posted on 5-Aug-2002 11:33:40 PM
Summary: What happened to the people left behind once the kids left Roswell during graduation? Did the FBI leave them alone, or did they have a more chilling agenda? This is Jeff Parker's search for the truth as his world falls apart unexpectedly following Liz's disappearance.

Pairings: none

Rating: PG

Spoilers: Everything up to and including Graduation.

Author's Note: I finally got to see Graduation almost two weeks after it aired, and while I loved the eppy, I think the part that really got me was Jeff Parker at the end, reading Liz's journal. And the look on his face when Liz got up to leave the auditorium. I was dying to know what was going on in his head. So, I thought I'd take a look. I was kinda surprised at what I found there.

Chapter One

A Father's Duty

Suffer the little children. (Mark 10:14)

Isn’t it a father’s duty to protect his child?

Children are put on Earth to be loved, nurtured, and raised in a way that will make them outstanding members of society. Arguably all of those tasks are the mother’s job. A father can help, but the softer side of child rearing is often left up to the females. Don’t ask him why, that’s just the way things are. It’s human nature. No, a father has one sole purpose. He is the protector of his family, the one who is to keep his kids from harm.

None of these thoughts came to him that day. They came later, much later, as did the regret. The pain of loss. The cry for absolution for mistakes learned too late, for arguments which never should have happened, for death which should have, could have been avoided.

That day was a day of jubilation, and like a child himself, he’d heedlessly embraced it, unknowing of the dark and empty future which lay before him.


The auditorium was filled with the sound of cheering and clapping as the proud award recipients made their way off the stage. The air in the room was alive with anticipation, expectation and a kind or restlessness only found when so many teenagers are crowed so close together. Jeff Parker let loose a loud whistle more appropriate for a basketball game, but he didn’t care. He knew those kids being honored, heck, considering his job, he knew pretty much every kid in this town, and more importantly, his own kid would be up there soon, receiving her award for science excellence. It was hard to believe this day had come. His baby. Graduating from high school. He was so proud of her.

He wished his mother were here to share this moment with him. Had she felt like this on his big day? Like she was fair to busting at the seams, suppressing the urge to turn to the parent next to her and whisper, "That’s my kid down there."

There had never been any doubt this day would come. Liz was so smart. She had such an amazing future ahead of her. College at North Western University where she would undoubtedly set the Science department on it’s ear. Money would be tight for the next four years, even with the scholarships and grants she’d been able to get, but it would be worth it to give his baby the best education in the world.

He hadn’t gone to college after high school. Neither had Nancy. Liz would be the first Parker in two generations to go.

Down below, movement caught his eye. Max Evans was turned around in his seat gazing at Liz. Jeff suppressed a chuckle. Some things never changed. He wondered if Max had tried to get a chair behind Liz so he could stare at her uninterrupted throughout the ceremony. Despite his reservations, and their many confrontations this past year, he knew Max was a good kid, and his apparent devotion to Liz unfading in all this time. He knew from overheard conversations whispered in the café that Max was planning to join Liz when she went to school. He wasn’t sure he’d been accepted there… no one had told him if that was the case, but he was going none-the-less. Jeff knew it would be a waste of breath to warn Liz of the dangers of getting too attached to the shy young man so early in life, but still, he hoped she wouldn’t let her feeling for him get in the way of her plans and goals for the future. She had so many opportunities ahead of her that he just didn’t want to see go to waste because of some guy. Especially if that guy either gets her pregnant or marries her or both, causing her to put her schooling on hold. Or worse, quitting school all together.

Philip and Diane were seated directly in front of him along with their daughter, Isabel and her husband Jesse. There’s the perfect example of marrying too young, he thought. Isabel should be seated down below with everyone else her age, yet, she’d graduated early, fell in love and had gotten married. As far as she knew, though she was smart enough to finish school an entire year ahead of her peers, she had no plans to put herself to use. She was happy to let her husband provide for her and had no ambition or aspirations of her own. He hoped she didn’t regret the decisions she’d made now later in life when it’s too late to do anything about it. That was the voice of experience talking.

Philip was whispering in Diane’s ear, and Jeff took a moment to reflect on the conversations he’d had with Max’s dad earlier when the other man was convinced the boy was hiding something. Philip had been haggard with suspicion that was tearing their family apart. He wasn’t privy to the details of what all his suspicions entailed. All Jeff knew for sure was that immediately following his return to Roswell after being arrested for armed robbery in Utah, Max had moved out of his home and in with Michael Guerin.

Despite all his family problems, Max was still here, graduating with the rest of his friends. That alone was an achievement to be proud of. Michael hadn’t been able to do it, he knew, and in many ways, his heart went out to the boy. He’d heard some of what he’d gone through living with his foster father before he was emancipated, it had come up during his job interview last year. Since then, Michael worked hard just to make ends meet, never once had he asked him of any sort of an advance, or to cut back on hours for study time as had all the other kids in his employ.

Michael would undoubtedly be working at the CrashDown a long, long time – assuming Maria lets him live that long. Sometimes it was hard to tell with them. Maybe he should talk to the kid about summer school. Today, it was hard to imagine anyone being held back. Today was day for celebrating potential, and despite his penchant for blowing off his scheduled work time, he knew Michael had just as much potential as any of the kids here in this room.

He apparently wasn’t the only one who felt that way. Before the commencement ceremony had begun, Jeff had spoken briefly with the Evans, and he could tell whatever rift had existed between father and son had been eradicated. Jeff hoped his words about not wasting any more time in being suspicious of Max had helped Philip let go of his crusade.

As the crowd in the auditorium settled down, the principle stood at the podium making a few more remarks before introducing the next speaker: Bryce McCain.

As the Science Fiction author made his way to the podium, Jeff felt an unexplainable chill make it’s way down the back of his neck. There was some fidgeting from below as if others felt it, too, but before the renowned author began to speak, the students had settled back down.

What happened next was difficult to explain. The best Jeff could describe it was like watching a first grade play where the kids aren’t sure of the cues, relying on each other to prod themselves into motion. As McCain began to speak, Jeff saw Max again turn to look at Liz, not once, but twice. Maria and one other student (he later figured was Kyle Valenti) began to fidget, their heads turning this way and that, always continuously seeking out his daughter in the crowd. To add to his growing unease, right in front of him, Isabel Ramirez was also looking around, even towards the rafters and lighting platform behind them. Jeff got the feeling that she was searching out someone or something, but what? Was it the source of the cold dread tightening in his belly? Did she feel it too?

Next thing he knew, Max was making his way to the podium, though it was obvious this was in no way a part of the ceremony. Surprisingly, no one stopped him as he climbed onto the stage. "What’s he doing?" Jeff heard someone above him quietly exclaim.

He watched in disbelief as Max Evans, the most quiet, shy boy Jeff had ever met, shooed the speaker off the stage, and began to speak unfaltering in a voice he’d only ever heard once before. It was the voice he’s used in a confrontation they’d had when Max had dared to enter his establishment only weeks after Jeff had banned him from it. It was a voice of calm resolution and authority. It was a voice suited for war and politics, but instead, the words he spoke were of goodbyes and friendships.

And that’s when the lights went out.

From the balcony-like area where he was sitting, Jeff could see Liz rise from her seat. He thought at first she was going to join Max on the stage, but instead she slowly, deliberately made her way to the end of the aisle where she met up with Maria. Kyle was only steps behind her.

Jeff leaned forward, intending to ask Philip what was going on when he heard Isabel whisper, "This is it." The strain and fear in her voice arrest any comment Jeff was about to make. Drawn to it like a moth, he continued to listen in on the cryptic conversation happening mere inches from him.

"Isabel, honey, what’s going on?"

"Mom, dad, Max and I have to go. I don’t have time to tell you what going on. Jesse will fill you in."

"We love you honey."

"I’m so glad you know the truth," she whispered, hugging Diane close. Getting up, she also hugged Philip, before running off, leaving her stunned parents and upset husband in her wake.

"Jesse?" Diane asked, tears in her voice.

"I can’t… I… I have to go." He said, before following Isabel.

Down below, Max continued to speak. Jeff watched in disbelief as Liz let herself out the side doors of the auditorium after sending one last look towards the young man standing alone in the center of the stage. Where was she going? Today was her big day. The day when all of her hard work and effort were finally rewarded. All her sacrifices made right. She was minutes away from being awarded her diploma. Where was she going?

In front of him, Diane began to sob, her face buried in her husband’s shoulder.

Leaning forward again, Jeff whispered, "Philip, what’s happening?"

The other man cast a look over his shoulder that clearly stated, he’d forgotten that anyone else was sitting there. "I don’t know," he said before facing front again his eyes glued to the sight of his son for what Jeff later learned could be the very last time.

Below them, Max continued to speak.

"Thank you for giving me a family. Thank you for giving me a home."

With that, the teen seemed to run out of steam. He hesitated there in front of his classmates as if unsure of his next move. From directly below him, Jeff heard the back doors of the auditorium slam open and a dozen pair of feet enter the room accompanied by the distinctive clacking of firearms held at the ready.

Diane gasped, clutching at Philip’s arm. Neither one appeared capable of tearing their eyes away from their son.

Max froze.

Even to Jeff who admittedly didn’t know the kid very well, the fear on Max’s face was easy to discern. As was the resignation and determination. That was all Jeff had time to think. After that, everything went white.

Then there was a roar of what could only have been Michael Guerin’s motorcycle charging up the aisle and on to the stage. His shouted voice, "Maxwell, get on! Get on!" dispelled any doubt in Jeff’s mind of the rider’s identity. Then the two of them rode down the stairs and out of the room knocking the unseen people below him out of their way to make good their escape.

But that wasn’t the most chilling part of the event. Nor was it when Diane Evans, a woman who was a long time friend of his, became incoherent with sobs. Nor was it even when several suited men arrived to remove her and Philip from the building, their weapons proclaiming their deadly intent on attaining the Evans cooperation.

No, the one thing that will haunt Jeff to his dying day was the militant voice coming from the light booth directly above his head at the exact moment the room turned to blistering white: "I’ve lost target, I’ve lost target. I can’t see anything."


Was there something he could have done? Were there any signs that something was amiss? Jeff didn’t know the answer to either of those questions then. Not back on that chaotic day. All he knew then was that his baby was in danger, and regardless of the circumstances, despite any dangers, it was a father’s duty to protect her.

And somehow he’d failed.

posted on 5-Aug-2002 11:35:09 PM
Chapter Two

"Mr. Parker?" It wasn’t exactly a question, especially coming from the man in the three piece suit who looked like a secret service agent.


"I need you to come with me, please." Again, Jeff got the feeling that it wasn’t a request.

"What’s this all about?" Liz still hadn’t returned to her seat, though after a few delays the graduation ceremony had continued without waiting the return of the four missing teens. Jeff had remained in his seat, even after the Evans had been escorted out, not knowing what else to do. He told himself that whatever was happening to the Evans’ didn’t concern him. "Family business" as it were.

His concern was his daughter. Were Liz and her friends outside? Were they pulling some senior trick on their unsuspecting classmen? He didn’t know what to think, but he was certain she would be back in before they called her name from the podium.

The man ignored his question, instead, repeating, "Sir, I need you to come with me."

Smiling affably, despite the cold sweat forming under his shirt, Jeff asked, "Can’t this wait? This is my daughter’s graduation. They’ll be calling her name any second."

"Soldier," was all the man said before turning away.

The next thing Jeff knew, two guys had him by the arms and were bodily moving him form his chair. "Wha… Hey! Let go of me! Who are you guys? I demand to know what’s happening! Let me go!" Uncaring of the disturbance he was causing, Jeff struggled vainly to break his captors’ hold. "Let go of me!" People were beginning to point and whisper. The principal faltered in his duties as he too watched another upstanding member of the community get hauled away.

All too soon, Jeff was dragged outside the building and shoved into a waiting car.

All the questions and demands he had screaming in his head, all the words about injustice and civil rights went by the wayside when he heard the driver say to his watch, "This is rover. Target acquired."

The drive was short and made in complete silence.

His heart plummeted as the vehicle’s only other occupant pulled up in front of the Sheriff’s Department. Oh god! Had Lizzie gotten herself into trouble? The vision of the Evans’ being taken away flashed through his head bringing with it immediately a burning sense of anger. So help him, if Max had talked his daughter into doing something illegal again, he was going to kill the boy himself. All the benevolent feelings he’d just been having about his daughter’s boyfriend, dissipated like a morning fog in the face of this damning possibility. He’d thought Max had reformed in all these months. Apparently he was wrong.

He saw Max’s actions during the ceremony in a new light. The boy had obviously been planning something, only this time, instead of just Liz, he’d taken all their friends with him: Maria, Kyle, Michael, even his own sister.

Rather than fighting his escort, Jeff strode into the building with purposeful strides. At the besieged desk where one deputy was trying to deal with the phone ringing like crazy as well as all the people gathered around him, he announced, "I’m Jeff Parker. Where’s my daughter."

"That’s what we’d like to know, Mr. Parker," a voice behind him said.

Turning around, he came face to face with the same man who’d approached him in the auditorium. "Who are you?" he asked belligerently. If Liz had gotten herself into trouble, why hadn’t this guy just said so, instead of all the cloak and dagger?

"You don’t need to know that. Follow me please."

Without waiting to see if Jeff was going to fight or not, the man took off down the hallway. The same soldier that had driven him there stepped up behind him. The implied threat was obvious. Once again, he could move or be forced to move, either way, he was going down the dimly lit hall. Without argument he followed as instructed, mentally preparing to tender a blistering lecture to this guy and his boss about the right way to treat an American citizen just as soon as he knew what the heck was going on.

"Step in here, sir," was the command issued at the entrance of one of the interrogation rooms in the station.

Jeff did as he requested, turning to ask, "Where’s my daughter?" just as the door slammed in his face. "HEY!" He was locked in, no one else in sight. No closer to any answers than he was twenty minutes ago.

The burning question in his mind was: where was Liz. Where was his daughter? The entire station was buzzing like a military base with military personnel moving with great precision all around. In fact, in the few moments he’d been in the station the only personnel he’d seen who was actually supposed be there was the harried deputy manning the front desk.

All the activity had convinced him of one thing: there must be some kind of a mistake. Whatever all this was about, it didn’t concern Liz and her friends. A senior prank wasn’t worth all this fuss. He just wished they’d get on with it so he could go home. The graduation ceremony was obviously over by now, but all the kids would be coming to the Café for smoothies on the house – a CrashDown tradition.

The only conclusion Jeff could draw from all this fuss was that something big was going down. That was a little vague, he knew, but he didn’t have any facts to go off of yet. Maybe it had something to do with the crashed jet or the explosion out at the Air Force Base last week. Security around Roswell had been insane since then with the military patrolling the streets. Jeff had even heard that several private homes had been searched, which had sounded pretty iffy to him –the government can’t just search a man’s home. He’d written that off as just rumors, but now, with tonight’s activities, he had to rethink his skepticism. Maybe they were getting close to catching whoever it was that had sadistically killed so many hard working men and women in uniform. Jeff’s heart went out to them. He hoped the bastard fried when they caught him – or them – as the case may be.

Now, if they would just tell him why he was here, he’d be happy to answer any questions and get out of their way.

He was so disappointed that he had missed Liz’s big moment. High school graduation was a once in a lifetime event, like a baby’s first step, or a child’s wedding. He would never be able to regain the opportunity to watch his daughter walk across that stage and shake the principal’s hand. Still, he had to do his patriotic duty. Sometimes he wished he could do more. Maybe he’d volunteer to give blood later if it was needed.


Continuing to stand close to the door after it had shut behind him, he heard many voices coming and going, and it was only because he was hoping to hear something of interest that he stayed there. Half an hour later, his patience paid off when he heard two voices hold the following conversation:

"What the hell happened out there tonight?"

"We don’t know. Our men on site said it was like they knew we were coming?"

"A mole?"

"Maybe. Maybe not."

"What else could it be?"

"Who knows what they’re capable of? They blow things up and they can move things with their minds. We have no idea what else they can do."

"You think they read our minds?"

"I don’t know. What if they can?"

"It would make them a lot harder to catch."

"Stealth would no longer be our ally." The voice had turned considering as if the speaker were thinking of something new.

"So what should we do?"

"Maybe we don’t catch them…"

The two men moved away but not before Jeff heard, "Check for that mole. Let’s make sure before we do anything else."

"Yes, sir."


Time dragged on after that. After an hour, Jeff wondered if they’d forgotten he was in there. An hour after that, he was sure of it. He’d been quiet, waiting his turn for… whatever. He could tell from the sounds outside that everyone was busy, but this was getting ridiculous. He had a life. Nancy must be going crazy by now. Maybe he could make an appointment to return at a more convenient time tomorrow. Considering the way they’d forced him to come here, he didn’t hold much hope for that, but still the thought gave him something else to focus on aside from the fact he didn’t know what Liz was up to and he had to go to the bathroom. The next time someone walked by, he pounded on the door, "Hey! Hey! I’m still in here. When is someone going to talk to me? Hey! I have to get home! At least let me call someone! I need to talk to my wife. Can you hear me! Hey!" And so it went as the evening grew later and later and eventually faded into dawn. By then, he had stopped yelling. All throughout the long night, no one had bothered to answer his shouts. He might have thought the room was soundproof, yet he knew he’d heard things from the other side of the metal barrier, so that theory was out.

Sometime after midnight, he sat down on the hard chair at the interrogation table and put his head in his hands. He didn’t rest. No, his brain was working feverishly trying to come up with a reason for why he was here. The one thing he kept coming back to was that voice eerily above his head, right before Max Evans rode off the stage on the back of Michael Guerin’s motorcycle. "I’ve lost target." What exactly did that mean?

Every spy movie he’d ever seen ran through his head, making his stomach churn. Assassins called their marks ‘target’ to make them seem less human. Or so that’s what Hollywood would have him believe. Was it possible that there had been an assassin at the school? Maybe a disgruntled student who’d been held back and was looking for revenge against his teachers and other members of the faculty like that kid in Germany a month ago. Maybe, he thought, considering it. Only, it didn’t feel right. That voice didn’t sound like it belonged to a kid. That was a man’s voice – and he’d been talking to someone. So the chilling possibility that there had been more than one kid/person probably high as a kite running around the school with some sort of weaponry took root in his mind.

Oh god! What if the psychopath spotted Liz and her friends and hurt them?! No, he reassured himself. No, Liz had only been gone from the auditorium for a minute or so before the overhead lights went ultra bright. Whoever it was over his seat couldn’t have seen her wandering the halls. He sent up a heartfelt, "Thank you," to anyone who might be listening for that favor. Where had she gone? he wondered again for the hundredth time. She hadn’t told him anything about having anything special planned for the ceremony other than achieving the Science award.

His thoughts continued to spin question after question with no answer in sight as time drifted by.

When finally the door to the interrogation room opened, the sound snapped him out of the light doze he’d fallen into. Raising his head, he wiped the drool away from his chin. He was met with a different man, this one also adorned in a nice suit: dark jacket, white shirt, non-descript tie. The man entered, accompanied by two uniformed soldiers carrying enough firepower to convince Jeff this guy meant business.

His tired mind immediately latched onto the two hypothesizes he’d come up for his required presence during the long, incredibly long night: the bombing out at Rogers Air Force Base and students with guns at school. Before he could make the denial of any information regarding either of those two events the man barked, "Jeffery Parker?" Just like the last time, it was more of a demand than a question.

The brusqueness in the man’s tone brought back Jeff’s anger at having been left in this room all night.

"Who the hell are you and just what do you think …"

"Are you Jeffery Parker?" the man emotionlessly cut him off.

"Now, just a moment…"

Without a visible command from the guy, the soldiers standing sentry on either side of the door raised their rifles, if you could even call the heavy artillery that, and pointed them directly at him. "It would be in your best interest to cooperate fully with us." The man spoke into the heart pounding silence. "Now, are you Jeffery…"

"Yes! Ok, yes, I’m Jeff Parker. What’s this about?"

"Sit down, sir."

Jeff even didn’t realize he had jumped to his feet when those guns had moved in his direction. Wordlessly, he returned to his seat, and felt a great deal of relief when the other men relaxed the hold on their weapons. Releasing a breath, he hadn’t been aware he was holding, he started, "Look, if this has anything to do with what happened out at Rogers…" The man’s eyes narrowed assessingly at him, causing Jeff to falter, "I… I just want to say I don’t know anything about that." He wasn’t even sure what prompted him to mention it except he was tired, and just wanted to return home to his wife and daughter. He had a business to run, and he just wanted to get this over with as soon as possible.

"I’m sure," the man said. Pulling a tape recorder out of his pocket and placing it on the table, the man turned it on before flipping open the folder he’d carried into the room. "State your name and occupation for the tape."

"Jeff Parker, restaurant owner, CrashDown Café, Roswell, New Mexico," Jeff answered woodenly, staring at the recorder as if it were some menacing device. His fatigued imagination again began to remind him that he watched entirely too much TV. He had nothing to hide. There was no reason why the recorder should make him want to vomit.

Satisfied, the other man pulled a large glossy photo out of his folder and slid it across the table. "Do you know this woman?"

Jeff stared in disbelief at his daughter’s countenance. Reflexively picking up the photo, his eyes moved from her beloved face to the cold faced man sitting across from him. "What’s this all about?"

"Answer the question."

"Not until you tell me what is going on here!"


Jeff stared in disbelief as one of the soldiers marched over to his side. Without one hint of remorse, the marine took the handgun from the holster at his side and pointed it directly at Jeff’s face. "Answer the question, sir," he ordered tonelessly.

"Are you guys crazy! You can’t kidnap me and threaten my life like this. We’re in the Sheriff’s station for god’s sake!" Throwing a wild look at the running tape recorder, he declared "This is coercion! That tape will never hold up in a court of law."

Unruffled, the seated man stated, "We’ll take that under advisement." Apparently trying a different track, he said, "Look, Mr. Parker, we don’t want to hurt you. You’re a well respected member of Roswell society. You pay your taxes and everything. If you would simply cooperate, this will go a lot easier on all of us. If you continue to refuse to answer our questions, we’re going to stop being nice. Now, I asked you, if you knew the woman in that photo. All I need from you is a simple Yes or No, do you understand?"

Stunned by both his speech as well as the overt threat to his safety, Jeff nodded.

"Out loud, Mr. Parker," the man barked.

"Yes, yes, I understand."

"And do you know her?"

Not looking again at the picture he held, he answered, "Yes."

"Thank you." The sergeant backed off and returned to his spot next to the door. "Now that we understand one another, let’s try not to waste any more of each other’s time."

By the time Jeff was allowed to leave the station several hours later, he knew nothing more than when he started, except that somehow his daughter had gotten herself mixed up in something much, much bigger than a simple armed robbery and that once again, Max Evans was at the crux of it all.

posted on 5-Aug-2002 11:37:10 PM
Chapter Three

Jeff wearily walked up to the swinging doors of the CrashDown Café. He frowned at the sight of two of his employees loitering around the entrance instead of inside working.

Jennifer Trilling rose to her feet with a glad smile. "Mr. Parker! I’m so happy to see you! See," she turned to Jose who was also standing, "I told you they weren’t dead."

"Dead?" Jeff questioned tiredly as he reached for the door.

"Yeah, since no one was here to open the store, Jose has been the voice of doom." By this time, Jeff had figured out for himself that the doors to his business were locked, despite the fact it was well afternoon on a Sunday. The restaurant should have opened hours ago. "We were really worried. I tried calling and calling…"

"Where’s Nancy," Jeff asked more to himself than to his two employees.

"I don’t know, like I said, we called and called."

"Did you try Liz’s cell?"

"There was no answer," Jose replied.

"I can’t believe this." Liz being irresponsible was one thing, Nancy was something else all together. After the night he’d had, Jeff was leaning toward the paranoid, as all sorts of scenarios began to play through his head of what could have kept the two of them from their duties.

By that time, Jeff had the doors unlocked and the three of them headed inside. "You guys go ahead and get clocked in. I’ll be back in a few minutes to help get the restaurant open."

"Uh, Mr. Parker" Jennifer stopped him hesitantly.

Impatiently, he turned. "What is it?"

"Well, it’s just that me and Jose have been here since 6:30 this morning. We were supposed to open, you know. We didn’t know how long you guys would be, so we waited around…"

Rubbing his tired face, Jeff said, "Just get to work. I’ll adjust your hours so you get paid for this morning."

"Thank you, Me. Parker!"

He didn’t even bother answering, just headed upstairs to his home above the restaurant. Laying his keys in their spot on the counter, Jeff called out, "Nancy? Liz?" Looking around, everything looked just as it had yesterday. His cereal bowl was still on the counter next to the sink, telling him that whatever Nancy had been doing last night while he was being held for questioning, she hadn’t cleaned the kitchen as she did every night. His somehow found that fact more foreboding than the empty silence all around him. "Nancy! Liz?"

In the bedroom, it was the same story. There was no evidence that his wife had spent an evening alone, worrying about him. She was to have met him at the auditorium as soon as she could last night after having spent the day visiting a sick friend: a woman she’d been friends with since grade school. Apparently, she’d never made it back and instead had spent the night there, he surmised.

Going back into the kitchen, he looked at the answering machine. There were three messages waiting. Pressing the play button, Jeff listened with a furrowed brow as the three calls turned out to be hang ups. Grabbing the phone, he looked around for the slip of paper Nancy had left her friend’s phone number on. It wasn’t there. Lips pressed together in growing frustration, he searched through every piece of paper stacked by the phone. "What the…?" He knew it had been there yesterday. He’s called Nancy before leaving to go to the graduation ceremony. Nancy had promised him that she would join him there shortly.

Maybe he’d carried it into the bedroom…?

Ten frustrating minutes later, he gave up. The phone number was nowhere to be found. Picking up the phone, he dialed Information. Seconds later he had the right phone number and the phone on the other end was ringing.

"Hello? Susie? Hi. Jeff Parker. How are you feeling today?" He listened patiently as the sick woman filed him in on her health. He’d met Susan Baxter several times over the years. She and Nancy often got together for what they called gab sessions. Speaking of which, she tended to run on if you let her. "Yeah? That’s great," he cut her off as soon as she took a breath. "Hey, I’m looking for Nance. You haven’t seen her today, have you?… No. Hmmm. Did she mention anything to you about doing anything today?… Really? Ok… Susie, can you tell me what time she left your house last night?… No, No. Nothing like that. I was at the Sheriff’s station all night, and I never saw her. Yeah." After thanking her and sending wished for her speedy recovery, Jeff hung up, feeling a lot better. Nancy had told Susie she would be getting up early today to pick up some supplies from their whole seller in Hondo.

Returning to the bedroom, he stripped off yesterday’s clothes and jumped into the shower. As much as he longed to take a nap, he had to help with the restaurant until the second shift came in. The shower went a long way towards rejuvenating him and he smiled, thinking he might just make it.

Soon, he was standing in front of the vanity mirror, halfway dressed, reaching for his razor… and that’s when he noticed it.

His razor was on the wrong side of the sink.

A lot of people didn’t know it, but Jeff was ambidextrous and though he wrote with his right hand, he did many other things with his left. His girls teased him about it all the time because it was constant source for amusement around the house. For example, he liked his silverware backwards, but his drinking cup in its usual place. Once when she had to set the table for Thanksgiving dinner, Liz had piled all his utensils and cups on his plate and said, "You figure it out."

Now Jeff stared at the countertop in his bathroom in growing unease.

His razor was on the left side of the sink and the shaving cream was on the right. While most right-handed men he knew liked theirs laid out that way, Jeff didn’t. His was usually just the opposite.

Opening the medicine cabinet, he peered inside. Nothing unusual there, but that didn’t mean anything. Stomach churning uneasily, he returned to the bedroom and looked carefully around. Everything seemed to be in its place, but Jeff still got the feeling that someone had been there. The living room and kitchen were the same way: nothing was overtly wrong, yet there was a lingering presence. An invasion of privacy with malice.

He had to report this, Jeff thought, striding for the phone. Get the sheriff’s department out to dust for fingerprints or whatever, though he knew he was going to feel a little silly telling them he had a break in where nothing was taken, but someone had stopped to shave before leaving. Ok, even to him that sounded ridiculous. Rubbing the back of his neck, he tried to decide what to do. Was there anything to worry about, or was he just being paranoid again? Maybe if he had something more concrete than his razor being moved…

Stopping mid-stride, Jeff realized there was one room he hadn’t checked yet. Turning his head he looked at the closed door to his daughter’s room. Had the robber, if there had been one, gone into Liz’s room?

Jeff’s mouth was inexplicably dry as he contemplated going and throwing the door open. What would he find on the other side? Liz’s normally neat-as-a-pin room or something else all together?

Why was he even hesitating? he chided himself. Just go over and look.

It was this morning’s interrogation which was holding him back. "How long have you known this woman? Who are her friends? Where do they hang out? What happened to Alex Whitman? Where was Tess Harding? How long had he known Max Evans? What kind of man was he? How long had Liz known him? Where did they meet?" and so on. Liz was in some kind of trouble, and if there was anything to tell him what that trouble was, it would be in there, he was certain of it.

"Oh, for crying out loud," he suddenly said aloud, his voice harsh in the otherwise silent apartment. Moving swiftly, he went to her door and threw it wide open.


"Sheriff’s office."


"Jeff," the other man’s voice rang with false joviality.

Momentarily distracted, Jeff asked, "You’re back on the force?"

"Yeah. I’m a deputy now, but I’m back."

"Must feel good."

"Yeah. Yeah, it does. What can I do for you?"

Reminded of the purpose of his call, Jeff said, "Can you send someone out right away. There’s been a break in."


Standing back at the threshold, Jeff watched as Deputy Valenti’s normally lean face became positively gaunt as he took in the desecrated space which used to be his daughter’s bedroom.

All the furniture was pulled away from the walls. The rug was pulled up from the floor. The sheets and blankets from her bed were missing. Most of the knickknacks on the desk and headboard seemed to be intact though in total disarray. All of the drawers from her dresser were stacked neatly against one wall. Several bricks were missing from the wall beneath her windowsill. All of the toiletries from the bathroom were gone as was her computer.

Backing wordlessly out of the room, Jim pulled the door closed before saying, "I’ll get a forensics team here right away," and proceeded to make the call using the microphone strapped to his shoulder.

Dazed, unable to think of what this could all mean, Jeff allowed Jim to lead him back into the kitchen.

"I need to ask you a few questions."


"When was this most likely to have happened?"

"Last night maybe? Or this morning?"

"Was anyone else here at those times?"

"Yes. I mean, Nancy would have been here last night, but she left early…" Jeff stopped a thought occurring to him.

"Weren’t you here last night?" the other man asked, his voice softening slightly.

His mind racing, Jeff stood up, "No. I was at the Sheriff’s station all night."

Sitting forward, Jim asked in a tone which stated he already knew the answer, though he may wish it were otherwise, "All night? Why?"

"I don’t know," he answered distracted over the chilling possibilities that maybe Nancy had been here when that person was tearing apart Liz's room. "Sheriff," he turned suddenly.

"Deputy," Jim corrected.

"Could you have one of your men drive past the school and see if my car is still there? I left it there last night, since I was escorted to the station house. So, if Nancy went to Hondo this morning, she would have had to go by and pick it up."

"You think she maybe she didn’t go to Hondo? Where else would she be?"

"I don’t know what I think," Jeff sighed, sitting back down. "This has been one crazy day and after finding Liz’s room like that, I just want to know my girls are safe and sound."

"I can understand that," Jim said kindly, with maybe a little more sympathy in his tone than was warranted.

As he placed the call, there was a knock at the front door and Jeff went to answer it. Jennifer was standing there and immediately said, "Mr. Parker, I don’t know what to do. I was supposed to get off work a half an hour ago, but Liz and Maria haven’t shown up for their shifts yet. Neither has Michael. Jose said he could stick around another hour or so, but me and Larry have plans for tonight."

Raising his hands, he said, "All right, all right, I’ll take care of it. Can you stay another ten minutes? Maybe Nancy will show up even if the girls don’t get back."

"I guess so, Mr. P, but then I really have to go," she reluctantly agreed.

"Problems?" Jim asked as Jeff returned to the kitchen.

"Nothing, really. None of the kids have shown up for their shifts yet. I should have known better than to schedule them for the day after graduation. Will you excuse me for just one moment." On top of everything else that was happening today, Jeff couldn’t deal with any more teen angst. Picking up the phone, he punched in the speed dial for Michael’s apartment. No answer. On the eleventh ring, he gave up and dialed the DeLucas.

It was answered immediately, though Jeff’s relief was short lived as he heard Amy DeLuca exclaim, "Maria! Swear to God, if you’re calling me from either Las Vegas or jail, or both, you’re going to wish you’d never heard the name Michael Guerin!"

"Amy, its Jeff Parker."

"Oh, hi, Jeff. Is Maria there? I’ve been calling her cell phone all day and she’s not answering."

"No, actually. That’s why I was calling. She and Liz have blown off their shifts. Michael, too. Do you know where they were last night after graduation?"

"Do I know…? Jeff! Maria wasn’t even there when they called her name. Neither was Liz for that matter. I’m telling you that miscreant Michael has talked my baby into running off without telling me for the last time!…" before he could even form a response to the news that Liz had apparently skipped out on her own graduation, Amy said, "Oh, wait a minute, Jeff, there’s someone a my door."

"Can I help you?" She had apparently had carried her phone to the door with her.

Jeff thought his heart would stop when a familiar voice demanded, "Are you Amy DeLuca?"


"Can you come with me please?"

"Ok, give me just a minute… Wait. Take your hands off me! What are you doing?!" There was a thump as the phone hit the floor. The last thing Jeff heard before the front door slammed shut was, "You people can’t just drag people out of their homes like this!"

Hanging up the phone, Jeff Parker began to shake.

posted on 5-Aug-2002 11:38:30 PM
Chapter Four

Left with no other recourse, Jeff was downstairs working the restaurant while the entire Roswell police department traipsed up and down the stairs in his back room. He’d only been able to get a hold of one other waitress to fill in, but at least he’d also found a cook who could come in, otherwise he’d be completely swamped. Work was only partially distracting him from his growing fears. As the time passed, Jeff was beginning to go crazy with worry for Nancy. Liz running off without calling was one thing, but it was unheard of for Nancy. In all the years they’d been together, she’d never just gone off without calling him, and in light of everything else happening around town and upstairs, Jeff was going slowly insane.

When Sheriff Hanson finally came down to talk to him, Jeff was about to jump out of his skin. The other man stopped at the swinging doors at the rear of the restaurant and Jeff practically ran over to meet him. "Well?" he asked anxiously, unable to verbalize anything more than that. The nervous stance of their one year appointed sheriff was doing nothing to calm his nerves. "What’d you find?"

"We found your car in the parking lot at the high school, just where you said it would be."

Feeling sick, Jeff had to sit down. If Nancy wasn’t in the car going to Hondo for supplies, then he had no idea where she could be.

"If you give me your keys, I’ll have one of the deputies go and pick it up for you," Hanson offered.

"Where’s my wife?" Jeff asked, his voice shaking. Who cared about his car?

"Now, Mr. Parker, it’s too early to be worrying about her. I’m sure she just had something come up and she forgot to call…" Hanson tried to comfort him. "If she’s still not back after 24 hours, you can come on down to the station and file a missing person’s report. But I’m sure she’ll be back from where ever she is by then."

"Nancy isn’t the kind of person to just go off, and in what car? We only have the one vehicle. I’m telling you, something’s happened to her!"

"Well, now, you said you were gone overnight for questioning. Maybe they picked her up, too. You probably just missed each other this morning."

"Don’t you know if she was? It was your station that I was held in last night."

"Those FBI guys have just taken over. They’re being very hush hush over whatever they’re doing. The whole thing is out of my jurisdiction. We can’t get involved with a Federal investigation, you know."

"But my wife…"

Hanson held up a hand, "I’ll ask around, see if I can get a list of whoever they have in for questioning. If Nancy’s on it, I’ll let you know right away."

Jeff could do nothing more than nod. He felt so useless. Nancy was in trouble, he knew it with a certainty that grew with every passing hour, yet, until he knew something more, he was powerless to do anything to find her. And Liz…

"Could you check over at the Evans?" he asked, speaking aloud his thoughts. "Michael’s apartment, too."

"For Nancy?" Hanson asked in bewilderment.

"No, a bunch of the kids are gone, too," Jeff said. "I’ve been telling myself that they were just out partying after graduation, but now, with everything… well, if you could see if any of them are around…?"

"Which kids? Liz?"

"Yeah. Liz, Maria Deluca and Michael Guerin were all supposed to work this afternoon. Not one of them have called. I don’t know if their disappearances are FBI related, but I know they asked me a bunch of questions about Liz and her boyfriend, Max Evans this morning and last night, they took Philip and Diane Evans out of the auditorium about twenty minutes before they got me. I hope to God the two aren’t related, but I can’t help but wonder…" his voice drifted off. "So add Max and Isabel Evans to the list…"

Stiffening he remembered something. "…And Kyle Valenti."

Hanson stopped taking notes. "Kyle? The Sheriff’s son?"

"Yeah. Last time I saw Liz, she, Maria and Kyle were sneaking out of the auditorium during the ceremony."

"During the ceremony? That doesn’t sound like Kyle."

"I know what I saw, Sheriff Hanson," Jeff refuted with a certainty.

"Wait right here, I’ll go asked Jim. I’m sure he knows where his boy is."

Rather than waiting, Jeff followed the green Sheriff up the stairs to his home.

All around, there were faces he knew and trusted: deputies Blackwell and Lars as well as many others. All of Roswell’s finest were here, trying to get some clue as to what had happened there. Most were in Liz’s room, but a few were scattered throughout the rest of the house. Jeff nodded to a few, not wanting to interrupt their work. They found Jim investigating the hole in the wall beneath Liz’s windowsill.

"Jim, can I ask you a question," Hanson asked. Jeff couldn’t help but notice his tone was more of subordinate to boss than vice versa. Apparently some habits die hard, he thought, belatedly recalling that Hanson had called Kyle ‘the Sheriff’s son’ when they were below. Regardless of his position in the force, Jim was still in many ways the man in charge, the one with the answers that people around him would look up to.

Seeing Jeff standing there, Jim asked, "Jeff, do you know why they might have pulled the wall apart like this?"

"Um, well, there used to be a loose brick there. Liz liked to keep her diary hidden behind it. I saw her putting it away one night." Smiling, Jeff shook his head at the secrecy of it all. "As if anyone would want to read about who broke up with who, or what dress so and so wore to the prom. Teen girls can be so melodramatic. Everything is life and death to them."

Looking at the hole with renewed interest, Jim said, "Right."

Jeff thought he looked… scared. "Hey, are you ok?"

"Um, yeah. I was just thinking. If her diary was in there, whoever was in here took it, ‘cause it’s sure not in here now."

"Sher – Jim," Hanson caught himself, "Could you tell me where we could find Kyle?"

A sudden veil came over the former Sheriff’s face, masking his emotions. Jeff had a fleeting thought that Valenti must be one hell of a poker player with a game face like that. "Kyle? Why?"

"Well, the last time Jeff saw his daughter, she was leaving the graduation with him." Referring to his notes, Hanson added, "And Maria DeLuca. We’d like to ask him where they went and find out if Liz is still with him."

"Well, I’m sorry, but I haven’t seen Kyle all morning. He never did tell me what his plans were for the day. Maybe he’s working. You know, at Sparky’s Garage."

"Ok, we’ll check that out." He paused and added uncertainly, "If that’s ok with you."

"Yeah, sure…"

Jeff cut him off, not willing to put up with the current Sheriff’s discomfort in questioning the former Sheriff. Now was not the time. "Jim considering our kids tendencies to run off together, do you think it’s possible they took another holiday – the whole group of them?"

Appearing to consider the possibilities, Jim finally said, "Maybe. I thought Kyle and I had settled that the last time."

"Yeah, me and Liz, too, but what other explanation could there be for Liz, Maria and Michael to disappear without calling again?"

"I don’t know."

Hanson interrupted, "Well, let me call Sparky’s and afterwards, I’ll see what I can find out about who the FBI has at the station. Jeff, if you’ll just get me your keys."



Several torturous hours later, the restaurant was slow enough that Jeff was able to escape. Hanson’s deputy had returned his car, as promised, and Jeff jumped in and began driving around town. He’d already called all of his friends from the café. No one he knew had seen Nancy since before yesterday, excepting Susan, of course. No one had seen Liz since graduation.

He went to the grocery store, the beauty shop and a dozen other establishments where he thought either woman might have gone to no avail. Soon, it was after ten o’clock and any decent business had long since closed. It was then that he pulled up at Michael’s apartment having pulled the address from his employment files.

Even from his car, he could tell something was amiss. There were soldiers stationed in front of the building that were identical copies of the two which had been present for his interrogation right down to the heavy looking artillery they carried. Approaching the door, he wasn’t surprised when he was stopped.

"Are you a resident here, sir?"

"No, I’m here to see someone."

"I’m sorry, sir. Only residents are allowed to enter at this time."

"What? You’re kidding right?"

"No sir. Non-residents are to be denied entry until further notice. Please return to your home."

"Well, now, I can’t do that. You see, my daughter’s missing, and one of her friends lives here. I have to go see if either of them are here."

"You’ll need to call them, on the phone, then, sir."

"I’ve been calling! What do you think, I’ve been doing all day? No one’s been answering!"

"Then obviously, your daughter’s friend is not home. I will not ask you again sir. Please leave."

Losing his temper, Jeff shouted, "I am an American Citizen! You have no right to keep me out of this or any other building in this town. My daughter is missing and I just want to know if she’s been here. Now, get out of my way, because I am going in there!"

He didn’t get two steps before the soldier shouldered his weapon and stated militantly, "Desist, sir, or I’ll be forced to place you under arrest!"

"On what grounds!" Jeff asked incredulously.

"Interfering with a Federal investigation," was the emotionless reply.

For just a moment, Jeff looked at the looking building which might contain the answers to his daughter’s disappearance. What he hoped to find there, well, he didn’t know, but he had to at least try. For all he knew, his baby girl could be in trouble, needing him, and here he was without the first clue as to how to find her.

