her lips…her hands, man, claimed him. Her sweet smile had him transfixed while those hands set him on fire for her…

Awww d*mn!

He suddenly pivoted and leaped down the stairs six at a time.

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


“So how’s everything?” Syn asked with concern, speaking into the pay phone at the hospital. The nurses would have let her use one at their station, but she wanted privacy.

“It’s good,” Wheat replied. “But we hungry and can’t wait for you no more. We put the order in already.”

“Well, can you come pick me up?”

“Nope.”

“Tck! Why not?”

“Poppy’s car died for real this time. I had to take the bus over here. Sucks big, man.”

“Both of y’all car-less and I’m about to fall off my feet. Great!” Her heavy sigh was full of annoyance. “How’s my brother?”

“Normal. And I’m kicking his butt at Pac-Man.”

“Pac-Man? Isn’t that game like twenty years old?”

“That’s alright. It’s the only thing I’m winning at tonight so we gonna play it!”

“Ha-Ha! Put Mack on.”

Syn smiled with satisfaction when she heard them good-naturedly accusing each other of cheating before Mack took the phone.

“Yo, sis.”

“Hey. I’ll be there soon. Mrs. Miniver’s asleep now. I just wanted to make sure she was alright.”

“Mm. An angina attack is no joke. You sure the old lady’s gonna make it through the night.”

“Yeah, but no thanks to her family! They came up here and carried on so bad, security had to remove all but her son and daughter from the building.”

“Dang, and everybody thinks rich folks is so refined.”

“Tell me about it. Anyway, it was really touch and go for her. All I can do now is pray. Okay, I’m outti – and don’t eat all the priazzo please. I’m starving.”

“We’re leaving to pick it up now. They might give us the shaft if we have it delivered.”

“They’re usually always good, no matter what.”

“Well, we’ll walk and meet you coming from the sub on our way back.”

“Alright.”

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


Zan spent about three hours riding back and forth on one of the older Staten Island ferries that night. He lay stretched out on an indoor bench – certain it was the same one he and Syn sat on the other night. Over and over again his mind toyed with impossible possibilities. She’d have questions and he couldn’t give her answers and he didn’t want to lie. He was leaving. That wasn’t gonna change. So the clean break should stay broken. Zan sat up abruptly. Enough with the self-torture sh*t already! He raked his fingers roughly through his hair, trying to de-funk. He had to forget her cuz he was probably never coming back. She’d be a’ight. She’d have a good life – a better life without him in it mucking it up. He had to forget her….

It was dark and almost 9 o’clock. Zan decided it was time head up to The Plaza. The ferry docked in Lower Manhattan again and he got off this time, catching the 5 sub uptown to 59th Street. He didn’t go straight to the hotel, but instead sat around Grand Army Plaza at the southeast corner of Central Park to watch the hotel across the street and everything going on around it. Nothing was really wrong – except he didn’t want to go through with it. But of course he would – just not right away. Since he was early anyway, he decided to take a stroll along the lower perimeter of the park Zan watched all the humans walking and jogging by with their dogs and each other under the streetlights. He was thinking that Rath, Lonnie, and Ava would sh*t trees when they found out about his little solo rendezvous. But if they were smoking out of the same pipe with Nicholas (otherwise known as f*ckin Deshamos Sartor. Son of a…!), then they definitely didn’t need to know about this summit. The walk wasn’t helping; instead he was getting restless and antsy so he might as well just do it. So after about fifteen minutes of this he stopped and circled back to Grand Army. He walked over to the hotel and looked around once more before finally pushing through the revolving doors.

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


Rath was walking towards the Black Juice not really in the mood for it. But at least it was familiar and predictable and he could just sit in a corner and think. As he looked around the busy street his steps slowed. Nah, nah. Who was he kidding? He’d just start horsing around in there. He needed to get his head straight, not tied. H*ll, maybe he’d just keep moving and walk around the city. Yeah, that’s it. He’d go from Greenwich to East Village and walk uptown from there and just let his thoughts flow.

A piping hot chicken breast all dressed down in leopard print briefly gave him the haughty eye like he was gum on the ground as she strutted past him. Turning quickly Rath grabbed the back of her neck, and when she struggled, he kissed her hungrily as if she was a well-used toy he’d missed. Then he pushed her away carelessly.

“Crazy son-of-a-b*tch!” she screeched, wiping her mouth roughly.

Rath wrinkled his nose. “You need to brush your tongue. What you been eating, baby? Spoiled meat?”

“F*ck you!” she said and stomped away.

Rath grinned as he continued on, crossing Broadway. Hey, tonight could be fun. He began to relax and, yes indeed, his thoughts started to flow. Despite all Rath had said and all Zan had done – or rather didn’t do – it was cool with him that Zan was the king. He knew he didn’t wanna to be no king. Nah, they had to deal with too much bullsh*t. Rath just wanted to fight and win and then live high on the hog like a friggin universal hero! He wanted to do The Road Warrior stuff but then sleep on silk sheets ‘n’ sh*t when it was over and not be bothered by a d*mn thing - especially not no diplomatic, political sh*t. Funk dat! Yo, the king could have that. Anyway, he thought Zan was for real this time about taking care of biz. But Zan better not try to punk him anymore or he’d fix him. Fix him good.

Rath wound up on Avenue B in Hell’s Kitchen and had decided it was time to turn north along Tompkins Square when all of a sudden something felt wrong. He looked suspiciously all around him. There was nothing unusual going on – just the regular street gnats playing street games. But he couldn’t ignore the feeling because…well, he never got feelings about nothing. Something around here didn’t belong here and it was bad. Rath began to walk faster and made some quick turns before finally ducking into an alley. Alarm raced through his veins. It was them. Nicholas’ f*ckin friends, the Skins. It had to be. Somehow he knew. He friggin knew. And these ones probably weren’t here to deal like Nicky-boy. And here he was - Dorrath Kaas-Vetalion, Chancellor of Antar – trapped and exposed like a crack whore with the shakes in a convent. g*dd*mmit!…. He was furious and spoiling now to do some violence, but what if whatever it was knew how to do more stuff than he did? He wasn’t trying to die in a Hell’s Kitchen alley like a punk before his real life began. He peeked out quickly and saw no one. Forget the head-clearing stroll; it was time to get back to the crib pronto. He jogged back the way he came until he reached the Bowery where he slowed down but kept up a brisk pace. He was passing through a block known as The Third Strip where a bunch of hookers worked. Normally he’d stop and play but he needed to warn the Pod Squad and make the king move his ass now. Rath’s lip curled grimly. Zan could try to throw him up on the ceiling as many times as he wanted but he was the friggin second in command and it was his job to make sure the friggin king did his. Period.

“Yo, what’s your hurry, slimmy?”

He turned to face a long-haired slender blond as tall as him. He gave her the once-over, mildly interested. “Yo back at ya.”

She smiled, her eyes sharp and her stare direct. “Spend some time with me?”

“You mean bring the bank and I don’t.” He gave her a meaningful look. “Ever.”

“Oh! Listen how you talk! There ain’t never no free tickets ‘round here, baby-boy. Unless you pimping your girl and getting freebies like that.”

“Nah, it’s my natural charm.”

“Really?”

“Yeah, really. I’d demonstrate, blondie, but I gotta jet.”

“Nah, you got time for a sample,” she said right before wrapping herself around him. She kissed like a pro and her breath was sweet. Then she pulled back a little, keeping her arms around his neck, and said, “Well, I was actually gonna quit for the night. Want a friend ‘til tomorrow?”

Rath thought about it, knew it wasn’t smart, but decided – what the f*ck? If he couldn’t live it up, he might as well give it up. Besides, the girl's frame was banging east to west. He’d just take a short time-out. Lonnie was on watch about now and he didn’t know what kind of Skin could survive her. And Zan – well, he had all these secret super powers ‘n’ sh*t. Let him use ‘em for something besides being a smart ass. And Ava could sink or swim. He grinned lewdly at his new thing. “How about just for an hour? I gotta tend to my business tonight.”

Her smile was wide and warm. “Whatever you say, lover.” She took him by the hand and they started walking. “Come on. I got a place you’ll like.”

Rath chuckled. “I bet. Hey, what’s your name?”

She flashed her dimples, her eyes moving slyly over his face. “It’s Courtney. But all the guys call me Crystelle.”

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


As the subway approached her stop, Syn was almost dozing on the train. She saw flickering lights through her eyelids and then the train came to a halt so suddenly that she was jerked forward, crying out when her knees banged against the seat in front of her. Amid the exclamations and curses of the other passengers in the darkness of the still sub car, she quickly looked out the window into the blackness of the tunnel but she saw the light from the station ahead when she craned her neck. Syn rubbed her knees, listening for the announcement over the speakers that was as yet not forthcoming. The murmuring on her car got louder as several minutes went by without contact from the conductor. It was like being in the belly of a dead animal. Okay, this was definitely not good. Come on, come on –

“Passengers, please stay seated. Please stay seated. You will be escorted off the train….”

“I don’t believe this,” Syn muttered, crossing her legs thoughtlessly – “Ow!” – then quickly uncrossing them. She shifted impatiently in her seat. Of all nights why tonight? She was worried about Mack and Wheat. She shouldn’t have stayed at the hospital. It’s not like she’d been able to see Mrs. Miniver after the attack anyway. In fact, if she hadn’t let the dear old lady and her nurse, who came in to chat, talk her into reading one more chapter, she wouldn’t have even known about the angina attack and thus wouldn’t have been compelled by concern to stay. Argh!

After an unnerving twenty-five minutes, during which the New Yorkers on car number four performed like mad, there was a loud insistent scraping at the set of doors closest to Syn. Startled half out of her wits she jumped up and stepped back when the doors were shoved apart. The beam of a flashlight briefly shined in her eyes.

“Okay, y’all gonna hafta follow us. Come on.”

“Follow you where?” demanded a nervous young man, clutching his briefcase.

“Offa here, pal. Let’s go,” the second hard hat said. “Some idiot just couldn’t take life in da big city.”

“Oh for the love of – “ snapped a woman in a fur coat so thick that it was wearing her. She stepped briskly towards the open doors and thrust her hand out. “Well, don’t just stand there. Help me down! The fool probably couldn’t take waiting for this slow ass train.”

Syn waited until most of the other twenty passengers got off before moving towards the black void. When her turn came one of the hard hats looked into her face and said to his partner, “I got this one.” Then he smiled up at her appreciatively, holding his hands out towards her. “Don’t be afraid now. I won’t let ya fall.”

Syn didn’t want to get off and walk among the sewer rats and g*d knew what else but of course she didn’t have a choice. Wordlessly, she bent down, putting her hands on his shoulders and taking hold of her waist, he hoisted her to the ground. She looked forward, not liking the distance of the station lights ahead of them. Oh l*rd, why, why, why, why…?

As they began trudging forward, she tried to reassure herself that Mack wasn’t alone, but she was very uneasy because it was her responsibility to have his back. Plus, something might happen to Wheat if something happened to Mack. She started walking faster, ahead of everyone else.

“Hey, Miss, stay behind us please! You gotta watch your step down here now.”

Syn was glad she told Wheat the truth about why he’d been invited over. Even though he thought she and Mack were nuts, he wasn’t going to pass up the chance for free Italian grub and a video game partner. She was also glad when they finally reached the next stop because her enthusiastic rescuer hit on her incessantly every step of the way in the dern dark while they were all stepping in goo ‘n’ sh*t. Needless to say, her mood was foul by the time they reached the station, which was empty except for police brusquely directing them to keep moving and a knot of paramedics down on the tracks. They were all straining unsuccessfully to see as they were led quickly up the stairs to the street level platform. But not before Syn caught a glimpse of splattered blood. She shuddered. Did he or she really jump or was it an accident? Either way it was awful!

This night felt completely wrong now. It was crowded and noisy on the upper platform. There was no sign of the guys. Syn now wished she’d listened to Lucia all the times she nagged her about getting a cell phone. Okay, Mack’s place was only six blocks away, but… An unpleasant face crawled into her thoughts, a face that was following her in person lately. However, she didn’t sense anything negative. And no one, who wasn’t supposed to know, knew she’d been on that particular train or at which stop she was getting off. Hm. But still….

“Hey, honey, you gonna be okay?”

This guy was like a starving mosquito! Syn turned to tell her MTA Romeo to step off but she quickly covered up her exasperation with a friendly smile. “No, but maybe you could help me – again.”

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


Zan stood in front of the door of suite 17. It had a doorbell. Well, la-dee-da. So this was it. He took a minute to put his feelings on ice. He could be walking into anything and he needed to stay frosty and alert. He rang the bell and it chimed a few notes before the door was opened. A petite fierce-looking forty-something woman with thick auburn hair eyed him with annoyed disbelief. When she pointed some strange device at him, he immediately threw up his shield, blocking the thin violet beam extending from it.

“Put down the shield. I have to identify you,” she snapped.

Zan’s gaze narrowed. No gray-blue. Did it mean she was lying or that his new color sense of wasn’t working? F*ck. “Tell me who you think I am and I’ll tell you if you’re wrong.”

She shook her head adamantly. “There’s no time for games. If you’re the one, you’ll let me scan you. If you refuse, then you’re not and you will be eliminated. Now lower the shield!”

‘No time for games’ was right. If the aliens couldn’t do better than this, then he was outti. Zan started to back away, keeping the shield steady, when adark-skinned brother with startling green eyes appeared beside the Wicked Witchof the East. He was about twenty to twenty-five years old sporting an earring, a plain brown tee shirt and matching jeans.

“Zan,” the man said calmly.

The two males stared blankly into each other’s eyes through the green shield for a full minute.

“What’s he doing?” the woman hissed at the brother. “Hypnotizing you?

“Zan,” he said again, ignoring her.

“Yeah, that’s me.”

The man smiled slightly. “Put it down, Kathana. We don’t need it. It’s him, the Shizon.”

“Are you sure? I can’t imagine that they would have him walking around looking like this.”

“Kathana,” the man said commandingly. She reluctantly lowered the scanner and went back inside the room. The man turned to Zan and smiled again. “My name is Sero Niz de-Keed and I’m representing the planet Dagaz Reyy. All the other reps are here waiting for you. Please come in.”

“Are y’all waiting to kill me?”

“No, Shizon. We want to end the wars. We want peace.” Sero’s gaze was direct.

Okay, this guy had the truth color around him. Zan lowered his shield and followed him inside. The suite was huge and ritzy, but what caught Zan’s attention were the three other people he hadn’t met standing in the room. And it d*mn near shocked the crap out of him when he saw Syn’s brother standing among them, looking at Zan as if they’d never met. What the f*ck?! Whoa, he had to chill until he found out what the h*ll was going on.

“Well, I’ll make the introductions,” Sero said.

“Wait a minute, Sero. Are you sure you made the proper ID?” a heavyset man asked pointedly. He was the only one dressed in a suit. Everyone else was casual.

“Yes, I’m able to use this human body’s optic nerve for the purpose just fine. We’ve been through this many times before, Hanar, so chill.”

Hanar frowned at Sero’s use of foreign slang. “Bah!”

“Zan, we realize that under the circumstances you may or may not remember certain things. With that said, this is Hanar Dovvit-Coh, Third Consul of the Vorshkylon Republic; Kathana Sed of Bhorduin….” Sero hesitated. “I think you know Deshamos Sartor, also known as Nicholas, who is representing Khivar Sorhl-Mehn – “

“Who had you killed and stole your throne,” Hanar interjected. “In case you aren’t clear on that, Your Highness.”

Kathana rolled her eyes. “Here we go again.”

“Ha. Ha. You’re not funny, Hanar,” Nicholas said dryly.

“Maybe not but neither is this,” said Sero. “Khivar calls himself 'King of Antar'.”

“Yeah, and he’s ruling it well - unlike some other people whom it would be too impolite to mention at present.”

Zan’s covert attention was momentarily drawn away from the being that looked exactly like Mack Morgan. He felt violence growing inside him. Deshamos. So now he had a face to go with the voice. Keep cool, Kapol. You’re through the looking glass now. But what was up with Deshamos’ kiddie disguise?

“Ruling well? Interesting choice of words, Deshamos,” Sero retorted. “But moving right along…Zan, this is Larek Melledaan, Prince of Mirr.

Larek? “Yo, are y’all shapeshifters or what?”

‘Larek’ answered him. “We’re not physically here – except for Deshamos. We’re still in Satesia, our solar system. We’re on the Eslonn moon, a neutral place for meetings such as this. We have the technology to transport our consciousness here and use human bodies for locomotion and speech.”

“Well, what’s happening to the humans you’re using?”

“They’re temporarily unconscious. We’re not hurting them, Zan.”

“Have y’all put down any humans? I mean you, um, Larek…you ain’t interacted with none of this dude’s peeps?”

“What is he saying?” Hanar whispered to Sero.

“No and no.” Larek’s head tilted as he observed Zan. “Why do you care? Do you recognize any of these bodies?” His gaze narrowed. “Mine?”

“Nah. Just curious, man.” Zan concentrated but didn’t see the blue-gray. D*mn! He wanted to check on Syn right there and then. He looked around them all. These scabs just didn't know. If this muthaf*cka had touched her, he was gonna take their star war to a new f*ckin’ level…! He didn’t trust none of these space b*tches. Why’d they have to choose Syn’s brother of all people? Sh*t!

“I think we’re wasting time here, people,” Kathana said impatiently. “What are we up to back home now – a thousand lives a minute?”

Hanar was the first to sit at the large round table in the middle of the spacious living room. “Yes,yes, let’s get on with it." As everyone else sat down too, he continued, "I think sixty plus years of war, suffering and death among all of our people is long enough to make the point that there is no point. I say peace at any cost!”

“Zan, we don’t want to attract attention. None of us, including you, should even be on this planet,” Sero said.

Please,” Nicholas sneered. “He shouldn’t even be alive, so what are you saying, Sero? Look, we’re here to deal with the petri dish king, so let’s deal.”

Zan carefully ignored him because if he looked at the little snot for more than a second, he’d try to kill him. “What the h*ll’s his story?” he asked roughly.

“I’m unique,” Nicholas answered smugly, leaning back in his seat.

Kathana snorted. “We don’t approve of his group’s methods. He’s a Skin. His body that you now see belonged to an Earth child that he personally murdered about sixty years ago. Some farmer’s son in a place called Alabama. What were you doing there, Deshamos? The rest of the Skins made their initial harvests in the mid-west of this nation-state. And why’d you pick a child?”

Larek tapped his fingers on the table thoughtfully as he watched Nicholas’ face redden in anger. “Kathana, let’s not digress.”

“Well, it’s gruesome! He’s like a macabre walking corpse with the eyes of the one who killed him grinning in my face.”

“How the f*ck would you know what I did sixty years ago? Were you there?”

“Deshamos – “ Sero began warningly.

“No, I’m answering the wench. Kathana, you’re the original pot calling the kettle a kitchen whore. Shall we review for our punk rocker Shizon of Antar here your illustrious – um, for want of a better word – humanitarian career? Does the Shizon not know how many Antarian prisoners of war you, Kathana Sed, previous General of all the armies of Bhorduin, have personally killed with your bare hands?”

“That’s what happens in a war!” Kathana spat. “But I haven’t become scum and betrayed my king, my family and my people like you, you tegog!”

Nicholas eyes became blank and reptilian in shape. “You will die for your words right here.” He made a quick move and everyone jumped up, knocking over chairs as all kinds of alien shields filled the room with colored lights.

“All right, that’s enough!” Sero whispered fiercely in the ominous silence. “No one is dying here. That’s happening enough elsewhere, wouldn’t you say?” He held up a device looking like a large spearhead which they could all see clearly through his silvery shield. “You all know what this is and I will use it if I have to. We’re all here to gain the same end – if not with the same motivations. We are here to make peace and that’s exactly what we’re going to do. Now shall we all sit down – and chill? Shizon?”

Everyone cautiously compressed their powers and sat. Zan was the last to ease up on his shield and join them. He didn’t know what Sero had, but it must have been the mutha of weapons in the room cuz nobody said a d*mn thing else. Then Hanar stood again and began a formal speech that seemed to be the traditional way of opening a peace summit. Although antagonism had irreversibly charged the atmosphere, everybody remained cool. Yet a foreboding chill crept into Zan’s body and he couldn’t tell what it meant except that something was wrong – somewhere here in Apple town. Very wrong. His wandering eye caught the smug (and now human again) stare Nicholas was directing at him. Unperturbed, Zan returned his attention to Hanar’s never-ending speech. He knew the time was coming soon when he’d have to deal with Deshamos, his f*ckin cousin, once and for all…

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


“How many more blocks, honey?”

“Four.”

“Oh. Well, I gotta go back. I’m risking my job for you y’know and I’m doing all the talking. Unless you got a phone number to give me,” he said slyly.

Syn silently squinted ahead. She hadn’t gotten an answer when she called Mack and Wheat from a pay phone before leaving the station. It wouldn’t have taken them this long to get the priazzo. And if they walked all the way to the subway, they would’ve gone in and found out there was a problem and waited to see if she’d been stuck on the train in the accident. Then they would’ve gone back home and called her apartment and/or the hospital and…right about now they’d be worried. Or right about now the ‘thing’ was in Mack and Wheat was dead. Stop thinking like that! Oh, she had to get to them!

“Earth to Annie,” her persistent rescuer sing-songed. “If that’s even your real name.”

“Yeah, I know my own name.” She dug in her bag and wrote a phony number down for him, saying with a smile, “Here ya go.”

“All right!” he exclaimed triumphantly, jumping up once. Syn rolled her eyes. “But I still gotta get back. I’ll call ya, Annie,” he said, already walking away.

“Jerkweed to the max!” she muttered moving briskly down the street. Thoughts of Mack’s ‘possession’ and Dawdek the scumbag stalker, were crowding her mind. Syn looked around the area furtively. Okay, where were all the people she saw just a minute ago and why had four streetlights just gone out? She began trotting towards the next well-lit corner. There were some figures crouched on the pavement, but she felt no bad colors. They were most likely just homeless and hoping no one would bother them either.

She passed the lighted intersection into the next block and slowed to a speed walk. So far so good. Just three blocks away. Just three blocks aw –

“Hey, need some company?” said somebody coming out of a hole-in-the-wall bar.

Yuck! Syn almost came to a startled halt, but had the sense to keep going. His voice tasted like rotten eggs. She grimaced, listening to him still talking behind her. Rotten eggs and a – a kind of…maggoty yellow. The dude who was messing with Lucia at the Black Juice! And his voice wasn’t fading like it should have been. She turned around and sure enough he was following her.

“I’m just gonna escort you to wherever you going. Don’t worry‘bout me,” he said, grinning lewdly.

“I don’t need no escort, man,” she said warningly.

“Well I am your escort tonight. So what you gonna do about it?” he said roughly, picking up his pace.

Okay, that’s it. Syn broke into a dead run and then heard him say behind her, his voice fading (Thank God!), “Aw! What’s his car doing here? Aw, sh*t, no! D*mn!”

She looked back and saw that instead of chasing her, Maggot Man was looking all around like somebody was after him. Whew! Okay, two blocks left. When she turned to continue walking, there stood Dawdek about twelve feet in front of her, blocking her path with his large form, an alley directly to his right. The expression on his ugly visage was pleased, determined. Evil.

“Ah, we meet again.”

His nauseating colors washed over her and bile rose in her throat. Syn said nothing as she scanned for a store or something that she could run into. She was also thinking about the small knife in the side pocket of her bag right near where her hand rested. The big one would be harder to get to.

He took two steps towards her, the steely glint in his eye noticeable in the dim light of a nearby streetlamp. “You’re such a little flower, but you been real rude to me, baby. I don’t like that. All I want to do is…talk to ya.”

“We ain’t got nothing to talk about.” She unzipped that side pocket as discreetly as possible. “Move out of my way.”

“In that case, all I want you to do is open your petals for me - nice and easy.” He smiled nastily.

That did it. Screaming at the top of her lungs Syn made a break for it between the parked cars and into the street. But not a soul had come out from anywhere by the time he caught up with her, and she twisted in his grip and fought him like mad, unable to reach her weapons.

“Ain’t nobody coming, so stop screaming.” He wrapped his arms around her waist, bag and all, her violent squirming and painful scratches both turning him on and angering him. “Ow! I like a wildcat b*tch but you getting carried away…stop fighting me, d*mn it! This is gonna happen…”

“Muthaf*cka, don’t even think it!! ”

They were nearly at the mouth of the alley when he planted his disgusting lips on the back of her neck. Enraged, with tears streaming down her face and her voice raw with screaming, she reared her leg up and rammed the heel of her boot as hard as she could against his knee, making him howl and fall down with her still in his tight grip. Two guys came running towards them and Syn thought, Thank God! Thank God!

