posted on 20-Oct-2002 4:32:23 PM
B L U E R E M E M B E R E D H I L L S
A ‘WR’ Roswell Season 4.

bluebanner500

Disclaimer: Roswell and their Characters don’t belong to me.
Category: Predominately M&L but the gang’s all here!
Spoilers: Follows on from the end od S3
Rating: PG, I guess.
Summary: Post Graduation. We follow the gang on their journey.
e-mail: olde.worlde⊕btinternet.com
web: www.olde.worlde.btinternet.co.uk


Blue Remembered Hills
(A.E.Housman)

Into my heart an air that kills,
From yon far country blows:
What are those blue remembered hills,
What spires, what farms are those?
This is the land of lost content,
I see it shining plain.
The happy highways where I went,
And cannot come again.


Part 1


DATELINE: June 26th, 2002 - - - - - - Roswell, New Mexico - - - - - - The Roswell Sheriff’s office reports that there were no suspicious circumstances surrounding the disappearance of six local teens. The teenagers, three boys and three girls, disappeared amidst what eyewitnesses claim to have been tight security during the graduation ceremony of West Roswell High School. One local girl, a Miss Pamela Troy said ‘They were all there, right up to the point when one of them, Max, got up to make a speech. He wasn’t supposed to. Anyway, the lights went out. Then this bright light blinded us, and when we could all see again, they were all gone. As if they had been abducted by aliens. You don’t think that’s what it was, do you?’ Some eyewitness in the audience claimed to have seen snipers taking up vantage-points. While one of the missing teenagers, a Maxwell Evans of Murray Lane, Roswell, gave his impromptu speech, the auditorium was stormed by heavily armed members of an FBI SWAT team. It was at that point that a bright light blinded everybody, and when it finally dimmed, Mr. Evans had leapt onto the back of a motorcycle that had appeared from nowhere and disappeared into the night. Sheriff Hanson of the Roswell Sheriff’s office is quoted as saying ‘This was a pretty tight-knit group of kids who had been in repeated trouble in the past. Faced with parental disapproval over their ‘relationships’, they did what most teenagers from small towns do as soon as they leave high school. Leave for a major city, probably Chicago as one of the students had a college acceptance there.’ The FBI claimed that their intervention was nothing more than a training exercise in their continuing fight against worldwide terrorism. FBI authorities deny that there is any connection between these six kids and the mystery surrounding the many incidents reported in and around Roswell since 1947. FBI Special Agent Baurline is quoted as saying ‘We are not investigating these kids, their families or their disappearance. There are no aliens in Roswell, New Mexico.’ Following the complaints of several of Roswell’s leading citizens, lead by the father of two of the missing teens, an investigation is under way to see if any civil rights have been infringed. Reports indicate that illegal bugging devices and unauthorized telephone tapping have been found. - - - - - - Reuters.


* * *

My name is Liz Parker, this is my new Journal and here are my thoughts. I once told Max that I kept my journal so that if whatever happened to me happened again, I would know what it should feel like. Since I have now married him, I know that no one will ever touch me the way he has, so I‘m not keeping this journal for that reason. This journal will document our lives, our history, so that when we are gone, the world might learn what a truly remarkable…man Max Evans was, and the way he commanded such respect and loyalty from those whose lives he touched.

I have run away from everything, my life, my past and my future. I have fled my family, whom I love very much, with my two best friends and three aliens, one of whom I am completely in love with. All we have left is our present, which is filled with so much danger now, I just don’t know how to describe it. Since we slipped away from our graduation ceremony, at which the FBI had planned to shoot us all dead, we have been fleeing for our lives. I’m afraid that when we’re… gone, as we all expect to be caught one day, that there will be nothing left to remind the world of an incredible, incredible young man whose greatest crime was to fall in love with a simple human girl, me. Since Max Evans placed his hand over my stomach, and removed the bullet that would have otherwise killed me, all of our lives have been drastically changed.

Whenever I look out at the passing scenery, or across at my travelling companions slumped in the seats of this old van, or sprawled across the floor of a dirty motel, looking tired and weary, I ask myself if it is all worth it? If a life on the run, constantly looking over our shoulders, never knowing if the next moment will be our last, is a price worth paying just to continue to exist? But then I catch Max’s eyes, and see the love for me that I hope he sees reflected back in my own, and I know. With every fiber of my being, I know that every moment I get to spend with him is worth a thousand lifetimes. This can never be normal, but I don’t care.


* * *

So they left Roswell, New Mexico. Six teenagers, bound together by ties few could come close to comprehending, bonds forged by the their trials of adversity and tempered with loyalty, trust, the overriding knowledge that they would always be there for each other and above all else, love. Frightened by the fate they had just escaped from, and tearful of the fact that they were leaving all of their loved ones behind, they drove along the dirt track that led from the ruins of the Pod Chamber, where this had begun all those years ago. Once they had reached the highway, six faces looked back through the rear window and into the darkness, looking for the red lights of Deputy Jim Valenti’s cruiser, reflecting from the rock walls of the gully in which he had parked to say goodbye. Each of the van’s occupants hoped that Jim would be there for their parents in the future, as he had been there for them so many times in the past. After a deep sigh, and a sad smile at Liz, sitting next to him in the passenger seat, Max turned the van onto the main road, and Roswell was left behind them. They each wondered if they would ever see the place again.

They traveled west, towards Arizona, as Jim had suggested. Taking turns to drive, they kept the old van that Jesse had acquired moving. They all shared in Isabel’s sorrow at having to leave the man she loved behind. In a strange way, it had brought Liz and Isabel closer, now that she knew what Liz must have felt like that time she left Max to follow his destiny. Liz had told her that in the same way that she had never stopped loving Max, Liz knew that Jesse would never stop loving Isabel. It was like someone special had once told Liz, ‘We choose our own destinies.’ When they crossed the state line, no one knew whether they should be relieved, or upset. They truly were on their own now, but then, hadn’t they always been? It was time to make their first decision. In spite of the lure of the anonymity and easy pickings of Las Vegas, and the even bigger lure of the Elvis Chapel, the gang turned north towards Utah. Neither Max nor Liz found the idea of marriage in those bright lights alluring anymore. That was in another time, they were different people.

Before they left Arizona, and crossed into Utah, they finally discussed the subject of separating. Ever since Michael’s original plan to slip away individually had been changed so dramatically by the appearance of Bryce McCain as the guest speaker at their graduation ceremony, this was a conversation no one really wanted to have. The thought had always been there, however. After a lengthy conversation, they all agreed that the thought of not being together, as a team, filled them with dread. Isabel could not bear the thought of parting from Max, or Michael; she had lost too much already. There was no way Liz would allow herself to be separated from Max, they had already agreed to stay together, come what may. Maria naturally wanted to stay with Michael, and desperately needed to stay with Liz. Both Max and Kyle wanted them all to stay together, where they would each be there if and when help was needed. It was like Max had said; there was a reason that they were together. United they would stand, divided they would fall. Michael agreed with everyone. The ‘four square’ had become a ‘six hexagon’. The option of splitting up was never raised again.

It was when they entered Idaho that they had felt safe enough to take some time for Max and Liz to finally get married. While Max filled the necessary paperwork, Isabel and Maria had taken Liz to a neighboring small town. There, they found a small boutique and found a delightful ensemble for the bride to wear for her big day, one that required only the minimum of ‘adjustment’ from Isabel. The peasant skirt and blouse may have been a somewhat unorthodox outfit for her to wear, but then this was hardly an orthodox wedding. Given the fact that a twice reincarnated, recently abdicated alien king was marrying the smallest of small town girls with newly developed alien tendencies, both of whom were on the run from an elite group of alien hunters, the outfit seemed somehow appropriate. Besides, wearing it, Liz made it very beautiful. Max’s eyes had nearly fallen out when Kyle, himself smiling broadly in anticipation of Max’s reaction, escorted the radiant Elizabeth Parker down the aisle, attended by both Isabel and Maria. Beside him, Michael could only smirk and wonder if Max realized the power this diminutive girl held over him.

They tied the knot in a little chapel on the outskirts of a small town named Cherry Creek, just across the Utah/Idaho border. They had a meal in a small Italian restaurant where Michael, as Max’s best man, made a speech that announced his final acceptance of Liz into his tight little group.
Along with his vow to cherish and protect her always, Max promised that one-day, they would repeat their marriage ceremony, with all of their families and friends there to give them their blessings. They had been lovely sentiments, but few really believed that they would ever see their homes… or their families again. Nevertheless, it was a day that Liz would never forget. She could not stop smiling all day. Her biggest wish had just come true, she had married the man of her dreams, and she had never been happier.

On the outskirts of the next town, Max and Liz spent their wedding night in a small, but gorgeous rustic motel, set back into the trees. The gang had allowed them this luxury, eating into their limited resources, because after all the two of them had been through since their roller coaster relationship had started, they deserved this one special night. The room could not have been more romantic. Even the wedding suite in the most expensive hotel in the world could not have compared with this quaint little room with the lace curtains, the log fire and the hand embroidered bed spread over the large, hand-made four poster bed. Their union was consummated with joy, tenderness, passion, respect and above all else, love and devotion. Not even Maria’s whispered warnings during a private moment together could prepare Liz for the ultimate experience she shared with Max that night. Each climax of their lovemaking lasted over an hour and rather than satisfying her, had left her body craving more. Neither Max nor Liz slept much that night, and as the sun finally rose over their first morning together as man and wife, their love had grown, if that was at all possible. The smirks on the faces of their friends when they all met up at a diner later that day showed that they could guess from their appearance how much the newlyweds had enjoyed their night of passion together.

While Max and Liz had been so preoccupied with their sexual exploration of each other, their friends had not been idle. They had spent the evening at a bowling alley some distance away from the ‘Love Nest’ as Kyle had dubbed it. He had wanted to remove any risk of hearing the two of them, even suggesting that the next state was too close. It was at the bowling alley that they had overheard a gang of youths discussing the summer job openings at a nearby camping complex. Although they knew of Max’s desire to help people, they also needed money. Kyle had managed to find out where it was, what it was called, and after studying a local map that Michael had ‘liberated’ from a gas station, they had found the camp’s location. It had been Liz, during lunch the next day, who had come up with the suggestion of filtering into the camp separately, so as not to attract any undue attention to such a large group. The van was hidden in a obsolete quarry a short distance from the camp, with the four of them altering the appearance of the vehicle to blend in with the surroundings. They later retrieved the van, hiding it close to their temporary home in case they needed to make a quick getaway.
Kyle and Isabel were the first two to leave. After a painfull decision to hide their marriage, Liz and Maria followed them the next day, while Max and Michael remained ‘til the third day, making sure that there were no visible signs of their camp left to find. Max had never felt more alone than he did that night. Liz had felt the same way. It was as though she had lost an important part of herself.

* * *

In the Sawtooth National Forest, Idaho, just outside the town of Stanley, Camp Sawtooth was a large, well established complex that catered to both the campers who came with their tents and RV’s as well as providing Lodges, Cabins and Chalets to those campers less willing to ‘rough’ it. In the main square of the camping site, there was a small diner, much the same as the Crashdown but decorated with animals and trees rather than tacky green Martians and UFOs. Michael, or rather, ‘Mikey’ as he was now known in public, had found work as a short order cook. He had groaned when Liz suggested it to him, but he knew that she was right. They had to work to their strengths. Mikey placed two plates of fried food on the serving hatch, and rang the bell.
“Order for table twelve,” Mikey barked at Rita, a pretty waitress with long blond hair.
“About time,” Rita, who in more private moments went by the name of Maria snapped.
“Look, what is your problem?”
“Just cook, Spaceboy!” Rita rolled her eyes.
In the six weeks that they had been working at the camp, their relationship with each other had followed pretty much the same pattern that they had followed before they started their flight for survival. Max and Liz had discussed the situation one night, and had come to the conclusion that they both felt that being bristly with each other brought a sense of normalcy to Michael and especially Maria. Nevertheless, it was clear that living together in such close proximity had exacerbated their animosity, as it had between all six of the Roswellian refugees.

“So,” a petite, lovely woman with long dark hair smiled at the table with four young men staring hard at her face. “That’s three Half-pounders with cheese, all with fries, and a Grand Slam special. Do you know what drinks you want with those?”
“Has anyone told you how lovely you are?” one of the youths asked, the leader of the group. They were all on vacation together, a guy’s last ‘hurrah’ before they went their separate ways to the colleges that had offered them their sports scholarships. They looked like jocks. They certainly behaved like them.
“Thank you,” she flashed a killer smile, clearly flirting with the man.
She had been flirting with them since they had arrived last weekend. Actually, her flirtatious manner had started almost the day she started to work as a waitress, quickly becoming the most popular one there. Everyone, especially the boys, tried to sit in the tables on which she waited.
“Hey, Betty,” the boy known as James continued. “I told you I hold the Idaho State record for yards passed in a season, right?”
“You did,” she smiled. “Along with three or four other records, right?”
“He told you only three or four?” one of his pals laughed, trying to attract the lovely waitress’s attention.
“And I told you Stanford offered me a full Football scholarship, yeah?” James ignored his pal. “Say, what time do you get off today, Betty?”
“Now why would you ask that?” Betty who was better known to her closest friends as Liz winked.
“I thought maybe you and me could drive down to Stanley and have dinner, or something. Take in a movie, perhaps. You know, a date.”
“Well, as tempting as that sounds,” Liz smiled, “I think my roommates have something planned. It would be kind of rude for me to miss it.”

“What’s she doing?” Michael demanded when Maria returned to the serving window. “I thought we were supposed to be low key?”
“Don’t talk to me like that!” Maria growled. “Like it’s my fault.”
“She’s only been married to Max for less than two months. What would he say if he came in here now and saw this?”
“Look, I’ll talk to her, okay?”
“See that you do. Or else I will.”
Maria was as unimpressed with Liz’s antics as Michael was. As soon as it was convenient, she would have words with her best friend.
“One careless word and this could all blow up in our face,” Michael slammed some beef patties on the grill. “I for one don’t want to get a bullet in my brain because of Mrs. Popularity over there.”
“Just remember,” Maria snapped, feeling the need to defend her friend. “If it hadn’t been for Liz in the first place you wouldn’t be here right now.”
“You’ve got that right,” Michael grumbled in a voice that was a little too loud.
“Excuse me?”
“Nothing!”

“Okay, Chica,” Maria grabbed Liz’s shoulder as she placed the jock’s order on the carousel hanging from the serving window. “You, me, restroom. Now.”
Maria dragged her friend by her collar through the doors by the side of the kitchen and into the staff room. Once safely locked in the ladies restroom, Maria turned on Liz, her green eyes flashing
“So. What’s up?”
“What do you mean, Rita?” Liz looked at her friend.
“Are you starting regret this whole ‘Queen Liz’ deal?”
“You’re not making much sense, you know.” Liz was confused. “What are you talking about?”
“The jocks,” Maria waved her hand in the direction of the dining room. “I’ve seen how flirty you are around them. And I’ve noticed how you’re always talking to our co-workers. Our ‘male’ co-workers. Are you wishing for something different? Are you maybe looking for a way out of this?”
“I told Max that I would do anything to be with him,” Liz hissed. “You of all people should know how I feel about him, what I’ve gone through to fulfil my dream.”
“So what’s going on? Is the dream turning into a nightmare?”
“Do you think I’m enjoying talking to the guests like that? Or our co-workers? We need to make as much money as fast as we can,” Liz reminded her. “And we need to make sure that the people around us are who they say they are. So I am just making sure, okay? If you guys can’t handle me flirting a little to get bigger tips, then… then… grow up!”
“Why are you like this?” Maria snapped back.
“Ugh!” Liz cried, throwing her hands up into the air.
She stormed out of the rest room.

Kyle, although to the rest of the camp, he was known as ‘Bud’ entered the diner’s staff room through the back door just in time to see Liz huffing through to the diner. When Maria charged out of the restrooms a second later, Kyle rolled his eyes and gave a knowing shake of his head.
“Rita,” he called, attracting her attention. “Could you whip me up a quick lunch? One of the kiddie rides is closed for maintenance, and I have a deadline to get it fixed.”
“What?” Maria snapped. “So, like, I’m your personal servant now?”
She followed Liz back into the diner.
“That was weird,” he frowned, and he too entered the diner, stopping next to the serving hatch.
“What do you want Va… Bud?” Michael demanded.
“Just a burger, and fries,” he sighed. “Oh, and a coke. Not that diet stuff, either.”
After a few moments, a takeout bag was unceremoniously thrust into Kyle’s hands.
“Gee, thanks.”

Cursing the mood swings of his companions, especially the ‘Czechoslovakians,’ Kyle returned to the children’s ride that he was working on. He bit into the burger as though it was the head of ‘Mikey’ or ‘Evan’ that he was biting off. Kyle worked as a mechanic, making sure that the rides, the vehicles and the motorboats down on the lake were all kept in good, and safe running order. It helped that Max, or rather, Evan, swung by each evening to double check the safety of the equipment for him, using his ability to analyze the composition of the metal. No machinery would break down or cause an accident while they were here. But this double-checking bothered Kyle, as though it was a silent accusation that he was not up to the job. His meal finished, Kyle got back to work, crashing and banging about, cursing the very existence of the Czechoslovakians.
“Hey man,” one of his colleagues called from the small merry-go-round, “That country don’t even exist no more.”
Tell that to Alex, Kyle screamed in his mind while he stared hard at him.
“Thank you,” he spoke out loud. “How great it must be to have a GED.”

The other guy ignored Bud’s comment, staring over the top of his head as he seemed to brighten up. He started to rearrange his clothing and adjust his hair, trying to make himself more presentable.
“Oh hey, that Belle’s coming over here,” he nodded towards the camp square. “Is she seeing anyone, do you know? I think she’s hot. I’m going to ask her on a date.”
“Yeah, like she’ll say yes,” Kyle sighed. “Get to the end of the line.”
The tall blond woman walked purposefully towards the working pair.
“Hey, Belle,” Kyle’s colleague stepped towards her. “Would… would you like to come into town with me tonight? Catch a movie?”
“Not in this lifetime,” Isabel sneered at him. She turned to Kyle. “What are you doing?”
“What’s it look like?” he snapped.
“There’s no need to take it out on me,” she huffed. “I only came to see if you wanted to go for lunch.”
“Already had it!”
“Oh, you couldn’t wait for me?” She sounded hurt. “Thanks. Thanks a lot.”
“Don’t mention it.”

Isabel stamped away. ‘Belle’ spent her days walking around the campsite taking pictures using a digital camera. At the end of each day, she downloaded all the images onto a special computer where they appeared in the form of an electronic album. The camp guests could look at the album through a special hook up to the TV sets in their lodges, ordering hard copies of any photographs they liked. She found the job boring and frustrating, but as Max had said, she was their eyes and ears, able to circulate amongst the crowds and watch for possible FBI agents. Any time she saw a likely candidate, she could use the picture she took of him and dream-walk him that night. The others took it in turns to study the faces in the pictures as a kind of backup, each looking for something someone else may have missed. Of all of them, Isabel earned the least amount of money, relying purely on commission for any sales of her pictures. She believed that the others silently accuse her of not pulling her weight, of not bringing in her share of the money. She hurried to the diner, colliding with Liz who was on her way out restaurant, carrying a take out bag.
“Why don’t you watch where you’re going?” she hissed.
“Likewise,” green lightening flashed across Liz’s eyes.

Liz walked out across the square and into the corner of the camping grounds that held the cabins and lodges that the summer guests rented, taking a picnic lunch over to Max. They shared their lunch together, every day, without fail. Max was taken on as a maintenance worker, fixing the various problems in the lodges and buildings. Usually, they were silly things such as broken bulbs, or sticking doors, but Max had proved his competence with all things, including the electricity and plumbing. Not unsurprisingly, he appeared to be a natural with them all. Mr. Anderson, the owner of the camp, had complemented Max on his work claiming that the lodges had never been in such good condition.
“Here,” Liz snapped as she tossed Max his lunch.
He was waiting for her at the picnic table. It was one that stood alone, relatively hidden and they could not easily be overheard.
“Hey Liz, it’s so nice to see you, too,” Max smiled at his wife.
Liz looked into his dark eyes, and her foul mood evaporated instantly. She regretted her animosity.
“I’m sorry, Max” she sighed, folding herself into his welcoming embrace. “It’s just the guys, you know?”
“Do you want to talk about it?”
“Maria just gave me this whole ‘What are you doing’ lecture, just because I flirt with the guys.”
“Flirting, huh?” he laughed, caressing the back of her head with his hand.
“Don’t go getting all jealous on me, Max,” Liz groaned. “They leave bigger tips if they think they have a chance. You know, trying to impress me.”
“Be careful, Liz,” Max looked worried. “They might get… stupid… angry. They might…”
“I can take care of myself, Max.”
“I know, I know,” he smiled. “But to make me happy, will you please make sure that at least one of us is with you at all times.”
“Okay,” she giggled. “If it makes you happy.”
They finished their meal, breaking morsels of food and feeding one another, taking delight in each other’s company. They then sat back on the grass, holding one another, trading soft, sensuous kisses.
“I’d better get back,” Liz’s reluctance to leave was so obvious. Her hand held on to his more tightly. “What are you doing this afternoon?”
“Well, I’ve finished all the scheduled tasks, and uh…”
“But you finished hours ago. We both know that.”
“Yeah,” Max laughed. “It’s a tough life.”
“What do you do with all the spare time? I mean, I know you have to pretend it takes you the same length of time to do these tasks as everyone else.”
“I read this,” Max showed her a book on advanced electronics. “I need to know more about how we can take measures to protect ourselves better. How we can spot any… devices. How we can beat them.”
“Max,” she frowned. “We can never beat them. They’ll just keep on coming. Even if we take out the whole of the FBI, they’ll just hire more. Or they’ll use the military. Max? Face it. This is our life.”

* * *

Finished with that day’s shifts, all six of the gang found themselves back at the small cabin they shared. More than a few eyebrows had been raised when these six apparent strangers had eagerly agreed to share their accommodations. Of course, the attractiveness of the three young ladies made the other guys all wish that they’d thought of it first. The cabin they shared had only one bedroom, up in the attic. Kyle had originally suggested that Max and Liz, being the only married couple, take the bedroom. Max had refused, stating that for the sake of fairness, they would take turns. One week, Max and Liz would share the room. The next week, it would be Maria and Michael’s turn. Isabel would have the room after them, and Kyle would take it the week after Isabel. That way, Max had explained, everyone would have a week of privacy, a luxury that was becoming very hard to find. It was interesting to note that Michael and Maria’s relationship was definitely on the upside during the week that it was their turn to share the room. When not using the bedroom, the others all slept on either the pull-out sofa bed or one of the camp beds in the living room.

Although their shifts were over for the day, Max and Kyle were on call that evening, so although they were in the cabin with everyone else, neither was able to kick back and totally relax. Not that anyone else was relaxing that night. Tension had been steadily rising for days now, and everyone seemed to be wound up. They were all showing signs of cabin fever, snapping at one another over the smallest of things. Isabel and Maria had cooked their dinner, while Liz and Michael would wash up. It was how things went now, a silent agreement amongst them. Anyone working, or on call, was excused domestic chores. The others shared the load. It was a fair system and everyone pulled their weight. The alien powers often made things easier for them, but they had to take so many precautions to ensure that someone passing by didn’t see them that it became easier to do things the normal way.

Michael slumped into the sofa with a loud groan after he had finished his share of the duties. Liz was still drying the dishes, helped by Max who seemed happy to be with her, even though he didn’t have to help her. The tension was thick and it was so obvious that someone’s temper was going to explode. A smart person’s money would be on Michael.
“I wish we could afford the cable channels,” Michael growled.
“Well, we can’t,” Kyle snapped.
“And I for one could do without watching stupid repeats of Bewitched or something,” Isabel added.
“So, what? My company not good enough for you any more?” Maria slapped his shoulder.
Michael rose in one fluid movement, dumping Maria who had just made herself comfortable on his lap, to the floor.
“I’m going for a walk,” he told no one in particular. “I think I’ll head over to the amusement center.”
“No, you’re not,” Max stepped in front of Michael. “You have to stay in tonight. You all do. I want you to go through the album and double check all of the photographs.”
“Again, Max?” Kyle groaned. “We did that last week.”
“Then do it again this week.”
Max’s pager started to beep. He lifted it up and read the short message.
“Look,” he continued. “You guys said you still wanted me to be the leader. And I will do whatever it takes to make sure that we all survive this thing.”
“You call this surviving?” Michael demanded.
“Trust me, Michael,” Max met Michael’s stare. “I know for a fact that this is far better to the two other alternatives.” A shadow passed across Max’s face, he looked over to Liz for reassurance. “I will die before I let any of you suffer what I… I won’t let it happen.”
Max went over to a disheartened Liz, and kissed her before he left to respond to the call he received.

“Just who does he think he is?” Michael asked the remaining group when the door shut behind Max.
He sat back down, pulling Maria back to him.
“Man, he can be such a jackass,” Kyle agreed. “I know he’s your brother, Isabel, but he needs to lighten up!”
“Hey, don’t worry about him being my brother,” Isabel sat down and turned on the TV set, setting it to the album hook-up channel. “I agree with you. He needs a personality transplant.”
“How come he’s so controlling?” Maria asked. “I thought he, like, abdicated or something?”
“He’s really pissing me off,” Michael nodded.
Unable to listen to her friends talking about her husband like that, Liz quietly slipped out of the front door, and sat on the step to their veranda, waiting for her soul mate to return. Inside the cabin, she could hear that the others were united in their criticism of Max, grumbling and complaining about his attitude as they went through the photographs in the electronic album. She would need to talk with Max when he came home. She needed to make him understand that he couldn’t do things like that, that he was only alienating himself from his friends. Liz sighed heavily and stared up through the canopy of trees and into the starry night sky.

* * *


Part 2

Shielded from the planet it’s inhabitants call Earth, in the shadow of it’s moon, a small, sleek spacecraft changed it’s trajectory to execute a course that would intercept the Earth’s atmosphere above the region known around the world as the Bermuda Triangle. Unbeknownst to the inhabitants below, they had been using this very place to enter the planet’s atmosphere for millennia. Such was the reputation that had been built about the region, no one would believe it if someone claimed to have spotted them. Safe in the knowledge that the planet had yet to discover the technology that would detect them, the ship continued in a low arc that took it across the continental mass of North America and towards the area known to the occupants as New Mexico. Easily evading the puny aircraft that had seen them, the strange craft landed in the desert night air. After a short length of time, a portal opened and three figures appeared; two men and a woman. They were human in appearance, in their mid-thirties. The visitors looked around at their surroundings, taking in the unusual outcrop to their right. One of the men looked at the other two and nodded.
“This is the place,” he confirmed. He looked at the other male first. “Chyn, You take the Guerin’s.” He then looked at the female. “Kalyn, you take the Valenti’s and I’ll take… the Evan’s.”
He waited for them to confirm that they understood their assignments.
“Yes, Bektor,” they complied.
“Locate where they are and report back to me.”
“What then?” the female, Kalyn, asked.
“Then,” Bektor grinned, checking a diamond shaped device in his hand. “We finish this.”
The three of them headed into the desert, in the direction of Roswell.

* * *

Jesse looked up at the familiar skyline, and wondered how it was that he could be feeling so sad and lonely in Boston, a city he loved, and knew like the back of his hand. It was easy to be miserable when the woman you wanted to spend the rest of your life with was at this very moment probably running for her life, scared and alone.
No, he sighed, not alone. She had the others with her. At least, he hoped she did.
How were they, he wondered. How was Isabel? Was she safe? Worse, had she turned to Kyle for comfort? No, he liked Kyle. He was an okay guy, and if she needed someone, and if it couldn’t be him, Jesse was glad that it was Kyle.
That’s right, Jesse, keep telling yourself that and you might believe it. I’ll kill him if he touches her!
Were they even still alive? He knew that there would never be a report if, or more likely, when the FBI finally caught up with them, and… terminated them. It was so frustrating that for all legal knowledge, he could do nothing to help Max, Isabel and the others.

With his back to Government Center, Jesse stared past Faneuil Hall and into Quincy Market. With a deep sigh, he crossed Congress Street and headed for the market place where he hoped the long colonnade of fast food stalls might tempt him into eating something. It helped to pass the time. Because his eyes were fixed on the floor, he didn’t see the woman who was hurrying through the crowd in his direction; her cell phone glued to her ear. A collision was imminent.
“Sorry!” Jesse gasped.
“You stupid oaf!” the woman shrieked. “Why don’t you watch where you’re… Jesse? Jesse Ramirez?” She returned to her phone. “I’ll call you back.” She snapped it shut.
Jesse looked up now, into the woman’s face. A huge smile had replaced her anger. Jesse returned her smile, one that did not reach his eyes.
“Sarah,” he nodded, extending his right hand. “Sarah Brackham. How are you?”
“I’m good, Jesse.” She shook his offered hand. “You’re looking well. Jeez, I haven’t seen you since college.”
“No, well, I’ve…”
“There’s a Starbuck’s over there,” she pointed out of the market building. “Let’s go grab a couple of lattes and talk, like in the old days.”

“So,” Jesse started as he placed two lattes on the table and sat down opposite the attractive, blonde haired woman. “What have you been up to? What do you do now?”
“You’re never going to believe this,” she chuckled. “But I’m on my way to becoming a TV personality.”
“No way,” Jesse laughed. “You? You always hated TV.”
“I know,” she laughed back. “But I just grew fed up with law, and I really didn’t want to leave Boston, so I took this job doing research for the political commentator on a local news channel. I started off researching the political stories and scandals, but then they had me do some fill-ins. It started with talking to the ‘man on the street’, asking for their views on issues and it kinda grew from there. I do a lot of anchor work now, too.”
“It’s a far cry from your studies,” Jesse smiled. “Good for you.”
“Well, I was never as good at law as you were,” she touched his hand affectionately. “But I love it, you know?”
Jesse nodded.

“So what about you?” She lifted her big blue eyes into Jesse’s. They sparkled. “What has the great Jesse Ramirez been up to?”
“Well, after I bummed around for a while, I went back home to New Mexico. I went to visit with my mom.”
“Wait,” she smiled with amusement. “Don’t you come from Roswell?”
“Yeah,” he laughed, “Anyway, I worked with a local lawyer there for a while. It was fun. I enjoyed it. Anyway, a few weeks ago, Chris Hobson called me up out of the blue. He got taken on as a full partner at Langtree, Wadkins and Sullivan, and a spot in their litigation department opened up. He offered it to me, and here I am. Back in ‘Bahston.’”
“Okay,” she nodded. “So why the long face?”
“I got married last year,” he sighed.
“Oh,” she was surprised.
“The boss’s daughter,” he smirked. “She was great. Witty, charming, and so loving.”
“I’m sensing a ‘but’ here.”
“Yeah, she had this big… family problem and she had to leave.”
“Oh, Jesse. I’m so sorry.”
“I’ll get over it,” he shrugged. Yeah, right.
“Well, listen. As it happens, I’m pretty free myself most nights. We should go out, you know, like old times. I could cheer you up.” Sarah spoke softly and leaned towards him, fluttering her eyelashes at him.
“Thanks, Sarah,” he smiled, trying hard not to look at the cleavage she had just exposed to him. “Can I take a rain check on that? I really don’t feel up to starting dating again.”
“Sure,” she agreed, her voice filled with hope. She took out a small white card from her purse, and wrote her home number on the back. “Call me.”

* * *

“No!” Nancy Parker screamed as she paced back and forth across their living room. “Max Evans has stolen our little girl, Jeff. He’s got her hooked on drugs, or… or… he’s like, hypnotized her or something. Maybe he’s one of those cult leaders. You know, he did seem to take over her when Claudia died, and she was weak.”
“Look, Nancy,” Jeff sighed. “I know you’re upset. I know you’re angry, but…”
“Upset?” she shrieked. “Angry? I’ll show you upset and angry.”
“If you would read Liz’s journal…”
“What? Read her justification of how she let herself be led astray by that… that… I don’t know how Philip and Diane have the gall to claim they still love that boy. I showed her just how angry and upset I was.”
Jeff shook his head, and winced at the thought of how badly his wife would have treated the Evans. She had already thrown Jim Valenti out of the Café, accusing him of not protecting her daughter and not arresting Max for doing this to her. Things had been strained between them since Liz had left so suddenly. Jeff had been angry with Max too, in fact he had been furious. He was equally as angry at Jim for what he had said last New Years, and with himself for listening and giving Max Evans a second chance. Then he had received Liz’s journal, and he saw the truth, as Liz saw it. His opinions of Max had changed from the very first page. Sure, the alien status worried him, but if Liz was comfortable with it, he was too. For now, his wife was blissfully ignorant of these facts. He wouldn’t tell her, it was something she had to read, and understand for herself, as he had.
“Well,” he looked up to his wife. “Would you mind if Amy read it first?”
“Get that damned book out of my sight!” she hissed. “I never want to see that thing again.”

* * *

“Really?” Philip looked concerned. “She said that to you?”
“Yeah,” Diane nodded. “But it’s okay. She doesn’t know yet. She’s still hurting. I know she’ll come around. I mean, because of the way we kept pushing them, this was shoved in our faces, so to speak. We didn’t have time to go through the anger and denial phases. We had to accept it right away, for their safety.”
“I hope they’re all okay,” Philip sighed. “I worry for them. Not just Max, and Isabel, but the others too. Whatever else they are, they’re still kids. And they are in so much danger.”
“How will we ever know if they’re all right?” Diane cried. “I wish we had the chance to arrange some method of communicating with them.”
“Don’t worry,” Philip hugged his wife, lending as much sympathy as he could muster. “I’m positive we’ll hear from them. You know, these kids are really resourceful. I just wish I had the chance to really talk to Max, to find out everything that’s happened. I mean, I know a lot of it, but there so much I want to ask. I really want to help them.”
“Me too.”

* * *

How do they do it? These people we hear about on television. The ones who manage to live their lives on the run? There’s a constant fear that every time we separate from any of our friends, for whatever reason, we will never see them again. I hate it when Max is working all alone in those cabins. The FBI could trap him, and I’d never even know. There are times, though, when I wonder if that’s what my friends feel. Times like now when the smallest of things sets them at each other’s throats. Perhaps it’s the fact that it’s been two months since we left Roswell and in that time, we have seen no evidence that we have been discovered. Times like now when the only people who appear to really care for one another is myself and Max. I know Max cares for the others, too, in spite of how bad they treat him from time to time. Usually, when they start to feel like this, they invariably turn as one on Max. Like this whole situation is all his fault. It doesn’t help that sometimes, he comes out with some stupid order that instantly makes the others hate him even more. I know we still look to him as our leader, I know he will protect us with his dying breath, but he doesn’t exactly make it easy on himself. Leader or not, he’s still my husband. I need to talk to him.

***

“Convenient that Max makes us stare at these friggin’ photographs and he gets called out,” Michael muttered.
They hadn’t stopped complaining about Max since he had left nearly three hours before. They had been sitting for ages in front of the television set and studied each photograph in turn, checking out each face and trying to remember if they had been into the diner, or had been seen taking part in the normal vacation fun.
“This is useless,” Kyle spat. “As if an FBI agent would turn up on stakeout at a camp site in a suit, or in a tee-shirt with ‘FBI Surveillance’ printed across it.”
“Sometimes,” Isabel agreed, “Max can be such a jerk.”
“Hey, where’s Liz?” Maria asked, suddenly noticing her friend’s absence.
Kyle rose from his seat and crossed the room to the window.
“She’s out there,” Kyle said, afraid his voice might make her jump. “She’s just sitting on the steps.”
“Well, it’s got to be hard for her, listening to us dis’ing Max like this,” Maria shrugged. “I mean, he is her husband.”
“But he deserves all he gets,” Michael observed.
“Liz doesn’t though,” Kyle nodded.
“Oh, listen,” Maria squealed. “Why don’t we set Liz up on a date with one of those jocks she flirts with, just so we can piss Max off.”
Everyone was shocked.
“That would just hurt, Liz,” Kyle stared at Maria. “I can’t even believe you suggested that. I mean, what if it backfired? What if they broke up?”
“I don’t know,” Maria regretted her suggestion. “It’s just that he’s such a… a…”
“Control freak?” Isabel finished for her.
“Yeah,” all four voices agreed.
Isabel rose and crossed to the kitchen.
“Anyone want anything?”