Coming to snap decision, Jeff muttered, "Go to hell!" before striding forward again.

And that was how he’d found himself back at the Roswell Sheriff’s station, only this time, he was not ‘Just Visiting’.

posted on 5-Aug-2002 11:40:16 PM
Chapter Five

Jeff angrily paced the tiny length of his cell. His wife and daughter were missing. It was beginning to sink in. too much time had passed. They weren’t off on some holiday, or mother/daughter outing. They were gone. The two most important people in his life. The apple of his eye and his whole reason for living were nowhere to be found and he was stuck here, helpless to do a thing to help them.

He couldn’t believe he’d actually been arrested for trying to enter a public residence. That was insane. What was happening to this town, and what did it have to do with Nancy and Liz?

He had no answers to those questions, nor the dozen others that were plaguing him.

Hearing the heavy door at the entrance of the holding area swing open, Jeff shot to his feet. "Hello! Hello? I need to speak with the Sheriff."

"Now, hold on there, Jeff," Sheriff Hanson approached to his everlasting relief. "I was just coming to see you."

"Any sign of them?" Jeff demanded.

Removing his hat, the sheriff scratched at his head, "No. Not yet, but don’t go getting all upset now, because I’m sure…"

Jeff reached through the bars and grabbing a fistful of Hanson’s shirt, pulled him flush with the unyielding metal. "Don’t get upset!? My wife and daughter are missing. Missing! And I’m in jail for trying my damnedest to find them."

Pulling himself free, Hanson refuted calmly, "No, you’re in jail for hindering a Federal investigation. They warned you not to interfere, yet you pushed them anyway. What were you thinking, Jeff?"

"I was thinking of getting some answers. Maybe some clue. I just… I," Jeff could barely continue, the stress of the last 24 hours getting to him. "I… It’s my wife! Can’t you understand that? I need to find her! I need to know where she is. And Liz… She’s barely more than a baby! They’re in trouble, I know it. Please," Jeff was not above begging. "Please, let met out of here. Help me find them. Please, I’ll do anything, but you can’t leave me in here. I’m telling you I’ll GO INSANE IF I HAVE TO STAY HERE!!!"

"Mr. Parker, you need to calm down, now. You’re going to make yourself sick." Hanson appeared to have no idea of how to deal with the distraught man he’d known most of his life. "I’ll see what I can do, but I’m not making any promises. Those FBI guys are a real strict unit, and you did try after all to enter a building after you’d been warned not to, but I’ll try talking with them. For now, best you can do is sit tight and let me handle things."

Having no other option, Jeff nodded, and moved wearily away.

"At least, I can tell you that I saw the list of people they’ve detained and Nancy is not being held here for questioning."

Jeff hadn’t really expected she was, not after all this time. They’d kept him locked up for 16 hours from the time they’d picked him up at graduation to when they let him go. It was now 28 hours since anyone had seen his wife and he could think of no logical reason why they would have held her that long. Where ever she was, whatever she was doing, it had to be unrelated to the FBI’s presence here, which left him back at square one without a single clue of where to start looking for her.

"What about Kyle?" he rasped out over the lump in his throat.

"I couldn’t find him," Hanson admitted.

So Kyle was gone, too. "The Evanses?"

"Philip and Diane were held overnight, just like you. They were released only a couple of hours ago. They’d hadn’t seen their kids since they were brought in."

"So they’re all gone," Jeff whispered. All the kids in Liz’s clique were missing, which told Jeff one thing: Road trip. Despite her promises to never just take off again like she’d done the day they’d gotten a notion to head for Las Vegas, Liz had allowed her friends to talk her into running off again and worrying him to death. When she got home, he promised himself, he was going to blister her backside, then he was going to forbid her to ever see Max Evans ever again. Or any of her friends, for that matter.

"Did your people find out anything at the CrashDown about the break in?"

"Nothing really concrete yet, which just tells us that whoever did it was a pro. We haven’t found a single fingerprint or fiber yet that isn’t accountable for, but we’ll keep looking. There’s a lot of stuff to analyze at the lab and that could take a few days. We aren’t even sure yet why Liz’s room was targeted, unless it was someone who knew her out for revenge or something."

"But you just said it was done by a professional," Jeff questioned.

"Yeah, like I said, no real evidence yet to say one way or the other." Donning his hat, Hanson took a step away. "Look, Jeff, we’re going to keep looking. Maybe after they’re done here, we can get a couple of these FBI guys to help us."

Snorting, Jeff scoffed, "Yeah, like the FBI would concern themselves with helping me find my wife and daughter."

Smiling back, Hanson agreed, "Yeah, you’re probably right. I mean we’re just small fish here, and I’ll tell you what, whatever it is they’re doing here, it’s big fish stuff."

"What are they looking for?"

"Hell if I know, but I wouldn’t be surprised if everyone on their Ten Most Wanted list was here for the way they are acting."

"Jesus," Jeff swore softly think about the possibilities. "What if there’s a serial killer on the loose? What if he got to Nancy?!"

"Jeff, now worrying like that isn’t going to do you any good." The distraught husband glared at the other man for his useless attitude causing him to say, "Ok, I’m going, but I’ll be back as soon as I find out anything. I’ll also send a deputy in with the Missing Persons paperwork to be filled out."

Brokenly, Jeff said the only thing he could think of which would neither set him off crying like a baby nor shouting at the man who was, after all just trying to help. "Thanks, Sheriff."

"Just doing my job, Jeff."


"Agent Deirks."

"Yes, sir General Hopkins?"

"What is the status on the mole hunt? Are your men secure?"

"Yes, sir. However the targets found out about the attack, it wasn’t from my men."

Hurmph. "If your men were the only ones who knew the plan, and none of them tipped the suspects off, then how the hell did they know we were coming?"

"Commander Chen has an idea about that sir, after studying the evidence."

"Well, don’t just stand there, what is it?"

"This, sir."

"What the hell is that?"

"It’s a book, sir…"

"I can see it’s a book! What the hell does it mean?"

"We found it in Subject 2A’s room. See the author? Bryce McCain. He was the guest speaker at the kid’s graduation."

"What of it? So the kid reads."

"Sir, all three snipers have reported that the targets became extremely agitated as soon as his name was called. Rover said his target was actively looking around and nearly saw him camouflaged in the shadows. Shortly after was when 1A made his move to provide cover while the others escaped."

"Agent, I’m not normally this dense but are you saying that somehow merely seeing the author of a book they owned in some way alerted all the targets to our highly covert plan to wipe them out?"

"It would seem so, sir. Remember that were not dealing with normal people, here. Who knows what these things are capable of?"

Sitting on the cot in his cell, Jeff listened avidly to the cryptic conversation taking place directly outside his window. It was apparent that the speakers, Deirks and Hopkins thought they were completely alone, unaware that he sat a mere four feet or so away.

He couldn’t believe what he was hearing, wasn’t sure he even comprehended it. Something about snipers and the graduation. He recognized the name Bryce McCain as the man Max had removed from the podium so he could make his unannounced speech. Snipers. These men were saying that there were snipers in the auditorium, positioned to take out some sort of threat. Again he replayed that voice in his head, "I’ve lost target! I’ve lost target!" the instant the lights came up in the house. One of the snipers?

A chill went down his spine. Who was the target, he wondered. Who had very nearly had his life snuffed out right there in front of hundreds of kids and their parents. What kind of sicko staged a military sting in a place where there would be so many civilians around? Anything could have gone wrong. God, all of them had been in danger! he thought, considering the possibility that whoever they were hunting would have returned fire. Any of the kids on the stage or down below could have been caught in the crossfire. Liz could have been hit!

Not to mention, the psychological damage of seeing someone just assassinated right in front of them! There were small kids in the audience! What kind of monsters were these guys? They were the government in action? Shouldn’t they be protecting the innocents, not putting them in more danger?

Jeff got to his feet to see if he could see either man, but the window was too high and he didn’t want to risk the noise of dragging the bed closer. So instead he just listened, trying to understand through the code just what exactly the military was doing in Roswell.

"So your people are thinking they possess some kind of forewarning system, like ESP."

"Don’t yours?"

"We haven’t ruled out the possibility," General Hopkins was playing his cards close to his vest. "What do your people suggest we do, then if any attempt to capture them will be preempted before it even begins?"

"Oh, we’re not planning to chase them, General." Agent Deirks sounded a little too smug at having beaten the general to the perfect solution. "We’re going to use their abilities against them to lure them right to us. Even as we speak the means to that end is being transferred to a secured location. Don’t worry, General. The threat will be eliminated soon. Very soon."

"I hope so. I hope you’re not setting yourselves up for another repeat of Rogers’, you smug bastard."

Rather than taking offense, Deirks just chuckled callously.

"Did you get any information out of the Evanses?"

"No, not much. We knew more than they did."

"How is that possible? They lived with those monsters for thirteen years."

"Apparently they never questioned the likelihood of three kids just wandering around the desert with no clothes, no parents, no human traits. They never knew what the subjects were until a week or so ago. Right around the time Rogers went sky high, as a matter of fact."

"What about the tape."

"Funny thing about that. When I showed it to Mrs. Evans, she became absolutely hysterical. We had to end the interrogation and sedate her."

"And Mr. Evans?"

"Ahh, Mr. Evans. Typical lawyer. He tried to play it off as a surprise, but eventually he told us they had taped it without the Subject’s knowledge or consent."

"Do you believe that?"

"Considering he was both drugged and under hypnosis at the time? Yes. He had no idea of their true origins prior to that."

Jeff felt sick to his stomach at what he was listening to. He couldn’t understand what they were saying about Phil and Diane. He had no idea what tape they were talking about. What he did understand was that these kind of interrogation tactics were unethical and extreme and that they’d been used on good friends of his made his fists clench with rage. These two men were taking their powers of authority to the extreme, and what were they saying about Max and Isabel? Monsters? What did they have against two orphans who had been adopted by some of the nicest people he knew?

The comment about their strange origins crossed his mind.

Everyone in Roswell knew the story about the Evans kids. It wasn’t like it was any big secret. About where and how they had been found, and while most people had found it strange, no one had really questioned it, but Hopkins and Deirks were making it sound sinister. As if they posed some sort of a threat. How ridiculous was that? he tried to downplay it, but that didn’t still his belly from clenching painfully in reflex.

Oblivious to his growing horror, the conversation flowed onward.

General Hopkins asked, "Did he say if there were others? More of their kind?"

"No, just four. He said there had been another, but she’d died recently. He didn’t know any details."

"She? Could she be the one who stormed the base?"

"Most probably. It doesn’t matter now, if she truly is dead. We just need to concentrate on tracking down the four."

"Any luck in tracking Down that Guerin character?"

"None, Hank Guerin simply ceased to exist shortly after Michael Guerin filed for independence on the grounds his foster father had been abusing him. No one has seen or heard from him since. It’s a dead end."

"You mean that in the liberal sense?"

"Considering what we’re dealing with? I’m sure I do."

"All right then, what about Mr. Parker. Did he know anything of use?"

Jeff’s eyes widened at the mention of his name. He certainly wasn’t involved in anything having to do with the Evans kids. Other than they occasionally liked to hang out with Liz…


Somehow Liz was mixed up in whatever trouble Max had gotten himself into this time, and apparently, once again he’d pulled her down with him. They’d mentioned the base. Had Max been in any way responsible for the attack last week on one of the nation’s strongholds? Hundreds of men and women had died out there, Jeff knew. If Max had had something to do with that kind of mass destruction, Jeff hoped the government gave him exactly what he deserved.

Just, please keep Liz out of it, he prayed, silently.

"No. He was even more clueless than the Evanses," Agent Deirks sounded disgusted at the lack of progress from that end.

"You’re sure? He wasn’t just bluffing to protect his daughter?"

"No one can resist the combination of the drugs plus hypnosis. It would have been impossible for him to lie. And the best thing about our method is they all cooperate fully with the tests and after we’re done, they forget any of it ever happened. You gotta love head doctors. Jeff just thinks he took a short nap before the ‘real’ questioning began."

Nearly uncontrollable fury poured through him at what he was hearing flashing through his blood to the extent that he almost missed the next question. Fighting back his anger, he resolved to stand there biting his tongue until he’d heard everything he could, then he was going to… He could think of no retaliation good enough to payback for the violations of his rights and privacies these people had perpetrated on him. When he got out of here, though, he was going to come up with something. Not now, though, now, he had to listen …and learn.

"What about the tests? Have we heard from the lab yet?"

"They came back negative, just like everyone else’s."


"Yeah. Even hers, which creates an even bigger mystery. There are birth records, doctor’s records, school records. Subject 2A’s history is well documented, yet eyewitness reports claim that she is one of them. We know there are four, if she’s not the fourth, then who is?"

The General moved a little closer to the window before asking, "What’s the story with the shooting from three years ago?"

"We’ll know soon enough. One of my men just picked up a civilian named Larry Trilling who was supposedly an eyewitness to the whole thing. Our interrogator will have the story from him soon enough."

"What about the police records? Surely there was an investigation?"

"Funny thing that," Deirks said, though he didn’t sound like he was laughing. "My former boss, Agent Pierce ordered Agent Stevens to remove any and all related files from the RoswellSheriff’s office, which we did. I was an agent assigned here at the time. Those files, while were full of documented evidence not to mention a healthy dose of conjecture and heresay just up and disappeared not long after the incident at Eagle Rock where the former Sheriff shot Agent Pierce in the process of abetting the escape of Subject 1A. After the shooting, Pierce was never the same. He destroyed all those files and helped to bring about the disbandment of the Special Unit."

"What are you implying, Agent?"

"Well, we’d never say so to his face, but there was quite a lot of talk behind his back about the possibility that he’d been body snatched, or something. And I’ll tell you something else, General. The more we look into it, the more we’re thinking that’s what happened in the Parkers’ case."

"Are you serious?"

"Absolutely. We have documented proof that they can change their forms. What’s to say that Liz Parker didn’t die in that shooting and they replaced her with one of their own?"

"Well, I guess we’ll never know," the General sounded in no way put out by the prospect.

Agent Deirks, on the other hand wasn’t giving up so easily. "No, not unless we catch them."

"Catch them? No! Absolutely not! I want them eliminated! Eradicated, the very first opportunity."

"No can do, General. In this case, my orders come from higher up than even you. If we can catch one of these creatures, we can contain it and study it. Figure out how they work, how they got here and if more are coming. And more importantly how to detect them when they’re walking among us? How else are we to protect ourselves from the threat of others?"

There was movement outside, making a bush rustle, before Agent Deirks continued. "You want to know what scares me, General? Max Evans scares me. We’ve already had him once, and you know what we discovered in the 24 hours we had to study him? He is nearly completely human. Do you know what that means? In the last 50 years they’ve been assimilating themselves into our society until they are nearly undetectable. Just like Liz Parker. Born of a human mother, what is she, really? And how many more of them like her are there out there preying on unsuspecting humans? Breeding with them? Did Nancy Parker even know what she was sleeping with when she conceived her daughter? I’m betting not. But I can tell you one thing with a certainty, that poor sap Jeffery Parker never even suspected that his darling daughter isn’t his, but rather the devil spawn of a killer. And that’s what gives me nightmares when I fall asleep at night."

Before Jeff could even process exactly what the FBI agent was saying, there was a hurried sound of footsteps approaching. "Agent Deirks! You’re needed back at the command post. We got one of them!"

As all three men ran off, Jeff strained to hear, "Which one? Did we take it alive?"

"No sir. There was a struggle and one of our agents had to use his weapon. Sir, he took out three of our men when he went."

"What happened," the General barked.

Jeff had to struggle to hear the answer, "We don’t know sir. When he died, he just… Exploded!"

"Jesus Christ!"


Shaking, Jeff sat on his cot. Assimilating everything he’d heard. The US government was hunting his daughter and three of her friends under the pretense that they were some sort of threat to national security. Something about them being… not human. He didn’t know what they meant by that, and he didn’t care. All he cared about was the fact that Liz was in danger, terrible danger, and the FBI was closing in.

If they found her, they would most likely lock her up, if they didn’t kill her, that is.

Someone was dead. Maybe Max, maybe some other member of the mysterious ‘four’ – either Kyle or Michael, if the missing group of teens was anything to go by. And Jeff couldn’t bring himself to feel sorry for their death, whoever it was. No. Not right now. Of all the emotions he was feeling: rage, hatred, fear and grief, sorrow had no place in his heart.

Jeff wasn’t that big of a hypocrite. How could he pretend to grieve over the passing of a kid – even one that he’d known all his life – if that death meant that his little girl had a little more time yet to live.

Run, Liz, run! he thought in his head, when less than a half an hour ago he’d been praying for her return. She was a smart girl, but how long could she evade the FBI? Especially if she was traveling with Isabel and Maria, the two most likely people to cause a stir in any town they traveled. He prayed to God they’d split up, gone their separate ways, yet knowing Liz, he doubted they had. They would stick together and face what was coming. Her sense of loyalty and family would have it no other way.

Jeff didn’t have all the answers yet, but he was rapidly putting together the facts. There was something different about the Evans siblings, something the elder Evanses had known about. Isabel’s whispered comment, "I’m so glad you know the truth," came to him, causing him mouth to tighten into a firm line of anger. Whatever the truth was, that something was most likely going to get his daughter killed.

As soon as he got out of here, he vowed, he was going to get some answers, and thanks to Deirks and Hopkins, he knew right where to look, and unlike the FBI, he wouldn’t need drugs to get the information he sought. If Philip didn’t come clean with him, Jeff would happily introduce him to his right fist. If that didn't work... Well, he’d do whatever it took to protect his child.

posted on 5-Aug-2002 11:41:29 PM
Chapter Six

Jeff wasn’t really surprised that it was Deputy Jim Valenti who came to let him out of his cell the following morning. In the long hours that had passed since General Hopkins and Agent Deirks had held their revealing conference directly outside his window, Jeff had sat unmoving on his cot. His elbows resting on his knees, his head buried in his hands, but unlike an ostrich burying its head in the sand, Jeff couldn’t ignore the truths forced on him buy the two men which tore his world apart.

Somehow Liz and her friends were involved in something so horrific that it warranted a full-blown FBI manhunt. What exactly it was they’d done to bring down the wrath of the US government, Jeff didn’t know, but he was going to find out. How he and Nancy figured into this was another point to puzzle over. They had her, that much he had come to accept during the interminable night. Her disappearance was too much of a coincidence to be otherwise. The government had taken her sometime right before the graduation ceremony, or anytime during the long night afterward. Like they had him.

Apparently, without his consent or knowledge they’d performed some kind of test on him, which had thankfully come back 'normal'. subsequently, they'd released him. He shuddered to think what his fate would have been if it had been otherwise. They’d drugged and hypnotized him before interrogating him for information. The violation to his rights was mind blowing. If word of their treatment of Roswell’s citizens ever got out, the entire country would be up in arms about it – literally. Jeff couldn’t believe it had happened to him, yet it had.

All because of a group of kids from high school doing something monumentally stupid. He had no idea what, but he knew it was BAD, whatever it was. The one thing he did know for sure was that if he ever saw Max Evans again, he’d kill the guy himself and spare the FBI the trouble.

Assuming he wasn’t already dead.

Jeff knew he was the ringleader of their small group. He’d gotten Liz and her friends into trouble before, but no more. Jeff was going to see to it Liz never had anything to do with the guy ever again once she was back home safe and sound.

Whenever that was.

Hearing Jim approach, Jeff got to his feet and watched the other man amble over to the door which stood between him and freedom. It had been a long night in the uncomfortable cell, yet he resisted the urge to stretch his cramped muscles as he waited.

"Jeff," the former sheriff greeted him. "I’m sorry you had to spend the night in here."

Jeff could care less about the other man’s regret. All he wanted to know was, "Am I being released?"

"Look, now, I know you’re upset. I’m in the same situation, you know. Kyle is gone, too, so you’re not alone here. These guys don’t know that he left with the others, and I want to keep it from them as long as possible, but that doesn’t mean I don’t know what you’re going through. I know you’re worried about Liz, and want to help, but you have no idea what these guys are capable of. If you get in their way again, they WILL shoot you and tell themselves that they’re just doing their duty when they do it. Not one of them will lose a night’s sleep over it. You don’t know these guys."

"And you do?"

Jim’s face closed up like it had done at the CrashDown the other day. "Let’s say I’ve seen their kind before." Maybe Jim wouldn’t be as good a poker player as he’d thought. Jeff was quickly learning his tells, and if the look he was seeing was anything to go by, Jim knew a lot more than he was letting on. "You can’t challange these guys and expect to win, Jeff, and I’d hate to see anything happen to you because of this. So would Liz."

"Don’t," Jeff demanded hoarsely. "Don’t bring her into this." Clutching the bars reflexively he repeated, "Am I being released or not?"

Wordlessly, Jim unlocked the cell door and pulled it open. Without hesitation Jeff stepped forward. As he passed by the Deputy, the officer warned, "If you find yourself in here again, I won’t be able to help you."

Not looking at him, Jeff stated, "I understand." Thus warned, Jeff was free to go.


He hadn’t showered in over 24 hours. It had been longer than that since he’d shaved, but he didn’t let them stop him from walking up the sidewalk to the Evans’ front door.

Philip answered, his menacing expression melting away when he took in the haggard man standing there staring back at him. Jeff recognized the haunted look in his eyes; he knew he had a similar look in his own eyes.

"Jeff, what can we do for you?"

He hadn’t been invited in, but this wasn’t exactly a conversation to be had on a man’s doorstep, so Jeff pressed, "Can I come in?"

Looking nervously over his shoulder, Philip agreed with obvious reluctance. Jeff caught Diane standing hastily from the sofa, wiping her eyes, evidence of tears on her face. Immediately, Jeff’s upbringing had him apologizing for coming at what was obviously a bad time. Philip waved it away, asking, "What brings you over?"

Glad to put the niceties aside and just get down to the purpose of his visit, Jeff stated baldly, "I want to know the truth."

"What truth would that be?" Max’s dad asked carefully.

"At graduation, before Isabel left, she said to you, ‘I’m so glad you finally know the truth’. I want to know what she was talking about."

There was a heavy silence punctuated only by the incessant ticking of the old fashioned clock in the hall as the Philip avoided looking at him. Finally, he answered, "I’m sorry, Jeff, but that’s family business."

"Bull shit!" Jeff exploded. "It stopped being your family’s business the minute my family got dragged into it. Now I demand to know what’s going on. Nancy and Liz are both missing, and I know you two can help me get them back. What is this ‘truth’ Isabel was speaking of?"

The Evanses shared a startled look. Jeff thought it looked like he’d managed to surprise them with something. He soon found out what it was.

"Nancy is missing, too?" Diane asked tentatively.

"Yes. She never made it to the graduation. She hasn’t been home. The FBI has this insane notion that Liz isn’t really my daughter, because somehow they’ve tied her to your kids. I don’t know what any of it means, and I don’t care. I just want them home safe and sound. Why would the government refer to Max and Isabel like they’re some kind of dangerous creatures, like they’re not even human beings? Why would they think Liz is connected to them like that?"

"I’m afraid there’s nothing we can tell you." Diane’s eyes darted around the room agitatedly as she spoke as if she were expecting FBI guys to pop up from behind the sofa at any second. "We don’t know anything more than you do right now."

"Well, can you at least tell me what’s on the tape they showed you?"

Diane visibly paled, yet, she asked, "Tape?"

"Don’t pretend you don’t know what I’m talking about. They said they showed you a tape which they said made you so hysterical that you had to be sedated. Surely you’re not going to pretend you don’t know what I’m talking about." Like a snake, Jeff grabbed Diane’s arm, pulling it towards himself and turning it up so the vulnerable underside was exposed. In the crease of her elbow was an incriminating coloring: redness surrounded by a deepening bruise as if she’d been carelessly and brutally jabbed with a needle. "If I’m lying, then how do you explain this?"

Pulling his wife away from the distraught man, Philip ordered, "Let go of her!"

"What are the two of you hiding?! What tape? What was on it? Who was on it? Who are you protecting?"

"I’m going to have to asked you to leave." Mr. Evans voice was dark with a heated fury.

"You’ve got to be kidding me!" Jeff exclaimed in disbelief. "My wife and daughter are in danger from the FBI because of your children were caught on video, probably doing something illegal like running drugs and you won’t even help me. You’re a lawyer for Christ’s sake! How can you condone this, especially from your own son? What kind of people are you?"

"Jeff, we’re just trying to protect our family, just like you are," Diane tried to reason.

"What family?" Jeff refuted, somewhat irrationally. "Max is a delinquent who hasn’t even lived with you for months. You, yourself have been in investigating his activities, sneaking around, going through his pockets, treating him like the criminal they know he is. Isabel, married the first guy she met after Alex died and moved out, like the empty-headed socialite I always took her for. That’s what you’re trying to protect? I’m talking about my WIFE and daughter. I thought we were friends. I thought you would honestly help me, especially since it’s your family which has put mine in danger in the first place!"

In another circumstance, Jeff would have been ashamed of himself, but right now, he was too angry to care about what he was saying and how his harsh words were injuring two people who were hurting already. "I will do whatever it takes to protect Nancy and Liz," Jeff warned. "If that means handing the others over to the FBI, then I’ll do it and not look back." Jeff angrily stalked to the door. Turning back, he got in his parting shot, "And if I were you, I wouldn’t waste any time praying for your son because I know the FBI has already gotten one of them. I don’t know which, and I don’t care. I just know it was a ‘he’ which means my Liz is safe for now and I mean to see she stays that way!"

As he angrily stalked down the drive, he blocked out the sound of Diane’s anguished sobs, uncaring that his heartless words had indeed found their mark.

posted on 5-Aug-2002 11:43:00 PM
Chapter Seven

Above the CrashDown, Jeff was on the phone. He’d already placed calls to the FBI, CIA, IA and any other acronym he could think of since his release from the Roswell County lockup. So far, all he’d gotten for his troubles was the run around and a stellar headache. Slamming the phone down after the latest, "I’m sorry, sir, but we can’t help you," useless dribble he’d been forced to listen to Jeff gave up – for now. He was needed downstairs in ten minutes to cover for another one of Liz and Maria’s shifts and that gave him just enough time to get cleaned up enough to face his patrons.

He spent the next hour smiling, pretending that everything was fine, when he was actually a jumbled mess inside. In retrospect, he was deeply sorry for his actions and his harsh words at the Evanses. He knew they had to be as worried about Max and Isabel as he was about Liz. The cruel way he’d announced the loss of one of the boys from the close knit group of kids they all knew and loved was beyond all decency and it ate at him the longer he thought about it. Which was pretty much the entire time he was in the cafe. As a result, he’d mixed up several orders and short changed a couple of customers.

He also thought about how he wished he was free to go and search for his family. Being the owner meant he had certain responsibilities to the Crashdown. He couldn’t just run off hunting down leads and searching out clues. As a result, the second he got a break, he stuck a Help Wanted sign in the window, his emotions tearing him up inside as he did so. Part of him insisted that that sign meant he’d given up on Liz coming back, at the same time it represented freedom to go look for her. He didn’t have enough staff to cover the regular shifts, let alone him taking an extended absence. For now, it was something he needed to do and so he did it.

The perfect example why he needed more freedom to come and go walked in his door over an hour later. It was close to three o’clock in the afternoon when a young man wearing a brown trench coat, a fedora and dark glasses slid into a seat at the counter. When Jeff went to serve him he asked, "Mr. Parker?" with an exaggeratedly grave air. Tilting his head downward, he pulled the glasses to the end of his nose to that he could make eye contact.

"Yeah, that’s me. What can I do for you?"

Jeff frowned at him, wondering why the guy looked like he was auditioning for the part of Inspector Clouseau while sitting on one of his stools. The strange impression was further emphasized as the man furtively looked around before leaning forward to whisper, "I think it’s a matter of what I can do for you."

Something about the man’s tone caught Jeff’s attention and he froze, assessing the younger guy with sharp eyes. "And what would that be?"

Glancing at the sign in the window, the stranger said, "I see you’ve got a Help Wanted sign in the window." As he spoke, he removed a piece of paper from his pocket.

Resisting the urge to roll his eyes at the guy’s theatrics, he answered straight faced, "Yeah. Do you want a job?"

"Why don’t you look over my resume?" he answered the question with a question.

"I’m sure that won’t be necessary," Jeff refuted, reaching for the document just the same. "I’m sure…" Unfolding it, the first thing Jeff thought was, ‘What is this guy trying to pull?’ The second thing was, ‘What the hell?’ The paper wasn’t a resume. It was a hand written note signed by Jim Valenti. The instructions were concise and unmistakable.

"Who are you?" Jeff asked the shaggy haired man he was being asked to trust.

He never received an answer.

Nodding once, the guy said, "See ya," and slid off the stool. Just like that, he was out the door and out of sight, but Jeff wasn’t worried about following him. He knew he’d see him again – soon.

Leaving his business in the hands of one waitress and the fry cook, Jeff left the building, lured by the promise of answers to be had, but first he had a stop to make.


"This man can be trusted.

Have no doubt - your home and restaurant have been bugged. Your phone lines tapped. Same with everyone you know and trust. They can track your movements using technology even Gene Hackman and Tom Cruise can’t imagine.

Go immediately to the store and take off everything you’re wearing, including jewelry, watches, etc. We can only hope they haven’t resorted to implants.

When you’re ready, this man will take you to a safe location.


Jeff reread Jim’s note one last time before using the cigarette lighter in his car to set it on fire in the parking lot of the Kmart. Once he was certain it was ash, and smearing it into the pavement for good measure, Jeff straightened his shoulders and entered the retail store, thankful for one-stop shopping.

Grabbing a basket, he hurried into the Men’s Department.

Jim’s mention of Gene Hackman was obviously a reference to "Enemy of the State" which made the following instructions clear. Jim was worried that they’d put some kind of tracers in Jeff’s clothes, and in order to keep the FBI from showing up at their meeting he would need to make sure he was ‘clean’ of any of their instruments. Obviously, ‘Tom Cruise’ was an allusion to "Mission Impossible Two" where there was the woman with tracking implants placed in her skin. If that Agent Deirks had put some kind of a tracking device on his person, they were screwed.

There would only be one way to find out. Go to the meeting and see if there are any party crashers. Jeff appreciated that Jim was putting himself and his job on the line for him, and was going to make sure he used this unexpected boon to his full advantage.

In no time, he was in line at the checkout with an entire outfit in his basket, uncaring whether it matched or even was the right size. Mindfully, he paid cash for all of it, then making sure to pocket the receipt, he disappeared into the bathroom to change clothes. Stripping, he didn’t even hesitate to drop his wedding ring into the bag with his watch and the rest of his clothes. Soon he was redressed in his new clothes from the skin out.

He was locking is clothes in his car when ‘bushy hair’ pulled up from out of nowhere. "Get in, man," he ordered, needlessly; Jeff was already in motion upon seeing him. Twenty minutes later, after driving up and down the streets of Roswell aimlessly to make sure they weren’t being followed, they headed into the desert.

Jeff took a deep breath, trying to shake the tension that was tying his shoulders into knots and making the acid in his stomach burn. "Can I ask who you are?" he inquired after a while, unable to stand the suspense.

"Guess it can’t hurt," the guy answered. "I’m Deke Wilson. My brother is the drummer of the Kit Shickers," he added as if that explained everything. And it did. The Kit Shickers was a band that Jim Valenti sang in after losing his job as Sheriff. This guy was apparently far enough removed from the chaos that was happening around them that Jim thought he’d escaped the FBI dragnet.

"Where are we going?"

"I haven’t a clue," Deke answered. "I’ve got a map, but it looks like "X" marks the spot right the middle of nowhere – least as far as I can tell."

"Right," he answered, not really expecting anything different considering the direction they were currently driving. There was nothing but sage brush and sand to be found when driving this direction

An hour later, they arrived at their destination. Deke’s summation was correct, Jeff decided as he looked around. This was definitely the middle of nowhere. There were two other cars waiting for them, neither of which Jeff recognized. He felt a stab of fear that someone had set him up, but he quickly squashed it as being ridiculous. Besides, if he had been had, it was too late to do anything about it now.

Opening his door, he asked, "Aren’t you coming?"

"Nah, that’s my brother and girlfriend over there. I’m just going to hang out here with them. You’re to head up there." He pointed to a trail which lead up a sloping hill directly towards a jutting rock formation which pointed ominously towards the sky.

Without another word, he jogged up the incline to whatever awaited him on the other side.

Somehow, he wasn’t surprised to reach the crest and find Jim Valenti there talking to Philip and Diane Evans.

"Jeff," the former sheriff greeted him. There wasn’t the usual amount of warmth in his voice, neither was there censure. "I’m glad you could get away."

"What’s going on, Jim," Jeff asked, more as an opening to get the conversation going than because he was feeling in the dark. He knew what was going on. The FBI was hunting their kids, and they’d gone to great lengths to avoid their spies in order to have this meeting.

"We need to talk about what is happening with our kids."

"Is Amy Deluca coming, too," Diane asked. She’d avoided looking at Jeff since his arrival causing his conscience a pang of guilt for the brutal he’d spoken to her before.

Jim rubbed a hand across his mouth before answering, "No. I don’t think she needs to know anything at this point. The FBI isn’t hunting her daughter, and I can’t be certain she won’t completely freak out once she hears the truth. Right now, she thinks Maria has run off on another holiday with Michael, and I’d like to keep it that way for at least a little while longer, if possible. It’ll be safer for everyone involved, believe me."

Diane pressed her lips together, clearly objecting to keeping the other woman out of the loop, yet she didn’t speak.

Looking at each one of them in turn, Jim began to speak, clueing them in on the seriousness of their situation – as if they all weren’t already aware. "Before we get started, we need to agree that everything we say stays here. None of you can, in any way, act as if anything is different when you return to town. It’s going to be hard…," Jim paused as his voice cracked. Pausing, he looked up at the bright blue sky overhead, blinking rapidly. Clearing his throat, he tried again, "It’s going to be hard to act as if you don’t know, but for your own safety as well as mine, you can’t let anyone know. They’ll be watching you. Your homes and businesses will be bugged. Your phone calls traced and recorded. Your mail checked and opened. Your lives will never be the same again after this."

"You guys cannot just call me at the station or at home like you did today unless it’s official police business. As near as I can tell, they haven’t put Kyle’s disappearance with the others yet and it can’t look like I’m using my position to get information on their operation, else I’ll be out of a job – again. Or worse. These guys aren’t screwing around. They’re deadly serious and they are above the law. No one can touch them. Understand that." He looked directly at Jeff as he reiterated the warning he’d already administered. "We can’t fight them. We don’t stand a chance of winning. All we can do is pray the kids are faster and smarter than they are."

Jeff’s lips tightened, mentally denying what Jim was saying. There had to be something they could do. Someway to stop this madness. How could he accept having to give up. Hadn’t he always told Liz that if she wanted something bad enough she had to fight for it? Parkers were not quitters.

Unbeknownst to his rebellious thoughts, the others spoke for him.

"We understand, Sheriff," Philip said, hugging Diane tightly to his side forgetting easily Jim’s actual position in the station.

"After your call this afternoon, I had Hanson barge into the room where the FBI is holed up to see if he could find out which one of the kids…" fighting his emotions he couldn’t continue. "Which one…" Turning his back to them, he swiped at his eyes, obviously overwrought.

Watching the typically stoic man fall apart, Jeff immediately jumped to the conclusion that his son, Kyle, was the teen the FBI had shot yesterday as he’d listened to Agent Deirks and General Hopkins. "I’m sorry, Jim," he whispered, filled with sorrow when faced with the pain of a grieving parent.

Pulling a tissue out of his pocket, Jim made a visible effort to pull himself together. Finally, he turned back around, "It wasn’t Kyle," Jim whispered his voice full of sorrow. "It was Michael. They’d spotted him outside Chicago. He’d changed his appearance a little, but it wasn’t enough. They still recognized him. He put up a fight, and when they’d shot him… Well, let’s just say, there’s no way it was a case of mistaken identity."

Diane buried her face in Philip’s neck, her slender shoulders shaking with her sobs. The three men, struggled to contain their own emotions of grief over a man they’d known since he was a kid. A thousand images of Michael Guerin, first as a belligerent, spiky-haired patron, then later as a trusted employee working in the CrashDown rained upon Jeff’s soul and he felt a heavy weight sink in his stomach that threatened to pull him down.

Michael was dead. Dead. His quirky grin would never be seen again. His deeply hidden soft side would never surface again to shine down on those he deemed worthy. Jeff felt sick to his stomach. Had he actually said - just hours ago - that he was glad someone had died if that meant Liz was safe? What kind of person was he to think such a thing, let alone say it aloud to another human being?

Self-loathing sunk its claws deeply into his belly. It compounded when he remembered the last time he’d seen Michael. The young man had selflessly ridden into an auditorium full of armed snipers looking for him in order to save a friend. That was the kind of person he’d rejoiced was gone. For all he knew, Michael had been caught while protecting Liz and the others, buying them time to escape the agents dogging their trails.

Thinking of the others, led him to remember Maria and his heart pounded for her loss. The two of them bickered constantly, yet they loved one another. Now, Michael was dead. Poor Maria, what she must be going through right now? What must the others must be feeling as they all faced the loss of their friend. Running away, evading the law all sounded romantic until something caused you to see the brutal truth of the situation, like the death of a friend. First Alex, now Michael. They’d already lost so much. He wondered how much more they would have to lose before it was over.

As if he was reading Jeff’s mind, Jim cleared his throat once again. "There’s more," he announced looking like his own heart was breaking as he had to deliver the painful news he carried to the already grieving parents before him. "Before they kicked Hanson out of the room, a call came over the radio. They’d gotten another one." He looked directly at the red-rimmed and pain-filled eyes of Diane Evans before murmuring "I’m so sorry."

The distraught woman would have collapsed if it weren’t for her husband’s arms supporting her. Her frantic sobs echoed loudly against the unyielding rocks around them.

Philip simply asked, "Which one," in the tone of a man with nothing to lose. Either way, his world would be in ruins, everything he’d worked for over the years gone, erased.

As if not wishing to prolong their pain, Jim’s sympathetic voice informed them softly, "Isabel."

"No, no." Diane wept harder at his disclosure. "Not Isabel!"

Wanting to give the destroyed parents a moment of privacy, Jeff turned his back and stared out over the barren landscape, his own hasty words coming back to haunt him. "…if I were you, I wouldn’t waste any time praying for your son…" implying, of course that Isabel would need they’re prayers more, and even as he was uttering them, somewhere in America her life was being snuffed out as easily as a man smothers a candle and with the same amount of disregard.

All too soon, Jim called everyone’s attention to himself. "I know this is hard. I’m so sorry, Philip. Isabel was a… special young woman. A trusted friend. We’re all going to miss her… so much. But I don’t know if I’ll be able to arrange a meeting like this one again…" He didn’t want to push, but they had a lot to cover.

Philip wiped the moisture off his face and said, "Go ahead, Jim. Please. We want to know whatever you can tell us."

Jeff closed the distance to the others and Jim began…

posted on 5-Aug-2002 11:44:30 PM
Chapter Eight

Out in the middle of the desert, while a trio of accomplices waited nearby keeping lookout for determined government agents, a meeting of galactic proportions was preparing to commence. It was to be officiated not by king or solider, but by friend and advisor, Jim Valenti, the only remaining member of the I-Know-An-Alien Club in Roswell. It fell on him to fill the other parents in on the circumstances of the kids’ departure. He’d thought long and hard of what to say and more importantly, what to hold back. To tell the three already upset and frightened parents the whole truth was unthinkable, especially…, His eyes darted to Jeff observing the guilt and pain etched on the other man’s face. He had to be careful if he didn’t want to risk inciting Liz’s dad even further – as it was he was definitely what Jim would call a ‘loose cannon.’ And in the ultra volatile situation they all found themselves in, Jim couldn’t take that chance too much information of an ‘alien’ nature would set him off again.

From the moment he’d decided to call them out here, Jim had debated the wisdom of this action, but he understood the parents’ need for answers. He just hoped they would be satisfied with the ones he was comfortable giving them.


Jeff saw that Diane still had tears copiously making tracks down her cheeks, though her sobs had quieted as Philip gently stroked her back, offering what small amount of comfort he could. Despite their rampant grief, they were ready to go on and all of their attention was focussed on Jim. Jeff felt his own hands clench as he felt the loss of his own wife. She should be here to share this time with him, easing his burdens as he eased hers. He longed for Nancy with an intensity which grew with every day, every hour that passed without her. He hoped he would learn something here today which would give him a clue of how to proceed, because at this time he didn’t have the first clue of where to start looking for his wife.

With that goal firmly in mind, Jeff gave his full attention to Jim Valenti, the one man in town who could possibly help him.

After clearing his throat one last time, the former Sheriff began. "I don’t know how much the kids told you," Jim said to Philip and Diane. "I know Jesse got pretty much the full story, but I’m inclined to think he didn’t get a chance to tell you, and now that he’s gone to Boston…" He let the thought trail off.

Jeff was surprised at this news, he hadn’t realized Jesse wasn’t in town this week, but now that he thought of it, he hadn’t seen the young lawyer around town since he took off after Isabel during the graduation ceremony. He was interrupted from his musings when Jim turned to face him. "I know Liz kept you and Nancy in the dark, so I’m just going to start at the beginning."

Moving his head to include all of him, he cautioned, "I need you to understand that everything I’m about to tell you is the truth, but there are things: facts and events I will hold back. This is for your protection as well as theirs – and mine. The information I have is privileged and dangerous."

"That’s fine Sheriff. We understand," Philip said. Jeff just stood quietly, listening.

"Max, Michael and Isabel aren’t like normal kids," Jim began. "They are the direct results of genetic cloning experiments held in the fifties." He had to hold his hand up to stifle the startled exclamations from all three parents. This wasn’t what any of them had wanted to hear. Especially the Evanses: they knew better, or at least thought they did. Jim quelled them with a look. Doggedly, he continued, "There were these scientists at the time who were looking to create a race of super-humans, as it were, and they figured out a way to do so by increasing the amounts of their brains their subjects used by tampering with their DNA – incorporating the genes of other non-human creatures to get the desired results. And it worked. These kids are tapped into the parts of their brains normal humans don’t use. Their psychic abilities are off the charts.