“Yo, what’s going on? Sneddy, what's your man doing?” shouted one of them over Syn’s frantic pleas.

“You might be next, Harold, if you don't scram. Sneddy, take off your shirt and stuff it in her mouth!” Dawdek barked up at him, his breathing labored with pain and rage.

“What?”

“Yo, man, this is foul,” the other guy said, backing away. “I’m out of here.”

“Help me!” Syn screeched. “He’s hurting me!”

But he quickly left and Sneddy (Maggot Man) was stuffing part of his shirt in her mouth, nearly getting his fingers bit off in the process. “Ow! You – !” He raised his hand to strike her.

“Do it and I’ll f*ckin slice up the rest of you,” Dawdek warned chillingly, as he struggled to contain Syn’s violent attempts to escape.

“I’m helping you, man, but what am I getting out of this? Give me a hit or Five-O’s getting a tip.”

“The only tip they’ll get is where to find your decomposing head if you don’t shut the f*ck up. Now you keep a watch out here and I’ll give you a couple dime bags – and you can keep your head.”

“Alright,” Sneddy said, his eyes full of more anticipation than resentment as he watched the fight. The little ho was friggin hellcat!

When Dawdek was finally able to drag Syn into the alley, Sneddy began puffing a cig, shifting anxiously from foot to foot. He was gonna tip Five-O about this drug-selling, face-cutting bastard anyway – right after he got them dime bags…



part thirteen


She felt cold.

Colder than she should have felt even though she was lying immobile on the hard ground in the alley. It actually opened up into a wider space surrounded by the dirty backs of buildings, dumpsters and other unrecognizable junk. But she couldn't look at her surroundings directly because she hurting all over and dizzy with pain.

As Dawdek circled her still form, her eyes tried to follow him. He stared down at her hungrily but indecisively. It wasn’t the hunger of lust anymore. He’d clearly grown impatient with her resistance. She had scratched, kicked, bit, and bruised him. And - oh - he really didn’t like it when she managed to stab him with her switchblade. Unfortunately the wound was not as serious as she aimed for. With anyone else she’d probably have escaped by now, but not him. Syn licked her cracked lips, making them sting. He had become violent and beat her. She was hurt badly inside. She could almost feel some of her organs struggling to work. So why wasn’t she in more pain than she was? Was she dying? Would the God she loved so much really let this happen to her? She didn’t want to die! Tears squeezed out from the corners of her eyes.

“What am I gonna do with you? You all bruised up and nasty-looking all because you think you too good to f*ck ol’ Dawdek. I should mail you D.O.A. in separate boxes to that smart-mouthed brother of yours. Hmm, maybe I’ll just pay him a personal visit.”


Syn’s started wheezing as adrenalin rushed through her traumatized form. No, he would not hurt Mack! She wouldn’t let him! She gritted her teeth and began a prayer – Dear l*rd, please save me from death at the hands of this muthaf*cka… give me thestrength to kill him … !

“Yo, Dawdek! Man, ain’t you finished yet? I want that sh*t you promised me,” Sneddy called plaintively from outside.

Dawdek cursed under his breath and walked to the alley entrance and spoke in low, angry tones. It hurt to do it but Syn managed to reach her right hand just inside her bag which lay in a flat heap next to her. She felt around gingerly for the handle of her large Bowie-like knife and pulled it partially out, concealing it with a deceptively limp hand. One last prayer – Dear l*rd, I want to live. Help me!

Dawdek walked slowly back to her. “Time’s up for you, b*tch, cuz you d*mn sure wasted mine.” Syn felt his colors turn colder and more putrid. He intended to kill her now. When he raised his foot above her face and brought it down, she grabbed the hilt of her knife and, with the strength of her anger, stabbed his leg. As he fell across her, she viciously pushed the weapon straight through to his bone, twisting it and ripping it downwards. Hitting the ground, he screamed, rolled, and stood back up immediately. His face was such a mask of pain, rage and hellish malevolence that fresh fear sharply pinched the nerves of her spine. How in heaven’s name was he able to stand with that gaping hole in his leg - with flesh and muscle hanging down from it in a bloody glob? Was he a demon? She flinched and tightened her grip on the knife when he reached down to take it from her and was punished for resisting him again with a wild backhanded slap that wrenched her neck muscles.

“You like knives so much?” he queried in a hard inhuman voice, a voice that tasted like hot ammonia and diesel mixed together. “Live by the knife, die by the knife, whore.”

All the places he’d struck and kicked her were throbbing in alarm, but she had no more strength left. She could only console herself that at the moment she was still alive and should try to remain that way. D*mn his soul to hottest hell! As he slowly crouched over her, a sick anticipation in his otherwise deathlike eyes, Syn moaned and blinked, feebly moving her hands to defend herself to the last. g*ddammit, l*rd, I asked you to help me!!

Out of nowhere came a savage growl.

Er, l*rd?

It was so deep and menacing that Dawdek stood up and looked carefully around the alley at which point Syn rolled painfully onto her stomach with the intention of crawling away.

“Oh no, you don’t!” And she was pushed back over roughly with his foot. The growling became considerably louder and more insistent. Syn managed to turn her head and look towards the sound. A huge German shepherd – the biggest one Syn had ever seen – crept slowly a few paces from behind a dumpster - incensed, feral and foaming at mouth, glaring with red eyes. Its bared teeth were too large for a normal dog. Dawdek looked decidedly uncomfortable and uncertain. He wanted to cut Syn to shreds right there but trying to fight off a rabid dog was something else. Then another thought put a grisly smile on his face.

“How about I leave yous two to get better acquainted?” he said backing away slowly. “If there’s anything left of you, I’ll come get a souvenir. See ya ‘round, little b*tch.” And then he was gone. She faintly heard Sneddy say, “Hey, man, what the f*ck was that?? Hey, let go! Where we going? Where’s the stuff, man…?”

Syn’s mind was getting foggy. Staring at the dog, she guessed she’d rather have it eat her than for Dawdek to have his way. However, she preferred neither and tried to turn onto her stomach again but couldn’t. The pain was increasing now. She couldn’t even protectively curl her body into a fetal position. When the animal came towards her, she grit her teeth and covered her face with her hands, almost passing out from that small movement. Then…nothing.

Syn wondered dizzily if it wanted to eat her eyes first and was waiting for her to move her hands to begin his attack. Well, it could wait forever! If life would last as long as she covered her eyes, she’d live to be 199, for real! She felt its paw nudge her shoulder. When she refused to acknowledge, it nudged her again. She peeked from between her fingers. The German shepherd was looking down at her calmly without a trace of ferocity. She flinched as he tentatively sniffed her a little. Then he walked over to the dumpster from which he came to sit down on all fours as if waiting for something. Her breath came out in a relieved rasp but was sucked back in when Dawdek returned. Before he could say a word, however, the German shepherd snarled in such a bloodcurdling manner that Syn peed on herself. He ran at the blackguard, apparently chasing him more than a block away, judging by the fading shouts. The animal returned after a time and sat again in the same spot. Syn was quivering with shock and gratitude. An angel dog. She was partial to cats but wouldn’t trade ‘Angel’ for the world. Thank you, sweet j*s*s! My j*s*s!

But she was still in trouble because she was probably hemorrhaging inside. She felt so broken. Her thoughts were growing still more and more hazy like she was being pulled away from herself so she grabbed onto a dream, attempting to anchor herself to reality…in these frightening moments the first person she thought of wasn’t her mother or Mack. It was Zan. Where was he? She wanted…Zan…Zan…

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


“…Zan.

Zan heard his name being called deep inside his head but the voice faded away. Then he felt pain in his chest – tearing him like grief – and matching the headache that was squeezing his temple like a mutha for the past fifteen minutes. And bang! - he suddenly felt Syn all around him, pressing his flesh as if trying to enter him while the reps were squabbling about something called a granolith. All h*ll broke loose when he said he didn’t have it and, besides that, had never heard of the d*mn thing before in his life. There was a low zinging in his head like something only a dog could hear and then it became loud and rhythmic. The note crystallized, getting louder and louder, and his body jerked when he heard her words in a weak but clear voice as if she were sitting right in his lap… “Zan…Zan, I need you…please…Iwant to see you before I…” He jumped up and everyone looked at him expectantly.

“Have you perhaps remembered that you know what and where the granolith is?” queried Kathana sarcastically.

Sero admonished her. “Be careful how you speak. Shizon, we can not have peace without the granolith and we know you have it.” His expression became uncertain. “I mean, you must have it.”

Larek only stared at Zan intently, lightly tapping his fingertips on the table and Nicholas’ smug smile never wavered. Hanar’s face was red with frustration and alarm.

Zan was barely listening. “Yo…meeting’s adjourned. Set this up again for later.”

“What?!”

“No, no, we can’t do that!”

Shizon,we have a serious situation here. This has to be resolved tonight.”

But he was already walking away, his shield up. “I said meeting’s adjourned. Reschedule it. Send that liquid metal dude back to Bloomie’s with the date and time. I’m out.” And he was gone.

“Now what?” Hanar blustered. “This is unconscionable! We can’t deal with a king who walks away from peace summits without any explanation and apparently without any concern for the stability and survival of the Satesia-Kieohl!”

“The king might be…damaged in some way - mixed with human material like he is,” offered Larek quietly.

Sero was frowning, staring at the hotel suite door. “We have to get him back. We have to try to set it up again for tomorrow.”

“Sero, your precious Holy Days will end in a few hours and the great king might not even show up for another meeting. Then what?” said Nicholas, obviously enjoying the general discomfort in the room.

Sero looked around at them significantly. “There is another possibility,” he said slowly.

Larek looked at him sharply, but his voice remained passive. “Let’s reschedule the summit like he said. We have time. Zan may have sensed that the queen or princess was in danger - thus his abrupt departure.”

“They’re not important. He is,” Kathana snapped.

“This is ridiculous,” Hanar interjected. “If he is a Kapolite, he’s certainly not dependable any more and we don’t have time to quibble with various alternatives. Deshamos, what were Khivar’s terms of peace again – minus the involvement of the Shizon?”

“No!” Kathana exclaimed angrily.

Larek’s eyes were still locked on a brooding Sero while he said, “Calm yourself, Kathana. Sero, it’s not a bad idea to review Khivar’s plan.”

“Well, well. This is a surprise,” Nicholas said slowly, pretending to ponder the matter. “But I’m afraid Khivar might require, er…more at this late date.”

“Let him require as much as he wants,” Sero said in a hard voice without looking up from his folded hands. “A complete economic monopoly in Satesia is not going to be handed over to Khivar or anybody else.”

Nicholas' eyes narrowed. “Then let’s all just wait to die because the hybrid’s elevator doesn’t go up. Let’s order a pizza while we’re at it. I’m hungry.”

“What’s this other option, Sero?” Kathana demanded.

“If it’s what I think it is, there’s not enough time for that,” sing-songed Nicholas.

Larek agreed briskly. “He’s right. Even if what you’re thinking is true, there’s no time.”

Sero held his hand up. “I’m not thinking anything. Get Pakeen Hrek back here. We’ll set up another meeting in a couple hours. If the Shizon doesn’t respond in a timely manner, we’ll go to plan B.”

“And what’s that?” barked Hanar.

“I don’t know. We’ll cross that bridge when we get there.”

Nicholas threw his head back and laughed, spinning around in his swivel chair. “Ha-Ha! What a plan! Great peace summit, huh? This is a real hoot…yo!” Then sliding on his sunglasses he stood up. “Call me after the end of the world, kids, k?” He clucked his tongue at them and left.

With considerable threats and grumbling Hanar and Kathana left as well.

Larek was almost out the door when he paused and turned. “Aren’t you leaving too? You’re eating up as much power as the rest of us.”

Sero raised his eyebrows. “After tomorrow it won’t much matter.”

“What is the other option?” Larek asked insistently, moving closer.

“It’s rumored that the other option is about 1500 miles away and there are no guarantees of success. So I hope we don’t have to try it.”

A tic started in Larek’s cheek. “You’re talking about the rumor of the second set of royals – the duplicates,” Larek insisted tightly. “Forget it, Sero. We’ll all be dead if we go chasing that dream.” When the other man looked at him wearily Larek relaxed. “Besides, you know what will happen once the C-10 emissary is notified by the plant that the summit didn’t go as planned. He’ll take the first ‘Zan’ he finds, and he knows where our Zan is, and he’ll eliminate the other three. Then it won’t matter whether there are a thousand duplicates. There won’t be a summit. Ever.”

Serosipped his water. “Don’t worry. The Shizon will be given ample time to cooperate.”

Larek spun on his heel and left Sero staring thoughtfully after him.



Zan grabbed first car that was convenient to take, his blood racing and the world in trouble if it got in his way. He was nervous and imbalanced as he tried to control his erratic driving. If the cops tried to pull him over now, he’d end up killing them. He had to find Syndara. The truth was all in his blood, burning him up with its urgency. She was hurt and she needed him. F*ck everything else! He reached out for her with his mind forcefully and drove towards the taste of bruised peaches. Bruised. He gripped the steering wheel so tightly he almost cracked it as he made a screeching turn onto the Bridge heading for Brooklyn. He throat thickened as he careened down Flatbush, his senses sharp to the point of pain because he was straining them. Why wasn’t she calling him now, d*mmit? Why couldn’t he hear her? Talk to me, peach. Where are you? He listened but she didn’t answer him.

A sudden flare of painful heat in his stomach had him almost doubling over and running the car up on the friggin sidewalk. Yeah. Yeah, it was her! He turned into this dark street and slowed down to a crawl. As he reached midway the block, at the mouth of an alley, the strong scent of bruised peaches ncreased sickeningly. Her pink and blue were dull and fading and moving sluggishly. Zan quickly pulled over and jumped out of the car while it was still moving, letting it bang to a stop against another car. The alley opened up into a large dirty square and on the ground in the center lay a crumpled form. And his heart slammed against his ribs at the sight.

cono! F*ck no! j*s*s sh*t!” he cursed harshly, rushing over and falling to his knees beside her. He could barely speak - barely breathe - past his own agony at seeing her this way! His eyes widened with pain as he tried to see her clearly in the dimness, he passed a hand over her to locate where the most damage was. F*ck! She was hurt bad – everywhere. But her heart…her heart was messed up, bruised, in shock, like it’d been kicked or something - what the f*ck?! - and it wasn’t working right. It was laboring to beat and getting weaker by the second. m*ry mother of g*d almighty!

“Syn! Syn, baby, can you hear me?” She moved her cracked lips, making a hoarse sound. He pressed his hand over her heart. Her eyelids lifted slightly. She recognized him and tried to smile, tried to touch him.

Zan cradled her head, his gaze intense and half mad as he stared into her eyes, pressing harder. “Sh, baby. Don’t! Just lie still,” he whispered to her.

Syn’s eyes suddenly widened and she grabbed the hand on her chest. She felt an incredible heat coming into her through his fingers. It didn’t hurt but it should have. It felt good. “Wh-what…are you…doing?”

Zan didn’t answer her, his mind on the fact that he wasn’t healing her. It wasn’t working! Okay, okay, he wasn’t touching enough of her. That’s it. He’d never healed anyone hurt this badly, this close to…No! He wouldn’teven think it! Not about her! Sh*t!

He had to enter her all the way.

“Peach, I gotta pick you up.” There was a strange distinct chill in the air and Zan’s desperation made him lightheaded when he looked down at Syn in his arms, wide-eyed, clinging to him weakly and whimpering in pain. He laid her as gently as possible in the front seat and jumping in on the other side, he took off - not noticing the large German shepherd quietly staring after them from the sidewalk.

The city lights raced past them, seeming to urge Zan to hurry as they peered into the car at Syn. He wondered why in the name of whatever it was taking so f*cking long for him to get to her apartment only a few f*cking blocks away! He kept his hand pressed against Syn’s heart which had threatened to stop beating after he carried her to the car. Her eyes were closed but her fingertips lightly traced the veins in his hand as if she could sense how panicked, distraught and crazy he felt and was trying to calm him.

“Zan,” she croaked out suddenly.

“No, baby, don’t try to talk now. I gotcha. You gonna be a’ight. I swear!”

“You…came,” she murmured, smiling faintly.

He looked down on her, his own eyes bright with unshed tears. “Peach, I’ll always come for you,” he whispered, massaging her chest gently.

Zan finally came to a screeching halt in front of her building and in a matter of seconds got her inside her apartment, stepping all over the gift he’d left under her door. It nearly killed him to listen to her cries of pain all the way up the stairs, which he took six at a time.

Syn didn’t care about the pain now. She was so glad Zan was with her! She wasn’t afraid anymore. She just wanted to rest and she sighed , feeling cool sheets against the few spots on her skin that weren’t numb. Zan made them both naked with a wave of his hand and he quickly lay on top of her, holding her head still as she murmured in protest.

“I know I’m heavy, sweetheart, but I gotta press against you,” he said urgently, stroking her cheeks with his thumbs, almost touching his lips to hers. “Look at me, Syn. Come on. Open your eyes, baby, please!”

Syn heard his voice coming from far away and all she could feel was his heartbeat and the stroke of his thumbs on her cheeks. She couldn’t quite make out the words but he sounded so scared that she wanted to comfort him. With effort she lifted her heavy lids to stare into his beautiful, fearful eyes. She tried to say his name but all of a sudden his body and hands felt so hot on her. His heat burrowed into her and flowed quickly througout her body like fast running water. Syn grabbed his waist as soon as feeling came back into her hands. Ooo…it hurt but he felt so good…and then she was drowning in him...

Zan groaned, pressing his head against hers. He was reaching deep into her, feeling all her pain, reaching for all her injuries, healing her inside, racing through her veins with her lifeblood. And he felt himself getting lighter and lighter as all his energy was being used up. He might die like this but that was okay - as long as she lived. He felt her arms slide around his back, holding him tightly as they trembled uncontrollably against one another. The touch of her soft skin, so bruised and hurt, against his nearly broke him. His beloved Syndara! He crushed her to him and melted past the barrier of flesh into…into…into her soul! Without hesitation his own eagerly reached for hers, so great was his attraction to her who completed him…to his joy! And her essence met him more than halfway, swirling around and through his insistently. Part by part they linked together, merged…

In this haze of blue gold pink and magenta and the sweet mix of strawberries and peaches Zan was Syn. He was like a…Zyn. Zyn was seven years old and crouching behind the door of her bedroom late one night listening to one the worst friggin arguments her folks ever had. Her father was so drunk. Zyn hated that sh*t! It scared her. She was trembling even now, hoping he wouldn’t come into her room to blow his rank whiskey breath in her face while he said all kinds of crazy sh*t she didn’t understand while all her mother did was stand in the doorway saying over and over again, “Let the child sleep, Bobby! For g*d’s sake…”

Right now Pops was screaming at Moms about how he never wanted no g*ddam kids – how she trapped him by getting herself knocked up with Mackey-boy and then had the nerve to squeeze out a girl kid (as broke as they were!) just when he was getting ready to leave her flat ass! Then Moms was screaming back how she certainly hadn’t wanted a second kid and his d*mn cheap rubbers were to blame!

Zyn had heard this all before but it was hurting more now than ever. It was making her crazy! They were trying to kill her inside! At least once a week, late in the night, they’d argue about the money they never had and the kids they never wanted - probably hoping she and Mack would disappear if they complained often and loud enough. But in the morning they’d be all smiles and hugs as if the nights of verbal violence never happened. They were cruel, mean sons of b*tches, she thought with tears streaming down her face. Why couldn’t they be nice and love her like Lu-Lu’s parents loved her? What was wrong with her and Mack that they couldn’t love them? Zyn wiped her tears. She had to get outta this place. She and Mack could run away and live with Grandma Sena! Yeah, that’s what they’d do. They’d go someplace…someplace…

Syn was someplace inside Zan, inside his rich vibrant royal colors. He was other. Different from her in an elemental way. At first she felt his love for her and fear for her life, but she didn’t have time to nestle down in him and rest. She was not only in him. She was him. She washe. He was…San… The first thing San remembered was the awful cold. He must have been warm at one time but he couldn’t remember that. He fell from far up, from moisture to dryness. Voices in a language he knew but was quickly forgetting were fading. When he stopped falling, he saw three others…

The next thing San remembered was being trapped by obscene alien beings in a dark gray/black place underneath the universe. These monsters wanted to take the four of them, wanted to use them. They desperately fought to protect themselves and each other without strength, barely able to stand upright steadily. San had bonded with the other three. They were one in thought but so weak. When they could fight off the monsters no more, San let them take him to give the others a chance to escape and two of them did. The other – the one with the piercing eyes, who was more like him than the others - did not try to escape, but stayed with him even though he wanted her to go. The monsters did evil things to them…so they made themselves as numb as possible. Some time after that their powers came to them and the four of them killed the ones who hurt them. They killed them in the worst ways they could. Now they had strength, but they were no longer one in thought. They were seven years old. Months later the protector came. He was oddly nervous and disoriented…

Zan and Syn were hurtled again into fragments of each other’s experiences, but Syn was the one who gasped aloud within this healing sleep at Zan’s…alien…not ofthis earth… love… Antarian… a king… death. They separated slightly within their connection, just enough to know that they were two within one and the memory pool faded. Time was fluid and they swam easily in the ocean their souls formed. The waters were warm and soothing, full of love and peace. Meant to be. Yes… How long were they there? Slowly the waters parted and they were pushed reluctantly to the surface. Syn’s bed was the dry shore they were washed up on and they each awoke to find themselves caressed by the eyes of the other.



part fourteen


Rath was having another bad feeling while he sat on the strange bed, waiting for his strange late night snack to come out of the shower. It was odd to him that Courtney – er, Crystelle – turned down his offer of, um, water sports. This bullsh*t, c*ck-twisting waiting was a waste of his time and he was getting antsy. He looked all around her digs. Well, they were nice digs like she said, but he couldn’t figure how a hooker hooking on the Third Strip could afford Park Avenue. And actually he really didn’t give a d*mn. All he cared about was finding out if she was a natural blond. A lascivious grin spread across his face. And why should he wait?

Rath went over to the bathroom door, listening for a moment to the water running at full force, and then opened it slowly. All this steam was in there. Too much. It was like a thick cloud rising to the top and leaving the floor visible. Weird. He hunkered down, squinting, and then his mouth hung open in alarm. Skin. Goo gobs of skin sheddings were on the floor.

Shit!

Just as he was backing away, the stall door was flung open and Rath reflexively threw up his hand, surprising himself when some kind of green beam shot from it, just barely deflecting a wider blue one that still knocked him backwards. Courtney, looking like wet rotten meat from the waist up with her epidermis stripped away, bent over him, aiming some kind of small weapon. Shouting obscenities, Rath knocked her hand to the side, causing her to blast a hole right beside his head, and without thinking he yanked her long (blond!) p*bic hairs with all his might. While she was doubled over screaming in pain, he rolled hard against her leg, making her fall. He jumped up with the dropped weapon but before he could use it, the Skin raced to the balcony and jumped. Rath looked down on her oddly sprawled, unmoving body eight stories down.

“Dayumm!”

She looked frickin dead, but…she was a Skin. He had to get outta there. Cursing crudely under his breath, he ran with inhuman speed down the fire escape stairs. See, this is what happens when you let a hard-on lead you! Rath was so pissed with himself that he didn’t think before rushing through the exit. Just as he stepped out into the side street, a blast of fiery heat struck his right side - “Dayumm!!”- and the last thing he remembered was his eyeball popping out.



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


The silence in the room was laced with a profound wonder – and near exhaustion. Only this moment and the connection just before existed right now; nothing else. Which question should be asked first? There were many and yet so much was already clear.

A tic started working in Zan’s jaw, his hazel eyes wide as he stared down into Syn’s matching expression, still absently stroking her cheeks. How long had they been like this? He turned over slowly on his back pulling her on top of him, gently rubbing her. He couldn’t believe it! He couldn’t believe what they’d just done – what he saw in her. He really saw her and saw her seeing him. And love. So much love - hot, cool, rich, sweet - between them. And more that that, his soul (d*mn, he had one!) intertwined eagerly with hers, and it was a perfect fit. Perfect.

Meant to be… Yes.

Syn winced a little.

“What’s wrong?” he asked quickly, wondering if the croaking rasp really came from him.

“N-nothing,” Syn whispered, her eyes glued to his, full of questions, wonder, love…fear. The last twisted his gut. Was she afraid of him? The alien freak?

“You sure?” he snapped, his emotions raw. He wanted to dive back into her and never leave.

“My skin feels sensitive like…I can just feel more – of you.” There was a catch in her voice and she leaned her head on his chest to escape his penetrating gaze. Her love for him rippled almost painfully through her – overwhelming the amazement at how truly different he was. Extra special. And that was putting in mildly. Oh g*d…! Had she hallucinated the whole thing? She lifted her eyes to him.