* * *

Liz saw the young man long before he saw her. She wondered if this was some ability the others had, improved vision. She would ask Max when he returned. One of the guys in the group of jocks, the more arrogant of the four, James, stepped into the clearing.
“Hi, Betty,” James smiled. He was trying his best to look surprised, but Liz knew he had come to look for her. “I was out for a walk,” he waved back down the path. He pulled a bottle of vodka from his jacket and held it up for her to see. “I thought maybe you and me could have a little private party down by the lake. Have you ever been skinny dipping.”
“Yeah,” Liz nodded. “Once. It wasn’t an experience I wouldn’t care to repeat.”
“’Cause it wasn’t with me,” he smirked.
“No,” Liz smiled with a shake of her head. “No, it certainly wasn’t.”
“You know,” he continued. “You’re not going to college, are you?”
“No,” Liz shook her head.
“I was kind of thinking of asking you to tag along when I head down to Stanford. You know, you could easily find work down there. Then when I finish college, and I’m in the NFL making big bucks…”
“No, James,” Liz sighed. Maybe Maria was right and she shouldn’t have been so flirty. “It would never work out.”
“What future do you have here? At least down there, you would have more options if things didn’t work out. What harm will it do?”
“Well,” Liz had to maintain her flirtatious attitude. “As tempting as that sounds, I think I’m going to have to pass.”
“Well, there’s no need to make up your mind to run away with me tonight. We can still have that party.” He shook the vodka bottle for emphasis.
“Hmmmm,” she smiled. “I can’t, because I have the early shift tomorrow. Maybe you should go home now.”
“Come on,” he badgered. “It’s not like it’s a big deal.”

“She said you should leave,” Max spoke with a quiet, authoritative tone as he appeared from behind the man.
Liz’s eyes met his and she smiled broadly at him.
“Who are you, her father?” James sneered.
“You should go now,” Max repeated.
To avoid drawing attention to them as a group, they had kept the true nature of their relationships between them a secret. As far as the owner, Mr. Anderson, and their co-workers were concerned, they are a group of kids who met up on the camp, and became friends.
“Betty?” James asked. “This is your last chance.”
“Thank you, James, but I’m kind of tired.”
The young man shrugged and headed back for the guests lodges, his disappointment obvious.

“I could have handled it, Max,” she welcomed her husband home with a big hug.
“But you didn’t need to do it on your own, Liz,” he informed her.
“That’s not the point, Max,” she sighed, resting her head against his chest. “You have to trust us. All of us. We’re all in this together.”
“I know we are Liz, but giving a little help here and there isn’t wrong, is it?”
“No, Max. It’s just…”
He could sense her frustration.
“Just what?” He spoke with caution, almost afraid of the answer. “Liz, are you angry with me?”
“No. Yes. Yes, in a way, I am.”
“Why? What have I done?”
“It’s this controlling issue you have,” she groaned in exasperation.
“Me? I don’t have a controlling issue.”
“Max, you do! Look at this evening. You’ve seen how everyone is. You’ve seen how they’re all ready to fly off the handle. Then you stop Michael from taking some timeout on his own and make them all look at those dumb pictures again.”
“Oh, that,” Max smirked.
“Yes, that!” Liz was a little annoyed at him now.
“I thought you understood, Liz. You never said anything, so I thought you got it.”
Liz’s jaw dropped.
“Got what? Max, you know I love you, and I will never… ever criticize you in front of anyone. But I will tell you in private when you’ve made a mistake. Max, you made a mistake tonight.”
“What happened after I left?” Max asked.
“They started to complain and grumble,” she shrugged. “What did you think? That they would praise you?”
“Did they complain about each other?”
“No, just you. Max, they hated you tonight.”
“Did they argue and snap at each other?”
“No,” she shook her head. “Like I said. Just you. Max, you keep doing this. You keep on doing these things that seem to make them hate you. I don’t like it, Max. It puts me in the middle. Well, not the middle, because you know I will support you through thick and thin, but damn it! They’re my friends.”
“Damn it?” Max was surprised. “Liz, you hardly ever cuss.”
“We’re all on edge, Max. Don’t you get it?”
“I do, Liz,” Max sighed. “But I’m still learning how to handle it. You see, being a leader isn’t just about making a plan and shouting ‘Follow Me!’ It’s about management. People, as well as tactics, and other situations. I know how tense they all are with each other and I know how they all badly need a major distraction from what’s going on. Michael going off wouldn’t have helped him. He would have brooded about the situation, and would have returned in an even angrier mood than before. What I did tonight was give them a night off from their annoyances with each other. Instead of hating one another, and grumbling behind each other’s backs, I gave them a common enemy. Liz, I gave them the chance to unite against me and be each other’s friend. If only for a while. Tomorrow, they will be okay with each other again. You’ll see. And then, when things start to get on top of them again, I’ll find some other stupid order to give. You know, you never said anything. I thought you knew what I’ve been doing for ages now.”
“Oh Max,” Liz choked. “I’m so sorry. But what about you? What do you do to ease the tension?”
“Liz, I have you. Every time you hold me, my cares just evaporate, and I’m in a good mood again. And as you hug me every time you see me, well, you make everything worth while.”
“But the others, Max. They really hate you.”
“When the chips are down, Liz, they’ll do what they have to do. Better they hate me than each other. I think we’ll be stuck together for a long time to come. And when this is all over, we can all make up.”
When, not if, Liz noticed.
“You’re a good leader, Maxwell Evans,” she sighed, hugging her husband tightly.
“Not yet,” he smiled. “But I’m getting there, thanks to you. Shall we go inside?”
“Actually, Max,” her eyes sparkle in the moonlight. “Maybe that private party by the lake is a good idea after all. Would you care to come skinny dipping with me, Mr. Evans?”
“Does the underwear come off this time?” He had a wide smile on his face.
“Well, if you stay there,” she laughed, “you’ll never find out.”
Liz leapt up and moved quickly towards the path that led down to the lake.
“You asked for it, Liz,” Max shouted after her and started to give chase.
Liz shrieked with laughter and started to run towards the lake.

***

“What was that?” Maria sat upright in the bed in the bedroom that was her turn to use, along with Michael of course. She had been glad that Max had been such an ass, because it meant that Michael was in a more loving mood. He had made an excuse about wanting an early night, and they had crept up to bed. She knew the other two weren’t fooled. Their passion tonight had been more fun than it had been lately. “I heard a scream outside.”
Michael rose and crossed to the small window that overlooked the front of their cabin. He was just in time to see Max, chasing Liz down the path that led from their cabin down to the lake.
“Just our illustrious leader chasing his wife through the woods,” he complained. “I mean, how come he gets to go for the walk, and I don’t?”
“Somehow, I don’t think it’s a walk that’s on their mind,” Maria smirked. “Sometimes I envy her, you know.”
“You’re not trying to say you have a thing for Max, are you?” Michael’s eyes darted to search out hers. “Or that you wish I was more like him?”
“No, no,” Maria shook her head. “That’s not it at all. It’s just… you know… her… Samantha Genie powers. She can actually contribute to this group. She can actually help you. Do you know how many times I think about getting shot just so Max would heal me?”
“Maria, there are other kinds of power, you know,” Michael returned to the bed, and climbed in next to Maria. “You don’t need to be able to see things in the future, or send out alien blasts to help us.”
“I know, it’s just…”
“Don’t worry, Maria,” he hugged her. “No one thinks any less of you because you won’t develop any… powers.”
”He hates how he has turned Liz’s life upside down.”
“Has he told you this?”
“No, I can see it. When he thinks no one is watching him, he looks at Liz and you can see the pain.”
“But Liz wants this. She wouldn’t have it any other way.”
“You know that, and I know that… but Max? Don’t get me wrong. I know he’s glad that she’s here with him, but I know he wishes he could give her a normal life. He worries about her too much. He worries about all of us too much.”
“He’s a jerk,” Michael rolled over and pulled the sheet over his head.

***

“Don’t those two realize what situation we’re in?” Isabel demanded as she and Kyle sat on the camp beds in the living room. “I mean, the whole FBI is hunting us and they’re out there acting like… like… a couple of teenagers.”
“Which is what they are,” Kyle sighed from the camp bed he had wedged as far from Max and Liz’s as he could.
“Yeah, but don’t they realize how much we rely on him?”
“You’re missing Jesse, huh?” Kyle asked in a gentle voice.
“Yeah. Does it show?”
“No, no,” laughed Kyle. “Just a lucky guess. He’d have come you know, if you’d let him.”
“I’m not like Max,” Isabel was momentarily angry. “I would never drag Jesse into this like he dragged Liz.
“Liz isn’t complaining,” he observed. “But she didn’t really have a choice, did she? I mean, Jesse was never a target for the FBI like Liz. In fact, I think that both of them being here together has helped. Well, mostly. Except for tonight.”
“Do you think he’s losing it?” she demanded.
“Max? No. I know he said he abdicated and all, but he’s still our leader. Whether he wants it or not. And he has to think of everything. Sometimes, I get so miserable with my lot that I forget that I’m not the only one missing out on their normal life. And I don’t have to make any decisions around here. Well, none that might end up getting us all killed, I mean.”
“Do you regret running away with us like that?”
“Sometimes,” Kyle admitted in a whisper after a moment’s silence. “But I’m glad I’m here with you guys. Warts and all.”
“I hope you find her, Kyle.”
“Who?”
“The girl whose out there, waiting for you, somewhere.”
Kyle didn’t answer. He didn’t know how. He rolled over on his bed and tucked his face against the wall.

***

Liz hurried down the path through the trees towards the lake. She could hear Max behind her. She gave another squeal as she saw the wooden dock stretch out into the water. Max finally caught her, wrapping his strong arms around her waist before she had reached the far end. She spun around to face him, his hands caught her chin and held it while he started to nibble at her lips. She responded with her own attempts to suckle at his. Their kiss deepened while Max’s fingers sought out her buttons. Liz copied him, quickly removing Max’s shirt just as he removed hers. Her fingers wrestled with the fastening to his jeans while he quickly disposed of Liz’s bra. Soon, they were at the far end of the dock, standing over the deep, still water. Amidst passionate cries and whimpering, they were quickly naked. Warm fingers sought hard flesh and soft skin. While he caressed her, raising her desires to fever pitch, Liz was bringing Max closer to his own release. At the last moment, before he reached his release, Liz pushed against Max’s chest. Although she felt a sense of emptiness at the loss of his touch, she squealed with laughter as Max toppled into the cold night water.

She turned to run back down the dock, but her laughter had delayed her for too long. Max had already swum along the side, and was even now leaping up onto the wooden platform, cutting off her escape. She backed away from him, laughing as she went. Max contemplated her with his big, warm eyes, devouring her with them. Liz shuddered and looked forward to letting him catch her. But not just yet. Trapped against the end of the dock, Liz turned around and in one fluid movement, executed a perfect dive into the water. She started swimming for the empty platform further out, the one that was swarming with people by day. Behind her, Max had already dived in and was powering his way towards her with long, strong stokes. He caught her easily, and spent the next few moments teasing her, using his longer reach to touch parts of her that she could not protect. Together, they splashed around in the water, the merriment in their voices ringing across the lake. Then Max moved closer, allowing Liz to fight back with touches and caresses of her own. They were hugging or cuddling more often now, their need for each other outweighing the desire for revenge.

Max lifted Liz up onto the platform and quickly followed her. Max slowly passed his hand across Liz, drying her instantly, warming her up.
“I can do that myself,” Liz rolled her eyes.
She passed her hand over Max, drying and warming her husband up.
“I know,” Max smiled. “But isn’t it more fun to do it to each other?”
“Do you know what I’m going to do to you, Max Evans?” she laughed, pushing him down onto his back.
Max smiled up at her, their eyes meeting in the moonlight.
“I have a pretty good idea,” he groaned.
As Liz pressed her warm, naked body into his, their world became one blur of pleasure as the erotic, sensuous feelings engulfed their bodies and transported them to a perfect world where they didn’t have to fear the coming of the next moment, where the only thing they had to worry about was if the other was receiving as much pleasure from their lovemaking as they were. It culminated with their longest orgasm yet.

“Oh, my god, Max,” Liz panted when they had finally come down from there shared explosion of pleasure. “That was so… so…”
“Me too, Liz,” Max gasped.
They cuddled together, their warm, naked bodies pressed into each other on the platform and gazed up at the night sky.
“I love the stars, Max,” Liz admitted with a smile. She turned and looked at her husband to find that he was already looking at her. “They gave me you.”

“We’d better get back before the others start to worry,” Max groaned after they had remained silent for a moment.
“They won’t worry, Max,” Liz smiled. “Michael and Maria always sneak off into the woods when they’re not using the bedroom. I thought you knew that.”
“But they’re never gone as long as this,” showing that he knew what the others were up to.
“It’s nice that you don’t think of them from time to time, Max. It’s good for you to be a normal horny teenager for once.”
“Uh huh. And for you too.”
“Max,” she sighed. “I’m always a horny teenager when you are near me.”
“You are, huh?” he chuckled with a hot, leery gaze at Liz’s nudity. “I’ll have to remember that.”
Sensing something playful in his manner, Liz glared at Max.
“Don’t you dare!”
“Me?” he asked, full of innocence.
They started to laugh.
“Come on,” Max gave Liz a kiss on the nose, and rolled into the lake.
Liz was just about to dive in after him, but something reflecting the moonlight on the platform caught her eye. She bent down to pick it up, and as she touched it, her eyes glazed over. Slowly, with no control of herself, Liz toppled into the water.

* * *


Part 3

Behind him, Max heard Liz dive in. He knew right away that something wasn’t right. He sensed Liz’s panic.
“Max,” she cried out.
Instantly, Max turned around and with powerful strokes, swam as fast as he could towards his wife, struggling in the water. He reached her just as her head disappeared beneath the surface. He reached down and grabbed her, pulling her back up, coughing and spluttering.
“Relax, Liz,” he urged. “I have you. I have you now. You’re all right.”
She knew she was. There was something about Max that made her always feel calm in his presence. She knew that she was safe. With one hand tucked beneath her chin to hold her head up, Max started to pull himself towards the shore with the other, using a powerful scissors kick to push them through the water. The shoreline might have been further than the platform, but Max wanted to get Liz home to safety. As he approached the shore, Isabel, holding a huge towel greeted him.

“I sensed you were in trouble, Max,” she cried. She was on the verge of hysteria. “I though… I thought…”
Max lifted Liz into his arms and carried her out of the water towards Isabel, who immediately approached them with the open towel. They had just got her wrapped up when the others appeared through the trees to see what was going on.
“What’s the mater? What’s going on?” they kept asking.
Liz grabbed Max’s arm and hissed through her tears.
“I’ve had another premonition.”
Everyone stopped what they had been doing and waited to hear what Liz had to say.
“I saw someone get shot. She had blond hair.”
“Who?” demanded Michael. “Who?”
“Uh, guys, can you give us a minute?” Max asked, still holding Liz to him, but at looking awkward.
It was only then that everyone realized that Max was still naked.
“Oh my god!” Maria stammered, turning bright red.
She ran back towards the cabin. Isabel rolled her eyes, and followed her, leaving an amused Michael and Kyle. They too turned away and headed back towards the cabin.

“Are you okay, Liz?” Max asked in that tender voice of his. It gave her goosebumps and made her wish that the others weren’t waiting for them.
“It’s just that premonition, it…”
“Shhhh, Liz,” he soothed, hugging her tightly. “You should wait till we’re all together for that. I just wanted to make sure that you were all right.”
“I’m fine, Max,” she kissed him. “Thanks.”
“Please, Liz?” he begged. “Let me? If only for my own security?”
Liz just nodded. Max held his hand to the side of her head, and the connection was almost instantaneous. They traded memories while Max made sure that there was no hidden damage caused by her recent accident. She was fine.
“See?” she smiled. “I told you I was fine.”
“Oh, Liz,” Max shook his head in disappointment, passing his hand over them both, drying them. Together, they walked hand in hand to the dock to retrieve their clothing.

Fully dressed, their hands were clenched tightly together as they walked back through the trees.
“Liz?” Max mumbled. “About what I said. You know, about connecting. Um, you do realize that I’m always going to worry like that? It’s part of who I am, I guess.”
“Yes, Max,” Liz smiled. “I know that.”
“It’s just that…”
“I understand, Max,” she gave a soft laugh. “So don’t worry. Anytime you need to connect with me to check me out, please, feel free.”
“Thank you, Liz.”
There was a moment of silence before Liz continued.
“Besides, I kinda like it,” she squeezed his hand.
They remained quiet all the way back to their cabin.
“Liz?” Max asked as they approached the steps.
“Yeah?” Liz replied.
“I do love you, you know.”
They walked up the steps and on the veranda.
“Max?”
“Yeah?”
“I love you too. Do you understand that?”
“I do, Liz,” he smiled. Pulling her into an embrace. “I do.”

* * *

The moment of tenderness between the loving couple was broken the instant they walked through the door. Four anxious voices demanded to know what it was that Liz had seen.
“Okay, calm down everyone,” Max ordered.
Everyone stopped talking, and sat down somewhere convenient. As soon as he was convinced that he could talk freely, he took a deep breath.
“Liz and I took a walk,” he started. Down to the lake. We decided to go for a… swim.”
“Was that all you went for?” Michael smirked.
“That’s all you need to know about,” Max responded.
“But naked?” Maria scowled.
Max just flashed her a grin which made Maria’s face turn bright scarlet.
“Anyway,” he continued. “We were on our way back from the platform out there when Liz started to… struggle.”


“It was when I saw the premonition,” Liz took up the tale. “I kind of freaked out.”
“So what did you see? Who was it you saw getting shot?”
“Just tell us in your own words, Liz,” Max glared at Michael.
“Okay, it was in the main reception. Here, I mean. At the camp. I couldn’t see who it was. I could only see that it was a woman and that she had blond hair.”
Maria and Isabel exchanged awkward glances. It had to be one of them.
“Any clues as to when?” Kyle asked.
“No. But the sun is low. I think it’s late in the day. The sun doesn’t shine on the offices until later in the day.”
“Well, until we can figure this out,” Max was deep in thought. He turned to his sister and Maria. “The best thing is for you two to stay away from the reception office. If you have to go there, let me or Michael know. You can’t go there alone.”
“Wait, wait, wait,” Maria interrupted, waving her hands. “I thought you had to be touching someone to get the premonition.”
“Normally, yeah,” Liz agreed, looking puzzled. “Although I did get that premonition of my… college acceptance… when I touched the envelope.”
“So what did you touch that gave you this one?”
“I… I don’t know.”

***

Isabel listened very carefully to the sounds of Max, Liz and Kyle, trying to determine whether they were asleep. Satisfied, she pulled out her photograph of Jesse. By the light of the moon, she stared at it for ages. It was a routine she followed nightly now. She had thought about dream walking Jesse every night since they had parted, but she kept losing her nerve, afraid that she might see something she would regret. But with the threat of her being shot sometime in the near future, she knew that she had to try. She looked over at Max and Liz again, their contented faces smiling at each other even in their sleep. She touched her finger to Jesse’s face, and was transported to his dream.

Jesse was on the sofa, cuddling with his dream version of Isabel, as they had been last Christmas. Isabel wanted to cry as she watched her husband with her other self. She could sense his sadness, even through his dream. Isabel wondered if she should let Jesse know about her abilities to dream walk; that she was there with him in mind, if not in body. She knew that she should ask Max first, but in his current mood, she knew that he would just say no.
“I wish you were really with me, Isabel,” Jesse sighed. “I wish I could see you for real, and not just in my dreams. I wish I knew that you were all right. I wish I knew that you all were. Everyone’s worried, you know. Your mom and dad, Liz’s mom and dad. Kyle’s dad and Maria’s mom too. I wish you trusted me enough to have told me your secret earlier. All of us do. We all wish there was some way to help you.”
His words were like a salve. Isabel gave in and decided that she would tell him.
“Jesse,” she called.
The dream vanished as though someone had turned off the television set. The last words she heard Jesse shout was a very surprised “Mierda!”

***

Ever since he renounced his throne, Max has seemed more like a King every day. Like removing the worry of constantly trying to become a better leader has made him a better leader. He admits he’s still learning, but I can see him getting stronger. I have no doubt that one day, the whole world will look up to Max in the same way I do. Well, not quite the same way.

I often wonder what went wrong on Antar. What was it that caused such a violent upheaval? I know that Zan was supposed to be so very much in love with Ava, but what kind of a queen was she? Did she help Zan through the bad times, lending him comfort and support? Or did she just sit on the throne, looking good in her regal gowns and accepting the praise that came her way? Having met Tess, I have a pretty good idea. I will do everything in my power to make Max the best person he can be.

Max once told me that Larek had said that Zan caused all the problems by trying to do much too soon. His controlling side again, I guess. Yet Langley had hated Zan enough to hide out in Hollywood, leaving his charges to fend for himself. He had called Zan selfish, and not just because of Max’s abortive attempt to return to Antar. Were the changes that Zan had tried to implement for the benefit of his people, or the crown? I wish I could see that past in the same way that I get glimpses into the future. But then, would I understand them any better?

Take my latest premonition. I saw someone with blond hair getting shot in the reception office. That’s all I know. But was it Maria, or Isabel? Neither makes sense, because neither was touching me at the time. Perhaps it was a stranger, someone who had been on the platform that day. This is what frightens me the most. What is the point of having these abilities if I’m not able to act upon them? I hope I get a better look at another view of this premonition.

I find it ironic that after my future came back to change my past, my past now gives me the power the change the future.


* * *

When dawn finally arrived, Liz saw that just as Max had predicted, the current bad feelings between the others had passed. Even Michael and Maria seemed as loving towards one another as she and Max were, albeit in that quirky way of theirs. She saw that Max had also been correct with his prediction that they would all direct their animosity towards him when they practically ignored him at breakfast. To compensate, Liz made sure that she was extra attentive towards him, hugging him, touching him… kissing him.
“Oh please,” Isabel groaned during yet another kiss between the young married couple. “Get a room.”
“Maybe we should,” Max announced with a smirk.
“What?” the other five demanded.
What was he talking about? Was Max suggesting that he and Liz should move out? It was a logical, but hardly practical step. But it would be like the first step to going their separate ways.
“Maybe we should look at renting a larger lodge,” he calmed them. “One with more bedrooms. Let’s face it guys, these cramped conditions are no fun for any of us.”
“But that would cost money, Maxwell. I’m not slaving my ass over a hot grill just so you and Liz can play happy family. If you want to do it more often, there’s always the woods.”
“Don’t you and Maria want your own room?” Max raised his eyebrows.
“Sounds good to me, Maxwell,” Michael nodded after a moments thought. “When do we pack?”
“Isabel,” Max asked. “Kyle?”
“Yeah, sounds great, whatever,” they both nodded.
“I’ll check if there are any bigger lodges available.”

Michael stood by the front door, wearing his uniform. Maria and Liz descended the stairs in their waitress uniforms, traditional gingham country dresses.
“About time,” Michael growled.
They were on the breakfast shift today. Michael hated getting up that early.
“Cute,” Max grinned at Liz. He slid his hand up the back of her bare leg and looked up at her. “How are we feeling?” His eyes were laughing.
“Max!” Liz slapped his hand away, her face turning scarlet. Her eyes, however, laughed back.
“Come on already!” Michael growled.
“Bye,” Liz gave Max a short kiss that promised of more later.
“See you at lunch time,” he winked.
Liz shook her head, wondering what he had planned for her. Maria groaned, knowing that in the mood Liz was now in, her tips would probably double.

“What time do you finish today, Kyle?” Max asked when the other three had left.
“Four o’clock, why?” Kyle looked up from his breakfast. “Need me to look through more pictures?”
“Are you on call tonight?”
“No,” Kyle shook his head.
“Okay,” Max nodded. He rose and walked over to the door. “See you later.”
Kyle continued to stare at the door long after Max had left.
“What was that about?” he finally asked Isabel.
“I have no idea any more,” Isabel answered.
“Well, I have lots to do today,” Kyle placed his breakfast things by the sink. “Catch you later.”
Isabel watched as Kyle disappeared through the trees towards the camp’s garage. She pulled out her picture of Jesse and started to cry.

***

The mood in the diner that morning was much better that day. There had been no sniping, no growling, and no one complained of Liz’s flirtatiousness. Whenever Maria called in an order, Michael simply shouted back, ‘coming up.’
“Oh, they wanted the mayo held on this one,” Liz reminded Michael when she picked up the order he had just rung for her.
“Oh, right, sorry,” he nodded. He had his hands full at the moment. “Uh, Betty? Could you…?”
Liz looked around her, checking that no one was looking in her direction. No one was watching her, but Liz couldn’t bring herself to try to use her powers in so public a place. She had been practicing with Max ever since they left Roswell, and although she was showing promise, she still lacked confidence.
“I can’t,” she shook her head.
Remembering his own early days before he had spent the whole summer working with… Tess, Michael nodded and quickly passed his hand over the plate. As his hands reached the far end of the meal, there was no longer any evidence that mayonnaise had ever been applied to the burger.
“Thanks,” she smiled and took the order to the customer.
“You want me to take these, babe?” Maria asked, seeing the group of young jocks entering the diner for their breakfast.
Liz had told Maria about her visitor the previous night, as well as his invitation.
“No, thank you, ‘Rita,” Liz sighed. “I’d better handle this one myself.”
She went over to the young men after she had given them time to settle down at the table and look through the menu.
“Good morning, guys,” she flashed them all a smile while producing her order pad and pencil. “What can I get you today?”
“Can I have you and a huge jug of honey?”
“Honey?” Liz laughed. “Wouldn’t that get kind of sticky?”
“Oh, I hope so,” he laughed.
“Betty,” the other called. “Listen, it’s our last night tonight.”
“Oh, I’m sorry to hear that. I’m going to miss you guys,” she lied. She would miss their tips, at least.
“What say you swing by our lodge tonight, so we can thank you. Personally.”
“No,” Liz shook her head. “The staff aren’t allowed in the residents area. Sorry.”
“Well how about we swing by your place?”
“I doubt that my roommates would appreciate that,” Liz smiled. “Look, we’re getting kinda busy right now, so can I take your orders? I wouldn’t want to lose my job.”
“I told you, Betty,” James reminded her. “You can come with me, I’ll look after you.”
“Oh, you know, as much as I like the sound of that, I think I’m going to have to pass.”

The day proceeded much like any other day. Both Maria and Isabel took great care to avoid going to the reception building at all costs, although Isabel was only too aware of the fact the computer she downloaded the picture onto was there. Michael had agreed to go with her when she was ready. Max had been right, everyone had treated him badly, because they were still mad at him. They were, however, friends with each other again.
“You sound happy,” Isabel called at Kyle, who was currently putting a small motorboat engine back together while whistling a tune.
“Huh? Oh yeah, I guess,” Kyle smiled. “Things just don’t seem so bad today, you know?”
“Doesn’t Liz’s premonition scare you?” A shadow passed across Isabel’s face.
“Sure,” he nodded. “Of course it does. But Liz also saw the four of you get shot, and it didn’t happen. And seeing as how you and Maria will be staying away from reception, nothing’s going to happen, right? Besides. How many blondes do you think there are on the camp? It could be any one of them.”
“Yeah, but why would Liz get a premonition of a stranger, who she hasn’t touched?”
“Liz gets these visions for a reason. I don’t doubt that she and Max will work it all out. They’re quite a team.”
“Kyle?” Isabel looked hard at him. “Don’t take this the wrong way, but do you want to hang out tonight? You know, like we did at New Years?”
“Sure,” he nodded. “Maybe there’s something good on the free channel. What about the others?”
“Somehow, I think that there might be a few couples taking walks in the woods tonight.”

* * *

Their day drew to a close and one by one, the gang found themselves assembling back at their cabin. So far, only Max had yet to turn up. This was the first time in ages that they were all together, with no one being on call, or working the late shifts.
“Let’s do something,” Michael suggested. “Let’s eat at the diner and spend some time in the amusement center.
“Max will never buy it,” Maria shrugged.
“Well, Max isn’t here, is he?” Michael observed. “If we just get up and go, what can he do? Ground us?”
“What about money?” Kyle asked.
Liz had been elected as their treasurer and it was to her that all eyes were directed.
“No way,” she shook her head. “I won’t go with you to the diner and I won’t hand over any cash without Max’s agreement. You guys all agreed to the rule.”
“Where is Max anyway?” Isabel wondered.
“I don’t know,” Liz admitted. “But he’ll be here. Then you can ask him. If he says yes, then I’ll hand over some money. But not until then.”
“I think I prefer democracy,” Kyle shook his head. “Someone explain to me why we elected him leader again?”
“Someone’s coming,” Michael stood up and walked to the door.
They could all hear the heavy engine approaching. Very few vehicles ever came up this way. When the large SUV pulled up right outside of their cabin, they all went on high alert.

Michael stood behind the door while Liz and Isabel moved back into the shadows of the chimney. Both Kyle and Maria sat on the sofa trying to look like a couple of normal working teens that had just finished their shifts. Tension rose as they heard steps cross the veranda. Michael held up a single finger indicating that he could only hear one person. The door opened and from her darkened hiding place, Liz released the breath she hadn’t realized that she was holding.
“Max,” she exclaimed.
Everyone sighed with relief as Liz rushed into Max’s arms.
“Hey guys, what’s up?” He hugged Liz tightly, sensing her relief.
“You worried us, Maxwell,” Michael growled. “We heard a car pull up and thought…”
“Oh,” Max shrugged. “I borrowed it. From the camp. And yes, Mr. Anderson knows about it.”
“Why did you need to borrow a car?” Michael sneered. “You figuring on going out?”
“Yeah,” Max nodded. “I thought, as we all have the rest of the day off, we could all go out. Into town.”
Every one looked around at each other, scarcely able to conceal the grin on their faces.
“What about money?” Kyle interrupted.
“We’ve all been working so hard,” Max looked at them all. “And we’re only kids. I think we should just relax and have fun, at least… for one night. What do you say, we each take $50. If you can’t enjoy yourself on that, then something’s wrong.
“Do we all have to stick together?” Maria asked with a hint of caution.
“No.”
Isabel, Maria and Liz all looked at each other.
“The mall!” they all squealed at once.

They quickly got ready to go out. Max had no doubt that between Isabel and Liz, old dresses would suddenly become the latest, form hugging fashions. When they emerged from the attic bedroom, Max saw right away that he had been right. Michael and Kyle both looked up and smiled. Max shook his head with a wry chuckle. Why would these three need to go to a mall when they could create any fashion accessory they needed? They piled into the SUV, and Max drove them into the nearby town of Stanley. It felt strange being on the road again, even if only for a pleasure trip.

Max parked the car as close to the center of the town as he could. He wanted it to be someplace that they could all get back to in case of an emergency.
“Okay,” he smiled. “We’ll meet up back here at eleven, okay? Go out, have fun, but please, keep and eye open for any threats.”
“Yeah, whatever,” Michael shook his head.
Before Liz left with the other two, Max held her arm.
“Liz,” he smiled. “Would you meet me back here at eight?”
“Sure, Max,” she smiled. “Why?”
“‘Cause I want to take my wife to dinner.”
Liz giggled, kissed Max’s cheek and hurried to catch up with Isabel and Maria.

“Maxwell,” Michael slapped him on the back. “No offence, but I gotta get away from you.”
“None taken,” Max grinned. “Same goes for me.”
Michael sauntered off towards the town.
“I wonder if they have a temple here?” Kyle asked out loud looking around at their surroundings. “Sorry, Max. Just for a while, I want to feel like a human being.”
“You are a human being, Kyle,” Max laughed. “I mean, when you look at Liz, don’t you see her as a human being?”
“No fair. I refuse to answer on the grounds that you might blast me to kingdom come.”
“Have fun, Kyle,” Max laughed.
“What about you? I mean, all work and no Liz makes Max a dull boy, right?”
“Don’t worry about me,” Max smiled. “I have a date later, remember?”
“How could I forget,” Kyle responded dryly, and turned towards a church steeple he saw. Maybe the priest would know if there was a temple nearby. Perhaps he might even risk a prayer for some action.

* * *

“Okay,” Maria grinned glassy-eyed at the mall’s interior. “It’s been way too long without my mall fix.”
“Same here,” Isabel agreed. “Where are we going to start?”
“Well, let’s see. Dresses. Make-up. Shoes.” Maria counted on her fingers to emphasis each item.
“Lingerie,” Liz added. “What? I want to visit Victoria’s Secret.”
Isabel rolled her eyes.
“Oh, so you never bought anything ‘nice’ to wear for Jesse?”
Isabel blushed and started to laugh. Maria and Liz laughed with her.
“Liz, you know that you could wear a burlap sack and Max would think it looked as good as a gown made of the purest spun silk,” Isabel pointed out.
“Yeah,” Maria chuckled. “He wouldn’t even notice. I mean, how long would you have it on for?”
“I don’t know, Maria,” Liz teased back. “Maybe you and Isabel should tell me how long it stayed on you?”
All three girls started to laugh hysterically. Tears rolled down their cheeks.
“It feels so good to laugh like that again,” Liz admitted.

They visited the stores they wanted to in pretty much the order they appeared. At long last, Liz got to make her trip to Victoria’s Secret, buying a lacey white nightdress that Maria promised would leave Max breathless.
“How would you know that?” Liz asked with more than a hint of amused suspicion in her voice.
“He’s a guy,” Maria held her hands out, palms up. “Duh!”
“Who’s for a coffee? There’s a Starbucks over there,” Liz asked to deflect the possibility of discussion based on Max’s reactions to her scantily clad body.
“What do you think the guys are up to?” Maria asked when they were sitting down with their drinks.
“Michael will be spending his money as fast as he can,” Isabel started to nod her head. “Probably at some arcade.”
“He’d better save enough money for dinner tonight,” Maria pointed out.
“I hope you like MacDonalds,” Isabel chuckled.
“I bet Kyle looks for someplace quiet so he can reflect on things,” Liz smiled, pulling her legs up and crossing them, hold her hands as though she were praying.
“Then he’ll probably join Michael in the arcade,” Isabel continued.
“Not Max?” Maria asked.
“No,” Isabel shook her head. “I think Kyle’s still a little afraid of Max.”
A pang of guilt swept though Liz. She knew that Kyle’s fear was mainly her fault.
“Max is probably patrolling the perimeter,” Maria moved on. “He’s probably watching our backs for us.”
“Typical Max,” Isabel sighed. “Some things never change.”

As they left the coffee shop, to continue their exploration of the mall, Maria noticed a workman up a ladder, working on a CCTV camera.
“Is, uh… that something to do with, you know,” Maria wiggled her nose.
“Of course,” Isabel laughed.
“Wait. Aren’t there cameras on the camp? If they keep breaking down. Won’t they get a little… concerned?”
“Max and I make sure we erase the tapes once they store them. They’re only needed if someone asks for them. If the FBI ever arrive, they’ll only find blank tapes.”
“So nothing to worry about?” Liz inquired.
“Trust us, girls,” Isabel smiled. “We’ve been doing this a long time.”
“Yeah,” Maria glanced back at the workman’s perplexed look. “I guess you have.”