"They were test-tube babies, held ‘in vitro’ for decades as their scientifically manufactured bodies slowly developed and matured. The night they were discovered in the desert was the day they were born as it were. They had escaped from the guy who was supposed to be protecting them and wandered into the desert. Despite the fact they’d been engineered decades ago, they looked like normal 6 year old kids and so that was what they were taken for. Fortunately, from that moment, they continued to develop at what we would call a normal rate.

"They hid their abilities, trying to blend in, knowing that somehow their lives would be in danger if anyone ever found out."

"Let me guess, someone did," Jeff stated.

"Yes," Jim admitted.

"What happened?" Diane asked.

Looking at her, Jim asked in return, "Remember what we talked about after the fire in your kitchen?"

Shocked comprehension dawned in her eyes as she recalled the exact conversations he alluded to. "You?"

"Yeah. In many way this: the FBI here in Roswell, hunting them is my fault."

"What happened," Jeff asked impatiently.

"There was a shooting at the CrashDown." Jim dispassionately answered. "Liz would most likely have died except Max risked exposing himself to save her. After investigating the scene, I became suspicious and dogged their trail, trying to gather enough evidence to prove something – unnatural – had happened. Soon, finding out the truth had become sort of an obsession. I called a friend at the FBI and gave him all the information I had along with whatever evidence I managed to gather. At the time, I thought I was doing the right thing.

"You see, I was afraid of them. They were different from us. Who knows what powers they had? Who knew what they could do? It never occurred to me they were just a couple of kids, going to school, hanging out with friends… Hell, I even warned Kyle about staying away from Max. It scared me to death, knowing my son was around someone like your son everyday."

Looking away, Jim admitted, "That attitude is exactly why they had to hide in the first place."

Unable to stop himself from butting in, Jeff demanded, "What do you mean, Liz would have died? When was this, and what exactly did Max do?"

"Some hotheads brought a gun into the restaurant, and it went off during an argument. Liz was shot. Max saved her."

"How," Jeff asked, not sure he was buying into this.

"They can change the properties of things around them at the molecular level. Max was able to dissolve the bullet and repair the damage done to her. It was as if it had never happened. He asked Liz not to tell anyone, and she didn’t. Not you. Not me. Enough people were in the restaurant to know something happened, but she easily covered for him, saying…"

"She fell, and knocked a bottle of ketchup over herself," Jeff ended faintly, his memory catching up with the story Jim was telling.


"I hunted Max for several months before I realized what I was doing, chasing a guy who’d done nothing but save a young girl from dying. I immediately stopped the hunt, but by then the damage was done."

"The FBI," Philip guessed.

"Yes. And with my actions, they knew they couldn’t trust me. Things got crazy then. Their protector showed back up in town, bringing with him another member of the genetic experiments: Tess Harding. They didn’t know it at the time, but the bastard had another agenda other than looking out for them. From the moment he stepped foot in Roswell he and Tess plotted the others’ demise."

Seeing Jeff about to interrupt again, Jim forestalled, "Their reasons were political. To them, the very existence of Max and the others was leverage enough to overthrow governments.

"The kids all trusted him. Why shouldn’t they: he was like them, he was a link to their origins. And Tess. She was one of them.

"The thing about this protector you should know is he was a master of disguises. I mean his counterfeits were perfect. Nearly impossible to detect. I’ve seen him in action myself and it still gives me chills…" Jim stopped for a moment to recollect himself. "The FBI had come to town, intent on capturing Max. The protector, disguised as Max, lured Liz out of the CrashDown one day, and took her with him on a killing spree in an effort to draw the agents to him. I wouldn’t have believed it was possible, but I saw him myself. When I caught up with them, Max was there, too, trying to save Liz from that madman as well as the government.

"We, Max, Liz, the protector, myself and about five FBI guys, played a game of cat and mouse and in the end, Liz got out. Max didn’t."

"When was this, Sheriff?" Philip asked.

"End of May, 2000."

"How did he get out? I mean they didn’t just release him?" Diane asked.

"No, Michael and Isabel staged a rescue attempt along with Tess and her protector."

"How did they knew where to look for him?" Jeff asked, thoughts of Nancy spurring him on.

"They never told me, but I’m guessing it was Isabel. She could do this thing where she could get in your head and see what you’re thinking. It usually works best when the person is sleeping, but I’ve seen her do it to someone who was awake."

Jeff asked, "You’ve seen it?"

"Yes, after we got Max out, there was still the matter of the FBI. They weren’t just going to let him walk away. It was a simple matter to lure the agent in charge to a secure location. Max questioned him while Isabel did her thing."

"How did you get the guy to back down?"

"Actually, we didn’t. While we were trying to figure out what to do with him, he managed to get himself untied and started shooting at Max and Michael. I returned fire. In the end, he was dead, and Kyle had been shot."

"Kyle!" Diane exclaimed.

"Yeah. The agent had been working undercover as a deputy in my station for a few weeks. Kyle had met him. So when he came in and saw the guy tied up, he released him and gave him one of my guns."

"My son was dying. An ambulance would have been too late to save him. Max stepped forward, just as he had when Liz had been hurt nine months earlier. This time as I held my son, I watched. I witnessed everything. I saw how wrong I’d been all along. I saw how they were just kids, not the scary creatures I’d perceived them to be. And I saw something more.

"I saw the kind of generosity and selflessness we only read about in Reader’s Digest. Once again, Max Evans put everything on the line to save another human life, and not just any life, but one more dear to me than my own."

Everyone was silent for a moment, absorbing the impact of Jim’s words. Jeff knew he was holding back, trying to tell the story with as little emotion as possible as a trained officer is wont to do, sticking with just the bare facts of the matter. But it was easy for him to imagine the horror and chaos of the moment, when he’d realized Kyle was wounded, his utter relief when he was saved.

In some twisted way, he envied Jim that relief. He was only now learning of Liz’s near death, and he was denied the right to hold her, to tell her it would be ok, as Jim had with his boy. It was cruel for him to learn these truths too late, for though he didn’t lose Liz back then, he’d lost her now. Max may have brought her back, but he’d taken her away again just as easily.

Either way, Jeff had lost his daughter forever.

Trying to stay focussed on the discussion at hand rather than drifting into the sentimentality of the moment, he asked, "With their leader gone, the FBI just backed off?"

"No," Jim answered, furtively wiping at his eyes. "They sent their protector in to take his place. Remember, I told you he was a master of disguises? He successfully impersonated the FBI agent for months. While he was there, he spent that time destroying documents and doing his best to discredit the very unit he commanded."

"His name was Pierce?" Jeff asked, putting the pieces together.

"Yes, Agent Pierce."

"I heard Agent Deirks mention him. He said the other agents thought he’d been body snatched or something, after his return from Roswell."

"Then they weren’t far off the mark," Philip stated.

Jim cracked a slight smile. "I guess not."

"Why do I get the feeling there’s a reason you’re telling us this story," Jeff asked.

"There are two, actually," Jim looked impressed at the other man’s astuteness. "The first is to support my claim about Max and the others being different. I’ve seen it with my own eyes. I saw my son on the brink of death then restored to health without so much as a mark on his body - all in the matter of seconds. Those kids contain huge amounts of uncharted energies and abilities that the government would kill to possess. In fact, they have killed to possess it. Despite your accusations to Philip and Diane, Max and the others haven’t committed any crimes other than simply surviving. That’s what Max told me the morning after we freed him from the government’s clutches the first time, that they weren’t here to hurt anybody; they were just trying to survive.

"Your anger, understandable though it is Jeff, is misplaced. That’s the other.

"The FBI as well as the rest of the US government are the bad guys in this story. Not Liz, not us and certainly not Max. Michael and Isabel had never harmed anyone who hadn’t tried to hurt them first. They didn’t deserve what happened to them. None of them did."

Wiping away fresh tears at the reminder of his loss, Philip joined in, "Those kids have been running from who they are all their lives. They never told Diane or I what was going on with them. We didn’t find out until a little over a week ago when I convinced Diane to put a video camera in Isabel’s bedroom. I don’t even know what we expected to discover, it certainly wasn’t what we got. We caught Isabel using her powers to cause various objects in her room to circle around her like a whirlwind. Books, pictures off the walls, maybe twenty things in all just swirling around her. Then, with a motion from her hand, all if it returned to its place on the shelves and walls.

"When we confronted her with it, she eventually told us what was going on with them. The look on her face…" Philip paused, lost in the memory of his daughter who was gone from his life forever. He’d never see her face again. That special smile she reserved only for her dad.

Looking at him, Jeff could read every thought in the man’s head as though he were speaking them aloud and his heart ached in empathy. Losing Liz like this was creating a large hole in his chest, yet he was comforted by the fact she was still alive out there somewhere in America.

Finally Jim picked up the conversation, "They think of themselves as ‘half human’. They believe that what makes them different makes them grotesque, hideous creatures. I think a part of them even believed that they somehow deserved every bad thing that happened to them. Especially Michael. We can probably thank Hank Guerin for that, the bastard."

"Can we skip to the end?" Jeff asked, getting impatient again to move this discussion along. He knew what Jim was trying to do, garner Jeff’s sympathy for all the kids, not just Liz. In all honesty, it was probably working, but all the sympathy in the world wasn’t going to make him forget for a minute that his daughter had had to leave her home and family without so much as a goodbye and he still didn’t know why. "Why did the kids leave when they did? I know they knew it was happening, I heard Isabel say, ‘This is it’ or something before she got up and left."

"Yeah, they knew." Jim answered, not upset over the other man’s impatience. In his shoes, he’d be acting the same way. "One of them recently developed a new power. Premonition. They’d gotten a flash that they were all going to be shot, but that was all they knew at first. Not where, when, how. Max invited me to the meeting where they’d discussed it the first time as a group. At the time, all they could do was plan to keep their eyes open and remain aware of possible danger at all times. The next day, they got another vision, this time it showed someone new. Someone they recognized."

"Bryce McCain," Jeff guessed, easily connecting the dots now that he was getting some answers.

"Right. Max knew he was going to be the guest speaker at the UFO Convention this week, so they thought they had a few days. It was Michael’s idea to leave since it was obvious that the game was up and the FBI knew who they all were. The plan was to leave quietly, after graduation, one at a time. They would have had time to pack and say goodbye, but when they saw him show up at the graduation, they must have figured they were out of time. They had to go. There was no time left."

Jeff again relived those tense moments in the auditorium when the kids below him began to look around. It all made sense now. The furtive glances, Max’s rise to the podium. The lights. The escape. It hadn’t been planned, yet executed with choreographed precision. It was all starting to make sense. In fact, there was only one question that remained.

"Why Liz?"

His question was met with silence. The elder Evans didn’t know. Jim didn’t know how much to say.

"Why are they after my daughter?"

"Now, you don’t know that…" Jim started to deny, though he knew differently.

"Don’t bullshit me. Not after all this. I know those assholes are hunting my daughter. They think she’s like Max and the others. I get now why they think I’m not her father. They must think Nancy was impregnated with one of these freakish superkids and I want to know why they would think something like that."

"Jeff, I don’t know how to tell you this…"

Jeff glared at the older man for dragging it out. "Just say it."

"I said one of the kids started having premonitions. It was Liz."

No one moved. No one dared to breathe. The whole world just sat and waited as Jeff looked at the former sheriff incredulously. "Come again?" he finally whispered.

"It was Liz. Liz was the one who got the visions foretelling of their deaths."

"That’s not possible. Liz is my daughter. She was not some sick Cold War science project."

"You’re right. Liz is completely human, but something happened when Max healed her all those years ago. Somehow during the healing, he tapped into her brain and gave her access to those parts that he uses which other people don’t. No one even knew it had happened until recently when she started having powers and abilities like them. Somehow the FBI must have found out about her changes and apparently assumed she was one of them all along.

"You’re right. They are hunting her, too. You know those visions she saw? In them, she was shot, too."

"How the hell did this happen? How did I not know about it?" Jeff asked himself, more than the others, though Jim answered that question as best as he could as he had all the others.

"I know she was scared. Kyle told me the emergence of her powers is what sent her to that boarding school in Vermont. She was running from them, but how can you run from something that’s inside yourself? When she realized that, she came back."

Jeff thought back to that afternoon when Liz had come to him. She’d looked so distraught, so completely wrung out as she’d told him her life was out of control; that she wanted to leave town. Start fresh somewhere else. God, what she must have been dealing with then. How scared she must have been.

And he hadn’t had a clue. What kind of father did that make him?

Where the hell had he been in the last three years?

The questions had no answer and they just rolled endlessly around in his brain.

"Jim, you said her abilities were activated when Max healed her…?" Diane asked softly.

"As near as we can figure," Jim said, guessing where this was going. He wasn’t disappointed.

"What about Kyle?"

"Yes, I know. Kyle’s abilities haven’t shown up yet, but Liz had a nine month head start on him. We don’t know for a fact that he will change, it’s just a supposition we’re making based on what’s happening to Liz."

"All things considered, you’re taking it very well," Philip observed.

Pragmatically, Jim confessed, "Well, since the alternative would have been putting Kyle in the ground two years ago, I’ll take the possibility of him developing powers." He glanced at Jeff as he spoke, as if to see if his words impacted the other father, but Jeff remained stoic beneath his scrutiny. Wryly, he admitted, "I guess we’ll have to wait and see how I feel about it in another two years." It was exactly the opening he was looking for to bring this meeting around to the last point he wanted to make.

Philip jumped on the teaser. "Why? What happens in two years? Are you planning to rendezvous with Kyle and the others?"

"No, nothing like that. By then MY powers should be making themselves known."

"Your powers?" Jeff asked wondering if he’d been dropped into the Twilight Zone. This whole conversation was starting to take on a surreal quality.

"Do you remember hearing about the shooting over at MetaChem a few months back?" Everyone nodded and Jim quickly filled them in on the relevant facts of the matter: "Michael was working there as a guard when they faked a break in and shot another guard. Michael came to me when it became obvious to him his bosses were attempting a cover up. While we were looking around, we got separated, and shortly afterward I was locked in a closet.

"You see, they were trying to flush Max out. They somehow knew that Michael was different and thought he had Max’s healing abilities. I was held as bait. The three of them, Max, Michael and Isabel came back the next night to get me out. They’d split up to cover more ground. Shortly after Max found me, we were chased and they shot me.

"Knowing it meant certain capture, Max stayed to heal me.

"I’ll never forget it as long as I live. That moment streched on forever in my mind even as time was rushing by. A week could gave passed by and I wouldn’t have noticed.

"You have to look into his eyes when he does it and when you do, you can see the power there. If you’ve ever doubted who Max Evans is, you never will again after seeing that far into his eyes to the raw energy held in careful control, feeling it push its way into your body as he repairs the broken tissues. It’s hot and electric as it changes you, restores you back to the way you were. When it’s over, and he breaks the connection, you’re as weak as a baby, yet at the same time imbued with remnants of his powers that stay with you for days and days. After a while you think they’ve finally dissipated, but instead, you realize one day that they are still there, you’ve just gotten used to them.

"I have no doubt that he’s changed me in more ways than simply fixing up a bullet hole like a surgeon. I know Kyle’s felt the same thing all this time and I can understand how it would cause a man to find a peaceful religion to ground yourself in, because it shakes up your whole world." Stopping suddenly, he blinked as if realizing how far off topic he’d gone. "Sorry about that, it’s just I’ve never tried to put into words what I felt like that day before. It was… powerful," he finally finished.

"I actually brought that night up for a reason because something else happened that night, actually, two things I guess, only one of which matters in the here and now."

"What’s that?" someone asked for all three of them.

"That was the night I saw Max Evans die." He deliberately let the shocking statement stand for a moment before explaining, "The reason why those people had gone to such lengths to capture Max was that the guy who owned MetaChem, Clayton Wheeler was about a hundred years old and dying. They’d heard the rumors of a healer in Roswell. They wanted Max to restore this man back to his former vigor.

"When Max refused, saying he couldn’t they threatened my life – again. Left with no choice, Max did as they asked. He began to heal that decrepit old man. The amount of power Max was exuding was shocking. The windows were rattling; everything thing was rattling. Trays and glass beakers were falling off the shelves. As he poured his life force into that old man, Max aged right before my eyes, became gaunt, wrinkled and gray. When he looked nearly as old as Wheeler, Max’s body gave out and he collapsed. His eyes were completely white, glazed over. He was dead before he hit the floor. The old man bounced up out of his wheelchair like a twenty-year-old guy and dashed for the door. He didn’t even look at what was left of Max lying there.

"The reason why I’m telling you this is because there’s something different about their body chemistries. It’s something that effects what happens when they die. As soon as Max stopped moving, flames shot across the floor from his body, igniting everything in the room. The whole building, in fact. As I tried to reach him to pull him out of there, his body disintegrated into ash right before my eyes."

"What do you mean, ‘disintegrated’?" Philip asked.

"I mean like every cheesy vampire show you’ve ever seen. Stake to the heart, and they go poof. Same thing. It was awful, horrible."

Confused, shocked, Jeff demanded, "What are you talking about? We all know Max is alive and well."

"Well, now, that’s a mystery to me as much as it is to you. Apparently Max must have transferred his essence, his soul into the body of the old man. When Wheeler died a day or two later, Max took the body over and made it his own. They didn’t tell me much about it. Frankly, I was just happy to see him alive and well and didn’t ask many questions.

"The point being, even completely drained of power, when he died, he took pretty much the whole MetaChem building with him. Last week, Tess Harding was killed out at Rogers Air Force Base and the explosion that resulted from her death not only destroyed the whole base, but it was felt all the way back to Roswell. It’s as if the mad scientists who’d engineered them created some sort of a self-destruct feature with them to insure that they wouldn’t be studied posthumously. I can’t explain it. All I know is what I was told and what I saw with my own eyes.

"When they were killed reports coming in have stated that Michael and Isabel both exploded. That’s how I can be certain it was them, even though they’d gone to some measures to disguise their identities."

Before the conversation could continue, Jim’s cell phone rang. "Excuse me. I was expecting a call." Within seconds, he was answering the phone, "Valenti….Agent Dove, thank you for calling me back so soon…. Hm, good news travels fast, I see. Well, thank you. It’s good to be back in my uniform again. Look, not to cut you short, but I’m having a situation here in Roswell that I need your help with if possible…. I understand, but I would appreciate anything you can do to help. You know the kids I have here? Yeah, The Special Unit is camped in my Station House searching the country for them…. I know. I’m not asking you to do anything unethical… No, the reason I called is kind of related, though. We believe The Special Unit has taken a civilian woman from her home and is holding her against her will somewhere. As near as we can figure, they think her daughter is like Michael and the others. It’s possible they’re testing her… Yeah. Nancy Parker…. Anything you can do… yeah. I appreciate it. Thanks, Agent Dove."

"Sheriff…?" Jeff asked, almost afraid to know.

"That was Agent Dove, she was here in Roswell right about the time I was fired, and she pulled me in to work on a case with her. Before it was over, she’d seen Michael using his powers to contain this parasite thing which had infected some guy, making him like a rabid dog. He’d shot Michael and was threatening to kill Maria and some other girl, when Agent Dove took him out. The parasite was released immediately from the body and went looking for the next host to infect when Michael acted.

"She never got the full story of how or why the kids are different, but she helped cover up what had happened, specifically Michael’s involvement."

"Can she do anything to help us find Nancy?" was all Jeff wanted to know.

"If anyone can, it’s her. She’s a by-the-book Agent, but she’s a good woman. If she can find Nancy, she’ll help us, I don’t doubt it. All we can do now is wait and hope she can get some kind of information." Jim walked over and put his hand on the other man’s arm, saying, "Until then, all we can do is watch and wait."

Not knowing anything else to do, Jeff nodded disheartenedly. Until they knew more, all he could do was hope and pray that his family was safe, where ever they were.

With that, the meeting was over. After a reminder from Jim not to speak of today’s revelations to anyone in Roswell, the four grown ups turned and walked down the sloping side of the Vasquez rocks, and for all their 40 plus years, three of them felt as though they’d left a piece of their innocence behind them. Two had left a child. They’d all lost friends: a pair of young people who had a world full of potential ripped from them. They knew their world would never be the same again. And for the first time, they got an inkling of what their children must have felt every time they’d had a life and death meeting away from anyone who could help or protect them.

As they all climbed into the cars which had brought them out there mere hours before, not one of them noticed the beauty of the setting sun which shone brightly on the craggy face of the Vasquez rocks jutting out of te desert floor. The were unmindful of the reverent stillness falling around this place which had once again silently bore witness to the birth of yet another alien conspiracy.

posted on 5-Aug-2002 11:45:38 PM
Chapter Nine

As the days drifted by, Jeff learned a new meaning to the word ‘normal’. Normal was looking out the large windows of the restaurant a thousand times a day in hopes of seeing Nancy or Liz walking up to the doors as if nothing had happened. Normal was pouncing on the phone whenever it rang in the unlikely possibility it was someone with information that would help him find his family. Since the meeting in the desert, he’d given up the notion of looking for Liz and Nancy on his own mostly because he didn’t have the foggiest idea of where to begin. So, instead of doing what he wanted to do which was bring his family home, he settled for working 18 hours a day to fill the looming void in his life. With the UFO Convention going in full swing, it was an easy thing to do.

He quickly hired three new employees to take up the slack around the café and then spent several hours training them.

The Evanses were even worse off than him caught between grief for Isabel and fear for Max’s safety. He’d seen them several times this week, as well, and Diane had told him neither one were sleeping at night. Each day Amy came into to see if he’d heard anything. Jeff alternately dreaded or looked forward to her visits. Their conversations ranged anywhere from lighthearted to morose as they contemplated the loss of their daughters. She was looking increasingly tired and gaunt as one day drifted into the next. Jeff couldn’t say anything to her because he knew he did, too. This situation was slowly killing them all.

Over the time they shared, Jeff silently watched as Amy ran through the full gamut of emotions and he appreciated why Valenti opted not to tell her the true reason behind Maria’s disappearance. Where her daughter was concerned, calm and rational she was not.

As she slid into her booth at the counter, Jeff thought today would be no exception. Apparently sometime over the previous night, Amy had finally made it past the point of concern and anger. Fear had set in.

"She’s in trouble," Amy confided as she reached for the coffee he’d placed in front of her without asking with one hand, running her fingers through her hair with the other. "She’s out there, hurt or dying and afraid to call me."

"Why would she be afraid to call you?" Jeff asked, surprised at her announcement.

"Because she knows I’m going to KILL that Michael Guerin the next time I see him, that’s why."

Jeff didn’t even crack a smile as Amy’s comment hit a little too close to home. "I’m sure she doesn’t think that."

"Well what else am I to think? My baby’s gone, disappeared off the face of the earth for a week now. She’s taken off before, but not like this. Never for this long, not without calling. I’m telling you something is wrong and I can’t just sit here and do nothing about it anymore."

"What are you going to do? We don’t know the first place to go looking for them, if we did we would have gone after them days ago."

"Well, what else do you expect me to do? How can you be like this? Aren’t you worried about Liz?"

"Of course I’m worried about her," he refuted strongly, "But I trust her. I believe I raised the brightest, smartest girl I could and I can only hope that whatever she’d doing out there she knows that I love her. If you want to know the honest truth, I’m more worried about Nancy. I know she didn’t take of on a road trip with her friends but I don’t know where she could be."

"Still no word from her family"

"No, none. Her sister in Florida promised to call if she heard anything."

They talked for a few minutes longer as Jeff watched his newest staff members wait tables. All too soon, Amy’s break was over and she headed back to her shop on Main Street leaving him in the Café to run the register. As he worked, he thought about what he’d said and realized, though he hadn’t put it in quite that way before it was true. Liz was a big girl and as things stood, it was unlikely she was ever coming home. Nancy was a different matter all together. There was no reason on earth for them to have kept her this long. It had been almost a week since he’d seen his wife last. She didn’t know anything about the kids’ origins or disappearance. All he kept coming back to was Agent Deirks comment about testing. How he wondered how Nancy had carried one of those half-human freaks without trouble.

Though he hoped it was otherwise, he knew they were testing her, studying her through a microscope to see if she was in anyway different for her supposed ‘experience’. Considering the heavy handed way they did things around here, he doubted their methods were humane or ethical and it was thoughts of what they might be doing to her which caused him to lie awake night after night, silent tears seeping into the graying hair at his temples.

He prayed to God during the long hours of darkness for the strength to get through the next day. He prayed for Liz’s safety and he prayed that Nancy would make it though her ordeal intact. And promised that if He brought her home to him together they would share a more Christian outlook in rebuilding their lives; helping the less fortunate and giving to charity.

During the day, Jeff did his best to keep the negative thoughts that constantly plagued him at bay, but in the dark hours of the night when he lay sleepless in his cold and lonely bed, the let them come to him. It was during those times that he realized that he hated Max Evans and everything he stood for. Not because he was ‘different’ as Jim had. Their meeting in the desert had accomplished that much at least. No, Jeff hated him because he’s stolen his daughter. He’d stolen away her life even while pretending to save her. Not that he was sorry Max had done whatever it was he’d done to save Liz’s life, but did he have to constantly hang around her? Why couldn’t he have just gone back to hiding or whatever it was he was doing before it all happened? Saving her life didn’t mean he owned her. Why couldn’t he have left her alone instead of continuously sitting in here, watching her, getting her to go out with him? If he ‘loved’ her so much, why couldn’t he have let her go to live a normal life? If it weren’t for him dragging her down, Liz would be skipping around the restaurant, laughing with her friends, making plans to go to college.

Instead, she was facing a life of running and hiding. Jeff knew it would never end. He’d heard those two men talking. They were not going to give up until they’d caught or killed every last one of them and that included his daughter. What kind of life could they have always running for their lives? They’d never be able to settle down, go to school, buy a house, and have kids. In his more pragmatic moments, he almost felt glad for Isabel and Michael that their ordeal was over. The life facing Max, Liz, Maria and Kyle was bleak to say the least. Especially Maria who’d already lost half the reason she was running in the first place. Unlike the others, she could come home if she wanted to. She wasn’t in danger. He actually hoped she did for her mom’s sake – before her mother went crazy. Or before Amy drove him crazy.

The bell above the door dinged and another crowd of people pushed their way inside the already cramped diner. The UFO convention was in full swing and there were barely any empty seats in the joint. Not that Jeff was complaining about business, it was just while he normally loved his job, taking pride in the business his dad had handed down to him, this had been the worst week of his life and he didn’t have the patience to deal with the teeming masses today.

Jennifer and the new girl hurried to assist the newcomers by bussing tables and getting them seated. One lone girl pushed her way to the counter and plopped down tiredly. She looked exhausted, liked she’d walked a hundred miles or more just to set her dusty rump on one of his padded stools. In fact, Jeff wouldn’t have taken a bet over her finishing whatever she was planning on ordering without collapsing.

Something about her struck a familiar chord in him. She kind of looked like someone he knew or used to know, he thought. He didn’t spend too much time worrying about it, however. Considering the sheer numbers of people who found their way into his establishment at one time of another, it wasn’t surprising he’d thought he’d recognized her.

As he worked, he surreptitiously watched her. He figured she looked like the kind of person who would try to sneak out without paying. Her cynical gaze took in everything about the place, and he heard a muttered, "You’ve got to be kidding me," as she eyed the menu, wrinkling her nose in distaste at some of the items as she read. He couldn’t see her face, obscured as it was beneath her blue-black hair and large tinted glasses and tried to guess her age just from looking at her mouth. Between the fatigue and grime on her face it was hard to guess, but he finally pegged her to be in her early thirties.

Barb, the new girl, eventually came by to take her order and Jeff was distracted from his… distraction by a sudden rush of customers wanting to pay. It was several minutes later before he looked over again and found her tucking neatly into a Blue Moon burger with a side order of Space fries.

While she ate, Jeff noticed she was constantly looking around at the movement in the room, watching the people come and go, especially the ones coming in the front door. She seemed extremely nervous and he got the idea that she was evading the law. Just what he needed, he thought. More trouble.

In very little time, Barb was whisking away her plate and Jeff heard her speak for the first time, the words she spoke sending a chill down his spine. "Yo, could you tell me where I can find Liz?"

Frowning, Barb answered, "Liz who?"

"You know. Liz. The one who lives here. The owner’s girl."

"I’m sorry, I don’t know who you’re talking about?" Barb was new to Roswell, and apparently had never met Liz before she left.

Dejection written all over her, the stranger sagged in her chair.

Not thinking about the possible dangers involved, Jeff strode over. "What do you want with Liz?" he demanded without preamble.

She looked up, startled. "What’s it to you?" came the belligerent reply.

Jeff just stared her down. Finally, the woman said, "I just need to see her is all. We’re kinda friends."

Disbelief was thick in his voice. "You’re friends with Liz," his tone leaving no doubt how likely he thought that was.

"Yeah," she stated. "We shared stuff, you know like guy stories and stuff. That’s the closest thing I ever had to a friend. Look Jeeves," she ground out, "I don’t got to explain myself to you. Can you tell me where I can find Liz or not? I got something really important to tell her."

She’d stood up as she spoke and the sense of familiarity was back. "Who are you?" Jeff asked not really expecting an answer and so wasn’t too surprised when he didn’t get one. Finally, he explained, "I’m Liz’s dad and if you want to talk to her, you talk to me first. If you won’t talk to me, then there are about fifty cops easily within shouting distance and maybe you’d prefer to talk to them." It was a long shot, based solely on her nervous behavior, yet it seemed to do the trick.

"Geesh, pops, get a grip," she tried to play it off, but the threat of the authorities obviously scared her. "If you really is her dad, then maybe you can tell me where she is?"

"She’s gone."


"I don’t know," Jeff admitted. "She left town."

He was surprised all over again as the woman slumped back own and whispered, "Then I’s too late."

The chiming of the front door was heard as more people entered the diner, reminding Jeff of where he was. And more importantly who was listening. "Come with me," he ordered, coming around the counter. Glancing back once to make sure she was following, he made his way outside into the bright sunshine and down the busy sidewalk, easily turning into the alleyway beside his building. Once he was certain they were away from prying eyes, he turned back to her and demanded, "Too late for what?"

"I come to warn her," the dark haired woman stated.

"Warn her about what?" Jeff was losing patience. This girl’s reaction over the news Liz had left town on top of the weirdness that was already going on was way too coincidental. He was convinced that she knew something about all this. Something that could help Liz if she knew, and he wasn’t about to let her get away without telling him what it was. "You said you had a message to give her. Tell me what it is and I’ll see she gets it."

There was a sudden screeching of tires from the street but the two of them ignored it as they stared at each other. "It’s about Rath and Lonnie," she reluctantly answered.

Rath and Lonnie? Searching his memory, he couldn’t remember ever having heard those names, but apparently they would have meant something to Liz. "Who are they? What do they have to do with Liz?"

"They’s my family, they ain’t got nuthin’ to do with her, not really, but..."

"Jeff," came an excited cry from the end of the alley.

"What about them?" he asked, refusing to be distracted by the unprecedented sight of Diane Evans jogging towards them, a huge smile plastered on her face.

Irrepressibly the elder woman called out, "Jeff, oh my god! Guess what?"

Jeff drilled the stranger with his eyes, waiting for an answer. The girl started inching away, apparently alarmed over Diane’s arrival. He grabbed her arm harshly, cutting off her escape. "TELL ME," he yelled.

Her eyes wildly bounced from him to Diane then to Philip who was trailing his wife at a more dignified pace, fear in every line of her body.

Jeff felt a moment’s surprise at how easily she cowered from him, as if she were used to being manhandled and abused, and he softened his tone if not his grip. "Please tell me. What’s so important about your family that you had to come here and tell Liz?"

Reaching them, Diane flung her arms around Jeff’s shoulders, completely oblivious to the fact she was interrupting something. "Isabel’s alive!" she announced, unable to contain her joy. "Alive! Can you believe it?"

Jeff looked up at her, so shocked, he almost stumbled from her gentle assault. "What?" he asked, needing to hear it again.

Before she could oblige him, the shorter woman in front of him -the one he'd instantly forgot about after Diane's announcement - tonelessly stated, "They’s dead."

Right then, Philip walked up and stared at the girl who was struggling against Jeff's tight grip on her arm. "Tess?"

posted on 5-Aug-2002 11:46:59 PM

don't mind me, just making a space to keep the page from getting too long to load...
posted on 5-Aug-2002 11:48:04 PM
don''t mind me, just making a space to keep the page from getting too long to load...
posted on 5-Aug-2002 11:49:28 PM
don't mind me, just making a space to keep the page from getting too long to load...
posted on 5-Aug-2002 11:50:46 PM
don't mind me, just making a space to keep the page from getting too long to load...
posted on 5-Aug-2002 11:52:00 PM
don't mind me, just making a space to keep the page from getting too long to load...
posted on 5-Aug-2002 11:54:11 PM
Chapter Ten

In the alley behind the CrashDown, the three grown ups stared at the ragged waif before them in varying stages of disbelief and shock. Jeff couldn’t release her arm fast enough. As soon as Philip had spoken, he’d realized immediately why he’d thought the strange girl looked familiar. Granted, he hadn’t seen her in a year, and the grime went a long way towards disguising her features as did the glasses and dark hair, once he had a name to go with the face, Tess was unmistakable.

Philip yanked Diane behind himself as if to protect her from the wayward teen while Jeff just looked at her, mouth agape. The change in her appearance was shocking: the grubby street clothes, blue-black hair cropped short to chin length, thinness to the point of emancipation. They were all clues which told her story. Wherever she’d been this last year, it hadn’t been pleasant.

Maybe it was his fear that Liz was going to end up like this: one step away from selling herself on street corners – if she hadn’t already – just to keep body and soul together that made his heart go out to her. Maybe it was the fact that she’d come to warn Liz of some kind of danger; perhaps the same danger that had already found itself to Roswell. Maybe it was his recent promise to God to look out for those less fortunate. Whatever, he didn’t know. Something about her called out to him, stirred up his protective instincts and he was helpless to resist.

"What the hell are you doing here?" Philip was asking, outrage vibrating in his tone.

Diane added coldly, with growing anger, "You’re supposed to be dead."

"I don’t know what yous is talkin’ about," she refuted.

Philip’s hand shot out towards her face, causing her to flinch away violently, obviously expecting a blow. Instead of contacting with her skin however, he came away with the large glasses which had obscured her face from them. He snarled at the sight of Tess’s large blue eyes staring back at them filled with fear and pain.

"Don’t play games with us, Tess. Considering everything that is happening around here, thanks to you, I am flat out of patience for your antics."

"Look mister, you’re mixing me up with some other gal. I ain’t Tess. I ain’t even seen her for over a year. I’m Ava." Inexplicably, she cowered back towards Jeff while she spoke as if expecting him to help her.

"Is that so?" Philip asked, dangerously. Jeff stared in his red face and wondered how this girl, for she was hardly anything else, could piss off the normally cool lawyer so much. That’s when he remembered what Jim had told them about this girl and her protector. How they’d plotted to kill the other kids. How the so-called protector had removed Liz from the safety of the diner in order to use her as bait to catch the FBI.

These thoughts rushed through his mind in an instant, yet they didn’t prevent him from saying, "Back off," to Philip who was looming over Tess looking like he was wishing he had a gun to put her out of their misery. He had never really gotten to know her before she’d left town. What he did know was that she knew something about the situation they all found themselves in and maybe, just maybe she could help. Besides, if she had reason to hate Max Evans, well, who was he to hold that against her?

"Jeff, what are you doing?" Philip asked, surprised to find Liz’s dad standing in defense of the very girl who had brought them all to this point.

"Stopping you from making an ass of yourself," Jeff answered baldly. "You look like you’re two seconds away from beating up a defenseless girl."

Flabbergasted, Philip stared at him. "Defenseless? Jeff that viper is more dangerous than Jack the Ripper, and every bit as devious."

It was then that Diane found her voice again. With a chilling glare she stated, "You came back for Zan, didn’t you? Well, you’re too late."

"Zan? What do you know about Zan?" Ava asked.

"You’re not fit to be in the same town as him, and if you think we’re just going to tell you where he is, well, you can just think again. I’m not letting you get your filthy hands on him again."

"Who the hell is Zan?" Jeff asked, completely in the dark on both accounts here.

"It don’t matter," Ava answered causing Diane to snort indelicately, but her next words stopped the older woman short. "He’s dead."

"Dead? What do mean dead?" Mrs. Evans asked, her face suddenly washing of color.

"Rath kilt him."

Before anyone could comment further, a dark sedan with tinted windows drove slowly by the mouth of the alley. "Jesus," Jeff whispered. Without thinking, he pulled Ava to him, hiding her face against his chest. She began to struggle, but he quieted her saying, "Don’t move. The FBI is tearing the town apart looking for our kids. It’s too much to hope they don’t know about you, too."

Philip was as surprised as Ava by the other father’s move but for a different reason. "What are you doing? You can’t honestly be thinking of harboring that beast. Jeff, she’d as likely split your throat in the night as thank you for it. You don’t know her. Get rid of her – or better yet, give her to them. Believe me, she deserves whatever they do to her. In fact, I bet you could use her to get Nancy back."

"What?" Jeff asked.

"Sure, it could be like hostage negotiations. Trade her for Nancy. I’m sure they’ll release her if it means they can get their hands on an al… a… one of them," Philip quickly covered. He’d almost forgotten that Jeff didn’t know the woman he was protecting was an alien. Glaring at her in distaste he said, "It’s no more than what she deserves after everything she’s done."

For one glorious moment he considered it. Imagined seeing Nancy walking back into their home knowing he was the reason she was back where she belonged. Knowing she was finally free of whatever malicious plot his own government was using her in. He could already see the tears of joy and relief on her face, taste them on his tongue as her enfolded her in his loving embrace vowing to never let her out of his sight again. Then he felt the tiny figure trembling lightly against him and knew he couldn’t do it. Whatever else Tess had done, whatever she might deserve, it wasn’t up to him to sit in judgment over her. Considering her appearance and the way she was clinging to him, she needed someone to look out for her.

His voice was dark with emotion as he stated, "No."

"No? You can’t be serious. "Jeff, I’m telling you, this is the only way. If you don’t do it, you may never see your wife again. And your country will thank you for it. Believe me."

"I said no and I meant it. Do you think I could live with myself knowing I’d gotten Nancy back at the expense of Tess’s life?"

"Look, mister," Ava spoke up for herself. Ignoring the evil man who talked so easily of turning her over to the government, she pleaded her case with Liz’s dad, the one person in the world who seemed to give a damn about her right now. "I knowed you don’t believe me, but I ain’t Tess. I’m sort of her sister. I look just like her, but I ain’t her. My name’s Ava. I grew up in New York with my family. I only ever been to Roswell once before. That’s when I met Liz. She was nice to me, and when all this shit started to happen, I figured I could do her a good turn and warn her that danger was comin’. I ain’t asking you to help me or nuthin’. I can take care of myself. I just wanted to see Liz. Like I said, she’s sorta the only friend I ever had."

Listening to the girl’s heartfelt plea, Diane started to soften, yet she didn’t want to be taken for a ride. Cautiously, she asked, "How is it possible you look like her? I mean Tess didn’t exactly have a normal birth."

Jeff had been wondering the same thing. Surprisingly, the right answer came to him easily. Maybe because his knowledge of the kids’ origins wasn’t clouded with stories of royalty and aliens. He was looking at the situation from a simple genetics stand point. "She’s a clone. Who’s to say they didn’t make more than one of her." Looking at Ava’s innocent face, he asked, "Isn’t that right?"

"Either I’s the clone or she is. I guess it don’t matter much anymore which one came first."

"There are two," Philip asked, catching on.

"Yeah. There were four of us left in New York, and another four left somewheres around here."

"And you name’s Ava" Jeff asked. Obeying a parental instinct, he stroked her dark hair out of her face so he could see her features. For the first time, he noticed the dark bruise fading on her cheek. He hadn’t seen it before, too caught up in her secrets, plus the dirt did a good job of masking it. Upon closer inspection, he could see that her upper lip and one eyebrow had been pierced at one time, though she wasn’t wearing any jewelry on her face now. She looked like a tiny, female version of a street thug.

He thought idly she probably meant to be scary, unapproachable but the only thing about her that was off putting was her smell. Between her fatigue and hunger, it seemed as though her defenses were down.

"That’s right."

"I’m Jeff Parker, Liz’s dad. And this is Philip and Diane Evans, Max and Isabel’s parents."

"Huh," she grunted. "Considering how Liz raved about Max, I would have guessed he’d have had nicer folks."

"Ava," Philip said, "If that’s who you really are," he was still reserving judgment on the validity of her claim until he had something a little more concrete to go on than just her word. "I’m sorry about talking to you as I did. We’re all just scared for our kids, and Tess had a lot to account for. She did a lot of damage before she left Roswell. And then when she came back, it started all over again with the lies and manipulations. We were told she was dead, but when I saw you…"

Jeff noticed the black sedan once again making its way slowly past. It was still headed the same direction as last time, which he supposed meant they had circled the block. "Guys, we have to break this up. The FBI is getting restless."

"What do you mean?" Diane asked.

Jeff merely indicated what he’d seen.

"We need to get together and talk. I want to know how you know about Isabel, but it will have to be later."

"Tomorrow?" Philip suggested. "Same place?"

"Tomorrow is fine," Jeff agreed. "But let’s go somewhere different." He thought for a moment then said, "We’ll go to that place we were the first time our kids took off on us."

Max’s parents frowned for a moment trying to come up with the incident Jeff was referring to. Diane thought she figured it out but then ruled her theory out. It couldn’t have been the morning she was thinking of. That night only Max and Liz had gone missing, and the four parents had waited for them in the CrashDown. She knew Jeff certainly wouldn’t want to have the meeting there.

Obviously there was some other incident on his mind, but she couldn’t think of it.

Jeff’s eyes were locked on Philip, willing him to remember. Finally, the other man’s eyes widened as his memory hit the jackpot. "Ah. I got it."