“Zan, what--?”

He put a finger over her mouth because he saw what was coming and knew where it would lead. As long as she didn’t ask, this moment would last – this moment when he had her and it was possible to think that he’d always have her. And Zan knew what she meant. He still felt more of her too. They hadn’t separated fully yet. And in his heart it was clear that he loved her mad crazy and his body was gaining its strength back, blooming with the desire of his heart. He wanted to go back inside her now – right now! – in every way. Zan almost helplessly pushed his groin up against her, watching her eyes darken in response, but she closed her eyes, imperceptibly moving away from their joining. When she opened them again, he saw the conflict there. And more questions now than before. D*mn. Zan pushed himself up into a sitting position, taking her with him.

Syn grabbed his shoulders tightly. “Zan?”

With a lopsided smile he kissed her forehead. “Easy, baby. Don’t bruise me.” Syn didn’t smile back however and he stared down into her sweet face full of anxiety. The memory of the night was returning, dulling the tender moment. Zan pulled away suddenly and stood directly in front of her.

Gaping unabashedly, Syn thought Zan was just…magnificent from head to toe. Beautiful…but his eyes were blank.

“Get up.”

“No. Don’t act cold. Please, I can’t deal with that right now, Zan. Don’t --”

“Come on.” He pulled her up firmly by the hand and steadied her cuz she was a little shaky on her feet and so was he. Syn expelled a breath when his expression softened as he looked down on her. She was lovely…perfect… “Come on. Let me wash you.”

Warmth flooded her and she nodded wordlessly, not wanting to think or ask any questions about anything right now. She let him lead her into the bathroom and stood quietly as he adjusted the shower nozzle and the water’s temperature. He was making it very warm. She stared at his naked back and thought how natural it was to be nude with him. Syn wasn’t the least embarrassed or nervous. She belonged with him like this. If anything was true, it was that.

Zan was trying hard not to think about what happened tonight. Not yet. He couldn’t do this one thing for her now if he did. A cloud of rage in his brain was approaching, the memory trying to grow sharp and clear, her memory that he lived through when they were joined, the memory of an animal who had mauled her. A b*tch son of a f*cking c*nt!! Grabbing the shower curtain in one fist, Zan closed his eyes, gritting his teeth, and took deep breaths. Not yet, not yet! Just do this one thing for her now…

Pleasure washed over Syn with the warm spray when he pulled her under it with him. She saw his tension, but she wouldn’t push him now. The stall was like their own cocooned world and she would revel in it as long as possible.

“Um, Zan, that’s my shampoo,” she said with a smile, putting her hands lightly on either side of his hard, trim waist. Mmm, very nice.

“That’s what you wash your hair with, right?”

“Yeah.”

“Well a’ight then.” He began to lather her hair and scrub. He had such a nice rhythm going that Syn hung her head and murmured contentedly, her fingers kneading his flesh much like a purring cat would do.

Zan shifted. “Syn…Stop, man….Yo!” She could hear the smothered laughter in his voice. As much as she wanted to make him shriek if she could, she stilled her hands but didn’t relinquish her hold on him.

He was giving her hair a final rinse and tilted her head back. He looked down at her face full of trust even with her eyes closed. She trusted him. A well of tenderness for her overflowed in his heart. D*mn, he was turning into a regular Romeo – and he like it. He washed her thoroughly and carefully – all over - seeking to erase what happened to her right off her skin. What never should have happened. What he let happen!

Syn was enjoying being washed by him so lovingly that it was about half a minute before she realized that his hands were motionless on her shoulders. She finally opened her eyes and immediately hers reflected the blazing emotion she saw in his.

“Am I going to spend the rest of my life asking you ‘what’s wrong’?” He didn’t answer but just stared holes into her. Alarmed, she tentatively smoothed his cheek and tried to smile as they stood like statues under the hard spray of water. “If I tell you I…love you, will you say something?”

Zan face seemed to break up with pain and he hugged her tightly to him. “Syn, I’m so sorry – so f*cking sorry – I didn’t get to you sooner! I should’ve been there to protect you from –!” Abruptly he stepped out of the shower and pulled her behind him, making Syn gasp when he dried them both with a wave of his hand. She took a deep breath.

“It’s not your fault! It’s not. How could you have known?”

“Because I felt it! It was pain and I should have known it was you!” He picked her up in his arms and Syn’s went instantly around him, their eyes level as he carried her out.

“Zan, I’m feeling a little crazy right now. My head is spinning with everything that’s happened.” Her voice dropped low. “With what we shared – what you did…inside me. And…what you are! My g*d! We have to talk.”

He set her down, turning away to riffle through her bureau drawers like she hadn’t said anything.

“What are you doing?”

He pulled out the first long nightie he found and, exasperated, she allowed him to put it on her. Avoiding her eyes he pushed her down into bed and pulled the covers up around her. Syn could feel him detaching himself from her, pulling completely away. She grabbed his arms.

“Will you open your mouth and say something? Look at me!” When he did, a jolt of sharp awareness pierced her. His determination, his anger, his desire…entered her.

With a curse he knocked her hands away and pulled her up by the shoulders several inches off the bed, glaring down at her until her mouth caught his attention. With a deep sigh he rubbed his cheek against hers. “Oh baby!” he whispered roughly. He took her mouth with a kiss that was pleading, demanding, even painful, but she was all the way into it – until a few strands of their previous connection rejoined and she glimpsed a wall of rage building in him. It was still far away but it was moving quickly to his surface, changing him inside in the process. It was a frightening sight. What was happening to him?

He broke the kiss off and pressed his forehead to hers, listening to their own labored breathing. He swallowed hard, unconsciously tightening his hold on her. “When I healed you, I saw and felt everything he did to you. Everything!” He lowered her head gently to the pillow. When he stood up, his voice was emotionless and his cold eyes that of a stranger. “And I can’t live with that, so there’s something I gotta do. Right now.”

“No.” Syn shook her head, not liking what she sensed. “No, Zan, stay with me. Don’t leave me right now. Just hold me for a little while. Please!”

But she realized his mind wasn’t even in the room anymore. A second later his body followed and sobs racked hers as she curled into a fetal position. How could he leave her to face her own shock like this? How could he just leave without her knowing if he was coming back? Oh dear!, she thought helplessly as tremors of fear and the memory of pain shook her. Dawdek could be lurking anywhere! She couldn’t feel anything, no color, no taste. He could be watching her window even now! Grinning murderously like the demon he was, waiting…

With a small frightened cry, she ran to grab a large carving knife off the kitchen counter and scooted back into bed again.

She bunched the end of the pillow in her fist. How could he just leave her? How could he? She cried hard and bitterly until she suddenly stopped, her eyes wide and unblinking as she listened…


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


“You didn’t do what you were supposed to do!”

Lonnie’s eyes narrowed at Larek standing over her as she sat on a park bench in the Ramble. “First – how about you step back? I’m here contemplating sh*t and you running up on me in the dark like some mad gorilla…That’s better. Now what’s your problem?”

“What’s my problem? Have you been drinking without the pills? What was Zan doing at the summit, Vilandra?”

She stood up quickly. “What the h*ll are you talking about?”

“I’m talking about your incompetence!”

“You’re crazy! He wouldn’t go without -- ” Brows knitting she turned slowly away. “D*mn him!”

“Not only him, love. He can not be allowed to return to Antar.” Larek’s jaw clenched with frustration. “ Either you’re going to take care of this right now or I am.”

“The h*ll you are! Nobody touches him but me. He’s my g*dd*mn brother. I’ll do it.”

“Ah…I don’t think you’re hearing me, princess. You’ve been bullsh*tting me for over a week. Your version of ‘I’ll do it’ isn’t working for me.”

“Well, um, that’s real regrettable, Larek, but that’s not really my problem.”

“Maybe I’ve been eating you out so much – “

“ – More like not enough. – “

“- that it’s scrambled your brain. Don’t you remember what the king – your brother - was planning to do before he was killed? Don’t you remember him finding out about you? Don’t you remember how you lost everything?”

“Yeah, I remember! But what I don’t remember is you coming to the rescue! Interesting – that.”

“Oh and how would that have helped? My planet is underdeveloped to the point of extinction. I’m the first heir to the throne in seventeen generations to have viable plans to change that. So you and I going out in a blaze of passion that the troubadours could sing about isn’t an equal trade-off. Sorry.”

Lonnie’s eyes were slits. “Yes. You definitely are sorry.”

Larek’s expression softened a little. “Look, if you aren’t executed – by order of the king, your brother – a second time, you’ll certainly be imprisoned where they don’t serve the sayket and tir you loved so much.

“Me on lock-down? I don’t think so!”

“That’s right. Because we’re going to do this. Look, we can get everything we want, Vilandra. Kill Zan now. Kill Khivar later. Eh wait…you better kill Deshamos before Khivar. He’s the support behind the cardboard dictator.”

“Hold up. Who do think I am - one of your thugs? Like you said, your country is underdeveloped. I’m gonna rule Antar – as Queen - so you don’t tell me what to do.”

“The point is you aren’t anything now! And if he goes back to Antar, that’s the way you’re going to stay. He doesn’t remember what happened for some reason or other, but he will be reminded as soon as he gets back. The king may be a rough-around-the-edges human hybrid who’s spent his second life in a sewer, but I’ve seen and heard him. The part of him that is the Shizon has not changed one bit. The choice is yours to participate in this or not, but I’m going to do what I have to do for me and my planet. Period.”

“Cold b*tch, ain’t you?”

“What’s it going to be, Vilandra?”

Lonnie stared at him venomously, fuming. “I’ll take care of it as soon as he shows up.”

“No, you find him. Now.”


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


Down in Bensonhurst, Danny Mangione was sitting with his back to his Mom’s bay window, dialing Sneddy. He wanted to know what happened to that girl Dawdek was roughing up. He’d been feeling funny about it ever since. Wrinkling his nose distastefully, he hung up. Dang, no answer. Dawdek was one evil bastard, but he had the best weed in town. In fact, he was calling Sneddy primarily to ask him to get him some. Danny frowned and plucked at the pillow beside him. Um…the girl probably stiffed Dawdek on some money or something. Plus, if a girl walks down a street alone at night, she’s taking her chances, right? Right. He flicked on the TV, waiting for his girl Lisa to come over. He needed a good f*ck to chill out. He hated being stressed!

Danny lay back, taping the arm of the couch and was watching Benny Hill, when suddenly two fists crashed through the window behind him and he was snatched violently backwards through the sharp shards and onto the lawn. Cut all over his face he struggled against the hand gripping his throat painfully.

“Stop or I’ll kill you,” said a voice so chilling that Danny complied without meaning to. He couldn’t see through the blood flowing into his eyes.

“Wh-What do you want, man?! I ain’t got no money! My Moms got jewelry all up her ass all over her bedroom, man! Go ahead! She’s not even ho - ahgg!”

“Shut. Up. Where is Sneddy?”

“I – I don’t know, man! I don’t know, man! He was waiting to get some blow from Hanson Dawdek on Calfrey Street. He hangs out at Boone’s Lounge midway the block or in the Black Juice across the Bridge, man, so - uggllh!” His assailant was slowly choking him, the increase in pressure subtle and torturous and he struggled again.

“I can make you wanna die. Stop moving. Where does he live?”

The sound of sirens far away began to draw nearer.

“Yo, the cops is coming,” Danny rasped.

“And they’ll be going - but you won’t if you don’t talk.”

“I – I think it’s, um, 1408 McNeil Street!” When he didn’t say anything else, a fist slammed into his stomach.

“It’s…in…Queens?!”

Close to his ear he heard, “If you’re lying, I will find you. I know your colors and your smell now. Next time you see a girl getting jacked up by a worthless sh*t like you, stop him or call these f*cking cops you so happy to see know. Here’s a present for your compassion…”

Some neighborhood dogs started barking again when Danny screamed as the assailant broke his right arm and leg and then he fainted with the sound of sirens and heavy shoes running towards him, growing louder in his ear.

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

Sneddy was sitting near the men’s bathroom of the Black Juice, his head back against the wall. His high was wearing off and he was pissed. He’d get Dawdek for slicing up his face and giving him weak crap! Yeah, he’d get him. He stood up, not in the least wobbly. D*mn cheat! He stomped out into the street and went towards his car, fuming all the way when he heard a step behind him and turned to see this dude staring in his grill.

“What’ the f*ck do you want?”

This guy didn’t say anything, but just stood there twisting this white cloth of something, his face almost indecipherable with the bright lamp behind him.

“Do you know what it feels like to have so much sh*t stuffed in your mouth that your jaws ache?”

Sneddy’s eyes widened as he looked at the younger man in front of him. D*mn, this must be about the little ho and Dawdek. Dude looked like he knew something.

“Man, Dawdek is a f*cking psycho.” Sneddy straightened from his slouched gait, casually looping his fingers into his jean pockets, a small screwdriver in one of them. “He’s the one you want. I ain’t do nothing to her.”

Sneddy’s pulse leaped in alarm at dude’s chilling expression and the odd voice that didn’t sound quite…human.

“Nah, that’s alright. You’ll do for now.”

Sneddy had seen enough slasher flicks to know the deal. He lunged suddenly at the guy, but the screwdriver strangely sliced through nothing but air. Before he could whip around a hand splayed over his face, slamming his head down against the pavement.

“You like playing lookout while a girl gets raped and killed? And that’s nothing? Well, let me show you what ‘nothing’ feels like.” The guy passed his hand over him and Sneddy felt excruciating pain all over his body.

“What the f*ck did you do…to me?!” he choked out, writhing around desperately on the ground. “Son of – AHHHHHH!” Nearly mindless Sneddy grabbed the left side of his face but some ruthless energy was keeping him from fainting.

“You know what they say in one of your religious books. How does it go? If your left eye causes you to sin…Pluck. It. Out?” He crushed the eye in his fist to jelly, dispassionately watching Sneddy’s mouth open gruesomely in a silent scream. “Well, here you go.” He stuffed the glob into Sneddy’s front shirt pocket and left him quivering in shock on the pavement.


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


Ava was quickly packing her bag – not that she really had to rush cuz she didn’t have much. She’d made up her mind. She was not leaving Earth. Besides, she was having a good time with Roman Duvane. The Royal Three could do the ‘Mission to Mars’ without her.

It was cold outside so even though it hurt her fashion sense, she put on a long thick-knit black skirt and matching turtleneck hidden now by a leather coat that went down to her feet. Slightly cornball, but better than suffering the chill above ground. She looked around the pod crib – her home for eighteen years, only about eleven of which she could remember. She looked around and felt nothing - no remorse or regret about leaving. There was nothing and no one she would miss. D*mn. Oh well…She turned to go but saw two figures limping and gasping their way towards her. D*mn, d*mn, d*mn! She didn’t leave soon enough. As they got closer Ava could make out Korn barely holding up a stumbling, bloody, nearly unconscious Rath.

“What the f*ck is this?” she cried, her delayed getaway forgotten.

“This is what I was trying to tell you!” Korn snapped angrily. “The enemy is among us!”

Rath was groaning like a wounded animal, holding the right side of his face and rocking back and forth on the cot. “Yo, Korn!” he gasped out. “Man, f*ck the talking! Heal this sh*t! g*dd*mn!”

“I’m trying!” Korn was attempting to pull something out of each pocket of his long trench coat but his sleeves were snagged in them. “Vennd*mn!” Ava stepped back in alarm when he viciously kicked the leg of Rath’s cot in frustration.

“Owww! Man, dayumm! What the f*ck?! Come on!”

Korn finally snatched the objects out of his pockets and held them over Rath. “Okay, stop moving.”

“Man, just grow me another eye now! Sh*t!”

“Will you stop f*cking moving so I can do this?” Korn barked in an unsteady voice. This was a bad time to come down off his high. If only he had a blunt!

Ava gaped as the stones in his hands began to glow green and Rath’s movements stilled altogether, except for the heavy rise and fall of his chest.

“Whew! That’s better,” he said. “That’s – “ He removed his hands from his no longer bleeding eye socket and looked around above him at Korn and Ava. “Hey, wait a minute!” He sat up quickly, poking at the eyeless hole. “Korn man, where’s my new eye?!

“I can’t give you a new eye,” the shapeshifter replied stiffly. “Not now anyway. I don’t have the devices for it.”

“Well, how about you go get ‘em.

“What’s the use of a new eye to you when you’ll probably be dead soon anyway? The Skins don’t give up and Zan screwed up the summit.”

“He won’t tell us when he’s meeting the reps,” Ava offered quietly.

“Oh, he met with them already, but he walked out of the meeting. The Holy Days are over, the war is back on in full effect, and nothing – absolutely nothing – has been resolved by the council. In fact they may have decided by now that the peace pact could better be made if Zan were dead anyway. What a mess!”

Rath looked from left to right with his mouth ostentatiously opened wide. “Ho-ho-ho-hold it! You saying Zan met with the emissary and walked out on the summit without telling the rest of us jack??”

“Not telling you is not the problem, Rath. I’m glad the rest of you didn’t go. None of you have any self-control or sense of decorum.”

“I wonder why,” Ava said sarcastically, looking at their surroundings.

“Putting the four of you down here wasn’t my idea,” Korn shot back heatedly.

Rath stood up decisively. “Yo, none of that sh*t matters now. First of all, when can I get my eye, man, cuz this is some foul sh*t!

A cold ripple went through Korn crying out for a fix, making him want to pull his hair out. “You’re about to drive me muthaf*cking crazy about this eye! If you hadn’t let your head get twisted by a Skin in a skirt, you wouldn’t have this problem and I wouldn’t be wasting my f*cking time!”

“I think you better watch your mouth, man, cuz Zan’s out. I’m in command. Take me to the reps. I’ll settle this bullsh*t once and for all.”

“Oh you’re in command and Zan’s out? Really?” Ava queried challengingly, stepping closer. “Well, I’m the d*mn queen. You’re only like the head of the army or whatever. I’m next in line to rule.”

Rath laughed mockingly. “Ain’t nobody ever tripped as hard as you trippin’ right now, half-pint.”

“Let’s go,” Korn commanded. “It’s not safe here. I don’t know whether we were followed or not, but I can’t take that chance. I’ve got another place for you.”

“No, Korn, the reps. I wanna talk to them. Now!”

“It doesn’t work like that. As long as Zan is alive, he’s the only one they want and he’s very much alive.”

“How do you know that for sure?” Ava asked.

“As your protector I can sense it. That’s also how I caught the vibe that Rath was being attacked.”

“Whatever, man. It didn’t do my d*mn eye no good.”

Korn pressed his lips tightly together, trying not to completely snap.

“Zan ain’t here,” Rath continued, oblivious. “So the only place I’m going is wherever he is cuz we gonna have this sh*t out once and for f*cking all. And if you wanna tag along and protect us, Korn, be my guest.”

“Now you look – “

“What do you mean ‘we’?” Ava demanded.

“What do you think I mean, dorkette? I mean you and me. We gonna look for Zan and Lonnie and settle this.”

Ava sat down and folded her arms resolutely. “My name ain’t changed. It’s Ava. A-va. And I hate to disappoint you but I ain’t going anywhere.

Rath walked towards her menacingly. “No, you ain’t gonna disappoint me.”

“Bring it on, Mohawk.” Ava stood up, totally hostile. “I’m sick your sh*t anyway!”

“Enough!” Korn held up his hands and his eyes were glowing a neon green. “No one’s staying here and no one’s looking for Zan. You are both leaving New York. Right now.”


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


Dawdek was very uncomfortable and pissed. Sneddy’s cousin Crux couldn’t do sh*t with his leg so he had to go to the ER. Sure, they might find traces of stuff in his veins but so what? They were amazed he could walk. Didn’t they know Old Nick took care of his own? But they went ahead and did their drug, cut and sew thing to his leg and then put him in a room When you don’t have no insurance, the f*ckers get real careless ‘n’ sh*t. If his leg ended up looking like lumps of coal, he was gonna ‘see about’ the operating team – every last one of ‘em.

Dawdek closed his eyes, his hand wrapped around his favorite talisman. Syn Morgan. He still wanted her and he meant to have her one way or another. Her flesh would be sweet but her blood would be sweeter. Little cow tried to strip his leg like f*cking chicken. Yeah, tomorrow he’d get her again – if Dino Dog hadn’t made Kibbles ‘n’ Bits out of her.

He must have fallen asleep but not for long because he opened his eyes suddenly but it was still pitch black in his room. What woke him? Dawdek lifted his head slightly and froze. Something wasn’t right. Some-f*ckin-body else was in here with him. He wasn’t one to spook easily. Sh*t, he was spooky. But still… He lay listening and didn’t hear breathing but he felt eyes, emotionless eyes.

“So what are you? A midnight shift ho looking for the gold in my sack?” No scent, invisible. Inhuman?

“Not quite,” an indescribable voice answered. Suddenly the dim lamp high up on the wall opposite him came on and Dawdek could see a figure lounging in the corner chair. He could see only enough to tell that it was a young dude with spiky hair, who turned towards the lighted wall where Dawdek had scrawled a thick red pentagram. The figure turned back to look at him, tilting his head to the side. “Oh. You one of them.”

Dawdek raised his palms in mock surrender. “Okay, you got me. So – ‘not quite’, what the f*ck do you want?”

“Syn Morgan.”

Dawdek chuckled coarsely. “Well, take a number, young boy. What’s the matter? You creep up on me in here like you gonna do something and you mention her name. What are you – some avenging hero?” he sneered. “You done bit off more that you can chew, boy. And I don’t go easy on first time offenders. What I’d like to know is, how many pieces of that little sweetmeat is left in that alley?”

The young dude got up and slowly paced at the foot of his bed, not looking at him. The lamp went out suddenly and the air became still in the room plunged into darkness. It was completely and strangely silent for a long time and Dawdek thought maybe he’d been dreaming until he was startled by a voice - not quite human - whispering with extreme menace in his ear, “Not as many as the pieces of you that’ll be left in here...Dawdek.”

And Dawdek struggled wildly to no avail when what felt like a row of razors slowly tore the top layer of skin off his entire face.

That whole floor of the hospital was alerted by the hideous, animal-like screaming and crashing sounds coming from Room 217, but neither the nurses nor security guards could open the door…


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


Syn sat on the floor near the door looking at the portrait of herself that she found there. Two boot prints marred it. It was Zan’s work and it was good. She traced the laughing face full of light and joy with an indolent finger. It was so lifelike – even if he did make her look prettier that she was. A reluctant smile crossed her face. Did he really see her this way?

She was finding it difficult to hold on to her resentment. She wanted him to come back. Right now. What if he were hurt? What if Dawdek had killed him? She knew Zan went after him. She just knew it. Panic started deep in her chest and, gripping her rosary, she concentrated on breathing easily. No, she wasn’t going there. She wasn’t going to think that way. She couldn’t.

Her thoughts were interrupted by the sound of heavy footfalls – like somebody jumping up three flights of steps five or six at a time, stopping abruptly at her door. Syn remained still, holding her breath as a maddening silence stretched out, finally broken by a tentative knock.

“Who is it?” she demanded, knowing very well who it was. The magenta was unmistakable but it was a dull shade now. So tired.

“Syn, it’s me.”

“And?”

There was a pause full of meaning and then, “I just wanna see if you’re a’ight.”

“I’m the same way I was when you left me here.”

“Syn – “

“Go away.” The petulant words flew out of her mouth before she could stop them.

She heard a deep sigh. “Come on, man, just open the door.”

Syn dejectedly put the portrait beside her on the floor and folded her hands in her lap. “But you don’t need me to open the door, do you?” She got up and went to the stove to light a fire under the teapot.

She kept herself steady while she searched through her cabinets for the honey, even though her pulse leaped at the sound of the door opening easily – the door with the double lock, the door with a chain latch. Without turning around she could feel him moving towards her. It was a little scary how quietly he moved.

“Well, you’re in here and now you see me,” she began matter-of-factly after some moments of strained silence. She squeezed some honey in a mug. “Care to answer some questions?”

Syn stiffened then melted in a shiver as Zan smoothed his large veined hands over hips and across her stomach, pressing her against him.

“Yeah, I care, peach,” he breathed into her ear. Her eyes fluttered shut when he slowly kissed her hair, her ear, her cheek, then squeezed her tightly against him, pulling her up to bury his face in her neck with a soft groan. He knew he shouldn’t be touching her with hands that been so violent and covered with blood less than an hour ago, but he couldn’t help it. “You feel too good, baby.”

“Zan, please…”

His heart ached when she pulled reluctantly away from his embrace. Annoyed at his own vulnerability, he let her go.