* * *

Michael stood at the back of the bowling alley, his eyes staring down the lane at the white pins standing to attention in neat lines. Having spent most of the time playing the arcade games and slot machines, he had come here to spend some of the winnings he had ‘acquired’. He held the black ball with his thumb and two fingers of his right hand by the side of his face, supporting the ball with his left. Taking long careful strides, he swung the ball backwards in an arc. Sliding on his lead foot, he brought the ball forwards again, releasing it on the line he had been visualizing in his head. The ball rolled down the lane in a wide curve, striking the lead pin from the side. The pins all tumbled in a crash of noise. Another strike. He returned to his seat to a single hand clap. Kyle was standing there with a knowing smile.
“Do you mind?” Kyle pointed to an empty seat asking Michael for permission to stay.
“Knock yourself out.” Michael shrugged.

With the pins reset, Michael again stood poised at the back of the lane with his ball by the side of his face. Repeating the action again, he sent the ball down the lane at the pins, this time leaving the two corner pins standing. He turned back and glared at Kyle, daring him to speak.
“A split, huh?” Kyle chuckled. “Nice shot.”
Kyle glance up at the score board, to check Michael’s progress. What he saw caused his eyes to widen. Michael was keeping two cards. Above one was the name “MikeyG” while above the other was the name “Monk”. He looked back at Michael with the question in his eyes.
“It’s a memorial thing,” he nodded.
“Right, right.”
“So where did Max go?”
“I don’t know,” Kyle shook his head. “But knowing Max, I bet he’s wandering around keeping an eye on things.”
“Yeah,” Michael agreed. “He doesn’t know how to relax, unless he’s with Liz. He’s been looking out for us for so long now. Maybe that’s why he doesn’t seem to get bothered by all this.”
“He’s bothered, Michael. He just handles it better.”
“Yeah. I guess he’s good at hiding his emotions.”
“Until it comes to his emotions about Liz.”

* * *

Once all the others had left him, Max had headed for the mall. It wasn’t because he was hoping to bump into Liz, accidentally on purpose. As much as he loved Liz, he knew that she needed some time away from him, some time with the girls. She had bravely faced their exile without a single word of complaint. They would have their whole lives together, so he would not begrudge her this time with her friends. His journey to the mall was simply the logical place to start his search. He spotted Barnes and Noble book store almost the same instant that the entered the mall. He made is way to the electronics section, scanning the shelves for the more advanced books. He picked out one or two of these, and scanned the topics that interested him, memorizing what he read. Satisfied with his research, he then spent the next half an hour looking for a Radio Shack. He spent a few dollars on some small components. He wished he could spend more, but he needed the money to treat Liz to dinner. He would satisfy himself with the cheapest item on the menu, but he wanted the best for his Liz. He wanted her to have a good time, so that for once, she could forget about their circumstance and behave like a normal young wife, whose husband loved her so very much.

* * *

Bektor stood in the shade of their spaceship, which now bore a remarkable resemblance to its surroundings. He looked more than a little uneasy as he watched his two companions approaching through the hot desert sun. He hated the dry heat on this planet. But this wasn’t the only source of his agitation. His trip to the Evan’s had not gone as planned.
“Well?” he asked as they both arrived together.
“He’s not here,” Chyn shook his head.
“I take it you waited for him to return?”
“I did, Excellency,” Chyn nodded as though this verified his statement. I waited all day, all night, and half of today. That is why I have returned so late. Rath never made an appearance. In fact, no one approached the domicile at all. I even forced an entry to check inside. It had been turned upside down. It looks like someone had made a hasty departure.”
“Kalyn?” Bektor turned to the woman. He looked even less comfortable now. “Have you any better news?”
“I’m sorry, Excellency,” she to shook her head and kept her eyes fixed on the ground. “The elder known as ‘Jim’ came and went, but there was no sign of the younger, ‘Kyle.’ I saw nothing of Ava. There was no evidence that she had returned to dwell with them.”
“What about the Evans?” Chyn asked. “Dare we ask if you found them all there?”
“No,” Bektor released his breath. “There was no trace of Zan, or Vilondra. The humans who gave them shelter were there, but from the way Ava described the condition under which they lived, I would guess that the two I sought have left. The humans were upset, and there were no traces of Zan or Vilondra’s departure.”
“Perhaps all four have finally accepted their destiny and have left the influence of the humans?” Kalyn looked up.
“Perhaps,” Bektor nodded. “But it does not make our task any easier.”
He paced back and forth in the heat of the sun while Chyn and Kalyn watched on in discomfort.
“You stay in town,” he ordered Kalyn. “Keep the humans who have been in contact with them under surveilance. Perhaps they might return before we can catch up with them.”
“Yes, Excellency.”
“What of me, Bektor?” Chyn asked.
“You will come with me,” Bektor looked at his other companion. “We can follow the path of the royal seals anywhere. We will find them.”
“Is there any need to delay our journey?” Chyn narrowed his eyes. “Let us find them. Let us finish this. I want to go home.”

* * *

Everyone knew that Max and Liz would be meeting up at the car at eight o’clock, and they each decided that they too would go there, if only to touch base and meet with anyone else whom had the same idea. All six of the teenagers had arrived, almost simultaneously. Liz, Maria and Isabel arrived together, having made use of the public restrooms to freshen themselves up, using Isabel and Liz’s abilities to alter their clothing to something more suitable for a romantic dinner. Max too had changed into a dark suit, worn with an open necked shirt.
“So, Maxwell,” Michael asked, stepping up next to him still wearing faded jeans and a tee shirt. “Where are we going to eat?”
“No offence, Michael,” Max smiled, looking into Liz’s warm eyes with the look that he reserves only for her. “But you’re not invited.”
Kyle started to laugh, earning a fierce glare from the rebuked alien.
With the laughter of their friends ringing in their ears, Max looped his arm around Liz’s waist and led her back towards town.

“Here, Max,” Liz held some money out to Max.
“What’s this for?” he eyed the money with suspicion.
“I didn’t spend all my money,” she shrugged. “I know that you probably didn’t spend a dime on yourself.”
He smiled at her with a little guilt in his eyes, but he took the money and folded it into his wallet.
“So, just make sure you save some of this and give yourself a little treat sometime,” Liz grabbed his arm, giving him a tight squeeze. “Promise me?”
“I will,” he chuckled, knowing not to argue at this time.
Max held his hand out to her, which she eagerly accepted and they continued on their way.

Max took Liz to a tidy little Mexican restaurant.
“It’s the closest I could find to Senior Chows,” he smiled.
“No, Max,” Liz grinned with excitement. “It’s perfect.”
“Yeah, except they don’t serve fortune cookies.”
“Maybe that’s just as well, Max,” Liz smirked. “But as long as my future has you in it, I’ll face everything that comes along.”
“Liz. I wish… I wish we could have stayed in Roswell… well… I mean, I wish we could have gone to college, and then got married. Start a family… and just… grow old together.”
“We will, Max,” Liz smiled into Max’s eyes. “We’ll do all of that. Just not necessarily in that order.”

* * *

On the way home from their night out, Max kept glancing in the rear view mirror. On the back seat, Michael, Maria and Kyle had fallen asleep. Max thought that it was amusing to see that Maria was leaning against Kyle, although she was holding Michael’s hand. He chuckled softly to himself. The relaxed look on their faces confirmed to Max that tonight had been a success. They needed this down time. Beside him, Liz had fallen asleep, leaning against his arm, which she was still holding on to. Beside Liz, Isabel was still awake, looking out of the window at the darkened countryside.
“Are you alright, Iz?” he asked, his voice filled with concern.
“No,” Isabel sniffed.
“Do you want to talk about it?”
“No.”
There was a long pause, a moment of silence.
“I miss Jesse,” she finally admitted.
“I’m sorry, Iz,” Max sighed. “I can’t imagine how it is for you. Or for Kyle for that matter. I mean, I know how I'd feel if I didn’t have Liz with me. I’d be…”
“Lost? Alone?”
“Yeah,” Max agreed. “Devastated.”
A squeeze on his arm told Max that Liz was awake, and that she appreciated what he had just said. He knew that she would feel that same way. It also told him, in that way that only Liz could communicate with him, that Isabel needed something from him.
“Iz? Why don’t you dream walk him?”
The guilty silence that followed his suggestion made Max chuckle. He could sense Liz’s smile.
“Oh,” was all he could say. “How, uh… how did he take it?”
“I’m not sure. I think the shock woke him up.”
Max gave a soft laugh. “Try again tonight, Iz. Without feeling guilty.”
“Aren’t you going to tell me to be careful? To not tell him where we are?”
“No,” Max shook his head. “’Cause I know I don’t have to.”
Liz squeezed his arm in approval.

***

Isabel waited patiently until she was sure that everyone was asleep. It wasn’t that she was afraid that Max might find out, not now that he had given her his blessing. She was afraid that somehow, what might happen in their dream might affect her, and if anyone saw, or found out, she would never live that down. It would be like catching Max and Liz. Actually, she was still surprised that the two of them manage to keep their hands off of each other when they shared the living room like this. But then, she knew that what those two shared was more than physical. It was spiritual, too. She had no doubt that they found ways to make up for it, like last night’s little episode.

She took out her photo of Jesse, and after a few more moments of silent contemplation, she touched his face. She soon found herself back in Jesse’s dream. This time, she saw that he was dreaming of La Jolla, where they spent their honeymoon. He had a bottle of champagne in an ice bucket, and two glasses stood to one side. Jesse was lying on his side on the large bed. There was no sign of a dream Isabel, a fact that momentarily worried her.
“I was right,” Jesse smiled, rising from the chair and crossing towards her.
“Jesse!” Isabel cried, and rushed into his arms. She was surprised by how real he felt. She had never made physical contact in a dream before, no, wait, she had grabbed Max when he was in the white room that time. Why hadn’t she thought of this before?
“This is so clever,” he laughed. “The FBI can tap my phones, they can bug my office and home, but they can’t intrude upon my dreams. But this isn’t just a dream is it? Isabel, are you really here? Is this one of your…”
“You can say it, Jesse. Alien powers. Yeah, it is.”
“How are you? Are you okay? I’ve been so worried, Isabel,” he hugged her with an almost frightening ferocity. “We all have been.”
“Yeah, I’m okay, Jesse. It’s killing me being away from you, but we’re safe. We all are. We got away from Roswell, and we found jobs. I won’t tell you where, but we are all safe. And we are all missing everyone.”
“Can I tell your parents? Isabel, they’re really upset about all this.”
“Actually, Jesse? I think that maybe you should let me talk to them. Maybe the FBI might overhear you, and find some way to… no… please, let me tell them.”
“Isabel? What about Liz’s parents? They’re not doing so good either. And Kyle’s dad. And Maria’s mom.”
“Well, I think with a little help, Liz can take care of her own mom and dad, but I don’t know how to help the other two. Maybe you could find a way to tell them you’ve heard from me, but don’t tell them how. I think Jim knows, but can we keep this a secret? Now, did you just want to talk, or did you have something else in mind?”
“Can we do that? In a dream, I mean?”
“I don’t know,” Isabel laughed, leaning into Jesse for a kiss. “But something tells me that we’ll have fun finding out..”

***




[ edited 17time(s), last at 7-Feb-2003 5:55:55 PM ]
posted on 20-Oct-2002 5:04:26 PM
Part 4

The mood in the diner was even better than the previous day. Even the animosity they had felt towards Max had evaporated. They were a team again, ready to take on the world. They had seen Kyle whistling as he worked, changing the tires on vehicles used around the park. Everyone knew, that next to the septic lines on the RV’s, Kyle hated changing tires. Even Max had come into the diner for his coffee break. Normally, he stayed away because he wasn’t often flavor of the day, and he knew that his friends anger with him hurt Liz. He didn’t like having Liz hurt. Isabel was grinning constantly, but only Max and Liz knew why. Michael was suspicious that she was seeing someone but Max told him that everything was okay, that there was no problem. Of course, Michael didn’t like that Max seemed to know what was happening, and that he didn’t.

“Rita?” the shift supervisor called out from her position behind the till. “Could you take over some coffee top reception, please?”
Liz and Maria exchanged worried looks.
“Um, you now, Mrs. Stanton, Rita’s a little busy right now, but I seem to be having a quiet moment,” Liz called out. "Is it okay if I do it?”
“Whoever,” Mrs. Stanton nodded.
Liz filled a flask from the coffee pot, and set this on a tray with some cups, saucers, a few spoons, a jug of half and half and a bowl with little packets of sugar in it. Mrs. Stanton held the door open as Liz stepped out carrying the tray. She spotted Max on the far side of the square, on his way to his next job. She could see his smile from where she was standing. He gave her a little wave, but Liz could only return the smile, her hands being full.

Once in the reception office, the two women on duty, Clare and Susan broke into huge smiles.
“Oh, Betty,” Susan gasped. “You are a treasure, did you know that?”
“We are gasping for a coffee,” Clare nodded.
“Well,” Liz laughed, “enjoy.” She turned to leave.
“Oh, Betty, wait,” Susan called. “You’ve actually saved us a phone call. Mr. Anderson wants a quick word with you. Can you hang on a second?”
She was worried now, wondering what Mr. Anderson wanted with her.
“Is he alone?” Liz asked.
“Yeah,” Susan nodded. “Were you expecting someone else?”
“No,” Liz shook her head. The FBI, maybe? “Do you know what it’s about?”
“Relax, Betty,” they both had huge smiles. “You’ll like it.”
“But I need to get back to work,” Liz was really worried now. She wished Max was there.
“He won’t be a minute,” Clare pleaded. “He’s phoning the details through to the bank. For the money to make up the paychecks for tomorrow.
“Okay,” Liz nodded, still feeling apprehensive.

“While you’re waiting, why don’t you tell us about that cute guy with the killer eyes you share a cabin with.” Their eyes sparkled with mischief.
“Evan?” Liz asked. “He’s uh… he’s… just this guy, you know?”
The two receptionists nodded, both of them smirking.
“You have a thing for him, haven’t you?” Clare asked with sincerity.
“Is it that obvious?” Liz wasn’t surprised that their connection had been noticed.
“Yeah,” the two women laughed. “But did you know he has a thing for you, too? We’ve seen the way he looks at you. It’s like you’re the whole world to him.”
“No,” Liz gave a secret smile. “You’re probably imagining it.”

The door to the main office opened, and Mr. Anderson, the portly, middle aged owner of Camp Sawtooth, stepped into the reception area.
“Ah, Betty,” he smiled, crossing to the tray Liz had brought. He poured himself a cup of coffee. “Come on in.”
Liz followed her boss into his office, and sat in the chair he indicated as he took his seat behind his desk.
“You know,” he began, “everyone likes you, Betty. Your co-workers, the guests…”
“Thank you, Mr. Anderson,” Liz felt a little embarrassed.
“You’re bright, you’re bubbly and you are friendly. I was wondering if you might like to take a job here in the office. I’d like you to act as a customer liaison hostess. You know, help direct the people to places of interest, help sort out their problems, maybe even help organizing some events and activities. That sort of thing.”
“Well,” Liz shrugged. “I’m flattered, Mr. Anderson. It’s just that with my tips, I make pretty good money at the diner.”
“Oh, don’t worry, Betty. I’ll pay you considerably more than you’re making right now. I’m sure it will more than cover your tips. Of course, it will also mean that there won’t be any shift work. Strictly nine ‘til five.”
“I’ll take it,” Liz snapped her head up. She would be working the same hours as Max, and she would be making more money. It was a win-win situation as far as she was concerned.
They spent the next thirty minutes discussing her new job and, feeling elated, Liz rose to return to the diner, where she had no doubt her friends were worrying. As she turned, her elbow caught the picture frame on Mr. Anderson’s desk. It fell so that it exposed the photograph to Liz. It was a picture of a young blonde girl, no more than sixteen years old.
“It’s my daughter,” Mr. Anderson beamed as he picked up the picture.
He handed it to Liz. As soon as she touched the photograph, she saw a horrific scene play out before her eyes. She got the same premonition from before, of the blonde girl being shot. This time, there was money on the floor. Lots of money.
“Are you okay, Betty?” Mr. Anderson asked.
“Yeah… uh, sure,” she nodded. “I’d better… um, get back to work.”

* * *

Isabel was humming to herself as she strolled through the campgrounds taking pictures of the happy people having all kinds of fun. They all had so few cares. She wondered how they would feel if they ever discovered the truth, that three aliens on the run from a group of alien hunters was hiding among them. Even that sudden bleak thought couldn’t dampen her mood. After a short spell down by the main part of the lake, Isabel returned to the camp. Starting at the swimming pool, she worked her way back through the park, towards the diner and the convenience store. As always, she meticulously checked each picture in the viewer on the back of the camera, not only to double check for a potential agent that she had missed while framing the picture, but to make sure none of her friends had appeared in them. Once, she had snapped a picture that Maria had wandered into. She used her abilities to remove her from the electronically stored image. It was when she checked a picture she had taken in the main concourse, down by the reception offices that her mood was completely ruined. Hanging out by the reception office, trying to blend in with the people on vacation were two men. Isabel could see that they were intently watching the office, rather that trying to have a good time. When Liz walked out, and was watched by one of the men as she crossed to the diner, she knew that they were not just tourists.

* * *

“Time to leave, Maxwell,” Michael growled after Isabel had told them what she had seen, that evening.
“No,” Liz shook her head. “No, we can’t leave!”
“What?” demanded Michael. “You heard her. The FBI are here. They found us.”
“No, Michael,” Liz was adamant. “Listen, when I was in the office, I got another premonition.”
“So, who were you touching now?” Michael glared at Liz.
“Michael,” Max warned.
“The blonde who gets shot?” Liz ignored Michael’s comment. “It’s Mr. Anderson’s daughter. Listen, I think it’s going to happen tomorrow.”
“Well, it’s a good thing we won’t be here, then,” Michael growled. “What are we waiting for?”
“Why do you think it’s tomorrow, Liz?” Max asked in a quiet voice that spoke volumes of his trust in her.
“Because there was money on the floor. I think it was the wages. Mr. Anderson gets the money delivered in the morning so he can pay everyone. It’s going to happen tomorrow afternoon. We’re not leaving until we make sure she’s safe.”
“Max, we…”
“Hello, Michael?” Liz barked. “I’m right here, okay! You can clear out if you want, and run away from this. We have the chance to save someone’s life here. I couldn’t live with myself if something happened to her and I did nothing about it. Otherwise, what do I have this power for?”
“So it’s okay for us to risk our lives?”
“We don’t know that they’re FBI, Michael,” Liz added.
“I think she’s right,” Max stepped next to Liz.
“Me too,” Maria agreed.
“Yeah,” Kyle nodded.
“Isabel?” Michael barked. “You don’t buy into this, do you?”
“Well… I…” she hesitated. “I’m as scared as you are, Michael. But I think… I think Liz is right. Our life has to be more than running from shadows. If we can help people along the way… I say we should go for it.”

* * *

Breakfast the next morning was a tense affair. Everyone was worried that there would be a confrontation with the FBI. Max had tried to calm everyone, suggesting that the men Isabel saw were probably just criminals casing the office, rather than FBI agents. They hadn’t fallen asleep last night, so Isabel couldn’t dream walk them. At least, that was what she told them. Max decided not to question her too closely. The early shift was running around getting ready for work.
“Come on, Liz,” Maria called out. “We’re going to be late.”
“Women!” Michael spat.
“What the matter with you?” Max glanced at Michael, whose mood was more foul than usual.
“I think that someone didn’t get what they were hoping for last night,” Kyle smirked.
“At least I’m getting some,” Michael snarled.
“Ouch,” Kyle winced. “That hurt.”

Liz came out of the bathroom wearing a short, black skirt, a crisp white blouse and a red vest. Her hair was loose and full of waves.
“At last,” groaned Maria. Then she noticed her friend’s dress. “Wait, why are you wearing that?”
“Sorry,” Liz laughed at everyone’s reaction to her, especially Max’s. “I forgot to tell you last night. I got a promotion yesterday. That’s why I was in the office. I get more pay too.”
“That’s great, Liz,” Max smiled, approaching her to hug her. “Congratulations.”
“What about the tips?” Michael demanded. “You nearly double your salary with the tips you make.”
“Just what are you saying, Guerin?” Maria slapped his arm.
“No, it’s okay,” Liz heads off the argument. “The pay is more than I earn now, plus my tips.”
“Well done, Liz,” Kyle smiled. “If we stay here any longer, you’ll end up running the place.”
“I bet you never saw that in your future,” Isabel smirked.
“And I always thought you wanted to be on the other side of the lens,” Liz smiled at her.
“Touche!” laughed Isabel.

* * *

Max crossed the grounds on his way to the diner for a coffee break. Now that Liz no longer worked there, and his appearance would not cause any embarrassment for her, he felt safe to enter. He spotted Liz, near the reception, directing some campers. He stopped and watched her enthusiastic smile as she explained something to her rapt audience. He stopped a short distance behind the campers, facing Liz. He knew that she was aware of him when her face started to color. Their eyes met, and they started to flirt across the distance with each other.
“I love you,” Max mouthed. “Sexy.”
Her eyes widened, and her blush deepened. Seeing that she was nearly finished, Max crossed to her. He arrived just as the tourists were leaving.
“How’s it going,” he asked.
“Fine,” she grinned at him. “It’s really good.”
Their hands touched for the briefest of moments. Sparks leapt through them both, the ones that they both received every time yet still surprised them.
“I’d better,” Max nodded at the diner.
“Yeah, yeah,” Liz agreed. “Me too.”
“Keep your eyes open,” he cautioned her.

Max walked away, backwards, until at last, he turned away towards the diner. Liz smiled, shook her head, and turned towards the information booth so that she could collect a new map, having handed hers to the last set of campers.
“Betty,” Clare called from the office. “Can you spare a moment?”
Liz, smiling at the knowing looks from Clare who had witnessed their exchange walked over to her.
“Mr. Anderson wants to see you,” she informed Liz as she entered the office.
Liz nodded, and approached the door, knocking on it.
“Come in,” he called out.
Liz entered his office to see Mr. Anderson counting out piles of money into small, brown envelopes.
“You wanted to see me, Mr. Anderson?”
“Yeah, come in Betty,” he waved her in. “How are you enjoying your first day?”
“Oh, it’s really great. I really want to thank you.”
“Just be yourself,” he grinned “That’s all the thanks I need.”
“Okay, will that be all?” Liz asked.
“Actually, I was kind of hoping you would help me with this,” he indicated the money.
“Oh, okay.”
Liz sat down in the chair he offered to her, and listened to him explaining what he wanted her to do.
“I also wanted to talk to you about something,” he sounded hesitant.
“Oh?” Warning bells rang in Liz’s mind. Had the FBI been asking questions?
“It’s about your friend, Evan.”
“What about him? Is his work okay?” There was a touch of panic in Liz’s voice.
“Yeah,” Mr. Anderson chuckled. “He’s the best handyman we ever had. But that’s all he is, Betty. He’s not like you. He doesn’t have the drive and the ambition you do. It’s like he has all he needs right here. I saw the two of you earlier. I can see that something is starting to develop. If you’re not careful, he’ll hold you back. You have a future. I don’t see one for him.”
“Um, Mr. Anderson? There’s more to… Evan than you think. He has a hard time showing his true self to anyone but his closest friends. Believe me. If Evan wanted to become… oh, say… a doctor, then nothing would stop him.”
Mr. Anderson narrowed his eyes. There was a knock on the door, distracting both of their attention. A young blond girl rushed into the room, allowing the door to close behind her.
“Daddy!” she laughed, throwing herself into his arms.
“Hey, precious,” her father hugged her. He looked over at Liz. “This is my daughter, Peggy.”
“Pleased to meet you,” Liz nodded.
There was a scream from the outer office. The office door burst open and two masked gunmen entered the office.
“Everyone down on the floor, now!”

* * *

One of the gunmen stood in the doorway, waving his gun between the two offices, keeping an eye on the five frightened hostages. The other was stuffing the money into a sports bag. Liz watched carefully, hoping that Mr. Anderson and his daughter would just let the men take the money and leave.
“There should be more!” the man stuffing the bag barked. “Where’s the rest of it?”
“In… in the safe,” Mr. Anderson stammered. “I… I made them up earlier and put them in the safe.”
“Then get them!”
Mr. Anderson stood up and crossed to the safe in the wall. His hands were shaking too much, and he failed to enter the right numbers on the combination dial. The safe refused to open.
“Hurry up!” the gunman spat, clubbing the back of his head as an incentive.
“You leave my father alone!” Peggy leapt to her feet.

A gun went off and a girl a girl cried out. At that instant, the man guarding at the door flew into the room, three feet above the ground, and collided with the first man. Both men crumpled into a heap on the floor with a cry of surprised pain. Max, closely followed by Michael appeared, rushing straight past the bewildered secretaries.
“Liz!” Max called. “Are you all right?”
Liz nodded.
The two men started to rise, bringing their guns up. No one was really sure who got who, but Liz, Michael and Max all fired blasts of energy at the men.
“Max, hurry, please,” Liz cried, pointing at the young girl laid out across the floor. Max crossed to her, and rolled her over.
“What’s her name, Liz?”
“Peggy!” she cried.
“Peggy, you have to look at me,” Max urged the dying girl. “You have to look at me.”

“Oh my God!” Mr. Anderson cried. “Peggy!”
He climbed to his knees and tried to scramble towards that guy, Evan, who was holding his hand over her left shoulder. What was he doing, and why had Betty called him Max? Why had he called her Liz?
“Someone call an ambulance!” he yelled, though it came out like a hoarse whisper.
Liz grabbed Mr. Anderson and held him back.
“No, Mr. Anderson,” she urged. “Everything will be all right. Trust me.”
The bewildered man looked from Liz and over at the man she called Max. His eyes bulged when he saw the white glow beneath the young man’s hand. What was going on here? Peggy coughed and then started to cry.
“Daddy?” she whimpered.
“Stick a fork in us, Max,” Michael growled. “We’re done.”

Mr. Anderson looked from his daughter and then over at Max. There was awe on his face. The young man looked exhausted.
“Take Peggy home, Mr. Anderson,” Liz urged. “We’ll tidy up here, and sort out the rest of the wages. We can talk tomorrow.”
Mr. Anderson gave a dumb nod, and lifted himself up to try and carry his daughter home. He could scarcely summon enough strength, but he managed it, somehow. He carried Peggy past the confused receptionists and out to his car.
“Clare,” Liz called out. “Would you drive Mr. Anderson home? They don’t feel too good.”
“Sure,” Clare nodded, eager to get away from the unconscious gunmen.
“Mikey,” she turned to Michael. “Get back to the diner. We have to go about our normal business.”
He nodded, gave her a strange look, and then hurried back to the diner.
“Susan,” she called. “Can you call the police? Can you let them know that Mr. Anderson overpowered two gunmen, with the help of his staff?”
Susan grabbed the phone.
“Max!” she hugged him tightly, allowing herself to break down. She remained in his arms, both of them recuperating from their ordeal.
“Shall we finish all this?” Max pointed to the money. “Let’s get this over with and go home.”
“I guess we need to get better at dealing with these premonitions of mine,” Liz sighed.

* * *

“Just as I was getting to like it here,” Michael cursed, crossing from one side of the room to the other.
They had gathered in their living room, recalling their experiences during the day. The exaggerated story was out, Mr. Anderson, Betty, Evan and Mikey had overpowered two huge gunmen armed with heavy machine guns and who had bombs strapped to their chest and bandoleers of bullets slung over their shoulders. Some had even claimed they had foiled a terrorist attack. Michael was angry, because they would have to leave now. They were discussing this between them. This was something that Max would not decide by himself.
“The local police were happy with our statements,” Max told them. “I said I just charged in when I heard the shot, and threw the first guy into the second. Then we all over powered them. As long as Mr. Anderson says the same sort of thing, there won’t be any need to leave yet.”
“Are you kidding?” Michael was amazed. “The Feds will be swarming all over this joint.”
“Michael,” Liz pointed out. “If the Feds respond to every armed incident in America then there would never be enough of them to go around.”
“But how many incidents are there where someone rushes in and disarms the bad guys, and heals a girl too?”
“No one knows about the girl except us.”
“She knows,” Michael hissed. “He knows.”
“Why do you think we should stay, Max?” Isabel asked. She knew her brother, and something was bothering him.
“Because I healed her,” Max jammed his hands in his pockets. “She’s going to need to know what to expect. I mean, what’s she going to do in a year or two, and startes to…”
“Crackle with green electricity?” Liz finished.”
“Yeah,” Max nodded. “We owe her that.”
“We don’t owe her anything!” Michael snarled.
“Lets just see what tomorrow brings,” Max shook his head. “Maybe we should take it in turns on watch, just in case.”
Max went outside and sat on the veranda.

“Don’t take this away from him, Michael,” Liz warned. There was more than a hint of steel in her voice.
“What?” Michael demanded. “Take what away from him?”
“His reason for living.”
“What are you talking about?”
“It’s these deeds, Michael. We told you that this is what we would be doing.”
“Not when it brings danger on the rest of us.”
“Then leave,” Liz shrugged. “Max and I are going to do everything we can to help people. We helped Mr. Anderson and his daughter. Max saved her life. There are things they need to know. So that he can protect her, you know, later on.”
“Leave? Just like that?” Michael narrowed his eyes.
“If that’s what you want. If you’re not happy with the way we do things, then you are free to do what you want.”
“I’m staying with Max,” Isabel answered.
“Me too,” Kyle nodded.
“Michael,” Maria urged. “Look, lets just see what tomorrow brings, okay?”
“Fine!” Michael spat, storming upstairs to the bedroom.

* * *

He knew she was there even before she saw him. There was a part of him that was expecting her to find him, in the same way Liz had found him in school, three years ago.
“Hey, Peggy,” Max nodded to her.
“I came to see you,” she whispered with more than a little hesitancy. “I… I…”
“Want to know what it was that I did?” he finished for her.
“Yeah,” she nodded. “I mean, I know that I was shot and I… know you did something. I mean there’s…” She pulled the shoulder of her top down her arm, revealing a silver hand print. “…this.”
Max gave a rueful smile.
“I, uh… have this… gift. I can… heal.” Keep it simple, Max, he told himself. “When I saw that you were… shot, I healed you.”
“You haven’t told me the whole truth, have you,” she accused.
“No,” Max agreed. “It would make your life less comfortable, more dangerous if I told you everything.”
“But you just saved my life.”
“Yeah, so lets not waste it, huh?”

“I… I… I don’t know how to say this,” she mumbled. “I have these feelings, you know? I… think I’ve… fallen… in love… with you.”
Max shook his head.
“Oh boy,” he whispered. “Look, Peggy, I’m flattered. I mean, I’m really flattered that you… think that. It’s just that… I’m already in love with someone. Someone wonderful.”
“Someone better than me?” she sounded upset.
“I don’t really know you,” he sighed. “So I can’t make that comparison. I’m sure that you’re wonderful too, but Liz, she’s…”
“Liz?”
“Uh, yeah.”
“Oh,” she smiled. “I thought that maybe you and Betty…”
“Oh,” Max nodded.
“Is she nice?”
“She’s this whole… she my other half, my soul mate. She’s the Juliet to my Romeo, the Iolande to my Tristan, the yin to my yang.”
“I get the picture,” she started to sob.

“I’m sorry,” Max apologized with a faint smile. “I never meant for you to feel this way. When I… did what I did, I just… did it. And I would do it again. If I had to. We, ah… try to keep it a secret, so…”
“So is that why she’s not with you?”
“Who?” Max was confused.
“This Liz. Couldn’t she take this secret of yours?”
“She has been terrific with it ever since she found out, actually,” Max admitted.
“But she knows the whole truth, doesn’t she?”
“Yeah,” he nods. “The thing is… will you tell anyone? Will your dad tell anyone?”
“No,” she shook her head. “Your secret’s safe. I mean, one minute I’m almost dead, and the next, I’m alive again with this silver tattoo…”
“You’d uh, better keep that hidden for a while. It fades after a few days. Maybe stay away from swimming in the lake.”
“I’m not too happy about the lake right now,” she sighed. “I lost my necklace there a while ago. You’ve done this before, haven’t you?”
“Yeah,” Max nodded. “Once or twice.”

“Liz?”
Again, Max just nodded.
“And she fell in love with you, too?”
“I have always been in love with Liz,” Max gave a doleful sigh. “Even before I healed her. But Liz? I don’t know. Maybe that was why she fell in love with me. Like you did. Maybe it’s a side affect.” God, he hoped not.
Peggy nodded.
“I’d better get home,” she whimpered, close to tears.
“Are you going to be okay?”
“Yeah,” she nods. “’Thanks’ seems so lame, you know?”
Max nodded.
“Your secret is safe with us, Evan,” she confirmed, staring at him for a few moments longer. “Good night.”
“Good night, Peggy.”
“Make sure that this Liz looks after you right.”
“I’m sure she will,” he chuckled as she disappeared into the trees.

”You’re wrong you know,” a soft, husky voice filled with emotion spoke from the dark end of the veranda. “Falling in love with you had nothing to do with my being healed by you.”
“You heard all that?”
“Yeah, and Max? You’re easy to fall in love with. The healing just made it easier, like it proved that maybe you noticed me after all. I could never believe that you would ever notice me. But I have always had feelings for you. It wasn’t until you healed me, and made me realize what you sacrificed for my safety that I had the courage to allow myself to admit my feelings. I love you, Max. I’ve always loved you.”
“I love you too, Liz,” her words humbled him.
“Well, that’s a good thing, then,” she winked. “Do you feel like a swim tonight?”

* * *

The following morning, Mikey, Evan and Betty were treated like heroes, not just for helping Mr. Anderson and his daughter, but for saving their wages. By association, the rest of the gang were also popular. The guests, too, were full of praise for the brave kids. They said that it made them feel safer.
“Evan,” a soft, feminine called from across the campgrounds.
Max stopped, and turned to the voice. Two female co-workers were hurrying to catch up with him.
“Evan,” the girl breathed. “That was very brave of you.”
“Thanks,” Max looked uncomfortable.
“Listen,” she continued. “We were wondering…”

* * *

Maria took a tray with the coffee into the reception. After placing it on the table, she crossed to stand with Liz who was looking out of the window. She followed Liz’s gaze to see Max talking with two girls. Maria shook her head.
“You can’t be serious, Betty?” she laughed. “You? Jealous? Surely you know that he only has eyes for you?”
“What?” Liz looked shocked. “No, of course I’m not jealous, Rita. No, it’s all this attention we’re attracting. Maybe Mikey was right. Maybe we should leave.”
Maria gave a wry chuckle and returned to the diner.
“Betty?” Mr. Anderson called from his office. “Could you step in here for a moment?”
“Yes, Mr. Anderson,” Liz’s smile was apprehensive. She knew what was coming.
“What happened yesterday, Betty?” he asked.
“You… you saw what happened. Evan and Mikey, they…”
“You know what I was talking about, Betty.”

There was a knock at the door.
“You wanted to see me?” Max entered the room. From the way he held himself, he too knew what was coming. He saw Liz. “Oh.”
“Tell me what is going on or I’ll call the police,” Mr. Anderson threatened.
“You’d do that?” Max gasped.
“No, he won’t,” Liz shook her head. “He’s just saying that.”
“How can you be so sure?”
“Trust me,” Liz smiles.
“I do, Liz.”
“Liz?” Mr. Anderson interrupted. “I thought your name was Betty? And yesterday, she called you Max.”
Michael burst in the room.
“Saddle up, Maxwell. It’s time to go.” He threw a newspaper onto the desk. “Wyatt Earp’s riding in on the next stage.”
The headline on the newspaper claimed that a girl was shot during a failed armed robbery attempt, and that someone healed her. Max’s face drained of color.
“What’s going on?” Mr. Anderson demanded.

“People are looking for us, Mr. Anderson. They’re the FBI, but we haven’t done anything wrong. They want to find us because were…” Max didn’t know how to finish the sentence.
“Different?” Mr. Anderson offered.
“Yeah,” Liz nodded with a thankful smile. “The thing is, we think that they will just kill us. No trial. No rights. Nothing.”
“But that’s preposterous!” Mr. Anderson shook his head. “They wouldn’t do that.”
“That’s not a risk we’re willing to take, Mr. Anderson,” Max spoke in a quiet, sad tone. “Look, we’re sorry. We have to leave now. Before they get here.”
All three of them ran through the door, leaving a very confused Mr. Anderson behind.