Accepting they were on the same page, Jeff said, "Noon, then."

Staring at Ava, Philip said, "What are we going to do with her?"

"She’s staying with me."

"Are you crazy?" he asked. "You know what Jim said. It’s not safe for you – or for her."

"We don’t know they’re looking for her. They think she’s dead already."

"Well, they’ll know soon enough when they see her traipsing around your apartment," Philip pointed out.

Jeff had no comeback for that. Finally he said, "Well I can’t just let her run around Roswell, either."

"Hey, I can take care of myself," Ava put in, tired of being talked about like she wasn’t there.

The adults ignored her as they continued to think of the best place to hide their refugee from political injustice. They ruled out their homes, Amy and Jim’s houses. Plus Jim had warned their friends’ homes would undoubtedly be under surveillance too. What was left? There had to be someone they could trust who wasn’t actually a part of this conspiracy that would take her in for a night or two – maybe longer if necessary. Jeff’s brain quickly exhausted everyone he knew, and he wondered if Liz and their friends had ever found themselves in this situation: needing someone’s help, yet worried about involving an innocent in the chaos surrounding the situation. How does a person know who to go to? How could they know who to trust?

A face flashed through Jeff’s head and he almost sagged in relief. "I got it," he told Diane and Philip.

"You’re sure?" Diane asked, almost sorry she couldn’t offer her own house. Ava was in such a poor way off that she was starting to feel bad for her, and she already regretted saying what she had to her when she thought she was Tess. She’d already pushed back what Ava had said about Zan. Only Tess knew of her and Max’s son. Diane was desperately hoping it was a case of mistaken identity, though a voice in the back of her mind whispered the odds of someone else connected to this with the same name was seriously unlikely. She was doing her best to ignore it.

Meanwhile, Jeff was replying, "Yeah. Get out of here. I’ll see you tomorrow."

"You don’t have to do nuthin’ for me," Ava declared after the others had left.

"Don’t worry about it. I’d let you stay with me, but the government somehow found out about Max and the others, you know being different…"

Smirking at him in the first display of spunk he’d seen from her, she said, "Yeah, I know about them being different."

He chided her with a gentle glance and said, "Short of it is, they’ve bugged my house. It wouldn’t be safe for you to stay here – for either of us actually, but I know someone who I think can help us."

"What if they can’t?"

"We’ll think of something else," was Jeff’s confident reply. "Come on Ava, let’s get you somewhere safe."


Twenty minutes later Jeff was back at the Kmart. Despite Ava’s incessant denials that she didn’t need anything, she wouldn’t take anything, and she wasn’t a charity case, they were soon in line at the checkouts with a change of clothes for her as well as toiletries. Looking in the basket, she said, "I don’t know what you think I’m gonna do with all this. And what’s up with the men’s stuff? I’m tellin’ you right now, I ain’t wearing no men’s clothes."

Ten minutes after that, Jeff was wearing his new clothes and locking his old clothes in the trunk of his car once again. Carrying Ava’s new stuff, they set out on foot, an unnamed destination in mind. Cutting across lawns, and even going right through the home of a friend, Jeff did his best to make sure they weren’t being tailed. "Just a little further," he encouraged Ava when her steps started to lag. He marveled briefly at her strength, remembering how he’d originally thought she wouldn’t have had the energy to make it through the Blue Moon burger and Space fries she’d ordered for lunch.

"Don’t worry ‘bout me, Mr. Parker. I can make it," she assured him. As they cut through school grounds of the High School.

"Call me Jeff," he instructed.

Two blocks later, they were striding up the front walkway of a tidy home with a white pickets fence. "This is it?" Ava asked with relief in her tone.

"Not quite, but with any luck, this will be the last of the walking."

A knock on the door was answered by a red headed woman who was holding a Kleenix to her nose. "Hello, Susan. Not feeling any better, I see."

"Jerk," Nancy’s good friend teased back. "No. This stupid cold just doesn’t seem to know that I have better things to do than lay around in bed all day waiting for it to go away."

"I’m sorry to hear that," he responded sincerely. Ushering Ava inside, he said, "Susan, this is a friend of the family, Ava. Ava, Susan."

The women greeted each other with obvious suspicion, Ava not used to strangers, Susan not used to grubby teenagers who looked like they were about to collapse. "What’s going on Jeff?"

"I need to borrow your car."


Finally feeling as though he’d done everything possible to cover Ava’s tracks, Jeff pulled them up in front of a different house, shutting off the motor of Susan’s gray Escort.

"Is this it?" Ava asked once again.

"Yeah, this is it. Now let’s just hope someone’s home."

Gathering the bags of stuff he’d purchased for Ava at the Kmart, Jeff walked with her to the front door and rang the door bell. "What if they’re not home?" Ava asked, becoming nervous.

There was a vacuum running distantly somewhere else in the house, so Jeff answered confidently, "They’re home."

"What if they won’t help us?"

Jeff smiled at the implication that he wasn’t doing this for just her before he realized she was right. They were in this together. For better or for worse. "They’ll help us," he returned.

"But what if they don’t?" She was now chewing on her bottom lip, her anxiety becoming clear.

Lord, but she's a pessimistic kid, he thought, then realized she seemed like the kind of kid who never got any breaks growing up. The belligerent look on her face reminded him in many ways of Michael Guerin. Maybe that was why he was willing to look past it. She couldn’t have had an easy life and this particular time had the possibility of being the absolute worst of it. She’d already said three people she knew were dead. He didn’t know for a fact if the ones she’d lost were the clones of Max, Michael and Isabel but he was inclined to think so. What had she called them? Rath, Lonnie and… Zan? God, where’d they get those strange names? he wondered. He also wondered briefly at Diane’s reaction to hearing that this Zan guy was dead. It was like she’d known him or something. Well, Jeff figured he’d find out tomorrow. For now, they needed to get inside.

Giving the doorbell another ring, he finally answered Ava’s question, "They will. They’re good people."

Soon enough, the door opened, revealing a tall gentle-faced man. One who was a dear family friend. One he hadn’t seen much in the year or so that had passed since his son had died. Jeff’s heart warmed at the sight of him.

"Hello, Charles." Pulling Ava out from behind him, he said, "Can we come in? I have a huge favor to ask of you."

posted on 5-Aug-2002 11:55:30 PM
Chapter Eleven

It was getting pretty late, but Ava couldn’t sleep, which wasn’t all that surprising, considering the week she’d had.

It had started pretty normal: wake up in one of the access tunnels built into Chicago’s Metro system, then go out into the city, looking for food, money, anything to avoid having to return to her siblings and their new ‘crib’. Several months ago, Lonnie had gotten a hankering to leave New York. Rath had thought she was crazy, after all, they had that city wired, but Lonnie had been determined. Ava secretly suspected she’d been seeing a guy and it had gone sour. Whatever. It didn’t matter much to her if Lonnie screwed around on Rath, it’s not like he was Mr. Faithful, Upstanding guy or anything.

Not like the guy whose room she was occupying right now.

Ava could tell just by looking around he was the kind of guy who would stick with his woman forever. She idly wondered what that felt like: to know that kind of devotion. Lord knows Zan, for all he treated her good, protected her from the twisted pranks their podmates liked to play, he screwed around on her plenty. Oddly enough, Ava hadn’t minded too much. Just as she’d often felt like he was waiting for someone special to walk into his life, so was she. He was out there, she just knew it. One day a stranger would step into her life and everything she’d gone through to get to that moment would be erased, made null, and she would be given a clean slate. A fresh start, where she could get things right. She would just have to be patient until that day came. And unlike Zan, she was willing to wait for him.

Rath’s death had been their first indication that the FBI was on to them and out for blood. She’d passed by the scene just a few minutes after Rath had died, sickened by the sight and smell of the destruction left in the wake of America’s finest. The FBI apparently wasn’t pulling any punches and had taken Rath out with the heaviest artillery they’d dared to use in a populated area –if the damage was anything to go by. Fleeing the scene, her heart pounded as she brushed tears away from her eyes. Rath might have been a mean, twisted son of a bitch, but no one deserved to be blown up at point blank range. That was just – inhumane.

Arriving breathless at their hideaway, Ava told Lonnie what she’d seen and the two of them high tailed it into the night. They didn’t get far.

After several hours, Lonnie had insisted on robbing some 7-11 for cash and eats. Ava had told her she was crazy, they shouldn’t go anywhere near town. She’d been right. Two hours later, Lonnie was dead, too.

The shaking from the explosives they used to take her out could be felt on the street corner where Ava had been standing.

The worse part of it was, though Ava had been several blocks away, when it had gone down, Lonnie had tried to connect with her, to ask for help. For Ava, it was as if she were looking through Lonnie’s eyes when they took her down. Ava now knew what her own death could look like: soldiers shouting, firing their weapons, people screaming nearby then darkness.

She knew then that it weren’t no accident the FBI found them. They were in a full out hunt for them. Through her connection to Lonnie, she knew they were set on destroying them all. And what chilled her to the bone was just before the connection expired, she’d heard one soldier mention a name: Max Evans. She knew then that she had to get to Roswell.

The trip had taken several days as Ava had opted for either walking or hitching her way. She couldn’t afford to draw attention to herself by travelling commercially or stealing a car. So anxious was she that she would be too late, Ava had slept little and eaten less on the long journey. Finally arriving in Roswell, she’d immediately made her way to the CrashDown Café where she remembered Liz lived. She nearly collapsed with joy when she saw it was still standing; she’d had several waking nightmares that she would arrive too late and the building would be destroyed by the government agents hunting them. Of course, she’d found out soon enough that she’d been too late. Liz was gone.

It wasn’t until she’d heard those words that Ava realized how much she was counting on Liz to be here. Liz was the only person on the planet who’d ever been nice to her, and with her entire family being wiped out in a matter of days, Ava had hoped… Well, she didn’t know what exactly. It was just, she remembered so clearly the way the girl, a stranger really, had comforted her when she’d woken up from that nightmare which hadn’t really been a nightmare. She remembered how Liz had taken her in, no questions asked, allowed her to sleep inside on her sofa. She’d even given her a blanket and a pillow. Then the next morning she’d stood up to Rath and Lonnie’s dupes for her, not even caring that they could blast her into oblivion if they wanted to.

Liz, she decided during the following months was like an angel. A thousand times since, she’d wondered what Liz would have said if she’d just stuck around instead of leaving. Something told her the other girl would have accepted her, looked past her origins as if the things that made her different weren’t so bad. That may not seem like much to normal folks, but to Ava, it was everything. She’d never been accepted for who she was by anyone outside her family. Rath and Lonnie treated her like crap. They always put her down, belittling her and her abilities. Ava had learned early not to fight back, it would be pointless anyway. They were right. She was weaker than they were. They’d gotten the lion’s share of the alien genes, all she’d gotten was the leftovers.

Zan was different. He treated her better. Protected her. Time and again he’d say, "Yo, you cainst let them talk to you like that. Yous da queen. Theys just shit for brains. You got that?" Always, she’d nod, but secretly, she’d wondered why, if she was the queen, did everyone always ignore her and do what Lonnie wanted?

She was all but worthless, she knew it, but she’d hoped in this one thing, she could do the right thing, but even in trying to help Liz, she’d screwed up. Maybe she shouldn’t have been so careful. Maybe she should have just stolen a ride and gotten to Roswell right away instead of hitching.

Either way, don’t matter much now. Here she was in Roswell and Liz was long gone, which meant Ava was alone. For the second time in her life, she was completely without friends and family. Last time, she’d lasted a month before the loneliness had gotten to her, sending her back to the sewers of New York. This time, there was nowhere to go.

Ava was all alone in a world that wanted her dead.

She prowled restlessly around the room she’d been given to sleep in. while it was obvious it hadn’t been lived in in a good long while, there were still traces of the previous occupant: posters on the wall, the desk and bed. Pictures on the dresser. Wondering about the young man who’d been raised by the kind hearted folks she’d met this evening, Ava wandered over to the slightly dusty souvenirs. "Hey, I know you," she said, lifting one picture up and peering at it closely. It was Liz. Her open smile and bright dark eyes unmistakable. Looking at the other two people in the picture, she thought they looked slightly familiar, recalling that there’d been two other humans with Liz the night she’d met them it that alien museum the King had worked at. For the life of her, she couldn’t remember their names, having been too caught up in studying Max Evans, mentally comparing him to her Zan, consumed with misgiving over what they were planning to do to him. Not to mention grief and guilt over her part of what had happened to Zan.

Focusing on the gentle smile of the guy standing next to Liz in the photo, she saw traces of Mr. Whitman, though the boy took after Mz. Whitman in his coloring. Her hosts had informed her, sadly, that their son had passed away in a car accident last year. At the time, she’d been saddened that such nice people had been robbed of their son so early in his life, empathizing with their grief. Now knowing that the dead teen was one of Liz’s good friends, she was even sadder. How his death must have hurt the softhearted girl. Ava wondered briefly why Max had been unable to heal him. Perhaps he was killed in the crash.

Taking the framed momento back to the bed, Ava sat down, brushing a blue black curl out of her face as she did so, enjoying the soft, clean feel of it. After dinner, Mz. Whitman had pretty much insisted that Ava make use of the bathroom. Ava smiled at the older woman’s attempts at subtly, but she hadn’t minded. Ava knew she stank. It had been days since she’d last showered. Rath and Lonnie didn’t care if they stank worse than the sewers where they lived but Zan had showed her it was ok to be clean once in a while. They’d occasionally break in to motels or go to truckstops to avail themselves to a hot shower, washing themselves and their clothes under the hot spray. It had been wonderful.

Away from Lonnie and Rath, Ava sometimes saw a different side of Zan. Not softer, but more caring. It was on one such an outing that Zan had made love to her for the first time. He’d been laying on the dingy motel bed, relaxing after his shower while he waited for her to finish up. She’d been startled by a cockroach crawling across the floor while she was drying off. Normally bugs didn’t bother her, it had just surprised her to see it there on the semi clean tiles by her feet. When she’d jumped, she fallen back into the tub and hit her head.

After coming to ‘rescue’ her, nearly busting a gut at her predicament as she recalled, Zan had carried her to the bed and healed the swelling bump he’d found on the back of her head. After that, well, one thing led to another, and they discovered what it was Rath and Lonnie had been crowing about for months.

Tonight’s shower hadn’t been anything like those old times with Zan of course, but the feeling of being completely clean, having clean clothes to get into - Mr. Parker… Jeff, had bought her a change of clothes, plus an extra shirt for sleeping in - well, it made her feel good. For the first time since Zan died, Ava felt safe, cared for and it was a good feeling. She couldn’t imagine what it must be like to have this feeling every day. Touching the dark haired guy’s image in the picture, she whispered, "I sure hope you knew how lucky you were." Her finger moved to Liz’s face and she added, "I know you did. We both know things ain’t always flowers and sunshine, and sometimes you gots to take what you can, when you can, just to get through the day. I hope that Max of yours is treating you good, like his queen, just like Zan treated me."

Liz’s smiling face was her only answer.

Ava pondered the picture for a few minutes longer, wishing Liz were here to talk to. The whole time she was on the road to Roswell – heck, ever since she’d left really, she’d longed to sit with Liz somewhere quiet and just talk, share herself and her experiences liked she’d only ever done one time before in her life. Something about Liz invited her to open up to the other girl. She knew Liz may not understand everything about her, but she would try if Ava would only give her the chance. Sometimes Ava wondered why she ever left Roswell in the first place. At times she thought she knew the answer. Roswell represented everything she’d never had: love, trust, security. In this town she knew she could find that fresh start she’d thought she wanted. And at the time, she hadn’t felt worthy of the blessing. In fact, she’d been afraid she’d somehow taint the goodness of this town and the people in it, the ones so most wanted to get close to. And so she’d run away from it, only to find that what she as really running from was herself.

Then, a little over a year later, she found herself right back here again, no closer to resolving the demons inside her. The difference between then and now was that she finally admitted it. Not that that helped her in any way to know what to do about it. How she wished Liz were here.

Staring at the dark haired girl’s likeness, she got an idea. Flipping the frame over, she took the back off and removed the picture from behind the glass. There was a folded up piece of paper there that she ignored, concentrating instead on laying back comfortably on the bed and laying her finger across Liz’s picture. Ava could dreamwalk, but only the members of her family. Whenever she’d ever tried it on a human, it hadn’t worked, but Liz was different, she’d seen it herself.

She knew it was a long shot, but maybe, just maybe she would be able to get through.

Beneath her fingertip the paper rippled.


A husky laughter split the night, followed by an indignant, "Are you laughing at me?"

"No," a feminine voice giggled.

"Now, you listen to me. I am still the king around here and what I say goes."

"I thought you gave up the throne."

"I lied," was the teasing reply. "Now I am commanding you to stay still… until Simon Says you can move."


A stern reprimand. "No talking either."

"Whatever." The response was more whispered than spoken, the final syllable ending on a sigh.

The darkness around Ava finally cleared and she could finally see – and what she saw made her cover her mouth to catch an escaping giggle. Apparently Liz had a more adventurous imagination than she’d given her credit for. On the tackiest bed she’d ever seen Max had Liz laid out arms and legs spread out as he knelt over her feasting on her neck. They were both still modestly dressed, though Max was taking pains to remedy that situation.

"Yo," she said loudly garnering Liz’s attention. "You wants I could come back later?"

"Ava?" Liz exclaimed, lifting her head, to look at the newcomer. "Is that you?"

"Hey," Max protested. "Simon didn’t say you could move."

Liz didn’t bother to answer him, and shoved him off her instead. He rolled once before landing on the floor with an ‘oomph’.

"Ava, what are you doing here?" Liz asked, sitting up, pulling the sheet around her.

From the floor, Max sat up, complaining, "Liz, what…"

Without so much as a glance at him, Liz cut him out of her dream and he disappeared into thin air. Standing up, the bed also went away, and Liz was standing before her in a pair of jeans and a red sweater. Ava watched as she approached as if afraid Ava would disappear, too.

"I come to see you. I wanted to warn you. The FBI is hunting deadly, and they’re gunning for your Max."

Nodding, Liz answered, "Yeah, I know. They’re looking for all of us."

"How did you know?"

"It’s a long story, but let’s just say I saw them. We barely left Roswell in time."

"Well, they ain’t taking no prisoners, if you know what I mean."

"Ava… are you ok? They… they didn’t get to you, did they?"

"Nah. I’m good. But Rath and Lonnie… They’s dead. The FBI got ‘em both just a couple of days ago, and I heard ‘em say they was going after Max next."

Ava watched as Liz’s mouth set in a firm line and she nodded. "We’ll be careful."

"That’s good," Ava answered. The two girls were silent for a moment. Ava, having delivered the message she’d bisected the country to give didn’t know what else to say.

After a moment, Liz asked, "Ava, how are you doing this? I mean, I thought Lonnie…"

"You thought only Lonnie could Dreamwalk ya? Well, you’re half right. I cain’t dreamwalk humans, only… you know. Like I said, yous different now, since Max changed you."

"But don’t you need a picture? I mean, it’s just that Isabel usually need to be touching…"

"Ya, me too. It helps me focus, or something. I gots lucky that there was a picture of you sitting on the dresser here, else I’d still be sitting here wishin’ I could talks to ya."

Liz was frowning, trying to put the pieces together. "Ava, where are you?"

"Oh, I’m in Roswell. I came looking for you to tell you about Rath and Lonnie and they told me you was gone. I saw your dad…"

"Oh my god. He doesn’t know anything about this Ava! Not any of it."

"Well, I’d say he sure found out in a hurry, ‘cause he’s the one who believed I wasn’t Tess. He said I was a clone. He couldn’t have knowed that unless someone had spilled da beans. Speaking of which, what did my dupe to do piss off Mr. and Mz. Evans so much? I thought he was gonna scalp me or something for a minute there. Your dad actually stuck up for me."

Liz was covering her face. "I can’t believe this is happening."

"Liz? What’s wrong?"

"Nothing, it’s just we tried so hard to keep them out of it and now that we’re gone, they get dragged in."

"Yeah, well, it was probably kinda hard to keep them in the dark with the FBI crawling up their asses."

"What?" Liz asked faintly.

"Yeah, they bugged your house, least that’s what he said, and I sure as hell believe him. I swear I saw four or five agents just walking through town to your place. Don’t worry, Liz, he’s being smart about it."

"What about my mom?"

"I don’t know. I ain’t never seen her. What’s she look like?"

"Her name is Nancy. She’s about four inches taller than me. Red hair."

Nancy!? Nancy was her mom? Ava remembered Max’s dad telling Jeff he could use her to get Nancy back from the FBI.

"Ava?" Liz’s voice was starting to sound anxious.

"Nah. I ain’t seen her, but I’m sure she’s fine. I mean, your dad was good, right? I’m sure she’s ok, too."

Seemingly relieved, Liz blew out a breath. "Yeah. I’m sure you’re right. Look, Ava. The FBI knows Tess is dead, they probably don’t know about you. Maybe you should just get out of Roswell."

Before Ava could respond, there was another voice in the darkness surrounding them. "Liz? Liz are you in here?"

"Yeah, I’m over here." To the dark haired alien she joked, "Who knew my dreams could be so popular?"

"Liz, what’s going on? Max is really worried. He’s been trying to wake you up for like five minutes." Isabel finally arrived in their plane of consciousness and of course, the first thing she saw was Ava. "What are you doing here, bitch?"

"Isabel!" Liz reprimanded.

Ignoring her, she closed in on the smaller girl. "I swear, if you’re hurting her in any way, you’re going to wish the government had finished you off."

"Isabel, it’s Ava!" Liz shouted to be heard over her friend’s bitter anger.

That brought her up short, but only for a moment. "So? That doesn’t change anything. What’s she doing here, anyway?"

"She came to warn me. Us. About the FBI."

Snorting she answered, "Yeah, well, she’s a little late."

Deciding to pretend for the moment that Isabel wasn’t there, Liz asked, "Where are you now?"

"The Whitman’s. They took me in for the night."

"Alex’s?" Isabel asked softly, then with growing anger, "You’re at Alex Whitman’s house? HOW DARE YOU? GET OUT! GET OUT OF THERE RIGHT THIS INSTANT!"

"ISABEL!" Liz shouted, becoming angry with her friend. Ava looked like she’d taken a physical blow. "Stop it. What’s wrong with you?"

"Me? What’s wrong with you? Have you forgotten what Tess did to Alex?! And now Ava is just staying there, in his house, probably in his room like nothing happened."

"What are you saying? That because Tess murdered Alex that Ava deserves to be punished? I don’t blame her for Tess’s actions any more than I blame you for Lonnie’s – or have you forgotten your dupe tried to kill Max when he was in New York?"

‘Go Liz,’ Ava silently cheered. That made twice in one day someone had stood up for her, and both times it had been a Parker. There was something to be said about that.

Isabel looked like she wanted to argue, though she knew Liz was right. When she remained silent, Liz said in a more reasonable tone, "Could you please just go tell Max, I’ll be done in a minute?" When Isabel hesitated, clearly unsure whether or not it was safe to leave Liz alone with Ava in her head, Liz assured her, "Go on. It’s ok. I’ll be fine. I’ll talk to you in a few minutes."

Backing down, Isabel nodded. With one final glare in Ava’s direction, she disappeared from Liz’s dream.

With an embarrassed shake of her head, Liz said, "Sorry about that."

"Nah, don’t worry about it. Lonnie’s said worse. Besides, she was just lookin’ out for you."

"Yeah. We’re all a little hyper protective of each other these days, I guess."

"Yeah, I’ll bet. So, you alls ok?"

"Yeah, we’re good. It’s been a rough few days, and some of us are getting cabin fever, but we’re doing ok."

"Good. Look, I’m supposed to be meeting with your dad and Max’s folks tomorrow. There anything you want me to tell them?"

Tears welling, Liz shook her head. "I wouldn’t know what to say."

"Can I tell ‘em that you’re still in one piece just so’s they don’t worry?"

"Yeah," Liz agreed. "That would…" her voice broke as the tears broke free and ran down her face. "God. I hate that I had to do this to them. I hate that I hurt them like this. It was just… there was no time. The FBI was there and we had to run. There was no time to look back, or leave them or note. Nothing."

"They knows, Liz," Ava comforted her as she’s once been comforted. "Don’t you worry about them. You guys just keep doing what you’re doing, because the only thing that’s worrying your folks right now is that you might not make it through this thing. You just work on staying one step ahead of the government and they’ll be ok."

"Right," Liz agreed, sniffling.

"How’s about I look after ‘em for awhile for you? Just till things cool off?"

"No, Ava. It’s not safe for you there. You should just leave Roswell," Liz repeated from earlier. Adding, "In fact, maybe you should come join us. That way we’ll all be together."

There is was. The very thing Ava was hoping Liz would say. The entire reason she’d gone to Roswell: to find another family among Liz and her friends. Max, Isabel and Michael were the only other people on the planet who were like her, and it made sense to her that she join them… and Liz, whose forthright acceptance warmed her to her soul. It was what she wanted more than anything, yet something held her back. Words that had been spoken in anger now branded themselves on her heart: "I bet you could use her to get Nancy back." If the FBI had Nancy, it would take more than a couple of concerned citizens to get her back. They just might need someone with a little more firepower at her disposal. They might need her.

"I’d like that," she answered Liz, "But let me get back with you on it. There’s something I gotta do first."

"Ok," Liz agreed, hesitantly. "If you’re sure. Contact me anytime, ok?"


"Ava, it was good to see you again. I was worried about you." Liz stepped forward and pulled her into a hug. "You take care of yourself."

"You, too. Cornball. See ya soon." With that, the Dreamwalk ended.


Sitting on Alex’s bed, Ava fingered the picture and thought of what she’d set out to do. She began to second-guess herself and trepidation set in. Who was she that she thought she could do this? Rath and Lonnie were ten times more powerful than her and they hadn’t survived their run ins with the government, and yet here she sat, contemplating storming one of their strongholds to save a woman she’d never even met.

She wondered briefly if she was going crazy. Then looking at Liz’s sweet smile she realized she didn’t have a choice. She wouldn’t be able to look the other girl in the face ever again if she knew her mom was at the mercy of their sick-minded government.

Ava wasn’t stupid, she knew her limitations. Lonnie was quick enough to point them out time and again. If she committed herself to this, she would probably die, but at least her death would mean something to someone, unlike Rath, Lonnie or even Zan. And maybe, if she gets really lucky, and makes it through this in one piece, she could then go make a new family with Liz and the others.

For that end, she’d risk anything. She had nothing left to lose.

posted on 5-Aug-2002 11:57:56 PM
Chapter Twelve

"So, you and Liz used to come up here, huh?" Jeff watched Ava looking around the peaceful clearing in Frasier Woods curiosity and something else in her bright eyes.

"Yep," he answered. "Every year. The schools Liz went to had this traditional Father’s Weekend Campout and every year we’d come up here and hang out with the other kids’ and their dads." Sighing a bit in nostalgia, he said, "We’d go hiking, or fish with the Sheriff and his boy, Kyle. It was always nice to get out of the store, spend time with Liz and her friends away from town."

"Boy, you guys must have been really close.’

"Yeah," he said, then frowned, recalling the situation in which he currently found himself, amending, "I mean, I thought so. Until the last couple of months it seemed that way. Now I don’t know if I ever knew her at all." He thought of all the lies, the deceptions she must have perpetrated over the years. How many times had she snuck around, getting involved with that Max kid. She’d been caught only a few times, but how long had she been playing him for a fool?

"Why would you say that?"

"Why," Jeff asked, standing up. "The Liz I thought I raised wouldn’t have been able to look me in the face and lie to me like I know she’s done. She wouldn’t have thrown away all her dreams to run after some guy, and she certainly wouldn’t have snuck off without at least telling us where she was going." Jeff let his frustrations and fear show through. Today marked the eighth day he’d been left alone without the slightest idea of how to proceed.

Taking a deep breath, Ava sighed, "It weren’t easy for her, either, you know. She loves you so much, but she didn’t have no choice."

Rubbing his hands against his thighs, he said, "Well, it doesn’t make this any easier. I just wish I knew where she was, that she’s safe. And the same thing for Nancy."

There was silence in the clearing as the older man stared at the beauty around him, not really seeing any of it, his mind focused on his missing wife and daughter.

"Mr. P., come’re" Ava invited in a soft voice, patting the log where she was sitting. "I gots to tell ya somethin’." Her strong accent tempered by the sympathy and trepidation he could see on her face. Jeff looked at her for just a moment. Yesterday, when she’d first walked into the diner, he’d pegged her to be in her early thirties. He’d been shocked to discover she was actually the same age as his daughter. Today, after a shower and some decent rest, he thought she looked younger – closer to her own age, though nothing could ease the world-weary look about her eyes. She was old despite her years, he decided. In clean clothes with her hair brushed out of her face, her resemblance to Tess amazed him, despite what he knew of her origins.

"Mr. P.?"

Shaking himself from his thoughts, Jeff said, "I thought I told you to call me Jeff?" as he sat beside her.

"I’m sorry," she blushed. "I... it ain’t respectful," she finally blurted. "I want you to know I’m thankful for everything yous done for me. Getting me these clothes and taking me to the Whitmans. No one’s ever been nice to me like that before – well, except for Zan and Liz and... It just don’t feel right, calling you Jeff, but if you want me to, I’ll try."

"Ava," Jeff said, touched by her words. To his mind he hadn’t done anything special. She was a friend of Liz’s who’d put her own life in danger just to warn his daughter. He hadn’t acted out of a need for praise or thanks. He knew she would reject any thing he could say otherwise, so he let it drop, with, "I think ‘Mr. P.’ will do fine." She smiled gratefully at him in response. "Now, what did you want to talk about?"

"Well I was gonna wait ‘till the Evanses got here, ‘cause it concerns them, too, but I wanted to tell you I talked to Liz last night."

"What!" that was the last thing he was expecting to hear. "She’s here? Where did you see her?" Immediately, his body filled with energy and he leapt to his feet, ready to go search out his daughter.

Ava also got up, saying, "No, I mean I didn’t see her, see her."

"What do you mean?" Now he was totally confused. "Did you see her or not?"

"I mean I Dreamwalked her."

"What does that mean?"

He watched her eyes widen as she realized he truly didn’t have any idea what she was talking about. Then fear slowly made its way across her expression. Backing up a step, she whispered, "I thought you knew."

Grabbing her arm to keep her from bolting, Jeff stated, "Knew what? Would you quit talking in circles and just tell me!"

"I thought you knew I was different. I’m... I mean, you knew I was Tess’s clone..." the way she said it was almost like an accusation.

"Yeah, I know you’re not normal. You and Tess, Max, Isabel and Michael were all created in some lab in the 50’s before being set loose on the countryside. What does that have to do with Liz?"

"Dreamwalking is one of my powers." Ava stated then confused him even more by amending, "Well not really. I mean I can only Dreamwalk the others like me, not normal folks. Lonnie, she could Dreamwalk anyone..."

Jeff cut her off, asking, "What is a Dreamwalk? I don’t know what you’re saying." Reminded that Jim had told them the kids all had special powers, he calmed considerably. Ava hadn’t meant to shock him with her announcement. She’d probably thought he’d already known about this one. "Could you explain it to me?"

"Sure," she answered, though her fear was still apparent despite his reassuring tone. "You see, I can go into people’s dreams when they’re sleeping. See what they’re seeing... Don’t worry, I can’t do it to you, only people like me," she tacked on hastily as if afraid he’d leap to the conclusion that this form of invasion of privacy was something she practiced every night.

By then, Jeff wasn’t completely listening any longer. Her explanation rang a bell with Jeff, reminding him what Jim had said about Isabel’s powers on Monday: "She could do this thing where she could get in your head and see what you’re thinking. It usually works best when the person is sleeping..." His mind was leaping ahead thinking of the possibilities. "What did…" he had to swallow past the excitement catching in his throat. "What did Liz say? Was she ok?"

"Ya. She’s fine. That’s what I wanted to tell you. She’s real sorry she couldn’t say goodbye to you. And she said for you not to worry: theys was ok."

"Where are they?"

"I didn’t get a chance to ask…"

"Can you contact her right now? I need to tell her…" Jeff trailed off. What? What would he tell his daughter? That he loved her? That he missed her? There were so many things he didn’t know where to start. The loss of her and her mother left him with a big gaping hole in his heart. Nancy. Oh god, she didn’t know about Nancy!

"Nah, like I said, I can only do it if she’s sleeping."

Not hearing her, Jeff asked instead, "You didn’t tell her anything about her mom did you?"

Shaking her head, Ava answered, "I didn’t want to worry her. She was pretty upset thinking about yous guys as it were. Besides, I wouldn’t know what to tell her."

He was glad the girl hadn’t involved Liz in whatever was happening with Nancy. Liz had enough to deal with right now.

Before they could talk about it further, they heard someone walking through the trees towards them. "Jeff!" Mr. Evans shouted.

"Here!" Jeff answered back.

Soon Diane and Philip had joined them at the campsite and was filling them in on the details of Isabel’s Dreamwalk from yesterday afternoon. Not being able to sleep at night, both parents had decided to take a nap and that’s when their daughter had come to them.

"…When I woke up, I thought I had dreamed the whole thing," Diane was telling them.

"But I woke up at the same time. We knew it had to be true." Philip was smiling in happiness and not a little awe. "Isabel and the others are all ok, so I don’t know who the FBI got, but it sure wasn’t Isabel and Michael."

"Their names were Rath and Lonnie," Ava informed them. "They was Isabel and Michael’s dupes."

"Dupes?" Diane asked aware of what Ava was saying, just not sure the of term she used to describe it.

"Duplicates," Jeff guessed and she nodded. "Ava said there were two sets of four kids created. Each a perfect replicate of the other."

"I don’t know about ‘perfect’" Philip mused, eyeing Ava disdainfully.

Jeff shot him a reproving look even as Ava slouched down as if she’d been reminded of her ‘place’ and was now trying to escape notice.

"It was Ava’s family they shot down," Jeff continued, throwing an arm around her shoulder, offering her comfort from his blunt words as well as Philip’s barbs. He half expected her to shove him away considering the way she stiffened beside him, yet she didn’t. "As sad as I am for her loss, I can’t help but be thankful that their deaths mean Isabel and Michael are safe as long as they don’t do anything to draw attention to themselves. If they can avoid detection until this thing blows over, they’ll be home free."

"You think it’ll be that easy?" Diane asked skeptically. "The FBI will just give up and go away?"

"No," Jeff refuted. "They won’t stop until they take out all of their objectives. Michael and Isabel were just half of their targets."

"Which leaves Max and Liz," Philip ended.

"They won’t be able to come home," Diane mused. "But maybe Isabel could go join Jesse in Boston."

"Maybe," Philip said.

"It ain’t likely," Ava reluctantly put in. "They won’t want to split up the group while they’s still in danger."

"But Isabel would be safer away from the others," Diane argued.

Shaking her head, the alien refuted, "She won’t do it. They’s decided they’re in this together."

"You say this like you know it for a fact," Philip stated in his lawyer voice.

"I do."

"She talked to Liz last night," Jeff told them when they seemed likely to argue with her. "Dreamwalked her. She said Liz told her they were all together and doing fine."

"That doesn’t mean…" Diane began, still wanting to advocate getting Isabel as far away from the danger as possible.

"Look, that’s how we are," Ava announced, scooting away from Jeff’s warm embrace to confront the others. "We was born together, we lived together. We always said if we was gonna die, it’d be together. They ain’t gonna split up while the Feds are after ‘em."

"hmm, you say that, yet, here you are," Philip refuted. "The rest of your group is gone, and amazingly you’re here, alive and well. I wonder what they would say about that if we were to ask them."

"Just what the hell are you saying, Philip," Jeff wanted to know.

"I’m saying that Tess was a lying, conniving bitch who deliberately plotted to murder those who trusted her, those who were her family. And now here is Ava, her exact duplicate, alive and well while the rest of her family is dust. I’m just saying it’s a little too pat. And the way she winding you around her little finger… You can’t trust her Jeff. She obviously wants something from us: information… I don’t know. Why else would she stick around when the entire county is crawling with federal agents who’d love to tear her into little pieces just to see how she works. It doesn’t make sense."

Crossing his arms over his chest, he stated, "Don’t kid yourself that she’d here to help you. There’s more going on here than you know, or want to know. Believe me. I wish I didn’t know half of it, but I can tell you, whatever she’s after, it’s not to help us."

Jeff, who was getting ready to cut into him, after all it was THEIR son who’d but them all into this situation to begin with, was stopped from replying when he heard the sound of dual diesel engines cutting through the peaceful woods.

"Is Jim coming?" Jeff wondered.

"We didn’t talk to him about today," Diane said as the vehicle got closer.

"Were you guys followed?" Jeff asked the obvious.

"N-no. At least, I don’t think so."

"Whose car did you drive?"

"My car," Philip admitted. "Why?"

Jeff was instantly angry at their short sightedness. "Well, if you weren’t followed, that means your car has a tracking device on it."

"What about your car?" Diane asked defensively.

"Mine’s at home. I borrowed a car from a friend of Nancy’s. Why did you think Jim had his friends drive us out to the desert the other day?"

"God. I guess I wasn’t thinking."

Jeff just looked at Philip like he was stupid.

"Well, it’s too late now. They know we’re here."

"It’s not like we are breaking any laws," Diane objected. "Why should they care where we go?"

Jeff answered, "They don’t, it’s who we’re meeting they’re worried about."

"If they tracked their car, theys gonna know they’re here," Ava stated to Jeff. "But that don’t mean they gotta know about us."

"Well it’s too late to take off," Jeff stated. "They’ll see us for sure."

"Not necessarily," she responded mysteriously. "Yous guys just make like you came out here to relax and talk."

Philip asked, "What about you two?"

"We ain’t here."

She pulled Jeff to his feet and the two of them went to stand next to a nearby tree. "Ava what are you doing?" he asked.

"Hiding us," was her calm answer.

"But they’ll see the car."

"No they won’t."


Five minutes later, there were seven FBI agents combing the area. Two were talking with the Evanses separately. Two others were scouring their vehicle, looking for lord knew what, and the other three were canvassing the area, searching for evidence that anyone else had been there.

Jeff was standing less than ten feet away from it all, watching in disbelief as they completely ignored him and Ava.

Eventually, they escorted Max’s parents to one of the cherry red Hummers parked nearby, intending to take them to the station for ‘questioning.’ Once they were gone, the remaining agents spread out looking for any other evidence. Two agents passed by close enough to touch them, yet paid them no attention at all. When they were far enough away, Jeff leaned down and whispered, "This is amazing. How are you doing this?" He’d been standing behind her, his hands on her shoulders all the while.

"Their eyes is seein’ what I tell ‘em to see." Ava explained. "They can still hear us, though."

Jeff nodded, taking the hint.

"Hey Joe," one of them called out. "We’re not going to find anything here."

"I agree."

"God, this assignment sucks," another chimed in. "Trailing around after a bunch of people who have never done anything wrong in their lives is just stupid."

"I wouldn’t say they haven’t done anything wrong," a fourth refuted. "Look at what they’ve been harboring all these years."

"Agent Deirks’ got us chasing things that aren’t here," the one called Joe said in frustration.

"Yeah, they ain’t here ‘cause they took off on him. I think that pissed him off even more then them being here in the first place."

"Well, they’d be stupid to return. We shouldn’t be hanging around here." It was the third guy again. He apparently needed a career change. The stress of this one was getting to him.

"Would you rather be out at Edward’s?" the fourth agent asked.

"Hell no!" all of them returned.

"Only someone with a death wish would be at that base. I wouldn’t want to be 20 miles of the place when those things take the bait and try to go in."

"Yeah, if they ever do. I still say Deirks is wrong. If they could communicate like that, they would have made a move by now. I know a guy who was assigned out there for two days before he requested a transfer. He said he couldn’t stomach it. The screams were getting to him."

"Jesus," one of the men whispered, obviously horrified.

"But he said that wasn’t the worst part. The worst part was when the screams stopped. That’s when he knew he couldn’t stay."

"What if Deirks was wrong?" the first guy asked as they moved away towards the remaining Hummer en masse. "What if they can’t communicate telepathically?"

"Then Deirks just tortured the hell out of a civilian for nothing," was the pragmatic reply. "Doesn’t mean he’ll give up. I’ve worked with Agent Deirks before. That guy hates to lose. One way of another, he’ll get the last two."

"Or die trying," Joe put in.

"And get us all killed in the process," said the third man.

posted on 5-Aug-2002 11:59:54 PM
Chapter Thirteen

"Oh my god!" Jeff said, stumbling away from Ava once the sound of the Hummer’s engine drifted away. He felt sick. Literally. Nancy… in the hands of those madmen. It had to be her. He thought back to the two separate conversations he’d overheard while locked in the Sheriff’s Station and knew there could be no mistake.

The first clue he’d been given was when he was still being held for questioning and two soldiers had walked by, discussing how the kids had known there would be a hit.

"You think they read our minds?"… "It would make them a lot harder to catch. …Stealth would no longer be our ally." "So what should we do?" "Maybe we don’t catch them…"

Then, later when he overheard Agent Deirks with General Hopkins:

"What do your people suggest we do, then if any attempt to capture them will be preempted before it even begins?" "Oh, we’re not planning to chase them, General. We’re going to use their abilities against them to lure them right to us. Even as we speak the means to that end is being transferred to a secured location…"

He’d heard it then, but hadn’t thought anything of it. Heck, that was back before he knew Liz and Nancy were involved in all this... nightmare. They’d had his wife for days while they hunted his daughter. When would it end? And Nancy? What had they been doing to her all this time? Something so hideous that that she’d been screaming… until she stopped. Had she passed out from her ordeal, or was the answer much more chilling?

All this time, he’d never even suspected something like this was going on. He’d assumed the FBI had her. He thought they were questioning her, as they did him. He even thought they might be performing medical tests on her in an effort to solve the riddle of how Liz came to be. Never in his wildest imaginings had he pictured anything like this.

He’d been willing to sit back and wait for Nancy to come home to him, warned by Jim that the government wasn’t just going to return her at his say so. He’d accepted that, but now, knowing that she was hurting… she needed him. There was no way he would ever be able to stand behind the counter of his restaurant and pretend like none of it was happening. He had to do something. He had to get her back!