Syn turned and stopped short when she finally saw his face. He was totally exhausted. They stared at each other and he looked broodingly resigned to whatever she was going to say. She wanted to demand some answers. She wanted to know exactly who he was and what he was doing here – in his own words. And if her dream were true…if all of it were true, than what did it mean? What next? And there was something she was forgetting about tonight – like a big chunk of her short-term memory was missing. What was it? What – ?

“Zan, are you an alien from a planet called Antar?” Was it possible that seconds could stretch out so long? His eyes held hers until she felt mesmerized.

“Yeah.”

She closed her eyes against a knee-jerk spurt of panic and then it was gone. “Are you here to hurt me or anybody else?”

Her words made him feel dirty. “Hurt you?” he repeated bitterly. “How can you ask me that after what happened tonight?”

She looked away from him, licking her lips nervously. “So you, um…healed me – inside. And then you…we…”

“We mated,” he finished brusquely, wishing it were true and already tired of questions.

Syn frowned looking up at him. “Mated?”

Zan looked away from her, swearing with frustration. He was being an ass. She was everything to him and he’d been nothing but a source of confusion and unrest for her. Yeah, he saw inside that she had feelings for him, but what the f*ck good was that when he’d only end up hurting her more just being what he was. He rubbed his forehead, feeling her eyes on him. He was so tired. Zan’s anger dissipated, leaving him drained and empty except for one thought. He loved her, he loved her, he loved her….

“Hold up, hold up. Zan, let’s start from the beginning, the very beginning. Who are – ?”

“I love you, Syn. I love like it’s the only thing I f*cking know.”

His words made her stand there staring at him like an entranced mute. They put a heat in her that rushed from her head straight down to her abdomen and made a pool of eagerness in her feminine core. She moved towards him even as he was backing away from her.

“And I ain’t gonna do nothing to hurt you no more. Goodbye.” He turned away from the sight of her face full of love for him. He had to get outta here. This was f*cking killing him!

Something inside Syn snapped. She raced to the door and blocked his exit, her chest heaving. “No, you’re not going any-g*dd*mn-where!” She unconsciously crossed herself. “You’re not leaving me again! You’re always f*cking leaving me! Are you crazy? You’re gonna answer these questions I’ve been tripping over since you first grabbed me in the Black Juice! Then you’re gonna tell me you love me again and mean it, d*mn it!”

If he stayed…aww, man, if he stayed…! “Syn, get out of my way,” he said succinctly in a hard voice, trying to mask the desire of his heart.

She stepped boldly up to him with her hands on her hips, thrusting her chest forward as she glared up at him. “Ha, well you’re an alien with all these superpowers. Make me. Touch me. I dare you.”

A vein throbbed in Zan’s temple in response to the sensual undertone in her challenge. His eyes swept over her greedily. “Syn, man, I’m warning you….”

“You healed me, Zan, and somehow our souls connected. And we are still connected, aren’t we? Isn’t that why you’re running away from me. Face me. Deal with this.”

He couldn’t stop his hands from combing through her hair and cupping her cheeks. Precious, so precious…. D*mn, he was trying to be noble. And that’s exactly what he was going to do. He straightened up, his hands on her waist, intending to move her away.

She sighed. “Maybe you’ll understand this better…” Reaching up and pulling his face to hers, Syn sucked on his closed mouth, tasting him brazenly when he immediately opened up. Her arms circled his neck and Zan took over the kiss, unable to resist the love blowing up inside him –unwilling to resist Syndara Morgan. The kiss was spinning out of control, his manhood leaping up, straining to claim her – forever and day.

Syn cried out when the phone rang and Zan pulled her even tighter to him, pressing his cheek to hers while they listened to the jarring ring. Finally it was quiet except for their breathing slowing down. Syn moved slightly back to stare into his face for a long moment.

“I’ll shut off the ringer,” she whispered. “Let’s just rest now. I know you’re tired.” She rubbed his jaw tenderly with the back of her hand. “Me too. We can talk and think later. Let’s just sleep. It’s been a mad long day.”

Zan closed his eyes, taking a deep breath. He kissed her eyebrows and hugged her to him again.

“A’ight,” he whispered back.





posted on 4-May-2002 8:58:51 PM
part fifteen


(untitled)

would you stay
soft by my side
if you knew the storm was coming
changing all
saving none
love a tender flower
hanging tough against the cold winds
sweet love of mine
sweet heart of mine
will you love me
when you know me
or will you run
back to light
back to the safety
of your daddy’s pearl castle
by the sea
and then could I scale the walls
up to your room
could you still love me
when you know all
when you know all
when you know all
about this
Heart Of Mine
tell me, love,
cuz we’re running out of…

*****




Time…stood still. In the dark he stared up at the ceiling as he caressed her bare arm across his chest lightly, feeling the nape of her neck. They were still fully clothed except for shoes but he felt naked with her. And it was good. This was peace. Being here with her, even with everything looming over them, made him feel right. Syn stirred against him and he shifted a little for her comfort. He knew she hadn’t slept any more than he had. Zan was glad he didn’t sleep cuz he would’ve missed these moments of touching her like this. Did he say time was standing still? Nah, it was running out. He didn’t want to waste a second. She snuggled even closer to him. He heard her breathing him in and as if it had a will of its own, her hand pulled his tunneled up to caress his heated flesh. She was making him feel high in the sky like an angel and he was saying over and over in his mind ‘f*ck destiny, f*ck Antar…’

Time…to feel so warm, so safe. Had she ever felt this complete and content – even with these thousand questions insistently crowding her mind now? She murmured softly, smoothing over the warm skin beneath her hand. She pressed her face into him, dissolving as he massaged her scalp. Capital S for sensual! Finally, Syn oh-so-reluctantly pulled away, rolling onto her back to stare up at the ceiling too. Capital S…for secrets.

“You said we mated.” Her statement, slowly delivered, hung in the air thick with enquiry. Syn sucked in her breath when he leaned over her, his face close to hers.

“I wish. I don’t know exactly what we did.” He trailed a finger from her forehead to the tip of her button nose. “I never done that before.” His voice dropped lower, going inside her. “But I wanna do it again.” He let Syn push him onto his back and she leaned over him, mimicking his caress, making him smile and ease his hands into her hair again. She rested her head on his chest, sighing. He made her belong to him…whoever he was.

Lifting herself she said quietly, “It’s tea time.”

“Yeah, I figured that.”

She got up, leaving him in bed motionless and then suddenly the room was flooded with light. It was 4am. Panic gripped him, annoying the h*ll out of him. He didn’t want to tell her a d*mn thing about any of that crap. Yet he did want to tell her and he had to tell her. Sitting up, he watched Syn light a fire under that d*mn teapot and sit at the kitchen table, waiting. He rubbed the back of his neck and oh-so-reluctantly joined her.

Syn opened her mouth to say something and froze. “I need to have that drink in front of me before we start.” She went over to the cabinets fingering the different mugs, trying to decide which she was in the mood for. Lucia’s Scooby Doo mug. Yeah. Something lighthearted and familiar. “Do you want some?”

“Nah.” He was watching her like a hawk.

Avoiding his eyes, she stood at the table and gingerly set the steaming mug down, awkwardly hesitant before she sat down. “You’re staring. It’s making me nervous,” she said, stirring the honey in good.

“Should I look at the crack in this table instead?”

“Be my guest, but if you’re getting a ‘tude, don’t. I’m not interested. Let’s start at the beginning, shall we? You –“

“You ain’t like that li’l thing I left you?”

“Huh?”

“It’s on the floor over there with a boot print right across your face.”

“Well, you did that.”

“Syn –“

“Zan, it’s beautiful, but you’re stalling and now’s not the time.”

“I know, I know,” he said plaintively, resting his head in his hands. Syn gently plucked a muscled arm, making him look up.

“Hey, I already have an idea about who and what you are, but I’ll still think I’m nuts until you tell me - verbally.” She looked away with a wry little laugh. “Guess I’ll be certified by the time we’re through.”

“Syn, you don’t know how much I don’t wanna have this convo. Can’t we just –“ He reached for her hand, his mouth twisting wistfully. “Can’t we just go? Let’s just go.”

“I’m not even gonna lie. I’m down with that, for real, and I don’t even know where you mean. But too much has happened and a lot of it has plenty to do with too much that I don’t know about you.”

He sat up straighter, disappointed. “Yeah, I hear you. You’re right. So how you want it? Question-answer or I just run off at the mouth and watch the disgust fill up your face?”

“Sip this.” She held her piping hot cup towards him. “It’ll make you feel better.”

“I don’t want none.”

“Do it for me. I think it’ll relax you cuz you’re tense and a little angry. Here’s the bottom line. You said you loved me, and in case you didn’t feel it or I didn’t say the words…” A nervous thread entered her voice. “…I love you too, Zan. But all the shooting stars in my blood when you touch me don’t mean sh*t if we can’t be straight with each other – especially about stuff we know is important.”

“Say it again.”

“No, drink first.” Zan watched her brush the hair away from her eyes as he drank the hot strawberry brew. Hey - it was soothing him even while her ‘I love you’ made him ready to get on his knees and sing some friggin Sinatra…or 112’s ‘Peaches & Cream’. D*mn!

“Where are you going?” Syn asked, alarmed when he stood abruptly. He went and picked up the portrait off the floor and brought it back.

“You’re right. Everything you said. But before we go to the land of no return, I gotta know. Do you really like it or not, yo?

Syn laughed, exasperated. “Yes, alright?! It is beautiful! Thank you. You know it’s good. I wish I’d known you were such a sucker for flattery sooner.”

His intention was blatant as he came around to her side of the table. “Let me show you what I’m a sucker for, peach.”

“Wait!” She put her hands up. “I tell you I love you and you’re still stalling!”

“Say it again, Syn.”

She tried to hide her anticipation when he pulled her up and knew she was failing miserably. “I love you.” The look in his eyes enchanted her so she said it again.

His whispered something raw before claiming the full lips that haunted his dreams and his reality. Heaven, yo. She floored him! But she was holding back. “I need more of you,” he demanded harshly against her closed mouth. “Open your mouth, baby. Let me in there. Let me make them ‘shooting stars’…” He tugged insistently at her bottom lip ring, cupping her face. Syn said his name in helpless surrender and he entered her. Sweet. So sweet but now he craved even more. “Syn, let me…do it. You know…”

“Mmm…Zan, we r-really should…talk first.” He pressed slow, drugging kisses all over her face, distracting her. “Well, maybe just…a little bit…Mmm, that’s good, honey…Go on, do it. Just a little…”

“No, no…” Zan hugged her tightly instead. What was he thinking? What if she saw what he did tonight? Yeah, he’d tell her about it, but he didn’t want her to see it. Shees! She’d run screaming to the hills. Sh*t, he would in her place! “Not yet, peach.”

“Tease.” There was that agitated magenta patting her all over again. She sat and waited for her heartbeat to slow down. “Without further ado then, let’s talk, boy. Sit please. Very good. Soooo…I hardly know where to start, so let’s tackle ground already covered just for the record. What’s your name?”

“Zan Kapol shar-Kelos Hod.”

Syn blinked. “Wow. Okay. How old are you?”

Zan thought it better to give the simple but still true answer until they progressed to the other stuff. “Eighteen.”

“Eighteen. Now…where are you from? What are you?”

“I’m part-human, part-alien. The alien part of me is from a planet called Antar a whole bunch o’ light years away from this room.” There, he said it. He actually said that sh*t. And it sounded really stupid….

Syn looked down as she raised the cup to her mouth for a big gulp, a pinky finger daintily extended. Only the pulse leaping in her neck gave him any indication that she reacted to his words. She placed the cup down carefully, stared and suddenly laughed, eyes shut.

“Syn –“

“No.” She help up a hand, shaking her head.

“Look at me.”

She did, saying, “Elaborate.”

“Fifty-five years ago Zan Kapol, King of Antar was straight up assassinated. Dead. His Moms was like ‘No way!” and being part of this advanced civilization she commanded one the advanced scientists to grow her son back some kinda way and hide him so that when he grew up, he could return and rule the world again.” Zan paused a moment, watching Syn’s calm expression, letting his words sink in – he hoped. “You with me so far?…Peach?”

“Um yeah, I-I’m with you. Zan, I just – no, go ahead. Keep going.”

“You sure?”

“Yeah.”

“They decide on Earth. So this scientist comes here, picks a couple human DNA samples - plucks ‘em right off the peeps - and jets. Before he makes the hybrid, he has to run the different DNA samples past Moms cuz she wants final say on what kinda human the king’s gonna be – looks, attitude, all that. So she picks one, science wiz mixes one, but ain’t no way dude’s going back to the Caveman Planet to raise the king. Moms understands and since he did such a great job, she gives the dubious honor to somebody else. Let’s call him a ‘protector’. So the protector is ordered to take the embryonic king back to Earth and raise him. And that - that himis me. Me.”

Syn twirled her spoon in the short silence that followed and cleared her throat. “Ah…alrighty then. You – you said this all happened fifty-five years ago, but you say you’re eighteen. How’s that work?”

“Syn, do you believe anything I’m saying?”

She looked away from him, deliberating. “I believe you’re not lying.”

“You believe I ain’t lying, but you also believe that what I’m saying might not be true. Right?”

“You just wouldn’t believe that you’re the second person in my life to tell me a very, very unusual story….Oh no!” Syn’s hands flew to her mouth and she jumped up, Zan coming instantly to her side.

“What is it? Syn, what’s wrong?”

“Mack!” she said, diving around him for the phone near her bed and started dialing. Zan quickly followed and pressed the switch hook. “Zan, what are you doing? I have to call my brother! He’s - Sh*t, how could I forget about –?“

“You can’t go near him.”

“Why the h*ll not?!” She put the phone down, an idea slowly dawning. “Larek.” She threw the name at him like a fly ball and wasn’t disappointed. Something flared in his eyes. “Oh g*d! What’s that name mean to you, Zan? I have to know.”

“Sh*t, the muthaf*cka said he didn’t – ! What do you know about him? He touch you? Did he f*ckin touch you?!”

“No! But who or what the h*ll is he, Zan?”

“I’m gonna tell you when I get to that part.”

“Well, get to it now! Mack thinks a being named Larek’s been possessing his…body.” She backed away from him, stumbling down onto the chair behind her. “Explain this – quick.”

Grimly, Zan joined her, not liking the fear clouding her browns. The last thing he wanted was happening. His alien sh*t was all in her world. All in it. F*ck! “A’ight. But first I gotta tell you – “

The phone rang, rattling Syn like a bag of bones. Unexpected phone calls at friggin 4:30am were not good, not good at all.
“Hello,” she said tersely, gripping the receiver hard.

“Syn, it’s Mack.”

“Oh g*d, Mack!” She closed her eyes briefly in relief. “Are you okay?”

“Yes…ah, where have you been?”

He voice tasted like…vinegar. And it shouldn’t. “The subway. A guy jumped in front of the train. We had to wait and get escorted off and…well, where have you been? I called you a dozen times and got no answer.”

“Come on over later, okay? I must speak with you.” Frowning, Syn looked at Zan standing beside her. “Mack, where is Wheat?”

“Wheat? He…went home.”

Syn bit her lip. “So his…1980 Chevelle didn’t conk out on you when y’all picked up the priazzo?” She felt a chill when there was silence on the line.

“No, it made it there and back alright. So…how’s that new guy you’re seeing?”

“What?”

Another creepy silence. “That punk rock guy. What’s his name? Zan or something?”

Some instinct told her to say, “Mack, who are you talking about? Are you on drugs?”

“So you really don’t know who I’m talking about?” queried a brisk, cold voice now completely unlike Mack’s.

“No. What’s wrong with you?”

Click.

Syn looked at the receiver incredulously.

“What’d he say?” Zan demanded.

“I-I don’t think that was him!”

“What did he say?”

“He said Wheat’s Chevelle ran okay tonight, but Wheat took the bus over there. Plus, Wheat’s great-granddad’s car is a 1974 Impala, not a ’80 Chevelle and it’s broke - permanently. Mack knew that. I think,” she continued slowly, trying not to break down, “that was this Larek thing. He’s got my brother and he’s done something to Wheat.”

“Who’s Wheat?”

“A friend. Zan, I need –“

“You can’t go near your brother.”

“My friend might be dead!

“It ain’t safe and I’m not gonna let anything happen to you!”

She glared at him stubbornly. “Then don’t let anything happen to me. Let’s go.” She grabbed her coat, stopping at the door when he didn’t follow her, tears filling her eyes. “Please! These are people I love. I need you to help me, Zan.”

He went and stood in front of her, his expression hard. “Com’ere.” Instantly she reached for him and was enfolded in his arms. He squeezed her tight, wanting so much to keep her away from all harm. “Baby, there’s so much more I gotta tell you. I need to tell you.”

“I know!” she said, the words muffled against his warmth. She pulled back a little to look up into his stormy hazels. “But all I can focus on right now is my family. We have to hurry.”

He didn’t have a choice cuz, short of him strapping her down, he knew she was gonna go without him. “A’ight then. Let’s go.”

Syn was already running down a flight of steps before he grabbed his own jacket. His face was formidable as he stomped down after her. If Larek was there in Mack’s apartment and in his body – if that muthaf*cka was the one that called Syn, he was gonna kill that space b*tch. For real.

Yeah, but…won’t you be killing her brother too?

Sh*t!

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

She looked at her watch. Almost 4:30am. Pulling her short leather jacket tightly around her, Lonnie exited Bloomingdale’s in a foul mood, the knee-length black skirt hugging her angry stride. Zan hadn’t shown up and the d*mned communicator wouldn’t work for her. If she could have, she would’ve summoned the emissary herself and tried to find out where the reps were going to meet next. Larek with his smart ass didn’t want to tell her cuz he was scared she’d do what she was planning to do – head the summit her-f*ckin-self. She didn’t need Zan, Larek, Rath, Nicholas or none of ‘em. And she didn’t believe all this bullsh*t about they only wanted to talk to the king. The d*mned Shizon. Ha! Them b*tches was dying like flies back home. They’d take any royal blood they could!

About three blocks down Third Avenue, she whistled shrilly for a taxi, trying to quell a niggling doubt. Cold as it was, she felt like taking a long ride. A black jaguar, an XK8 convertible with pitch black windows, pulled up beside her. She sneered like a rabid animal, emphasizing the vulgar gesture she made at the driver’s window. Whoever it was he didn’t know she was in the mood to kill slowly and enjoy it. The window slid down smoothly.

“Well, well. If it isn’t the ‘Little Princess’.”

Lonnie gave him her signature stare and rolled her eyes. “Tck! Eat me.” She started walking away and he trailed her.

“If you stop moving I will. Get in.”

“I ain’t got time for your sh*t, man. I’m serious.”

His lips tightened, eyes hidden by the Dior shades. “You’re going to make time.”

Her lips curled mockingly as she kept walking. “For what, little boy? Holding your hand while we watch ‘Sponge Bob’?

The jaguar turned wildly onto the pavement blocking her path, and snatching off his shades, the driver jumped out, slamming the door.

Lonnie smiled maliciously. “Oh, am I supposed to be scared now? Nicholas, what do think you want?”

“A change in your f*cking attitude for one. Your ass warming my bed for two.”

“Wow, you sure aim high. Good luck with it. I’m busy.” She started to move around him, but he held her arm.

“Busy, huh? Are you, um, lost? What were you doing in Bloomie’s? I know you weren’t trying to get the jump on the triple-D cup bra sale.”

“I could ask you the same thing. But you know what? I’m not.”

“There was a time back home when you weren’t nearly so unfriendly. Before Khivar had you, I did.”

“Correction. I did you, then I did him. And guess what. I ain’t doing none of you muthaf*ckas right now, so what are we talking about here? When my dear mother Nira cast the deciding vote to make you Second Counsel, suddenly sex with me became incestuous.”

Nicholas sighed impatiently. “I never said that. But it is a fact that we’re related. I didn’t want anybody thinking I moved up the ladder because of that.”

“You are so full of sh*t. We’re second cousins three times removed. Nobody, including me, even knew you existed before Zan’s coronation, so get outta my face.”

“I did. And you jumped straight into the Head Counsel’s bed, the bed of the present ruler of Antar, didn’t you, Vilondra? I bet you were f*cking him within a week of me taking up residence in the East Wing. You couldn’t wait ‘til I got settled in, could you? When the least little thing doesn’t go your way, you start stabbing everybody in the back. Well, that’s okay. I knew you were a universal b*tch from the beginning, but now you owe me what I want.”

Lonnie was growing weary of the conversation. If she had to fight him with alien powers openly in the street, she was of a mind to do it. She just didn’t care anymore.

“This is stale. Move, Deshamos.” He grabbed her tightly around the waist, surprising her with his strength. A challenge. She laughed, but then… “Wh-what…Stop it!” She squirmed, desire starting to pool in her and he dug his fingers into her g-spot even harder.

“Ah, I remember everything you like – everything you couldn’t get enough of.”

While she was panting against him, she thought, Well, maybe I do need is to release some stress…and find out what I wanna know at the same time. Sex and information – my two favorite things…

Nicholas reached under her skirt and plunged down into her opaque stockings to eagerly squeeze her flesh. “Get in the car, Vilondra,” he said roughly. “You know I know what to do for you and how long to do it….”

The city that never sleeps was nevertheless quiet and subdued in the early morning hours when the jaguar raced across town.

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

“Yo, stay behind me,” Zan whispered to Syn as they approached Mack’s apartment door.

They stopped in front of it and Zan bent his head, listening intently. She heard nothing but maybe he did. She trusted him instinctively – and she hadn’t even had time to chew on his incredible story, but one thing she did know. Her heart was home at his side. Now – so neither of them detected any colors inside but…

She moved in close and Zan looked down at her, his brow furrowed in concentration. Squeezing her fingers, he nodded silently toward the door and when she nodded back, he put his hand over the knob and eased the lock back soundlessly. Wow, she’d seen it with her own eyes! He could actually do stuff like this…and it did come in handy.

It was dark inside and he motioned for her to stay. Syn let him cross the threshold alone but then tipped in close behind. Zan swept his hand out, making every light in the room come on with the raising of his green shield. Dizzamn! She grabbed his arm, her mouth shaped like an ‘O’ in amazement. The living room and kitchen area (one room really) was empty – which left the bedroom. Zan stepped boldly towards it and flung open the door. Empty. Syn rushed in past him, holding her cheeks as she looked around, finally sitting down hard on the made up bed.

“He this neat?”

“Yeah, it’s not unusual for him. Let me look around out there and see…”

Zan watched her as she found nothing in the apartment that revealed anything out of the ordinary happened. He didn’t like seeing her so disheartened.

“Mack, where are you?” she whispered, eyes closed.

“Let me take you back home, Syn.”

She rubbed her ear wearily. She felt too drained right now to spaz out. That would come later. “I should call Wheat’s house. This Larek probably has my brother but what happened to Wheat? I can’t believe this is happening!”

“We can’t stay here. Let’s go.”

“No, I want to confront him.”

“Yeah and I wanna be a ‘real boy’. This ain’t no debate.”

Syn put a hand on her hip. “Mm. You speak like ‘you da Man’. I’m sure that works well on Antar.”

He swore. “Syn, this ain’t science fiction! I don’t know why the son of a b*tch wants to see you – whoever he is. It don’t have to be Larek. It could be Larek and whole bunch of his friends. It could be f*ckin Khivar for all I know.”

“Who’s that?”

“An ass! I’m taking you home and I’m gonna finish telling you what I gotta tell you. Then I’m gonna deal with this sh*t.”

He was making sense, but she wished he wasn’t. Syn didn’t want to leave, but what could she do? She rolled her eyes at him and stalked out, with her alien following close behind.


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

“Ho-ho-ho-hold it! So what you saying, Korn? Crystelle ain’t dead?”

“It’s Courtney…or rather Kiata Vitnshek – “

“What-the f*ck-ever, man. She’s alive??”

Korn stared balefully at Rath, wondering what he’d done in his other life to deserve the present one. “Not only is she not dead, she’s the one that took your eye out – and she wasn’t aiming for it, believe me.”

“B*tch!” Rath looked at himself in the mirror of the apartment they were in. He was sporting a rakish black patch and in spite of his supreme anger at the loss it represented, he thought the look suited him.

The constant sound of pacing heels behind him was driving Korn nuts and he twisted his head behind him abruptly with a loud pop like a gunshot, making Ava jump. “Stop pacing! Please…Your Highness.”

She looked away from the gruesome sight. “And will you not gross me out! Please…my protector.”

Rath snorted mockingly, impressed. “He all like the ‘Exorcist’ and sh*t.”

With a ‘crack!’ Korn wrenched his head back around.

“Ewww!”

“D*mn, man!” Rath laughed. “Alright, Korn. I admit. We followed you over here to backwater New Jersey cuz your eyes were glowing that f*cked up strobe light green. Plus, curiosity ain’t killed this cat yet – “

“It’s a frickin wonder,” Ava muttered.