Michael ran on to the diner to grab Maria while Max and Liz looked for Kyle and Isabel. Soon, they were all back at the cabin where they were gathering their meager possessions.
“Heavy engine approaching,” Michael warned them. “Just one.”
They all took a defensive stance, waiting to see who was driving towards them in such a hurry. A huge, red, four-wheel drive pick-up with an enormous cab appeared around the corner. Through the darkened glass, they could not see who was driving it. Mr. Anderson and Peggy leapt out of the cab.
“There are two black SUVs parked down at the main gate,” he warned them. “They’ve sealed the exit. They’re not letting anyone in, or out.”
“They’re waiting for back-up,” Michael snarled. “That’s the only way off this camp. We’re going to have to fight our way out.”
They all exchanged nervous glances.
“No,” Mr. Anderson added. “It’s not. If you take the road through the back of the camp, it takes you to a track that leads up and over the ridge there, and joins the main road to Boise. From there, you have a clear run all the way to Canada.”
“Our van would never make it,” Kyle shook his head. “That track is just that. A track.”
“Take this,” the older man patted the pick-up.
“We can’t take this,” Max shook his head. “It would involve you.”
“It would be an honor to be involved, Max,” Mr. Anderson pleaded. “I only bought this a while ago. I don’t know where you came from, but I sure as hell thank the good Lord for sending you to me. I can never repay what you have done for me and my family. Please, take it and go.”
“Thank you,” he nodded. “And Mr. Anderson? Don’t let the FBI take Peggy. Get a lawyer. Lots of them. Civil rights lawyers. Make sure she goes into hiding. Trust me, you do not want the authorities to get hold of her.”
“Don’t worry, Max. I have it covered. Goodbye, son. And look after this girl of yours,” he pulled Liz into a hug. “I guess there’s more to the two of you than meets the eye.”
“Were married, Mr. Anderson,” Liz smiled, passing her hand across her rings, changing them from looking like a deformity on her finger.
Max and Liz linked their arms, while Peggy wiped away a tear and smiled.
“I’m sorry I don’t know the rest of your names, and maybe it’s safest if I don’t,” Mr. Anderson continued. “But go now. Please. And God speed.”

They piled into the huge pick-up, with Liz and Max up front.
“Wait!” Liz called out.
She leapt from the seat, and rushed over to a surprised looking Mr. Anderson. She spoke to him for a few seconds and turned back to their truck. As she closed the door, they saw Mr. Anderson writing something in a little notebook. Max fired up the truck, and they headed back into the camp to pick up the road that they had been told about.
“What was that about?” Max asked his wife, beside him.
“I told him that if she ever suffers any peculiar side effects, they’re to get in touch with Valenti.”
“My father?” Kyle called from the back. “Why him?”
“Because by the time she starts going through the tinfoil microwave thing, he will have already gone through it. He can help her. We can’t.”

Max followed the narrow track deeper into the forest and higher up into the hills.
“What’s this?” Kyle spotted a small box wedged behind his seat. He leant over and opened it up. “Check it out” he called in awe.
The box, which appeared to have been hastily packed, was filled with tins of food. There was an envelope filled with cash, two small handguns and a high powered pair of binoculars.
“I guess he packed this when we were running back to the cabin,” Michael nodded. “This could all come in useful.” He handed a gun each to Maria and Kyle.
“What’s this for?” Maria wrinkled her nose, holding the handle of the gun between her thumb and forefinger.
“Think of it as a human blaster,” he smiled at her.
At the crest of the ridge, Max stopped the truck. He climbed down from the cab, and looked back down the hill, checking for any signs that they were being followed.
“Can you pass me the binoculars?” he called.
Isabel picked them up, and climbed out beside her brother. She handed him the binoculars as everyone else was climbing out. He raised the sight-enhancing device to his eyes, and scanned the camp below them. He saw the FBI vehicles blocking the road, though there were more of them now. He could see the suited agents checking the ID’s of everyone. Mr. Anderson was talking to an agent, one Max remembered entering the auditorium when he was giving his speech. Their friend shook his head, and hunched his shoulders in the universal ‘I don’t know’ sign. Then Mr. Anderson pointed to the east, the opposite direction to them.
“Can I have a look?” Maria stepped up and took the binoculars from Max.
She surveyed the scene below as Max told the others what he had seen.
“What the f…?” Maria exclaimed. “What’s he doing here?”
Max turned and took the binoculars from Maria, returning his view to the scene below. His eyes widened and shook his head. Isabel took the binoculars from Max and after a look of surprise crossed her face, Kyle took them from Isabel. Michael took them from Kyle.
“I never liked him,” Michael growled, handing the binoculars to Liz.
“Oh my God!” Liz exclaimed.

***


Part 5


DATELINE: July 2nd, 2002 - - - - - - Boulder, Colorado - - - - - - Amateur Astronomer Jeremiah Muggins of Freneho, Colorado claims to have discovered a new moon hiding behind Pluto, the farthest planet in our solar system. So far, no one else has reported seeing it. NASA claims that there is no such moon and that even the Hubble Space Telescope has failed to detect it. They[NASA] have also stated that the probes that have so far passed by the planet have failed to detect such a moon. When asked about this, Mr. Muggins stated that he believed that the moon, which he calls ‘Muggins’, is sitting in an almost permanent stationary orbit on the far side of the distant planet. He believes that this orbit sometimes gives a ‘wobble’ which allows it to be seen for a short time from Earth, if someone was looking in the right place at the right time. So far, experts from around the globe have failed to verify the existence of this moon, but as expected, all telescopes are trained on the planet. NASA confirms that the Hubble Space Telescope will be repositioned to have a better look, ‘just as soon as it is feasible to do so.’ In the meantime, Jeremiah Muggins will have to wait a little longer for his moment of glory. - - - - - - API.


* * *

Well, we’re on the road again. Naturally, we didn’t head for Canada. We know the crossing points will be watched. We didn’t head west either. If the FBI are half as clever as they think they are, they would never have bought Mr. Anderson’s story that we headed East, and will be watching the roads west. So we really are heading east, after we drove south for a day. After driving all the way through Wyoming, we’re currently driving across the wheat fields of West Nebraska.

It’s good that we can all take turns driving; otherwise Max would drive all the time. When will he learn that we are in this together, and if anything, he should be excused driving so he can concentrate on our next move. He is so amazing, but at times, he can be so frustrating. Everyday, I think that I can’t love this man any more than I already do. Then he does something to make me love him even more. Like this morning. Kyle woke me up to take my turn driving, and I found a single white rose clasped in my hands, a gift from my husband. Heaven knows where he got it.

Max was asleep but he still smiled when I kissed his lips. I smiled too, a smile that stayed with me while I watched the sun come up in front of my very eyes. There’s something special about the sun rising. It reminds me of my relationship with Max. It starts off slow and steady, as tentative strands of light pierce the darkness. And then there’s an explosion of color, and before you know it, the full force of this amazing life-giving energy is surrounding you with warmth. Of course, my sunrise had some clouds for a while, but now that I think about it, the light shone through those too. I must remember to tell Max that he is my sunlight. Life feels good right now.

And then I heard the knocking.


***

“Can you fix it?” Michael demanded of Kyle whose head was buried in the engine of their huge SUV.
The other four were standing back, away from the truck, watching intently, each one wishing that there was something they could do. Shortly after dawn, the engine had started to make strange knocking noises. If any of the aliens or Kyle had been awake, they might have been able to prevent the catastrophic failure of their means of transportation. As it was, Liz, who knew nothing of engines, and was still learning how to use her strange new abilities, failed to recognize the danger signs until it was too late.
“If I knew exactly what the problem was, if I had the necessary parts and if I had access to a garage full of tools, yeah, I could fix it,” Kyle snarled at Michael.

The knocking had grown worse during the course of the morning, prompting Liz to wake Max. Upon hearing the noise, he immediately told her to pull over to the side of the road. No sooner had they stopped than the engine blew up in a cloud of black smoke, depositing the oil from their engine onto the dirt edges of the road. Liz just knew from the look on Max’s face just how bad this was. One by one, their friends woke up to the bad news. It was a problem compounded by the fact that they had chosen to stop in front of perhaps the only habitable building they had seen in hours. They couldn’t fix the problem with their special abilities, which would have taken them just seconds to do, because an elderly woman, perhaps in her late sixties, was sitting on the porch of this house, watching their every move.

Anyone could see that their problem was not a simple five-minute repair job, and they all knew that the woman’s suspicions might be aroused if they all piled in and drove off again. They wanted to put more distance between them and the FBI before alerting anyone to their ‘differences.’ Kyle was trying to find the problem to see what course of action they could take to effect a normal, temporary repair. One that would get them out of sight so they could fix it the best way they knew how.
“Only one house in the middle of nowhere and you have to ruin the car in front of it," Michael growled at Liz.
“Back off, Michael,” Max warned. “It wasn’t her fault.”
But Liz knew that is was.

“Gasket’s shot,” Kyle’s muffled voice called. “And I think some piston rings are gone.”
“This is a practically new truck!” Michael complained.
“So?” Kyle grunted. “Defective parts, shoddy workmanship, take your pick.”
“We should have checked it,” Max berated himself. “We should have made sure it was okay.”
“No, Max,” Liz hugged him. “This isn’t your fault.” They held on to one another, watching their friends argue. “If anyone is to blame, I am. I was driving, after all.”
“It’s not your fault,” he sighed. “We shouldn’t have pushed the car so hard. We’ve been driving solid for days now. We should take more breaks, and for longer. Give the engine a chance to cool down.”
“It’s like us, I guess,” Liz laughed. “It needs lots of love and care.”
“Do you need more love and care, Liz?” Max smiled.
“Well, I could always handle a little more,” she giggled.
The young couple started to hug one another, with Max finally sweeping down for a soft, tender kiss.
“Oh, God!” Isabel growled, turning her back on the couple.

“Excuse me,” an older, female voice called out from the side of the road.
It was the old woman who had been sitting on the porch, watching them. She was holding a tray on which stood 6 glasses of a pale yellow liquid. Condensation formed on the glasses.
“I just wondered if you might like some lemonade. You’ve been standing in the sun for a while now, and it’s getting kinda warm.”
“Thank you,” Liz smiled, her eyes showing her gratitude.
They all approached the woman, offered their thanks, and took a glass from the tray, drinking the delicious, homemade lemonade. As they drank, they each passed comments on how good and how refreshing they thought the drink was.
“Thank you,” Liz smiled again as she placed her empty glass back onto the tray. As she did so, her hand brushed the woman’s thumb.

The old woman was wearing dirty, ragged clothing, sitting in a darkened alleyway of an anonymous city, trying to form strips of cardboard into a crude shelter around her. Her racking cough showed that she was ill. She was cold, she was tired, she was hungry, and she was dying. The old woman would be dead by morning.

Standing behind her, Max could not see Liz’s face, but he did sense her uneasiness. He stepped up next to her, and extended his hand to the elderly woman.
“Thank you,” he repeated Liz’s acknowledgement. “I’m, uh, Ev…”
“I might be old, but I’m not deaf,” she chuckled. “You’re Max. I guess you’re the man in charge.”
Max looked shocked, and just nodded.
“He’s Michael,” she continued, pointing to each of the gang in turn. “And this is his girlfriend Maria, but anyone would think they hate each other.”
There was a shy awkwardness in Michael and Maria’s laughter.
“And this is Kyle, but I don’t think anything is going on with Isabel here. And this pretty young thing is Liz. Anyone can see that you and her are together, even without the hugging and kissing.”
Everyone shifted uncomfortably, after all, this woman knew their real names.

“I’m guessing that the two of you are more than in love. I think you are married.”
“You can tell that?” Liz was surprised.
“Sure,” the old woman smiled. “Of course, those rings help.”
Liz gave a chuckle while her friends couldn’t help laughing. Liz examined the rings on her finger, one of which held the unique diamond that Max had made, especially for her.
“Well, I’m Dora McCarthy. All the young folks around here call me Granny, so I guess that counts for you too. Looks like you have a few problems,” the women carried on. “Want me to call a tow truck for you? Ike’s is only a half hours drive away.”
“Oh, thank you… Granny, but no,” Liz shook her head. “We can’t really afford it. Besides, I’m sure that between us, we can fix it. We’re pretty good with our hands. Kyle here is a good mechanic.”

“Well, I’ll tell you what,” she nodded. “Why don’t you try and move your truck into my barn? At least in there, you’ll be out of the sun. There’s a whole heap of tools in there too. Some of them are even new. And you’d be welcome to using any old parts you find in there. Maybe there’s a gasket or two you can make do with ‘til you get to the next town.”
“Thank you,” Max smiled.
The others all nodded their appreciation.
“Now, why don’t you young ladies come and sit in the shade of my big ol’ porch while the men get to work fixing your car.”
“Sound’s great,” Liz beamed, casting a smile at Max.
“And perhaps we can see if there’s some more of this home made lemonade,” Granny winked as she led the three young ladies towards her porch, leaving Max, Michael and Kyle with the truck.

“You girl’s look exhausted,” Granny commented after carefully looking at their tired, weary faces.
“Yeah,” Isabel groaned, remembering the shower of their cabin back at the camp. “We’ve been on the ru… road for a few days now.”
“Would you like to take a bath?” Granny offered. “There’s plenty of hot water.”
“Ooooohhhh,” Maria squealed. “For real? A bathtub full of hot water? I think I have died and gone to heaven.”
“I guess that’s a yes, Granny,” Liz laughed. “If you’re sure it’s okay.”
“Of course I’m sure,” Granny scolded. “I wouldn’t have offered otherwise. And there’s something else, too. I may not know much about cars, but I do know that there’s no way Kyle can fix that engine in just one afternoon. Why don’t you stay the night? I can offer you all a comfortable bed. You’re welcome to stay as long as you need to.”
“But you don’t even know us,” Liz shook her head.
“You’re good people. I can tell.”
“Then we’d be delighted to stay,” Liz surprised Maria and Isabel by accepting on all their behalf.

* * *

Between them, the three boys managed to manhandle the big truck along the road to Granny’s driveway, and across her back yard towards the barn. It was easier once they were out of sight, and were able to use their powers to make the heavy vehicle glide as though it was on ice. In the welcome shade, and privacy of the large barn, Kyle lifted the hood and climbed up to take another look.
“Look,” Michael spat. His impatience, not to mention his suspicions about the woman and her knowing things about them was showing. “Let’s just fix this thing and go.”
“We can’t,” Max shook his head. “She knows that this will take some time to fix. Granny would know that something strange happened if we drove away now. And if the FBI came here and asked, she would tell them. These roads are long, straight, and there aren’t many hiding places.”
“So what do we do? Spend all night out here banging away?”
“If we have to,” Max shrugged. “There’s straw up in the loft. It won’t be so bad. Beats sleeping in the truck.”

“Max,” Isabel called, entering the barn. “No need to panic. Liz accepted the offer of a bed for the night. Granny says she’ll cook us some food, too.”
“There,” Max smiled, looking over at Michael. “I don’t know about you, but I for one am looking forward to…”
“We don’t want to know what you’re looking forward to, Maxwell,” Michael growled.
“A good nights sleep,” Max finished, glaring at his friend.
“Yeah,” laughed Kyle. “And if I was married to Liz, that’s what I would look forward to as well.”
Both Michael and Kyle laughed at Max.
“I’m going to have a look around,” Max stormed out of the barn.
Once he had left, Isabel released the laugh that she had been holding. All three of them filled the barn with hysterical laughter.

* * *

To fit everyone around the table in the kitchen, Granny had to fold out a central extension that had never been used before.
“I knew it would come in handy one day,” she had joked.
Liz had noticed the lack of provisions in the cupboards as they helped Granny prepare their lunch.
“I guess a shopping trip is in order,” she smiled.
“Shopping?” Maria’s head jerked upright. “Count me in!”

With all seven of them sitting around the table, sharing their meal, they were joking, laughing and just talking about trivial things. They were having fun. It had been the first time since their evening out in Stanley that they could all relax. Granny could sense the strong, powerful bond that existed between them. They had clearly weathered a storm or two to forge those bonds. They had obviously seen a great deal in their short lives.
“So, where do you all come from?” she asked when a lull in their conversation came up. “Where are you going?”
At once, five faces turned to Max, apprehension showing on all of them. Granny knew that they were deferring to him, letting him decide how much of their story he would tell her. For his part, Max looked a little uneasy, as though he were uncomfortable with being leader. Yet he had seemed such a natural. A phrase popped into Granny’s head. Heavy is the head that wears the crown.

“I won’t say where we’re from,” Max spoke, looking up at her.
The clarity and the determination in his deep, brown eyes instantly mesmerized her.
“It’s better this way. For us. As to where we’re going. We’re not really sure. We just know that we want to be together. You see, back home, there were… people. Who disapproved of us.”
The way Max grabbed Liz’s hand suggested to the woman that this was about her parents. It was evident that they disapproved of Max. Romeo and Juliet, she smiled. She wondered why that should be. Max seemed like such a warm, caring young man. Who wouldn’t want him for a son-in-law? But surely, these kids were old enough to make their own decisions. Why would they all need to run away and keep everything a secret? Unless Liz was the only daughter of someone very wealthy, and very dangerous. Perhaps her father was a Mob boss?

Watching them, she noticed that while the others seemed much more relaxed, Max always appeared to be on his guard, as if he were accustomed to the role. It was only when in the presence of Liz that he showed any sign of relaxation. Even then, though, there was some part of him that was still cautious and alert. Granny could see that Max cared for all of his companions and he could see just how intoxicated he was with Liz.
“I wonder what their story is?” she smiled to herself. “This is much more than a young couple running from disapproving parents.”

* * *


Part 6

Working as a team, using the techniques that they had all learned back at their cabin in Camp Sawtooth, the six teenagers made short work of clearing away the dinner things and washing the dishes. It was almost like a conveyor belt and Granny marveled at their coordination. Once the kitchen had regained the neatness that it had held before Granny started on their meal, the gang all withdrew to the living room at the front of the house.
“That was great,” Kyle patted his full stomach, lounging in one of the wide armchairs. “Thank you. I don’t know about the others, but I was getting kind of fed up with living on burgers and fries.”
“This from a guy who would have died of starvation if it hadn’t been for the Crashdown,” Maria rolled her eyes.
“Yeah,” Liz nodded, agreeing with Kyle. “The meal was excellent. Thank you.”
The others offered their own appreciation.
“Well,” Granny smiled at the compliments. “Seeing as how I hardly ever get the chance to cook for folks, the pleasure was all mine.”
“I guess we’d better go back out to the barn,” Max frowned. He looked at Liz, wishing that he could just sit and relax with her for a while.
“Yeah,” Michael grunted, glancing at Maria.
Isabel rolled her eyes.
Max, Michael and Kyle turned for the door to return to their mechanical work in the barn. The sudden and urgent knocking on the door drew them up short. The six youngsters exchanged nervous, worried glances. Granny was quite surprised when Max, Michael and Isabel moved towards the door, facing it with strange looks in their eyes. It looked like they wanted to lift their hands up. She wondered what they were doing.

“Why don’t you all just step in there,” Granny pointed to a door that led into another room off of the living room. “This might be nothing.”
The six of them hurried into the room that Granny had indicated and Kyle pulled the door closed behind him, pressing his ear against it, hoping to hear what was going on. Max walked up to the wall that separated the two rooms; looked at it closely and waved his hand across it. The wall changed into a window, showing them the contents of Granny’s living room, with Granny just opening the front door.
“How did you…?” a startled Michael started to ask, but Max held his hand up, motioning for silence.
Everyone complied and watched the scene through Max’s unnatural window. They could see and hear everything that was happening in the other room. Knowing that it was Max that had created this portal, no one even considered that they could be seen from the other side. They knew Max, and knew that he would not expose them unnecessarily.

Granny opened the front door to reveal a mismatched pair of men standing there. The first was middle aged, wearing a smart business suit, a fedora hat and sunglasses. He carried a small leather briefcase, clutched to his chest as though he was afraid someone might try to snatch it from him. Behind him stood a large man who could only be described as a goon. He was big, looking very thug-like, with a broken nose and a pair of rather deformed ears. He towered over the older man, trying to look menacing.
“Yes,” she snapped. “What do you want?”
It was clear from her reactions to the men that she knew them. Max and the others relaxed, although both Max and Liz remained wary.
“Now, now, Mrs. McCarthy,” the older man soothed. “No need for hostility.” He pushed past the older woman with ease. The thug followed him. “I’m here to talk business.”
“Like I told you before, John Casey, my farm is not for sale.”
“I was hoping you would reconsider,” Mr. Casey gave a sad shake of his head. “I was hoping that you would see sense, that you just couldn’t manage the farm on your own.”
“I can manage,” she spat her defiance.
“Unless you get your harvest in,” he raised his arms, “the bank will foreclose on your mortgage. You have no working machinery, no workers and no chance. You’re an old woman, Mrs. McCarthy. You don’t need all this aggravation. Why don’t you just sell everything to me, lock stock and barrel?”
“Because the money you are offering me won’t even cover my debts,” she stood upright. “Where would I live then? What would I live on? If you make me a more realistic offer, I might give the thought some merit. But as it stands… I will not be robbed!”
“I’ll soon own the farm, anyway,” Mr. Casey shrugged. “No matter what you think.”
“Then I’ll just have to make sure that it will be worthless to you then, won’t I?”
“Just agree to sell up!” he snapped, his temper breaking.
“No,” Granny shook her head and crossed her arms.
“Hugo,” Casey turned to his goon. “Why don’t you show Mrs. McCarthy what accidents can happen to old women who live all alone in the middle of nowhere.”
Hugo stepped forward, a menacing tower of flesh. Inside the room next door, Max nodded to Kyle, and pointed to the door. Kyle looked at the doorway, and back to the thug. He nodded back at Max, grabbed the door handle and after taking a deep breath, opened the door and stepped through.

“Grandma, where did you say… oh,” he feigned a look of surprise. “You didn’t tell me we had company, Grandma.”
“Oh,” Granny turned to Kyle in surprised. “Well, they were just leaving, weren’t you Mr. Casey?”
“Not on my account, I hope,” Kyle poured on the charm.
“No, that’s okay,” Casey growled. “I delivered the message. You just think it over, Mrs. McCarthy.”
“You have my answer, Mr. Casey. I won’t change my mind.”
Mr. Casey narrowed his eyes and stared at Kyle.
“Come on, Hugo,” he snapped. “Time to go.”
The older man marched from the house in almost double time. Hugo walked out with an air of casualness, all the while glowering at Kyle.

When Hugo closed the door, Kyle hurried to the window to keep an eye on the visitors. They climbed into a black Volvo, and sped away. Inside the room, Max passed his hand across his window, changing it back to a normal wall.
“Listen, Max,” Liz urged. “When I touched Granny earlier, I had a premonition about her. She’s going to lose her house, and become a bag lady in a city somewhere. She’s going to die, unless we help her.”
“I wondered why you were so keen on staying here,” Max nodded. “Okay. Lets go and talk to her.”
They all filed back into the living room, with Liz taking the lead.

“What was all that about, Granny?” she asked. “What’s all this about selling up, and mortgage foreclosures?”
“Those walls are solid rock,” Granny’s eyes narrowed. “And that door is made from solid oak. I know for a fact that they’re damn near soundproof. How did you hear any of that? How did Kyle know to come out when he did? I know that door was closed.”
“Never mind that,” Liz shook the questions away. “What’s going on? We want to help you.”
Granny looked at Liz, and then at Max. She knew that she could trust them. Perhaps it was the way that these two, who seemed to be in charge, looked out for everyone in their group, and for each other. She knew that they weren’t being nosy, poking into things that didn’t concern them. This was something else; a sincere desire to help people who needed their help.

“My husband died,” she started, “earlier in the year, just after the planting season.”
“Oh, Granny,” Liz seemed embarrassed at having forced the older woman’s confession of something that might be considered private. “We’re so sorry.”
Granny knew that Liz meant it, too. They weren’t the usual flippant condolences that strangers tended to pass on when they heard news of this kind. Liz, and the others were genuinely concerned, as though they too knew what it felt like to lose someone close.
“It was a heart attack,” her eyes showed sympathy, communicating to Liz the fact that she needn’t feel awkward. “He worked long and hard to get the planting done. It was a terrible loss. Not least because he was my soul mate."
She saw Max and Liz exchange a glance filled with their love for each other. Granny knew that these two understood what she was talking about.
“Anyway, it’s time to harvest the crops, and I’m not sure I can manage. I don’t know how to operate the harvesting machinery, and anyway, most of them don’t work. My neighbors all offered to help, of course, but they all have problems of their own. I don’t think I’ll be able to get my harvest in. I don’t know what hurts the most. The fact that I am in so much debt that I’ll have to sell the farm or the fact that leaving the wheat to rot in the ground means that my husband died for nothing.”
“So that man, Mr. Casey, was…?” Max left the question hanging.
' “Mr. Casey owns a huge farm over to the east. He has dreams of expanding, especially into these lands. The ground here is prime growing soil. He wants to buy them cheap.”

“Granny,” Isabel interrupted. “What about insurance? Surely your husband was insured. Wasn’t he?”
“Oh yes,” she nodded with a wry smile. “He was insured. Only it seems the salesman forgot to tell about some clauses on the policy. I don’t really understand it all, but the company hasn’t paid out yet, and I can’t afford to hire a lawyer to help me.”
“That’s terrible,” gasped Maria.
“Maybe there’s something we can do,” Isabel narrowed her eyes, the beginnings of a secret smile on her lips. She and Max exchanged glances and Max gave a small, almost imperceptible nod.

“We’ll help you,” Liz announced.
Michael’s mouth started to open to announce his objection, but Maria beat him to the punch.
“Liz, we know nothing about farming,” she pointed out.
“We can learn,” Liz stared her friend down. She then turned her attention to the others. She just knew that she had Max’s backing. “We only need to learn how to bring in the harvest. I mean, there’s a barn full of machinery. I’m sure that between us, and with Granny’s help, we can sort it out. Then with the money Granny makes from selling the wheat, she can sort out her debts. Maybe she could even afford to hire a lawyer, or someone to plant next seasons crop.”
“You can leave the insurance to me,” Isabel told Liz.
She looked at Isabel, and knew that she would make arrangements with Jessie to have someone look into this.
“In the meantime,” Liz continued, “ we learn how to become farmers.”
Kyle rose from the seat he had slumped into.
“Well, I guess I can leave the study aspect of this adventure to the brains of the outfit,” he smiled at Liz. “In the meantime, I better check on those piles of rust out in the barn.”
“Good idea,” Michael grunted, still not happy with the prospect of becoming a farmer. “I’ll join you.”
“Me too,” nodded Max, rising to join the others.
He looked at Liz, and smiled, pouring every ounce of trust he had for her in that one look. Liz smiled back, with a look filled with gratitude.
The three young men left the house, heading towards the barn, discussing the machinery that they knew from their studies and from films that they would need.

“So where do we begin?” Maria asked Granny. Although she thought the idea was beyond a joke, she would give her best friend her complete backing. “I mean, we don’t have to go and… like… pick anything, do we?”
“No,” Granny laughed. “It’s all handled by machinery these days. A harvester cuts the stalks of wheat, strips the ears from the stalk, and separates them. Then, it’s just a matter of collecting everything up and storing it.”
“That doesn’t sound so hard,” Maria felt a slight relief.
Granny just gave a dry chuckle.
“It’s not hard, per se,” she winked. “Just hard work.”
“Uh oh,” Maria groaned. “That, I don’t like the sound of.”

While Maria was involved in her conversation with Granny, Liz started to take a closer look at the room that they were sitting in. The many photographs had already caught her eye, but with things running at the pace they were, she hadn’t had time to closely examine them.
Although most of the photographs were of faded black and white images of relatives, long since passed on, there were quite a few color pictures of a young woman, a young man and a small boy.
“My husband, and my son,” Granny said in a hushed voice as she came up behind Liz.
“You have a son?” Liz looked surprised, although she didn’t really know why she should be. “Where is he? I mean, couldn’t he help you out?” Then she had a morbid thought. “Oh, I’m sorry. Maybe he…”
“No,” Granny shook her head with a smile of sympathy for Liz’s sudden guilt. “No, he’s not dead.”
“Oh,” Liz nodded with relief. “I didn’t mean to…”
“No, it’s okay,” Granny shrugged, picking up a more recent photograph of her son. Her eyes went distant as she gazed at his features. “We fell out,” she sighed at last. “Years ago now. I can’t even remember why. We haven’t seen each other for over five years. We haven’t spoken in three.”
“Didn’t he come back for his father’s funeral?” Liz looked sad.
“He was overseas,” she explained. “He couldn’t make it back in time.”
Liz nodded while Granny replaced the photograph.

“I miss my family,” Liz broke the uncomfortable silence that had descended. Even Maria and Isabel had stopped their quiet conversation. “We all do. We all love them, and miss them so much. You know, a little while ago, my parents tried to stop me from seeing Max. I thought I hated them, but we worked it all out, in the end. It’s all about compromise. When they finally accepted Max…”
“I thought that was why you ran away,” Granny interrupted, her eyes narrowed with suspicion. “Because your parents couldn’t accept him.”
“Oh,” Liz closed her eyes and berated herself in the silence of her mind. “Yeah.”
“I knew that your story wasn’t the total truth,” Granny reassured her. “But I’ll not press you. I just know that I can trust you.”
“We…” Liz felt embarrassed at having been caught out. She felt she owed Granny a better explanation. “We’ve been accused of something,” Liz continued. “And someone wants to get us. We are afraid for our lives. That’s why we’re running.”
“You don’t have to tell me,” the woman soothed.
“I know,” Liz looked determined. “The reason I am telling you is to show you that whatever your reasons for the hostility with your son, they’re not worth it. We have no choice about being separated from the ones we love. We have to stay away from our parents, to keep them safe. It’s not about pride; it’s about love. You and your son, your problem is self-inflicted. Someone has to make the first step, and does it really matter who?”
“Does Max know how lucky he is?” Granny chuckled.
“There is nothing that Max and I don’t know about each other. We’ve looked into each other’s souls. We both know how lucky we are.”
“That sounds like some relationship,” Granny gave a soft, dreamy smile. How was it possible that a couple so young could be so sure of their love for one another? Yet she had seen enough to know that that what this young couple shared was just that. True love.
“You have no idea,” Liz smiled.

* * *

The sun started to dip towards the western horizon, releasing its grip on the dry heat that had settled over the farm. Max emerged from the cooler interior of the barn, having spent the afternoon with Michael and Kyle examining the vast array of ancient and antiquated machinery. Some of it was so old; Kyle had to admit that he had no idea how it would have worked, even in its prime. As Max crossed the yard heading towards the house intent on discovering how soon their meal would be, he spotted a small figure sitting at the top of the water tower. With her long dark tresses blowing in the faint breeze, Max knew that it was Liz. She was gazing to the southwest, towards Roswell. He could sense that she was not happy. With a sad sigh, Max climbed the rusty ladder to the top of the tower, and sat next to her. His hand sought out hers at once, holding it with a tender loving care.
“Are you okay, Liz?” he asked in a quiet tone, almost a deep murmur.

“Yeah,” she nodded. “I just miss them, you know?”
“I know,” Max agreed. “And I promise you. We will see them again.”
“I believe you, Max.”
“Do you want to talk about it?”
“I thought we just did.”
“No,” Max sighed. “The other thing. The one that’s bothering you that you don’t seem to want to talk about.”
“It’s nothing, Max,” she waved her hand in the empty air.
Max stared at her face. He knew that it was not nothing. He knew that something was eating at Liz, making her feel… unhappy.
“Will you come down now?” he asked.
“No,” she gave a small shake of her head. “I think I’ll sit up here a while longer. It’s nice.”
“Okay,” Max nodded.
He kissed her cheek, and started his climb back down the ladder.

“Hey, Max,” Granny greeted him with a smile when he entered the kitchen.
“Oh, hi, Granny,” Max nodded, looking around the kitchen. “Uh, is Maria around?”
“Sure,” Granny nodded pointing to the front of the house. “She’s with Isabel on the front porch.
“Thanks,” Max headed through the house.
He stepped out onto the veranda to find Maria and Isabel sitting in the chairs in a shady corner.
“Don’t work too hard,” he smirked.
Isabel poked her tongue at him and smiled.
“Can I have a word, Maria?” Max asked, indicating that they should step off the porch.
“Sure,” she nodded. Maria climbed from her seat and joined Max in the front yard. “What’s up?”
“It’s Liz,” Max pointed at her, still sitting up on the tower. “Something’s bothering her. Something that she doesn’t want to tell me about. I thought… seeing as you’re best friends…”
“That you would use me to find out?” she inquired with arched eyebrows. “Okay, I will Max. Because I love her too. But I gotta tell you, if she tells me in confidence, I won’t tell you what it is.”
“I understand,” he nodded with a smile. “As long as she talks to someone about it. It’s better than letting her brood about it alone.”
“A problem shared is a problem halved, right?”
“Exactly.”

* * *

“What’s up babe?” Maria asked when she had climbed to the top of the tower. It had been a slow, nervous climb, one whose reverse she didn’t relish.
“Did Max send you?” she asked in a quiet, sad voice.
“Yeah,” Maria agreed. “He did. And I gotta agree with him. The old ‘Best Friend in Trouble’ radar is right off the scale. So what’s up?”
“When Tess showed up, I didn’t trust her,” Liz started. “I just knew she was trouble. And when I met Nacedo, alarm bells were ringing out like crazy. I never trusted him either.”
“Yeah,” Maria nodded. “That’s right. You didn’t trust them. And you were right.”
“So what went wrong?” Liz demanded, grabbing Maria’s arm with a sense of urgency.
Maria looked across at Liz, not exactly sure what she was getting at.
“Liz, you know very well what went wrong. Nacedo and Tess…”
“No,” Liz shook her head. “I trusted him!” she spat. “I thought he was great. He helped me so much. He made me feel good about myself. I even almost… almost… How come I didn’t spot him for what he was? How come I never knew he was working for the FBI?”
“Oh,” the dawning of understanding reached Maria’s brain as she bobbed her head up and down. “You mean Sean.” She paused, considering something. “Maybe it’s an evil alien radar you have.”
“I never spotted Whittaker, either” Liz reminded her friend.
“Well, I can’t help you there Chica,” Maria sighed with a sad shake of her head. “The thing to remember though is we know, now. Nothing happened with him, right? So there’s no need to worry on that score. If your concern is because of the attention that you paid him, Max will understand. You know he will. He knows what was going on at that time. And no one expects you to know who all the bad guys are, every time. If it’s any consolation, we all thought he was just this annoying juvenile delinquent. Who knew he was FBI? Now come on. Let’s get down now. You know how Max gets when he worries about you. No point in setting him off needlessly.”
Liz gave Maria a huge hug and helped her friend climb down from the tower.
If only all of their problems could be solved with a short conversation and a quick hug, she sighed.

* * *

Their evening meal that they all shared that day was wonderful. Liz, Maria and Granny cooked while Isabel set the table. It was like Max had said; nothing improves a meal like great company. With the meal eaten, and kitchen cleaned up, Granny showed everyone to the rooms that she had spent the afternoon preparing. Kyle and Isabel were each given the spare bedroom upstairs, with Granny’s room separating them.
“That’s to stop you sneaking down the hallway,” Maria teased Kyle.
She then led them down to the basement to a large bedroom.
“My husband made this for our son,” she smiled. “So he could play loud music without disturbing us. Maria and Michael can share this one.”
They were all surprised that Granny had raised no objections to the young unmarried couple sharing a room.
“So we don’t have to listen to them fighting all the time?” Kyle laughed.
“Is that what they call it these days?” Isabel winked.