"Mr. P.?" Ava’s tentative voice stopped him. "Do you think that was Nancy they was talkin’ about?"

He almost didn’t answer her, so caught up in his rage and grief, was he. "Mr. P….?"

"Yes!" He ground out, fury taking over. "It’s her. I know it." Picking up a rock at his feet, he threw it with all his might at a nearby tree, hitting it with a loud crack!

"Jesus, I’ve just been sitting here all this time while they… she…" He was starting to lose control and knew it. His emotions were running like a hurricane inside him, fear, grief, anger until he didn’t know which one to feel first.

"What are you gonna do?"

"What do you think," he asked bitterly. "I’m going to go get my wife!" He glared at her as if daring her to contradict him or try to talk him out of it. His mind was set. He was going to bring Nancy home or die trying.

Ava nodded as though she expected no less. "We should leave right now."

We? "Ava, I can’t drag you into this. Nancy is my responsibility. If you come with me, you’ll just be walking right into their trap."

"I knows that, Mr. P., but I want to help."

Shaking his head, Jeff told her, "No, I can’t let you, Ava. It’s too dangerous."

She put a hand on his arm and refuted, "I promised Liz I would look out for you. Letting you go get yourself killed ain’t what I had in mind. And besides," she added irrefutably, "yous gonna need me. I can help you like I did just now with those guys. They cain’t shoot at what they cain’t see."

Jeff stood looking down at her in a moment of indecision. He knew he should refuse. It was insane to drag her along with him. He knew the chances of making it out in one piece were slim to none and to include her was most likely to sign her death warrant – or worse. After all, she was exactly what they were hoping to get their hands on. Still, as he stared in the determination lighting her bright eyes, he knew it was futile. She was resolute, and she was right. – He did need her. Her abilities were the only thing that would give him a chance, and if it meant the difference between bringing Nancy home or not – well, in the end, did he really have a choice?

"Ok, fine. But you do what I say, got that?"

"Sure thing. Yous da boss."

The two of them made their way to Susan’s car and climbed inside. Sitting behind the wheel, Jeff hesitated, struck with the enormity of what they were about to do. They were about to take on the most elite forces in the US Military. Did they really have a chance to make this work?

Jeff’s hands were shaking, reaction setting in, as he put the key in the ignition.

Suddenly, he felt Ava’s hand once again on his arm. Looking steadily into his eyes, she promised, him. "We can do this. We’ll get her back." After a pause, she added, "You knows you can trust me, right? I don’t want to do nuthin’ but help you and Nancy."

Surprised that she felt it necessary to explain, Jeff nodded, "I know. I do trust you Ava."

"Good. There’s someone I know who might help us, too. Maybe. But just sos you know, him you cain’t trust. He’d sell out his own grandmother iffen he had one. I wouldn’t even mention his except I think we’re gonna need all the help we can get. Even if he don’t agree and it’s just you an’ me, we’ll get her out, I promise."

The confidence in her blue gaze steadied him, gave him the reassurances he was looking for. With a short nod, he started the car and their journey began.


"We’re going to need a different car, supplies, cash," Jeff planned as he drove. "And information. We can’t risk going back to town."

He would have to stop and make a couple of calls. For now, they just needed to get gone. 285 North was the best shot they had. "I’m going to take us to Santa Fe. We should be able to get everything we need there then disappear again."

"Swing me past a junk yard and I’ll get us a ride," Ava offered.

"We’ll need something that can take us cross country," he warned her.

"Don’t worry. I got it. They’ll never be able to track us."

Glancing at her, Jeff nodded, figuring he would see what she came up with before he shot her down.

It was just before 5:30 in the evening when he pulled into the drive thru of a McDonald’s on the outskirts of New Mexico’s capital city. They’d made good time, and had spent the long drive making plans as best they could and talking. Ava, he discovered wasn’t much for talking about herself. She told him a few stories about how she’d grown up, and he now knew about the sewer she’d shared with her family.

When he asked her why they didn’t leave, try to do something different than what they were doing, Ava had shrugged her shoulders, "Where was we to go? It ain’t like no one wanted us around anyways. Even our supposed protector up and left us, and he was like our parent or something, but we wasn’t good enough for him."

Uncomfortable with her outburst, that had been the end of that topic. After a few minutes of silence, she’d said, "So tell me ‘bout your wife, ‘cause I ain’t never seen her."

Slowly at first, then with more ease as he opened up, Jeff told her about meeting Nancy through a mutual friend. They’d fallen in love gradually rather than in an instant. After almost a year of dating, they finally admitted their feelings for one another. It had taken him a few weeks to work up the nerve to ask her to marry him. Buy then, he couldn’t imagine being with anyone else – ever, but he wasn’t certain she’d felt the same. He still recalled how his hands had shook as he’d held the ring he’d bought out to her and asked, no begged, her to be his wife. To his everlasting joy, she’d said yes.

"You must miss her something fierce," Ava commented in that soft voice of hers.

"She was my whole life," Jeff admitted. "Nancy, the restaurant and Liz. They were all I ever wanted or needed. Now I don’t have Nancy or Liz, and I could care less about the restaurant. Not without them with me to give it meaning."

"Don’t worry, Mr. P., we’ll get your Nancy back."


After dropping Ava off at a junk yard, Jeff drove into town. His first stop was at a college library. He needed information and he needed now. The internet terminal was empty so he slid right into a chair. Unlike many of his peers, Jeff was internet savvy. He often placed orders for supplies on-line as well as paid bills straight out of his bank account. In no time, he had done a search using the only information he had "Edwards" and had hit the jackpot – or at least that’s what he hoped. There was an Air Force base in Southern California by that name. It seemed to be exactly what he was looking for: remote, easily guarded, and more importantly, with a lot of large buildings marked Government Research Facility. That had to be it. According to the website, they often ran tours of the facility, so Jeff quickly printed out maps and directions to the area as well as a tour schedule.

Afterward, he fired out an email to Jim Valenti’s Skytel pager: "Mind the store." He hoped the other man would be able to figure out from that he was planning to be gone for a few days and also to keep an eye on the CrashDown in the meantime. Jeff wasn’t looking for him to run it, heck it would have to remain closed after the crew locked it up tonight because he was the only one with a key, but he wanted it watched for vandals or break ins.

Jeff didn’t even give a thought to the fact he was leaving his business at the height of tourist season. That was the least of his concerns.

Gathering his printouts, he wiped out the History folder as well as the Temporary Internet Files folder, covering his tracks as best as he could. He didn’t kid himself. He knew once the FBI was onto him, they’d be able to track the sites he’d visited through the library’s servers, but it might give him a day or two head start before they figured out where he was going, by then, it wouldn’t matter.

It took four ATMs, but he was eventually able to withdraw $1,000, his one day limit. It sounded like plenty, but he knew it would have to hold them until they finished this thing. Accessing his accounts would be the fastest way for them to track him and Ava’s movements and was a risk he couldn’t take again.

As he headed back toward the junk yard where he’d left his new partner in this venture, he was struck with the thought that this kind of planning was exactly the very thing Liz had gone through once she’d left town. He hoped she was being smart like he was trying to be. In a flash of irony, he wished he could talk to her to compare notes on how to disappear completely. There was a difference between their situations, he recognized: He was planning on returning home, Liz wasn’t.


In no time, he returned to the junk yard to collect Ava. He had stopped to buy a paper along the way, knowing she would have had no luck in finding them a decent vehicle in the car graveyard. He figured they could buy something for a couple hundred dollars from a nearby resident and was in a hurry to do so and get out of town before the FBI arrived.

It was for this reason that he was surprised that she met him at the chain link fence with a huge grin on her face.

"Yo, I gots the perfect wheels. Da man, he only wants $50 for the thing."

Getting excited, Jeff said, "That’s great. Let’s see it."

Fifty dollars was a heck of a lot better than what he’d been planning to spend. His joy died, however when she stopped in front of a rusted out junk heap which would need to be towed from the lot if it were ever going to be free again. "You’re kidding right?"

"What, you doan like it?" she asked in a hurt tone before rallying, "Wait, you ain’t see what she’s got." Pulling fiercely on the driver’s side door, she finally opened the vehicle so he could look inside. "See, it’s got everything we need. Seat, steering wheel. There’s a real engine under the hood, plus all four tires are intact. And, Joe Jack, he says he’s got the pink slip on file in da office. All’s we need to do is give him fifty bucks and it’s all ours."

The seats she was so proud of were shredded vinyl, most of the springs were visible through the exposed padding. The steering wheel was cracked and split. The body was so rust covered he couldn’t even tell what color it had been originally. He was certain the engine hadn’t fared the ravages of time any better. And the tires… He shuddered to think. Here he was, ready to mount a rescue and Ava wanted to try her hand at autoshop.

Twenty years of parenting was all that kept him from blowing up at her. "Ava," he said in exaggerated patience, "This won’t do. We need a real car, not a fixer upper. I thought you knew that we need to get to Nancy as soon as possible. I mean, you heard what that soldier said."

"Yeah," Ava nodded. "I knew that. It won’t take me long to get it running, Mr. P., I promise."

"Look, we don’t have time…" he protested only to stop in amazement when she placed her hand against the windshield. Then, right before his startled eyes, it repaired itself. The chips and cracks, even the ten years of dust were all gone in an instant, leaving the glass bright and shiny as if it had just come out of the box. He would never have believed it if he hadn’t seen it with his own eyes.

Blinking in case it was a mirage, Jeff had to reach over and run his hand across the glass to make sure he wasn’t dreaming.

"How’d you do that?"

"It was easy," she assured him, not really answering his question, but then both of them knew he already knew the answer.

Running his hand again over the smooth, unblemished surface which looked surreal against the rest of the heap, Jeff asked, "You’re sure you can fix this," no longer questioning how it would be possible.

"Before you get back with the pink slip," she promised.

"Ok, I’ll be right back." His tone reflected the awe he felt at witnessing what he had. Clearly he would rather stay and watch the rest of the transformation, but they needed to get going, and more importantly they needed to keep an eye on Joe Jack while Ava was doing her thing.

He started to walk away when Ava called out, "Mr. P. what color do you want it?"

Turning back to her with a smile, Jeff said, "You pick."


Less than an hour later, they were leaving Santa Fe behind in their newly restored ’66 Ford Mustang. It was silvery metallic blue.

Jeff still couldn’t believe what Ava had been capable of even after watching her work. The car was like new. Everything was restored to its former glory down to the sprockets and plugs. It had taken her less than an hour to complete the job. He’d returned from the office to watch the last ten minutes or so and had stood by, speechless as the dents worked themselves from the fenders and the interior began to look like new. She’d already gotten the engine running by that point and it idled smoothly, the sound like a low roar.

The very last thing she’d done before collapsing on the seat beside him was mindwarp Joe Jack into thinking he’d seen a tow truck arrive and haul the junker off.

They’d left Susan’s car in a nearby parking garage with the keys stashed in the glovebox with another fifty dollars. Jeff sent his friend a postcard telling her where the car was so she could come get it.

Now they were on their way with nothing standing between them and Edwards Air Force Base in California except a full day’s drive.

He just hoped to God they wouldn't be too late to save Nancy.

posted on 6-Aug-2002 12:01:44 AM
Chapter Fourteen

"Ok, we’s just gonna look around, scope things out, right?" Ava asked anxiously. She and Jeff were parked in the visitor’s section of Edward’s Air Force Base’s parking lot outside the Welcome building.

"Right," Jeff stated, reassuringly. He knew this was probably as close as she’d ever been to a military institution, and had every right to be nervous. Laying a hand against hers where she was fiddling with the drawstring of her backpack, he said, "You don’t have to do this."

"No," she disagreed. "You cain’t do it alone. I said I was gonna help, and that’s what I’m gonna do."

He stared at her for a second, noting the determination in her wide blue eyes, masking the fear and nearly hated himself for dragging her into this. He was putting her in all kinds of danger and he knew it. Despite the fact he wished it were otherwise, he needed her; Nancy needed both of them if she was ever going to be free of this place – assuming this is where they were keeping her.

He and Ava had discussed it already, and while they agreed it was a long shot, "Edwards" was the only clue they had right now. For all they knew, the agents in the forest had been talking about some guy named Edward’s basement. Still, Jeff’s internet research had told them this was the only government facility by that name, and it’s remote location gave credence to their theory that this was the place. Now they needed to find out where on the massive base they could possibility be holding her. Then they had to plan a rescue.

Jeff didn’t hold any misconceptions about getting her out today – or even tomorrow. If they wanted to make it through this thing alive – all of them – it would take careful planning. They would need to watch the base, find out what kind of security measures were being taken to keep Nancy there. He’d never been in the Armed services in his life, but now he was wishing he’d joined the Reserves or something, like most of his friends back in Roswell. Then maybe he’d feel better equipped to handle this and his knees wouldn’t be shaking right now.

Steeling his resolve, he stated, "Come on. The tour’s going to be starting." They figured they’d start off their poking around by joining one of the PR tours given of the facility several times a day.

Slinging her backpack over her shoulder just in case, Ava slid out of the car and followed him in. It was a habit: she never went anywhere without it.

They had taken some pains to disguise their appearances. Jeff was wearing hippie clothes with a beatnik hat on his head. Ava was wearing jeans and an "I love San Deigo" sweatshirt that was slightly too large which, to Jeff, just emphasized how young she looked. Also, the connection she shared to Tess was obvious, despite her dark hair. When he’d asked her about that small detail, she’d laughed and told him that the first time Liz had seen her, she had blonde hair with pink streaks in it. "Trust me," she’d said. "This is an improvement."

During the long ride to California, Jeff had worried incessantly about all the ladies in his life and how he felt he was letting them down. Nancy was being held, possibly being hurt, by the US Government. Liz was on the run from them, and now he was taking Ava right to them. If they somehow knew who/what she was, Jeff knew there would be nothing he could do to save her, yet still, he continued down the destructive path they’d chosen. He wished he didn’t need her help, he hated endangering her like this, but he had no choice, and they both knew it.

How the government could possibly think someone like Ava represented some kind of national threat… well, after seeing what she was capable of, he could believe it. Yet she wasn’t a killer. None of them were. Not Isabel, Michael, Max. Especially not Liz. A lot of people had some kind of ESP in this country, but you don’t see full out manhunts for them. On the other hand, how many of them come right out and admit it? None. Jeff now knew the reason why.

A person who could redefine an object by changing it at the molecular level could be a powerful weapon. With someone like that as an ally, you’d be unbeatable. As a foe… just the opposite. Jeff had come to this realization last night as he’d driven his flawless ’66 Mustang down the road. Remembering the rust heap it had started out as, then experiencing it’s perfection: the gas mileage had been phenomenal, they’d barely had to stop but twice; it had handled like a dream, all the gears and gadgets on the dash had functioned, the seat was still comfortable even after 10 hours of driving. Ava was amazing, phenomenal. And dangerous. He could see why General Hopkins wanted her and the others like her dead. She was too much of an unknown, and too great a risk to just leave out there, running amuck in America.

On the other hand, Agent Deirks wanted her captured. Jeff knew the FBI would want to find some way of controlling her while exploiting her abilities. Just imagining what they might do to her in order to secure her ‘cooperation’ made his skin crawl. For all her abilities, Ava was a fragile creature, easily abused. That observation had occurred to him several times as he’d driven them westward. Exhausted from her efforts to repair the car, she’d slept in a comatose like state for several hours, leaving him alone with his thoughts and worries.

He’d discovered in those long hours that he was starting to care for the waif who’d found her way to his doorstep. She had a gentle spirit and a good heart as was evidenced by the fact she’d shown up in Roswell at all, then remained to help him rescue a woman she’d never even met, simply because it was the right thing to do.

As he drove, he thought about how she reminded him in many ways of Michael Guerin. She had a bristly exterior, though hers was only skin deep, hiding a soft, much neglected heart. Just like Michael. Time and again, he’d noticed Michael slipping extra large portions onto the plates of folks who came into the diner looking as though they were down on their luck, especially if they were kids. Occasionally, he’d notice him slipping them ice cream or a slice of pie, telling them it was on the house. The first time it had happened, Jeff had headed into the kitchen to tell the well-meaning guy he couldn’t keep doing that. The reprimand had died in his throat, however when he’d watched Michael put the kids’ desserts on his own tab.

Afterward, Jeff’d paid more attention when it came time to tally up the employee’s tabs at the end of the week. Michael always had a few more desserts on his than Jeff figured he’d eaten himself. That was when he knew, under Michael’s tough guy, make-it-on-my-own exterior was the soul of an old softy.

Ava was like that, only her tender heartedness was more obvious. Thinking of either of those kids in the hands of the FBI made Jeff feel physically ill, but at least he knew Michael would give them hell. Ava wouldn’t stand a chance.

That line of thought immediately brought to mind Liz and the ordeal she was going through. He prayed every minute of every day that she would remain safe and out of the government’s eye. The possibility that one day it could be her locked in some facility, in the hands of people who would treat her like a lab rat kept him from sleeping at night. He was slowly going crazy worrying, wondering where she was, how she was, if she had enough money. As long as she was with Maria and the others, he could at least pretend that she was safe, that she was happy.

God, how had to come to this, he wondered. When had he gone from hoping Liz would set the world on its ear with her brilliant mind and lofty aspirations to praying that she was simply safe and happy wherever she was. It was times like these he wondered if he would ever see his daughter again. He wanted to talk to her, at least once more. To see her face. Touch her hair. Tell her that he was proud of her. Tell her that he loved her. Just once more.


"Mr. P." Ava’s voice brought him back. "They’s starting the tour. Ready?"

Setting his large hand against her shoulder Jeff nodded. He may not be able to do anything to help his daughter, but Nancy was a different story. She needed him. If she was here, he was going to find out where and nothing was going to stop him from bringing her home again.


Three hours later, the two of them were looking over the maps of the facility they’d been given, going over their impressions of what they’d seen and heard during the tour.

"This seems a likely place," Jeff said, pointing to a cluster of buildings noted on the map and Research and Development.

"Too obvious," Ava argued around a bite of pizza. She sprinkled more crushed red peppers over it before continuing. "They might as well stick a neon arrow to it. ‘Captives are here’ or somethin’."

"Maybe," Jeff concurred. "But I didn’t see anywhere else. Did you?"

"Nah, but you know they ain’t gonna just show us the good stuff. You know if we wanna learn anything useful, we’s gonna have to get in and look around."

"Are you thinking of breaking into that heavily guarded, high clearance government facility?" Jeff asked in surprise.

"What? You thought they would just hand Nancy over once you got here?"

"No, but… I was thinking more along the lines of getting evidence, you know proof that they have her, then threatening to go to the press if they don’t release her."

"What’s to keep you from spilling after they’ve given her back?"

Jeff didn’t bother to answer. He knew what she was doing, playing Devil’s Advocate. His plan was likely to get them all shot in the back. But her plan… How could they hope to do it?

"One thing’s for certain," she stated, "We’s gonna need some help."


"Ava, what are we doing here?" Jeff asked nervously. They’d gotten up early in the morning to drive west, following Ava’s vague directions. Now they were parked outside an elaborate wrought iron fence with an even more elaborate security system.

"Just chill, Mr. P." she admonished in a reassuring tone. "I know what I’m doin’."

"Can I help you?" blared the speaker outside the car window.

Leaning over, Ava shouted, "We’s here to see Cal Langley."

"Is Mr. Langley expecting you?" can the snooty reply.

"Nah, but he’ll see us just the same. You tell him Ava’s here and I want to talk to him. You say it just like that, you gots it?"

"Madame, Mr. Langley has left long standing instructions that no one is to be admitted unless they have an appointment. I’m sorry, but Mr. Langley is extremely busy. You’ll have to come back some other time, when you have an appointment."

"Now you look here," Ava started, only to be cut off by Jeff.

"Sir, I realize Cal Langley must be a very busy guy. We’re here on urgent family business. I know if you tell him Ava’s here, he’ll want to see us." Jeff wasn’t even sure why they were here, why someone as big and important as a Hollywood Movie Producer would have anything to do with them, but Ava had assured him the guy would at least hear them out. He was confused, but taking it all in stride.

"Family business, you say," the voice questioned.

"Yes, it’s very urgent," Jeff repeated.

Ava leaned back across him and stated, "You go tell him just like I said it. You tell him Ava said she wants to see him."

"Riiight," was the sardonic answer.

Sitting back down, Ava huffed. "He’ll see us, Mr. P. You’ll see. I can’t guarantee that he’ll help us. I..." she paused, "I won’t make him if he doesn’t wanna."

Chuckling, not understanding, Jeff said, "I never thought you would. If you don’t mind me asking, who is this guy? I mean, how do you know him?"

Staring out the window at the neatly manicured lawn, Ava stated simply, "He’s our protector."

posted on 6-Aug-2002 12:03:37 AM
Chapter Fifteen

Jeff stared around in awe of the opulent room he and Ava found themselves in. The furnishings were obviously expensive, the knick-knacks lavish and tasteful. It was a room the President could be comfortable in. For a guy from The Sticks, Nowheresville, it was a little too much. Jeff felt grossly out of place. He found himself wondering again why they were here.

If this guy really was Ava’s ‘protector’, he had a lot to answer for, like why she lived in a sewer her whole life while he lived here. And why she’d been on the brink of starvation when she’d arrived in Roswell. And how come he wasn’t out there – protecting – her and her siblings. She was the only one left of the four she’d grown up with. What did that say about Langley’s work ethic, for lack of a better word? His dedication was somewhat lacking.

Granted Jeff knew nothing about him and how or why he’d been appointed Ava’s guardian in the first place. Had he been involved with the original cloning experiments in the fifties, or had he gotten involved later when the kids’ had emerged from their incubation chambers? He had so many questions about his role in the event which had taken over his life in the past week. Could Langley have used his wealth and power to prevent the disaster which had befallen the kids?

Would he be willing to help them with Nancy when he’d obviously done nothing for the others?

Did he even know what was happening to his charges?

Question after question rolled through his head with no forthcoming answer.

Ava prowled restlessly nearby. Unlike him, she wasn’t shy about looking at the small sculptures adorning the tables, picking them up to examine more closely. She seemed more contemplative than nervous. He wondered if she too was comparing this room to her former residence, noting the irony.

He couldn’t help but notice her increasing nervousness as they were kept waiting. Finally, she said, "Ya knows, I think it woulds be better iffen I talked to him first. Maybe you should wait outside."

"Why?" It was his wife after all. Jeff thought he should be the one to speak with Mr. Langley. They might have a better chance of connecting man to man. It was obvious to Jeff the guy shared no feeling of obligation towards his ward.

"I think it would be safer," she said obliquely.

Perplexed, he questioned, "Safer? You think I’m in danger here? From what? Langley?" What was she talking about? "You said he might help us, now he’s dangerous?" What was going on here?

"Langley, he don’t like visitors none," she explained. "I ain’t never looked him up like this and I’m starting to think he ain’t going to be happy about it." She paused. Jeff knew he must look as confused as he felt when she hastened to add, "Not that I think he’d hurt you…"

That was as far as she got before the door opened and a man who could only be Cal Langley entered. He didn’t appear to be glad to see them. Jeff’s first impression was confirmed by his opening statement. "Well, if it isn’t Ava, come all the way from New York to grace us with her presence. How lucky for me."

"Langley," Ava cautiously returned. Her voice gave away nothing of her thoughts.

Searching the room, the alien’s eyes fastened on Jeff, and the other man swore he could read a deep-seated resentment there before it was carefully concealed under a polite façade. "I don’t believe I’ve had the pleasure…" he prompted.

Striding forward, Jeff held out his hand, "Jeff Parker. Roswell, New Mexico," he added as an afterthought as if naming his hometown could clue the producer on why he was standing in his parlor.

"Parker," he frowned, as if familiar with the name, but not sure how it related to the man in front of him. Jeff knew the instant he made the connection because he face cleared just before the same mask as before dropped into place. "You’re along way from home. What brings you to my part of the world?" He shot a look at Ava full of questions.

In response she stated, "He’s cool. He knows the score."

The shapeshifter’s body froze as tension coiled hotly inside him. "What?" His voice was cold and menacing.

"Don’t worry. He’s ok," she said, her tone reflecting her worry as he swung back in Jeff’s direction.

"What do you know?" Jeff was asked in a voice that was blatantly threatening making his hackles rise in response. The producer’s placid countenance had become menacing behind his trendy retro-glasses.

"I know Ava and the others aren’t exactly human. I know about the ‘experiments’ in the fifties and I know you’re supposed to be her protector. Not that you’ve been, as far as I can see."

"Really?" Langley asked snidely.

"Yeah, really," Jeff shot back, unaware he was tugging the tail of an untamed lion.

Stepping closer, the shorter man growled, "So you think I should be taking a more active role in protecting her?"

"It would be a start," Jeff agreed. "Then maybe she could have a decent place to live. Real food to eat."

"Mr. Parker, don’t," Ava stated, coming to stand beside him.

"Now why would I do that?" Langley asked, ignoring the alien in favor of intimidating the human. "Seeing to Ava’s comfort isn’t in my job description. My only job is to keep humans like yourself from finding out about her origins. Preventing them from telling others. Have you told anyone about Ava?"

"Of course not," Jeff was incensed. "I wouldn’t do that!"

"What about me? Who have you told about me?"

"No one. I only found out who you were when we got here."

To Ava, he demanded, "Is this the truth?"


Turning away he said, "Good. That makes it easier."

Jeff had to ask, "Makes what easier?"

"This," Langley answered before turning on the human.

Jeff watched in amazement as the protector raised his arm, palm flat out towards him. Before he could register the threat implied in the action, he was hit with a bolt of energy so strong it knocked him off his feet and nearly stopped his heart. He dimly registered Ava’s panicked cries to Langley of ‘Stop. Don’t hurt him’ as he landed heavily on his back, the world spinning into blackness round him. What the hell was that? part of his mind had cried out. He hadn’t been close enough to hit him with anything, yet he obviously had.

No sooner had the thought registered, than he heard Ava cry out in pain. Turning his head, the small action an effort with the pain still drumming though his body, he saw Ava was laying on the ground a few feet away. Her face was caught in a grimace of agony as she writhed beneath the pain Langley was inflicting on her – from ten feet away using no weapon other than his mind and his outstretched palm.

"Stop!" he demanded, rising to his knees, too shaky to go any farther. "What are you doing to her!?"

"How dare you bring him here! Has living with Rath and Lonnie finally cooked your brains? Why would you tell this guy about me?" Each question was punctuated by another burst of energy from the protector into Ava’s small body. "For that matter, why are you even with him? Don’t you realize they’re watching him? And now you’ve led them to me you little idiot. What, did Lonnie manage to pass on her stupidity before she croaked? Are you that eager to die? And take the rest of us with you?" He stopped and stared down at her.

Jeff crawled to her side, insinuating his body between Langley and hers. "Why are you doing this? She said you were her protector, dammit!"

"Stay out of this, human!" Langley warned, grabbing Jeff by the back of his shirt and flinging him away from the trembling girl.

"It’s not like that. No one knows we’re here," she quickly protested through the pain, desperate to make him listen. "But we need your help. This is Liz Parker’s dad," she emphasized.

"I got that," he ground out. "Good for him. He must be so proud at the depths to which she’s sunk recently." That remark was aimed directly at Jeff.

Jeff frowned at the emphasis Ava had put on to his relationship with his daughter. It was as if she expected this guy to know or care about Liz in some way. The acid in the response was too strong to be ignored. Despite the situation Liz currently found herself in, he WAS proud of her. Nothing could change how he felt about his daughter and he would not put up with this guy mouthing off about things he didn’t know or understand. "Hey, you shut up about her," was all the comeback he could think of, however. "You don’t know anything about my Liz."

"I know more than you think," the protector answered as Jeff warily climbed to his feet. "Rather than going to school and driving all the college guys crazy, she is now hiding from the authorities like a common criminal. And will be for the rest of her life. Mark my words. That’s a change alright. Not one for the better in my book. Do you even know where she is?"

"How do you know this?" Jeff asked, stupefied to the point he’d forgotten the receding pain in his body. It boggled his mind that some big-shot Hollywood producer not only knew who he was, but was familiar with some very private details of his life. It confused him… and scared him, too. Suddenly, he remembered Jim’s words from earlier in the week when they were all standing around in the desert. About how the protector was like the kids – different. And how he had taken Liz out of her home and put her in mortal danger from himself and the government agents. Tightening his fists in fury, Jeff ground out, "You son-of-a-bitch! What did you do to my daughter?!"

"What? What are you talking about? I’ve never even spoken to her," Langley refuted.

"Don’t lie to me. I know the truth." Jeff made a stabbing motion with his finger as if pointing to the alien’s deceits. "I know you took my Liz and put her in danger all in the name of protecting Max Evans."

"I don’t know what you’re talking about," Langley defended with an indifferent air as thought he could care less that Liz could have been hurt. "It must have been someone else."

"Someone else calling himself their protector?" Jeff derided.

"There’s more than one of us, you know," he pointed out as though the truth were blaringly obvious. "Now sit down…." Before he finished speaking a chair dashed across the floor, hitting Jeff in the back of the knees, forcing him to drop down on it. "…and be quiet like a good human and I just might let you walk out of here alive."

Jeff was too stunned by the unearthly action at first to notice that his limbs were being held immobile by an invisible force. Something unseen was keeping him in the chair, and the more he struggled against it, the more frightened he became. Why had they come here? Hadn’t Ava known what this guy was? he wondered. A voice in the back of his head whispered that maybe the whole thing was a set up. Maybe she’d dragged him halfway across the country just to deliver him to this monster who stood before him.

No, that couldn’t be, another voice argued. She’d done so much to help him. What would have been the point. Besides, Cal Langley was hurting her more than him. After that initial blast, Langley had stopped trying to hurt him – for now- yet he continued to rail against the young teen. Jeff hated the fact that he couldn’t do anything to help her but sit here and listen. As soon as he was free, he swore, they were getting out of here. He didn’t know what this guy was, but he wasn’t like Ava and the others. He was the scary thing the government should be hunting down, not his daughter, Jeff thought in sudden realization.

This was the monster Deirks and Hopkins were looking for, and if he ever got free, Jeff was going to deliver him to them personally.

Seeing Jeff had no immediate comeback for his threat, Langley acted as if he considered the subject done, and went back to piercing Ava with his sharp gaze. "You still haven’t answered my questions. What are you doing with him, and why have you brought him to me?"

"We need your help," she repeated. "It’s Liz’s mom. She’d been taken to Edwards. We need your help to get her out."

"Ava," he said in mocking sadness, "what makes you think I care about Liz’s mom? I couldn’t care less if it was your mom. I wouldn’t spit on Max Evans if he was on fire. In fact, as I recall, the last time he was here, I tried to set him on fire, which to date was the smartest thing I’ve ever done," he added with a pleased smirk. "What makes you think I could care less about some human that happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time just because she’s his girlfriend’s mother. Heck why don’t we go rescue Philip Evans’ secretary’s neighbor’s dog while we’re at it?" The sarcasm was unmistakable and harsh. "Have I ever done anything to give you the impression that I care about you or the others? If I have, I apologize because I certainly didn’t mean to.

"You’d think being dumped in the sewer with the others would have been your first clue. Did I help when they shoved Zan in front of that truck? No. Did I rush out to Roswell to stop Max from making the biggest mistake of his life in getting involved with you? Not hardly. Did I stop him from making an even bigger mistake by getting involved with Tess? Have I in any way given you the impression that I care about any of you?" His eyes pinned her in place. "I didn’t think so," he said after a moment.

"But you was supposed to be our protector," Ava protested faintly. She was still recovering from the ferocity of the shapeshifter’s attack, standing shakily on her feet. She knew from past experience with her siblings that retaliation would be useless and dealt with in even stronger measures. All she could do was hope he would continue to ignore Jeff in his need to vent over being sought out.

She’d thought her heart would stop when he’d first blasted her companion. She would never ever forgive herself if anything happened to him because of her.

"Hey, you’re alive aren’t you? I must be doing something right."

Taking his trendy glasses off his face, he rubbed the lenses and stated, "Look, Princess, I never wanted this. I only signed up for this job to get out of there. I was tired of the war, the fighting. When I was approached by her majesty with the opportunity to leave it all behind, start fresh in a whole new place, you bet I jumped at the chance and didn’t look back.

"I hid you and the others in the best place I could find. For my efforts, I’ve been chased, shot at, hunted, betrayed by my only friend on this whole freaking planet. After all that, I considered my duty done. I don’t owe my loyalty to anyone but myself. I just wanted to be left in peace but you couldn’t even give me that. No, you had to come barging in here, exposing me to the authorities with some half-ass baked idea of getting all of us killed while reenacting the hero scene from some spaghetti western. Well, no thank you Princess. Max has already ruined my life, destroying everything I’ve ever cared about with his selfish demands, now you want me to give up my life to save some human who is probably better off dead at this point?"

Jeff’s simmering temper snapped at that proclamation, overriding his fear for the moment. "Hey, who the hell do you think you are? That’s my WIFE you’re talking about! You son-of-a-bitch!" He renewed his struggles to get out of the chair.

Ignoring Jeff completely, focussing solely on Ava, he laughed meanly, "Babe, I hate to tell you this, sometimes the good guys wear the black hats, and the bad guys win. You don’t have a chance in hell getting in there with security as high as it going to be and I wouldn’t give up my life for you, let alone for someone I don’t even know."

"I ain’t asking you just roll over and die," Ava refuted. "I’m asking you to do the right thing. I know yous care more than yous is lettin’ on. How do you think I knew who you were? Zan told me. He told me you come to see him once. It was right after Rath…" Darting her eyes towards Jeff, she stopped and edited what she’d been about to say. "Afterward, when I was still laid up, you came and told him he was to protect me better. And he did. After that one time, he stuck close by, making sure Rath and Lonnie didn’t try to pull nothin’ like that again until I was strong enough to fight back."

"Aww, ain’t that sweet?" Cal stated in sarcasm. "It sounds like Zan was a hero. A true Prince."

"He was," Ava affirmed passionately. "Zan was always looking out for me."

"I hate to tell you this, Princess, but Zan was no Prince. Not even close. He may have saved you from his siblings, but he was not looking out for you. He was looking out for himself. Zan wanted you for himself. He was rather picky about his bedmates, and wasn’t about to shack up with one of Rath’s leavings. Not that I can blame him.

"I didn’t tell him to save you from Rath, I told him no one was to touch you. Including him. Typical Zan, he ignored me and did whatever the hell he wanted to anyway. Not that you were complaining," he added snidely.

"What are you talkin’ about. Zan was my mate. My husband," she refuted, "And how do you know we was together? Didja stand in the back of the room and watch?"

"Once or twice," Cal goaded.

Ava looked green, before rallying. "You sick bastard."

"Hey, I call them like I see them, and you know what I see when I look at you?" He continued without waiting for an answer. "A weak, useless piece of nothing. I mean, look at you. Here you are, all alone. How do you even sleep at night? Everyone else in your family dead because you did nothing to stop it. Now, you’re so desperate to belong somewhere you’ve taken to adopting humans as pets. You’re lucky you’re stuck here, you know that? Tess thought she had it bad when she returned to Antar, but her humiliation would be nothing compared to yours. At least she earned hers, trying to pass her bastard brat off as the true heir. I must say, all things considered, that piece of idiocy makes her marginally stupider than you are. She deserved to be laughed off the planet.

"You… you on the other hand. It’s just so sad the entire nation placed its trust and hope for a new beginning in you. How misguided they were. I guess they forgot what a screw-up you were the first time around."

Through the tears she was obviously trying to hold back, Ava accused him softly, "Didja think that maybe if you was to do your job then maybe I woulda turned out better?"

"Hey, I’m not your father, kid. I never was. I was supposed to protect you. I did my part. You’re the one who failed." Langley put his glasses back on and stared her down for a minute before adding, "Now, is there anything else you wanted to ask me?"

Mutely, Ava shook her head ‘no’.

"Good," he said, winning the argument having never once wavered in his arrogance and apathy towards them. "You know the way out. I don’t expect I’ll be seeing you around here again."

Releasing Jeff, he strode from the room with the same indifference with which he’d entered it, having made his point, the same point he’d been making for the last ten years: he could care less about the children left in his charge. All he wanted was to be left alone.

The human climbed shakily to his feet for the second time since his arrival. "Ava?" She had her back to him, refusing to turn around. Jeff crossed over to her and touched her shoulder lightly. "Hey, are you ok?" He couldn’t miss the raspy way she was breathing. At the first sign of his concern, her shoulders began to shake. Without further thought, he pulled her small body into a gently comforting embrace. "It’s ok. He’s gone. Are you hurt?" he asked in tender concern. He had about a million questions running through his head, but they could wait. She was obviously in no condition for a round of twenty questions. Using his finger, he tipped her face up to his. "Hey, did he hurt you?" He brushed away her escaping tears with his thumb, trying to see into her eyes.

Unable to look him in the face in light of her humiliation, she simply shook her head.

"Come on, let’s get out of here before he comes back."

"But.. but what about Nancy?" her soft voice shared her disillusioned sorrow at having failed him.

Tightening his grip on her shoulder, Jeff growled, "We’ll find another way. Come on."

With no further conversation between them, he led her to their waiting car, feeling like it had been hours, weeks rather than mere minutes since they’d gone inside Cal Langley’s palatial residence. As they pulled away, Jeff secretly vowed to make the bastard pay for what he’d done to the poor girl sitting beside him, trying to hide her tears. She hadn’t gotten a good break her entire life and the one time she goes to the man who was supposed to be looking out for her, she gets horribly abused both mentally and physically. It was so wrong, making Jeff wish there was some way he could make it right for her again, knowing there really wasn’t.

Maybe it was the dad in him, but he wanted so badly to be able to put a band-aid on her hurt and kiss it and make it better. Langley’s cruelty had gone far too deep for such a simple remedy, leaving Jeff at a loss of how to deal with it other than to plot out various ways in which he would make that creature pay for each one of her salty tears.

His revenge would have to wait, however. Right now, Jeff had more important things to do.

Stroking Ava’s back softly as she cried, he inexhaustibly drove them back to Edwards and Nancy.

posted on 6-Aug-2002 12:05:01 AM
Chapter Sixteen

After leaving Hollywood, they returned to their hotel in Edwards, the small community which supported the base. It wasn’t a place that would be easy to disappear in, making Jeff realize that if he and Ava wanted to remain undetected, they would have to move. Palmdale was a little over an hour away, far enough to lay low, close enough to travel back and forth easily.

Secrecy was fast becoming a priority. Not only from the authorities who didn’t know where they were but also Langley who did. Jeff wanted to avoid another confrontation with him for Ava’s sake. Not that he really though the other guy would show up, but he wouldn’t put it past the abusive man to call the base and alert them to their intentions.

With few words spoken, they gathered their meager belongings and made the switch. Conversation had been sparse between the two of them since leaving Langley’s estate, leaving each to their own thoughts and assimilating what they’d learned from her so-called protector. For Jeff, their short trip had doubled the amount of questions he’d had about Ava and the other kid’s origins. The producer had said he’d been commissioned by a queen. The queen of what? Where? Antar? Was that some island in the Pacific he’d never heard of? If so, where did their scientists get the technology for the cloning experiments? Also, Jim Valenti had said the guardians were like the kids, which would kind of explain how he was able to do the things he did, but why was he so much older than them? Was he from an earlier set of clones? He said there was more than one like him running around. How many were there? Ten? Twenty? Could they all incapacitate a man using only the power of their minds? The thought was less than comforting.

Even now, hours later, Jeff still shook in fear from the thought of how easily he’d been hurt by Langley. It was made worse knowing his pain had been fleeting and wild compared to the punishment he’d inflicted on Ava. The sight of her writhing in agony on the carpeted floor would doubtless give him nightmares for weeks if not longer. Never in his life had he come across someone with such a callous disregard for human life as Langley seemed to display.

It was after four o’clock when Ava broke the silence. "Can I ask you something?"

She looked at him with those big, sad eyes of hers, and he found himself answering, "Sure."

"What do you know about Tess?"

The question was unexpected. "Tess?"

"Yeah. She ain’t back in Roswell, right? And I got the feeling she ain’t with the others. So, where is she?"

"I don’t know. I haven’t seen Tess Harding in over a year. To tell you the truth, I’d forgotten all about her, which is probably why I didn’t recognize you at first."

"The Evans’ recognized me easily enough," Ava whispered, remembering the less than welcoming greetings she’d been met with from Max’s parents.

"Yeah, well, as I remember after Liz and Max split, he started seeing her. They probably saw more of her than I did."

Startled, Ava swung her head to look at him. "Really? They actually hooked up?"

"Well, that’s what it looked like. I mean they used to hang out in the diner sometimes. I really didn’t want to get involved. Then, one day she disappeared, and Max was all over Liz again."

"You sound like you didn’t like that," Ava observed.

"Hell no," Jeff admitted with a grimace. "I mean what father would? But with Max, it was worse. Somehow, he talked my baby into holding up a convinced store in Utah, not because they needed money but for the hell of it, I guess. They got caught, and Philip got the charges against Max dropped, but my Lizzie was convicted. She was going to jail, except they found some sort of loophole and she got off on a technicality. After that, I forbade her to see him again, but she just snuck around my back and did it anyway. It took me months to get over my anger at him. You know, it would be one thing if I knew he loved her like she loved him, but I couldn’t tell if he loved anyone other than himself."

Not sure how to respond, Ava simply redirected, "So you don’t know what happened to Tess? Mrs. Evans said she was dead, or at least they thought she was dead."

"I don’t know one way or another. All I know is she disappeared one day. Why are you asking? Does this have to do with what Langley said?"

"Yeah. He said she went back to Antar. I don’t know how that could be possible, you know. It’s not exactly nearby." Her tone was laced with heavy sarcasm.

Jeff immediately picked up on the name he’d heard Langley use twice. "Antar. Is where Langley’s from?"

"Yeah. Him and the rest of us."

"I’ve never heard of Antar. So, where is it, exactly?"