“ -- I mean I thought them sh*ts was like a beacon to the mother ship coming to get us, word.” He laughed again. “But since we ain’t been beamed up by Scot-tay, um, I ain’t staying. And you know that. First, if you don’t get me an eye…” Rath’s face got hard and intimidating. “…I will fix you one day – good. I’m as much your king as Zan is, being the chancellor ‘n’ all. You wanna stay on my good side for when we get back home.” A slow sneer came to his face. “You got…family, don’t you?”

Ava rolled her eyes.

Korn’s mouth trembled imperceptibly with anger. If he thought he could get away with killing this kugg son of a b*tch, he would! He’d had about all he could take with threats – especially against his family!

Rath’s face cleared up and broke into a smile, his hands outstretched. “But hey, I’m a peaceful guy! Come on, Korn, gimme an eye, man!”

“You’ll get one when we get back home.”

“But I thought Zan messed up the summit,” Ava said.

“He’ll do his duty. And they’re desperate. No matter what they threaten, they want peace – and they’ll take it whenever he sits down with them.”

“You told us he did sit down with them,” she persisted. “but that he walked out. Zan would’ve made the peace before he left. I mean, how long would it take for him to say it? There’s something else, ain’t it? What else do they want?”

Korn looked at her blankly and then his face lit up in alarm. “Oh no! Oh no!” He smacked his forehead. “Ohhhh, no! D*mmit!” The granolith. And Timon aka Nacedo. Only a drug addict would forget.

“I look like a sexy pirate, don’t I?” Rath asked Ava, leering like he thought a ‘sexy pirate’ would and starting to sing and gyrate. “I’m – too sexy for New Jersey – too sexy for New Jersey, New York or Mila-annn.”

“Tck! You stupid!”

“Yo, Korn. Why you spazzing? Dorkette got a point. What else they want?”

“I-I don’t know. Stay here. I must check to see if it’s safe now. Stay. Here. I will be right back. You’ll probably die – painfully - if you leave here without me, so keep that in mind, won’t you?” He left.

“So what now?” Ava asked.

He looked her up and down. “Sex.”

“Maybe in your fantasies but not here, yo.”

“You passing up a golden opportunity, half-pint.” He headed for the door. “Catch you on the flip side.”

“Wait, Korn said – “

“Bunk that, man. I’m outti.” And he strode out, leaving her.

Ava was already on the phone. For all she knew, she was the real frickin leader and they was leaving her here to get jumped. She was done with the whole alien scene. None of ‘em cared about her. She was on her own now and she was glad.

“Romey, your dad still away?…Wanna pick me up?…I know it’s early in the morning! Come on. I’m in a situation here….Cool. Meet me at that place, k? Bye…”

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

Syn observed Zan’s stony profile in the morning light as he drove with casual confidence.

“When we get back, pack a bag. It ain’t safe there. You gotta leave,” he said without taking his eyes off the road.

“When we get back, we’ll finish our talk after I call my friend cuz this is all going too fast and too crazy for me. And…I’m scared,” she ended in a frustrated whisper.

“I know. I’ll take care of it.”

“What do you mean?”

He didn’t answer her. He was getting pissed again – at himself. If he’d just answered the summons from the git-go, Larek would’ve spent hardly any time in Mack’s body and wouldn’t have called Syn – for what f*ckin reason he was d*mn sure gonna find out. But then again the aliens might have a hidden agenda. The blue-gray only told him that somebody was telling the truth, not that they was telling the whole truth.

“The bodysnatcher asked about you, y’ know?”

His head whipped towards her. “Why you ain’t tell me before, Syn? Why the f*ck is he asking you about me?”

“I do not know.”

“Well, what exactly did he say?”

“He asked how was this guy named Zan or something I was dating. I made out like I didn’t know who he meant.”

Aww, sh*t! Something wasn’t right here… “Ain’t this a b*tch?!”

“I think so.”

When they got back to her apartment, Syn rang Wheat’s private number. No answer. She hated to do it, but she called the other number there, waking up his great-grandmother. Mrs. Leah Wheaton, aged 95, said that he wasn’t there and thought he was over a friend’s house and that – “Syndara dear, it’s a little late to call here…”

Syn winced with guilt. “I’m sorry, Mrs. Wheaton. I-I’ll talk to him tomorrow.”

Zan’s jaw tightened at the look on her face when she hung up the phone. “Don’t worry, Syn. I’ll find out what happened to him.”

She shook her head and sipped on the cold tea. “You’re telling me what you’re going to do and I don’t see how. Give me the rest of the story.”

“Fine.” He sat down while she remained standing, watching him dully. It irked him. “You might wanna sit down.” She did. “I ain’t the only one they sent here. My sister, my chancellor, and my…wife are here, too.”

“Your—!” Syn spluttered. “Did you say your wife?!”

He was perversely satisfied with her reaction. Zan wanted her to always feel something for him, never nothing. “Yo, the person who was Zan Kapol back then had a wife and they sent her too.” His satisfaction fizzled. “She ain’t really my wife.”

“No?” she queried tightly. “Where is she and these other folks you failed to mention before? What are their names?”

“Sis is Vilondra – Lonnie. Rath. And Ava.”

“And Ava’s your wife.”

“Ava ain’t my wife.”

“She’s the wife of half of you – according to you.” Syn disliked being jealous. Her eyes flicked over him skeptically. “And that doesn’t mean you haven’t been sleeping with her.”

“True but I ain’t doing her.”

“Well have you done her?

“No, man! Come on. Quit it.”

“Hm! Where, Zan?”

“They’re somewhere scheming and sliming in the dirt.”

“You know what I’m about to say, right?”

“Meaning they’re plotting behind my back. I can’t trust them. The reason we was all killed was cuz of an interplanetary war and the Antarian civil war. And that sh*t is still going on. Anyway the four of us been ‘discovered’ and the planets involved want me included in this peace conference. But there won’t be no peace if I don’t give up something everybody and his daddy seem to want. The bad news is I don’t have the d*mn thing.”

Syn was trying to digest all of this. An alien summit happening on Earth. Ohmig*d, this was nuts! “So…there’s a like a summit scheduled?”

“There was. I walked out.”

“Why?”

“Cuz of you. You called me. Don’t you remember?”

“Yeah…yeah, I remember.” Syn gazed at her folded hands as the unwanted memory of recent fear and pain assailed her. “You heard me. I’m – so glad.” She was skirting around the issue of their ‘soulmating’. It was too deep. She needed a minute… “Zan, what did you do when you left here?”

He stood and paced a step or two, rubbing the back of his neck, before he hopped up on the kitchen counter. “I took care of the situation.”

“You keep saying that phrase. Open up all the way, Zan. We’re past the time of prevarication.”

He grinned. “I love the words you use, girly.”

“Zan, come on! Tell me – “

“That I love you and there ain’t nothing remotely cornball about it? Sure, I’ll tell ya.”

He could make her heart pound so easily. “Well, that’s…something. But on that note, let’s return to the subject of your wife, shall we? And then what we – what you did…here…earlier. This may be out of sequence but I’m about to tear my hair out, so any question you answer at this point will lessen that possibility. But – but first – but first…”

The instant her face crumpled he was right there beside her, leading her to the loveseat and making her sit close to him. “I’m sorry, baby. I’m an ass sometimes.”

She gave him a watery smirk. “Only sometimes?”

“Ha. Ha. Anyway, here’s the thing. Okay, we supposed to be the Royal Four – me, sis, my second, and…the other girl. Rumor is that a duplicate set of us was made – or we’re the dupes of them. The protector of our set is a schitzo drug addict from day one so I don’t know how true it is. I’m thinking most of what he thinks he knows is a d*mn LSD trip. Supposedly the space ship crashed. Korn – that’s his name – probably f*cked up and got high and then BLAM! Maybe there was another protector too cuz I picked up on the tail end of a thought he was trying to hide from me – I think.’

An alien junkie? Syn shook her head as if to clear it. “He was hiding thoughts from you? You were in his head?”

Zan looked uncomfortable now. “I was able to look into his mind at his memories. We got different little alien tricks we can do.”

“Is that how you…heard me calling you and knew where to find me?”

“No, I wasn’t trying at first. I just heard you out of the blue. And I’m d*mned glad I did, yo!”

Syn put a hand over his mouth and buried her face in his neck and he tightened his arm around her. After a moment she looked at him with eyes full of wonder. “I haven’t thanked you,” she whispered. When he started nibbling on her, she released him, but he brought her knuckles back to his mouth for a kiss. “Thank you so much, Zan!”

“You ain’t gotta thank me for that. Are you crazy?”

“Yes.” Syn moved back a little. “So what did you do to me? You healed me how? And then—“

“You was all busted up.” Anger clouded his face. “I couldn’t believe that sh*t! I almost lost you, man.” Zan pulled her face close again. “I can heal injuries. I can’t give you no scientific explanation how. It’s like I think ‘heal’ and it just happens. Usually I only touch with my hand but…you was hurt so bad – j*s*s! I had to press more than that on as much of your skin as possible. I knew I had to somehow go inside you. Remember, ah…” The crooked smile returned. “…the Cloister night. Like that, but it had to be more.”

“I remember,” Syn murmured, ducking her eyes with a faint blush.

Zan tilted her chin up gently. “Uh-uh. I know you ain’t embarrassed!” Syn blushed even more. “We got something mad deep going on between us, peach. You ain’t got nothing to be embarrassed about.”

At his words Syn’s heart swelled like a sparrow’s breast as it prepared to sing for joy. “It was more than just healing.”

The memory of it excited him. “Like my soul touched yours. I caught some of your memories.”

Her eyes darkened with concern suddenly and she absently stroked his arm. “I caught some of yours too.” She was thinking of him as a young child and…yes, there were three others like him and then… “Zan, I felt what you—“

“Don’t!” he snapped suddenly, moving quickly off the couch, but Syn was right behind him, unperturbed by his belligerent stance.

“You can trust me. I’m not going to turn away from you just cuz something bad—“

“Stop!” He turned away, bracing himself against the countertop, hating the tremor in his arms. He didn’t want to think about it – ever! Telling someone you love ‘em was one thing. Telling someone about the sh*t some animals did to you that made you feel even lower than those animals was a whole other f*ckin thing! And sh*t, she felt what they did to him? It was like he was hurting her with his own memories! g*ddammit…!

Syn jumped as he slammed his palm down on the counter. She watched his back, feeling pain and disgust – but they were his feelings, not hers. Plus, she was hurting for him. She put a hand to her chest, slightly short of breath. She wouldn’t press him about it. This was something he needed to share freely and not accidentally like while healing her.

“It’s alright, Zan,” she said quietly. “I’ll wait – for now. Tell me the rest.”

After several long minutes during which Syn wondered if he was ever going to talk again, he turned around, still looking sullen. “There ain’t much else to tell. We crashed and for some reason we was taken from Roswell, New Mexico to the Bad Apple here. I had the chance to find out more but I was fishing around in Korn’s head for something specific.”

“He wouldn’t just tell you.”

“No, I had to take it.”

Syn felt a chill. So he was able to go into someone’s mind even when they were resisting.

Zan felt a frisson of her fear. “You suddenly afraid of me?”

“I’m not yet used to the idea that you’re an alien lifeform from another planet. I don’t even know why I’m taking it so calmly. I know you can unlock locks. I know you can shoot dazzling green energy shields from your hand.” She paused. “And you healed me when I was close to dying. What I still don’t know – among a million other things – is what you did when you left me here earlier and what you’re going to do now.”

His mouth twisted cruelly. “I took care of Dawdek and his friends. They ain’t gonna hurt you or No. F*ckin. Body. Else!”

“You…killed them?”

“Just Dawdek.”

“How?”

Zan scowled, moving away. “Why you wanna know that, man? You ain’t gotta know that.”

She considered it for a moment. “Maybe not. Guess I’d be horrified, huh? I could quote Scripture but Dawdek was just plain evil and I’m glad he’s dead!” She took a steadying breath. And heaven forgive me - but I hope he suffered like h*ll and I hope he’s burning up in it! Demonic b*tch!

“Yeah, he’s over, baby. Forget him.”

Syn cleared off the table to put some distance between herself and her anger. “So now what?”

“Gotta find Larek.”

“Meaning Mack. Tell me about Larek.”

“He’s heir to the throne of his planet and he’s one of the reps. That’s it. The reps pick human bodies to take over when they need to have meetings with us I guess.”

Syn’s gaze narrowed quizzically. “Why do it like that? If they’re part of an advanced space-traveling civilization, why can’t they communicate with you some other less intrusive way?”

“I don’t know. It’s lotsa sh*t they ain’t saying.” Zan stared into her eyes like he was trying to go into her again, like he was trying to memorize her.

“What’s wrong?”

He knew what had to come next – that last thing he had to tell her. The very last thing he wanted to tell her. He was starting to feel sick. Sh*t! But first… “There’s something I wanna say to you.” Syn waited while he got his thoughts together. “It ain’t your fault your parents treated you sh*tty. You’re still hurting, thinking about that. If they didn’t love you – which I doubt – something’s too wrong with them. They was twisted and crazy before they had you and Macky-boy.”

Syn looked amazed. “How did you—? Oh!”

“Yeah, I saw you. I…was you.”

It was so intimate. She in him and he in her. Her heart was swelling but it was fragile. She tried to stay just a little hard. “So you want to talk about my stuff but not yours.”

He smiled sadly, stroking her cheeks with his thumbs. “Nah, that’s it. I’m not bringing up no more of your ‘stuff’. Just gonna add one thing though – if you was my daughter, I’d be the happiest pops in the world – no matter how f*cked up everything else in my life was.”

“Oh Zan!” Closing her eyes, she turned her face into one of his palms.

“But I’m d*mned glad you ain’t my kid! Cuz if you was, what I’m thinking about right now would get me locked up. Mmm, look at you. It still might!”

She kept her eyes closed while he stared mesmerized at her face, relaxed in anticipation of his kiss. He moved in close but thought better of it and stepped away. “There’s something else,” he said briskly after hearing her sigh of disappointment. He didn’t want to tell her, but if she was totally repulsed by him forever then maybe it was for the best.

“Look at me, peach.”

She opened her eyes, wondering if she’d just imagined the intense longing and despair she saw in liquid amber – because now there was only a cool, sharp hazel and he looked as tough as he ever had.

“After Larek, I’m leaving Earth.”

Her lips parted and her mind was blank for a few seconds. “Why?”

This was too f*ckin hard! “Alien. King. War. Peace. Why you think, Syn?”

“What about—?” Her eyes flicked away briefly and she swallowed. “What about us?”

He made himself keep eye contact. “Some books never get finished, y’ know?”

“No, I don’t know. Let’s quit with the daddy cool sh*t, k? You’re trying to cover up your love for me with it and it ain’t working.”

“It don’t have to work! Do you love me?”

She blinked at the switch but came right back. “Yes!” She could see her unequivocal answer sent him high - for a split second, then his eyes turned into chips of bitter ice.

“I’m a pedophile.”

“That’s not funny!” When he said nothing, Syn stepped back. “Wha—? You—!“

He felt her separating from him. g*d, it hurt…! “That’s right – a child rapist! To paraphrase the poet – ‘How do you love me now? Can you still count the f*ckin ways…?”



part sixteen

“…could you still love me
when you know all
when you know all
when you know all
about this
Heart Of Mine…”



“No! Why are you saying this?” Syn whispered fiercely. Such pain behind that bitter mask! She could see it. He must not realize that she could see it.

“It’s a li’l something they left out of my brain. Korn decided to clue me in.”

“I don’t believe it!”

“I’d like that option. I really would – but I looked in his frickin head and saw it.”

“You said he was a drug addict. How do you know what you saw wasn’t a drug trip?”

“I doubt it, kid, but thanks.”

“Stop trying to shut me out and listen to me! I saw into you and if I sensed even a hint of pedophilia, we would not be standing here together. So what am I missing? Or rather what are you missing? Wouldn’t you – wouldn’t you be punished in your world for something like that? Don’t you remember that or…or…?” Syn watched him mutely, somehow feeling what he was about to say and the color drained from her face.

“Yeah, it’s ‘or’. It’s a way of life there. It’s child slavery, our source of wealth and every d*mn thing else.” He smiled grimly. “And I’m the king of it.”

“Oh.”

“So you can see why I gotta go back. I need to see it with my own eyes.”

“Why? The person you are now is not a pedophile, Zan! Technically you’ve never even been to Antar! Based on what you said that’s another life. You want to go back to that just to see if it’s true? And then what?!” Breaking off her heated argument, she turned away with her palms to her cheeks, trying to get a grip. “Oh my g*d. I can’t believe any of this. Maybe I’ll wake up and this’ll all be just a dream.”

“Huh. You don’t want that more than me. Look, the last thing I’d ever wanna do is hurt some kids!” He combed his fingers roughly though his wild hair. “I mean – sh*t! What the f*ck?!” He sighed harshly. “I know I’m not that now, but if part of me was, it’s like I am that. See what I’m saying?” Zan was staring at her, willing her to look at him, but she kept her eyes downcast.

“Yes, I do see. You feel guilty.”

“Syndara.” She looked at him then. “I can’t live with it. And I d*mn sure can’t live with you with it. There’s nothing else for me to do but go back.”

Realization lit her gaze. “To make restitution.”

“If I can.”

“And the world wars?”

His mouth twisted. “I guess it’s a package deal.”

Syn paced slowly in front of him. “I don’t know how to handle this, Zan. So…back burner. All I know for sure is I gotta save my brother. How do I do that?”

“I’m supposed to meet the emissary again to see if the reps set up another meeting. If so, Larek’ll be there.”

“Hm. If all that goes down and Larek’s at the meeting in Mack’s body…then what?”

“If I do what they want, there’s no reason for none of ‘em to stick around. They ain’t interested in this planet far as I know. They just wanna take care of biz and be outti. I’m the one holding ‘em up.”

“And what they want is for you to go back and be king?”

“I wouldn’t say all that. They just seem to need me right now to secure peace cuz they’re all dying like flies. I mean, we all supposed to be enemies. They even got a son of a b*tch there representing the ass who killed us and stole my f*cking throne.” Zan took a calming breath. “’Scuse the French, baby.”

Syn was afraid for him but he had a choice and was making it. Mack hadn’t chosen anything. “So you’re saying if they’re satisfied at this meeting, Mack will be free of this entity forever.”

“Yeah. And you too. I gotta wait ‘til Bloomingdale’s closes.” At her quizzical look he explained, “They put this round gadget in the basement that works like a communicator and a transport and who knows what else. Don’t ask me why they put it there. Superior alien logic I guess.”

“Maybe this Larek will call again and I can meet him and you can shadow me.”

Zan’s face darkened. “You’re crazy and deaf. We keep going in a loop and it’s tired.”

“Alright, so I’m grasping at straws! Sue me! You’re so hard, Zan. Why? You’ve been inside me. How can you be so hard on me now? This is my brother whom I love very much! Do you really expect me to do nothing just cuz you say so? What’s wrong with you?”

“I told you. I’m a ped – “

“SHUT UP!” Syn launched herself at him and they fell back on the bed. “Stop saying that! You know it isn’t true! You know it isn’t true!”

Zan rolled over and straddled her, pinning her arms above her. His eyes glittered with anger and something else. “g*ddammit, you shut up! I would die if you was hurt again like before when I didn’t protect you!” He watched a tear slid down from the corner of her eye and his grip loosened a little as he absently rubbed her pulse points. “Syn,” he began gruffly, “don’t look at me like that. I have to go back and deal with some sh*t I didn’t start and might never get out of when the only thing I want right now is you. If I don’t get hard, I’m f*cked now instead of later. Peach, don’t fight me on this!”

Syn closed her eyes and took a deep breath. She was sad, angry, a little happy and - heaven help her - full of desire. It washed over her in waves coming from him. Yes, she felt the same in him. Rich, hot waves of magenta undulating rapidly. She bit her lip, trying to stay focused on Mack.

“You hiding from me, Syn?” His deep voice seemed to squeeze her in a private place. g*d…! Trying to get herself under control, she was unmindful of the familiar way his hands curved around the back of her head.

~Yeah, I’m hiding. No need for you to see how much I want to love you with my body and keep you here with me forever.~

~Word?~

Blushing, her eyes flew open, colliding with his upon hearing his expression of delighted consent in her head instead of her ears.

~Very not ‘word’!~ she thought heatedly in wonder.

When he felt her pushing him out he said, ~Wait. Don’t kick me out yet.~

~Quit the alien stuff and get out of my head, Zan!~

He smiled wickedly. ~Why? Don’t you like it?~

She felt him kiss her neck from the inside and she gasped softly. His smirking mouth hadn’t touched her! ~That’s not the point! I – I thought we were having an argument. This isn’t an argument. This is… intimacy. It’s – it’s… His suddenly stormy eyes made her thoughts fade.

~*Ich bin hungrig. Küss mich, schatzi.*~ Then his mouth was on hers – molding it, teaching it, taking, taking, taking until Syn was sure she had no more lips left. Then he gave himself to her until she was ready…ready for…ready for…

Taking him by surprise she rolled over swiftly, sitting on top of him and breaking the telepathy. His hands went to her waist, rubbing her eagerly. He bit his bottom lip and grinned with surprise. “Oh a’ight! It’s all good. However you want it – “

“Zan, wait.” She moved completely off the bed.

He lifted his head and stared after her in resigned disappointment and then dropped back to stare at the ceiling. “D*mn.”

Syn fidgeted with her hair. “Whew. Okay, that was, um…what it was. Perhaps we’ll explore it again – sometime. How, ah, how many languages do you speak?”

“A few.”

“It sounded like German. What did you say?”

He got up quickly and was in her face, startling her. “I said, ‘I’m hungry. Kiss me – baby.”

“I want to give you more than that, but you’re leaving the planet soon, and I’m thinking of something long-term. So forget it.” She walked away from him with the pretense of moving dishes from the drain rack to the cabinet above, and Zan silently swore in frustration. She remained facing away from him at the sink and silence reigned briefly until he broke it.

“Back to freeing Macky-boy, a’ight. I – we gotta try to do it on the sly first. Larek suspects you know me, but he ain’t sure. And we wanna keep it that way. Let me do this thing tonight. I know they want another summit. We’ll take it from there. It’s the safest way.” He came up close to her back. “Trust me.”

She turned then. “I do.” Syn’s legs were almost trembling with relief not only because he was helping her with Mack but because he’d taken down that little hard wall inside of him and was letting her in. His passion was one thing, his partnership was something else. “Thank you, Zan.”

“Thank you.”

She cleared her throat walked towards the table. “What can we do if he wants to go on using Mack indefinitely?”

Zan smiled wryly. “I don’t know. Something. Don’t worry. He’s not gonna kill him. Let’s just take it one step at a time, k?”

“Okay.”

He stepped all the way into her personal space again, unable to get enough of her. He observed her upturn face solemnly. “I shouldn’t’ve said what I said like I said it.”

Her mouth curved. “Can you repeat that real fast seven times without breathing?”

“Tck! A’ight, smarty. But for real…I’m sorry.”

“Well, I forgive you, but you sure can be coarse and mean.”

His eyes twinkled down at her pouting mouth. “I can be nice.” He bumped gently against her, making her step back.

“Yeah right.”

Zan slowly slid his arms around her waist, pulling her close. He kissed her forehead, his lips lingering there and Syn sighed, leaning into him.

“What are you doing until you have to go tonight?”

“Staying with you.”

“Why don’t we look for Wheat?”

He was quiet for a moment, resting his chin on her head. “Don’t you have school today?”

She pulled back to see his face. “Okay, you know that was a dumb question, right?”

He sighed. “Yeah, I know. Look, I gotta be straight with you. Your friend could be hosting one of the aliens now or he could be dead. I’m not too sure if they give a sh*t about innocent bystanders. Know what I’m saying?”

“Oh g*d, no!” Syn whispered.

Zan pulled her close again. “I’m not trying to hurt you, but it’s possible, peach. Since we don’t know nothing right now, we just gotta chill, that’s all.”

“So you can’t find out anything until tonight?”

“Nope. It’s gonna be warm today – like 60. Let me take you for a ride.” She was shaking her head against him. “You need it. Me too. We can’t stay up in here all day pulling out hair.”

“No, Mack might – “

Zan put a finger over her lips with an exasperated tenderness that warmed her like sunlight. Syn thought if they ever did spend 24 hours together without a disagreement, she'd implode from the natural high he took her on.

“Stop, man. We been all through this, and it’s making me nuts, yo. That’s why we’re going out.”

“I just can’t go out and pretend that – “

“You don’t have to pretend nothing. You be you and I’ll be me. We can talk, fight, kiss. I’ll feed you, dry your tears. Whatever. Just not here. Come on.”