Finally, Max and Liz were taken to a small apartment built over the top of the long empty stables.
“We used to use this when we had family or friends staying over,” Granny informed them. “Or for people we sometimes hired at harvest time. Somehow, I know that the two of you would appreciate this more.”
“I think we all will,” Kyle smirked.
“Thank you, Granny,” Max glared at Kyle.

They all returned back to the house, except for Max who went to their SUV parked in the barn. He returned with bags that held their spare jeans and tee shirts, as well as their toiletries clutched in his arms. He had deliberately left the bag that held their more formal clothing in the car. There would be no opportunity to dress up on this job. He joined the others in the kitchen, and passed out their bags.
“You’ve been busy all day,” Granny reminded them as she delved into a large cupboard. “Perhaps you’d like a drink? I have some beer in here somewhere. Ah, here we are.”
“Sure,” Kyle eagerly accepted the offered can of beer. “Thank you.”
“Max? Michael?”
“Uh, no… thanks,” Max shook his head.
Michael cast his eyes on the ground, remembering what had happened the first, and the last time he had sampled alcohol. The memory of waking up in Liz’s bed still made him nervous in Max’s presence. Granny arched her eyebrows
“It uh… doesn’t agree with us,” Max explained.
Granny let the matter drop.

The evening wore on, and the gang started to feel the effects of the past week on the road.
“If no one minds,” Liz stretched and gave a little yawn, “I think I’ll turn in now.”
“I think I’ll join you, Liz,” Max agreed, rising by Liz’s side and taking her hand.
“Thought you might,” Kyle chuckled. “Goodnight kids.”
“Yeah,” Liz and Max responded. “’Night all.
Max and Liz walked across the yard towards the stables, hand in hand. At the top of the stairs, outside the door to their apartment, Max stopped Liz. He gave her a gentle, yet loving smile, and tucked a loose strand of her hair back over her shoulder. His hand caressed he cheek on the way back.
“Liz. This is probably the closest we’ll ever get to calling anything a proper home, at least, any time soon,” Max was blushing. “So I want to do this now, in case…”
“No, don’t say it, Max,” Liz pressed her fingers to his lips, returning her love for him in her own eyes.
After kissing the fingertips at his lips, Max scooped the surprised Liz up into his arms and cradling her with all the deep love and affection he felt for her, gazed deeply into her dark eyes that reflected the starlight.
“I love you, Liz,” he murmured. “More than there are stars in the sky, more than there are grains of sand on the beach.”
Liz rewarded Max with a big smile. Sure, it might be cheesy, she thought, but she knew that, coming from Max, it was full of sincerity.
“One day,” he continued, “I’ll do this in our own home, a home we won’t have to run away from.”
Max reached behind him and turned the door handle. With the couple looking at each other with pure adoration, Max carried his young bride across the threshold of their temporary apartment.
Back in the kitchen, the rest of the gang had gathered at the window to watch Max and Liz go to their rooms. Even Granny had joined them. Although they didn’t hear the words spoken, the gestures were all too obvious.
“That Max Evans,” Maria sighed. “He has so much class.”

* * *

“Another whiskey!” Mr. Casey ordered as he sat in the large, elaborate living room of his huge home not twenty miles away from Granny McCarthy’s own more humble dwelling. In the background, the strings of Vivaldi’s ‘Les Quatre Saisons’ floated through the room in an attempt to bring a mood of relaxation. Mr. Casey, however, could not relax.
“Sure fing, boss,” Hugo grunted.
He rose from the armchair and picked up the empty glass in front of Mr. Casey. He carried it across to a large stand in the shape of an old fashioned globe. Hugo lifted the top of the globe, and reached inside to produce a decanted bottle of malt whisky. He poured a generous amount into the glass, and added two ice cubes. A knock at the door interrupted him. Hugo glanced over at his boss.
“Enter!” Mr. Casey called.
A tall, thin man in scruffy jeans and a grubby capped sleeved tee-shirt entered the room.
“Well?” Casey demanded of the newcomer.
“No one knows, Mr. Casey, sir,” the nervous man wrung his hands. “Everyone says how they never knew she had no relatives. Leastwise, not in this county.”
“Maybe he comes from outta-state,” Hugo grunted.
“Perhaps,” Casey shrugged. “It doesn’t really matter who he is. We just run him off regardless. I’m sure with all that dried wood and old straw lying around, that old lady’s farm is an accident waiting to happen.” He rose, and faced the newcomer. “It would be terrible if the barn and those stables caught fire, wouldn’t it?”
“Yes, sir, Mr. Casey,” the man nodded. “It would be a terrible shame.” He turned and left the room.

* * *


Part 7

Liz had an almost heavenly smile on her face the following morning. Even Granny had raised her eyebrows at the small brunette’s euphoria. The four women worked together, with Liz almost dancing around the kitchen to prepare breakfast while they gave the guys a chance to sleep in.
“You know, Granny,” Liz called as she was looking into one of the storage cupboards. “I really do think that we’ll need to make a run into town to stock up on food.”
“Oh, yeah,” Granny blushed. She felt embarrassed at the lack of provisions. “You know, with just me in the house, I don’t need so much, so…”
“No, no,” Liz shook her head, casting a sympathetic glance at Granny. “It’s okay. This is something we can organize. I mean, we would need to eat in any case…”
“Nonsense,” Granny shook her head. “You’ll be doing work for me, the least I could do is feed you.”
“Oh, no,” Liz stood up and closed the cupboard door. “There’s six of us, and we’re still teenagers who eat an awful lot of food.”
“Oh, pish!” the older woman waved her hand. “We can just get the basics. I can cook pretty much anything. Have you ever eaten fresh, home baked bread?”
“Oooh!” Liz’s eyes lit up. “Fresh from the oven? With real butter?”
“Of course,” Granny laughed. “Is there any other way to eat fresh bread?”
“What’s this about fresh bread?” Max asked.
“Someone has to go shopping,” Liz smiled, crossing to the door where Max had just come in. Their hands linked, while Max tucked a stray lock of Liz’s hair behind her ear, and then stroked down her neck. Liz closed her eyes and let the feelings of love flood through her body. “We need to buy more food for us, if we’re planning on staying.”
“Morning, Max,” Granny shook her head at the little display of affection.
“Morning,” he nodded at her, before returning to Liz’s eyes. “So, shopping.” He dropped his voice. “We can use our money for that, right?”
The gratitude in Liz’s eyes flared, and she hugged her husband tightly, thanking him for his one hundred percent support.

* * *

“So who gets to go?” Maria asked when Liz explained the shopping expedition to the rest of the gang.
“We could always draw straws,” Kyle laughed. “I mean, we got a barn full of them.”
“I was hoping more for volunteers,” Liz shook her head.
“Oh,” Maria looked surprised. “I thought you were going to say that you and Max were going.”
“No,” Liz laughed. “This isn’t a lame excuse for us to sneak off.”
“All right then,” Michael rose, intent on calling her bluff. “Maria and I will go.”
“I guess that’s settled then,” Liz smiled.
“Wait,” Michael frowned. He hadn’t really wanted to go.
“Here’s the list,” Liz handed over a sheet of paper, “and the money. Granny says you can take her car.”
Fifteen minutes later, Michael and Maria were sitting in a battered old station wagon, with the shopping list and directions to the store that Granny suggested they visit.

“So what do we do?” Isabel asked Liz as they watched the car driving up the road towards town. Max and Kyle had already returned to the barn to start work on the machinery.
“I guess we do chores,” Liz shrugged.
“Chores?” Isabel raised her eyebrows. “I don’t think so.”
“Come on,” Liz gave a chuckle and tugged at Isabel’s elbow. “I’ll wash the dishes. You can dry.”
“Oh,” Isabel looked surprised. “When you said chores, I thought you meant, like, hoeing and feeding pigs or something.”
“You need to get out more, Isabel,” Liz rolled her eyes.
“The guys have it so easy,” Isabel sighed.
“Anyway,” Liz smirked. “After that, we need to find out what fields need to be harvested. Maybe we can sort out what we need to do. You know, make a…”
“Plan?” Isabel asked with a sideways glance.
“Yeah,” Liz laughed.

* * *

“So,” Kyle stood with his hands on his hips, staring at the silent row of aging and rusting farm machinery. In the gloom of the barn, they looked like strange skeletal dinosaurs. “Which one do we start on?”
“I don’t think we need to fix all of them Kyle,” Max stepped towards his friend. Kyle took a step away. “I think we only need to fix one of those harvesters, and perhaps one of those old pickups.”
“Okay,” Kyle accepted that. “Which ones?”
“I guess we check them all out, and choose the one in best condition. If we do only what’s necessary to make it work, so Granny won’t get too suspicious, then we can take steps later to make sure it keeps on working.”
“Makes sense, I guess.”
“We might as well start with this one, and move our way back along the line.”
Although they were all old, they appeared to be in rather remarkable condition. The more modern vehicles even had good oil and gas levels. There appeared to be no reason why they shouldn’t work, but when Kyle tried the ignition, they just wouldn’t start. It took them another hour of checking and cross checking to locate the reason why. Kyle discovered that sugar had been poured into the gas tanks. Once the sabotage had been discovered, further checks discovered that the hydraulic lines, electric cables and drive belts had all been cut or severed.
“My guess is Mr. Casey and that Hugo goon of his,” Kyle swore.
“Yeah,” Max agreed. “I can fix these pretty easily, but I think we need to make it look like we’ve scavenged the parts from some of the other machines, just in case someone comes and snoops around while we’re not here.”
“That’ll take some time, Max.”
“You have something better to do?” Max raised his eyebrows. “In the meantime, I think we’ll need to keep an eye on things. I don’t doubt that Casey might try something else, if he’s already gone to this amount of trouble. He knows that you’re here, so my guess is he’ll try to make sure you don’t give her any help.”
“You mean he might send Hugo to frighten me off,” Kyle accused.
“Does that worry you?”
“I don’t have your… defensive capabilities.”
“Yet.”
“Don’t remind me.”
“We’ll keep an eye on you,” Max shrugged. “We’ll make sure that there’s always one of us with you.”
“Can I have Liz with me?” Kyle grinned. He knew what the answer would be but he couldn’t help but give Max a hard time about it.
“Don’t push your luck,” Max glared at Kyle choosing to ignore his attempt to rile him up. “Besides, she’s only just learning how to use her powers. Sure, she can do quite a lot, but she’s still learning.”

“So which harvester do we use?” Kyle asked, neatly changing the subject. “And which pickup?”
“I guess this one,” Max indicated the first harvester in the line of machines. “It’s the newest one they have.”
“Fifty years new,” Kyle smirked. “What about that pickup? It’s not the newest, but it has the most basic engine. I can probably get that one working even without your powers."
“Okay,” Max agreed. “Though we’ll take whatever shortcuts we need to save on time.”
“You got something better to do?”
Max gave a tight smile.
“Let’s have a look at this harvester.”
“You know how it works?” Kyle asked. “I mean, farming was never my bag.”

“The roller blades at the front push the wheat back against these blades,” Max began, pointing out the vehicle’s features. “The cut stalks are the then passed into the collector here. The ears of wheat are stripped from the stalks, and are poured into a sack. Someone stands on a platform up there, behind the driver, and takes the sacks as they are filled, and passes it through a sort of sewing machine to seal it. They lay the sack on the conveyor belt that lets it drop to the ground. Someone else follows behind with a pickup and collects the filled sacks. The stalks of straw are tied into bales by the harvester and deposited out the back there. We can collect them later, they’re not so important.”
“Where did you learn all this stuff?”
“Some of us didn’t waste our time reading Busty Biker Babes,” Max smirked.
“Are you hungry?” Kyle looked away.

“Before we start on the other stuff,” Max continued, “we’ll fix our SUV. Just in case we need to make a quick getaway.”
“Sounds good,” Kyle turned to their large red truck. “Come on, I’ll show you what to look for.”
Guided by Kyle’s instructions, Max started by repairing the split gasket and the broken seals in the pistons. He also repaired other small superficial scores and cracks, and performed a thorough check on the fuel and hydraulic lines. By the time they were finished, their vehicle was better than new. At Kyle’s prompting, who remembered a conversation he once had with Isabel, Max fixed the carburetor of the engine so that they could drive for incredible distances on the smallest amount of gasoline.
“We just need oil, now,” Max told Kyle as he wiped his hands clean.
“I can leave that to you, right?”
“Oh, sure,” Max rolled his eyes. “I’ll just wave my hand and let it come bubbling right out of the ground, shall I?”
“You can do that?”
Max stared hard at Kyle to determine if he was joking or not. He shook his head and turned away.
“What about that,” Max pointed at a large drum in the corner of the barn.
“I already checked it,” Kyle shook his head. “It’s the wrong viscosity.”
“That I can fix,” Max looked at Kyle in disappointment.
Kyle was about to answer when a loud clanging sound rang out from the kitchen. Both Max and Kyle rushed to the barn door to see what the matter was, only to see Liz hitting a large metal triangle with a hammer.
“Come and get it,” she called with a huge grin.

Max and Kyle, realizing just how hungry they were, raced across the yard to the kitchen. Liz was waiting for them with the hammer still in her hand.
“I’ve always wanted to do that,” she laughed.
“Easily pleased,” Kyle chuckled.
“Ew,” she exclaimed when she saw their hands. “You guys go wash up first.”
“Liz, were starving,” Kyle complained.
“You’re not in the café now, Kyle,” she shook her head. “I’m not sitting down to eat with you in that state. Or you, Max Evans”

At last, they were all sitting down around the table with an array of bread, butter and some delicious smelling omelets in front of them.
“Your young wife is a genius, Max,” Granny smiled from across the table where she was buttering some bread. “She whipped up this lunch with next to nothing,”
Max looked at Liz with pride in his eyes.
“Isabel helped,” Liz looked down at the table feeling awkward.
“Sure I did,” Isabel smirked. “I did the burnt one.”
Max and Kyle looked at their omelet, trying to see if they had the burnt one. They then both lifted the corner up to check the underneath. Liz and Isabel both laughed at them.
A sudden squealing of tires out in the yard caused them to leap from their seats. Kyle and Liz let Max and Isabel out first; both were already in defensive mode. Michael and Maria leapt from the new looking station wagon with looks of panic on their faces.
“We gotta leave, Maxwell,” Michael yelled. “Now!”

* * *

Excusing themselves from Granny, they pushed Michael and Maria into the privacy of the barn. It took a great deal of persuasion to calm the pair down, and even more to persuade Michael that it would be better to tell them what the problem was. Michael, however, remained adamant that they should leave, and refused to give an explanation. Everyone started to suspect that Michael had done something, well, Michael-like.
“Maria,” Liz tried another angle of approach. “Why don’t you tell us what happened?”
“Okay,” she nodded. “See, it was like this…”

* * *

“I was watching Michael closely as we left. I mean, I knew something was bugging him. His mouth was grinding and I could hear his teeth even over the engine. I knew he was frustrated.
“So I asked him if he wanted to talk about it. He just growls how she suckered him. I asked him who. ‘Liz’, he barks. He said how Liz suckered him into coming shopping with me.”
“I did no such thing,” Liz complained.
Maria shrugged.
“So anyway, I just laughed at him. I asked him how she managed to do that. So he says how it was all a conspiracy, how Liz knew we would all assume that she was hoping to sneak away from us. He said how we all deserved time away from the others. He was quite snippy.”
“I wasn’t snippy!”
“You were too,” she bit back. “So anyway, I pointed out to my dense boyfriend here that that was exactly what we had. Time away from the others. Of course, he wasn’t happy, because we had to go shopping. I give up! I mean, he didn’t have to volunteer. He could have shut up and let Liz finish, but you know Michael.”
“But…”
“Shut up Guerin. I’m telling the story. Anyway, a little after that, we pulled over at the side of the road.”
“Uh huh,” Kyle smirked.
“Get your mind out of the gutter, Valenti,” Maria glared at Kyle. “So I asked him what we were doing. Precautions, he tells me. He then asks me to see if I could see anyone about. We climbed out of the car, and we looked all around us. You know, up and down the road, up in the sky, everywhere. When he was satisfied that no one was around, he put his hand on the car and… changed it.”
“Good thinking, Michael,” Max complemented.
“Thanks,” Michael grunted.
“That’s what I said,” Maria smirked. “Only he told me that it’s not only you and Liz that have good ideas.”
Michael let that pass.

“So we continued up the road and into town. We followed Granny’s instructions, which were really good by the way, and we found the store she told us about. It was like the wholesalers your dad used to go to, Liz.”
Liz nodded in understanding.
“So, Michael grabbed a big shopping basket and we went inside. It was really weird. Inside, it was all modern shelving, and it was even air-conditioned. But everything else seemed so… old fashioned. We wandered up and down the aisles getting everything from Granny’s list. We even added a few things that were missing. Like some cases of cola, Snapple, some Tabasco sauce for the Czechoslovakians and some chocolate and cakes for us girls. I would have picked up some tubs of ice cream but I wasn’t sure if I could get it back in time before it melted.

“While we were waiting at the long service desk, they didn’t have normal checkouts, Michael seemed really interested in the man that was being served before him.”
“Why,” Max asked. “Who was it?”
“No,” Michael shook his head. “It wasn’t Casey. It was some guy named Hoskins. The clerk commented how much stuff he was buying. He was just a farmer picking up stuff for the harvest, just like us. But he did say something that interested me. He asked if he could put his bill on the tab. So the clerk writes down the total and the date into this thick book, and gets Mr. Hoskins to sign it.”
“So what’s so unusual about that?” Isabel asked. “I expect all farm communities have that sort of deal.”
“Yeah,” Michael nodded. “I asked the clerk. He told me how most people around here are short of cash at this time of year. Then, once they’ve sold their harvest, they come in and settle up. He also said that sometimes, they don’t earn as much as they hoped, and can’t clear all their debts. That got me thinking, so when he turned around to put the cash I gave him into the register, I, uh… scanned through the book and…”
“What do you mean, ‘you’ got to thinking?” Maria demanded. “It was me. I told Michael to check if Granny had any outstanding debts.”
“I found rather a lot of entries for Granny. She owes a lot of money. Some of them go back to way before her husband died. And get this. I found a few entries for good ol’ Mr. Casey.”
“My idea again,” Maria interrupted, glaring at her boyfriend.
“So I changed some of the amounts next to Granny’s name and added the differences to Casey’s. I transferred a large portion of her debt to him.”
Everyone started to chuckle, except Liz. She stepped over to Michael and kissed him in the cheek.
“Thank you,” she smiled.
Michael looked shocked, and then glanced away, trying to cover up his embarrassment.

“That was a smooth move, Michael,” Max complimented when he had recovered from his pang of jealousy. “But it’s hardly a reason to run.”
“Thanks,” a calmer Michael answered. “But it doesn’t end there.”
“It doesn’t?” Max asked. “What else happened.”
“On our way home,” Michael started, “I noticed that the car was quite low on gas. And I was feeling kinda hungry. So I told Maria, mainly because she looked surprised that we were stopping. She stayed in the car while I pumped the gas. As I stuck the handle back into the carrier, I heard this low rumble from the road. A small gang of motorcyclists, about ten of them, rolled onto the forecourt. I was looking at their bikes as I entered the office, pulling my wallet from my back pocket. I went to a cabinet where I picked up some cold drinks, some sandwiches and a couple of bags of potato chips. By this time, the gang had entered the office, and seemed intent on helping themselves to pretty much what they wanted. The sales clerk paid no attention to them, so I ignored them too. It was when they tried to help themselves to these two young women who were already in the office that I couldn’t hold back.”
“What happened?”
“What do you think, Maxwell.”
“Oh.”
“Exactly. After I sent a few of them flying through the door, and then followed them out and destroyed their bikes, they started to run off down the road, like I was some kind of…”
“Alien?”
“Yeah,” Michael gave a slow nod. “Anyway, even the two women looked scared. They jumped in their car and high tailed it out of there just as fast as their car could carry them. The sales clerk told me there was no charge. So I left the money on the counter anyway, and took off. It’s only a matter of time ‘til the Alien Hunters hear about this. So like I said. It’s time to go.”

* * *



[ edited 1 time(s), last at 20-Oct-2002 5:07:03 PM ]
posted on 20-Oct-2002 5:13:25 PM

Part 8

“No,” Liz shook her head. “Were not going anywhere.” It was obvious from her adamant stance that she meant what she was saying.
“Didn’t you hear me?” Michael rose quickly. Max stepped in front of Liz, his hand holding her behind him. “Those people know. How long do you think it will be before someone reports this? Then the FBI will know we’re here.”
“Where’s here?” Kyle asked. “I mean, maybe they’ll just figure you were passing through. Besides, it’s not like anyone knows exactly where we’re staying.”
“We’re not leaving Granny until we know she’s going to be okay,” Liz stepped from behind Max.
“The FBI are on their way and you still want to play happy families,” Michael shook his head. “Unbelievable.”
“Michael,” Max started in as placating a tone as he could. “You changed the car’s looks and plates, right? Which reminds me. We’d better change them back before Granny asks any questions. The witnesses won’t have much to go on. And I’m not too sure how reliable they’ll be. But it won’t hurt to be alert. If we all keep our eyes and ears open, we should have plenty of time before the FBI turn up.”
“I thought you’d take her side,” Michael growled.
“Of course I will, Michael,” Max sighed. “And in this case, I really do believe she’s right. We’ll continue to help Granny, but we should keep everything ready to leave at a moment’s notice. Keep everything in the car that you don’t want to lose.”
Michael glared at Liz and then at Max before he stormed out through the back of the barn. The rest of the gang stood in an uncomfortable silence.
“I hope you guys know what you’re doing,” Maria shrugged before going after her boyfriend.
Kyle watched Maria leave and turned to Liz. He nodded with a smile of support and headed across the yard back to Granny’s house. Isabel smiled, laid her hand on Liz’s shoulder and followed Kyle, leaving Max and Liz alone in the barn.

“That went well,” she sighed. “I’m sorry that I keep on butting heads with Michael. I mean, I know how awkward it makes things for you.”
“No,” he smiled, taking her into his arms. “He knows I’m always going to be there for you. Besides, don’t let his apparent anger fool you. I think he’s just as happy that we’re staying. It just goes against his nature to put ourselves out like this. He doesn’t know how to show support for you.”
“Thank you,” she smiled. “For everything. For your love, for your understanding and for your support.”
“It’s a two way street, Liz,” Max looked into her eyes. “You made the decision and I supported you. It has nothing to do with the fact that you’re my wife now, and I love you.”
“It doesn’t?”
“Of course not. Did you think it did? We agreed that this is what I was going to do. You said that you would help me, and I am so grateful for that. So for me to turn my back on what we set out to do, well, that would be kind of…”
“Bad karma?”
“Have you been talking to Kyle?” Max laughed. “No, this is the right thing to do, and I love you for it. Now, we need to let Granny know that something’s up. She might need to cover for us.”

* * *

During dinner that evening, Granny could easily sense the tension in the air. She knew that the reason was because Michael and Maria were causing them some concern for their safety. She also knew that these kids were not as world wise as she was; they were still… kids, when all was said and done. She would have to take the initiative.
“So,” she startled them all by breaking the silence. “Are you going to tell me what’s troubling you kids, or do I have to do some speculation?”
Once again, Granny saw how they all looked at Max to take the lead. He glanced around the room, as though he were seeking their permission to speak.
“On his way back from the store today, Michael… helped out a couple of young women at the gas station. They were being… bothered… by some bikers. What he did to help them is the sort of thing that would attract the attention of the people that are looking for us.”
“He didn’t…?”
“No,” Max was emphatic. “He didn’t kill anyone. In fact, apart from some bumps and bruises, he hardly even hurt them, right Michael?”
“Yeah,” Michael nodded. “Let’s just say that I scared the crap out of them.”

“The thing is,” Max continued, smiling at Michael’s choice of words and his other friend’s reaction to it, “we could run away. But we don’t want to do that. We want to stay and help you.”
“You don’t have to do that,” Granny protested. If these kids were in danger, they should leave.
“I know,” Max smiled, waving away her objection. “But we will. The problem is… uh…” He was stuck. Max didn’t know how to involve someone else in their… mess.
“If anyone comes looking for us,” Liz continued, sensing her husband’s difficulty, “any one at all, we’ll need you to cover for us. We’ll need you to lie. Even to the police. If you can’t do that for us, it’s okay, we’ll understand. Maybe there’s something else we can do. We’ll just need to be extra careful for a while.”
“Oh, don’t you worry, child,” Granny smiled at Liz, gazing at her as though she truly were a beloved granddaughter. “I’ll lie till I’m blue in the face, even if the President himself asks me.”

* * *

After the kitchen had been cleaned up, everyone withdrew to the living room, where they all sat in silence as they watched some television. All except Max. He gave Liz a tender kiss and excused himself, preferring to sit outside on Granny’s veranda. He stared up into the night sky. There were no streetlights, so the view was almost as good as the clear desert skies of New Mexico. He traced out the constellations and tried to find the stars that made the shape of his seal. After twenty minutes of total peace, Michael came outside and joined him. If Max realized that he was there, he gave no indication. Michael drew a breath to say something, but was interrupted. It was Max who broke the silence.

“I never got the chance, with the discussion and everything, but that was a good thing you did today.”
“Excuse me?” Michael sounded surprised.
“Helping those women,” Max nodded, though in the darkness, he doubted Michael could see. “That was good.”
“You’re not mad that I exposed us?” Michael sounded incredulous.
“No more than I’m mad at myself for exposing us back in Idaho. Isn’t this what were doing now? Helping people?”
“Yeah, but it just takes getting used to. I mean, we’ve hidden ourselves for so long now, that letting everyone in like this, it’s just…”
“Wrong?”
“No, not wrong,” Michael sighed after a lengthy pause. “Just different.”

* * *

Max lay back on the bed that he and Liz shared, in their apartment above the stables, and watched as his wife sat in front of the mirror brushing out her long, dark tresses. There was something about Liz’s hair that never failed to stir him, and watching her perform such a simple, yet usually private act was close to heaven for him. It helped that she was wearing the thin, lacey white nightdress she had bought back in Stanley. It did strange things to Max.
“Do you think I might be wrong this time, Max?” she asked when she put her brush down on the dresser. She turned on the seat to face him. “Do you think we should cut our losses and run?”
“Of course not,” he smiled, patting the space beside him in an invitation to lie beside him. Liz complied, and crawled, almost cat like across the bed to fold her body into her husband’s, raising his temperature a few more degrees. “Granny’s in trouble and she needs our help.”
“I know,” she sighed. “It’s just… Max? If anything should happen to you…”
“Shhh,” he soothed. The same goes for me, Liz. If I lost you now, I’d… But nothing’s going to happen. As long as we keep doing good deeds, then we’ll be fine. It’s almost like…”
“Destiny,” Liz finished.
Max looked shocked, a feeling that Liz sensed.
“Sorry,” she mumbled. “Wrong word. Fate?”
“Yeah,” Max nodded, kissing the top of her head. “Fate. It’s like someone, or something is guiding our steps. As long as we stay true to ourselves, and each other, I think we’ll be all right.”
“Now who’s spending to much time with Kyle?” Liz chuckled.
“Hey, we had to talk about something while we fixed the harvester.”
“There’s just one thing I want to know, Max,” Liz rolled over on top of Max and stared into his eyes, her own burning fiercely.
“What’s that?”
“How long are you going to wait before you kiss me?”
“I can fix that,” Max smiled, catching the back of Liz’s head and pulling her lips down to meet his. As the intensity of the kiss increased, so too did her desire to become one again. Liz started to giggle.
“What?” he asked, looking more than a little confused.
“I wonder where the nearest swimming hole is?”
“Never mind,” he chuckled as he started to pull Liz’s nightdress over her shoulders.

* * *

Michael and Maria held each other in the dark security of their basement bedroom, their skin almost tingling with their post love making glow.
“What’s up, Spaceboy?” Maria asked after a while. “You seem a little distant tonight. You’re not still pissed at Liz, are you?”
“No,” he sighed. “Liz was right. I mean, even you, Isabel and Kyle backed her up. No, I was just thinking about my talk. With Max.”
“When was this?”
“When you guys were watching TV earlier.”
“Oh, when you two went outside.”
“Yeah.
“So what did he have to say that has you all quiet?”
“He thanked me,” Michael shrugged. “Said I did good.”
“Way to go Michael,” Maria teased. “Praise from Max?”
“Yeah,” he chuckled. “I had to see if the moon had turned blue, or if there were any flying pigs out there.”
“So what’s really bothering you Michael?” Maria asked. “I’ve sensed this… feeling from you for ages now. What is it?”

“It’s Max,” he sighed. “Do you remember that day when we discussed Liz’s premonition about us getting shot? Remember how we all looked to him for guidance? He said how he wouldn’t make this decision for everyone. Then he said he abdicated the throne.”
“It’s not a day I’m likely to forget,” Maria squirmed with embarrassment. She had not acted very well that day. It had taken Liz to point out just how childish she was being. Maria thought that she had lost everyone that day.
“Maria, it’s not that easy. Max can say he’s not the king anymore; that he abdicated. Well, he can say that till stars stop shining, but he is still the king. Have you seen how we all look to him for guidance still? Even Liz.”
“Is that what’s bothering you?” Maria narrowed her eyes.
“No,” he continued. “You see, if he is still the king, then that means I’m still his second in command.”
“O-kay…”
“Now take Liz,” Michael waved his hand in frustration. “Have you ever seen her stand up to him?”
“She’s his wife, Michael. She’ll have words with him in private.”
“It’s more than that. It’s because she won’t undermine his authority. If he says something wrong, she won’t say anything in public. But when they close that door, I bet she kicks his ass. And the same the other way. Have you noticed? I mean, not like me. If I thought it wasn’t right, I said so. Maria, If Max is the king, that makes Liz the Queen.”
“Duh,” Maria laughed. “Max has treated her like his Queen since… like, forever. Michael, is this what is bothering you? That Liz has somehow taken your position?”
“No,” he sighed. “What bothers me is that I think our little Queen can look after Max better than I can.”

* * *

With an air of reverence, Kyle placed his small statue of Bhudda on the chair from his dressing table in his bedroom upstairs. He carefully inserted the long, thin sticks of incense into the holders, and using a disposable lighter, lit each stick. Soon, the scent of orange blossom and ylang ylang filled the room. Sitting cross-legged in front of his temporary shrine, Kyle closed his eyes, touched his fist to his opened hand and bowed to the statue, murmuring a few soul cleansing prayers.
“Now that the niceties are out of the way,” Kyle looked at the small, fat figurine, “I’d like to add my thanks for granting us another day of life and freedom. I thank you for the fact that my friends are all well, even if I do provide them with the source of a lot of their jokes. They’re good people, and we really care for each other. We look out for one another. I can’t say that about the guys I used to think of as my friends, but then, they never got to know Max Evans. Maybe if they did… Maybe if everyone got to know Max Evans, the whole world would be a better place.”
Kyle gave a nervous glance around his room, making sure that no one had crept in to listen to him.
“I also ask that you continue to smile your blessings upon Max and Liz, because their love for each other gives me hope that somewhere out there is a woman for me. Someone I can lock souls with and see stars.”
With a sigh, Kyle gave a final bow, and dismantled his shrine. He then made himself ready for bed.
“Who am I kidding?” he groaned as he turned out his bedroom light. “What girl in her right mind is going to leave behind a good home for a life on the run with me, a wanna-be mechanic with a future of green sparklies to look forward to.”

* * *

Isabel took a great deal of time and care with her preparations for bed that night. She lingered over her bath. Making sure that her skin was soft and sweetly scented. She waved her hand over her nightdress, changing it for something that was even more silky and filmy than the garment she was wearing was. With a snap of her fingers, the candles that were liberally spread around her room suddenly lit, and the main light went out. She took a CD and started it spinning just above the surface of her dressing table. The sweet strains of melodic love songs filled the air. She was glad that both Michael and Max were not in earshot. She knew that none of her preparations had any meaning in the dream plane. These were for her. She needed to feel a part of it all.
At last, she climbed into bed, whose sheets she had changed into satin and clutching Jesse’s picture to her breast, prepared herself for her rendezvous with her husband.
He was already waiting for her, dressed in black satin pajamas. He was reclining on a chaise lounge, with chilled champagne and a huge bowl of strawberries.
“Hello, Isabel,” he smiled at her. “I’ve been waiting.”
“I can see that,” she smiled. She snapped her fingers and the champagne and fruit disappeared.
“Oh,” he laughed. “I had plans for them.”
“I bet you did,” she smiled. “But not strawberries. They remind me of someone else.”
“Right,” he nodded. “I don’t want any one intruding on us here.”
“Exactly. Now just what did you have in mind?”
“Why don’t you come here and find out?”
“Why don’t I?”

* * *

Deputy Jim Valenti slammed the door of his cruiser, and approached the front door to his house with extreme caution. The door was ajar and he could see that there were people inside, moving about. As he drew closer, he could hear them talking. He stood in the middle of the doorway, and stared at the two men in white boiler-suits as they passed a small hand held device around the room.
“Did you find anything?” he asked, announcing his presence.
“No sir, Deputy,” the first man shook his head. “Another clean sweep. To be perfectly honest, I didn’t expect to find anything. Not after that first time. Whoever did that did so without a warrant. Do you have any idea what kind of trouble they’re in for that? The FBI doesn’t like to be embarrassed, Mr. Valenti. And believe me, after we found those first ones, they were plenty embarrassed. Anyway, you’re clean. The Parker’s and the Evan’s are too. I think you’ll be safe now, but we’ll comeback again and do another surprise check. There’s nothing worse than theses rogue agencies thinking they’re above the law. And for what? A couple of high school graduates decide to go walkabout? Ooooo, a real threat to security.”
“Well, thank you for your efforts, gentlemen.”
“It’s a pleasure. Oh, the FBI has promised a full internal inquiry. I think this might be big. I heard the word ‘misappropriation’ a few times. Someone’s ass is on the line over this. And you know what I heard their defense is? I heard they’re going to try and claim your kids were in some way responsible for the destruction of the Edwards Airforce Base.”
“It doesn’t bear thinking about,” Jim shook his head. “I mean, who in their right mind is going to believe a bunch of high school graduates have the know how to break through all of that security, plant a bomb, and then just sneak out?”
“Exactly,” the man nodded. “Anyways, in the meantime, you can do your own checks with this.” He handed Jim a small, pen-sized device. “It produces static, so even if they’re using a bug, that will negate it.”
“Thanks.”