"Exactly? Hell if I know. It ain’t like I ever been there. It’s pretty far, I suppose. A long ways past Hamal, to the south, when you can find it on the map. Zan used to say it’s closest neighbor was Never Land. Sometimes when we was jokin’ around he tells me that he could remember it having a lagoon and a place like the Pirate’s Cove and everything. We used to wonder what kind o’ ship they used to travel here and how long the journey took. I sure don’t have the first idea of how to get back there. Which is why I’m wondering if Langley was just pullin’ my chain ’bout’s her goin’ back there. I cain’t see how’s it was possible."

"Never Land?"

"Yeah, you know, second star to the right and straight on ‘till morning."

Smiling, Jeff said, "Yeah, I know where Neverland is. I also know it doesn’t exist."

"Sometimes it seems like Antar doesn’t exist, neither," Ava sighed. "It’s like a dream I usta have. Not that I can remember it like the others or nuthin’. To me, it were a fairy-tale place where I was a princess and everybody loved me. Somewhere wheres I wasn’t just a useless nobody."

"Hey," Jeff chided, responding to the wistfulness in her tone. "You are not useless and you are not a nobody. Maybe your family tried to tell you different, but you’re somebody to me. And to Liz. You count Ava. This, what we’re doing here, you’re making a difference, so am I. That’s what matters. That’s what we’re all here for. To live our lives to the fullest of our potential, to give them meaning."

"I wish it were that easy," she whispered.

"Of course it’s that easy. You just have to want it to be. You know what makes us feel special? It’s how other’s see us. When Liz was a little girl, I swear I was Superman. I could leap tall buildings and stop bullets. I could single handedly take out every bad guy without breaking a sweat. Not because I was different or special, but because she saw me that way. In her eyes I was ten feet tall and bulletproof."



"Huh. Must be why she fell for Max so hard, what other guy could live up to you?" Ava smiled to show she was joking.

Grinning back, Jeff said, "Yep. Must be."

"Makes me feel kinda sorry for good ole Max. Always trying to fill your shoes and all."

Feeling sad suddenly, the loss of his daughter hitting him square in the chest without warning, Jeff only managed to answer, "Yeah, I guess."

They drove in silence for a short while before Ava asked in a small voice, "You… you really mean that? What you said about me meaning somethin’ to you? You really think I’s someone special?"

Jeff nearly smiled at her and her obvious attempts to have her ego stroked, but he was feeling too bittersweet to make fun of her. He remembered what she’d said to Langley about how if he’d been there for her then maybe she would have turned out differently. Considering she had no male role-model in her life other than Zan and Rath – whom he had some serious questions about – Jeff thought it was amazing she’d turned out as well as she had. Unlike other girls in her situation, it was apparent she hadn’t turned to sex or drugs to make herself fit in better. She’d given no indication of having turned to prostitution to make a living, though with her abilities he didn’t imagine living on the streets was as life threatening as it would be to ordinary teenagers. Despite the neglect and abuse she’d surely lived with as a part of her daily life, she’d turned out to be a sweet, caring person with no self-confidence and less self-esteem.

She was like the daisies you see growing in the cracks of the sidewalks: a startling beauty unexpected in the harsh and unforgiving reality of urban life.

Jeff didn’t know how long life and circumstances would keep them together, but he vowed that during the time they had he would do his best to make her feel respected, precious and above all - safe. It was the least he could do.

So, rather than laughing at her inquiry, Jeff answered seriously, "Yes, Ava. I did." The sweet smile she gave him was worth tenfold the gift he’d given her. Suddenly, the weight which had come onto his chest lifted, and he felt something he hadn’t felt in months, maybe years: once again it was as though there was nothing he couldn’t do, no matter how ridiculous the odds.

Even rescue Nancy.


Ava picked at the Thai food Jeff had picked up for dinner at a small restaurant in Palmdale. There was so much going through her mind she was afraid she would go crazy if she didn’t get some answers soon.

The trip to Langley’s had been a terrible mistake. She saw that now. Whatever compassion he’d had for her had been burned away during the last six years or so. She knew he hadn’t always been like the bitter creature they’d met today. Something must have changed him, and she had a deep suspicion that something was Max Evans.

Had the shape shifter really tried to set him on fire? According to Zan, it wasn’t possible. It was in his genetic coding to protect them, he couldn’t kill them. Apparently, he could hurt them, though. Ava’s body had quaked for nearly an hour after leaving Hollywood this morning, aftershocks of the torrid energy he’d used against her spiraling through her before finally dissipating, leaving a kind of weightless feeling that was still with her.

She wished she could take a nap, but her brain was still too active to consider laying down to rest. There were so many things to puzzle through, she didn’t know where to start. What had he meant about her and Zan? Of course she and Zan were lovers. They were destined to be together, it weren’t like it was no big secret. Had Langley meant they shouldn’t have been together yet, like maybe they was to be married before doing any fooling around? It was the best explanation she could come up with.

She didn’t dwell on Zan for too long, because the Tess puzzle was much greater and more perplexing. She had gone home? How was it even possible? Lonnie use to whisper that she knew a way to get home, always implying Ava wouldn’t be welcome to come along for the ride. She’d never really believed it after all, they’d crash landed on this planet fifty some odd years ago. Any transports left here were either A) in the hands of the government, or B) so crappy they’d never make it out of the Earth’s atmosphere. Besides, if there was a ship Ava’d bet the farm that Nicholas and his cronies would have found it already. Since they was still hanging around, Ava assumed Lonnie had been full of shit as usual.

The thing that was bugging Ava the most though was the reference he’d made to Tess having a baby. A bastard brat, passing it off as the heir. Ava wouldn’t have believe it was possible, but Mr. P had said it himself. There was a time when Max and Tess had hooked up. She couldn’t hardly believe that Max woulda dumped Liz for Tess. Liz was the real deal; Tess wasn’t. Only an idiot would overlook Liz’s sweet honesty for her Dupe’s cruel calculations. Ava remembered clearly the superior looks Tess had shot at her the few times they’d been together, like she had a secret, the kind of secret worth killing to keep. She’d even felt her probing at her mind once, like she was shifting through Ava’s memories. That was when she’d known she couldn’t stay around her any longer.

She was sure Rath and Lonnie thought she’d refused to go back to New York because she was scared of them but that wasn’t the truth. Ava was scared of Tess. If there really was a summit and they wanted the royal four to attend it, Ava had no doubts Tess would have made sure Ava wasn’t going to be around to give her a hard time about it.

As it turned out, staying behind was the best thing that could have happened, because she’d met Liz. Though trust had never come easy to Ava, Liz had been the exception, and being with her had her learning for the first time it was possible for her to share something other than pain with someone other than members of her family. It also led her here to Mr. P who showed her in so many ways that her differences didn’t matter to him. She wasn’t scary or repulsive to him. The feelings he gave her, like it was ok to be different, like she didn’t have to pretend so hard to be normal was worth more than anything to her.

And how does she repay him? By taking him to Langley and nearly getting him killed, that’s how. She still couldn’t believe the shape shifter had hurt him so badly. She knew he wouldn’t be happy Mr. P knew their secret, but she wasn’t expecting the violence in his response. She was just thankful the protector was programmed to respond to direct commands, for he’d only gotten one shot in before Ava had commanded him to stop hurting her friend. If only she’d seen it coming, she would have stopped it before it’d happened; before Mr. P had gotten hurt, she thought.

Made even angrier at being thwarted, he’d doubled the amount of energy he’d hit her with, shooting her so full of pain she couldn’t form the words needed to make him stop. All she could do was endure. Then Mr. P had been there, protecting her – from her protector. It was kinda funny in a sick, twisted, not-so-funny way. Still, with her instructions, the only thing Langley could do to him at that point was trap him in a chair. It had probably freaked Liz’s dad completely out, but Ava was grateful there’d been no more pain delivered by the spiteful alien.

So far on their return trip, she’d already asked Jeff three times if he was ok, which he’d gruffly replied that he was, adding she should stop feeling guilty over what’d happened, but she couldn’t stop doing that, either.

Other than those few inquiries, conversation between them had been sparse, stilted and she blamed herself for that too. She had too much on her mind to chat with him like everything was normal. Still, she missed the easy conversations they’d shared up until today.

Restlessly, Ava pushed her plate away. "Mr. P, whadda think we’s should do next?"

"That depends on you," he answered cryptically.


"Do you think you could get us on the base undetected?"

"Yeah. It’ll be easier at night though. Less people to mindwarp, and the cover of darkness will make it easier to sneak around."

Jeff nodded in agreement, adding, "If you’re feeling up for it, I would like to go out there tonight. Start looking for Nancy."

"Sure, Mr. P. Won’t be a problem."

"If you don’t mind me asking, could you tell me how this mindwarp thing you do works. I mean, is it like some kind of cloaking device?"

"Your Trekkie roots are showin’," she teased. "Next thing, you’ll be asking me if I’m really a Klingon, or somethin’."

Jeff laughed good naturedly at her teasing. He had to admit, he’d felt foolish for asking it the way he had, but he’d seen her con humans out of seeing them twice now and he had no idea how she did it.

"It’s sort of an illusion I make in someone’s mind. I send false signals to their brain, making them see what I want them to see, not what really is there."

With a frown, Jeff tried to understand what she was saying, with no luck. "I’m sorry, I just don’t…" he shook his head. "Would you do it to me? Maybe it would help."

"You want me to mindwarp you?" Ava asked, surprised. In her experience, no one had ever requested this before.

"Yes, why not. It won’t hurt, will it?’

"No, nothing like that. It’s just… I’d be in your head. It’s possible I could access your thoughts or memories while I was in there. Wouldn’t that make you uncomfortable?"

"I don’t have any secrets," he shrugged easily, then realized there might be another reason for her objections and amended, "Unless it would make you uncomfortable?"

"Nah, it’s cool," she reassured him. Taking a breath, she asked, "You wanna do it now?"

"Sure. What do I have to do?"

"Nuthin’. I’ll do all the work." With that, she closed her eyes and concentrated, slipping easily into Jeffery Parker’s unguarded mind. Intrigued by the thought of showing him a happy memory, she probed lightly, finding almost immediately what she sought.

Sitting across from Ava on the lumpy hotel chair, Jeff waited for something to happen when to his right, the bathroom light turned off. He hadn’t realized it was on. He and Ava were the only ones in the room, so how had it gone off? He immediately jumped to his feet. Glancing at Ava who appeared to be deep in thought, Jeff walked stealthily to the door. Peering inside, he was shocked and disbelieving of what his eyes were telling him. He was looking into Liz’s room. The décor and furnishings told him it was about thirteen years ago. Tiptoeing towards her bed, he saw his five year old daughter sound asleep there with the blankets pulled neatly up to her chin. "Liz," he sighed, the sound barely a whisper.

"She’ll be fine, Jeff," a voice quietly said from behind him.

Turning, he beheld his loving wife, clad in her nightgown, her long red hair streaming over her shoulders.

"Nancy." He could believe it. There she was, as real as life standing in his daughter’s doorway. Behind her, he could see the familiar hallway which led to their bedroom in their home above the CrashDown Cafe. Going to her he said, "God Nancy, you’re so beautiful. I love you so much. Can I… touch you?" he whispered.

"Soon," she promised, turning away from him.

Unable to do anything else, he followed her out, as soon as he crossed the threshold, he heard Ava whisper, "Close your eyes, Mr. P." Stubbornly clinging to his wife’s slender form, his eyes refused to obey. At the entrance to their bedroom, she turned back and smiled at him luminously, looking like a loving spirit sent to earth to bemuse his soul. "I love you," she whispered. "No matter what, Jeff." Then she disappeared into their sanctuary from the world.

"Nancy," he whispered achingly.

Before his disbelieving eyes, the hallway melted and shimmered away, leaving him staring distraughtfully into the hotel room’s tiny, dingy closet. Whipping around, he saw Liz’s room was gone, replaced with the yellowed décor of the bathroom.

Feeling inexplicably old, yet like he’d been given a rare gift, he returned to the main room where Ava was looking at him in concern. "I’m sorry," she immediately started, reading the sadness on his face. "I wanted to show you something familiar. I was hopin’ seeing them again would make you happy."

"It did. You did. Thank you Ava. Thank you for sharing your gift with me."

"Yous sure it was ok?" she asked anxiously, afraid he’d be upset she’d found such intimate memories. She’d nearly shown him a part of his bachelor party twenty-two years ago, but she didn’t want to embarrass him. Besides, she knew Liz and Nancy weighed heavily on his mind. She was sure now, however she’d made the wrong choice. Why didn’t she just show him a flock of butterflies winging their way around the room? Something less personal and non-threatening.

Putting his hand on her shoulder, he said, "Yes. It was more than ok," he smiled down at her, causing her to smile back.


Jumping up, Ava began to gather their dinner dishes, stacking them off to the side. "We’s should probably leave in about two hours. That’ll get us out to Edwards just past midnight."

"Sounds good," Jeff agreed, pulling out the maps they’d collected of the base. "If you want to shower before we go, go ahead."

"Thanks, but there’s somethin’ I want to do first." Going over to her backpack, she opened it up and pulled out a picture frame. It was the same picture of Liz and her two friends she’d found at the Whitman’s. Charles had been happy to give it to her when she’d asked, waving away the suggestion that she should return it.

Carrying it to the table, she easily separated the photo from it’s frame, explaining, "I’m gonna try to contact Liz. It’s early here, but if they’s somewhere’s back east, they might be asleep already. I have so many questions from today it’s gonna drive me batty iffen I don’t get some answers."

"You going to talk to Liz? Now?" Jeff asked incredulously.

"Yeah. I told you I dreamwalked her the other night when I was staying at the Whitman’s."

Wide eyed, he thought of the possibilities. "Could you dreamwalk Nancy? Maybe she could tell us where she is?!" Why hadn’t they thought of this before?

"I’m sorry, Mr. P., but it only works with people like me. I can only do it to Max, Michael, Isabel and Liz now, and I have to have a picture to be able to get through. Isabel can probably dreamwalk Nancy. If you want’s I could have Liz ask her to."

The question stopped Jeff cold. If they could contact Nancy, they might be able to find out where she was being held, in what conditions. It’d cut days of surveillance. On the other hand, they didn’t have a picture of Isabel, so Ava would have to tell Liz what was going on. Knowing his headstrong daughter, she would be here with the Calvary within hours, putting herself and them into more trouble than he could possibly protect her from.

Put that way, the answer was easy. "No, Ava. Please don’t tell Liz about her mom."

"You sure? Without Langley to back us up, it’s gonna be near impossible to do this. We could use their help."

"I’m sure. I won’t put Liz and the others in that kind of danger. It’s bad enough I’m dragging you into this. I wish to God I didn’t need you and your special abilities so much. I hate thinking of you getting hurt or worse because you’re helping me. I cannot have Liz here, too. It would kill me if anything were to happen to her."

Nodding solemnly, Ava said, "I’s understand. I won’t say anything to her about us being here, or about her mom being gone. I promise."

"Thank you," he whispered through the emotion, which had caught in his throat at the thought of Liz charging to Nancy’s rescue. The only worry Liz needed right now was staying safe. It was his job to get his wife back, without endangering his daughter in the process.

"No problem," Ava stated, as moved as Jeff by his outburst. She didn’t think about what she was doing here with him in terms of self-sacrifice or personal gain. She just wanted to help him; to help Liz. Still, she had a long wished for dream of finding where she belonged; where there would be someone to care about her. Looking at the tears misting Mr. P’s eyes, she realized that maybe, just maybe, she’d found what she was looking for.


Assuming they all lived long enough to find out.

posted on 6-Aug-2002 12:07:08 AM
Chapter Seventeen

Once again Ava found herself traversing beyond space and the physical world to make contact with Liz Parker. This time however, instead of interrupting some sort of love play between Liz and Max, Ava sensed a dark menace in her consciousness and could feel the other girl’s fear buffeting against her like tumultuous waves against a battered shore, instantly making her uneasy. "Liz!" she cried out. "Liz, where are you?"


Liz materialized almost immediately in front of her. Clasping her in a big hug, she gushed, "It’s so good to see you. I’ve been so worried about you since you contacted me the other day." Backing away, she demanded, "Are you ok? You’re not still in Roswell, are you?"

"Nah, I’m a long ways gone from there," she assured her before asking her own question. "What’s goin’ on here, Cornball? Somethin’ ain’t right with you, I’s can tell."

Lowering her voice as if worried anyone else could hear them in the dark expanse of Liz’s mind, she answered, "We had a close call today."

"Whatcha mean?" Ava was instantly concerned.

"We’re not positive, but we think we were being followed earlier. They could have gotten to Max, but Maria and I made this big distraction and he got away. It scared me, though."

"Where’s yous at now?"

"I don’t know. Right after it happened, we all piled into the van and took off. We were headed for South Dakota but I guess I must have fallen asleep or something." As she’d explained, some of the disturbing ‘vibes’ Liz was giving off receded somewhat.

"Yeah, I guess so. Yous was havin’ a pretty bad dream when I came in."

Liz shuddered lightly, "Yeah, well, it was pretty scary. We thought we were safe, you know? Then to find out we weren’t – or that it was possible that we weren’t. Like I said, we don’t know anything for sure, but there was this guy acting all suspicious and he wouldn’t take his eyes off Max. It was like he didn’t even see the rest of us."

"You think they was targeting Max?" Ava asked softly, aware how upsetting this must be for her friend.

Tears welled in Liz’s eyes as she said, "It seemed that way. Michael was scared we were going to lose him again. He was totally freaking out. You know the FBI caught Max once. Held him for a day, doing horrible things to him."

"I can imagine," she sympathized. Being caught was the worst thing any of the hybrids could imagine.

"I think Michael feels responsible somehow, for not stopping it, or not getting him out sooner. Not that he could have, I mean, we’re all just grateful that they’d gotten him out at all, really. If he hadn’t…" Her voice trailed off, the terror of those hours spent waiting made fresh again after the scare from earlier.

Wanting to comfort her, but not really knowing how – this was outside her realm of experience after all, Ava said, "But it’s ok now. Right?"


"See? It’s all good." After a beat, she said, "South Dakota, huh? Why there?"

"Why not?" Liz shrugged. "We decided that since we were seeing America anyway, we might as well check out a few points of interest along the way. We made out a list and Max plotted out the trip in the most zig zaggy method he could come up with," Here she rolled her eyes. "Kyle picked Mt. Rushmore, so South Dakota, here we come. We had the idea that if anything happened and we got separated, we could all meet up at the next stop on the list."

"Hey, that’s good thinking."

"Well, we had to have some contingency plans – you know. Just in case."

After her practical statement, she stared at Ava as if trying to figure something out. It wasn’t too hard to figure out what from her next question. "What are you doing this? Have you changed your mind about meeting us somewhere, because if you were, you would be welcome here. We don’t have much more than each other and a van that’s seen finer days, but I would feel better knowing where you are. Even if the FBI isn’t hunting you directly, it’s possible they might mistake you for Tess. I hate to think of you being alone out there. There’s more safety in numbers."

"Don’t I know it," Ava agreed obliquely acknowledging that she and Jeff sure could use greater numbers where they were at. "Actually, I wanna ask you a question or two about Tess. Do yous know where shes at?"

"She’s dead." The anger and pain of Liz’s face told it’s own story. "She murdered twenty or so soldier at Rogers Air Force Base, right outside Roswell. Someone saw, or they caught it on video but anyway, they knew who did it. and started to tear the town apart looking for her. They were even conducting door-to-door searches like something from the history books. She was endangering us all and so, she said she was going to give herself up. To keep us safe.

"Trusting her, I drove her out to Rogers. I knew she wasn’t going to let them take her alive, but before it was over, she’d literally destroyed the base. Hardly anyone was left standing. Over a hundred innocent people died because of her. And I drove her there." The self-recrimination was evident in her voice. "All those people… Because of me – her."

"Liz," Ava began only to be stopped as the human painfully continued.

"Needless to say, the Air Force was pissed. The whole government was on the warpath. It was barely two weeks from that day to the day we left, but we knew they were closing in. We couldn’t stay any longer."

"Liz, you cains’t blame yourself for her actions. Tess, she was evil, cruel. I could tell she were bad news from the moment I lays eyes on her in Roswell."

Nodding, Liz agreed, "Yeah, you and me both."

Puzzled, Ava asked, "Then hows come you guys let her hang out? Why not send her on her way? I woulda."

"You would not!" Liz chided. "She was a member of Max’s family. One of four people like him on the whole planet. Or so we thought at the time. He couldn’t just turn his back on her, though I wish to God he had."

"Whys that? What’d she do?"

"What did she do?" Liz laughed bitterly. "It’s more like what didn’t she do. She split me and Max up with her stupid Destiny garbage. She killed my best friend."

"Alex? The Whitman’s son?"

Liz nodded. "Yes. She mindwarped him to do her grunt work for her until his mind just gave out. None of us had any idea what she was doing until it was too late and he was gone. He’d never done anything but help them and accept them and what does she do to him? He was my friend…" Liz’s emotions suddenly overcame her and her shoulders shook with suppressed sobs. She half turned away as if not wanting Ava to see her breakdown, leaving the alien to pat her awkwardly on the shoulder. She had no idea what to say, somehow feeling responsible for the actions of her twin. She hated that Tess had hurt her like this.

She’d only met Alex that one time, but still, she was saddened for Liz’s loss, and the Whitman’s loss. They didn’t deserve this.

Taking a shuddering breath, Liz said, "If she hadn’t left when she did, I would have killed her myself. I was so mad at her," she confessed after a moment.

"How long was she gone?"

"Not long enough. Nearly a year. When she came back… the first time I saw her, all the hate and anger that had festered while she was gone just came boiling out of me and I…"

"What? You punch her?"

With a true smile, Liz said, "Not hardly. I blasted her."

"Blasted? Like…?"

"Uh huh." Liz nodded, holding up her small hand, making sound effects to go with it. Seeing Ava’s surprise, Liz giggled. "I know. I was shocked later when I’d had a chance to think about it. You were right when you said Max had changed me. My powers are growing stronger everyday. When you left, I thought that thing in the CrashDown, you know when we contacted Max in New York, was a fluke. A few months ago I started having all this energy inside me. Alien energy. I was really scared, but I’m learning to control it a little.

"You should have seen the look on Michael’s face when Tess went flying across the room. I think he was jealous."

Ava laughed at Liz’s joke, seeing how the family’s protector would be upset if Liz turned out to be more powerful than he was. –Which, now that she thought about it was a distinct possibility. Liz wasn’t made up of an unnatural compilation of part that weren’t meant to be together. That was always the disadvantage the hybrids faced. No matter how strong they were, their native enemies would always be stronger. Sometimes blood can tell.

Remembering that Ava had brought up the subject, Liz asked, "What’s up with all the questions about Tess? Were you looking for her or something?"

"Nah. Nothin’ like that. I’m in California and I went to look up Cal Langley to ask him somethin’ and he mentioned her. He also said somethin’ ‘bout Max. Has he been out here? ‘Cause Langley was plenty pissed with him, I can tell you."

"Cal?" Liz echoed in surprise. "Yes, Max was out there last fall. He was looking for your ship. You know, the one that crashed here in the forties. We knew the military had it. In fact we found it hidden beneath a convenience store in Utah, but it was moved before he could activate it."

"Wait up, yo. He actually saw the ship? The real thing?" Liz nodded. "What was he gonna do with it? Hang it in that UFO Museum of his?"

"No, Ava, he was going to use it to go back to Antar if he could. He almost did. That’s why Cal hates him. Max forced him to shapeshift so he could pilot the ship, but it was too damaged to even make it out of the hangar. Max gave up his quest then. Unfortunately for Cal, the damage had been done. Having changed forms for the first time in forty some odd years, screwed up the human sensations he was feeling. Max said before that he could smell and taste things if they were strong enough but not after that night. Once he shifted, he lost the humanness he’d worked so long for. I guess I can’t blame him for staying mad."

"Huh." To say she was surprised by that bit of news was an understatement. Without thinking she said, "Well I guess I can see why he was angry. I don’t know that he shoulda tried to kill me over it though."

"What? Ava, are you ok? Did he hurt you?"

"Nah. I’m good. See?" Holding her arms out, she showed Liz that she was fine, silently berating herself for her careless tongue. Considering the grievance done to him, Ava could forgive Langley for what he’d done to her, after all, her pain had been fleeting. She could not excuse what he’d done to Jeff, however. Liz’s dad was an innocent of this situation, and threatening him, nearly killing him was just wrong.

"What I don’t get is why was Max was lookin’ to go back to Antar."

"Tess. What else? I told you she left after confessing to killing Alex? Well, she tried to lure everyone into going home with her. Where, of course, she had a nice public execution planned and waiting for them. She would have done it, too only we got to them before they left and told them the truth about Alex."

Tess had gone home? Ava barely heard anything Liz said after revealing that one fact. "How?"

"The granolith. It’s this alien thing. Have you heard of it?"

"Yeah. Lonnie usta talk about it, how it was all powerful and all."

"She was right. We had it. It’s what Tess used to go home. Too bad she didn’t stay gone. It was her return which started all this. In typical Antarian fashion, she crashed landed when she came back leaving a nice big crash site for the government to clean up."

As an afterthought, Liz added, "It was a miracle Zan survived."


"Tess’s baby. Max’s baby. She was pregnant when she left, and brought him back with her when she returned."

"Max and Tess?" Ava was clearly appalled. "Liz, I’s so sorry. I didn’t have no idea. I mean Langley said somethin’ about her having a baby, but I never thought it to be Max’s."

"Yeah, well, it’s not something I like to think about," Liz said, hugging herself. "Max and me, we’re together now, but it still hurts to think about him being with her. Having a child with her. It’s like a part of me thinks I’ll always be second with him, you know? He and she… She was his first. And gave him his first child. A son. Heck, he was married to her first in their pervious life. I used to think we would share all these first together, but now, it’s always going to be there that he was with her first."

"Oh, Liz, I’m so sorry," Ava repeated. She sincerely wished she had more experience at this ‘friends’ thing. Liz was clearly tormented by these thought, but there was nothing Ava could say to take away the pain. If these were the facts as Liz knew them, she didn’t have any alien powers to diminish their importance. Instead, she did the only thing she could think of. She pulled her friend into a tight hug.

They were quiet for a few minutes before Ava became aware that her energy was waning. This was the longest dreamwalk she’d ever held, and suspected Liz’s energy was boosting her own to keep the connection open.

She still had a question on her mind before it was over, so she asked, "Liz?"


"How do you suppose Langley knew about Tess comin’ back and dying’ and the baby?"

Shaking her head as she stepped back, Liz admitted, "I have no idea. We know he’s been out to Roswell to spy on us once or twice because he mentioned something to Max about Diane and me waiting for him here. Somehow I don’t see him sneaking into Roswell with all the heat we’ve been under since the latest crash though."

"Maybe he sent someone. A lackey who could blend in?"

"Maybe. I just don’t know. We never saw anyone before we took off, but I suppose it’s possible. Lord knows I’ve gotten the feeling of being stared at often enough since I found out about Max and the others, but when I look around, there’s never anyone there. It really freaked me out for a while there."

"I bet. I gets that feeling all the time. So, yous guys are on the road with a baby, huh? That must be real hard."

"No, we couldn’t keep Zan. It wasn’t safe. Max knew that in just a few days after Tess died leaving him with us. He had his father arrange an immediate adoption for him. Zan was safely out of Roswell days before the FBI closed in on us."

Not believing her ears, Ava said, "Liz, how safe is that? Baby Zan with a bunch of humans who are going to freak out the first time he sets somethin’ on fire. What…"

"No, Ava" Liz tried to calm her friend. "That won’t happen. Zan doesn’t have any powers. He’s completely human."

"How do you know for sure?"

"Tess told us," Liz stated.

Rolling her eyes at the obtuseness of that statement, Ava chided, "Yeah, and yous are believin’ that ‘cause she’s always told you nothin’ but the truth before."

Looking stricken at the thought Tess might have lied about that too, Liz nonetheless said, "We know he’s human because that’s why they rejected him on Antar. They didn’t want a human to be their king."

"That’s not what Langely said. He told me they’s was mad at her for tryin’ to pass off a ‘bastard brat’ as the true heir – His exact words as I recall. Weren’t nothin’ there about Zan bein’ human."

Liz was starting to feel a sense of dread clench at her stomach. No. It couldn’t be true. If Tess had lied… If Zan had powers… They’d put him in even more danger by giving him up. Ava was right. If he did any alien voodoo or glowing his adoptive parents would freak – take him to a doctor. They might just as well send him in a care package to the FBI.

No, it couldn’t be true, she told herself while a voice nagged in the back of her head, ‘But what if it was?’

Sensing that she’d upset her friend once again, yet seeing no help for it – if Zan really was Max and Tess’s kid, it was too dangerous to leave him with strangers. One final thought occurred to her, immediately cutting through her worried confusion. "Uh, Liz?"


"Even if Tess was tellin’ the truth, which I’s doubt from what yous said ‘bouts her, but if she were…" Taking Liz by the hand – the same hand Liz had indicated she’d used to blast Tess across the room in a fit of rage - she held it up in between their faces. "Maybe Zan is human, but so are you."

"Oh my God!"


Sitting up with a gasp on the lumpy seat along the side of the van, Liz was instantly awake. "Max! Max!" she called mindlessly into the darkness.

"What is it, Liz? What’s wrong," his concerned voice came from right next to her. She’d had her head laying on one of his muscular thighs as she’d slept, using him as a not so comfortable pillow. "Did you have a bad dream?"

"No, not a dream. Ava. Ava came to me."

"What, again?" Maria asked from the rear bench. "What’s with her?"

Brushing her hair back, Max asked softly, "Did she hurt you? What did she want?"

"Tess. She was asking me questions about Tess." Liz was still trying to sort through her conversation with the absent alien.

"That’s just great," Michael complained from beside Maria. "What? Is she taking notes, looking for pointers on how to be an alien bitch? Did she do anything to you?" His sudden concern would have surprised her even a month ago, but Liz discovered that when Michael finally accepted you he did it wholeheartedly. He’d shown that he was coming to care for her with unnamed kindnesses each day. Every time it happened, it warmed her heart just a little more.

"No, I’m fine, Michael. She’s not like that. Ava is a good person, she just needs someone to give her a chance."

"Yeah, that’s what you said the last time, only about Tess," he threw in her face.

"Hey!" Maria immediately jumped to her friend’s defense. "Liz never said any such thing. Liz hated Tess from the moment her fake blonde curls and fake breasts showed up in town and stayed that way until she died, putting herself out of her misery!"

"Maria!" Liz scolded.

His answer was laced with sarcasm, "Yeah, that’s why she pushed Max and her together. Because she hated her so much."

"Michael!" Now it was Max’s turn to jump in. "That’s enough. You know why Liz did what she did. If you want to blame anyone for letting Tess into our lives, blame me. I’m the one who fell for her act."

Living on the road as they were, practically in one another’s pockets, they were getting to know each other in ways they hadn’t before imagined. Long conversations revealed closely held secrets ranging from first kisses to favorite movies and so on. Anything to fill the time and hours as they travelled endlessly up and down America’s highways. It was during one of these moments that Liz shared with the entire group the truth about Future Max. To say everyone had been upset would be an understatement. What struck Liz the most was how everyone had become upset over something different.

Michael was mad she’d taken it upon herself to carry out the scheme without his knowledge or consent. For Isabel it had been the guilt that Liz had been such an amazing person whom she’d never really given a chance, just like Alex. Amazingly enough, she’d opened herself up now, showing a side of herself Liz never even imagined existed. This was not the same Isabel who’d snootily assigned her the lame ‘Snowflake the Elf’ role last Christmas time.

Liz had worried that she would either fall apart or close down after having given up Jesse as she had, but she’d managed to suppress her pain and loss by distracting herself with micromanaging everyone else in the van until they were nearly ready to strap her to the roof just for some peace and quiet. Despite it all, everyone in this small family knew how much Isabel cared for them all vestiges of the Ice Queen finally gone forever.

Kyle had, of course, been shocked in his role during the time the other Max was visiting Liz. He’d also been embarrassed to learn the guy had been in the bathroom the whole time he’d been there. He’d blushed, remembering how he’d asked if he was taking his boxers off knowing now that Max would have heard it. He was probably lucky the guy hadn’t zapped him on the spot. He was doubly lucky this version of Max had no idea, else he doubtlessly have been sporting a black eye for several days.

Upon hearing the story, Max had forced them to stop the van. The former alien king had then proceeded to pace in the men’s room at the rest area until Michael went in to get him some ten minutes later. The two of them had had quite a conversation ending with Michael shouting, "Hell yes, it was your fault. You made Liz go through that all alone, putting her in a situation where you knew she would be hated and shunned by all of us because you couldn’t trust me enough to ask for my help."

"What would you have done, Michael?" Max shouted back. "Tell me, if I had come to you and said, hey, the world has been taken over and we’re all dead, what would you have done?"

"I don’t know, but I damn sure would have gotten more information from you about stuff to come. How much of the alien crap this year could have been avoided? The Skins? The Dupes? Laurie Dupree? What other answers did he have? He obviously knew about the granolith. We’d barely found it back then. We didn’t know a damn thing about it. He knew how to turn it into a freakin’ time machine. Plus, what’s happening with Liz with her powers. Why wouldn’t he have warned her? He supposedly loved her so much that he was willing to let her face going through all of that alone? What about MetaChem and Wheeler? Maybe Munk didn’t have to die. Didja ever thing of that? No, you were too busy being, ‘Mr. I am the King. My word is Law’."

Having no other rebuttal against the barrage of accusations: Michael was correct, Max only said, "I’m not the King now and I do trust you. I have no idea what made him the way he was, what experiences he must have had, but I’m not him. I know the truth about myself, who I am. I am not an island, I’m not your boss. I don’t expect you to follow my orders." Here Michael harrumphed causing Max to smile fleetingly before continuing, "We’re family, Michael, equals and I promise if I ever get my hands on another time machine I’ll let you in on the secret."

"Like I’d let you go without me," Michael said.

"Good point," Max conceded before the two of them left the bathroom to find the others.

That had been several days ago, but Liz could tell it was still on Michael’s mind because he’d brought it up more than once since then usually as an unpleasant accusation, just like now.

From the driver’s seat of the van, Kyle’s voice drifted back. "So, what did she want to know about Tess?"

"Ava said she was in California. She’d been to see Cal and he’d mentioned her. Max, he knew about Zan and that she was dead."

"That’s impossible," he said.

"I know, but that’s what she said. Do you think he’s been spying on us? You said he knew about me when you were out there."

"I guess," Max started to think about it.

""Max, there’s more. She said something about Zan."

Isabel’s sleepy voice came back from the front passenger seat. "What about him?"

"You know how Tess said he was completely human? What if she was lying? What if he’s like you, I mean, it’s not like she ever told you the truth about anything. Ever. What if she’d been lying about this, too."

"Oh my God," Maria sat up, echoing Liz’s words from earlier.

Isabel and Michael both had their eyes glued to Max’s face, trying to read his reaction to this alarming bit of news, but before he’d fully had a chance to assimilate the implication of how this would affect them, Liz dropped her last bomb. "That’s when we realized it wouldn’t matter if he’s fully human or not."

"Why not?"

"This." Raising her hand, Liz turned on the radio in the front console, running through the AM stations until some talk radio show came on.

"What? The love connection?" Michael asked, not getting the implication. Subtly didn’t work on Michael Guerin.

"No, stupid," Maria smacked his thigh. "She’s human. Born of human parents, and look at her now."

"Zan didn’t have human parents," Max whispered connecting the dots. "If he develops powers…"

"We could be looking at a real live Superman," Kyle finished. "Oh man, this is not good."

"Isabel," Max said. It was all that was needed. She was already reaching under her seat for their atlas.

"Take the next road east, Kyle," she commanded.

"New York City, here we come."

Holding Liz tightly against himself, Max silently cussed up a storm. How could he have been so stupid? All those hours agonizing over Zan’s safety only to put him at greater risk by sending him to strangers who were unaware of his unique origins. All because he had been stupid enough to fall for Tess’s lies – again, only this time, she wasn’t entirely to blame. Truth or lie, Zan should be with his own kind.

Beside him, Liz stiffened. "Max, oh my god! Remember what happened on our first date after Tess left? When you were in the water?"

All of a sudden, he knew exactly what she was referring to. It was the same thing that had sent him out to California in the first place: the flashes. Almost immediately after his birth, Zan had been able to reach across the vastness of space to communicate with him.

Time and again, during the first few months of his life the newborn had connected with him sharing his feelings of joy, fear and a myriad of other sensations, knocking him out most of the time, nearly drowning him once. That was the instance Liz was referring to. He’d had a brilliant plan to sweep Liz off her feet and back into his arms once and for all after Tess’s departure, only to have the whole thing backfire when Zan had chosen that moment to connect with him for the first time.

How could he have forgotten? The flashes had eventually ended as inexplicably as they’d begun, but they proved beyond a doubt that Liz and Ava were right: Zan had alien abilities.

Max had searched for Zan for months, wanting to save him from whatever was threatening him, but as soon as he had his son back, what does he do? He puts him in more danger than Max could even imagine.

Rather than protecting him, Max had managed to make things worse for his helpless son.

What kind of father was he?

posted on 6-Aug-2002 12:08:23 AM
Chapter Eighteen

Jeff sat restlessly at the table in the small hotel room, pretending to study his maps and tour guides he’d collected of the base. Actually, he couldn’t take his eyes off the small girl stretched out on the bed. Today had been an odyssey of discovery for the both of them, but for Jeff, it had been a miraculous journey, and like true miracles, the good was offset with the bad.

First of all, there was Ava. She was like a small, dark angel sent to help him through these trying times in which he found himself. With her timely arrival, she’d given him hope; she’d given him purpose. Looking back to what he’d been feeling just a few short days ago, he knew that in a very real way, she’d saved him, brought him back from the brink of a frightening despair. He’d been slowly spiraling into a dark place with the loss of his family and the unending questions to be found there.

He felt now like he’d regained a semblance of control over his life once again; however fleeting that may prove to be. It would be enough, he hope, regardless how things turn out here. Whether or not they rescue Nancy in the coming days, he no longer feared for himself. He could handle whatever the future may hold, he just knew it and it was due to Ava’s presence in his life.

No longer would the darkness claim him.

If only he could say the same for her.

The visit with Cal Langley had been a harsh experience. He would have termed it a reality check, but in who’s reality? In Jeff’s world people did not posses the ability to hurt others with simply the power of their minds. He was still reeling from the idea of being attacked by a man who’d never lifted a finger in the process. No wonder Ava had thought they could have used him in their plans to rescue Nancy. The things he could do were mind boggling. Yet unlike Ava, his abilities seemed to stem from evil, or at least that was Jeff’s perspective. If he could be impartial, he would admit he could see why Langley would do anything to retain his autonomy. With abilities like his, the government would obviously only have two ways of dealing with someone like him: exploitation or termination.

He could nearly understand the protector’s motives.

What he couldn’t understand was the guy’s easy acceptance of the violence. He seemed unfazed over the hurt he’d caused, had shown no remorse for his actions. Jeff had been unarmed, apparently in more ways than the usual; they’d come to him asking for his help and in return he’d nearly killed them both.

That was the other thing he didn’t get. He was supposed to be Ava’s guardian, protector, whatever, yet, she hadn’t been spared his wrath. Langley had ignored his obligations to her for nearly her whole life. The one time she needed him, he turned on her like a rabid dog.

Jeff couldn’t figure it out. How could anyone hurt her?

He looked back at the girl, her dark hair spilling across the pillow, her countenance lined in concentration as she touched the image of his daughter’s face in an old photograph. Despite what she’d said, he still couldn’t believe it was true. She was talking to Liz right now using and ability she’d called a dreamwalk. Maybe in the past he might have scoffed or remained skeptical at the possibility of it actually happening, but not now, not after that other thing she’d done earlier. That mindwarp, she’d called it.

Jeff still couldn’t get over how real it had been. He’d actually forgotten for a moment he’d been sitting in a hotel room in California. Every detail about his home had been correct. Liz’s bedroom from when she was a child, the pictures on the wall of the hallway. He even remembered the nightgown Nancy had been wearing. Everything had been so authentic it was shocking. The images she’d sent him could only have come from his own memories which was a whole other thing all together, bring a new degree of uneasiness to him. He wasn’t too keen on the idea that his head was an open book to someone like her.

Having experienced it, he could see how powerful this gift could be, how it could be used for evil as well as good. He was just thankful it was safely in the hands of the tenderhearted girl who wielded it. The thought of someone like Cal Langley having a power like that was too horrible to contemplate.

Watching her, he wondered what she and Liz were talking about. She’d said she had some questions about her talk from this morning. Mostly about Tess, he thought. He thought it was strange she’d been so surprised that the other girl had gone to visit the place they came from. Antar? Jeff had never hear of it. She’d said it was near Hamal, which if he remembered right was in Brazil, or was it Equador? Whichever. He wasn’t certain where it was, but he was sure he had heard of that one.

To hear Ava talk, one might think it was an island in the Bermuda Triangle; a place one could try to get to with little hope for success. This was the twenty-first century for crying out loud. There wasn’t really any place on the planet so remote it couldn’t be gotten to be plane, car or boat. How remote could it be?

The subtle beeping of his watch told him another hour had come and gone. It was now ten o’clock. They would be leaving in a short while to go out to Edwards, and he’d wanted to shower before then. Gathering up his maps and papers, he set them carefully on top of Ava’s bag; they would be taking them with them tonight. As he shifted things around on the tiny hotel table, he spotted the small wooden frame the picture Ava was using had come out of. He picked up the back and cardboard insert intending to put them together when a small piece of paper fell out and caught his eye. It was folded neatly and apparently had been tucked into the frame.

Jeff might have ignored it figuring it to be more filler except in one corner someone had printed one word: "Liz."