Syn felt thoroughly drained and gave in, letting him put her jacket on her and lead her out the door.


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


At 7:30am Korn was trembling in an alley somewhere in the Lower East Side. His mouth tasted like ammonia and his scalp was tingling. Something was wrong. ‘D.H.’ had apparently disappeared off the face of the earth so he went back to his old dealer cuz he was desperate. His old dealer was a flake and now he was paying for it. Korn slumped back against the wall clutching his chest where his secondary nerve was throbbing painfully. But that wasn’t his main problem. His blood was stinging as it coursed sluggishly through his organs. This happened only once before. In 1947.

Davak! Shit!

As he sank to ground, the pain made him grunt and fall on all fours. Stones fell out of his pockets and rolled quickly over into a pile of debris. Korn tried to squint past his now blurry vision. He grit his teeth trying to fight what he knew was coming next. The dizziness would increase until he felt like screaming and then the darkness. But the stones! He had to get them and hide himself somewhere he wouldn’t be found. He crawled over to where the stones should be as fast as he could and burrowed into the debris, feeling around for them frantically. Dammit, there were right here! Where the f*ck were they? But it was too late. His mind was already spinning and folding in on itself. What the h*ll had been in that sh*t? Wh-wha…sssssh*ttttttt!”


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

Zan stared vigilantly at everything in front and behind as he pressed the accelerator. Syn slept during most of the ride and he didn’t disturb her although he was tempted. He needed to stare into her luminous baby browns. They gave him peace even when she was pissed at him. She murmured and when he looked over he could tell she was about to awaken. His sweet peach. D*mn, he was putting her through some sh*t and she didn’t deserve none of it! He wanted to make it all up to her. He stared at her eyelids willing them to rise, swallowing when her lips parted. Yeah, he wanted that and a whole lot more. A whole lot more.

“Oh!” Syn woke up and didn’t know where she was, but wherever it was she liked it. They were driving down a road lined with thick trees adorned with every shade of fall imaginable. And Zan was smiling at her. If this was a dream, she didn’t need to wake up for a couple days. This was fine. “Zan, where are we? Where are we going? You didn’t say.”

He couldn’t stop smiling at her and felt goofy, but what the h*ll. “You didn’t ask.”

She smiled back. “Tck! Come on, where?”

“Up where the air cleans out your brains. The Catskills, baby.”



part seventeen


“…danke schoen
darling, danke schoen
Thank you for
funny cards from Spain
I recall
Central Park in fall
how you tore your dress
what a mess
I confess
that's not all…”


--Wayne Newton and ‘Ferris Bueller’ (LOL)



“Well, this isn’t Central Park, is it?” Syn said in wonder, gazing at the thick woodlands on either side of the road. A thought gave her pause. “Wait a minute, Zan. The Catskills?”

“Mmm, say right under the Catskills.”

“That’s what I thought. Give me some specifics.”

“Croton Point Park.”

“Hm. It’s colder up here, Zan.”

“Stop making fish lips. It ain’t pretty.”

“Shut up!”

“Ha-ha.”

“Tck! This boy…” she muttered. She felt him staring and perversely refused to look.

“I’ll keep you warm as long as I’m here.”

Somehow his sensual words hurt. “Well, that does sound sexy, but the offer is extremely time limited, isn’t it? Let’s turn around and go back, Zan. I can’t do this.”

“Can’t do what?” he snapped.

“The sentimental last goodbye! This is not fiction for me. This is not a movie. Understand?”

“Maybe I need to do this before clocking into the full-time sh*t, huh? Do you understand?”

Syn stared out the window without answering, letting the stony silence swirl around her as she thought, When I moved away, I should’ve never crossed the Jersey state line…

The road got bumpier and bumpier until off to the side appeared a mansion. Way up at the top was this faded green and yellow sign that said ‘Apples-on-the-Croton’. They turned into the driveway.

“Zan, what is this?” she demanded, her mood still foul.

“Can’t you read?”

“Can I kick your ass?”

“You don’t wanna know. Get out of the car, Syn.”

She did so, slamming the door. He walked towards the place without a backward glance to see if she was following or not. She stubbornly watched him disappear inside, feeling stupid. When she opened the door, the first thing she thought was ‘Waltons Incorporated’, but the inn was nice in a homey country sort of way. It certainly didn’t look like an inn right away. The restaurant was in front of the lobby. It was weird and she liked it. Zan approached a guy behind the counter.

“Yo, Nash. Wha’s up, man?”

Nash’s face lit up with recognition. “Yo man! What you doin’ up here? Where you been?” He shook Zan’s hand. “I been looking for you. Cholly got people all over hounding him about sellin’ ‘em your stuff for two weeks. He pullin’ out hair tryin’ to find you, man!”

“I been busy, yo. You got a spot in here where me and my lady can rap in peace.”

“Sure, man. My boss left a week early for the holiday. Yous can sit in the Thoreau Parlor on the west side. It’s quiet as sh*t back there.”

“Cool. Gimme one them picnic basket specials.” Zan threw a 20 up on the counter just when a bunch of noisy folks came in.

“Dang!” Nash muttered, swiping the 20 up. “Thought this was gonna be a slow day! Hold up….”

“Yo, lemme get back there and pack it myself. You can go deal with the Hampton white breads.”

“Yeah go ‘head.”

Syn followed Zan behind the counter and watched him make sandwiches like he was a chef. “You’re full of surprises.” But she was uneasy. The ride did her some good but the waiting and worrying was right there under the surface. She could lose them all before this crazy nightmare was over – Mack, Wheat and Zan. Zan - who’d already said he was leaving her. She felt an anger she couldn’t help as she followed him down a long corridor, but she didn’t know the words she wanted to say. Maybe she was angry that this reprieve with him in this beautiful place would end.

The room they finally ended up in was Victorian and cozy and small with a fake fireplace lit, thick blankets folded neatly on a loveseat and one side had floor to ceiling windows with a great view of the parkland and the Hudson River. She smiled thinking about the last time she had a nice views of New York rivers. Zan spread the food out on a little table flanked by two huge overstuffed chairs. Now they stood facing each other off again, the crackle of the fire adding to the tense atmosphere. Syn was morose. So many ups and downs inside her heart with this guy. She was almost breathless with the changes she went through moment by moment. Being in love with an alien king was rather stressful. Some part of her missed her simple world before that fateful night scarcely a week ago – a week that felt like a month. Some part of her wanted normality and peace. Some part of her didn’t want to constantly drown in cool hazel eyes that turned into molten amber without warning – like she was now. Some part of her wanted to be free of him and everything that came with him.

And every part of her truly loved him. No questions asked.

“Sit down and eat, peach.”

“Zan – “

“Sit down so we can talk about the colors.”

Syn blinked. “Huh?”

“Colors, tastes…” He came slowly towards her. “Chair might be too hard. Sit here,” he ended on a husky note, pulling her down on his hard thighs as he sat in one of the soft-cushioned chairs.

She put an arm around his shoulders for balance, keeping her rosy cheeks averted from him.

“You so funny. Always blushing.” He trailed a finger down the exposed line of her neck where a vein gently rose up. “Mm, my favorite side.”

She saw his grin peripherally. “I thought we were gonna eat lunch,” she murmured.

“I am eating lunch,” he whispered against her, nipping her sweetly straight down the familiar trail.

Syn sighed, tilting her head so that he could have more of her. When she could stand it no more, she cupped his face and kissed him urgently before pulling back. “I can’t handle you turning me on like this because I can’t do anything about it.”

“Baby, I won’t stop you. I promise!”

Syn laughed a little. “You are so bad! It’s not funny, Zan. I don’t want it like this. I want it to be a part of something built to last.” Zan leaned forward, moaning only half-playfully as he rested his face against her chest and wound his arms around her as she stroked his back. “I don’t want the memory of a fire. I want to be able to light it twice a day.”

“You’re killin’ me!” he said, his voice muffled against her.

“Not intentionally.” He stood up abruptly with her high in his arms. “You get off on this Tarzan stuff, don’t you?”

He set her down in the huge chair opposite his. “As I was saying before you teased me – “

“Ha! Excuse you?”

“ – Colors, tastes…You got something in you I never felt before I touched you. Even before we had the soul-to-soul last night, it was like you gave me something.”

“Really?”

“Yeah, I can like ‘see’ your colors. They’re blue with silver lights blinking in it and hot pink.”

Syn almost choked. “I – I have colors?” she smiled, tickled that someone perceived her in colors for a change. “Hot pink and silver dotted blue?”

“Yeah. Them colors dance. And you taste…” His gaze dropped to her lips. “You taste just like sweet, juicy peaches.” At which point he bit into one, his face slumberous.

“Omig*d.”

“It was real strong that first time in the Black Juice. Now I taste more of just you – even sweeter, but the peach is still there.”

“Well, your colors are purple and gold – royal colors so I guess that’s fitting. When you get close, it’s magenta. And you, um, taste like…strawberries!”

“Gold, shades of purple and strawberries?

“Don’t laugh! I like it. Them.”

“But you like me more, right?”

“You seem to know so much. Answer your own question.”

Zan put the half-eaten peach down. “I wanna tell you about what happened to me.”

He switched up on her so quickly but she was right there with him. “I want you to tell me,” she encouraged softly.

He pulled her up by the hand. “Let’s go.”

“Arrgghh!” She laughed in exasperation. “Why? It’s nice and cozy in here.”

“We ain’t make a two hour drive to hill country just to stare at it through a window like a movie.” He quickly repacked the basket. “Ready?”

“I might as well be,” she mumbled.

They went out through the sliding doors and a steep grassy slope was right there. They stood at the top looking down at the tree-lined bike path.

“Zan, don’t even think it.”

“Nah, not this time. Might be some rocks or holes under the leaves. I ain’t trying to kill us or nothing. It’s paved over there.”

They ambled down to the bike path and started walking. Only two bikers passed them during the fifteen minutes it took to reach a spot they liked – a wide open space interspersed with a couple of refurbished wooden benches. Syn sank gratefully down onto one, looking around appreciatively.

“It’s beautiful out here.” The Hudson was in front of them, an Appalachian mountain or two forming a far away backdrop. “It’s like Fifth Avenue is a thousand miles away.” Zan had set the basket down between them and was gazing blindly into the distance, his arms stretched out on the back of the bench. “You were…going to tell me…?”

He leaned forward, folding his hands. “Yeah, I’m gonna tell you cuz I want you to know. I don’t know why but I do. I know you sorta lived through my memory of it.” He questioned her with a glance.

“Not exactly, but enough to know that…you were hurt.”

He stared down thoughtfully. “Yeah, yeah. Good. Cuz I don’t want you to live through no memory of that. Like I said before, we – the four of us – were brought to New York, but we was left underground alone. At least we was alone when we came out of these pods.”

“Pods?”

“Like big eggs. We all came out like we was on a timer or something. It was nasty too, man. We had goo ‘n’ sh*t all over us. But that was the least of our problems. We didn’t know nothing! I didn’t know who I was, who they was or where. We came out too early.”

“So you were like premature?”

“Yeah. We was all pretty much freaked out, cold, and hungry. Our protector was a no-show.”

Agitated, Syn shifted on the seat. “Why would you be put down in the sewers? That’s not exactly the safest place for the future rulers of a planet.”

“Tell me about it.” Some crows flew overhead, screaming, and a chilly breeze was just strong enough to make Zan’s stiff hair move. “ The New York four are probably just decoys. I’m thinking there really is another set of us like Korn keeps hinting at. They’re probably eating Grey Poupon poolside and contemplating a phat trust fund we – while I gotta watch my back 24/7 against my own peeps and negotiate world peace with some sneaky Vulcans. But anyway…when our brains matured a little, we realized we belonged together and finally stopped hiding from each other. It ain’t like there was no place to really hide anyway. Ava and Rath jumped back in their pods. Lonnie slipped into a closet while I sat behind the couch. And everybody’s stomach was growling loud enough to give away where they was if somebody was really looking. It was dumb. So there we was - mad hungry and crying and looking at each other like morons. One day I started creeping around outside looking for grub for us.”

“Wow, you went out alone? You must have been so scared.”

“Pee rivers all down the legs. But nobody else was budging. So I found some food.” He shook his head, making a face. “Be surprised what you eat if you hungry enough. That first week we ate all kinds of nasty sh*t. I ain’t know what I was looking for cuz our brains still wasn’t quite right, see? Never again. About the second week the other three come creeping around with me. We…ran into some ultimate freak bastards from hell.” His face closed up like he was finished talking. Syn held her breath. “Let me make this shorter than short cuz it f*cks me up to think about it, k?” he continued grimly. She nodded. “We couldn’t all get away so with my mind I told other three to scram – I’d take care of it.”

“Telepathy – like you did with me.”

“Yeah, but different cuz it was just thoughts, feelings. We didn’t know how to talk – in any language.” Zan looked pensively down at his silver pinky ring as he toyed with it. “Rath and Ava split. My sis, Lonnie, she…stayed. She didn’t want to leave me.”

Feeling how much verbalizing this was hurting him, Syn waited in his silence that again stretched out. She wanted more than anything to comfort him with her touch, but sensed that even empathy right now would grate his nerves. Finally he turned to her a face stiff with resistance against a long-buried pain being brought once again to the surface.

“They r*ped us,” he said simply and her eyes welled with tears. She felt a terrible anger in him that he wasn’t expressing and she felt afraid for him. With a quivering hand she reached towards him tentatively. She wanted to wrap herself around him but… Zan hesitated before grabbing her hand, rubbing and kneading it one finger at a time. “It just hit me. I can’t help but wonder if Korn left us alone like that on purpose so that something would happen to us. Y’ know, payback for what we did to the kids on Antar. What I did.”

“Bull! Sh*t! – what you did! I mean…I thought the child slavery was a part of your culture (the other Zan’s culture cuz it’s not you). Like everybody was involved, right? Are you saying your worthless drug addict protector was different?” Syn was feeling none too kindly towards Korn and the shadowy alien beings that created Zan just to use him for their purposes – and didn’t give a sh*t who else they hurt in the process. Advanced civilization didn’t necessarily mean a better one. Mack’s handsome face, confused and a little scared, rose unbidden in her mind. She stood up, pacing.

“I’ll get him back, Syn. Before anything else I’ll get him back and I’ll find your friend.”

“They’re not the only ones I’m worried about,” she said looking at him pointedly.

A brief smile flashed across his face at her words before he continued somberly, “They had us tied up. The rank sons o’ c*nts intended to keep us – for a while anyway. Our powers were feeble. Rath and Ava snuck back to the hovel we was being kept in. We sensed ‘em. We don’t sense each other so well now. We was able to link our powers enough to break the chains and escape.”

“g*d!” Syn exploded, pacing faster. “Your alien masterminds aren’t very f*ckin smart to give you this f*ckin Korn! I wish I could kick every last ass involved with that decision! And as for those f*ckin perverts…!” Her eyes flashed violently, fists tight at her sides.

Zan reached out and pulled her down next to him. “’Preciate it, sweet peach.” He kissed her knuckles. “But I beat you to the pervs. We got stronger – new alien skills poppin’ up here and there - and a couple months later, we found them. We killed them – real hard.” Syn blinked. Just for a moment, his didn’t look quite human as he stared back at her, his grip on her hand tight, then he let go. Zan leaned back on the bench again, taking a deep breath and looking faintly surprised. “I guess that’s the worst of it. We learned how to get real food, but we stayed stinkin’ and dirty cuz there was no one to hook up the space tech down there for running water. It was bad. We was like cubs in the wild, yo. Korn finally showed up about nine months later. No explanations. He looked all tired as if he was the one that went through sh*t. Know the first thing he said? He said, ‘Well, I see you’ve managed’ in that snotty New England Harvard voice of his. Man!”

“Tck!”

“That’s what I’m saying, but whatever. From then on it’s been a waiting game.”

Syn sat quietly taking it all in until one thought dominated. He should not leave.

“Yo, what am I doing? Let’s eat. Come on.” He rolled the thick blanket out on the ground.

“Zan, the ground is cold.”

“I figured we could light one of them fires you was talking about, baby.” At the look on her face he said, “Just kidding. Come on now. It’s all right. It’s not that cold. I can keep you warm without roaming around your bod. This bench is making my ass sore.”

“Is your ass that tender?”

“Touch it and find out, Science Chick.”

Grinning, Syn settled down daintily beside him. Hm. It wasn’t too bad. The grass underneath was thick and spongy, unusual for fall. Zan opened the basket and she immediately reached in for a turkey and cheese on a Kaiser roll – Ooo! with sliced cherry tomatoes, Dill pickles, purple onions and Italian dressing. The sandwiches were neatly made, not just slapped together and everything was very fresh. “Mmm, thank you.”

“Y’ welcome,” he said, opening a bottle of juice for her. After working up quite an appetite they ate in companionable silence. Syn finished off two; Zan - three. Plus, white chocolate cheesecake for dessert. Bon apetit!

“Zan, I’m glad you were able to tell me what happened. It means a lot.”

“Yeah, it was easier than I thought. But then it’s you. I shoulda known, huh?”

“Yes. I don’t mean to grill you but I do have some more questions.”

He watched her mouth chew a grape. “You gotta ask me on your back.”

Syn tried to shake the image his words provoked. “Zan – “

“Let’s just lay down. That’s all. I need to rest this stomach.”

“Tck! Please.”

“I’m serious.” He lay down and patted the space beside him. “Just practice using your self-control. I know it’s hard around me…”

“You think so?” She playfully dropped down hard across his stomach.

“Ow! That’s foul, man.”

She laughed at him and rolled onto her back. The world became mostly azure blue decorated with a few plump cumulus clouds with a couple treetops framing the picture. She felt Zan intertwine his fingers with hers. Perfect world… But as much as she wanted to leave the tender moment alone, the questions persisted.

“Ava?”

“Awww! Don’t go there. You know there’s nothing there. Why you trippin’?”

“Is that what she thinks?”

“I don’t know what she thinks! I don’t know what none of ‘em thinks. Lonnie and Rath been meeting with one of our enemies behind my back. That means they’re against me. Ava – I don’t know which nest that bird calls home. We was all close in the beginning before Korn came with the bullsh*t, calling me the ‘king’. We started separating right then.” He pondered that. “Sh*t. I’ll deal with them later. So…what about you?

“What?”

“You got a lot of stuff in your head. You doing Thanksgiving with Mommy and Daddy or what?”

“Thanksgiving? Are you kidding me? Turkey and stuffing is the last thing on my mind, Zan.”

“It shouldn’t be. Go home and make peace. If it don’t work out, screw ‘em. But at least try. That’s your family.”

“You’re one to talk.”

“Syn, that’s different and you know it.”

“I don’t want to talk about tomorrow before today ends.” Zan drew in a sharp breath when she turned over and half lay on him, her knee brushing across his groin, but he put his arm around her in welcome.

“Yo.”

“Sorry.” She knew the way she was laying on him was provocative, but it was comfy. Plus, he was working her nerves and deserved a little discomfort. “Let me just listen to your heartbeat and go blank a little. I need a break – just for a few minutes.”

They must have lain there for half an hour and for both of them it was like being free from everything sad and everything wrong. It was that kind of peace that made your bones heavy and made you half sleepy and desiring nothing else. It’s the kind of peace that was always interrupted.

Zan was loath to do it but he said, “Let’s walk.”

Syn squirmed sensuously again him in protest, making him shut his eyes tight. “Mmm…no, not yet. With all this stuff?”

“No, we can pick it up on the way back this way. I need to stretch.”

Syn reluctantly rolled away from him and he pulled her up. They strolled farther up the pathway along the river and by silent agreement stuck to a lighthearted exchange.

Zan shoved his hands in his pockets, a mischievous grin pointing up one side of his face. “Know what else I saw in your head?”

“Oh no. What?”

“This big chewed up plastic doll. It’s still in your room – least it was when you left.”

Her mouth made an ‘O’ as she gaped at him. “Omig*d! You saw…did you see…?”

“That’s right. Big Baby Chrissy, man. Big Baby Chrissy – an original by Ideal.”

“Oh sh*t!” Syn burst out laughing, slightly embarrassed.

“Yeah, for Xmas ya Moms bought you a black one cuz they didn’t have no white ones left. But you didn’t care and neither did she cuz you was about to drive her straight nuts about that doll. You loved it.”

“Um, alright, alright. That’s enough.”

“Next year your brother got this German Shepard pup and Chrissy got fugged uuuup. Teeth marks ‘n’ sh*t all in her eyes…”

“Ah-haaah! Shut up, Zan!” She slapped his arm lightly. “My stomach’s hurting! Stop bussin’ on my doll. You’re laughing! It’s not funny.”

“Yeah, it is! It was nasty-looking, but you didn’t want a new one. You loved her.” Zan twisted her hair around his fingers and tugged her close. “Didn’t you?”

“Yeah, that was my baby.”

“What about me?”

“Mmm, nope! Too big.” He tickled her, not letting her escape him. He spun her away and caught her back again. “Ahhh! Stop – you silly!”

After her heart slowed down, she asked him, “So…how long have you been drawing and painting?”

“Since forever. I can sculpt too if I feel like it. When I’m doing the art stuff, that’s all I’m thinking about. Nothing else gets in. So I had my hands moving a lot.”

“You’re really good, y’ know. You could make a living off that…” She pressed her lips together, looking down. “…here on Earth. Which reminds me – how are you getting these cars?”

He cast her a quick glance. “Ahhh…”

“You’re stealing them.”

“Borrowing.”

“Without permission – known everywhere as stealing.”

“Korn insisted that we be nobody. You gotta be somebody to make money to buy a car, a house, or whatever. We were supposed to lay low. I bought into that. I done stole a lot of things I ain’t thought twice about stealing. But I always return the cars before the ink gets dry on the police reports. Besides…was your sexy butt gonna jog up here, yo?”

Syn pursed her lips. “Well…I see your point,” she conceded reluctantly.

Zan looked up at the sun setting fast. “We better go back and get the stuff.”

“How many times have you been up here?”

“A couple. I wander around a lot.” His voice was distant and preoccupied.

“Er, come back please.”

He still didn’t look her way but took her hand and squeezed it, his stride increasing. He didn’t see how her lips trembled. The idyllic interlude was ending. Unnoticed by Nash or anyone else, they returned the blanket and basket and before Syn knew it they were speeding southward down Route 9 towards the city – too fast. Too soon…





[ edited 2 time(s), last at 4-May-2002 9:17:40 PM ]
posted on 4-May-2002 9:31:50 PM
part eighteen


So close. Too close. Could she smell Central Park from here? She kept looking at his profile - afraid for him. He was so distant now, going into himself for whatever he needed to deal with the situation. Although she didn’t like it, she understood, still feeling his love for her. His love was a lush red emanating from him that played in her hair. Sweet.

A wind was blowing hard on her face through the window rolled all the way down. As cold as it was she needed the air and Zan didn’t seem to notice. She welcomed the loud breezy sound it made coming in. It reminded her of good times in the past when Mom and Dad would drive them to California to hit the beach and Disneyland. When Bobby Morgan caught an open stretch of road, he’d joyfully clock 90 within seconds. The memory took the edge off her present agitation a little. She couldn’t stop looking at Zan in the dusk, his skin colored now by the sunset. So many things that they hadn’t said, that she hadn’t asked….

“Do you like ice cream?” Was that her voice, so small and fearful?

Zan glanced at her absently. “Huh?”

“I said do you like ice cream.”

“Yeah.”

“What’s your favorite flavor?”

“Rum raison and Ben and Jerry’s ‘Festivus’ – mixed or separate.”

Syn wanted to laugh but she couldn’t quite manage it. So he liked ‘funky cream’. Yep, he was her soul mate alright. How was she going to let him go? A heat wave of sudden panic and longing made her feel woozy for a second. Almost on cue he took her hand and kept it pressed to his thigh without taking his eyes from the road. He was her man, her love, her heart. But how could it be? So crazy. She never felt like this before and she could see the pain in store for her ahead. Thick pain. The way things were going it wouldn’t be long now. Syn turned her face directly into the wind.

They didn’t speak again until they got to Syn’s block.

“Syn, I don’t want you staying here alone before I find out what’s up. Pack some stuff. I got a place for you.”

“Fine,” Syn said wearily.

The elevator was still broke so they hiked it upstairs. She quickly packed a change of clothes, some toiletries, her schoolbooks and a box of tea. She turned to find him moving restlessly around. “Um, Zan – ” His eyes were so startlingly direct sometimes. “Ah, forgive me for bringing this up again, but…this is so…I mean I just want…”

“Syn.”

“Okay, um, when Korn found you, did you…tell him?”

Zan sighed impatiently. “No, but he found out when he checked us.”

“Did he do anything for you? I’m just…it should never have happened and you…all of you should’ve gotten some help, some care. I can’t – “

“Don’t. It was a long time ago, k? It’s over.”