Jim walked them back out to their van and watched them leave. Amy’s Jetta arrived almost at the same instant.
“Amy,” he smiled as he helped her from her car. He noticed that while she wasn’t looking upset, she had a wild-eyed look about her, as though she had received some disturbing news. “What brings you here?”
Amy didn’t reply. Instead, she grabbed Jim’s shirtsleeve and marched him into his house. It struck him funny as he had seen Maria do that exact maneuver on others many times.
“How long have you known?” she demanded when he closed the front door.
“I’m guessing you read Liz’s journal, right?” Jim sighed.
“Why didn’t you say anything to me?” she barked.
“Now hold on, Amy,” he started.
“No!” she stamped her foot. “You knew something about these kids and you didn’t warn me about them.”
“How would you feel if I told my friends your secrets that you might have told me in confidence?”
“This is different James Valenti,” she snapped. “And you know it.”
“And why is that Amy,” he asked.
“Because my daughter was involved.”
“I see. Did Maria tell you any of this secret?”
“No, of course not.”
“Well,” Jim continued. “I kept the secret for the same reason Maria did.”
“You don’t owe them anything,” Amy shook her head in anger.
“Yes, I do,” Jim nodded. “I owe him for the fact that he saved my life. I owe him for the fact that he saved Kyle’s life, and I…”
“But if it wasn’t for who… what they are, neither of you would have been in those situations.”
“Granted, but if Max hadn’t have saved Liz’s life that day, then none of this crap would have happened to him, either. You see, with Max, he kind of sneaks up on you. He earns your respect, your loyalty without you even realizing it. And he’s just a kid. If his secret had never been uncovered, if he had grown up as a normal guy, Max could have become the youngest President ever. If he wanted to, that is. But he’s not like that.”
“Just how did Maria get caught up with them? They never saved her life. She should have realized what they were and backed away. Maria has never been a follower.”
“Max, again,” Jim sighed. “As soon as he touches your life, you follow him anywhere. Just ask Liz.”
“She would have died, right?” Amy was looking for some kind of clarification. “I mean, there’s no chance she might have been saved by the paramedics? They got there pretty quick.”
“No, Amy,” Jim thought back to that fateful day. “I saw the bullet hole in the dress. It was in her stomach. She would have lost too much blood, and the lord only knows what internal bleeding was going on. As it was, I think Liz was almost too far for even Max.”
“So if he had just let Liz die, he would still be living his secret life safely?”
“Yeah, and we would have buried one of Roswell’s finest citizens. But he risked it all just to save her.”
“Just because he was in love with her, right?”
“It’s more than that, Amy,” he narrowed his eyes in thought. “You’ve seen those two together. You know what they’ve lived through together. If there has ever been any couple more in love, I’ve never heard of them. They make Romeo and Juliet seem like just good friends.”
“Will he keep them safe?” Amy asked in a small voice.
“It’s not all one way, Amy,” Jim reassured her. “They’ll work together. They’ll keep each other safe. As long as the six of them stay together, you can bet that they’ll look out for one another.”
Amy looked at him for a long time before her eyes softened and she gave a small nod. She turned to leave.
“Amy?” Jim called before she left through the door.
“Yeah?”
“Would you like to go out to dinner one night? With me?”
Amy gave a small smile of triumph.
“Will it get interrupted with a call this time?”
“No,” Jim laughed. “I’m only a deputy. That’s the sheriffs job.”
“Oh…” Amy nodded. “Okay”

* * *

Max,” Liz murmured. “I can’t believe this. It seems to get better and better every time.”
The young couple laid in each other’s arms, catching their breath from their latest intimate bonding. Their hands were caressing each other with a tender loving.
“I know,” Max gasped. “I had no idea.”
“I wonder if there’s a kind of limit,” Liz giggled. “You know, to how good it will get.”
“Well, we can have fun testing that theory of your, Mrs. Evans.”
“Oh, Max. You don’t know how wonderful that sounds. Mrs. Evans. Mrs. Max Evans.”
“Believe me,” he moaned, catching her lips between his for another kiss. “I know.”
“I can’t get over how long they last, Max,” Liz admitted, her red face burning. “I mean, Maria warned me, but she never said that they would last this long. I mean, an hour and a half? It’s so hard to tell if it’s just one, or lots and lots of little ones, one after the other. Max this is incredible.”

“Well,” Max chuckled. “If we’re ever short of cash, perhaps I could become a gigolo.”
“Nuh-uh, buster,” Liz shook her head and slapped Max’s shoulder while laughing. “I’m not sharing this experience with anyone.”
“Neither Maria nor Jesse have it as good as you,” Max confessed.
“How do you know that, Max?” Suspicion burned in Liz’s eyes.
“Because the others have big mouths.”
“Do you ever to talk to them about me… us?” Liz looked worried for a moment.
“No, never,” he shook his head hard to emphasize his denial. “It’s not something they need to know.”
“Why me, Max? Why am I different? Is it because you healed me?”
“I don’t know, Liz. Has Kyle ever said anything?”
“Not to me,” she giggled. “Max? I want to ask you something.”
“Yeah,” Max nodded. From the set on Liz’s face, he knew she was changing the subject. “I’ve been expecting this. Ever since I talked with Isabel that night. You want to visit your parents.”
“How did you know that?”
“I’m your husband, It’s my duty.”
“Max? Can I?”
“You know you don’t have to ask, Liz. If that’s what you want to do, and if you think they’ll be okay… then go for it. And Liz?”
“Yeah, I know,” Liz sighed. “Be careful.”
“No, no,” he chuckled. “I was going to say, tell them ‘Hi’ from me, and let them know how I’ll look after you, and protect you.”
“They read the journal, Max, they know that already.”
“It pays to reinforce these things,” Max smiled.

* * *

Far away, to the south, Diane and Philip Evans sat up in their bed, staring at the wall of their bedroom with a numb look on their face. On the bed in front of them, opened on the last page, was Liz’s journal. Tears rolled from their eyes. After a long period of time, they looked at one another.
“We knew most of it, but there was just so much…” Diane croaked.
“It’s good to see Liz’s side of the story though,” Philip nodded.
“So they’re married now,” Diane sobbed. “Oh Philip. I would have loved to have been with them. After the two of them went through so much just to be together.”
“We were, in a way,” Philip soothed. “We were in their hearts.”
“But Philip…”
“Listen,” he continued. “They love each other, and clearly Max respected her enough to marry her before he… Anyway, one day, I promise you, we will have a full ceremony and celebrate their marriage the way it should have been celebrated. We’ll have the biggest wedding that Roswell has ever seen. You can bet that Jeff would want that too. In fact, wouldn’t it be great if he could shout from the rooftops how his little Lizzie has married a King?”
“So how has Nancy taken it?”
“She’s still mad. Jeff says she hasn’t read it yet, she refuses to. He wants to burn it, like Liz asked, but he wants her to read it first.”
“Liz really does love him, doesn’t she?” Diane knew the truth; she just wanted some reassurance.
“We’ll get through this. Nancy will come around. Even Amy has accepted all this. You’ll see.”

* * *

After turning out the lights above the Crashdown Café, Jeff Parker took a last look around the diner and closed the door on the place that seemed so much quieter since Maria and Liz had stopped working there. He even missed Michael working the grill, and Max mooning over his daughter while she went about her business. With a sigh, he switched off the interior lights and climbed the stairs to the family apartment.
“Family,” he sighed, as he walked into the living room, and sat down on his sofa to watch the evening news.
It had long since ceased to be a family room. Once Liz had left, and with his wife’s frosty attitude towards him, it was as cold as one of his walk-in refrigerators. Nancy still blamed him for the loss of Liz. A day couldn’t go by without Nancy telling him how he should have been harder with Liz, how he should never have let her return from boarding school. She was angry with him for giving in to Max Evans, and for refusing to assist the FBI in their investigations. She was angry with all of them, especially the Evans’ but more so Jim Valenti. They just couldn’t see what she could. They had all lost their kids because of Max. As expected, Nancy did not even acknowledge his entrance but remained quiet, staring at the television set.

In his peripheral vision, he watched the strange shimmering to the side of the television set for a while before he realized that something strange was happening. As soon as his conscious mind picked up on the fact, he turned his full attention on it. And then Liz was there, smiling. Both Jeff and Nancy jumped, and sat upright. They both stared at the apparition for a moment.
“Mom? Dad?” the vision of Liz smiled at them.
“Liz!” Nancy cried, leaping to her feet and rushing towards her baby girl. “Oh my God! Liz!”
“Nancy, no!” Jeff cried, trying to catch his wife.
He missed. Nancy fell through the ethereal image of Liz and looked up at her, her eyes wild with fear.
“She’s not really here,” Jeff continued in a soothing voice. “It’s a… a projection.”
“What?” she demanded.

“Hi Mom. Hi Dad,” Liz continued to speak, looking with concern from her father and down to her mother. “I don’t know if you can hear me. I mean, the last time I tried this, Max couldn’t. Hear me, that is. But I’m getting stronger now, and…”
Both Jeff and Nancy were nodding.
“You can hear me?” Liz looked pleased. “Oh I’m so glad. Listen. Were still safe, okay? I won’t say where we are because it’s safer for all of us. I know that it’s safe to tell you that until a while ago, we were in Idaho. I just wanted… I wanted to apologize for running away like that, but you read the journal and you know why. I love you guys, and I really miss you.” Liz looked distant for a moment, and then pulled a wry grin. She nodded, as though to someone next to her. “Max says ‘Hi’, and not to worry, that he’ll protect me. And I guess that by now you know that he can.”
She smiled again at something beside her. Jeff knew that it had to be Max.
“Say hi to Max for us,” he answered.
“I can hear you too,” Liz looked on in wonder, as though that fact surprised her. She then looked at her mother, and saw the state she was in. It was like she was not handling the news very well. “Mom? Are you all right?”
“What has he done to you, Liz?” she demanded. “Where are you? We can help. The FBI can help you.”
“Haven’t you read it?” Liz asked, with a look of pure disappointment. “Mom, please. You have to read the journal to understand. I know it’s hard, but I want you to know that I love you, and as long as I know you still love me, and as long as you are safe, then all this will be worthwhile.”
“We love you too, Lizzie,” Jeff called out. “Please, stay safe.”
“We will, Dad,” she nodded. ”Thank you.”
“Will you come to us like this again?”
“I will Dad, but it’s kind of tiring.”
“And Liz?”
“Yeah?”
“I don’t know, maybe… if you can… next time… maybe Max can come too?”
“We’ll try, Dad,” Liz smiled. “I wish I could hug you.”
“Me too, Lizzie,” Jeff whispered in a thick voice. Tears rimmed his eyes.
“Can you let the others know were still safe? Can you let them all know we love you all.”
“I will. Give our love to everyone.”
“I will, Dad. Bye Dad, bye Mom. I love you.”

“What was that?” Nancy demanded through her tears. “How did she do that?”
“Nancy? That was our daughter,” Jeff told her with pride. “There is so much to her that you don’t know. Nancy, I know it’s hard. I know you want to believe that Max stole her away from us. But if you read her journal, you would realize the truth. Nancy, Max gave Liz back to us. Max gave us three more years of Liz. And I hope, many more years, but that’s down to them right now. Like Liz said. You have to read her journal to understand.”
“Maybe you better give it to me, then.”
“I’ll go get it tomorrow,” Jeff reached over and hugged his wife. “Philip and Diane have it right now.”

* * *

“Izzy, I’m home,” Jesse called out as he entered his apartment from another hard day at the firm of solicitors at which he worked. After dumping his briefcase beneath the coat stand, he walked into the living room. He picked up a small box and sprinkled a pinch of its contents into a bowl around which swam a goldfish. “Did you miss me, Izzy?” he asked of the fish.
Jesse continued into the kitchen and pulled a frozen TV dinner from the freezer compartment of his refrigerator. He peeled off the instructions and, while crossing to the microwave, read them. The doorbell ringing attracted his attention, so after placing the dinner inside the oven, he went to answer the door.
“Yeah?” he asked, opening the door wide.
Two pairs of hands reached in and grabbed him. Before he could even cry out, Jesse was pulled from his apartment, and was already on the way down the stairs.
“What gives?” he finally cried.
“Jesse Ramirez,” one of the men holding him growled. “You are coming with us.”
“You, my friend,” the other snarled, “are going to come out with us and have a good time if it kills you.”
“Ah come on guys,” Jesse complained. “I see enough of you at the office.”

“Sure,” Chris laughed. “You spend all day locked away. It ain’t natural. You’re coming out with us. It’s not healthy your sitting in your apartment night after night. This is Boston, man, not Roswell. You deserve a normal life.”
They bundled Jesse into a car that was waiting at the entrance to his apartment block, as though it was a getaway vehicle and soon, Jesse and three of his old friends were pushing through the traffic, heading for downtown Boston.
“Wouldn’t the ‘T’ have been better?” Jesse asked, noticing the number of cars on the road.
“Much,” the driver admitted. “But do you know how hard it would be to drag an unwilling S.O.B. through the ‘T’?

The common slid by on their left as they headed down Beacon Street.
“Hey,” one of his friends laughed as the bar used as the front of a Television sit-com bar went past. “We could always go into the Bull and Finch and see if Norm is there tonight.”
“Or not,” Chris answered.
They all laughed, even Jesse. Perhaps his friends were right after all.
They found a place to park behind Kenmore Bus Station, and Jesse tagged behind his friends as they approached Fenway Park and turned down Lansdown Road. At the end of the street, one of his friends turned to him.
“Do you remember this place?” he asked.
“Jillians?” Jesse nodded, giving a faint smile for the first time in ages. “Sure I do.”
He followed his friends up the staircase to its entire floor of video and arcade games. While he waited for Chris to buy some beers, Jesse had to admit that it felt good to get on with some form of life. It felt good to laugh again. It felt good to live again.
The evening wore on, with Jesse, drink in hand, able to relax for the first time in ages. Here, there was no Isabel, no FBI and no alien hunters looking for the aliens that weren’t there. He found his friend, Chris, racking up the points on a video game that involved saving Earth from hordes of green Martians intent on taking over the planet.

“It’s funny how they’re always the bad guys, don’t you think?” Jesse asked.
“Who?” Chris asked, blasting the game level’s leader to kingdom come. “Aliens? Jesse, there’s no such thing.”
“I know, I know” Jesse grimaced. “But what if there were? What if there really are aliens out there? You know all those films? Alien, Predator, Independence Day, War of the Worlds, they all depict them as some kind of conquering army keen on wiping us out.”
“E.T.” Chris laughed.
“Excuse me?” Jesse narrowed his eyes.
“E.T.” Chris repeated. “He wasn’t here to wipe us out.”
“Okay, okay, let me put it this way,” Jesse continued. “Suppose someone had proof. Concrete evidence that there was an alien life form living on this planet. What would happen? How would the military react? How would the population react?”
“I guess the military would want to capture them, to learn all they could. Heck, maybe it’s how we learned all that stealth technology. The people? Well, they would react with fear and panic, I guess.”
“Why is that? If they were already down here, they have the technology to wipe us out. Why haven’t they done that already? I mean, why wouldn’t we welcome them with open arms and accept them?”
“I guess it’s down to bad press,” Chris laughed. “Maybe they should hire a better Spin Doctor.”

* * *

A new dawn broke over Massachusetts. Jesse woke up to his alarm clock; it’s bright red digits showing that it was seven o’clock. He rose from his bed and remembered the previous night. He had had a lot of fun with his friends, arriving home shortly after midnight. Jesse had fallen asleep almost immediately, and there was Isabel. She had seemed angry with him at first, but his explanation about his friends pressuring him into going out mollified her, if only a little. He smiled at the memory of their dream sex as he tied his robe.
Jesse’s breakfast consisted of hot coffee and croissants. While he ate, he stared out of his window at the Charles River. He watched the early morning joggers, and the rowing crews being put through their paces. A young couple walked along the riverbank, hand in hand and few people cycled past, on their way to whatever jobs they held. Everyone was out there enjoying normal lives. His was far from normal. It couldn’t go on. Last night proved that to him. Jesse wanted to lead a real life, not one through his dreams.
Jesse spent the rest of his morning at work wrestling with his dilemma. He had carefully considered every angle, every possibility. After all, there were others who might be affected by his decision. Perhaps they might thank him, one day. Around 11 o’clock, he had made up his mind. This had to end. He wanted his normal back. Jesse pulled out his small notebook and leafed through the pages. He lifted his telephone handset and punched in a series of numbers.
“Hello, Sarah?” he spoke with a slight shake in his voice. “It’s Jesse. Jesse Ramirez. Yeah, me too. Listen, are you busy tonight? Would you like to go to dinner?”

* * *


Part 9

They rose early, like most farmers, with the sun. It had been quite a shock to them all when Granny came and woke them up. She had been up for an hour already, preparing their breakfast.
“A full day’s work needs a big breakfast,” she told them. “Trust me, you’ll work this off by lunch time.”
No one had really considered much beyond the fact that they wanted to help. The reality was proving to be a little more than they had bargained for. How were they to know that it would get worse? While eating through the mountain of waffles, and drinking the gallons of coffee that Granny had made, the tired teens started to work out a schedule. Guided by Granny’s advice, they would work one field at a time. Splitting into three teams, while one team operated the harvester, the other would act as support with the pickup. The third team would be resting so that everyone had a good break. A little after six in the morning, Max let Liz fire up the harvester, and sitting in the cab beside her, headed for the first field that Granny wanted harvested. Kyle and Isabel followed in the pickup to collect the bags of wheat. They would gather the bales of straw as and when they could. When they reached the first field, Liz lowered the rollers, and started the cutters, the baler and the thresher. The huge machine started to roll over the first of the wheat and the harvest had begun. Liz followed the edge of the field, sweeping around in a circle while Max hefted the bags from the hopper, to the sewing machine and onto the ramp. When she reached her starting point, she used the uncut edge of wheat as her new guide, harvesting the field in an ever-decreasing circle. Behind them, driving through the already cut swathes, Isabel kept the pickup steady for Kyle to stack the bags on the back. Once the pickup truck was full, he would shuttle back to the barn where he, Isabel, Michael and Maria would stack the bags neatly, ready for collection. All the while, a steady plume of dust rose behind the harvester. All three of the working pairs, took turns so that everyone had a chance to rest. They were soon hot, sweaty and very, very dirty.

* * *

“That plume of dust can be seen for miles, Max,” Michael pointed out when they came to relieve them. “What if the FBI see it and come to investigate?”
“Ours isn’t the only one,” Max pointed in the opposite direction where a few other dust clouds were visible. “I doubt the FBI are going to investigate all the harvests going on in the same way that they won’t investigate all random acts of unexplained behavior. I’m more concerned with Mr. Casey and what he might do when he finds out that Granny’s getting her harvest in. He’ll know someone is helping her, and might try to do something.”
“I guess we have sentry duty tonight then, huh?”
“Yeah,” Max nodded. “But just you me and Kyle.”
“But Kyle can’t…”
“He can wake us up. If anyone comes, wake the others. We need to work together, for protection.”
“Okay, Max,” Michael nodded.

* * *

The days that passed by seemed to blur into one another. The bags of wheat they stacked in the barn grew, and each night, when the sun went down, they were all nearly too tired to eat. Every muscle in their body ached, and sometimes, Max was just too physically tired to try and help ease the other’s aches. Although they were more efficient now, having found the easiest and best way to do things, it was still backbreaking work. Max and Michael had tried to use their powers to lift the bags of wheat, but this tired them out almost as fast as doing it the manual way. They seemed to be on autopilot now, doing their allotted tasks almost automaton like. Even though driving was the easier of the tasks, and as such was allocated to the girls, it was still tiring work to turn the heavy harvester. It wasn’t blessed with power steering. Neither was the old pickup truck. When the guys weren’t lifting the sacks to be sealed and placing them on the conveyor belt, they were lifting them from the ground and up onto the back of the truck. Although someone was usually on a rest break, they were finding that the frequency of returning with the pickup to unload meant that they were usually unloading the truck and stacking the heavy bags in the barn.

Added to their weariness, Max, Michael and Kyle took turns to keep watch during the short nights.
“Max,” Granny called as he headed for his apartment he shared with Liz. They had been working for a week. “We have quite a lot in already. I’m sure that will cover the outstanding mortgage payments. You don’t need to overdo it, you know.”
“We’ll keep going,” Max yawned. “Until we’ve finished, or we’re physically not able to.”
“You guys aren’t used to this. You need to take a break.”
“No,” he shook his head. “We’ll be okay. We can rest later.” I hope.
“Okay,” she frowned with a dubious look. “If you’re sure.”

Alone with Liz, after trying to relieve some of her aches and pains, they wrapped themselves in each other’s arms and started to drift towards sleep. Since they started the harvest, Max and Liz had been too tired to be intimate with each other.
“I miss you, Max,” Liz sighed.
“Me?” Max asked with a mischievous smile. “Or the two hour orgasms?”
She slapped his shoulder in a playful manner.
“You know,” she continued. “A day off wouldn’t hurt anyone.”
“That’s what Granny said to me.”
“Well, she is very wise, and she’s been farming her whole life. Maybe we should listen.”
“Tomorrow’s Sunday,” Max nodded. “That’s a good day for a break. I’ll go talk to Granny. Maybe there’s somewhere nice we can go. A change of scenery would do us all good, I guess.”
By the time he climbed back into bed, Liz was fast asleep, with a small smile of triumph on her lips.

* * *

In a brightly-lit corner of a long abandoned warehouse, a group of suited men sat in a semicircle around a long whiteboard. There were pictures on the board of four teenagers, two boys and two girls. Special Agent Baurline stood in the center of the semicircle as he briefed his men on the latest developments.
“Has anyone found out anything on the vehicle they took?” he asked.
“None have been reported stolen,” an agent answered. “But there are so many people who use the place as summer homes and have a vehicle locked away in a garage. If they stole one of those, we might not hear of it until next spring.”
“Maybe someone gave them one. Mr. Anderson, for instance.”
“Have we had any luck tracing the girl who was shot?” Baurline asked.
“The only way we’re going to find that out is with a warrant from the Supreme Court,” someone replied. “We’re not even allowed to talk to Anderson unless we can prove he’s broken a federal law. And then, once we find out where she is, you can bet we’re going to need the army with us just to question her. She’ll have more lawyers around her than there are in the House of Representatives. I think we can forget the Anderson’s.”
“Things have become rather… complicated since those Civil Rights activist got themselves involved. Have we had any luck in Roswell?”
“No, sir. All our devices were found within the first few days. In that time, no one said anything of any use. And we don’t have the budget to get anymore. Besides, they’ve been swept three times since then. If another bug is found in Roswell, I think you can pretty much kiss our jobs goodbye.”
“That is pretty much it, gentlemen. If we get our proof, we’ll never have to justify our actions again. You’re not only doing this for your jobs, you’re doing this for your country, so that your families can all sleep safe at nights.”
“So what should we do now?”
“Keep a few of you looking for the girl. Someone will slip soon. Maybe she’ll just get homesick. Meanwhile, spread out across Western Nebraska. Those bikers definitely had a run in with someone of an extra terrestrial nature. There were only two of them though. Have they split up, or are they still together? You have the description of the car they used in front of you. Question the witnesses and listen to the gossip. These people won’t have fancy lawyers, so lean on them, hard if you have to.”
“But, sir?”
“But nothing, agent! The safety of our entire planet may be a stake here. Find them, even if you have to do a house-to-house search. Find them.”
“Just find them alive,” a voice called out from the darkness.
A young man stepped into the circle of light. He had short, sandy colored, curly hair.

* * *

“Alive?” Baurline asked the newcomer when they were alone. “Listen, DeLuca, I don’t know what game you’re playing, but this is my investigation.”
“I’ve been thinking,” Sean Deluca shrugged off the older man’s objections. “Look at what those kids have done. I mean; I know you lost all the data when Agent Pierce went rogue on you, and we don’t know the true extent of their powers, but just look at what they have achieved that we know of. We know they have telekinetic powers, we know that they can somehow read minds, as evident by their escape from your carefully constructed trap at their graduation ceremony. We know that they can heal, unless those morons who tried to rob that camp are lying. Look at what they did to those motorcycles. And I don’t even want to think about how they broke into an Air Force base already on a state of high security and completely destroyed it.”
“Which underlines how dangerous they are. And my superiors want to call me in.” His voice was filled with derision.
“You fail to see their potential, Baurline,” Deluca smiled. “In control of resources like that, we could be the most powerful unit in the country.”
Baurline raised his eyebrows.
“No, don’t worry,” Sean shook his head. “I have no desire to run things. But think how powerful we would be. Think of how much safer we could make our country.”
“How do you mean?”
“Well,” Deluca started to pace in front of Baurline as his eyes burned with a fierce desire. “Suppose we could use their rather special abilities to locate the whereabouts of the most radical terrorist leaders alive today. Suppose we could find the leader of say, a group of radical Muslim Fundamentalists. Or how about some of these white supremacists or all those private militias forming the length and breadth of our nation? Suppose they started to die? And if all they had were those silver handprints, couldn’t we make a claim that this is divine intervention of some kind? Like the ‘Hand of Allah’, or the ‘Hand of God’, proof positive that he is displeased with those who twist his words to satisfy their own evil. We could bring every terrorist organization opposed to the west, or more importantly, the U.S. to heel.”
“I can see that,” Baurline nodded. “But what if they’re not interested? You’ve seen what they can do. What guarantee do you have that they won’t turn on you?”
“Just give me the dark haired girl,” Sean leered, his eyes going distant. “I will control them all through her. She will do anything to keep him safe. He’ll do anything to keep her safe. And all the while, I will be getting exactly what I want.”
“With an alien?” Baurline shuddered.
“Idiot!” DeLuca spat. “She’s no alien. She’s just a normal girl infatuated with someone with power. If she’s so easily swayed, wait till she sees the power I’ll control once I have them.”
“Look, I know that the CIA holds you in high regard, DeLuca…”
“High regard?” the young man laughed. “I’m the best god damned agent to come out of Langley since their inception. And I have plans. One day, not too soon, I’ll be in charge. And when I am, I’ll show you how the CIA should have been run.”
“Your controller’s don’t know you’re working with me, do they,” Baurline’s eyes narrowed with suspicion.
“No more than yours know about you,” Sean countered. “Look, you came to me. You do things my way, or I’ll go it alone. I was having good success until they called me away. I was this close to controlling her.”
Sean turned and headed for the warehouse door. He paused at the smaller service door.
“Just keep me posted, Baurline. And remember, I want them alive.”
“All of them?”
“Only the four up there,” he pointed at the board. “If anyone else is with them, eliminate them.”
“Okay,” Baurline nodded.
He waited until he was sure that the young man was really gone.
“As much as I hate these… monsters, I really hope they catch you before I catch them.”

* * *

Kyle watched the yard from the shadow of the barn. It had been a long and tiring day. Actually, it had been a long and tiring week. They all had muscular aches and pains in places they never even knew they had muscles. Granny did her best with herbal baths and poultices, and Max helped as much as he could with his own brand of medicine, but even these did little to ease the almost permanent dull ache that had settled in their limbs. As Kyle took his turn at guard duty that night, he doubted that any training session for any of his sports had ever left him feeling so… sore. Or tired. Kyle had nearly fallen asleep on many occasions during his watch. He shifted his body again, and wandered to the other end of the barn, staying hidden in the shadows like Max showed him. He shifted the weight of the gun in the make shift holster, its presence giving him a strange calming influence. Although he hoped he would never have course to use it, he nevertheless knew he could, and would, if it came down to protecting those he cared about. He stretched his muscles and suppressed the yawn that would once again remind him of the need for sleep. That was when he saw the figure climbing over the fence behind the barn. The figure carried a large, rectangular can, filled with what Kyle knew would be fuel of some kind and was creeping in what could only be called a suspicious manner. Even though he appeared to be on his own, Kyle had no intention of disobeying Max and tackling him alone. Besides, he might have a gun too.
“Max!” Kyle hissed through the open window next to the door to Max and Liz’s apartment. “Max!”
Max appeared, making Kyle jump.
“Jeez,” Kyle yelped. “You scared me.”
“What’s up, Kyle?” Max asked, though his alert state suggested he had sensed something.
“Company,” Kyle pointed to the figure crossing the open space towards the back of the barn.
“Go get Michael,” Max nodded, opening his door. He followed Kyle down the stairs, taking precautions to ensure their silence.
Soon, all three of them were creeping towards the intruder. He was kneeling beside the mountain of filled grain sacks, opening the metal can. They could see a box of matches by his knee. Max raised his hand and illuminated the barn with a short, but very bright white flash. It reminded Kyle of a camera flash.
“Did you get it?” Michael asked in a loud voice.
“Yeah,” Max confirmed. “I have his features completely. If anything happens now, there’s no way he can argue an innocence plea. This man is going down for a long, long time.”
They had decided to keep the use of unexplainable abilities to a minimum. It was decided that simple blackmail would be the best deterrent.
“Want me to call the police?” Kyle asked.
“Sure,” Max agreed. “Maybe they’d like to find out who put this low life up to this.”
The man ran, as fast as he could, heading for the fence. He would rather face Casey’s anger at his failure than what would happen if he informed to the police.
“Aren’t we going to stop him?” Kyle demanded.
“No,” Max shrugged. “Let him go. People will think twice before they volunteer to try this again. Especially him.”
Michael and Kyle grinned at each other.
“Do you think I can go to bed now?” Kyle asked.
“Yeah,” Max nodded. “Go ahead.”

* * *

It was well past dawn when Michael finally woke up. Beside him, Maria was still in a deep sleep. He stared at the vague shape of the sun through the curtains, halfway up the window. It took him a while to realize that something was wrong.
“Shit!” he exclaimed, jumping up and trying to jump into his jeans in a single fluid movement.
“What? What?” Maria, still groggy from her sleep, complained.
“I bet he did this on purpose,” Michael grunted, pulling his fly closed and reaching for one of his more clean shirts.
“Who?” groaned Maria. “Did what?” She was still half-asleep.
“Max,” he spat, pulling his tee shirt over his head. “This,” he waved at the window showing daylight. “He’s probably out there now, harvesting the damn field by himself, thinking how noble he is for letting us all have a rest.”
“You woke me up for that?” Maria groans. “I can’t believe you.”

“What?” Michael snapped. There was a dangerous edge to his voice. “That’s not only stupid, but it’s plain dangerous too. I mean, who knows what else those morons will try.”
“What morons?” Maria complained, pulling the blanket over her head. “There’s only one moron around here, and that’s you.”
“Look, Maria,” he snapped. “I don’t know if you realize…”
“And I don’t know if you realize, Space Boy. Max gave us a day off. Remember?”
“What?” Michael froze.
“A holiday, Michael,” Maria laughed. “As in no work today.”
Michael looked suitably embarrassed and started to pull his tee shirt off.
“What are you doing now?” Maria asked.
“I’m coming back to bed, what else?”
“Nuh-uh,” Maria shook her head. “Now that you’re up, you can go and make me breakfast in bed.”
“What? Get your own damn breakfast.”
“Would you like to share a room with Kyle?” Maria gave a sweet smile.
Michael glared hard at his blonde girlfriend, and stormed with disgust from the room.

It was nearly mid-morning before everyone started to surface, except for Michael who was refused re-admittance to the bed he shared with Maria. He spent the morning alone, on the veranda, listening to the sounds of Granny preparing a late breakfast for everyone.
Granny saw that she had been correct when she told Max that they needed a break. The kids looked pale shadows of the once vibrant teenagers from a week ago. These kids had worked themselves too hard. And she loved them for it, because they were doing it for her, not for themselves, and certainly not for any money.
“You’re not eating, Maria?” Max asked when they started to tuck into the feast that Granny had prepared. “Are you feeling okay?”
“Yeah,” she smiled. “I had breakfast earlier.”
“You did?”
“Yeah, Michael brought me breakfast in bed.”
“He did?” Isabel looked surprised. “That was uncommonly kind of him.”
“Hey,” Michael barked. “It wasn’t my idea. Okay?”
“I was going to say…”
“Oh?” Max laughed.
“The moron woke me up,” Maria scowled. “So I decided if he wanted to get up and complain about stuff that wasn’t going on anyway, and call someone names because he forgot we were given a day off, he might as well make himself useful.”
“What stuff?” Max asked. “Who? What names?”
“Never mind,” Michael dipped his head.

* * *

“No you don’t,” Granny scolded when they started to prepare themselves to clear the kitchen. She reached into her cupboard and pulled out a large picnic basket. “Here you go,” she handed the basket to Kyle. “You take this, and my car, and you drive up that track behind my barn towards those trees over yonder.” She pointed across her fields. “There are some hills over there, and more trees. Anyway, in the middle of them is an old rock quarry with a natural pool, fed by an underground stream. My family has been swimming there for generations.”
“A swimming hole?” Liz nudged Max, who started to blush. Liz laughed at him.
“This will be so cool,” Maria grinned.
“Yeah,” Kyle smiled. “Beats the hell out of farming.”
“And you made such a good hayseed,” Isabel teased.

Twenty minutes later, they had pulled up to a small clearing between the arc of two large rock walls, sheltered by some small rises, and clusters of trees. A large, kidney shaped pool of clear water filled a small gully. A narrow strip of sand at one end provided a beach, and a way in and out of the water. The small gang stood on the rise above the beach staring at the serene sight before them. It was a scene that provided them all with a sense of peace.
“So who thought to bring a swim suit?” Isabel asked.
“We could skinny dip,” Kyle grinned. “We have Roswell’s expert skinny dippers with us.”
Every one turned to look at Max and Liz, amused by their sudden coloring.
“Well, we all have underwear on, right?” Maria shrugged, starting to unfasten her shirt.
“I’m wearing white,” Isabel looked full of disdain. “And I know what happens to white underwear when it gets wet.”
“Isabel,” Maria sighed. “You have these Samantha Genie powers, right? Wiggle your nose and turn them into swimsuits? How hard can it be?”
Isabel stared at Maria, and then shrugged.
“Okay,” she nodded. “But not here.”
Liz and Maria followed Isabel to a cluster of small shrubs that they could hide behind.
“Spoilsports!” Kyle called after them.

The water was not only clear; it was cold. It was, however, refreshing and invigorating. After an hour of frolicking in the water, swimming and general horsing around, they felt as fresh and alive as they had that relaxing day they had spent in Stanley. It seemed like a lifetime ago. After their picnic lunch, Max took a short stroll, just examining their surroundings. He had managed to climb to the top of the cliffs that edged the two sides of the pool. He stared out across the flat landscape. The dark ribbon of the River Platte snaked across the horizon, while plumes of dust rose in dozens of different places across the patchwork squares of the golden panorama.
“Here you are,” Liz walked up behind him. “I wondered where you had gotten to.”
“Oh,” Max smiled at his dark haired wife, welcoming her into his arms. “I didn’t realize you were looking for me. I saw that you and Maria were talking and…”
“I’m here now,” she smiled. “It’s just that, if I knew you were going to find some place quiet, I would have come with you.”
“Oh?”
“Do you have any idea how badly I need you?” she breathed.
“Are you becoming addicted to me, Mrs. Evans?” Max chuckled.
Liz released a giggled.
“I wonder if there’s an M.E.A.?”
“M.E.A.?” Max raised his eyebrows.
“Yeah,” she smiled. “You know, I’d have to stand up in front of a bunch of people and say ‘I’m Liz, and it’s been one week since my last…”
“Liz!” Max pressed his hand to Liz’s mouth. He looked shocked, but started to laugh with her. “Hey, what do you mean, a bunch of people?”
“Well, I’ve been thinking. Maybe I could rent you out after all. You know, like you suggested. I’d get quite rich.”
“No,” Max shook his head. “I’ve gone off that idea.”
“Uh huh,” Liz’s eyes sparkled. “And why is that?”
“Because they wouldn’t be you.”
Liz smiled, and molded her body against Max’s. Their warm skin pressing against each other’s ignited fires within them. They started to kiss, gentling teasing against one another’s lips, their tongues searching for a way to slip past the pearl white sentries. Their hands joined the fray, and their fingers danced passionate tangos across their burning skin. Their swimsuits quickly dissolved into pools of cloth at their feet and the loving young couple melted right with it.
“Max, Max,” Liz gasped, the frustration in her voice evident. She continued to kiss him.
“What,” he gasped, still kissing her.
“We cant,” she groaned. Even as she returned Max’s passionate kisses, she was begging him to stop. “We can’t do this. The others, they’ll hear.”
“So,” he murmured. “It’s not like they haven’t heard us before.”
“It’s not fair, Max,” Liz started to pull away. Max could feel her reluctance. “It’s not fair on Kyle.”
Max slowed his kissing down and rolled off of his wife. He lay still, fighting to regain control of his enflamed desire.
“You’re right,” he released a long, slow breath. “I’m sorry.”
“No, no, Max. It’s okay. It’s just…”
“We gotta get Kyle a girl.”
“Yeah,” Liz started to giggle. “Do they still have mail order brides in this part of the country?”
Max started to laugh. Softly at first, but it built. Soon, Max’s laughter was ringing across the sheltered gully.

Lounging on the beach, the others looked around; trying to sense which direction the laughter was coming from.
“It beats the hell out of listening to other sounds he could be making,” Kyle smirked.