Curious, he picked it up. There was no other writing on the outside so he carefully unfolded it and was met with a collection of strange symbols. They looked like hieroglyphics or petrolgylphs. There were zig zags with dots around them, circles and triangles and lines, incomprehensible to him, yet something about it just seemed like it was something more than a child’s drawing. Along the top margin someone had printed a series of ones and zeros which looked to Jeff like the old binary code once used in computer programming. At the bottom right someone had printed a message which sent chills up his spine. "Translation: Beware the false protector and the counterfeit queen. They seek to destroy you through betrayal and deceit. Treason is their (???). They serve the usurper. Trust no one."

He might have ignored the whole thing, given it no more importance than a crossword puzzle except the phrases, "protector" and "destroy you" were all too reminiscent of their run in with Cal Langley earlier. The guy had mentioned Max by name when they’d been there, so obviously Ava wasn’t the only one who knew of his existence and connection to their past. Was this message referring to him? If so, who was his ‘queen'?

Sitting back down, Jeff stared at it incomprehensibly. What could it mean? Was it a prank? Some joke Alex had been planning to spring on Liz before he’d died? Why had he put it in the frame like that? ‘It was like he’d hidden it for safe keeping almost as if he hadn’t wanted it found,’ Jeff thought before scoffing at his over zealous imagination. As cryptic as the message was, surely Alex hadn't had to resort to this level of James Bondesque intrigue to keep it safe.

Then Jeff remembered all the cloak and dagger theatrics he himself had had to resort to lately and rethought the matter. Alex, for Jeff couldn’t think of anyone else who might have stashed the document in this particular frame, had always been a smart kid. Remembering he’d been dating Isabel Evans on and off nearly as long as Liz had dated Max, Jeff could only assume he’d been aware of her unique origins and like the others had been sworn to secrecy. If this document was for real, he could understand Alex’s precautionary measures. He was of the same mind, himself.

Shower forgotten, Jeff continued to stare at the paper, his mind running around in circles until Ava’s stirring on the bed drew his attention.

Sitting up, she rubbed her face tiredly. "Hey."

"How is she? Did you talk to her?" were the first words out of his mouth. Despite this new mystery, his daughter was his first concern.

"Yeah. She’s good. They’s all just drivin’ right now. She said theys was worried there mighta been some guy followin’ them earlier today, but don’t you worry, they’s bein’ real extra special careful."

Closing his eyes against the rolling sensation in his belly he asked, "Where are they now?" Please let them stay safe, he prayed silently.

"She said theys was headin’ into South Dakota. Someone named Kyle had a hankering to see Mount Rushmore."

"Did she look ok? Do they have enough money?"

"She was fine, Mr. P," Ava answered with patience, and a smile. "Now I didn’t ask her about money, but you don’t need to worry about that. They’s takin’ real good care of each other." Coming to stand beside him, she softly said, "I’m sorry I can’t help you to see her. Hows about next time, you give me a list of questions yous want me to ask her."

Smiling with a little melancholoy, Jeff nodded.

It was then she saw what he was holding in his hand. "What’s that?"

Anxiously handing it over, Jeff said, "I’m not sure. It must have been inside the picture frame."

Touching one of the strange symbols lightly, she whispered, "I know this. It’s like I should be able to understand it, but it ain’t coming to me. You think Alex had this?" Jeff nodded. "I wonder why." She stared a moment longer seemingly trying to ‘read’ the symbols.

"Did you see what was at the bottom?"

"What?" She then noticed her hand had been covering some text.

Jeff watched as she read it and when her face went slack with shock, he asked, "Ava, what’s wrong? Does it make sense to you?"

"Yeah," she answered faintly, dropping the paper onto the table, a fine tremor in her hands.

Retrieving it, Jeff said, "I think it’s safe to say we know who the ‘false protector’ is. Langley. Who else could it be? What about the ‘counterfeit queen’? Any idea who she might be?"

"Yeah," Ava responded, raising her eyes to his. He was so caught in the confusion and fear welling there, he almost missed her answer. "She’s me."

posted on 6-Aug-2002 12:10:32 AM
Chapter Ninteen

A soft yellow glow and the metallic rattle of a chain was all it took to get them onto the grounds of Edwards Air Force Base. Jeff proceeded Ava through the isolated gate located on a far perimeter of the fence line and waited silently as she secured it again behind them, leaving no evidence of their presence for the alert patrols to discover. As silent as a shadow, they then slipped across the barren landscape towards the closest building.

The previous night’s reconnaissance had shown them this was the best entrance to use, remote and patrolled only every thirty-five minutes or so. And that was a drive by.

The whine from the armored jeep’s last pass had died away a mere ten minutes ago and while the distance they had to travail was not that far, maybe 400 yards, they were both anxious, wanting to be long gone before it came back.

Search lights perched high above on the air traffic controller’s towers occasionally swept the open field, adding to the risk of exposure, so they moved swiftly, silently keeping their bodies low to the ground, every sense on high alert.

Jeff’s heart was pounding as adrenaline rushed through his system, driving his senses into red alert. All last night as they’d staked out the base, and today as the plan was discussed, analyzed and mapped out he’d experienced a high level of anxiety beneath his unbroken concentration. If nothing else, it had made him acutely aware that if he didn’t have an ulcer before all this began, too many days and nights like that one would give him one in no time.

Fortunately, it hadn’t lasted.

An hour ago, he’d been eerily calm. In the men’s room at a McDonald’s in the small town of Edwards he’d stared at himself in the spotted and cracked vanity mirror, wondering in a detached manner of an outside observer exactly when it was he’d lost his sanity. What the hell was he doing? A voice in the back of his mind whispered it wasn’t too late to turn back. Return to Roswell, no harm, no foul. He hadn’t broken laws yet. He could still have a normal life, sleep in his bed, run his business and… hate himself for the rest of his miserable, lonely life.

After tonight, there would be no going back, and it wasn’t just himself he was putting in the line of fire here. Ava was an innocent young girl in all this. She hadn’t known him from Adam before this all began, had never even met Nancy, yet here he was putting her into the same danger as himself – no, more danger because if they were caught, all he was facing was a long, long jail sentence. For Ava, capture meant a fate worse than death.

It was a sobering thought.

What were they doing? How could this course of action possibly be the right one? What right did he have to do this to that poor girl who’d never gotten a break in her life?

A haunting series of images of Nancy drifted in front of him. The laughing girl he’d proposed to. The beautiful bride he’d made his own. The mother of his only child. A thousand titles, a million emotions were all wrapped up in the woman called Nancy Parker, his wife.

Without her, he had no life to go home to.

He had no choice.

Resolutely, he turned his back to the man in the mirror who was becoming overwrought with fears and doubts, striding forward into the sultry night, consciously carving out a new future for an all new Jeff Parker. One who’d go to any lengths to protect his family, even if the cost was his own.

His courage took him as far as the parking lot where a mint ’66 T-bird waited for him, it’s color an exact match for the clear blue eyes of the girl who waited for him on the bench seat. The girl, Ava, who understood a lot better than he what it meant to live and die for the protection of others. The "counterfeit bride," a clone, a decoy created solely as a way to throw suspicion away from Tess should their enemies get too close. A person with no other value other than she should die so someone else might live.

Looking at her now, meeting her steady gaze, it was difficult to believe what she was. That her entire existence had been deliberately plotted out to amount to less than nothing. This whole cloning thing was like something straight out of a bad Sci Fi flick, and whenever he thought of it, he felt like he was waiting for the punchline, like it was all a sick joke. A part of him still didn’t really believe it was even possible, he acknowledged. But to tell a kid - this beautiful, intelligent girl - that she was worthless, a lesser being was just wrong. No wonder she had no self-esteem, he thought angrily. How could it be otherwise?

Furthermore, though Jeff had hardly gotten to know Tess at all, he’d always had the impression that she was a self-centered ego-maniac, even as a bitchy teenager. Ava was twice the person Tess was, in his opinion. If one of them should have been the protected one…

Finding that message yesterday had really upset his companion. It was like she’d expected him to think less of her because of it. Or that she believed he would suddenly turn her away because of the implied threat written by some unknown author. "Counterfeit queen" or not, he trusted Ava and told her so. There was no one outside his family that he trusted more. That had been the end of it, though he was aware that the message was still weighing heavily on her mind.

She didn’t bring it back up again on the long drive into Edwards last night, and once they’d arrived at the base the two of them had fully focused on the task at hand. The level of intense concentration they’d attained had continued unbroken all the rest of the following day and night as they’d prepared to breech the Air Force’s security to penetrate the interior of the base until their stop at the McDonald’s.

Now the calmness was gone and excitement was stretching his nerves to their breaking point as they crossed the barren landscape.

"Get down." Ava’s voice was a mere whisper yet loud and clear to him.

A quick glance around showed him what she’d seen. The searchlight would be passing by in a few seconds.

It was easy enough to find an indentation in the hilly terrain and they ducked out of sight until it was safe to move once again. So far, they had made it more than halfway across the distance between the fence behind them and the building in front, yet it seemed as though their destination paradoxically moved further away with each step. They were never going to make it.

Patiently, hardly daring to breathe, the conspirators waited as the large, brilliant beam lit up the night, blinding them, making it like day in the immediate area before passing on. Eventually night returned to cloak them in its protective darkness once again and they could dare to breathe. Stopping the fine tremors in their limbs was easier said than done, but they knew it would be stupid to wait it out. Every second they wasted out in the open like this was more time closer to their inevitable discovery.

With a nod, the two of them were up and moving again, this time reaching their destination unimpeded.

Ignoring the adage about not looking back, Jeff turned to survey the distance between themselves and the gate feeling every foot between them and freedom like a nail in his coffin. Staring at the gate in the distance, he knew the return trip would be more perilous than the first because the search light would be behind them and tracking its movement across the ground much more difficult. Also, the patrol wasn’t exactly something to set a clock by. The jeep could return anywhere from twenty to thirty minutes, making it a dangerous variable to their escape.

With quick efficiency, Ava turned their night dark clothes into standard issue Air Force blues and pulled the hats which completed their uniforms from her ever present bag. Jeff appraised her work; it was perfect.

They had decided, after a short debate, being dressed as officers might allow them unquestioned freedom on the base to walk around and ask questions as they willed. Jeff had originally planned for them to be in cammo, preferring to blend in as inconspicuously as possible, but Ava reasonably pointed out just regular soldiers wouldn’t be able to go wandering around restricted areas like officers could. What she said made sense so he gave in, but now, he felt incredibly out of place; conspicuous. How were they going to do this?

The answer came to him painfully: they would have to find a way; they had no choice now.

Taking the hat from her outstretched hand, Jeff completed his outfit smartly. Then, while she finished her disguise by tucking up her hair and donning her own headgear, he walked to the corner of the building and peered around its edge. There didn’t appear to be any activity in the area. A short ways off he could hear men talking. The occasional burst of distant laughter rolling across the tarmac accompanied by the sounds of vehicles coming and going just served to further illustrate the utter calmness of the area immediately around them.

In less than no time, he felt Ava beside him, ready to go and as committed to this mission as he was.

A gentle touch against his arm and they were moving around the building striding with a confidence they weren’t feeling, each praying that they might find some clue tonight, some piece of evidence that Nancy was in fact here, and if so, where.


Two days later…

"I think theys either got her here or… there," Ava said pointing at the criss-crossed and battered map they’d been using to mark off areas of the base during their late night reconnoiters over the last three nights.

It was about eleven in the morning and this was the first chance they’d gotten to discuss what they’d seen and heard the previous night, both having been completely exhausted when they’d returned to the hotel at five o’clock and opting to go straight to sleep. Six hours was hardly enough to restore them, but the bright sunlight penetrating the cheap, thin curtains made further sleep impossible.

"I agree," Jeff nodded. The areas she’d pointed out had been the most heavily guarded and so they hadn’t really gotten the opportunity to look them over thoroughly. All the other buildings they’d entered had been a bust, giving them nothing concrete to work with. These were different if only because of the soldiers keeping a studious watch over them. Common sense told them there had to be something important inside, else why would they bother with so many guards?

The first area she’d indicated was a cluster of four buildings on the east side of the base which, by outwards appearances appeared to be airplane hangars, but unless the stealth bomber was inside, Jeff was willing to bet they held something other than US military commissioned aircraft.

On the other hand, considering where they were, it could very well BE the stealth bombers, he acknowledged wryly. There would only be one way to find out.

The other area was one large, brick building whose interior lights burned all through the night with people, military as well as civilians judging by their clothes, coming and going at all hours.

They’d discovered the hangars the first night out, when Jeff had nearly stumbled across a patrol heading for them. After following them at a discreet distance, they’d noted the change in guards, marking the location as well as the time on the map. As curious as they were, Jeff and Ava decided to check back later when they could be in position to slip by as the two groups changed shifts. Unfortunately, they had been on the other side of the base the following night and so hadn’t made it back yet. Despite the heavy surveillance, something told Jeff the hangar wasn’t what they were looking for.

When they’d spotted the fortress-like concrete building last night, goosebumps had broken out on his body. This was it, he knew it. This was where they had Nancy. At the time they’d been hurriedly returning to their car, cognizant that the sun would be up all too soon and to tarry would have meant certain discovery. Tonight, it was where they would concentrate their efforts. Somehow, they would find a way inside.

With the ‘where’ and ‘when’ out of the way, only the ‘how’ was eluding them now. They severely needed a plan. Something a little more butch than ‘Excuse me, but have you seen my wife?’ would be in order, Jeff thought, but wasn’t coming up with anything that wouldn’t lead to instant capture.

In frustration, he looked at his watch again – for the fiftieth time since waking up.

The feeling of time passing was really making him jumpy today more than ever before. He needed to be doing something – NOW. Something other than sitting here with his maps, waiting for the sun to set.

Suddenly, he got the inkling of a plan.

"Didn’t the tour pass by that one?" Jeff asked rhetorically pointing to the second target on the map. He knew it had.

"Yeah," Ava concurred.

Unfolding the tour guide map, he studied it for a moment before saying, "I think we should go back today. I’d like to see it one more time. Maybe watching it during the day will give us an idea of what’s around it, how many guards there are and stuff. Maybe we could even get close enough to ask a few discreet questions."

"Could be risky," the cautious girl pointed out, not loving the idea of skulking around a military base in broad daylight when it would be so much easier to get caught. "Maybe we’s should stay clear o’ the place so’s they don’t suspect nuthin’ before nightfall."

Jeff looked up at her sharply, noting the unease and fatigue in her eyes. The last few days and nights had been rough on them both, but more so, it seemed, for her. Though they’d only had to use her powers just a little, what did he know about how tiring it was for her? Perhaps she was getting worn out. He knew he couldn’t ask her to come along if she didn’t want to, but he really felt it would be better to get the lay of the land one last time before they tried to break into the bunker-like structure tonight. Who knew what dangers awaited them on the inside? He’d like to be as prepared as possible when the time came.

With an understanding tone, he suggested, "Why don’t you sit this one out? Take a nap this afternoon and get some rest. I’m sure we’re going to need your abilities tonight. You haven’t been getting much sleep lately."

"You ain’t neither," she pointed out reasonably.

"Humor me, ‘k? You’re right, it is too risky to be down there during the day, but I really need to do this. So, stay here. Get some rest. I’ll be back in four or five hours. Think you can handle that?"

"Yes, sir."

"Good girl," he praised, getting to his feet and collecting their gear. "I’ll be back soon."

"Take care of yourself," Ava couldn’t help but admonish as he headed for the door with an eagerness in his stride. "Don’t do anything crazy."

"Don’t worry," was all he said. "See you later."


Jeff didn’t have any trouble disguising himself (golf hat and glasses) and getting signed up for the next guided tour once he arrived at Edwards. His current plan was to get ‘separated’ from the group as the neared the building he wanted to check out. So far, everything was going ok. If he got caught, Ava had fixed up his driver’s license to match a name and address out of the phonebook. It wouldn’t hold up to a thorough background check, but it was better than nothing. Jeff just hoped he wouldn’t have to use it.

The tour didn’t go anywhere near those four hangars Jeff was curious about, but the one overly guarded facility they’d singled out was pretty much in the middle of the base, and it was actually in sight of the bus twice, once coming and once going. It was on the way out that Jeff decided to make his move.

The tour went out to an old airfield where some vintage planes were kept, and the passengers were allowed off the bus to roam around and take pictures if they wished. There were about twenty others in the group, about the same number as when he went with Ava earlier in the week. Most of the others were either retirees or middle aged women with young children. Jeff felt like he stuck out of the group, so he tried to be as nondescript as possible so his disappearance would be more easily missed.

Alert for any opportunity to slip away, Jeff nearly laughed out loud when one of the younger kids, escaping his mother, ran up the short ladder to one of the planes and climbed into the open cockpit. Once seated, he was shouting and waving to get his parent’s attention. That was all it took. While all the adults rushed over, the military personnel in the lead to retrieve the mischievous kid, Jeff made good his escape.

In less than forty minutes his destination was in sight. He had a plan to bum a cigarette from one of the soldiers standing on guard duty out front and casually ask a few pertinent questions. That plan was thrown out the window, however when a hand came harshly down on his shoulder. "Excuse me, sir." Turning around, he was met by a man in uniform. Taking in his obviously civilian clothes, the guard, Anderson by his name patch said, "State your business here."

Fumbling, surprised to be caught so close to the mysterious building, he blurted, "I’m looking for Joe."

"Say again," the puzzled solider asked.

"My buddy, Joe… Par… Parks. He’s supposed to be on duty around here somewhere." Thinking quickly, Jeff added for plausibility, "You see, I’m saying with him this week, and I locked myself out of his apartment a hour ago and I needed the keys to get back in."

"Sir, this is a restricted area. You can’t come in here."

"I know. I wouldn’t have bothered him at work, only I left the oven on and I’m worried the whole place might burn down. I couldn’t find his landlord, so…" he shrugged. "You wouldn’t happen to know where I can find him, do you? Joe Parks? I mean I know he’s supposed to be here somewhere."

Unfazed, the other man replied, "Sir, I’m going to have to ask you to leave this area. It’s for your safety."

Smiling affably, despite his sinking heart, Jeff cajoled, "Come on, man. Give me break. It’s not like there’s uranium here. I’m not trying to poke into he military’s secrets, I’m just trying to find my friend. Tell you what. I’ll wait right here, if you could just go over to those guys and see if Joe’s working in that building. I’m pretty sure that’s the one he showed me on the map."

"I’m sorry," he said, not sounding sorry at all. "I won’t ask you again. Please turn around and leave this area immediately, or I will be forced to escort you off the base. Is that clear?"

Before Jeff could answer, a large black van drove up and screeched to a halt outside the very same building Jeff had been checking out.

Immediately, men were shouting and running towards its rear doors. Soldiers took up defensive positions twenty or so feet away from the rear entrance to the vehicle, holding their guns at the ready. Two lab coated men streaked out of the bunker to the doors as the passenger and driver exited the van. With an audible countdown, the doors were dramatically pulled open and two more men appeared from the inside. They were dragging a third, resisting man who was putting up as much of a fight as he could considering his arms were tied behind his back.

With a shove, the men in the van, FBI guys from the looks of their suits and ties, tossed the helpless hostage face first onto the pavement and jumped down beside him. The white coated men from the base began shouting and gesturing wildly at the unnecessary force. A third rushed out of the building with something grasped in his hand. It turned out to be some sort of hypodermic needle which was immediately used on the resisting captive’s arm.

His shouts were audible even from this distance. "Goddamn it! Let me go! Why are you doing this? Let me go, goddamn it!" About the shot: "Shit! Shit! What is that shit? What are you planning? What are you…?" His voice was hysterical.

Obviously he was scared to death, a feeling Jeff suddenly shared. Especially after he was dragged protesting to his feet and pulled inside the building, the armed guards never faltering in their ready stance with weapons raised, cocked to fire.

Even if the man hadn’t looked over his shoulder once before being locked away; even if their eyes hadn’t met for an endless space of time, marked only by increments of terror shared between them, Jeff would have known who it was. The dark hair, the muscular build were all a give away. Even the man’s voice, raised in a way he’d never heard before, was familiar.

Apparently Agent Deirks had won a victory. The government now had one of the kids in custody.

As much as his heart went out to Max Evans, Jeff couldn’t help but be glad it wasn’t Liz they’d pulled from the van… until the chilling thought struck, what if they’d killed her and the others in the process of getting to him? 'What if he was the only one left?' he thought in a panic, his heart breaking.

No, don’t think like that, he admonished himself. She was fine. She had to be. She was his daughter, surely he would feel it if something had happened to her. No, he had to assume she was fine for now. He had to, or else he would fall apart, and he couldn’t do that.

Not right now. Nancy needed him.

He had to be strong for her.

Backing away from Anderson whose attention had been wholly claimed by the events unfolding before them, Jeff acknowledged the stakes had just gone up. Now it wasn’t just Nancy in trouble.

Somehow, they would have to find a way to get them both out.

posted on 6-Aug-2002 12:12:34 AM
Just another buffer space...
posted on 6-Aug-2002 12:14:23 AM
Just another buffer space...
posted on 6-Aug-2002 12:15:54 AM
Just another buffer space...
posted on 6-Aug-2002 12:17:40 AM
Just another buffer space...
posted on 6-Aug-2002 12:19:54 AM
Just another buffer space...
posted on 6-Aug-2002 12:21:47 AM
Chapter Twenty

"They've got Max." It was the first thing he could think of when he opened the door to their motel and saw Ava.

Lurching upright, she demanded, "What do you mean? How could they have him?"

"I don't know," Jeff stated entering the room and shutting the door behind him. Sitting beside her on the bed he held out his map, pointing. "I'd just made it to that white building, you know the one with all the guards. Some guy had stopped me about 200 feet away from getting any closer, but before he could escort me out of there, this van screeched up from out of nowhere. They pushed Max out of the back, drugged him and took him inside."

"Shit," was all Ava could seem to say. She was growing pale thinking, Jeff was sure, of what Max could be facing at the hands of their most dreaded enemy: the US government. "Shit. You sure it was Max?"

"Yeah. Unless..." Jeff started, looking at her in speculation. A thought had hit him during the long, long drive back to their hide out, and once planted it grew with tenacity. He knew he was clutching at straws, but anything would be better than the truth as he knew it for no matter how badly he felt for Max, the knowledge that unless they'd blindsided him when he was in the bathroom or something meant the coldly cruel men he'd seen pile out of the van had gone through the others first. That meant the others: Liz, Maria, Kyle, Michael and Isabel were either dead, or on their way. He couldn't bear to think of it. Instead, he clung to the possibility it had been a mistake, that it hadn't been Max he'd seen incarcerated in that building.


Jeff couldn't keep the hope from coloring his voice. "Isn't there a clone of Max? Zan, right?"

Shaking her head, Ava said, "Zan's dead."

"Are you sure?" he prodded, needing to be certain before ruling out the possibility.

"Yeah," she answered hoarsely. "I... We's all was there. I saw the whole thing."

Despite everything else happening, the senselessness of a world gone mad, he couldn't help but be moved over Ava's obvious sorrow. He gave her a moment before asking compassionately, "When was this?"

"November. Two years ago," was the muffled answer as she swiped at her face, wishing she could rub away the memories as easily as the tears. With a shuddering breath, she explained, "He were arguing with Rath over going to some meeting wid the peeps from our hood, ya know?" She shot him a look through watery blue eyes that seemed to hold a special significance. Jeff merely nodded, encouraging her to go on though he suspected he was missing something. They'd been in a gang? "Anyways, Rath and Lonnie wanted to get home, theys was certain this summit meeting was the way. When Zan told 'em 'No', they got pissed. Theys pushed Zan out into da street one night right in front of a truck. Then Lonnie used her powers to make sure the job was done. His own sister! And all's I could do was scream his name ova an' ova again before theys took off, makin' me go wid dem. I didn't want to, but, I's in shock I guess.

"I ain't never forgot the sight o' him lying there. His blood... It were everywhere, running in the street. He..." She couldn't go on. The memories tore at her, making her pain fresh as though it had just happened. With a sob, she tore from Jeff's comforting hand and dashed into the bathroom, slamming the door behind her.

Listening to Ava cry, Jeff just sat numbly on the bed staring sightlessly out the window. What kinds of people were these, he wondered, who could do something like this? Deliberately set out to murder one of your own family in what had to be the most horrific way possible. Pushing a man in front of a truck...

Jeff had hit a dog once. A German Shepard. Had felt as much heard the sickening thud of the helpless canine against his bumper. It had rolled several times underneath the car, as Jeff continued forward, unable to stop his sedan's momentum until he'd completely passed over the creature. Trembling, he'd gotten out of his car and surveyed the scene. The dog was still alive, shaking and whimpering. It was a mess. Legs broken, back broken. Every part of it was laying at odd angels. As he'd watched shocked and in horror at what he'd done, it's bladder released and urine spread all around, mixing with the blood beginning to pool beneath it's body, perhaps even seeping into whatever open wounds lay beneath it. A few moments longer and it was dead.

All the while he'd stood and watched, unable to move, to help, to comfort. He'd never forgiven himself, had never forgotten a single detail of that day. Listening to Ava's tortured cries now, he thought he had an inkling of what she must be feeling. The pain, the helplessness of events taken out of your control.

He had no idea of what to tell her. What pithy comment might restore the cosmic balance of right and wrong. She would torture herself with guilt, over Zan's violent death no matter what he said, he knew.

Intending to go stare out the window, Jeff stood, and his attention was caught when a piece of paper crinkled under his feet. Bending over he picked it up and saw it was that cryptic warning from the picture frame. "Beware the false protector and the counterfeit queen. They seek to destroy you through betrayal and deceit..." Whoever had written this had been incredibly wrong, Jeff thought. Ava wasn't a betrayer. Rath and Lonnie apparently were, but not Ava.

Ava might be a survivor, but she had a goodness about her that couldn't be tainted with lies and intrigues, he was certain of it.


Two hours later-

"I still can't get in," Ava sat up tiredly, tossing the now slightly creased photo aside.

"What does that mean?" Jeff asked anxiously though he knew the answer.

"That means," Ava started pulling her hair off her forehead, "either she's not asleep or I just ain't getting in. Maybe they's too far away."

They were trying to dreamwalk Liz for Jeff's peace of mind just to make sure the others were at least ok, and to find out what had happened. They'd been at it for more than fifty minutes, yet were no closer to getting through to the Roswell teens now than when they'd started.

Jeff couldn't help but worry it was a sign that his worst fears were correct and Liz was dead, killed while trying to prevent Max from being captured - or from being captured herself.

Ava did her best to reassure him that it was probably her meager powers, not Liz's health that was keeping them from connecting. "I just ain't that good at this sort of thing, ya know?"

He nodded jerkily, not really believeing it. He felt like he was coming apart from the stress of not knowing, yet there was nothing he could do about it at the moment.

At least, not about Liz. His wife was another story all together.

"Let's get ready. We're leaving in ten minutes." ...To go get Nancy and Max out of there. It was unsaid, yet understood all the same. They both knew their mission had changed.

It was still very early, way too early in fact to risk being seen in Edwards. Evening had barely fallen, yet Ava didn't contradict him. She was feeling the need for action as much as he was. Max needed her. She knew that with every minute passing, more doctors and scientists would be called in to work on the alien. Each one would devise some new torture for him to endure in an effort to 'study' him.

Her stomach roiled anxiously at the thought. She couldn't bear to think of whet he must be going through. Max might not be Zan, her lover, her husband, but he was still her King. She knew it was her duty to protect him at any cost. Even if it meant trading her life for his.

She could only pray it wouldn't come to that.


It was fully dark by the time they made it out to the base. As expected, there was a ton of activity all around. Soldiers were double timeing it through circular patrols carrying a lot of large, heavy looking artillery while vehicles wheeled around the base loaded down with personnel from all different levels and branches of the military judging from the variety of uniforms visible.

All the motion made Jeff think of a bee’s nest after a good whack with a heavy stick. They were going to be walking into a frenzy of tightly strung men with itchy fingers tonight. He just hoped they could both avoid getting stung.

"You ready?" Jeff asked, softly. He knew they would be relying on her abilities more then ever to get them all out of this alive.

"Suppose," the teen responded shortly. She was practically giving off vibes of high anxiety.

In understanding, Jeff covered one of her shaking hands with his larger one. Wanting to reassure her, Jeff opened his mouth, only even he hadn’t expected the words that came forth. "You don’t have to do this. It’s not too late to change your mind. Stay with the car and I’ll go in by myself."

"Nah, I can handle it," she answered. They both knew the chances of him doing it by himself were nonexistent. Marshalling her courage, she tried to calm herself saying, "Don’t worry, Mr. P, I won’t let you down."

"That wasn’t was I’m worried about and you know it," he gently reprimanded. "This is too dangerous for you. If I get caught, so what? But you… No. It was wrong to drag you into this. You should just stay here and let me handle it."

"No way," she argued. "We’s come this far. I ain’t gonna go all chicken shit on ya now."


"No. ‘Sides, if theys got Max like you said, I’m the only chance he’s got. It’s my responsibility to get him out."

"Fine," Jeff acquiesced, despite his misgivings. All along he’d felt bad for putting Ava so close to the fire, but he’d ignored it, telling himself that it would be fine. That she wanted to go. Now that the moment was upon them, his conscious was really smarting him. Maybe it was the story she’d told earlier, or the evidence of tear tracks still on her young face. Whatever, it was giving him a twisting feeling in his stomach, like he was making a serious mistake bringing her here.

"Come on, let’s go," she pushed, apparently wanting to just get this over with.

In no time, they’d parked the car in the thick copse of trees which ran along the side of the road near their gate. Placing her hand against the fender, she changed its color to exactly match its surroundings. It was by far the best cammo job ever.

As soon as the single jeep patrol rolled by, they headed for the gate and the rescue was on.

posted on 6-Aug-2002 12:23:00 AM
Chapter Twenty-One

Moving calmly, Jeff and Ava approached the building where they hoped Nancy was being held; the same building where Jeff had seen Max escorted a few hours before. They were back in their Army Officer uniforms and so far the disguise had fooled everyone around them. The moment of truth would be upon them soon enough, however as they walked towards the guard’s desk located just beside the entrance. There were two soldiers standing post on either side of the table with a third sitting importantly behind it.

"State your business," he barked once they reached him.

Handing over their military ID’s, Jeff stated his ‘name’ adding, "We’re here to observe the proceedings. We have clearance."

Wordlessly, the man gave each one of them a through once over, lingering on their faces. Jeff was certain the guy would be able to give a detailed account of their appearance two months from now, if necessary. Mentally telling himself to relax and not fidget, he concentrated on keeping his breathing slow and regular despite his rising blood pressure.

"You’re not on my list," the government employee stated, not even bothering to look at the clipboard before him.

Prepared for this contingency, Jeff handed him a piece of paper. "We were just given the assignments, so I’m not surprised. Here are our orders."

Opening the paper, he glanced it over with a suspicious look almost gracing his impassive face. Refolding it, he silently handed it back while pinning Jeff with alook. Jeff felt his stomach fall to his toes. It hadn’t worked. They were being turned away.

"You’ll need to sign in, sirs," the soldier brought out another clipboard with a pen attached.

It had worked!! They were in! "Of course," Jeff replied. He prayed for his hands to remain steady as he took the roster and quickly filling in the required information. Handing it back, he nearly smiled gleefully. "You have a nice day now," he managed with a straight face before walking briskly through the door, thus breaching the military’s first security point with Ava hot on his heels. It was a little early for celebrating, however. He knew better than to hope that would be the only time they were stopped.

Just inside the building, they were faced with three corridors that branched off from the entrance: right, left and straight ahead. "Which way," Jeff asked.

"Your guess is as good as mine."

"Left then." Typical left handed person’s response.

Shrugging, Ava agreed, "Left it is."

They peered in the small window of each door they passed. Nothing. And more telling: no one. This wasn’t the right way. Turning, they quickly backtracked and went up the center aisle. Here, they could hear voices, typewriters (It’s called a computer – get one.) and phones. They didn’t know if they were getting any closer to finding the others, but it seemed like it.

With more caution, they headed forward, again peering through the doors they could. Most had covered over the window with paper. At the end of the hallway, they turned right and were faced with a high tech looking security panel. Again, there was an armed guard seated outside with another one standing beside him for good measure. Bingo. This had to be where they were keeping Max and Nancy.

Jeff started forward, but Ava held him back. "Wait," she whispered. "The security panel. I can’t mindwarp it. We need to see how it works if we want any chance of getting through it without setting it off."

"Right," Jeff agreed with a nod.

They pulled back around the corner and out of view of the guards and waited for someone to come by. They didn’t have long to wait. An Air Force officer, judging by his uniform, entered the building and headed right for them with a sense of purpose in his stride. He clearly had things to do.

Needing a reason for loitering in the open hallway, as well as wanting to hide their identities, Jeff backed Ava against the wall and leaned in suggestively speaking softly, yet audibly to her, "Why don’t you see if you can get free tonight. Come on over to my house. I’ll cook dinner and…" Jeff watched out of the corner of his eye as the officer hurried by, muttering something about dirty old men. Hey, he wasn’t that old! Just because Ava was his daughter’s Liz’s age… Ok, it was pretty sick, but at least Jeff figured the guy didn’t suspect they were out of place there.

Cautiously, they peered around the corner and watched as Mr. Air Force greeted the guard and placed his hand flat against the security panel. A light bar slid across it, scanning his palm print. Watching, Jeff thought they were probably using fingerprints to verify each person’s identity.

If that was the case, they would never make it past that.

"This is not good," Jeff groaned, wiping at his face. They were so close.

"Maybe there’s another way in," Ava suggested. "The air vents, a window, something. Don’t give up, Mr. P, we’ll, get ‘em out somehow."

"I just wish I knew how," Jeff admitted.

Beside them a door suddenly opened and an arm reached out.

Grabbing a fistful of Ava’s hair, it yanked her painfully inside.

"Hey," Jeff protested, mindful to keep his voice low. Without hesitating, he followed her into the unknown room, pulling her protectively behind her as soon as he could.

"That would be the question of the hour," the scratchy voice belonging to the large boned security guard responded.

"Who the hell are you?" Jeff questioned just as Ava asked, "What are you doing here?"

"Wasn’t my choice, princess," came the sardonic response as Jeff wondered, "You know this guy?"

"Yeah," Ava rubbed the back of her head, which smarted from the callus treatment. "It’s Langley."

Langley? That name stopped Jeff dead in his tracks. Looking over the taller, wider man, comparing him to his memory of the short, slender producer, Jeff shook his head. "No way!" Jim had said the protector was a ‘master of disguises,’ but this was ridiculous, impossible. There was no way this was the same guy. Unknowingly he began to shake his head in silent protest.

"So what brought on your sudden change of heart?" Ava asked in a hard voice. She hadn’t forgiven him for his abuse the last time they’d seen him. The answer came to her even as he answered: "Max."


"Nah, it’s Max they got. Zan’s dead. Been dead a long time, and some protector you are. Where were you when theys was killin’ ‘im? Or when Rath and Lonnie died? Huh?"

"Hey, I can’t be around babysitting you 24/7. Or do you want me to start following you into the bathroom from now on. I’m sure one of us will find it real entertaining to watch you taking a piss – and it won’t be me."

"Hey, you watch your mouth," Jeff demanded. That was uncalled for and he wouldn’t stand for it. Ava had taken enough abuse from this asshole – assuming it really was Langley they were facing now.

Ignoring him, Langley continued as if he hadn’t interrupted, "Rath and Lonnie went before I even knew they were in trouble. And I don’t know why you think it’s Max they’ve got here. He’s alive and well and tearing apart New York City looking for his son, according to the tail I put on him. It’s Zan and as much as I’d like to leave his useless ass in here, I can’t. Who knew I’d have to protect a stupid set of Dupes as well as the real ones?"

"Zan is dead, I’m tellin’ ya. I saw him die!"

"Ava," Jeff said softly to get her attention. "What happened, after the truck? What happened next?"

"What do ya mean? He was dead. We left before anyone could call the cops."

"Nothing happened to the body?"

"Nah. I don’t guess so. Why?"

"I guess there’s something you don’t know. When Rath and Lonnie died, what happened to their bodies?"

"What bodies? They’s was blowed up. Thems that killed them blew ‘em to smithereens."

"No, Ava. They did it themselves. When they died, their bodies exploded, like they combusted from within. It was their powers being released one final time or something. The same thing happened to Max a few months ago. He died and his body exploded."

"I hate to tell you this Mr. Information Booth, but Max isn’t dead," Langley pointed out.

"I know. Story goes he transferred himself – his soul - into someone else’s body right before it happened and took it over. I don’t know how it was even possible, but that’s what I was told. So, Ava, you didn’t see or hear an explosion when you were running away?" When she shook her head he gently told her, "Then he probably didn’t die. He probably healed himself and took off."


"If you two want to stand here and discuss this all day, fine, but I got other places I’d rather be," Langley broke in. "And I can’t go to them until I save Zan’s sorry ass." Giving Jeff a commanding look, he ordered, "Come here," before walking towards a desk, the only piece of furniture in the empty office.

Gamely, Jeff followed only to be stopped short at the sight of the dead man laying on the floor behind it. Rushing forward, Jeff exclaimed, "Oh my god! What happened? Why didn’t you say something sooner?"

Putting a finger against the man’s neck, Jeff waited in vain. "He’s dead."

"I know. I killed him," Langley admitted without remorse. "Here," he handed Jeff the guy’s wallet. "Give me your right hand."

"What are you going to do?" Jeff asked warily. The man was obviously a madman.

Impatiently he reached out and seized Jeff’s arm. "Do you want to get through that door or not?"

"Of course, but…"

"Then shut up and cooperate." That was it. The next thing Jeff knew the protector was holding his right hand along side that of the dead man. Sliding his glowing hand from one man to the other, he transferred the palm print of the soldier onto Jeff’s own hand. "There. Stand up," the protector barked.

Numbly, Jeff complied, his eyes never leaving the face of the man on the floor, staring into the sightless eyes with a mixture of remorse, regret and… hope. With the guy’s prints, they could get through the gate and find Nancy and Ma… Zan. And get them both out. Only…

"What about the guard," Ava asked the question on his mind. The guard was checking everyone’s clearance with his computer.

Langley gave her a ‘don’t be stupid’ look. He’d already thought of that. Which was why he was glad he’d seen Jeff and Ava making their way down the hall when he had. "Hold still," he warned Jeff with a smirk. "This will probably sting a little."

What he did next was hard for Jeff to describe. Passing his hand over his/Jeff’s face, he changed the molecules there to make him look like the dead guy. Same hair and eye color, same mole over the upper lip. It was very uncomfortable in the extreme and terrifying as he stared in the small mirror on the opposite wall. Before he could either protest or accept it, the protector was continuing down altering his clothes to match the other guy’s, too. Soon, he was a perfect replica of… looking at the ID in his hand… General Wallace. It was eerie, chilling. Jeff thought he might be sick.

"All right, let’s go," Langely said.

Ava timidly drew closer. "Jeff, you’s alright?"

"No," he declared hoarsely. "No I’m not, but I don’t have a choice now, do I?"

"Come on," Langley ordered impatiently from the door where he was peeking out into the hall. "The coast is clear."

Trying not to dwell on the morbid thought he was wearing a dead man’s face – just like Hannibal Lector, Jeff followed the others from the room and led the way to the security post.

"Afternoon, General," the man at the desk greeted him.

"Afternoon, soldier." Jeff handed over his pilfered ID badge and went to the scanning sensor. Placing his hand, he waited, holding his breath the entire time it processed his prints, verifying his identification. It glowed green when completed. The deception had worked.

The door slid open admitting him into the inner recesses of the building. The guard only gave the other’s badges a cursory inspection. If they were with the General, they had clearance. After getting them to sign in on his roster, he allowed the trio to cross the threshold and continue forward.


"Nancy!" Jeff breathed when the reached the second observation room. There she was, his beloved wife whom he hadn’t seen in weeks strapped to a table with sensors and all sorts of machines hooked up to her body. Impulsively, he pushed into the room and crossed straight away to her. "God, what did they do to you?"

"HEY! Who are you? You’re not supposed to be here!" A man in a white lab coat rushed over to prevent Jeff from touching his wife.

Grabbing the man by his shirtfront he yelled, "What have you done to her?"


"Come on Ava, let’s go," Langley commanded.

"No, I have to help Jeff."

"Nonsense. Zan should be your first priority."

"Jeff needs me. Nancy…"

"Is human. Who cares about them? Useless creatures. You are the Queen. Start acting like it. Your subject’s needs take precedence over these pathetic humans."

"I’m no Queen. I’m the decoy queen, the Dupe. Just because Tess died, doesn’t change who I am. I will help with Zan, just let me make sure Nancy is ok, first." So saying, she pushed her way into the room Jeff had entered. Langley followed.

Rolling his eyes, Langley said, "First Zan, then this. How does someone a dumb as you make it through the day? There ought to be a law against being this stupid." Grabbing Ava by her arms, he said, "Listen up bitch and listen good. You are the true Queen, not the Dupe. You are the original. Not Tess. Tess was the Dupe, stupid bitch that she was. Why do you think they laughed her off Antar when she showed up pregnant? Talk about delusions of grandeur. She tried to pass her and Max’s brat off as full-blooded royalty. Well, she was half right. Max is the King. But you… You were his mate not Tess, and she knew that. Everybody knew it. Why do you think Rath and Lonnie despised you? Why do you think Zan was so hot to get in your pants? Certainly not because he loved you! But because he wanted to be able to rub it in the king’s face that he’d already done it with you when the time came to return you…"

"Shut up," Ava yelled. "You don’t know what you’s talkin’ bouts. Zan cared for me!"

"Riiiight," her protector smirked. "You just keep telling yourself that."

"Ava, Ava," Jeff called to her interrupting their argument. The technician lay on the floor at his feet. Jeff had knocked him cold with a lucky punch. He’d hadn’t heard any of her conversation, the whole of his attention focused on Nancy. He was pulling sensors and IVs from her tender skin. Tears dripped heedlessly down his face. There were dark purple bruises on the little bit of skin he could see. Her beautiful red hair was completely shaved off, the skin on her face a pasty pale, flaking in places. She looked like a living corpse – which she was. The intern told him she’d slipped into a coma after a particularly brutal "questioning" session.

He had to get her away from these lunatics who’d held her.