“How’d you deal with it?”

“Lots of ass.” He watched her flinch. “Don’t worry. It was always mutual and I was always straight with whoever. I figured every time I chose to do it, it’d kinda cancelled out the time I didn’t choose to do it.”

“I’m sorry,” she said woodenly, looking down. “I’m just hurting right now and I’m scared – for the both of us. I wish that I could heal you. After you told me when we were in the park, we just made the most of the day – pretended there was nothing else. I should’ve – “

Zan pulled her roughly to him. “Syn, what the h*ll is this? Today was frickin perfect. It was all that cuz I was with you. You’re twisting yourself up about my past, baby. Don’t do that. It’s over. I ain’t even done it lately – like not since three weeks before you vibed me good. So everything’s cool now.” He smiled for the first time since leaving the Catskills. “I been trying to do you but you keep holding out.”

“Zan – “

“Get your bag. Let’s go.”

Syn shook her head. “You switch up on me so quick.”

“Every time I’m up here alone with you in your crib, I think about how many times I could make you come hard in an hour before losing my mind. So let’s go. Now.”

“Oh. Alright.” Control. She needed control. How could he be able to turn her on so much at the drop of a hat? “Let me check my messages, then we can leave.”

Click-click. Doooooo!… Tre’Shevette, Roman, and her lab partner called; and Lucia left three messages. The last one was…

<< Hellooooo!…Sh*t! Where the f*ckadoodle-doo are you, Syn?? When you get this message call me while you bring your ass over here to Brooklyn Hospital! Wheat’s here! Somebody tried to f*ckin bash his brains out! He’s in Room 418… >>

“Oh my g*d! Oh my g*d!”

“Well, that’s one down,” Zan said grimly. “Come on. I’ll take you over there.”

On the way Syn called Lucia’s cell phone but didn’t get an answer. “I can’t believe this is happening!” Was anything she knew real? Was she Alice in Scaryland? “Zan, if it’s true, if he’s hurt…I was wondering if there was something you could do. You know…do…if he – “

“Syn, I can’t be doing alien magic in no public hospital like I’m putting on a show. Blond Ambition sounds like she flipped. I’m getting some bad vibes.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean it sounds like your friend, but it don’t have to be her and what she said don’t have to be true.”

Syn’s breath was coming fast and she tried to calm herself. “You’re scaring me.”

“I’m not trying to, baby. All I’m saying is I got some bad vibes and I don’t know where they’re coming from.”

It was dark when they arrived at the hospital and they immediately found Lucia pacing rapidly and talking to herself in the waiting room. She rushed over when she saw them, her thick double-hooped earrings clanging like cow bells, and threw her arms around Syn.

“Oh thank g*d! I thought maybe something happened to you too! Cristoff was just about to drive me over to your place and help me break in!”

“Well, I’m glad you didn’t! What happened to Wheat, Lucia?”

“Okay, okay, let me take a deep breath…I gotta get a grip – at least a loose one…Whew! Alright. He was brought in this morning as a John Doe. Some trash men found him in an alley. Someone had hit him in the head with who knows what. It wasn’t a robbery cuz he had everything on him – even thirty bucks. He –“

“g*d!” Syn held Lucia’s arm tightly. “What’s his condition?”

Lucia’s cheek twitched. “He’s in a coma.” She started to cry. “Oh g*d, he’s in a coma! And they don’t know what’s gonna happen to him, Syn. Oh j*s*s – !”

Lucia went to hug her again but Syn turned away blindly, taking Zan’s arm. “Lu, I’ll be right back,” she mumbled.

“What? Did you hear what – ? Where are you going, Syndara?!”

“Zan, I need to talk to you,” Syn insisted as they both stepped towards Cristoff since she wouldn’t let go of his arm. Zan stared openly at the other boy.

“What’s your name again, yo?”

“Cristoff. Is that a problem?”

He didn’t answer, finally letting Syn pull him outside with Lucia’s shrill exclamations following them.

“What was that about?”

“I was checking him, but he’s got the blue-gray.”

“What?”

“I’ll explain later. Yo, I know what you’re gonna ask and the answer’s gotta be ‘no’.”

“Why not?”

“I know it’s my fault this happened – “

“You know I’m not saying that!”

“ – but there’s too much at stake for me to get my brain all mixed up in somebody’s coma.”

“You told me you only reach inside a little to make repairs. That’s what you said.”

“Yeah, but it’s still real personal. Plus, I ain’t never dealt with no coma victim. That’s some serious sh*t. You was hurt bad too. I never healed nobody close to death before and I ended up joining with you. Never done that before either. I’m not cracking myself wide open for somebody I don’t know. Sorry. I already gotta deal with your possessed brother, remember?”

Syn’s eyes were wide and pleading. “I’m asking a lot. I know that. Please just come and see what you can do. Please, Zan. Just look him over. If you…can’t do anything, it’s okay.”

He pulled her roughly by the hand back into the hospital. How could he resist her? She was everything. “I’m just looking. That’s all,” he muttered.

“Thank you!” she whispered back, squeezing him.

The taste of her – of peaches – flared afresh in his mouth, making him want to grab her and run. He had to get away from her so he could maintain his edge.

“Syn, what the h*ll’s going on?” Lucia demanded looking back and forth between them.

“Nothing. I’m going up to see Wheat. Zan’s coming with me.”

Lucia put a hand on her hip. “Uh-huh. Your words and tone imply that you don’t want anyone else coming with you. Whatever. I’m just your other best friend. What’s that compared to the new red meat here?”

Zan smirked. “Fresh meat’s the best, Blondie.”

“Ha! Not every day, babe.”

“A healthy frame can take it.”

“Stop the sh*t,” Syn snapped.

“Ooo, possessive – and methinks a li’l green. I’m waiting for Wheat’s great-grands to get here. They wouldn’t let me and Cristoff come pick ‘em up, but they’re taking too long. I’m worried.” Lucia pulled out her cell phone. “So go on then. If I gotta go get ‘em, don’t leave. I’ll be right back.”

Syn and Zan went up to Wheat’s floor and had to say they were immediate family, sign in as Syndara and ‘Dan’ Wheaton, and get nametags. The nurse led them in and briskly cautioned them not to touch anything or talk loud and they only had ten minutes.

Syn barely noticed when the nurse left as she stared at her friend. She looked so forlorn that it dragged Zan’s insides down. He watched her creep closer to the bed, opposite the heart monitor.

Wheat’s face was serene but the thick head bandage looked bad. The image of his arms straight at his sides on top of covers tucked so neatly around him is what really made him look sick. Syn picked up his limp hand. “Why’d he have to hurt him like this?” she asked in hushed tones. “Son of a b*tch. He didn’t have to hurt him like this!”

Zan wanted to stomp Larek. He moved to her side. “Sorry, baby.”

“It’s not your fault.”

“His real name’s Wheat?”

Syn smiled reluctantly. “It’s Roebuck Darryl Wheaton.”

“What’s up with these nutty names and the guys you know?”

“I don’t know, Zan Kapol shar-Kelos Hodd,” she retorted quietly, touching Wheat’s face. “His skin is cool.”

Zan slowly moved his hand above Wheat’s entire length. “It’s just his head. Everything else seems to be a’ight. I could see better if I touched him.”

Syn bit her lip, looking back and forth between two of them. “If you could get hurt trying to help him, don’t do it. I don’t think I could stand it if – “

Her voice broke and Zan pulled her into his arms, saying low in her ear, “Shhh, don’t get upset about stuff that ain’t happened yet, peach.”

“Stuff that could happen. I love Wheat and I’d do it, but I can’t ask you to do it.”

“Step back.” He pushed her gently away from him and put his hands over Wheat’s ears covered by the bandage and after a couple deep breaths he froze. Syn watched him slowly lean down further and then suddenly jerk downwards, gasping and tucking his chin under.

“Zan!” She tugged at him and tried to pry his fingers loose from Wheat’s head but couldn’t. Zan’s eyes were wide now and unseeing. “Let go!” With all of her weight Syn yanked on him twice before they both fell to the floor. After a quick glance at an unmoving Wheat, she felt all over Zan. “Are you alright? Say something!”

He was breathing heavily. “It’s so dark in there. Felt like I couldn’t breathe. D*mn.” They helped each other up and stood over Wheat. “The darkness almost pulled me in – like I was being drugged. Couldn’t see nothing. He knew I was there and tried to reach for me, but he missed and I couldn’t find him again .” Zan looked down solemnly at her. “He wants to wake up.”

Syn held onto him tightly, putting her face on his arm. “Thank you so much.”

Just at that moment the nurse came in demanding to know what the noise was about and telling them to leave. Wheat’s great-grandparents, both in their upper 90’s and Lucia and Cristoff were right behind her. Syn and Zan were easing out while it was revealed amid much confusion that they weren’t the patient’s immediate family after all.

Ms. Leah grabbed her husband’s arm, putting a hand to her heaving chest. “Clem, oh look at him! Oh l*rd – !”

“Come on, mother. Now come on,” Mr. Clem said gruffly, leading her close to Wheat’s side.

Lucia grabbed Syn’s arm before she passed her. “Don’t disappear. I want to talk to you – alone,” she hissed under her breath. “Something queer is going on!”

Syn pulled her back out into the hallway. “I’ll be back, k?”

“Are you frickin kidding me?” Lucia raised her hands in affronted bewilderment. “Our best friend is in a coma,” she singsonged. “What’s this so much more important thing that you’ll ‘be back’ from?”

“Lu, it’s a serious situation. I’ll tell you later,” Syn said impatiently, watching Zan’s back moving down the hall.

Lucia turned to Cristoff, looking him up and down. “He’s in there – not out here. Get out of my convo.”

“Chill. No need to b*tch out on me,” he said casually, closing the door behind him.

“Lu.”

“What?”

“I’ll be back and we’ll talk. I promise.”

Lucia glared dejectedly. “You’ll be back and we’ll talk. Great. Well, don’t f*ckin bother to hurry back from whatever you’re up to with King Punk Gothic over there. I mean – “ She shrugged goofily. “ – Wheat might only just be f*ckin dead by then and Mr. Clem and Ms. Leah are only old enough to hit the floor from the shock!” Her teary eyes cutting, she pushed back onto the room and the sound of Ms. Leah’s crying and the nurse’s rather abrasive words of comfort blasted Syn briefly and then she was left staring at the door.

She looked so sad when she caught up to Zan at the elevator and it angered him. Somehow he was even putting a monkey wrench in her friendships. It was crystal clear again how much better off she’d be without him around. It made what he had to do a little easier. Only a little. “She’s just upset, baby.”

Syn closed her eyes and rested her palms on his chest, his warm embrace soothing her. “I know.”

“Stay here. Ain’t no reason for you to come with me now. Go home with Blondie. Give me her addy and I’ll come for you as soon as I get some info.”

“No! It’s only 8. You can’t go to Bloomie’s to meet the emissary until early morning… if he shows – “

“Syn, I have to get away from you.”

“What?”

“I need to chill big time and I can’t do that around you. It’s like I’m jumping around on a hot plate inside.” He stroked her face. “Besides, you ain’t safe around me. I still got that sh*tty feeling something ain’t right. I mean something else ain’t right. Just stay here with your peeps and let me do what I gotta do.”

Syn fought the urge to argue with him. She wanted all this to be over, didn’t she? Clinging to him wasn’t going to make that happen.

“Okay,” she conceded in a breathy voice. “Go. But be safe, Zan. Please.” And then she told him where Lucia lived.

The elevator came and Zan dropped a brief, rough kiss on her lips, touching foreheads with her. “I love you mad crazy, girl. Don’t forget.” He pushed her back and then he was gone.

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

Lonnie paced back and forth in the pod crib alone. Nicholas had nothing useful to say, but he did bang her brains out. It was interesting and she did need to waste some time. Here it was 8pm and she had what? Like seven hours to go? Sh*t. She wondered where Rath and Ava were. And Zan. She didn’t want any of them catching up with her until she was ready and the future set in motion. She didn’t like having the second thoughts she was having either. She dropped down hard on the old loveseat.

“I’m being a p*ssy!”

She examined her long black nails, then jumped up abruptly to pace some more, unable to stand the waiting. The club. Yeah, the one up in the Bronx. She counted the pills left that she swiped from Larek. She could drink, party, get laid by a couple guys and maybe kill one or two – like last time. Just for the h*ll of it. Ha! Sort of a bon voyage party for one. She stood still looking around and warming to the idea. Yeah, a big ol’ goodbye to this bullsh*t and hello to the future – Lonnie’s grand future. Everybody else thought they were calling the shots. Well, they were all gonna find out the real deal soon. She shoved the pills in her purse and walked out.

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

In the pitch dark a figure stealthily moved across the large storage room in the basement of Bloomie’s. If he’d ever had a longer night than this one he couldn’t remember it and didn’t want to. Zan relived his whole life in those hours. He drove to Jersey and drove right back cuz there wasn’t sh*t over there. He walked all over Manhattan, met up with some of the East Village crew that he knew and dropped ‘em quick cuz they weren’t saying nothing he wanted to hear. So he just walked and walked, feeling like he was in one of them too-weird-to-understand indie flicks. The New York streets seemed to pull back from him farther and farther with each step he took, even as he was trying to lose himself in them. The only steady comfort he had was Syn’s big brown eyes winking in his soul. The cold air didn’t bother him tonight so he slept for about an hour in the park – with the green shield up.

He stood now in front of the invisible orb, hesitating. His whole eighteen years as a hybrid was just a waiting period for this ‘alien invasion’ sh*t. He had to move into it. He couldn’t just stay. Khivar, Deshamos, Rath, Lonnie, and Sero ‘n’ them – they weren’t gonna leave him alone. Or anybody he cared about. Well, he was resigned to stepping into this destiny the aliens mapped out for him – for now – but they was gonna get more than they wanted from him. For f*ckin up what he could have had now with Syn Morgan, he was gonna twist everybody’s sh*t around. And take no f*ckin prisoners. Word as bond.

Zan made the ceiling lights come on. He waved his hand carelessly in front of the wall, making the orb visible. He aggressively punched the blue button and let it scan his palm, starting the 3-D fifteen-minute countdown. He sat on the floor humming a Limp Bizkit tune, watching the rapidly moving numbers.

“Come on, b*tch,” he muttered.

Finally the weird foil outline of a man appeared but what tore through it wasn’t Pakeen Hrek. Zan’s mouth curved up cynically. “Oh, it’s you.”

“Yes, it is. I wanted to take care of this myself….”



part nineteen


“Shizon.” Sero Niz de-Keed inclined his head and stepped closer.

“Explain ‘Shizon’. What are you calling me?”

“It’s hard to explain in Earth terms but in addition to being king of Antar you were basically voted the highest judge in our solar system and in two others. You made final judgments in disputes and in many other matters concerning millions of people and whole planets. When you were killed, you had only served half your term in the position. Now the peace process will go much more smoothly if you are involved, hybrid or not. There’s nothing more important. Now, I need to check you out.” He smiled apologetically. “I know it’s you but what I know could be wrong. And if I am – ”

“You’ll have to eliminate me. Yeah, I know. Go for it.”

Sero passed a hand over the back of Zan’s head. The correct image of the five planets appeared and disappeared. “Excellent. How’s an hour from now? Same place.”

“We’re gonna have us a mini-summit right here. Will Larek Melledaan of Mirr be there?”

Sero looked at the Shizon’s tense facial muscles quizzically. “Yes, definitely. We’ll all be there – even your cousin Deshamos.”

“My cousin.” Zan let out a mocking grunt. “What do you know about Larek and me in my old alien days?”

Sero paused thoughtfully. “Mirr has never been a wealthy planet, but now it’s quite impoverished. It’s Antar’s twin. They once formed one planet but didn’t separate evenly. Mirr has been very loyal but …the needs of the many have been outweighing the sentiment of the one for some time now.” He flicked open the briefcase in front of Zan. “But peace is what we all want.”

Zan let the blue-gray wash over him before saying, “But that ain’t all you want. After the summit when are all y’all leaving Earth?”

“If all goes well, immediately – with no reason to return.”

“And Deshamos?”

“He’s supposed to,” Sero replied with mild drollness.

“That ain’t good enough. Tell me what’s up with the Skins. If I’m gone, do they still have a reason to stay?”

Sero closed the suitcase with a soft click. “Not really. The Skins’ story is simple. They’re Antarian traitors – well, traitors to you - whose mission was to stay on Earth indefinitely to seek and destroy the Royal Four. However they weren’t planning on staying sixty years and the process of extending their life cycles here has taken a toll on their mindset, even their sanity I think. But they’re fixated on you. There’s nothing else for them here – except for a handful that may have put their alien lives behind them.”

“Why is Deshamos using a kid’s body? Is he the only one?”

“He’s the only one. He was the last of the assigned Antarian rebels to come. Plus, he’s the leader. For some reason he ended up in the South instead of the West. Isolated as he was, he wouldn’t have had much time to live, so the first farm boy to stumble onto the ship…well, there you go. Deshamos will most likely leave and the Skins will follow him.

“Nah, him and all them Skins gotta go when you do.”

“That’s not possible, Shizon. Even if it were, there would be considerable bloodshed. We’re not trying to spread the mechanics of our war to this planet.”

“Is human blood in danger?”

“It might be unavoidable but it would be very little – if this were possible, which it isn’t.”

Zan nodded his head as if he agreed. “Y’all want my total cooperation – no matter what it costs me. You want peace in your dying worlds and you want the mighty granolith – all of which supposedly depends on me. And you want all this sh*t at your convenience. So ain’t nothing impossible, man. I don’t care how you scoop up the Skins, just do it – every last d*mn one of ‘em. Today.”

Sero closed his eyes briefly in resignation and bowed his head slightly. “As you wish.”

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

Rath was sitting stooped over on a bench in Lower Manhattan’s Battery Park, pressing his temples hard, trying to hold in the worst headache known to man. Or rather to him – it was his first one. Something had shifted in his brain as if whatever else that was affected by the Skin b*tch blasting his eye out kinda gave way or something. He had felt it on his way over from Jersey but now it was starting to hurt like a mutha! He thought Korn had taken care of this with the frickin healing stones! What the f*ck was wrong now???

“Ahhh!” He winced, involuntarily stretching out on the bench as the pain arced upwards swiftly and lingered before briefly releasing him. Over and over and over again. “Muthafahhh –!! “

Flash.

**Dorrath Kees-Vetalion bent his head and felt the king slip the chain holding the heavy medallion made of the most precious metal in their sector of space around his neck. Then the king said in a voice that carried cross the vast hall of the throne room, “Dorrath al-don Kees-Vetalion, I name you Right Chancellor of Antar and the three moons Hewl, Farrad and ba-Nemm. There is no other before you except the Crown of Antar. There is no other equal to you except the Law of the Senate.”

Amid many cheers and well-wishing, Zan Kapol grinned at him and leaned forward slightly so that only Rath could hear him. “And there’s no other more worthy than you, my friend.”

Rath bowed low before smiling back. “There’s nothing more important to me than you and your family except my duty. I won’t fail you.”

“Rath, there’s no one I trust more. You’re as much my brother as if we shared the same mother.”

Zan broke the strict ceremonial tradition and hugged Rath openly. Rath returned the embrace, emotion nearly overcoming his normally solemn, calm demeanor. “My king…Zan…you’re as much my brother as if we shared the same father…”

“Blood to blood, my friend?”

“Blood to blood. Forever…”**


“No!” Rath jerked upwards. “Wha – ?” Had he fallen asleep or what? He felt just like he’d had a full night’s worth and now there was no trace of pain, but something was really weird. He looked around warily. Well, it was still dark and early in Battery Park. Same bench. He gingerly felt his face, finding the still empty eye socket. Sh*t. He was hoping all of it was a frickin dream. Disturbed, he stood up and slowly paced, a frown creasing his features. Was the dream or vision or whatever for real? And real or not, what did it mean? And why’d he feel…changed somehow? He stopped to spit disgustedly and when he did the painless pulse started in his temples again. That’s just the way the headache started out before. Dayumm!

Rath shoved his hands deep into his super baggy army fatigue pants and strode quickly in the direction of the nearest subway entrance. He couldn’t let this sh*t stop him cuz he had to get to that orb. He was gonna be in on the action. Like, he was the f*ckin Chancellor ‘n’ sh*t and they was all treating him like a used paper towel! F*ck that! He was gonna – .

“Aieee! Sssss!” He doubled over, grabbing his head again but stumbled on, refusing to stop.

What in the f*ck was going on-nahhhhhh…?!

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

“Can we go over this wild turkey story again?…Don’t look at me like that, Syndara. I mean, how the frig do you expect me to react? Wheat’s still in eternal-night world, you don’t seem to care as much as the rest of us, and then you run this cockamamie story about your punk hunk being E.T.’s sexier cousin. I mean, it’s straight up bullsh*t and I don’t appreciate it.”

Syn looked around Lucia’s bedroom, trying to hold in her anger and worry, her eyes finally resting on the clock. 4:00 am. Zan should be here by now, right? Or does the type of thing he doing take an hour and a half or more? Please God, he has to be alright. Please God, I don’t ask you for much – !

“Syn, are you listening to me?”

Syn jerked her head around. “You don’t appreciate it, huh? First, let me point out that you wanted to know what was going on with me. And I have told you. You’re looking me dead in the eye and you can see I’m serious. And you’re gonna tell me I’m lying? And you’re gonna question my love for Wheat?” She sighed, realizing she was talking too loud. “Look, I know how this sounds, but you’re my best friend, Lu. Look at me. There are no drugs in my system and this isn’t my idea of a joke. Everything I’ve told you is true. The only reason you don’t believe me – after I’ve gone through the whole story twice already – is that you’re scared and don’t want to believe me. I can handle scared. It’s been my middle name this past week. But what I can’t handle right now is you pretending that I’m lying so that you won’t have to face the situation that you demanded to know about. F*ck that, Lucia. I need us to be on the same wavelength here.”

Lucia raised her arms in frustration and let them drop back on the bed where the girls both sat cross-legged. “What are you talking about, Syn? The same wavelength! I’m no frickin good at Physics and this is sounding like an explanation of warp drive, Scottie! Argh!” She leaped off the bed, throwing her hands in the air and pacing. “I can’t – you know – I can’t do aliens and bodysnatching and Klingon wars right now, k?” She stopped to look at her friend and the loneliness and worry right behind the determined set of her face made Lucia pause, rubbing her forehead. She sat close to Syn. “Okay…okay…” She closed her eyes briefly as if to summon strength before continuing slowly. “I believe that you believe this. And that doesn’t mean that I think all of this is definitely not true. It means I need to not get all the way into this right now. And you’re my friend and I love you and I know I might sound like I don’t. Maybe I’m just not as strong as you are – at this time. That’s as honest as I can be, Syn.”

“Well, that’s more than nothing.”

“I’ll do whatever I can to help. If nothing else is true, that is, chica. I guess I just need to see to believe – and I don’t want to see.” Lucia held Syn’s hands and they sat quietly like that for a while. “So what do you need me to do, Syn?”

Syn smiled sadly and gave her a gentle squeeze. “Nothing right now. Thanks.”

Lucia swung up and sat cross-legged again. “So, um, after…doing whatever he’s doing, he’s coming here. How long does it take?”

Syn sighed wearily, lying back. “I don’t know. I just pray that Mack is okay and that Zan hasn’t been…” She swallowed hard, unable to finish.

“Don’t let what you don’t know hurt you. Take everything one moment at a time now. I’ll go make us some hot tea and ice cream…”

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

At about 4am while Zan was walking down and away from Bloomie’s that bad feeling rose up swiftly. He heard a step behind him and turned.

“Hi, brother.” Lonnie stood there, shifting slowly from foot to foot, looking nervous – not a good sign.

“What’s up, sister? What are you doing here?”

“Um, I got some things on my mind. You know, things that are bothering me. Do you remember what happened to us before Korn came?” She saw the dark look that came over his face and continued quickly. “Yeah-yeah, I know we never talk about it. I know you don’t want to.”

“I ain’t got time to reminisce. You’re here for a reason. Spit it out.”

Lonnie looked up, shaking her head wryly. “Huh. See, that’s what I mean. Before he came, we were tight. I know you remember, Zan. Then he filled your head with the royal alien duty sh*t and suddenly the rest of us became your d*mn pets – subjects of Da King. And it just got worse. I can see now that nothing else is gonna work. Nothing is going to be different!” She sniffed loudly and wiped her nose with her sleeve.

“Wait just a minute. Are you high?”

She laughed strangely, then became serious just as quickly. “Sure I am. Why not? What else is there for me to do? You’ll be king and I’ll be…” She considered it and then burst out laughing again briefly. “As I was saying, it’s gonna be the same sh*t between me and you like before.”