* * *

The two men stood outside the entrance to a camping site, surrounded by mountains and trees. A large sign read “Camp Sawtooth.” The first man checked a small diamond shaped device in his hand and nodded.
“This way,” the man nodded across the main courtyard.
They made their way through the park and over a small rise towards the back of the camping grounds. They followed the path that the hand held device indicated, arriving at a small cabin hidden in the trees.
“This is the place, Excellency,” Chyn announced.
“Are they still here?” Bektor asked.
Chyn fiddled with the device in his hand, holding it up in the air. Three young men come out of the cabin, looking at the two men with suspicion.
“Can we help you?” one of them asked.
Chyn shook his head at Bektor.
“No, their presence is not here anymore,” he answered him.
Bektor then turned to the three young men.
“Do you how long it has been since the ones named Max, Michael, Isabel and Tess departed from this place?”
“Don’t know anyone by those names,” the man shook his head. He looked to his pals to see if the names were familiar to them, but they too were shaking their heads. “Sorry dude.”
Chyn looked down at the readout on his device. He looked at Bektor and nodded.
“We believe that they stayed in this cabin,” he informed the boys.
“Well, the place was empty when we started working here the other day. I don’t know how long it was empty for, though.”
Again, Chyn looked down at the device in his hands, and nodded at Bektor.
“We need to get to work,” the young man told them. “Maybe you should ask at reception.”

Bektor and Chyn retraced their steps back through the park until they reached the reception office by the entrance. They entered the office, and approached the young women working at the desk.
“Yes, sirs,” one of them smiled.
“How long ago did the ones known as Max, Michael, Isabel and Tess depart?”
“I’m sorry sir,” the woman gave a tight smile. “I’m afraid I can’t give out information like that. Besides, I’d need to know their last names. I really can’t say that I know anyone by those names.”
Again, Chyn nodded at Bektor after consulting his small machine. Bektor frowned.
“Is there anyone else who might be of sufficient position to help us?”
“Only Mr. Anderson, the owner of this camp.”
“Is he available for consultation?” Bektor asked.
“He’s in his office. I’ll just go see if he’s free.”
Clare approached her boss’s office and knocked.
“Mr. Anderson,“ she called, opening the door. “There are… oh.”
She stood inside the room, and saw that there was no sign of Mr. Anderson. The large window he had put in just last week was wide open; indicating that he had used it to leave. Clare had no doubt that he was already halfway home. For some reason, he did not want to talk to these strange men.
“I’m sorry,” she announced. “He seems to have left.”

* * *

Granny noticed right away that the day’s rest and relaxation had made the world of difference to the young kids who were doing so much to help her. They had arrived home just as she was preparing the evening meal.
“I take it you had fun,” she smiled, picking up on their happy faces.
“Do you think?” Kyle chuckled.
“Yes, Granny,” Liz gave her a spontaneous hug. “It was wonderful. Thank you.”
Their mood was almost too good, it made her next comment all the more difficult.
“Well, you picked a good day to be away,” she told them in a cautious tone.
The mood died almost instantly.
“Why is that?” Max asked his tension rising. Every nerve in his body seemed alert.
“The FBI came to my house today,” she told them. They all seemed nervous. “They said they were looking for a gang of killers. Six of them. These killers, they matched your description. They said you were dangerous.”
She could almost smell the fear that swept the room.
“We’re not dangerous,” Liz stood up to make her emphatic declaration.
Granny gave a short laugh.
“I know that,” she waved away Liz’s worry. “I know why they’re really looking for you.”
“You do?” Max asked. His voice sounded distant, smaller. It was almost like the voice of a frightened child.
“I have ears,” she informed them. “I have eyes. And over the years, I’ve learned to trust what I’ve seen and heard with them. It’s the little things that give you away. You say things when you think I can’t hear and do things when you think I can’t see. Then there are the big things. Like my car. Michael and Maria must have done something to make it look so different, and then change it back again. And that harvester you fixed up. It hasn’t worked for three or four years now. There’s a special part it needed. The trouble is, no one makes it any more. We always borrowed one of our neighbors. Anyway, I know that Liz… Max… Michael and… Isabel are… aliens. I don’t know where you’re from, but I know the FBI are after you because of it and I’ll be damned if I help them catch you.”
“You’re wrong,” Max smiled, and stood next to Liz.
“I don’t think so,” Granny gave a gentle smile.
“Not Liz,” Max continued, looking into his wife’s eyes. “She’s human, like Maria and Kyle.”
“But she can do things, like you.”
“Yeah,” Max nodded. “Probably because I healed her. It…changed her, somehow. I made her more like us.”
“I don’t think that was all you, Max,” Granny smiled. “I think some of that was down to Liz, too. I think she wanted to be like you, be your equal. It’s what makes all the great relationships work.”
Max looked into Granny’s eyes to see if she might be making fun of them. He found no sign of it, only her compassion.

“What did you tell them?” he asked, not releasing her look.
“I told them you broke down in front of my house last week and your engine seemed to glow and then you drove off again, eastwards. I told them how I’m near deaf and never heard you talking, so I couldn’t give them any more information.”
“Do you think they believed you?” Maria asked.
“Who knows,” Granny shrugged. “But it wouldn’t hurt to work with one eye over your shoulder. That is, unless you decide it’s time to leave,”
“I think we can safely assume they don’t know we’re here,” Max looked to his friends for help. “I mean, they’re probably checking everyone after that incident at the gas station.”

* * *

Max and Liz finally renewed their intimacy in the privacy of their bedroom that night. It was soft and tender, and filled with a controlled passion. Afterwards, they held one another tightly, as though they feared that they might somehow be pulled apart.
“Tell me everything will be okay, Max,” Liz begged her husband. “Tell me that nothing’s going to happen to us. To any of us?”
“Liz,” Max rolled over and propped himself on one elbow. His fingertips danced lightly around the edges of her breasts. “I promise you, I will move heaven and earth so that one day, you can walk down a main street without worrying or looking over your shoulder. You know I will keep you, and the others safe. But I can’t promise you a normal life as long as you stay with me.”
“What’s so great about nor…”
Max silenced her with a kiss.
“That’s not funny any more,” he chuckled.

* * *

For the next few days, they worked even harder than they had prior to their break. They started the harvesting earlier, and worked much later into the evening, sometimes relying on the lights from their vehicles. They resisted the temptation to create unnatural lights in case anyone was watching them. Everyone knew that they needed to get as much of the harvest in as possible. Things were going so well that Granny estimated that she was already into a tidy profit once the grain had been sold. Isabel and Liz also insisted on taking a turn standing watch over the farm at night, allowing everyone else that little bit more sleep. There had been no repeat attempt at sabotaging their efforts, and there had been no sign of the FBI.

* * *

“What do you mean, they stopped you?” Casey demanded. Hugo held the tall thin man he had hired to set fire to the old lady McCarthy’s farm. He had not reported in, as requested and when Casey found out that no accident had befallen the women, he had sent Hugo to find him. “Who stopped you? Who are ‘they’?”
“Whoever it is that’s helping the old woman,” the man blubbered. “They saw me, and took my photograph. If anything happens now, they’ll know it was me for sure. I could go to jail. Please Mr. Casey, I… I…”
“Oh, shut up,” the older man snapped. He turned to Hugo. “Did you find out who loaned them the equipment?”
“No, but it couldn’t be any of hers,” the heavyset goon grunted. “We put more sand in those tanks than there is on the friggin beach.”
“Well, they got machinery from somewhere.”
There was an urgent knocking at the door.
“This is the FBI,” a voice called out. “Open up!”
“Oh my god,” the thin man whimpered. “They found me! I didn’t do it, I didn’t do it.”
“Shut up!” Casey snapped, hitting the man’s face with the back of his hand “Let them in, Hugo”
“Good afternoon, sir.” There were two of them, dark suited and wearing sunglasses. Both men held up leather wallets, showing their identification. “Special agent Tompkins. This is special agent Smyth. We’re looking for a small gang. Six kids, all of them dangerous. We have reason to believe that they’ve been spotted nearby.” Tompkins fanned out a set of photographs. “Have you seen any of these kids?”
“I’ve seen that one,” Casey pointed to a picture of a young man. “And I have reason to believe that some of these other might be with him.” He glanced at his hireling, still shaking in the corner.
“Do you mind telling us where, sir?”
“Sure,” Mr. Casey nodded with vicious smile. “He’s at the old lady McCarthy’s farm. Let me draw you a map. We wouldn’t want you to miss them, would we?”

* * *

Liz woke up in the pre dawn darkness, and watched the luminescent number on their clock change. There was still another hour before the alarm rang, but she felt restless. It was a feeling that had kept her on the edge of wakefulness all night long. With a sigh of frustration, she slipped from the bed and, leaving Max to sleep, dressed for the new day. She slipped from their apartment and headed for the kitchen to help Granny, who Liz knew was already up, preparing breakfast.
“You’re up early,” Granny observed. “Couldn’t sleep?”
“Yeah,” Liz nodded. “I just feel a little…”
“Restless?”
“Yeah. I guess it’s because we’re coming to the end of your harvest, and we’ll need to think about moving on.”
“You’re welcome to stay, you know.”
“No,” Liz shook her head. “Thank you for the offer, but it might be too dangerous for you.”
“Well, it’s me who should be thanking you,” Granny hugged Liz. “I mean, it’s not everyday strangers stop and risk themselves to help someone they don’t know. What made you do it?”
“Oh, uhm…” Liz looked around the room for someway to change the subject, not really wanting to tell Granny what she had seen. “I, uh, get these feelings from people. And I just knew, somehow, that you needed our help.”
“I was thinking,” Granny nodded. “With the grain you’ve harvested, I can clear my debts. If I sell my farm now, and pay off the mortgage, I would still have enough to buy a small place somewhere.”
“Plus, there’s the insurance payment,” Liz reminded her.
“I doubt I’m ever going to see that. Lawyers still cost money.”
“Not when Max’s dad, and Isabel’s husband are both lawyers, they don’t,” Liz laughed.
“Max’s dad? Is he…”
“No,” Liz shook her head. “Max and Isabel were adopted. Their parents found them wandering in the desert when they were just little kids.”
“How come he looks so…”
“Human? Well, they are. They have human bodies, but alien… souls. They’re like, hybrids.”
“Ah. That I understand,” Granny smiled. “And it doesn’t bother you?”
“No,” Liz had no hesitation. “Sometimes, it’s so hard to remember that Max isn’t completely human. I think he’s more human than many we’ve met.”
“Like Mr. Casey?”
“Yeah,” Liz chuckled.
“Anyway,” Granny took a seat while she waited for the skillet to heat up. “I’ve decided to call my son once you’ve left.”
“Oh, Granny,” Liz’s face lit up with delight. “That’s great.”
She swept the woman into an embrace.

The front door burst open. At the same time, the kitchen door exploded in a shower of splinters and glass as men clad in black and holding small automatic machine pistols burst into the room. Both Granny and Liz were forced into chairs while they heard heavy footsteps pounding on the stairs, up to the next floor and down to the basement. Kyle sat in a chair, his hand frozen in mid air as he lifted a forkful of pancake to his mouth.

“Are you all right?” Granny asked, with a look of worried concern in her face.
Liz collapsed into the chair behind her.
“No,” she shook her head.
Kyle entered the kitchen through the back door, making Liz jump. He had just finished the last stint of guard duty.
“Morning, Granny, Liz,” Kyle nodded, smelling the warm kitchen air. “Mmmmmm. Are those pancakes I can smell? I’m starving.”

“Oh my God!” Liz screamed, leaping from her chair. “We have to go. Now!” She barreled past Kyle, shouting to him. “Go wake the others.” She ran towards their apartment. “Max! Max!”
No one really understood why Liz was in such a panic, but they all got the idea that she was ready to leave, and leave as fast as they could. There was near panic as they grabbed everything of theirs that they could and pushed it into the back of their truck. There wasn’t time to stop for food. They were soon standing beside the SUV, saying their hasty good-byes to Granny, the engine already running.
“Head for those woods where you went the other day,” Granny urged. “There’s a back road that leads North. Lots of trees to hide in.”
From the direction of the main road, they heard the squealing tires. A helicopter roared over the top of the barn.
“Oh my god, Max!” Liz cried.

“Kyle, you drive,” Max ordered as he climbed into the back of their SUV. With a wave of his hand, the window was open.
Michael followed suit, while Liz, Isabel and Maria climbed into the seats in the middle of the cab. Max saw the armed men run around the side of the house, and veer towards the barn.
“The door!” Max called out. “Go through the back wall!”
The SUV lurched forward and with all four tires spinning almost without control, they leapt towards the back wall of the barn. Isabel held her hand out through the window and a new jagged doorway exploded into being. Max held his own hand out and used his power to pull the main barn doors closed. As they emerged into the field behind the barn, a black SUV with darkened windows was already moving in to block them off. Kyle threw their truck into a sharp left turn as he was forced to veer away from the path they wanted to follow.
“Drive over the fields!” Max bellowed, hoping that Kyle would hear him above the roar of the engines.
Dust flew in their wake, but even through the heavy cloud, Max could see that four dark SUV’s were in pursuit. Above them, the helicopter tracked them with ease.

Bullets started to hit the ground around them. Almost without thought, Max threw up a small green shield, protecting their vehicle from the gunfire. This prevented Michael from firing back. Isabel, however, was leaning through the side window, trying to slow their pursuers with blasts of energy. The four SUV’s started to spread out. Max had to widen his shield, which blocked Isabel.
“When I drop the shield,” Max yelled, hoping that Isabel could hear him too, “take out the two outside vehicles. Ready? Three… two… one!”
The shield disappeared, and almost simultaneously, three of the vehicles gave off a puff of steam as their engines overheated and exploded. Max and Michael looked over their shoulder to see that Liz, too, was leaning from the other side window, her hand extended.
“What?” she demanded with a grin. “You think I’m going to let you have all the fun?”
The three vehicles ground to a halt and the fourth slowed, dropping back to a safer distance. The helicopter, however, remained above them, constantly weaving. Kyle angled towards the narrow lane, and they were soon heading past the disused quarry and towards the woods that they could now see. With one SUV still trailing them, and the helicopter still buzzing overhead, they followed the track into the trees. They were at last shielded from the eye in the sky.

They drove deeper into the woods, with heavy branches and twigs bouncing off of their bodywork.
“There!” Max pointed to a narrow turning. “Take that left!”
Kyle complied, slowed down, and turned into the even smaller trail on the left hand side. As he accelerated away, Max tumbled over the tailgate, and onto the ground.
“Go!” he waved at Kyle. “Keep going a couple of miles. I’ll catch up.”
With the heavy sound of branches hitting the truck, Kyle roared up the hill. Liz’s worried eyes remained locked on her husband’s. Max waited until they were out of sight before he started to use his powers to hide the signs of their turn. He then created a false trail along the track they had turned off of. Max started to jog along the road, continuing to lay a false trail until he heard the approach of the FBI’s SUV. Max hid behind a heavy cluster of bushes until the vehicle drove past. Max hurried back along the track until he found the small trail that Kyle had followed. Erasing all signs of their passing, Max followed them until at last, hidden beneath a thick canopy of trees, he found them waiting for him. The relief that swept through them upon seeing him was obvious.
“Max!” Liz cried, and rushed into his arms. Relief swept through her body.
“Where to, Maxwell?” Michael asked, after he allowed his friends their moment of reunion.
“I guess we’re unemployed,” Max shrugged. “It’s time to leave Nebraska, anyway.”

* * *

Standing amidst the debris of the new opening in her barn, Mrs. McCarthy watched the truck make its escape through the fields that they had harvested only that week. She heard the chatter of machine guns, but through the cloud of dust, she could not see what was happening. She kept watching until the cloud dissipated, and eventually disappeared. She guessed that the kids had reached the forest. The helicopter continued to drift from side to side, dipping both up and down. Its pattern suggested that it was searching for something. Granny knew that the kids had succeeded; that they had escaped. She gave a huge smile, and shook her head. With a heavy sigh, she turned and walked through her barn towards her house. She entered her living room, and lifted up a photograph of her husband and her son. She remembered Liz’s words and with a trembling hand, she picked up her telephone handset. She tapped out a long distance number.
“Hello?” she spoke with a heavy voice. “Yes, this is Dora. I’d like to speak to my son, please. Senator Glenn McCarthy.” She looked up, and through the side window, saw some dark suited FBI agents walking across the field in her direction. “I think you’d better hurry,” she suggested.

* * *


posted on 20-Oct-2002 5:21:14 PM
Part 10


DATELINE: August 15th, 2002 - - - - - - Berkeley, California. - - - - - - SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) has denied rumors that they have intercepted a transmission that could only be alien in source. They claim that what had previously been considered the case was actually a signal that had originated from Earth some time ago, whose echo was only just now being received. Professor David Klein from SETI’s scientific examination team claims that the original discovery, thought to have been found through the SETI ⊕ Home screen saver in use on thousands of computers around the world, was actually an error. "There was originally a great deal of excitement, as you can imagine," Professor Klein said. "But once we studied it. It was apparent that the signal was human in its origin."
Documents leaked from the SETI Institute in southern California suggest that the signal received was in a binary format, consisting of four distinct bursts of activity, one short stream followed by two long and a final short one. The documents also confirm that the signal had been detected only once and that sensors trained on that particular quadrant failed to detect any repetition. SETI’s policy is such that any un-repeated transmission is treated as an aberration. However, it is believed that SETI scientists are treating this as real. It is also claimed that the signal was too controlled, too tightly focused and on too narrow a bandwidth to have been a mere echo. One scientist is reported as claiming that it was as if the signal had been focused only on the southwestern corner of the USA.
There was no comment from SETI as to this speculation. Neither would they confirm the fact that the signal appeared to originate from the quadrant of space that would have been occupied by Pluto, and unconfirmed new moon, Muggins, at the time of transmission.
Groups up and down the country are demanding that SETI release the contents of the signal so that they can determine for themselves the validity of SETI’s claim. Some are claiming that the now independent SETI organization is clinging to its secretive past and adding to the already substantial conspiracy theories.
Milton Ross is a leading activist and spokesperson for the ‘Among Us’ group who believe that alien life forms are already mixing with the United States population. Ross is quoted as saying "If something is out there trying to signal other beings like those already down here, or if they are in fact attempting to signal us, I think the people of this planet have a right to know." - - - - - - AFP.


* * *

Jeff Parker drove his car through the streets of Roswell, carefully checking his rear view mirror to make sure that Philip and Jim had performed their task and prevented any one from following him. Just in case, he chose a route that took him through a number of short, twisty roads with plenty of side streets to turn off. For almost an hour, he turned suddenly, doubled back and generally took whatever evasive actions he could. Satisfied that he had no tail, Jeff finally left Roswell, heading along the old highway that would eventually lead him out to the Vasquez Rocks. With Liz’s journal on the seat beside him, opened at the page where she had written her directions, he soon found the right place. When he had parked his car in the open area, he sat for a moment, wondering how many times it was that his daughter and her friends had parked in this very place. A sense of awe and wonder filled him. He climbed from his car and started to walk up the slope towards the strange outcrop of rocks, showing signs of its recent disturbance. This was the slope down which Liz had run away from Max, when she had left him to his destiny that had upset her so much. Those were the rocks that housed the Granolith, the rock in which Max was born. That was the place that Max had declared that admitting Liz into his life was the best thing he had ever done. This was truly a special place. Jeff stopped and stared with an almost reverential gaze, almost too afraid to get closer.

But with the journal tucked under his arm, he did move closer, walking up to the very rocks themselves. Remembering the description from Liz’s journal, Jeff waved his hand across the flattest part, and was not surprised when no silver handprint appeared. He sighed, and gave a wistful shake of his head. Jeff would have liked to see that. There were lots of things that Jeff would have liked to see. Finding a sheltered corner as Liz had asked, in the very shadow of the pod chamber, the birthplace of her husband, Jeff sat cross-legged and lay the journal before him. With sentimental tears in his eyes, Jeff stared at the thick volume. He felt a heavy reluctance to just burn it. Who knows how much good this could do over the coming years, he wondered? But then again, how much harm could it bring? The agony of the indecision that churned in Jeff’s soul started to make him feel sick. It was one thing to talk about burning it, to plan it, but it was something else entirely to go ahead and do it. This was Liz’s life. Feeling very peculiar, Jeff pulled out a small tin of lighter fluid from his pocket. With tears flooding from his eyes, he gave the book one last tender caress. He opened the tin, and started to liberally douse the book in the pungent smelling liquid. The fumes reached him making his stomach churn. As he produced a box of matches from his other pocket, Jeff’s vision started to blur. The ground seemed to sway back and forth, from side to side. The vapor from the fuel, and his overcharged emotions got the better of him and Jeff passed out. He didn’t know how long he was out for, but he was haunted by strange dreams of Liz having a tug of war with a group of faceless beings. Instead of a rope, the two teams used a golden torque, a crown. Every time it seemed that she would surely lose, Max laid a hand on her shoulder, and Liz’s efforts were renewed. When he finally came to, it was already dark, and Liz’s journal was gone.

* * *

The young woman stood by her kitchen window, watching over her children playing in the backyard while she washed the breakfast dishes. The knocking at her front door drew her attention from her morning’s work. After a quick check to make sure that the children were all right, she wiped her hands on a small towel and headed for the hall. After a quick check in the hall mirror to make sure that she looked okay, she opened the front door. A younger, blonde woman stood there with a big smile on her face. She had a small leather briefcase with her. The woman was about to tell the caller that she was not interested in whatever she was selling, when the stranger spoke first.
“Mrs. Mills? My name’s Sarah Brackham, and before you say anything, I’m not here to sell you anything.”
“Oh,” Mrs. Mills eyed the briefcase with suspicion.
“Yes, I’m a freelance reporter, and I’m doing a background story on a group of missing teenagers from right here in Roswell.”
“I see,” Mrs. Mills did not feel any more reassured.
“Now, I believe that you had an… experience with these teenagers. Do you mind if I come in and ask a few questions?”
Mrs. Mills didn’t know what to do.
“I… they… They saved my life,” she looked a little panicked. “I don’t want to get them into any more trouble.
“Trouble, Mrs. Mills?” Sarah looked confused. “I don’t understand. How could you have gotten them in trouble?”
“Perhaps you’d better come in?” she sighed. “Can I get you a cup of coffee or something?”
“Please,” Sarah nodded, stepping past Mrs. Mills who was holding the door open.
“It’s only instant, I’m afraid,” Mrs. Mills continued, glancing around outside before she closed her door.
Sarah followed Mrs. Mill through to the kitchen.
“Would you mind if I recorded this?” she asked. “Of course, if you’d rather…”
“No, no,” the older woman shrugged, switching on the kettle. She then busied herself preparing two mugs for the coffee. “No, that’s okay. If you want to record this, then that’s fine. I mean, it’s not like the authorities don’t already know.”
“Perhaps you should start at the beginning, Mrs. Mills,” Sarah requested as she set up her small tape recorder
Mrs. Mill poured the boiling water into two cups and sat down on the opposite side of the table to the journalist. She released a pensive sigh.
“It was back in May,” she began. “One evening, I was on my way home from doing the shopping, and felt a little hungry. Robert, that’s uh… my husband, was away on business and the kids were at their grandparents. I didn’t feel like cooking when I got home, so I decided to treat myself to a meal at the Crashdown Café.”
“That’s the alien-themed diner on Main Street, right?” inquired Sarah as she checked back through some notes in her notebook. “Owned by a Jeff and Nancy Parker?”
“Yeah,” Mrs. Mills confirmed. “The food’s good there, and that little waitress, the brunette, I think, she’s such a dear.”
“So I’ve heard,” Sarah responded.
“Well, I paid my bill and told the waitress to keep the change. Then… you know, for a moment, she went kind of distant on me. I thought she was upset by the size of the tip, but… I don’t know, it didn’t seem like it. I left the diner, and slipped through the alleyway next door to get to my car, parked around the back. This guy, he was scruffy, dirty. He looked desperate. He leapt out of the shadows and grabbed my bag. I wrestled with him but when he produced a gun, I backed off. I was so scared. I really thought I was going to die, but then, the gun just… flew from his hand. At first, I thought it looked like that, but when I think about it, I think he just… threw it away, because some car alarms started to blare out, and the cute waitress and her boyfriend were standing at the end of the alley. The guy must have seen them and panicked. He took off with my bag. The girl seemed to wait, to make sure I was okay, I guess, and then they both left.”
“So what’s this about the authorities?”
“Well, naturally, I reported the crime to the police, but they doubted that they’d ever find the guy. A few days later, I’m… sort of… kidnapped, right off the street, by the FBI.”
“The FBI arrested you? Did they have a warrant?”
“No, they didn’t arrest me. They just grabbed me, and dragged me into this big black van. At first, I didn’t know they were FBI and I though they were going to… But then one of them showed me his badge. I still remember his name. Special Agent Steven Baurline. I think he scared me more than the mugger.”
“What did they want?”
“They wanted me look through some photographs and identify the young kids who helped me.”
“And did you?”
“I was frightened, Miss Brackham. I wanted to get back to my kids. I really didn’t think I had a choice.”
“Do you have any idea why they wanted to know who it was who helped you?”
“I didn’t at the time, but when I read all those stories about snipers and gunmen, well, I’m afraid I don’t know what to think. I mean, who are those kids? They saved my life, but why are the FBI so interested in getting them?”

* * *

We are certainly living up to the promise that Max and I made to each other about helping people. Together, as a group, we have helped the lives of three families. I know that the girls that Michael saved wouldn’t consider that we helped them in any way, but that’s okay. As long as we understand our motives, that’s all that matters. We’re not doing this for the recognition.

It really felt good helping Granny. And working on the farm has helped me to understand how our lives are just like those of farmers. We both sow seeds, ours are our hopes and dreams, and then do all we can to make sure that they grow. We care for them and nurture them until the day they come into fruition. We are both dependent on external forces, Mother Nature for the farmer, the authorities for us, which force us to make decisions. We both hope that one day soon, we can harvest our dreams and enjoy the fruits of our labor. Even though we escaped only by the skin of our teeth, we both feel good that we have changed Granny’s life for the better. All of us do, even Michael. I can tell.

Sometimes, I think Michael objects to certain things because he thinks that it’s expected of him. Deep down, I suspect that he is grateful for the direction he has in his life.

I know how good this makes Max feel. I feel it when we kiss. But I can sense something else now. Something has been worrying him, ever since we left Nebraska and wandered aimlessly in alternate southerly and easterly direction. It started small; I felt it even then. But it’s been growing, and I know that whatever it is, it’s starting to affect his moods. I’ve been waiting for the right moment to talk to him about it. I think that day has come.


* * *

After they had lost the FBI and under the cover of darkness, Max drove their truck out from the forest, and headed due south, anxious to leave Nebraska behind. They had decided against stopping, determined to put as much distance behind them as possible.
“Man,” Kyle shook his head. “I can’t believe the condition of this engine. I mean, we bounced over fields full of dust and chaff. We raced up a muddy track, pounded through a forest, and have kept this baby running for three days, and still it’s purring like a pussycat.”
“Max does good work,” Liz called over her shoulder, rubbing her husband’s arm.
“Hey, I know,” Kyle was bouncing up and down in his seat. “Why don’t we find a town somewhere and go into business? We could open up a garage and offer Alien Supercharging at premium rates. We'll make a killing."
“Trust you, Kyle,” Liz laughed, while Isabel started to hit him over the head with a rolled up magazine.

Two days after leaving Nebraska, while Max was again driving, they skirted the eastern edge of Oklahoma. They had taken their time driving down through Kansas in a meandering line, making sure that in the wide-open expanses of the wheat fields, they weren’t being followed. Liz, sitting by his side, suggested they pull over at the next truck stop. Max nodded, and when the lights from a stop appeared, everyone prepared themselves to buy coffee, stretch their legs, and make use of the restrooms.
“Do you want to tell me what’s bothering you, Max?” Liz asked when they had all regrouped around their vehicle.
Max looked at Liz and gave a small smile. He should have known that he couldn’t hide his feelings from his wife.
“What’s going on?” Isabel asked.
She too seemed to have things on her mind, but as Liz had no way to see into it, she had no idea how to help. She did know Max, though, and understood that he wanted to talk to her. Because of their rather special situation, she knew that they would not have the opportunity to be alone for some time. It was better to get this out into the open now.
“Problems?” Maria asked.
“I want to go to Arizona,” Max commented in a quiet voice.
“O-kay,” Kyle nodded. “Why Arizona?”
“Phoenix, actually,” Max continued. “I’ve been thinking. About those kids I healed. What if they start to get sick like Liz did? They won’t have people around them who can help. I need to make sure they’ll be okay.”
“Problem,” Michael nodded, answering Maria’s earlier question. This earned him a smack on the back of his head from Isabel.
“The sooner the better,” Max whispered. “I can’t bear the thought that somehow… the FBI will find out, and…”
“Put them in a white room,” Maria nodded. Sympathy welled in her eyes.
“But that takes us close to Roswell,” Michael objected. “The FBI, Edwards Air Force base…”
“Maybe it will work to our advantage,” Max considered. “They probably think were heading for Canada now, or maybe New York, anyway. They’d never think we would pass by our home.”
“Of course, Max,” Liz hugged him to show her unconditional loyalty. “We’ll go to Arizona. Let's get freshened up, and plan the most direct route. Then we’ll go to that hospital in Phoenix where you healed those kids and sort this out.”
“Guys,” Michael called them up. “That’s the point though, isn’t it? Max healed them, remember? As in ‘no need to be in the hospital’ anymore. We don’t know where they’d be now."
“That’s no problem,” Liz shook her head. “I’m sure that between us, we can get into the records office and pull their files. We’ll get their addresses and visit them one at a time.
“But we don’t even know their names,” Michael objected.
“That’s no problem,” Liz brushed his complaints aside. “For one thing, the local newspaper is bound to have them on file. For another, we already have one name. We need to check her file and backtrack from there. We can find out who was in that ward with her.”
“So who is it we already know?” Maria asked.
“Sydney. Brody’s daughter.”
“That’s right,” Max nodded. “She was the reason I went in the first place. I couldn’t just leave the others.” There was a catch in Max’s voice. “I… I just…”
“It’s okay, Max,” Liz soothed. She had already berated him for his actions. It wasn’t that she felt no pride in her husband’s compassion. It was just like he had said. He wasn’t god.
“Do you have any idea how long that could take?” Michael demanded. “We would have to check nearly every record to find who was in at the same time as her.”
“Do you have something better to do?” Max and Kyle asked at the same time. They looked at one another and started to laugh.
“What’s so funny?” Maria asked.
“You had to have been there,” Kyle smirked.

“Max,” Isabel called as they headed to the convenience store to buy more provisions. She cast an apologetic look at Liz, knowing that what she was about to ask might re-open old wounds best left closed. But this was as important as those children. “What… what about… Zan.”
Everyone looked at Max. Max looked at Liz who gave him a smile of understanding.
“I already checked him,” he spoke with caution. “When he was staying… with us. I… I didn’t really trust Tess, I mean, she has lied to me… us… so many times now. I had to know for sure. I checked. Using our connection. I knew what to look for… because of Liz. After Tess said he was human, I went into his mind to make sure. I didn’t want him to grow up with a normal family if he himself wasn’t normal. I remember what it was like. Growing up so different. I didn’t want that for Zan. So I checked, and it was true. There’s nothing there to indicate that he might develop any… powers.” He looked around. “It’s what helped me make up my mind to let him go.”
“So if he had latent abilities, you would have kept him?” Isabel asked.
Liz already knew the answer. He had already discussed this with her and had helped him to arrive at his conclusion. Like Max, she wanted what was best for Zan. None of this was the baby’s fault, and if Max had decided to keep him, she would have supported his decision. Sure, it hurt. And it would have been a constant reminder of his… mistake. But Tess’s words had been like a salve for her tortured heart. Even during those darkest of days, Tess had not been able to extinguish the flame of Max’s love for her.
“Yes,” Liz answered for him. “And he had my full support.”
“He’s better off where ever he is,” Max sighed.

Two days and some major backtracking later, they crossed the state line into New Mexico. There were no cheers and no comments. Just silence. Each person was lost in their own thought, thoughts that found their way southwards to the only place they would ever consider home, the blue remembered hills of Roswell. It was only as they were approaching the town of Las Vegas, New Mexico that they finally started to speak again. It started with Maria reminding them of the names that Michael had given them during their jaunt to the more famous Las Vegas. Only Max and Liz failed to join in with the jokes. Neither wanted to dwell on that time. Vegas brought back too many memories, not all of them good, of a time when things between them were… different. The general mood however had been broken, and they started to relax. Soon, even Max and Liz were joining in with the conversation.

“Truck stop coming up,” Kyle called to the back of the SUV. “We could use some gas and I don’t know about you guys. I’m getting a little hungry.”
“Okay, Kyle,” Max answered. “Pull over. I think we could all use a break.”
Kyle pulled into the gas station, and everyone climbed from the large vehicle to stretch their legs.
“Why don’t you guys go on over,” Kyle nodded at the café. “I’ll fill up the tank and catch up with you.”
“Okay,” Liz smiled. “Thanks, Kyle.”
“Don’t mention it,” he smiled. “Just order me a huge steak, huge fries and a huge ice cold coke.”
They laughed at him as Michael and Maria headed for the diner. Isabel chose to remain behind, to keep him company. Max and Liz followed the other two, but were not as enthusiastic. They walked slowly, allowing their hands to meet and clasp onto each other. They reveled in their small, intimate touches. It confirmed that everything they would endure would be worth it, as long as they were together.

“You know, Max,” Liz broke the spell of silence. “That’s two narrow escapes we’ve had, but we’ve helped three different sets of people. People whose lives we’ve changed for the better.”
“It feels good,” Max nodded. “Helping people, I mean. I like this. But I still can’t help feeling guilty over the sacrifices you’ve made. You know, your dreams.”
“Stop it,” she squeezed his hand. “You’ve got to stop doing this to me. To us. Max, you healed me. You gave me a new life that I wasn’t supposed to have. If it hadn’t been for you, I wouldn’t be having any dreams to look forward to. As it is, of all my dreams, one took precedence the moment you touched my life. And that’s the one that’s come true, Max. The dream I had about sharing my life with you.”
“But…”
“But nothing, Max! I accepted this life that day in September three years ago. You had just better get used to it, bucko. I’m where I want to be, I’m with who I want to be with. Max? My life is your life.”
“And mine is yours, Liz. You do know that, right?”
“So are we going to eat, or what?”
“Well,” Max raised his eyebrows with a smile. “As appealing as ‘what’ sounds, I am rather hungry.”
They both started to laugh as they entered the diner, earning reproving looks from Michael.

* * *

Kyle waited until he was sure that the others were out of earshot.
“I never thought I’d see New Mexico again,” he smiled, watching the numbers spinning around on the pump.
“No,” Isabel stared into space. “Me neither.”
“Do you realize that Roswell is only a few hours away from here? I could have us home in time to grab some pie at the Crashdown.”
“Yeah,” she shrugged.
“Maybe we could then go on a mass murder spree, and kill everyone we see.”
“Sounds good,” Isabel nodded.
Kyle didn’t even smile. He looked at Isabel and shook his head.
“Do you want to talk about it?” he asked in a gentle tone.
“It’s Jesse,” she sighed, near to tears.
“What’s he done now?” Kyle shook his head.
“I think he’s had enough. Not that I blame him, or anything. I just think that… I think he’s fallen out of love with me.”
“So what makes you say that?”
“When I dream walk him, it’s like it’s… I mean… They’re no longer the way they were. I think he has decided that he can’t wait for me anymore and wants out.”
“Are you sure? I mean, back by the chamber when he turned up with that old van, he seemed pretty… Isabel, I think maybe you’re reading something into this that it’s not. He’s probably missing you as much as you miss him, and maybe this dream sex makes him realize what he’s missing out on. Trust me, celibacy is no fun.”
“I think I know all about that, thank you very much.”
“But you can visit the dreams of the one you love, and have this virtual sex. I can’t do that.”
“So who would you visit?”
“This isn’t about me.”