"Ava, they’ve hurt her."

"Oh god! I’m coming," she said.

"No you’re not," Langley countered. "We need to go find Zan."

"Let go of me," she ordered and was immediately gratified when he complied with the direct order.

"Ava," Jeff looked up just as Langley held up one of his hands palm out. He knew what that meant. "Look out!" He was running for his friend, knowing it would be too late. A brilliant light filled the room.

When it passed, Jeff stood in shock staring at an exact replica of himself. It was impossible. Langley had lost a couple of inches plus about a hundred pounds and now looked exactly like the unfortunate General Wallace. "What the hell are you?" Jeff breathed in disbelief. If he hadn’t seen it with his own eyes…

"What do you mean," the protector asked with a knowing smirk. He’d forgotten how much fun it was to shapeshift in front of humans: they completely freaked out. One man had peed his pants once. Once he’d decided to leave his alien heritage behind and live the life of a human, he’d lost the entertainment that could be found in playing cat and mouse with the humans before they died. Ah, the good old days.

"How the hell did you do that?"

"I’m an alien," he shrugged. "I did what comes naturally."

"You’re a WHAT!"

"What?" he glanced at Ava in surprise. "I thought you said he knew."

"He does," she asserted, then looking at her friend’s blank eyes amended, "At least I thought he did." Taking a step towards the frightened man, she whispered, "Jeff?"

Seeing her approach, Jeff stumbled backwards. "He’s… he’s a.. A…"

"An alien. Yes. I’s sorry, Mr. P. I thought you knew. I mean, You’s the one who first brought up the cloning an’ I told you ‘bout Antar. What did ya think I was talkin’ ‘bout? You knew I’m only half human. What’d ya think the other half was?"

"I don’t know… Not alien." He looked at her, comprehension dawning. Ava… she was an alien, just like Langley. Langley who was murderous and cruel… it all made sense now. He was like that because he was an alien. …and so was Ava. Oh my God! He was in danger! They all were, every human on this base will probably be killed, and it would be his fault, he’d led them here!

She took another cautious step forward.

He dashed to stand between her and his precious wife. "Stay away from us."


"Don’t hurt us! Just let us go!"

"Oh for christ’s sake!" Langley had had enough of this. Stepping forward, he again raised his hand.

"No!" Both Jeff and Ava’s voices called out. It was Ava’s he obeyed.

"I tole ya not ta hurt ‘im," she commanded, despite Jeff’s apparent rejection of her. It cut her deeply, knowing the concern he’d shown her had been fleeting, easily taken away. The look on his face spoke not of the last few days in which they’d grown closer but of terror for himself and his wife from the alien menace. "Leave ‘im be. He ain’t gonna hurt us."

"There’s only one problem here, princess. There can’t be two General Wallaces running around the base."

"So change him back to the way he was," she said.

"Riiight. As if he’s going to let me get close enough to do it."

"Don’t worry about that," she commanded. "Just do it." Closing her eyes, she mindwarped Jeff into not seeing Langley approach. There was nothing she could do about the tingling feeling as his features changed back into those of Jeff Parker and silently bore his flailing and shouting, "What are you doing to me? Stop it. Stop it! Please. I’m begging you. Please don’t kill me!" Then it was over and Langley stepped away once again. Dropping the warp, Ava said, "Yous back to normal now. Just wait here wid Nancy. We’s gonna go get Zan and the five of us is getting’ out of here. ‘K? Mr. P-Parker. ‘K? We’s’ll be right back."

With that, she and Langely left the room, leaving Jeff alone with his wife. Crumpling over her, Jeff sobbed out his fear. He’d never been so scared in his life! First finding Nancy, poor, poor Nancy so abused and in a COMA! Then finding out that not only do aliens exist but they walk among them, killing people, taking their forms and identities at will. Again the voice of that insidious note crept through his mind. The warning of how the ‘counterfeit queen’ would use lies and deceit to betray those she was closest to. Ava had admitted to being the queen in question. In one heart-rending moment of clarity, Jeff saw through her carefully constructed façade to get him to lead them here. Looking like a helpless teenaged girl, deliberately intending to remind him of his daughter, intending all along to get him to help her to… WHAT? Help her to do what? Liz!, he thought suddenly, feeling bile rise in his throat. All that supposed dreamwalking. She was obviously hoping he would lead her to the others though his connection to Liz.

He had to get out of here. He had to get Nancy to a doctor and warn Liz!

Nancy! Oh my god. She was so destroyed, but Jeff couldn’t help but think he was as torn up on the inside as his wife was on the outside. Gathering his precious burden in his arms, he headed for the door.

He recalled Ava’s promise to return for him. To kill him no doubt. Well, he had news for her, he wasn’t about to stick around for her like the fool, she’d played him for. No. No, he was getting out of here. Now!

posted on 6-Aug-2002 12:24:52 AM
Chapter Twenty-Two

(Warning for strong language...)

"‘Bout time you’s showed up," was the greeting they received from Zan once they’d found his room. If there was any lingering doubt in Ava’s mind who the government had captured, this quashed it. The pierced, tattooed man strapped to the examination table was 100% Zan.

"Zan, it’s you!" Ava rushed over to her former lover. "I’s thought yous were dead!"

"Well, no shit, I mean, ya did shove me in front o’ that truck an’ all."

Reacting as if he’d slapped her, she pulled back and explained hastily, "It weren’t me. Rath and Lonnie, they’s did it. I didn’t even know theys was plannin’ it. I swear!"

"This is touching and all, but can you do this and each other later? I’d rather not have to watch." Langley was working on the restraints holding the Dupe down. They were resisting his powers and he was looking for the release mechanism.

"Fuck you!" Zan heatedly countered. "I ain’t sleeping with no backstabbing bitch."

"Zan!" Ava protested, even as Langley stated, "You weren’t supposed to fuck her in the first place. If you’ll recall I told you not to touch her. She was off limits to you and Rath and anyone who wasn’t Max Evans."

"Hey," Zan smirked, "I was just warmin’ her up for him. Ya know breakin’ her in and all. Ya don’t want that she displease her king with her lack o’ expertise, now didja?"

"Shut up!" Ava yelled. She’d thought she’d hit rock bottom with the look on Jeff’s face a few minutes ago, now she knew the tunnel to hell was long and dark. It was hard to see the bottom, yet she knew now there was a long way to fall and she was just beginning.

"Will you both shut up? Ava get over here, or would you like to start occupying the bed next to his for the rest of your sure-to-be-short life?"

Obeying the protector, she began trying to free Zan’s arm. All the while he glared at her balefully, like a lion observing its prey. He was just waiting for the first opportunity to tear another strip off her, and by the looks of it, he was enjoying the anticipation as much as anything else.

She’d been so elated at the possibility that Zan wasn’t dead, just like Jeff said. Now she remembered the harsh edge he carried around with him, the sting of his tongue when he wasn’t using it for sex. Sex. Apparently that had been all their time spent locked together in dark intimacies was. Just sex. God, what a fool she’d been. Was still being.

Time and his apparent death had gone a long way towards coloring and tempering her memories of him, now she was starting to remember that she used to be just as glad to see him going as to see him coming. When he wasn’t around, Rath and Lonnie rode her mercilessly, when he was, he reserved that privilege for himself.

At the time, she’d told herself that was his way of ‘protecting’ her, his way of showing ‘affection’.

"Got it," Langley declared, breaking into her thoughts. Quickly, he told her how the locks worked and soon they had Zan freed. None of them mistakenly told themselves that the hard part was over. They all knew the worst was still to come.

Zan looked as one might expect after staying in the caring hands of the government for several hours. He had several lacerations across his chest and abs. His powers were muted by the serum they’d injected him with, and he was physically weak from the ordeal.

Figuring they would need the Dupe king’s shield, Langley took a minute to rid the teen’s body of the toxin prohibiting his abilities. As soon as he was done, he said, "Let’s go."

"Doan havta tell me twice," Zan growled and moved forward.


"Stop right there!"


The sight that greeted the three aliens as they rounded the last corner leading to their exit was that of Jeff Parker standing in the middle of the corridor, his wife held securely in his arms, surrounded by five military personnel holding their weapons pointing toward him.

"Jeff," Ava breathed in fear, pushing her way forward.


Jeff was terrified. Nancy was a dead weight in his arms, getting heavier by the second. Soldiers were all around him. Any possible escape was cut off. He was out of ideas. Then, just when he thought things couldn’t get any worse, they did.

The aliens were back.

He watched in horror as Ava rushed towards them. "Oh my God!"

Reactively, he shifted Nancy so that her face was pressed against his collar bone, her chest and belly were facing inward, protecting her most vulnerable areas as best as he could.

"Jeff," Ava pleaded, "I ain’t gonna hurt you. It’s ok. I wanna help yous."

"Who the hell is this fucker?" Zan asked impatiently, causing Jeff to look at him for the first time.

Stunned, he took in the similarities and differences between the kid in front of him and Max Evans. Identical. Aliens. Aliens were everywhere, his terrified mind screamed.

Suddenly, he remembered the soldiers which hand been keeping him here. He looked around for them and immediately wished he hadn’t. They were dead, every one of them. Langley had that satisfied look on his face Jeff was starting to recognize.

"No," Jeff would have backed away if he hadn’t already been pressed as tightly against the wall as he could go.

Then, it was at that moment, when he’d already begun to doubt his sanity, that he knew he’d lost it. The day’s events had finally snowballed to the point that he’d completely lost touch with reality. There, across the aisle from him, a shimmering began like heat waves coming up from the pavement in the hot New Mexico sun. The distortions worsened as he watched in stunned amazement. Time slowed down and his numbed mind tried to take in what he was seeing. When the shimmering stopped, that’s when he knew.

He’d gone insane.

He knew it as clearly as he knew every feature of her precious face, the beautiful brown of her eyes, the small scar above her eyebrow.


Liz’s voice was exactly as he remembered it. Being crazy wasn’t so bad if it meant he could have his family with him again, he dully decided.

"Daddy! Where are you? What’s wrong? Where’s mom? Daddy, answer me!"

Liz was standing in the hallway, as plain as day. She’d just materialized before him out of nothing, and she was asking him WHAT’S WRONG? Pushed beyond his limits to accept the constantly changing reality, Jeff started to laugh.

In the background more voices could be heard. The pounding of feet indicated they would have company – soon.

"Come on," Langley ordered. "There’s going to be twice as many in less than thirty seconds. We’ve got to get out of here."

Langley and Zan made their way further down the corridor, stepping over the bodies strewn across the floor. Ava waited behind. "Jeff, come on. We’s gots to go."

"Daddy," Liz pleaded. "Listen to her. You need to get out of here."

"But Liz, honey," he gently told his daughter, "she’s an alien."

"Yes," Liz quickly agreed, "but she’s a good alien. I know you can trust her. Please, just go!"

"Liz?" Ava questioned, seeing how Jeff seemed to be staring transfixed at the empty space across from him. Familiar with her friend’s abilities, she immediately guessed what was going on. "Liz, if you can hear me, we’ve got to get your dad out of here. He’s scared. I’m sorry. I tried to look out for him, but I thought he knew, you know, about us. Please, can you tell him I just want to help?"

Jeff watched as Liz smiled in Ava’s direction.

"I miss you so much," he told his daughter, speaking the words on his mind.

Getting an idea, Ava said, "Liz don’t worry, I’m gonna get him out of here." Closing her eyes, she concentrated in creating the perfect illusion, hoping it wouldn’t be the very thing which sent the poor man over the edge.

Two. Now there were two of them. Two Lizes. How weird was that? One was crying, just standing there, the other was taking his hand leading him away from the other. "Don’t worry, dad. This will all be over soon," she said. Smiling down at her, he barely noticed where they headed as they quickly caught up with Langley and Zan.


When the security checkpoint came into view an alarm began to sound loudly in the building. The pounding feet were closing in behind them, trapping the five of them against the metal barred door. "Freeze!" The first one to round the corner behind them shouted, bringing his weapon up.

Zan stepped forward and raised his protective shield.

"What the hell," the soldier cried, before firing at the green expanse. Nothing penetrated.

Jeff smiled lovingly down at Liz.

"Let’s have some fun," Zan grated, before his shield changed hue, darkening considerably. More soldiers joined the first and as one they all fired their guns, working the trigger as though they were in an arcade. When the bullets hit the shield, they bounced back and rained on the men. With cries of fear and pain, they fell back a bit.

"That’ll teach ‘em," the tattooed kid taunted, satisfied with the number of injuries he could see.

Jeff kissed Nancy’s face reassuringly.

"Stand back," Langley ordered. Since they couldn’t get through the reinforced door, he aimed his palm toward the cement block wall next to them.


No one stopped them as they made their way out of the containment area. Now the only thing standing between them and freedom was a long, long hallway, and the fact there wasn’t a get away vehicle waiting for them outside in which to make their getaway.

Fortunately, as luck would have it, that wouldn’t be a problem.

One of the doors along the hallway opened and a man stepped cautiously forward. When he saw them, he put his hands up, "Woah, woah, don’t hurt me! I’m here to help you."

"Jim," Jeff asked, focusing on the vision in front of him. "Jim Valenti, is that you?"

"Jeff, thank God! We’ve been worried out of our minds. Come on guys, our one way ticket out of here is in here."

Jeff stumbled forward. Ava, dropping the mindwarp, steadied him. "Careful now, we’s almost there, Mr. P."

Jeff started to see her, not Liz next to him, but with freedom so close by, he opted to just ignore her, telling himself as soon as he and Nancy were safe, he wouldn’t have to have anything to do with any of the aliens ever again.

Sharing a look between them, Langley decided to check it out. If there was transportation in the next room, they weren’t going to turn down a free ride.

It turned out that particular room had a hatch which led to the roof… and a helicopter parked a top it. In no time, they were flying away from Edwards towards freedom.

posted on 6-Aug-2002 12:26:31 AM
Chapter Twenty-Three

With a click, Jeff drove home the bolt on the front door of the Crashdown Café, thus signifying the end of another business day. He knew he owed his continued proprietorship almost exclusively to Diane Evans. When he’d taken off without warning all those weeks ago, she’d stepped in and ran the restaurant as best as she could in his absence, relying heavily on the staff to keep things rolling. For that, Jeff was eternally grateful. If he’d lost the restaurant after everything else, he didn’t know what he would have done.

That night when they’d rescued Nancy continued to haunt his dreams, and his waking hours, too. He couldn’t get over the amazing timing which had brought Jim Valenti to them.

Apparently, Agent Dove had come through for him. While she’d hadn’t been able to get any information on the whereabouts of Nancy, she’d heard right away about Zan’s capture and had worked with Jim to coordinate a rescue. When they’d arrived with the chopper, the sirens had already been going off in the building, so all Jim had to do was find a way downstairs and look for the others. It had been almost too easy.

Once they’d flown a short distance, Langley had demanded to be let out.

"What are you going to do?" Jim asked once they were all on the ground again. Though Jeff had preferred to stay in the chopper with his wife, he could clearly hear the conversation outside.

"I’m going to finish it," the shapeshifter said before raising his hand to the sheriff. A blinding flash of light and suddenly where there used to be General Wallace was now his own diminutive daughter. With a smirk on her pretty face, ‘Liz’ informed them that she wanted some piece and quiet and if this was the way, then so be it. The government was still looking for Liz and Max. With Langely and Zan acting as decoys, they were going to give them what they wanted.

"Good," Jim said. "The kids will be glad to know it’ll be over soon."

Ava decided to stay with Langley, her kind, Jeff told himself, rather than return to Roswell with them. It was just as well, since he couldn’t stand to look at her, knowing she’d played him for a fool, and he’d fallen for it hook, line and sinker.

Once in Roswell, they checked Nancy into Roswell Memorial. The Evans and Amy DeLuca had all been to visit, exclaiming over her wretched state. Jeff worried that the government might come back looking for her, but Jim assured him that her ‘usefullness’ for them was at an end. They wouldn’t be back.

Nancy did come out of her coma a week after her rescue, only Jeff’s dreams of being reunited with his wife, rebuilding a life with her continued to be thwarted. She’d suffered so badly at the hands of the evil monsters who’d held her, she was catatonic. Her brain had completely shut down as a way to deal with the pain of her ordeal.

Even days later, she still showed signs of her abuse. The bruises were fading slowly, most were a sickly yellow now, yet, they persisted…. And the scars. The scarring would be forever.

Before he’d punched the intern on the base, knocking him unconscious, he’d gotten a sketchy explanation as to why the pain, why Nancy. Apparently, Agent Dierks had this theory that A) Liz was an alien and B) aliens were telepathic. So he figured the way to draw Liz and the others out of hiding was to torture someone close to them, expecting the aliens to find out through the so-called telepathic link.

Liz being the only alien with documented evidence of a live birth, her mother seemed like a logical target. Everyone one knew of the bond between a mother and her child. Dierks hoped to capitalize on it.

Jeff was so enraged over Nancy’s needless pain and suffering he’d vowed to go out and kill that little bastard with his bare hands.

He would have, too, only Jim Valenti informed him quietly that Dierks was already dead. The aliens had gotten to him first.


Flipping the ‘Open’ sign over, Jeff sighed wearily. The last few weeks had been an odyssey of discovery for him. He’d talked with Jim Valenti at length about the kids and their true alien heritage. That was over a week following their return from Edwards.

Walking across the diner his eyes fell upon a booth in the front. The same booth where Max Evans used to sit and watch his daughter as she worked hour after hour serving alien themed food to all kinds of people. He finally saw the irony the kids had to live with.

Aliens in Roswell. Who would have thought it?

It was that same booth, the same night Nancy woke up from her coma that a young dark-skinned man sat, sipping his soda, eating his space fries. Jeff remembered him commenting about how they’d used to be called the "redskin basket" last time he’d been in.

Jeff had smiled at the Native American and said, "Yeah. My daughter put her foot down and insisted we rename them. She pointed out they didn’t really fit in with the ‘alien’ theme anyway."

"Really," the young man sounded interested. "I’ve met her. Liz, right?"

"Right," Jeff smiled, happy to talk with anyone about his daughter. He missed her so much, it was like a burning hole in his chest every time he thought of her.

"Heard from her lately?" he asked.

Jeff shook his head. "No, not for a couple of weeks. She’s traveling with her friends."

"Hmmm," he answered non-commitally. "I have, or rather my ‘grandfather’ has." With that, he pulled a twenty out of his wallet and dropped it on the table, right beside the FedEx box he’d brought in with him. "Have a good day." The next thing Jeff knew, he was gone, the door jingling as it closed behind him.

With trembling hands, he reached for the box. He saw the address label written in Liz’s hand was made out to someone named Riverdog at the Mesaliko Reservation, New Mexico. It was open. Obviously Riverdog would have had to break the seal to see what it contained.

Taking it upstairs, leaving the restaurant in the hands of his capable staff, Jeff dumped the contents out. The first thing he saw was Liz’s missing journal. He recognized it right away. They’d worried that it had fallen into the hand of the government, but apparently Liz had had it all along.

There was a note as expected for Riverdog to please have the box delivered to the restaurant and make sure it goes directly into his hands.

Then there was a letter.

Dear daddy,

I don’t even know where to start. I love you and mom so much. I know I’ve let you down. You must be so disappointed in me, in what I’ve done, in who I’ve become. I’ve tried so hard to do the responsible thing. In any situation, I stop and wonder what you would do… I’ve wanted to ask for your advice so many times.

I’ve wanted to tell you the truth… but then I think of how dangerous it is and I know I have to protect you from that. I’d tell myself you’re not ready, that you wouldn’t be able to handle it. Now I know I was just scared. Scared that you would see me differently, that you wouldn’t be able to accept me – I have having enough trouble accepting myself.

Then I saw you in that hallway, with mom in your arms. I saw the look on your face and I knew that I had let you down. If I had told you, prepared you, rather than foolishly trying to protect you from a truth I thought you wouldn’t be able to handle, you might never have had to face what you did. And mom… My regrets go on forever.

Jim Valenti told us what happened. How incredibly brave you were to go out to California to save mom! If only we’d known.

When we left Roswell, we thought we were protecting you, all the parents. We never thought about how the FBI would react, what they would do…

I’m so sorry about mom, dad. If there is any way I could make it better… turn back the clock and stop it from happening, I would. Messing with the future is a tricky thing, believe me, I know, but to spare you and mom this pain, I would do it.

I’ve thought and thought of what I want to tell you. You deserve the truth. I’ve talked with the others and they agree. The best way I can thing to tell you is to send you my journal. I know you must be really scared and confused right now. Aliens walking among us and all. Believe me, we all freaked when we found out, too. I’m hoping that by reading this you’ll come to see, as I have, that they aren’t here to hurt us. Some of them are actually, more giving, loving than some of the people I know.

I know I can never hope to erase the fear you must have felt when you found out, but maybe my journal will help to ease your mind and heart and you’ll know that it’s going to be ok – that I’m going to be ok. And I will be. I promise.

I love you and mom, so much,


Jeff stared down at the letter, unaware that his tears were mixing with the traces of already dried tears on the paper. Liz had cried as she’d written it, he’d cried as he’d read it.

As he put it away and stared at the small volume, his daughter’s prized possession, one phrase continued to echo around in his head, "Now I know I was just scared. Scared that you would see me differently, that you wouldn’t be able to accept me." It tore into him with far more viciousness than was intended, and he knew he had only himself to blame. Not Liz. His remorse over that point had nothing to do with Liz, who hadn’t given him a chance to know her. No, his pain stemmed from a different source entirely. Ava.

After the madness had died down, really after several days had passed, Jeff looked back over his actions at Edwards and cringed. How could he have treated her that way? He’d been so scared. Out of his mind with worry for Nancy, stressed over the rescue. Langley had killed a man, had threatened to kill him, too. Only Ava had stood between him and the alien protector.

Jeff had been out of his mind. He knew what kind of person Ava was. They’d spent so much time together since she’d come to Roswell to warn Liz of the danger that surrounded them. Still, when the truth had come out, what had he done? He’d shunned her. Completely ‘freaked out’ to use Liz’s words. He couldn’t handle it.

Even after all this time that’s passed, Jeff was still trying to come to terms with how he’d hurt his young friend with his unconditional rejection. He’d been needlessly cruel. At the time, his instincts for preservation were driving him. Now, he knew intellectually that he’d been wrong, so wrong to assume Ava would have hurt him. She’d proven time and time again that she could be trusted and he just threw it all in her face.

Maybe it was a good thing she hadn’t tried to contact him in all this time that had passed. He had no idea how to tell her how very sorry he was for the way he’d reacted.

And now to know that Liz was justified in her fear that he would have rejected her and her friends as well… It broke Jeff’s heart to know she was right.


Unable to contemplate reading the journal right then, Jeff had rushed to the hospital and talked himself hoarse, pouring out his love and devotion to the only woman left in his life; the only one he hadn’t let down when it counted. It was during those long tortured hours that Nancy awoke.

Only, she didn’t.

The doctors said she would probably never recover. His wife would forever be locked inside her own mind where fear and pain couldn’t touch her. He saw that as being his own fault, too.

The next morning, numb from the night’s events, Jeff sat in the diner and opened his daughter’s journal and began to read. Page after page he read and learned the story of how a human girl came to be the salvation of an alien king just because they loved each other. From the first words, "I’m Liz Parker and five days ago, I died," to the horrors of the FBI, shapeshifting aliens, destiny, then her own transformation, his heart cried with hers.

As she’d belatedly described how she’d been able to reach Max in New York, he understood what had happened in the hallway at Edwards. Each page was filled with strong emotions, love, loss, pain of betrayal.

Oh God, Alex! No wonder the Evans’ had despised Ava on sight, believing her to be Tess.

Hours passed and still he read on, moving upstairs when the diner was busy, coming back down after it closed again.

Finally, about an hour before sunset, he reached the end, and started to cry all over again. "Give my love to mom, and let her read this journal, too." Despite all she’d seen, everything she’d been through, his daughter still believed in happy endings.

She thought her mom was whole and healthy, helping him deal with his sorrow. She couldn’t have been more wrong. Nancy wasn’t here. She never would be again. There was only him. No wife, no daughter, just the empty shell of a man who had lost everyone who’d ever meant anything to him, leaving him all alone.


Jeff Parker, the man who couldn’t be counted on to protect his family when they’d needed him most.

Putting his face in his hands, he wept.

posted on 6-Aug-2002 12:28:14 AM

A month had passed since Edwards. Three weeks since Nancy had awakened from her coma, three weeks since Liz’s journal had arrived.

Three weeks of solitude and loneliness despite the hustle and bustle of the restaurant. Three weeks during which he’d fallen into a routine. Get up. Open the restaurant. Visit Nancy. Work. Have dinner with someone: The Evans’, Valenti, Amy Deluca, even Nancy’s friend Susan Baxter all made him feel welcome and wouldn’t take no for an answer. Afterward, he’d visit Nancy again before returning to his empty house and another long sleepless night.

It wasn’t the ideal existence, but, hey, it worked for him.

The threat was gone, the FBI had mostly pulled out of town. Langley, Zan and Ava had been remarkably through in their methods. One or two agents still lingered, a precaution Jim told him, in case there were other aliens the government hadn’t been aware of – which meant it still wasn’t safe for the kids to come home.

Jeff had resigned himself to the fact it probably never would be.

Still, things were settling down in Roswell.

Amy had handled the reading of Liz’s journal well – for her. There had been some ranting and yelling. Upon learning of its existence, the Evans’ had asked for permission to read it too. They had passed it on to Jim Valenti. Once it had made the rounds, the five of them had gathered out in the desert by the rocks where everything had started. Looking around, Jeff surveyed the scene with new eyes, imaging "this was the path the aliens had first walked down. This is where Max and Michael had stood as Liz had run away. There in distance is the old radio tower Liz had spoken of where they’d found the orb." All around him stemmed memories not his own, but his just the same, shared by a girl who’d found the courage to look beyond normal and carve out an extraordinary existence for herself, making a life built on the most solid foundation there is, not love, but trust.

For the first time, the parents talked about what they knew. Different things, stories and events they shared with their kids during the last three years which had led them here. Jeff wondered what he could have done differently. If there had been someway to prevent all this needless suffering.

Jim put a strong hand on his shoulder and said, "Jeff, I know it’s not much, but I just keep telling myself that everything happens for a reason. God gave Liz to you to raise into the strong woman she’d needed to be, just like I had Kyle for, too short a time. It was all a part of the Divine plan. We did our part, now it’s up to them to do theirs."

Not wanting to agree, yet seeing the wisdom in the other man’s eyes, the same man who had lost a wife and a child just as he, himself had, Jeff found himself nodding. Inevitably, the time comes in a father’s life when he’s forced to let go of his children, allowing them to find their own way. His only true regret in regard to his daughter was that he hadn’t had a chance to say goodbye. Looking around at the sad faces before him, he knew he wasn’t the only one who shared that regret.


Wiping down the counter after another long day, Jeff finished the last of the chores he had to do before going to see Nancy in the hospital. He was a little early tonight, it had been a light dinner crowd, but that just meant he’d have a few more hours before they kicked him out.

Removing his apron, he hurried into the back of the restaurant when out front, he heard the front door chimes jangle. Darn it, he must have forgotten to lock it. "I’m sorry, we’re… closed," he said, then faltered as his eye took in the vision before him.

"Jeff?" she whispered softly, so softly he nearly didn’t hear her.

"Nancy," he replied in disbelief, then in overwhelming joy. "NANCY! You’re here! You’re ok!" Rushing forward, he swept his frail wife up in his arms, pressing kiss after kiss on her lips, her eyes, her cheeks. "God Nancy! I can’t believe you’re here."

"Jeff, Jeff, honey, I’m fine. I’m… tired I guess. But otherwise I’m fine."

"You were in the hospital," he told her inanely, unable to think beyond the fact his wife was back where she belonged, in his arms. "Why didn’t you call? Why didn’t they call me?"

"I don’t know what happened. I woke up and there was Max Evans hovering over me, or at least I think it was Max."

"You’re not sure?"

"Well," she said with some humor, "If it was Max, I hate to tell you this, but he’s joined a cult or something. I’ve never seen so many tattoos… and the piercings! You wouldn’t believe it if you saw it," she said.

"Zan," Jeff smiled at her. Not that he thought the alien saving his wife was funny, but he knew he couldn’t stop smiling if he tried. "Zan is kind of Max’s twin brother. He’s from New York."

"Ahh," she said. "That explains the accent. Anyway, there I was, wide-awake and he’s just standing there. He asked me if I was feeling ok. Then he offered to drive me home. And so, here I am."

"Zan’s outside?" Jeff asked, homing in on one thought – Ava might be here, too. God, what was he going to say to her?

Shaking her head, bobbing her chin length hair, another gift from Zan, she said, "As soon as my feet hit the pavement, he sped off. Places to go and all that, he said."

Ava wasn’t here – But Nancy was! "Oh my God!" Jeff marveled over the feel of his wife in his arms. "It’s so good to have you back home again," he whispered. "I’ve missed you so much. I was so worried about you."

"Jeff what happened? I don’t remember anything since getting ready to go to the graduation. I can’t believe I missed Liz’s big moment! Where is she? I need to give her a big congratulations hug."

Staring at his exuberant wife, Jeff mentally debated how much to tell her, and decided to tell her the truth – slowly. No need in dumping it all on her at once. "Come upstairs, honey," he said. "Let me fix you some dinner and we’ll talk."


The next few days passed by in a whirlwind of activity. Everyone marveled at Nancy’s return to health and no one was more glad to have her home safe and sound than Jeff. To have his wife in their home again, to be able to hold her all night long. It was nearly heaven.

Nancy adjusted to the shock of the long story he’d treated her to. The only thing he’d held back was the details of the incredibility brutal torture she’d endured that the hands of the government goons. She didn’t need that kind of memory to darken her days. They were both immensely grateful she didn’t remember any of it. Jeff suspected Zan’s healing had something to do with that and was thankful that the alien had thought to spare her the memories of her ordeal.

After a few days of all the activity of visitors and well wishers swarming over them, Jeff was just wishing things would die back down. He thought he and Nancy could use a break from all this hoopla when he discovered, it wasn’t possible. Things could never be normal for them again.

Why, you might ask?

Silly you. After reading all this, you should know by now there’s no escaping the alien abyss. So Jeff found out late one Thursday night as he and Nancy reclined on their sofa with the TV off, listening to music softly playing in the background instead. Nancy had her head against Jeff’s shoulder, they were snuggled close together when they noticed the wall across from them begin to waver.

"Do you see…’ Nancy started to ask as Jeff jumped to his feet.

"Liz?" he asked.

"Jeff," Nancy grabbed his hand and stood. Before their disbelieving eyes, the image of their daughter coalesced. "Liz," she breathed in wonder.

"Hi, mom, dad." Liz looked from one parent to another as if not sure where to begin. "Sorry to just pop in on you like this. Can… can you both hear me?"

As one, they nodded, and she smiled proudly. "I’m getting better at this."

"You said Max couldn’t hear you at all in New York," Jeff agreed. "Your powers are increasing, probably from use." Taking a breath, he said the first thing he could think of, "God, baby, you make me so proud."

"I miss you so much," was Liz’s response. Her smiled faltered as tears threatened for a moment, but in a gesture that was achingly familiar to them, she pushed them back. "Mom, how are you feeling?"

"I’m better. Thanks to your friend Zan," she smiled warmly to show she’d fully accepted the circumstances of her swift recovery.

"Not friend exactly," Liz corrected. "More like an ally we hope we don’t need to call on."

"You don’t trust him?" Jeff read between the lines to get to the truth.

Shaking her head she admitted, "No. He’s a Dupe. We’ve discovered time and again that the Dupes are not to be trusted."

"What about Ava?" Jeff couldn’t help but ask.

"A few weeks back, I would have told you that she was the exception to the rule. Now we know Tess was the Dupe. Ava really belongs with Max’s family. Knowing the truth explains so much." Smiling again, Liz said, "Actually, Ava is the reason for my visit…" In a few short sentences, she spelled out her request to her parents. They agreed without hesitation.

"I know it’s a lot to ask," Liz said as her form began to waver once again. They were losing the connection.

"Nonsense," Jeff refuted. "It would be our pleasure. Tell her…" he faltered. No, he couldn’t allow Liz to make his apologizes for him. There would be another way to make things right between himself and the small girl he’d wronged so badly. "Never mind," he said instead.

"I’ve got to go. I love you," Liz said hurriedly.

"We love you too," Nancy replied.

"Everyday," Jeff added. "We think about you every day. Come to us when you can. Let us know how you’re doing. ‘K?"

"I promise," Liz agreed.

"Take care of yourself," Jeff added, but he was talking to the wall. Liz was gone.


Two days later, the door above the CrashDown chimed and admitted a slender young woman with longish sandy blonde hair, clutching a baby to her breast. She hovered anxiously in the doorway as if unsure of her welcome, or maybe she was just waiting to be seated. Nancy, who was working in the diner, enjoying the routine to pass the time hurried forward. "Welcome to the Crashdown. Let me show you to your table."

"No, thank you," the woman answered. "I didn’t come here to eat. I’m looking for…" breaking off the woman stared over Nancy’s shoulder towards the back of the diner. Following her gaze, Nancy saw that her husband had entered the café from the kitchen. From the hesitant look on the woman’s face, she surmised he must be the person she’d come to see.

To any other forty-something woman, the sight of a pretty girl with a baby looking at her husband like he was water in the desert, would doubtlessly send her into a tail spin. Not Nancy. Not just because she wasn’t most women, nor because she was certain of Jeff’s devotion and faithfulness, but because she knew this girl, though they have never met.

"He’s missed you," Nancy offered.

Ava gave her a wobbly smile, searching for her missing courage before stepping forward.

As always upon entering the diner, Jeff’s eyes sought out the precious form of his wife. He still needed to be constantly assured that she was home and safe with him. He sometimes wondered if he would ever be able to put those weeks when she’d been gone completely from his mind. A part of him acknowledged that it probably will never happen. Today, he saw her by the door to the café talking to a young girl… who looked just like Ava – except for the hair of course.

"Ava," he called, moving forward. She turned to face him, clutching a baby in her arms. He stopped just a few feet shy of her and drank her in with his eyes. "You’re ok," he said, finally, stating the obvious.

"Yeah," she nodded, slowly. "It was touch and go there for a little while, but we made it. Mostly, Langley and Zan did all the work."

They might have been two strangers for all the comfort they felt with one another now. Each remembered the things Jeff had said in his fear and confusion while they were rescuing Nancy and Zan.

With the ghost of a smile Jeff refuted, "Somehow I doubt that. You always were stronger than you let on. I’m sure if you hadn’t been there they would never have pulled it off."

Ava was silent for a moment, her eyes taking in the silent appeal in Jeff’s blue eyes, the appeal to let bygones be bygones. With a small smile of her own, she nodded shortly, "You’re right. They wouldn’t have."

That small sign of reconciliation was all Jeff needed. Stepping forward he closed his arms around her, baby and all, "God, Ava, I am so sorry for how I acted. The things I said. I know I can’t even begin to make it up to you, but God help me, I want to try. Please say you’ll forgive me."

Her slender shoulders shaking, Ava whispered hoarsely, "Forgive you for what? I was the one who lied. I shoulda told you. Alls you did was be my friend. You treated me better than anyone evea did. I’m so sorry I abused your trust."

"What are you talking about," Jeff asked, tipping her face up to his so he could look down into her tear drenched eyes.

"That day, after you rescued Nancy, I… I mindwarped you. Remember, I made you think I was Liz so you would follow me out."

"You probably saved my life," Jeff argued. "And Nancy’s too. For that I know I can never repay you, but if forgiveness for your act of kindness is what you want, then it’s yours."

More tears, happy tears this time, rushed from her eyes and over her cheeks.

"Come on, let me introduce you." Pulling Ava over to where Nancy was waiting, Jeff quickly made the introductions, "Nancy, I would like you to meet my very good friend Ava who was with me the whole time I was searching for you."

Nancy was a smart woman, she’d already known exactly who this young girl was and the great debt owed to her by their family. Smiling, she pulled Ava into a short hug. "Hello Ava. It is my very great pleasure to meet you." One more squeeze, and she whispered, "Welcome to the family."

Wide eyed, Ava stared at them once Nancy stepped back. "Welcome to the… You mean…"

"Your room is all ready for you," Jeff nodded. "We were hoping you’d come."

"Yous want me to stay here? With you?"

"I wouldn’t have it any other way. Now who’s this young man who I understand is my step-grandson?"

"Uh," Ava turned the sixteen month old child so that he was facing his grandparents. "Alexander Phillip, meet your Grandpa Jeff and Grandma Nancy."

"Alexander?" Jeff questioned, wondering how Liz was doing with the son of her strongest enemy being named after a friend murdered by that same person.

"Zan, for short," Ava explained.

"Ah," Nancy nodded in understanding. They’d Americanized the unusual name given to the infant by it’s mother. "Zan it is."

Holding out her arms she asked, "May I?"

"Yeah," Ava said. "Careful," she admonished as she handed the infant over. Leaning in, she whispered, "His hands glow when he’s happy."

"Right," Nancy nodded a little nonplussed at the candid admission. "Good to know." Nodding her head again, she recovered her surprise and said, "I’ll just take this precious bundle upstairs then before we have any of that." Looking Ava in the eye, Nancy asked bluntly, "What about you? What do you do when you’re happy?"

Timidly, Ava answered, "Nuthin’. I mean, I ain’t sure. I ain’t never really been happy before."

"Well, you better resign yourself to a change in lifestyle, then. I plan on making sure the both of you stay very happy. Especially you."

Feeling like she was going to burst at such unprecedented generosity and open acceptance, Ava smiled broadly, "Yes, ma’am."

Smiling warmly, Nancy turned away only to say over her shoulder, "Oh and Ava, call me Mrs. P. or if you’d rather…"

Ava was certain she knew what the older woman would say and held her breath. Only, she was wrong. Nancy didn’t ask her to call her by her first name, instead the amazing woman offered, "You can call me ‘Mom’."


Years into the future Jeff could still remember his tranquil thoughts as he helped Ava carry her meager belongings in from the same trusty Ford which had taken them on their adventure, into Liz’s former room above the CrashDown. He’d taken a moment to ponder the series of turns his life had taken. He’d lost a daughter and in the process, gained a whole new family, complete with grandchildren.

He’d gone from having nothing to having more than any man deserved.

Sometimes when he thought about Liz he missed her unbearably, but it was enough to know she was out there in the world, safe from harm, being held in the loving arms of her husband. Someday she would bear him another grandchild or more, until then he would be content to watch Zan grow, sharing with Ava once again the joys of having small children around.

And little Zan. Jeff and Philip’s pride and joy. He’d been a little miracle, healing the wound of not only his family, but the Evans’, too. Even Amy had fallen under his spell – it helped that he did his little glow thing at the first sight of her. Ava hadn’t been kidding about the kid’s hands, they lit up like a Christmas tree under the right conditions.

Jeff’s heart had gone out to Max. It must have been a hard decision to give him up – again, but the road was no place to raise a child and he knew it. Plus, it was understood that the child would doubtlessly put a strain on Liz and Max’s relationship. Ava had offered to take him, raise him as her own, after all, she’d pointed out, Tess was her clone, so truly Zan had her blood flowing through his veins. Plus, being alien herself, she was prepared to deal with his little alien mishaps as they came up, besides, she didn’t figure on ever having any children of her own. Max had given into her arguments, knowing it was for the best.

They kept in touch with the parents as best they could. –Not conventional means, certainly, but between Isabel’s dreamwalking, Liz’s projecting, and random websites where pictures were exchanged along with long letters, the group of parents were kept informed of the goings on.

Jim Valenti’s friend, Agent Dove offered to put them into the witness protection program shortly after the government backed off. Only Isabel had taken her up on the offer. She and Jesse started over at a law firm in Philadelphia. The rest of the kids had decided they were doing just fine on their own. Just like Liz had written in her journal, they were still going from town to town, doing good deeds and avoiding the law.

Kyle returned home after six months of vagabond living. He said living with those two couples day in and day out was wearing on his nerves. If Max and Liz weren’t sucking face, then Michael and Maria were making up. Jeff had to laugh at that. It was so reminiscent of their days spent working together in the CrashDown, until he pointed out, "Wait, don’t you mean they were fighting, then making up?"

"Nah, they apparently decided the making up part was better. They hardly ever fight anymore, but that sure doesn’t stop them from making up at every opportunity."

"Kyle Valenti," Amy had objected, as everyone around them had laughed.

Speaking of Kyle, he had turned out to be a pretty decent guy. He eventually became a teacher over at the High School. Jeff suspected all the love blooming on the road wasn’t the only reason he’d left the group. After less than a month after his arrival in Roswell, the true reason for his return had become obvious. More than once Jeff had caught him sitting in that exact same booth Max used to sit in… staring at Ava in that exact same way Max used to stare at Liz.

He’d finally walked up to the boy/man and said outright, "Would you just ask her out already? Or I’m going to start charging you rent for this booth."

The courtship was slow, slow enough even for Jeff’s over protective instincts. The wedding was to be held next week, leaving Jeff and Nancy with the feeling that they were losing another daughter. Ava had become a true member of the family over the years she’d lived with them. She’d soaked up the love freely given to her like a starving rose, blooming in it’s nurturing care, before giving back twice as much.

She’d brought them so much joy in their time together that he hated to see her go, but that’s what fathers had to do. It was in the job description or something, Nancy had pointed out.

Sighing with melancholy, Jeff agreed with her. She was right. It’s a dad’s job to protect his child, raise her up; keeping her safe from all harm until the day he had to relinquish her into another’s care. Then she becomes the husband’s responsibility. Then dad just has to show up for dinner once in a while and ask about the grandkids, or lack thereof.

He’d missed the opportunity to give Liz away to Max, but he’d have that honor with Ava and he’d do it proudly. She may not have been his and Nancy's natural daughter but she'd become theirs in all the ways that count. And they were hers.

Jeff smiled proudly to know that Ava looked upon them as her real family, and like a real dad, he would be the one to walk her down the aisle and give her away.

He was looking forward to it.

After all, it was a father's duty.

The End