“Like before what?” Zan snapped, not in the mood for her weird mood. With her drugged up ass. Sh*t. Wait ‘til he saw Korn!

“Like back on Antar!”

Zan stilled. “What happened there?”

Her forehead began to bead with sweat. “You really don’t remember, do you? Well, do you remember that when those devils had us I didn’t leave you?”

“Yeah, Lonnie, I do remember, but that was then and this is now. I ain’t the only one that’s changed, right?”

She stopped her shifting and stood still staring at him hard. “I loved you like a brother, brother.” Zan’s shield came up, the green glare making her cover her glazed eyes momentarily. “What the f*ck?!”

“The f*ck is I seen this kinda scene in too many movies. Get to your point, Lonnie, if you got one. I ain’t got time for your new bullsh*t.”

A malevolent young male voice said behind him, “Not for that or anything else – cousin.”

As Zan whipped around, he was blasted backwards, landing flat on his back, immobile and unable to bring his shield back up.

Nicholas laughed mockingly. “Well, isn’t this a real hoot?” He came forward, holding up a familiar object. “Sero really should be careful with these things. If he’s going to be greedy enough to have two of them, he should be clever enough to hide the second one just a li’l better than this.” He tapped the object lightly. “Now the truth is I can’t make this thing do half the things it can do. He alone has been entrusted with complete knowledge of how to fully operate it, but – I did figure out one thing. And voila! I’ve got a king at my feet!”

“Deshamos, cut the crap and get out of here,” Lonnie growled.

“What? And miss the final curtain? No-ho, I don’t think so!” He was so busy leering down at Zan that Lonnie snatched the weapon out of his hand easily.

She looked down at her brother who was struggling so hard against whatever force was holding him down that the veins in his neck were popping up. She pointed the weapon at Deshamos. “I said go away.”

He looked her up and down carelessly. “Ahhh, you want privacy for your heartwarming family moment here. I see. Fine. But you need me, baby. And you’re not about to forget that, are you?” Glaring at him, Lonnie lowered the weapon and he stood directly over Zan. “Cousin, I see murder in your eyes. Just let go. You can’t fight the new world order that’s about to begin. Now I’m not going to kill you, but I just want to take a little peak. This might hurt a tiny bit…” He bent even lower and tried to go right through Zan’s skull with his eyes, but after ten seconds Zan grinned evilly at him and…”Ahh! Son of a b*tch!” Deshamos rubbed the space between his own eyes and kicked Zan in the ribs. “Lonnie, finish this bastard and make contact with Larek! We don’t have much time!” He stalked off cursing down the street and around the corner.

Zan continued his violent struggles, saying nothing to her. Lonnie stood transfixed at the sight and wondering if it was the drugs in her blood making her hear their father’s voice so clearly - Once you make a decision, Vilondra, follow it through to the end no matter what happens in between. She almost asked Zan if he could hear it too but quickly snapped out of her daze, reaching hurriedly into her bag. She took out a long silver canister, opened it and in a near frenzy drenched Zan thoroughly with gasoline. She stared down at accusing eyes full of bitterness and hot vengeance, but he would not plead with her. He was himself to the end. This was her brother. They had suffered horribly together during the innocence of childhood – innocent to the point that she would have died for him then. If she now did this to him whom she (in her own way) loved more than any other, then there would be nothing that she would not do. In that moment something already thin in Lonnie’s soul snapped in two and she was changed forever. She didn’t avert her now cold gaze as she lit a match, threw it and watched Zan burn.



part twenty


“Cristoff!…Yo, Cristoff, you’re not hearing me. My best friend needs me right now, cuz our other best friend (whose band you just joined!) is seriously ill, so calling you back wasn’t a priority. I mean, you and I just came from the hospital, so what is – ?….Are you kidding me? That’s not my problem. That’s….What?!…Sh*t, dude, you’re over with!” Lucia slammed down the phone, her face squished up in disgust. “What a freakin’ *sshole!” Blowing out a hard breath and turning to stare idly at the tube, she drummed her long blue nails on the counter, impatiently waiting for the popcorn to pop.

<<…Violence struck twice tonight in the Greenwich Village area. Right outside Boone’s Lounge at 13 Calfrey Street a man was found unconscious. An unknown assailant had torn his right eye out. Police have no further information…And a shocking occurrence in St. Vincent’s Hospital – Twenty-nine year old Thomas Hanson Dawdek was found in his hospital room on the third floor dismembered and mutilated beyond all recognition. Police said that patients and staff heard strange noises and screams coming from the room but they were unable to open the door. The lock had been somehow melted and fused. A welder was brought in to cut into it. An officer who wishes to remain anonymous has stated quote, “In all my thirty years on the force I’ve never seen anything like what we found in that room…>>

Shivering, Lucia shook her head. What was the world coming to? She quickly switched the tube off and practically threw the popcorn in a bowl before rushing upstairs. Everything was just getting too unstable and ugly all of a sudden.

“Whew! Those steps. I need exercise, Syn. Here’s the—“ Her speech was cut short by the sight of Syn lying on the floor in a fetal position, shaking violently. She rushed over to her. “Omig*d! Syn, what’s wrong?!”

Syn raised her chin, eyes rolled back, her face a mask of pain. Her mouth moved but only an incoherent hissing came out as she groped her chest as if trying to tear something away.

Panicking, Lucia reached out to pull her up but the moment she touched her Lucia cried out.

Syn’s skin was hot like fire!

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

Within his soul Zan hazily watched the sea of dull red getting closer. He couldn’t retreat anymore and couldn’t think, couldn’t move…couldn’t…nightmare stuck on his back lonnie she lonnie she lonnie she…deshamos trying to penetrate his brain push back stab him stab that mind r*pin’ ass stab him stab he’s gone yeah b*tch he’s gone!…the red sea was coming he couldn’t retreat anymore red sea red sea sea see see syn sweet syn’s black hair…but lonnie she lonnie she had no heart no loyalty dead thing…syn she syn she smiling black hair sweet she came she came towards him smiling she black hair turning red black hair red hair red flames red flames all around him red burning!…can’t hold it back no more no more burning!…and guttural screams in his head…his guttural screams…blowing …up…his…head…

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

“Sh*t, I’m calling 911!

But Syn grabbed her arm, laboring to gulp air, to speak. “No, Lucia! I’ll…be…alright! Just help me…up!”

When they finally got her into a sitting position, Syn’s breathing began to normalize.

“Syn, what is it?!”

“I – I don’t know! Something’s wrong with him. Something’s…hurting him!”

“j*s*s. Who?!”

“Zan! It’s…Zan. I can feel him. He’s hurting. Oh g*d – !”

Completely unnerved, Lucia helped her up on the bed. “Y’all so connected that if he’s hurt, you’re hurt? I mean, that’s messed up! He’s an alien! Anything could be happening to him and you feel it! This is a frickin’ nightmare! Can any of this sh*t really be happening?”

With tears streaming down her face, Syn just closed her eyes, shaking her head back and forth.

Lucia protectively put her arms around her and said with a quiet tremor, “Okay. What do we do?”

Syn kept rubbing her chest, her face etched with grief, her voice hoarse. “I have to find him, Lucia. Just like he found me, I have to find him.”

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

Lonnie was pacing back and forth erratically near the river’s edge in Riverside Park waiting for Rath. Thoughts were racing through her head. It wasn’t safe to have Zan’s body just lying here but she wanted Rath to see and understand that she was in charge. He had to see that she was Da Queen now, the top dog. With difficulty she slowed her pace. So okay maybe Deshamos did have a little info she’d been able to use. She wished the drugs she ingested at that party would wear off. She must have shot up enough to OD cuz she wasn’t quite lucid. All of a sudden Rath rushed up on her and she whipped around, just missing his head with a blast from her hand. He turned purple with alarm.

“Are you f*cking crazy?!” Lonnie looked at her hand, perplexed and Rath stepped ominously towards her. “I asked you: are you f*cking crazy?!”

She smiled. “I’m the leader now. I’m in charge. Your boy Zan here is dead.”

Rath looked down at the figure she was pointing to and his face wrinkled in disgust. “Stop playing, yo. What the h*ll’s that? What are you doing out here, Lonnie, and why did you call me here at five in the morning?” He was pissed that when he got to Bloomie’s people were lurking around and he couldn’t get to the orb. It was a b*tch ‘n’ a half for real! So he went back to the pod crib unmindful of Korn’s warning. He wasn’t going to hide while opportunities came and went.

Lonnie wasn’t smiling anymore. “From now on call me Vilondra. ‘Lonnie’ is some gutter chick coming from nowhere and going nowhere. This is a new frickin day. I set Zan on fire and killed him. This is what’s left of him. I’m tossing him in the river, then you’re gonna get us a car – a nice one this time, yo – and we’re going to Roswell, New Mexico to pick up Zan’s clueless dupe. We’ll use him to get off this planet and into the real mix.”

“Ho-ho-ho-hold it!” Rath was staring at the unrecognizable form on the ground, feeling a weird sense of loss. Plus, Lonnie was acting more nuts than usual.

She tapped a booted foot impatiently. “What’s your problem? Zan was slow to move and arrogant about it. You been b*tchin’ and b*tchin’ about doing something about him. Well…this is it.”

Rath stood over the charred form. “I ain’t mean this! Sh*t, Lonnie, Zan’s your g*dd*mn brother! I mean…what the f*ck?!”

Lonnie turned him around to face her. “Whatever. We’re all hybrids. We’re dead. We ain’t even really who we are, so f*ck it. I wanna be on top and now I am. You can come along for the ride, Mohawk, or not.” Her emphasis on the last word was unpleasant.

Rath decided to comply until he figured out what to do with her. His mouth tightened as he continued to stare down at Zan’s remains, the headache came back dully. “Yeah, I’m riding.”

“I thought so. Now toss him and let’s be up outti…Go ahead, Rath. Pick him up.”

“You crazy! I ain’t touching that.”

“You’re gonna do what I say.”

Rath stretched his arm towards the body and concentrated. If Lonnie had powers popping up out of nowhere, maybe he did too. Maybe the headache shook something awake inside him. Slowly the body rolled over and over until it dropped over the edge into the river. Yeah, he had some powers…so why wasn’t he overjoyed?

“Very impressive,” Lonnie said softly. “Don’t disobey me again. Now come on.”

“Hey, who told you Zan’s dupe was in Roswell and how do you know he ain’t gonna be as much trouble as this one?”

“Never mind who and how. We’re wasting time.”

“Is all our dupes out there?”

“Supposed to be, but Max Evans is the only one we need.”

“Zan’s dupe. You even know his full frickin' name.”

“You’re a genius. Where the f*ck is Ava?”

“Maybe dead. I left her in Jersey.”

Lonnie strutted away carelessly and Rath followed her. “Yeah, well…we don’t need the weakest link. What were y’all doing in Jersey?”

“Korn’s crap.”

“Figures. Never mind. I don’t want to know.”

“Yo, how we s’posed to get to New Mexico, get this ‘Max’ Zan and get back here before the whole frickin summit idea is called off? This is some farfetched nonsensical sh*t you got planned here…Vilondra. I mean, if you’re the b*tcherina in charge, why we need Dupe Zan in the first place?”

“Your mouth’s gonna get you into trouble you don’t know about,” she answered coolly. “Max Evans is our back up. I ain’t taking no chances.” She didn’t want Rath to know that she had fooled with the orb and it had been totally unresponsive to her. “Enough talking. Just snatch us a d*mn ride from one of these early-morning-workaholic-yuppie-wonderbreads and let’s roll.”

Rath stalked off to do her bidding, but all the while he was thinking about what he should do – Cuz if Lonnie killed Zan (whom she admired and loved in her own twisted way), then she was sho’ nuff gonna do him in as soon as he served his purpose – whatever that was. He started jogging backwards along the road. When he saw the car he wanted (he was in the mood for a jag) he easily jumped right into it, pushed the speechless wonderbread out and made a careening u-turn back towards where he came from. Easy as pie. But his hands were tense on the wheel. Zan’s body was in the river, Lonnie was insane and it was their last chance at the summit.

So what was he gonna do?



part twenty-one



They were heading towards the highway and Rath had “Danger” blasting on the radio. He turned it down as the main thought in his brain became not leaving New York without doing something to rectify this f*cked up situation. Something. He wondered exactly how off-centered Lonnie was. The more the better.

“Yo, Lonnie.”

“Yeah?”

Hm, no protest about the name. Good. She was slipping.

“We gotta go back and my hockey stick.”

When she didn’t answer him, he raised his voice. “I said, I want my stick, yo.”

“Forget it.”

At that point Rath began to shout crazy obscenities and swerve the car all over the road. “I need my d*mn stick! I need my d*mn stick!!”

“Ay, stop! Get a grip, fool!…Alright, we’ll go back!” D*mn, he’s straight whacked in the head! I’m probably gonna have to kill him sooner than I thought. After a few minutes she noticed they weren’t taking the shortest route into Lower Manhattan. “What are we doing back here?”

“I didn’t leave it at the pod crib. I left it in that abandoned factory near 82nd and West End. Me and some old heads were rappin’…”

“Whatever, man. I’m going to the deli on the corner for some grub. Get the stupid thing and be back out here before me. And I’m not playing.”

Rath watched her get out of the car and stalk away. Then he followed suit and rushed across the street– a little faster than humanly possible. A couple people on the street stared after him quizzically. All the while in his head he was saying, ‘this is stupid this is stupid this is stupid…’ until he’d reached the approximate spot where he dropped Zan. Quickly looking around him and hoping this would work, he held his hand out over the water, his thoughts centered on the body but he wasn’t picking up anything. Sh*t, it’s only been twenty minutes! Where was he? Why wasn’t he floating near the surface? Trust even Zan’s dead body to be difficult! Rath spun around cursing with frustration. He was gonna have to jump in this cold, dirty mutha if he really wanted to do this and time was ticking. ‘Evileen’ was probably tapping them sharp, black nails on the hood right now. The only reason she was going for this ruse was cuz she was all drugged up and it might be wearing off now. Before giving himself a chance to think anymore, he ran and jumped into the river.

“Sh* t and a B*TCH!” The icy water seemed to sear the hair off his skin! Man! A’ight, he was gonna have to let his alien senses take over cuz he couldn’t see sh*t. He hoped the body didn’t get swept away by a current and wished he’d thought of that before he jumped in, d*mn. He swam to the bottom (kinda deep too!) and felt around and didn’t want to guess at some of the things he was touching…ouch!…yech!…what - ?! okay…yeah, yeah, here we go! Rath quickly swam upwards, dragging his find behind him. He tossed the body up on the bank and jumped out, scanning the area. It had started to rain lightly and there hardly any folks around. He looked down at the body, his face wrinkling in fresh disgust.

Now what?

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

Lucia was talking on the cell. “No change?…Okay, thanks, doc.” She tossed the phone down, saying nothing and the lump in Syn’s throat got bigger. They would visit Wheat tonight and demand that he snap out the coma. Demand it. They missed him so much already. The world wasn’t right without Wheat. But there was nothing else they could do right now. At least he was alive and they knew where he was.

“So where are we going first?” Lucia asked, wearily.

Staring out the car window, Syn didn’t respond. She was reaching for Zan, for his sweet strawberry-ness, his royal colors, and sensed nothing. Maybe that was cuz she wasn’t allowing herself to feel too much so that she wouldn’t break down again. But she might have to risk that to find him. “Lucia,” she began absently. “This is dangerous. Maybe you shouldn’t – “

Please! Don’t even let the words exit your mouth, girl, cuz they’re stupid. But you aren’t, so don’t go there.”

“Fine. Let’s go to my brother’s apartment. Zan…” she swallowed. “…Zan said they use up a lot of energy maintaining human bodies so this Larek alien that borrows him has to take a break sometime.”

Lucia glanced over at her friend. She didn’t look so good. Lucia herself was still bowled over by the situation and it all still seemed like a bad dream. “Syn, we’re dealing with alien superpowers. If we run into some bad aliens, our only chances are – one: not running into them, and two: playing dumb so they won’t have a reason to kill us. I mean, it’s not like we can outrun them.” She was calm for about thirty seconds and then she was banging her hands on the steering wheel… “Omig*d, this isn’t real! It can’t be real! Omig*d, omig*d! I mean, aliens?! Come on!”

Again, Syn didn’t respond. It had started to rain and she let it dot her face through the open window, trying to quell a growing panic. She was thinking about how much she loved them both. Mack had always been there for her even when he was away at the seminary. Not a week went by without a call from him checking to see if everything was okay in her world. And Zan, well…he and Syn were a story just beginning – or just ending. (Please no!) She thought about the way his eyes smoothed over her like warm honey when he kissed her. How much it would shred her inside if she never saw that honey again? The thought made her feel tired and sick, so she summoned her anger instead.

Lucia parked in the lot behind Mack’s building and they walked to the front entrance and just stood there, feeling conspicuous as if everyone knew what they knew.

“Um, okay, we’re here.”

“I’m gonna ring a neighbor’s bell,” Syn said, doing just that. “This one buzzed us in before.”

First mission accomplished, they slowly made their way down the hall, holding each other’s hands the closer they got to the last door. Syn lightly pressed a hand against it, feeling for Mack’s deep blue color. Nothing. When she reached for the knob, Lucia motioned wildly.

“Syn, did we establish and confirm exactly what we’re going to do if some bad aliens are in there?” she mouthed silently.

“Lu, I have to do this, but you don’t.”

“Again, you’re wrong. Gimme one of your rosary bracelets.”

Surprised, Syn did and watched her put it on and grab some sort of metal tool someone had left in the hall. “Gotta work with what we got, huh? Let’s do it.”

Syn carefully tried the knob and the lock slid back. Someone had been here – or was still here – cuz Syn distinctly remembered locking up the place before. She nodded to Lucia, eased the door open about six inches and paused. Well it was now or never. They crept in and Lucia held the tool high and to the right like a batter at the plate. That’s when they heard a deep sigh and jumped. Syn motioned desperately for Lucia to wait and she moved forward, eyes wide, her heart racing so fast she thought it would jump out of her chest.

On the floor lay Mack – or a being who looked like him - rubbing his eyes. He was in a white suit Syn had never seen before.

“Mackenzee?” she whispered.

He blinked a couple times. “Syn…is that you?”

The girls exchanged cautious glances. “Where’s Petey? Have you fed him yet?” Syn asked in a hard voice.

Mack immediately sat up. “Not funny. In fact it’s pretty sh*tty of you to joke about a dog that’s been dead ten years.”

She quickly stooped down at his side while Lucia remained in position to swing if necessary. “Mack, is it you?”

He suddenly realized something and hugged her. “You’ve got to get out of here! I can’t explain and…Lucia, put that down. My brain’s already been scrambled. I don’t need it bashed in too.”

“So you’re you now, huh?” She slowly lowered the bar.

“At the moment, yeah.”

Syn grabbed his shoulders. “Mack, where have you been? Are you hurt?”

He struggled to get to his feet. “Larek. I’ve been wherever he’s been and…” Mack looked down on his white suit. “…and evidently we’ve been to a ‘Saturday Night Fever’ revue.” He held open his lapels, muttering, “Gotta be freakin kidding me!”

“Mack – “

“There’s no time to explain or to hold my head saying ‘oh my g*d’ like I really want to. As far as I can tell an alien life form’s got control of my body half the time now. The b*tch riffled through my stuff and learned about you. Larek probably snuck in on me and saw you with that Zan dude - who’s an alien too by the way. This sh*t is crazy! I don’t think Larek can read my mind or knows that I’m conscious most of the time he’s got me, but he’s after your thug-love and thinks he can get to him through you. I want you to leave New York, Syn. Now. And don’t tell the Zan alien nothing. Don’t look at me like that. Stay away from him, Syn! He’s just as dangerous as Larek. I don’t know what lines he’s been feeding you, but – “

“Slow down, slow down! First, we need to figure out what to do about you. Second, I can’t leave. Zan’s been hurt bad. I felt it.”

“What the h*ll do you mean you felt it?”

“We…we…” At the look on his face she finished hastily. “No, not that! Look, I don’t have time to explain much either. I love him and we’re just intoned to one another, okay. I’m not leaving until I find him and that’s it.”

“That’s bullsh*t! How could you – ?” Mack raked his hair angrily, but he knew by the expression on her face that it was no use arguing. “Are you not listening to me? This bodysnatchin’ alien b*stard I’m dealing with wants him dead and he thinks you might be the way to get him. Speak English? So you gotta stay away from him and me cuz I can’t stop Larek when he takes over. I can fight him back sometimes but once he gets a foothold on my consciousness I’m just along for the ride. But he doesn’t know I see, hear and thinks what he does – most of the time.”

“How do you know he doesn’t know?!”

“I just do!”

“Okay, let’s remain calm, shall we?” Lucia interjected with raised hands. “Has the way to stop him from taking you over crossed his mind lately?”

“Yeah.”

“And, um, that would be…?”

Mack frowned dejectedly. “Electric shock once he gets in. Kind of a high voltage. Too high.”

Syn bit her lip in frustration. “There’s got to be another way! How long does he want to use you?”

“After the summit they’re leaving. Your boy’s sister, Lonnie, is as crooked as they come. Like Steven Sagal, he’s ‘Marked for Death’. Larek told her to kill him and she’s gonna do it, so if you felt something, he’s dead already. You got no reason to look for him.”

Syn ignored his last words, her eyes cool. “Mack, if I see you again, you need to give a continuous sign that it’s you and not somebody else.”

“I know what he could do! He could keep running his fingers through his hair,” Lucia said, flashing her dimples.

Mack shook his head wryly and Syn nearly smiled at Lucia’s ability to flirt at a time like this.

“Well, I guess that should do it but that definitely ain’t me. I’m not the pat and primp kind of guy.”

“So now what?’ Lucia asked.

“Well, Mack should go about business as usual. There’s nothing else to do. Larek can’t use your body off this planet and he has no reason to kill you. He’s bad news alright, but these aliens are on a mission. They’re not wasting energy on random acts. Lu, like I said before, I’m involved up to my eyebrows but you – “

Lucia cut her eyes hard. “Shut up, Syn! Just shut up. Shees! If we’re gonna search for Zan, let’s go now before this creepy Larek alien dude comes back and melts us or something.”

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

In the park Rath picked a deserted place near the biggest tree he’d ever seen up close in his Earthly life. He placed Zan near it and backed away. What he wanted to do was get Zan to the pod chamber. That was where they originated from and it just seemed fitting that the body should be left there. But there was no time, plus it was a dumb idea cuz Lonnie’d be going back there eventually with or without him. He’d have to bury the body in the d*mn park. Well, anything was better than leaving Zan to be crab food. Dude had always been a pain in his *ss – at least on Earth. But sh*t…Zan was his own kind, so f*ck it. He held his hand out. If this didn’t work, he’d have to think of a Plan B cuz he d*mn sure wasn’t digging a hole with his hands! A low hum started and the dirt under Zan began to crumble and cave in. His charred body began to sink down, down, down deep and the dirt rolled and folded back over him as if the ground had never been disturbed.

Rath looked at his hand with a smirking admiration. “I. Am. The Shiznit!”

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

Syn was standing front of the window of her apartment so depressed she could drink herself into oblivion if she were someone else. Lucia sat sprawled on a kitchen chair, watching her.

“Syn, we drove all over the City of New York – all five boroughs. He’s not anywhere around here. I’m so sorry, babe, but there’s no point in retracing the same ground tomorrow.

Syn’s voice was small and strained. “Lucia, I can’t let go.” She turned to face her. “I can’t let him go. I can’t just leave him.”

It hurt Lucia to see her friend’s tearful eyes full of love for someone they’d never find. She walked over to her, saying gently, “Syn, you can’t leave someone you can’t find.”

“What am I gonna do, Lu? What – ?” She stopped abruptly.

“What is it?”

“Do you hear that?”

They both listened. Heavy footfalls, several pair, were coming up the stairs. They seemed to stop right in front of Syn’s door and Syn reached for the switchblade in her purse and motioned for silence. Suddenly, there was a heavy scratching and they both jumped.

“Syn, what the f*ck is it?!” Lucia hissed, trembling.

“We’re about to find out!”

When Syn tiptoed towards the door, Lucia followed with a kitchen chair held high and ready. Syn yanked open the door, arm upraised and lost her breath at the sight in front of her. Sitting there calmly was the biggest German Shepherd in the world! It was ‘Angel’, the strange dog that had protected her from Dawdek that night. He started to growl a little.

Um, It was him, right?







[ edited 2 time(s), last at 6-Jun-2002 9:35:30 PM ]
posted on 23-Jun-2002 11:40:49 PM
*big**angel*
posted on 27-Nov-2002 6:44:28 PM
Thank you,GWN! *big* (Took me quite a while to reply to your post here, huh?)