Before Isabel could respond, their attention was grabbed by the sound of approaching sirens. Kyle and Isabel were shocked into inactivity. They stared at each other, each wondering what they should do, both realizing that there was little that could be done. A dark Mercedes saloon car screeched to a stop in front of the diner. It looked in bad condition, with one of its rear tires shredded. Smoke was already billowing from the engine. Five figures clad in black overalls and wearing ski masks leapt from the car, and brandishing their weapons, crashed through the doors into the diner. They heard the staccato call of a sudden burst of automatic gunfire. Screams emanated from the diner. Isabel started to move to the assistance of her friends, but before she could step even two paces, a fleet of screaming police cars pulled into the parking lot. Policemen appeared from the cars and were soon forming a defensive perimeter. While Kyle and Isabel stared in astonishment and unbelieving fear, a deputy asked them to finish up and leave. They wanted the forecourt cleared.
“Oh my God!” Isabel cried, barely able to hold herself together.
Kyle was inches from panic. Their friends were trapped by hostile gunmen and surrounded by armed police.
“All we need now is the friggen FBI,” groaned Kyle.
A dark SUV pulled up at the back of the main body of cars. Two dark-suited men stepped out of the vehicle.
“You had to say it,” groaned Isabel.

* * *

Part 11

"Hello, Diane? It's me, Jesse," a nervous Jesse Ramirez spoke into the phone when his mother-in-law answered.
"Jesse," Diane greeted him with warmth and sincerity. "How are you? We've been worried about you."
"I'm... okay," he confirmed, though he couldn't hide the traces of anguish in his voice. "How about you? How are you and Philip? And the... others?"
"We're fine, fine, thanks," Diane nodded though she knew Jesse couldn't see that. "Oh, hang on, Philip's going to pick up the other handset."
"Hi, Jesse. How are you holding up?"
"As well as can be expected," Jesse sighed. "Under the circumstances and all. How about you guys?"
"Yeah," Philip agreed. "We're okay."
"We're missing them," Diane added. "And you too, of course."
"Thanks," Jesse smiled. "Have you checked on my mom lately?"
"Yes," Diane assured him. "I visit with her twice a week. She can't understand why Isabel just took off like that. She thinks that she and the others must have done something really wrong to have the FBI chase after them like that."
"Yeah," Jesse gave a wry chuckle. "Max and I once had this talk, you know, I told him how I understood how he felt about no one being good enough for his sister. My mom thinks the same things about me."
"Well, as you found out, I guess Max had a few other concerns to take into consideration. What the knowledge of their secret would do to you being among them."
"I used to hate that he was so protective of her," Jesse's voice went distant. "Now I pray that those protective instincts are as strong as ever."
"Well, he'll always protect her, Jesse," Philip reassured him. "You know he will. But there's something you should know. He has Liz with him, and you know how much he loves her."
"Yeah," Jesse smiled. "It's kind of hard to take in. I mean, with me, I found out after the fact. I had to come to terms with the discovery once I was already married. But Liz? She knew the truth about him first, and still willingly became involved with him. She still fell in love with him. You know, it was seeing how much she thought of him that helped me to come to terms with it all. I thought that if a young girl like Liz can see through the whole, you know... thing... and see Max for the man he is, then I... But what does this have to do with Isabel?"
"Jesse, Max and Liz are married now."
There was a silent pause as Jesse came to realize what that entailed.
"Oh."
"Don't worry, Jesse," Diane added. "You never really got to know Max all that well. One of the things about him is that he'll look after everyone. Liz will take priority, obviously, but he will care for all of his friends."
"Plus, you know Isabel isn't without her own... self-defense capabilities," Philip added, to help put his mind at ease.

"Uh, yeah," Jesse chuckled. "Which brings me rather neatly to the reason for my call. She's been in touch."
"Careful what you say, Jesse," Philip warned. "We've had an infestation problem in Roswell. It's sorted now, but you never know about other places."
"No, it's okay, Philip," Jesse assured him. "Isabel told me how to make this device that interferes with any kind of bugging device. Max made them all each one."
"They're pretty resourceful," Philip admitted. "How is she? Did she say how the others are?"
"Yeah," Jesse nodded. "They're all fine. They had a narrow escape last week, but they got away and they're on the road again."
"On the road again? You mean that they stopped somewhere? Where are they?"
"They wouldn't say. But you can bet that they're thousands of miles away from Roswell, avoiding trouble. I do know that they spent a few weeks in Idaho. They found some work at a campsite there."
"That girl, right? The ones the newspapers claimed was shot?"
"Yeah, Max healed her."
"I guess that attracted the attention of the FBI. You'd think that they'd keep their heads down. But then again, you know Max."
"The thing is, that's what they've decided to do. Max said if his life was to mean anything, he wanted to help people. Like that woman they saved from being killed last spring when she was mugged right outside the restaurant."
"And now this girl in Idaho."
"Right. The others all agree, mainly because they all want to stick together, I guess. Anyway, until a few days ago, they were in Nebraska. They were helping out this elderly woman there. Listen, Isabel wants you to help a Mrs. McCarthy. Apparently, she has a few legal problems."
"I'll get straight on it," Philip promised.
"I'll e-mail you the details."
"So what's happening with you, Jesse? How's the new job?"
"I'm okay," he shrugged. "The jobs going well. I have a nice apartment, which I hope Isabel will share with me one day. But listen... The main reason why I've called is this... I've enlisted some help."
There was a stunned silence from Roswell.
"Help?" Diane asked. "What kind of help?"
"Media help."
"Jesse?" both Philip and Diane objected.
"No, hear me out," Jesse defended. "As long as they're in hiding, from the FBI as well as the world at large, and as long as no one knows what the FBI are up to, then the Special Unit can do pretty much do what they want. They can get away with infringing... normal people rights, so God knows what they can do if they ever caught up with them. I mean, how legal is kidnapping people off the streets without a warrant?"
Jesse paused, allowing his in-laws to take that in.
"But what if the world heard Max's story? What if they knew what Max did for Liz? You know what people are like. Hell, this is better than Romeo and Juliet. And no matter how dark the government tries to paint them, what people will remember is that Max saved the lives of three of his friends, and that of some complete stranger too. And who knows what other good deeds they have done? If the world knows their story, then the FBI will find it harder to hide what they're doing."
"But if everybody knows what they look like, suppose someone informs on them? You know. Hoping for a reward or something."
"Oh, yeah," Jesse suddenly sounded less confident. "The journalist is an old friend of mine. I could always ask her not to print any pictures. I haven't given her any, and I can't imagine that she'll ever catch up to them to take some of her own."
"Let's just hope that no one they come into contact with, has taken any."

* * *

Mr. Anderson sat in his office in Camp Sawtooth, gazing out of the window. His eyes were drawn to the high, tree-covered ridge over which Betty and Evan, rather, Max and Liz disappeared weeks ago. The FBI were relentless in their attempts to question him, but as his lawyer had said, unless they produced a warrant, he did not have to answer any questions, and until they could prove that his daughter was involved in some crime, he did not have to produce her either. The original attempted robbery that led to the shooting was not in the FBI's jurisdiction. Mr. Anderson knew that everywhere he went, he was being followed, but they would find out nothing from him. He wouldn't tell them anything about those kids, nor would he tell the FBI where his daughter was. He was glad that his brother-in-law had that ranch just outside of Calgary, up in Canada. Even if the FBI discovered her whereabouts, he would like to see them try to extradite her. Even now, she was applying for Canadian Citizenship, her mother being a Canuck. It was sad that he and his wife would not be able to see her for a while, but better that then the fate he knew awaited her at the hands of the FBI. He wished he had the chance to tell those kids about that ranch. It was pretty isolated, and with winter coming, they would have remained safe until spring.

"Mr. Anderson," Clare's voice rang out over the intercom. "There's a Miss Brackham to see you. She says she's with the press."
"Oh?" he replied. "Did she say why she wanted to see me?"
"No, sir," she answered.
"Okay," he sighed. "Might as well send her on in."
Mr. Anderson waited in his seat. Although he didn't like talking to the press, especially about his friends or his daughter, he knew that it was better to deal with them than ignore them. He rose when the attractive young blonde entered the room.
"Mr. Anderson," she smiled, extending her hand. "I'm so pleased to meet you."
He accepted her hand and shook it. He then indicated that she be seated, and then sat down himself.
"And what can I do for you, Miss Brackham?" he asked.
"Please, call me Sarah. I'll come straight to the point, Mr. Anderson. I'm here about the kids that saved your daughter's life. I'd like you to tell your side of the story. You know, what the kids were like, how they saved your daughter's life, how kind they were... that sort of thing."
"Why would I do that? You'd only twist everything I have to say."
"No, sir. I wouldn't. You see, I want to help these kids. I want to tell the people of the USA, of the world, that these are just a bunch of normal kids who have extraordinary talents who just want to get along and live peacefully. That they have no desire to hurt anyone."
"How do I know you're telling me the truth?" Mr. Anderson narrowed his eyes.
"I guess you don't," Sarah responded with a shrug. "The thing is this, as long as those kids have to hide from the FBI, they will be on the run. Now you've seen that they're young. Most of them should be in college. Did you know that one of them was married?"
"Actually, two of them were. To each other. I saw..."
"Excuse me?" Sarah frowned. "You said they were married to each other?"
"Yeah. The ones called Betty and Evan were married. You could see they cared for each other." Mr. Anderson started to chuckle. "To think that I suggested she stay away from him."
"This Betty, was she tall, blonde and very striking?"
"No. That sounds like Belle. No, Betty was the smaller of them. Long dark hair and the prettiest brown eyes. Evan was tall, dark hair and eyes. The girls tell me he was adorable."
"Ah," Sarah nodded. "That sounds like Max and Liz. Yeah, warning her off would have done you no good," she laughed.
"Well, like I said. They were already married. How do you know their real names?"
"I know all about them, Mr. Anderson. The one you knew as Belle, her real name was Isabel. She's married to a friend of mine."
"I wondered why she looked so lost," the older man gave a sad shake of his head.
"Her husband's kind of lost too. Mr. Anderson, see, three of those kids are... special. They have these... abilities. They can do things that you and I can't even imagine. The other three are just normal, everyday teens. As long as the FBI can chase the kids, they can't settle down and have the normal life they should be living. They're good kids. They come from good homes."
"You don't have to tell me that. You could see that right away. They were polite, helpful, and well, they were a pleasure to have around. I miss 'em. As for saving my daughter..."
"We'll get back to that in a moment. The thing is, I want to tell their story. I want to let the world know that the government of the United States is wasting time and money chasing kids who haven't done anything wrong except have the ability to do things. I want to let the people know that our own authorities are breaking the law and infringing basic civil rights of innocent people in the process, while cruel and ruthless criminals can run freely in the streets."
"I like the idea of that," Mr. Anderson nodded. "But you're forgetting one thing. How much about human nature do you understand?"
"I like to think I have a pretty good grasp on things."
"Okay, now what do you suppose might happen if the world suddenly found out that there's an eighteen year old boy living on Main Street, Anytown, USA and he can heal people? Do you think everyone is just going to say 'Oh wow?' No sir. There will be a line a hundred miles long starting at his door, filled with every sick man, woman and child, hell even pet in the world. And that young man, he is so sincere, he'd try and heal them all. I saw how he looked after he healed my daughter. He looked as sick as my little girl did. I think he might end up killing himself so others could live."
"I hadn't thought of that," she admitted.
"I didn't think you had," he smiled. "And it doesn't end there. There would be people powerful enough to try to make sure that those resources are under their control. Immortality has a nice ring to it. Can you imagine what the CIA would do with these kids? Or suppose the mob got hold of them. Or maybe a foreign power. It doesn't bear thinking about."
"You're right," she sighed. "I just want to help my friend. And that means helping these kids."
"Can you tell the story without the facts?"
"How do you mean?"
"Can you just talk about the kids, and make out like they're, I don't know... aliens or something. Emphasize that they do good deeds, not exactly what. If you tell my story, don't say who I am, where we are, and only say that they saved my little girl's life. We can deny the healing part if those crooks try to sell their story to the papers. Oh, and no names or pictures, either."
"That makes it kind of awkward for me. I mean, how realistic is it for me to try to run a news story without facts?"
"But if everyone knows who they are, they won't be able to move without someone alerting the authorities. Maybe you can use false names. Definitely no pictures though. You have to decide who it is you're trying to help, here."
Sarah paused, staring hard at Mr. Anderson.
"Okay," she sighed. "I'll have to think about this. Now, tell me everything you know."
"That's not much," he laughed.
"Okay, what can you tell me that would gain the sympathy of the readers?"
"Well, I'll tell you one thing. I know true love when I see it. And if you're claiming that this Max is an alien, then one of those aliens has it bad for one of those Earth girls."
"Are you suggesting he abducted her?" Sarah looked shocked. "That he's holding her against her will?"
"Well, if he abducted her, he's certainly not holding her against her will. If anything though, I'd have to say that it was the girl who has abducted him."

* * *

Laughing together, Max and Liz caught up with Maria and Michael who were standing just inside the diner, waiting to be seated.
"Table for four?" a tired and bored looking, middle-aged waitress asked.
"No, uh... six," Max answered from the back.
The waitress looked around, wondering if the young man was trying to be clever.
"Uh, our friends are filling up our car," Max informed her.
"Oh," she nodded. "Okay." She led them to one of the larger booths to the back of the diner, and stepped back to let them sit down. She went to the front desk and returned with menus and silverware.
"Do you want to order your drinks now?" she asked.
"Sure," Liz nodded. "Six large cokes, and a big pitcher of iced water, please."
"Okay," the waitress wrote their order on the pad. "I'll be right back."
They all looked up at the sound of the sirens. As one, they were up and out of their seats. They tried to make their way to the door but were impeded by all the other patrons trying to get a better look at what was happening outside. A smoking car slid to a stop in front of the exit, and five dark-clad people got out of the car, and charged into the restaurant brandishing guns.

"Everybody down on the floor!" one of them screamed, accentuating his command with a burst of gunfire into the ceiling.
Everyone complied with his demand, and accompanied by loud screams from the women, children and some men, everyone fell to the floor. From where they were seated, Max could see the arrival of the police, their red and blue lights turning the bright sunlight into a scene from Dante.
"Max?" Michael hissed.
"We sit," Max replied. "They aren't the FBI. They want these guys, not us. As long as everyone sits tight, it'll all be over soon."
"Yeah," Michael's frustration was evident. "What if someone gets shot? Can you honestly say you'd 'sit tight' and do nothing?"
Max didn't answer.
"Didn't think so," Michael grunted.

"You in the diner," a loud voice, amplified by a loud hailer called. "This is the police. You are surrounded by armed police officers. Please, throw out your weapons and come out with your hands up. No one has to be hurt."
Inside, four of the gunmen looked to the fifth. He pulled off his ski mask to reveal that he was quite young, no more than his early twenties. He had blond hair and piercing blue eyes.
"Under other circumstances," Maria whispered, "he might be considered a hottie."
Michael glared at her. Max and Liz exchanged an amused roll of the eyes.
The others followed suit, revealing that they too were young, though they had less pleasing dispositions.
"I don't think much of yours," Maria winked at Liz.
Her friend just gave her a cool, steady glare.
"Kidding," Maria shrugged.
Liz knew that Maria meant nothing by her comments. They were just her way of dealing with situations like these, but they were most unwelcome non-the less.
The fifth member of the gang pulled of her mask to reveal that he was a she. Liz could see that the young woman was not much older than she was. Like the others, she looked worried. There was something in the way that she looked at their leader.
"She's in love with that one," Maria pointed her chin at the man in charge. She too had seen it.
"How do you know that?" Michael asked with a hint of disbelief.
"Cause she looks at him the same way Liz used to look at Max."
"What do you mean, used to?" Michael smirked. "Are you saying Liz isn't in love with Max anymore?"
"Please," Maria snorted. "No, like when Liz wasn't sure, you know, when... when the demon bride from hell was around."
"Oh."
"I have a bad feeling about this, Michael," Maria whimpered.
"Well, it wouldn't take the three of us long to disarm those guys." Michael wanted to take direct action. He never got used to playing the waiting game. It still bothered him that Max couldn't see that the direct way was the best way. "We could be out of here in seconds."
"Yeah," Maria nodded, sniffing her vial of cedar oil that she had grabbed out of her bag. There wasn't much left. "And how do we explain that to the cops? Everyone will see, Michael."
"We just..."
"Save it, Spaceboy. We do as Max says."

"Max," Liz leaned closer. "If anything happens... and you get the chance to get away, go for it. Okay?"
"Not without you," Max held her eyes and shook his head.
"No, no," she insisted. It was like a trap in here. She knew that images of the white room were already in the back of Max's mind. She didn't want him to dwell on that terrifying ordeal. "You know, with you on the outside, I know you'll find a way to get us all out."
"When the bullets start to fly, Liz," Max ignored her request, "there is only one place I want to be. I'll get us out, Liz. But from the inside."
"Max..."
"No, Liz," his eyes pleaded his case. She could see his mind had been made up. "I won't abandon you. I won't abandon anyone."

* * *

"Oh, great," Kyle cursed from their vantage point on top of their SUV.
Ushered away from the gas station by the police, Kyle and Isabel had parked across the road, in the shade of an old barn. They took turns to watch the diner windows with their binoculars, hoping to see some sign of Max, Liz or the others. Other people copied them, and were now part of a small crowd watching the breaking news. Kyle drew Isabel's attention to the large white van that had just pulled up. With all of the antenna, aerials and the collapsible satellite dish on the roof, it was clear what it was.
"The media's here," he continued.
A group of men jumped from other cars and started to pull cameras from their trunks. A woman in a dark blue suit emerged from the van, and started to collect as much information as she could by questioning the policeman who appeared to be in charge. A television camera was almost constantly in her face.
"Don't worry, Kyle," Isabel sighed. "They're here because of the failed robbery and the armed siege. No one knows we're here."
"How do you think the others are handling it? Being trapped on the inside like that?"
"Michael wants to blast his way out, Maria's on the verge of panic, Liz wants Max to get out any way he can and Max is beating himself up for letting them get trapped there in the first place while he tries to think of a way out."
"Snafu, then," Kyle laughed.
"Huh?" Isabel asked from where she was watching the diner's windows.
"Situation normal, all f..."
"Yeah, I get it," Isabel shook her head with disgust and turned to the sun, slowly dropping towards the horizon. "It's going to be a long night," she sighed.

* * *

Part 12

"Good afternoon, Jose," Jeff Parker nodded to the short-order cook when he turned up for his shift. Since Michael had left, he had not been able to find a replacement and so he was filling in himself. Actually, it wasn't that he had been unable to find a replacement. The truth was that he didn't want to find one. He would never know for sure that whoever he hired wasn't an FBI agent, or a snitch for one.
"Hey, Mr. P," Jose nodded, pulling on the required hat over his hair.
Jeff finished the order he was currently working on, and once he placed the plate of cooked food on the shelf and rang the bell, he turned to his employee.
"It's all yours," he smiled.
Jeff pulled off his own hat, and untied the apron. He used the reverse side of the apron to wipe his face as he entered the relative coolness of the staff area.
"Hot in there," he said to no one in particular.

"What was that, dear?" Nancy asked, descending the stairs with a basket of laundry in her arms.
Nancy had been very quiet since she had read Liz's journal. She was far less abusive towards their friends, and she no longer ranted and wailed at Max for stealing their baby. She hadn't tried to discuss the revelations in Liz's book either. Jeff was surprised about that. He had thought that she would want to talk about it all, to rationalize it. He knew that she was thinking about it all from the occasional times he caught her staring off into space. He knew that they should at least start to talk about some of the issues.
"Do you have any major plans this afternoon?" he asked.
"No," she shook her head. "Just some ironing. Why?"
"I thought that maybe we could go for a walk." As well as hoping to open Nancy up a little, he wanted to talk about his losing the journal, and in whose hands it might now be.
"Now? Jeff, it's only two o'clock."
"Sure. Jose can look after things while I'm gone. He's been doing a great job lately."
"Well, okay. As long as we're not too long.

Thirty minutes later, Jeff, still damp from his shower, and Nancy stepped out into the New Mexican sunshine, and turned towards the park. With an almost automatic reflex, they both checked over their shoulder for their shadow, the suited man that followed them wherever they went. Jeff wondered whom the man would follow if they separated. In silence, Jeff and Nancy walked along the streets that seemed to be no longer filled with laughter. The strange disappearance of their kids had affected almost every family in Roswell. Rumors and conjecture had flowed through the streets like a brushfire. Everyone had his or her opinions, but no one had come even close to the truth.
At last, they arrived at the central theme of the park, the fountain. It was a place they liked to come in their days when they were dating. He found it a soothing place. They sat on one of the benches and listened to the bubbling fountain, again, in silence. Their shadow stopped a discreet distance away and tried to make it look like he had planned this all along.
"So they're married, huh?" Nancy finally sobbed in a low tone so that the other man wouldn't hear her.
"Yeah," Jeff's smile was a mixture of joy and sorrow.
"What if..." She wasn't sure how to phrase this. "Jeff. They're so young. And they're on the run. It's no life to raise... to be..."
"I'm sure they're taking... precautions," Jeff nodded, more for his own comfort. He too had considered the consequences of his daughter's marriage and what that would mean.
Nancy nodded, knowing that her husband was right. Both Liz and Max seemed to be sensible. Silence descended upon them once more, and Jeff knew that neither would open up on this day. With a sigh, he rose from the bench, and helped Nancy to her feet. Together, they started to walk away.

"Leave your hands where I can see them."
Both Jeff and Nancy turned around, fearing the worst. Instead, they found Deputy Owen standing by the FBI agent, holding his gun on him while he frisked the suited man. He removed a gun from the man's shoulder holster.
"I'm a federal agent!" the man barked.
"Really?" the deputy asked. "Then you'll have the necessary warrants and papers that gives you permission to be here acting suspicious by following a pair of our leading citizens, then. So how about we go down to the station and check?"
Jeff and Nancy looked at each other, gave a smile and continued on their way.
"I'll have your badge for this," they heard the FBI agent threaten.
"Is that so?" the deputy countered. "I'm sure the press will love that. Especially with all the commotion the Feds have already caused in this town. I can see the headline now. 'FBI causes Native American to lose his position for doing his job.'"
"I guess the police are getting a little tired of all this," Jeff shrugged as they reached the gates to lead them out of the park.

"Jeff, Nancy," they heard Jim Valenti call. His SUV was parked on the side of the road.
"Afternoon, Jim," they both nodded.
"Why don't you get in?" he pointed to the side door of his vehicle. "A drive might do you more good than a walk."
They once again gave a shrug, and took Jim up on his offer. They climbed into the car and were surprised to find Amy, Philip and Diane already inside. They looked as confused as Jeff felt. It was a tight fit, but they all squeezed in. Jeff didn't really mind having Nancy sitting on his lap. As soon as the door was shut, Jim climbed into the driver's seat, next to Amy, and started the engine. Fifteen minutes later, they were leaving Roswell, with no sign of anyone following them. With one hand, Jim passed a cell phone over to Jeff.
"You'd better call someone to watch the café for a day or two," Jim called.
"How come?" Jeff asked, wondering if Jim had finally lost it.
"Because at twelve fifteen this afternoon, there was an attempted robbery in a bank up at Santa Fe. The local police chased the gang to a truck stop on highway 84. The armed gang took refuge in the diner, taking everyone inside hostage. The FBI are in attendance."
"What does this have to do with us, Jim?" Philip asked.
"Are you suggesting that this gang is our kids? That our kids tried to pull off a bank heist? No way," Jeff added.
"No, Philip, Jeff," Jim sighed while keeping his eyes fixed on the road ahead. "I know it wasn't Max and the others. Anyway, I was watching the news earlier, they had some mobile unit already on the scene. The camera panned across to show how crowds have been forming to watch."
"Ghouls," Nancy spat.
"What does this have to do with us?" Diane asked. "I'm not really that interested in watching an armed siege."
"When the camera was sweeping across the crowds, I saw... I saw Kyle."
"What?" five voices cried out.
"Was Liz there?"
"Did you see Max?"
"What about Maria?"
"Was Isabel with him?
"What about Michael," Diane added.
"No, no, no, I don't know and no," Jim laughed. "I only saw Kyle. He is my son, after all. I didn't recognize anyone else, but I did see that someone was next to him. A girl, I think. I kind of just flipped when I saw my son. I'm sorry it's a little vague, but I'm guessing that they're all still together. I decided to go and check up on him. I knew you guys would have chewed me out if I didn't invite you."
"So it's our turn for the road trip," Amy noted.

* * *

"Any news of them," Agent Steve Baurline asked when he entered the temporary office they had set up in a small town in the southwest corner of Nebraska.
"No, sir," one of the men checking various reports listed on large, lined computer sheets. "Nothing. My team is trawling through every report of anything that could be even remotely connected to something paranormal. That was a narrow escape they had. They'll want to find somewhere to lie low for a while. My guess is that they're heading for the eastern seaboard, probably New York, to hide in the millions of people there."
"No," Baurline shook his head. "I think they turned west, heading back for the mountains. There's more places to hide there. Summers coming to an end, and it will be harder to support themselves. They'll need money. They'll want to find work. Where better can they do that than in a place that is packed during the winter months? Keep an eye on the ski resorts."
"They could be headed for Florida. Lots of tourists there and casual work." He paused to consider another option. "If they can do these things that you say they're capable off, sir, why don't they just steal the money? I mean, if they could get onto an Air Force base at maximum security, and then make their escape without being detected by the most sophisticated surveillance equipment known to man, then disabling the security at a bank would be a piece of cake to them. They could be in, empty the vault and out again with no one even knowing."
"I have no idea," Baurline admitted. "Maybe they think we can track them using the serial numbers or something."
"I have something here, sir," someone called. "A failed bank robbery in Santa Fe, New Mexico. We have agents on the location. Should I check it out?"
"Not a failed robbery, no," Baurline shook his head. "Like your colleague said, if they wanted to rob a bank, they wouldn't fail."

* * *

Inside the diner, the five gunmen had forced the hostages to stand in a circle, and using twine they had found in a storeroom, had started to tie each person's wrists to their neighbor's. As soon as Max had realized this, he quickly changed places with Liz, so that he was now between her and Michael who had been standing to Liz's right. At first, Liz gave a silent chuckle, thinking that Max had felt jealous of Michael holding her hand, but that didn't really work when you considered that she was now standing next to a rather large, unwholesome-looking guy. He flashed a nervous smile, and tried to clasp her hand. Liz shot him a filthy look and balled her hand into a fist. It wasn't until she thought about it that she realized that by placing himself next to Michael, the two of them could coordinate any plans they might come up with. Moments later the twine that bound Max to Michael had become free. She noticed that both Michael's hands were free, although Max had kept his hand bound to hers. She was glad that he hadn't freed it. The bond was, in some small way symbolic, a promise that they would share everything. They would not have been able to explain their freedom had their neighbors not been aware of their abilities. Liz wondered if the guy next to her would notice if she freed her hand from him. One look at his face, glued to hers, convinced her that he would. Liz leaned closer to Max, for comfort more than anything.

The young girl approached the man who she appeared to hold in adoration. She whispered something to him, her body language clearly showed her need to feel his arms around her. Liz watched in sympathy, knowing that very feeling only too well, and thankful that her own infatuation had been for a man who would never dream of doing something as stupid as an armed robbery. Then she remembered that disastrous day last September when she and Max held up that convenience store. That wasn't what it appeared to be, so maybe this too was something else entirely. Somehow, she doubted it.

An angry shout from the young man brought Liz back from her reminiscing.
"Look," he yelled in the girl's face. "We got us a situation here. I can do without your constant demands and whining. Go make sure they're all still tied up."
He handed her a flashlight, needed because the police outside had cut the electricity to the diner. The only light was from the sun, now descending. The girl took it, and whimpering softly, started to walk around the outside of the circle, shining the flashlight beam on the wrists of their hostages. Not sure of how well Max and Michael might have refastened their wrists, Liz distracted the young girl.
"Hey," Liz called in a soft, quiet voice. "Are you okay?"
The girl ignored her.
"It's not what you thought, is it?" Liz continued.
"What do you mean?" the girl whispered back.
"Your boyfriend over there," Liz nodded towards the gunmen's leader. "You thought it would be an adventure, but it's all turning sour."
"It wasn't his fault," the girl's eyes burned with a fierce loyalty.
"It never is," Liz sighed, glancing once at Max who was looking at her with questioning eyes.
"What do you know about it?" she demanded.
"Well, let's just say that I've been there. We did some stupid things, too, though not this stupid. But I decided I'd follow my boyfriend through thick and thin. It helped that I knew... that I know that he loves me completely and unreservedly and will do anything for me."
"Yeah? How did it turn out?"
"I'll let you know when it's over," Liz sighed with a dry tone.

The girl moved on and completed her checks with less enthusiasm than she had started with.
"Max," Liz murmured. "She's just a kid. No older than we are. Maybe even younger. We have to help her."
"Well, if she's wanted by the police, Liz, I can't see how..."
"No, I think this is the first time she's been involved in something like this."
"How can we help her?"
"We have to get her out of here, too. She can't be arrested with them. Max, she's someone's daughter. Remember how things were for me that time we got arrested? Only I knew I had some friends outside who were fighting for me. Like you and your dad. I knew that you wouldn't leave me there. But this guy, I think he'd claim she was their leader if it would make things easier for him."
"Okay," Max nodded. "Though I don't know how we can do that. Just as long as you realize that you are my first priority."
"I know, Max," Liz sighed, leaning against him.

* * *

The seconds merged into minutes, which soon became hours. Without electricity, the air conditioning, a necessity in the New Mexican sun, was not working. As a consequence, the room was getting extremely uncomfortable. The phone by the cash register, long since emptied by the gunmen, started to ring, exactly like it had started ringing every thirty minutes since the siege started. The electricity had been cut when the armed gang had refused to answer the telephone the first time. The young girl sat alone on one side of the diner, tears rolling down her cheeks. The four others prowled back and forth like caged animals. None of them looked as though they could take much more of this pressure. The room was filled with crying of children and the whimpering from some of the men and women.
"Excuse me," Max called out.
"What?" snapped the young man in charge.
Max felt a moment of pity for the man. He knew only too well what it felt like to be looked upon as the leader while all around you, things were degenerating into chaos. Max only hoped he could resolve this situation better than he had his last one. People, friends, had a habit of dying around him, or getting shot.
"We've been here for hours," Max pointed out. "We could all use a comfort break." Max nodded towards the restrooms.
The young man considered this for a while.
"Check them out," he ordered one of his friends.
Everyone sat with expectant looks on their faces. They had all felt the need to use the restrooms but had been too afraid to make the request. They watched the door for the man's return. He complied with their silent prayers and returned.
"They've got long, narrow windows, Frankie, but they're covered in bars. You'd have to be superman to get out through there."
"Okay," the leader nodded. "You and Terrie watch the restrooms. We'll send 'em through a few at a time." He turned to his girlfriend, sitting alone in a booth. "Make sure you got your gun."
The girl rose, holding her gun in the air so that Frankie could see it. She made her way to the ladies restroom. Taking it in turns, people made their way to the restrooms. Things had taken a turn for the better.

"Could I make another suggestion?" Max asked, his voice showing caution.
"Now what?" Frankie sighed, as though he had better things to do.
"I expect that you're as hungry as we are. And hot. We could fire up the grill and cook some food. We could even pass out some drinks, even if it's only water."
"They cut the power, Einstein," Frankie sneered.
"I, uh, know," Max hesitated. "But that's because you're refusing to talk. If you talk to them... on the phone... you can get them to put the power back on."
"They'll only try to talk me into giving ourselves up," Frankie narrowed his eyes.
"I know," Max shrugged. "Because that's preferable to storming in here with their guns blazing and risking a lot of lives, their own included."
"I could make demands."
"Yeah," Max agreed knowing full well that that they would not be met.
"A helicopter and lots of money. We could fly on down to Mexico."
Max just stared at the man, masking his emotions. He had had so much practice at that over the years. Surely Frankie knew that he would not be allowed to leave this place a free man.
"It wouldn't hurt to try," Max encouraged him, aware now that every face in the diner was on him. Great. So much for anonymity.
"Yeah," one of Frankie's friends agreed. "I mean, we can talk to 'dose guys while we figure some way outta here. Besides 'dat, with the power on, we could eat and get the air conditioner back on."
"Yeah," Frankie nodded. "It is hot."

They didn't have to wait long. The phone rang again, shortly after the last of the hostages had taken their break. Frankie stood by the phone, looked at each member of his gang, and then at Max. He took a deep breath, and picked up the handset.
"Listen," he barked before the caller could speak. "Listen good. Put the 'lectricity back on and we'll talk."
Frankie then listened to the speaker's response before he slammed the phone down.
"What?" Max asked, filled with alarm by Frankie's sudden flash of anger. His first reaction was to check where Liz was. His second was to have his shield ready.
"He said he wants me to release some hostages," Frankie growled.
Max relaxed a little.
"It's just to... you know... show good faith."
"Yeah," Frankie nodded. "That's what he said."
Max nodded.
"So what if I do?" Frankie was standing right up to Max now, speaking into his face.
Max sucked in a deep breath, and released it slowly. To help this man seemed right somehow, to make him part of it. Yet by refusing to help, some of these innocent people could be hurt. There was only one thing to do. Max could sense the energy sparkling from both Liz and Michael. If Max didn't lower the tension, one of them might lose what little control they had. The last thing he wanted was for someone to see Liz lit up with green lines of electricity.
"Then they'll know what your plans are if you don't release anyone. They probably have a SWAT team out there by now. They'll prepare to storm the diner and there will only be one outcome then. They'll kill you all, and blame the deaths of any hostages on you."
"Listen to him, Frankie," Terrie cried. "Please."
"Shut up you bitch," Frankie slapped his girlfriend. "This was all your fault to begin with."
It was all Max could do to hold himself back from grabbing Frankie. He knew that would help no one. One of his friends might shoot him. That would create panic, and goodness knows what would happen then.
"How was this my fault?" Terrie sobbed.
"'Cause I wasn't good enough for your daddy. Just 'cause I don't have no high school diploma. Get money behind you, you said, and he'll respect you."
"I meant find a job," she whimpered.
"Uhm, this isn't helping," Max interrupted sensing fear levels from the other hostages rising.
As Max expected, the man vented his rising anger and frustration on him. With the hand he held his gun in, he punched Max full in the face. With an explosion of pain, Max crumpled to the ground, hearing Liz's frightened cry. Wincing with pain, and struggling to see from an eye now filled with blood, Max climbed back to his feet.
"They'll storm here for sure if they hear screams and think you're hurting anyone," Max continued in as neutral a tone as he could. The last thing he wanted was to antagonize Frankie.
"How come you know so much?" Frankie demanded. "Are you a cop?"
"No," Max shook his head in denial. His face was really hurting him now, but he could do nothing to ease the pain with so many witnesses. "Someone I trust and respect used to be a sheriff," Max shrugged. "I listened."
"Used to be?" one of Frankie's pals asked. "What happened?"
"It's complicated," Max shrugged. He just wanted to find Liz and seek comfort from her arms. Max was unused to physical pain.
"So you think they have a SWAT team out there?"
Max nodded.
"With snipers, too?"
"Probably," Max agreed.
All the men ducked down.
"So if the lights get turned back on, they'll see us lit up like Christmas trees."
"They'll have night scopes," he told them. "They'll see you in the dark anyway."
"So what do you suggest?"
"Make the deal," Max sighed. "Get the power turned back on. Keep all the lights off in the diner, but turn all the lights outside on. It'll be harder for them to make out who anyone is, unless they see a gun."
"I'm not releasing them all."
"No," Max agreed. "You don't have to, and they don't expect you to. No, release just a few. The older ones, maybe. Oh, the moms and their children. Let them go. No one likes to see moms and children being threatened."
"Well, the kids whining does get on my nerves."
"Okay. Let's see, we have six kids, right? And, what, four moms?"
Four women nodded frantically.
Frankie took charge again, rounding up the hostages. Max turned away from the expectant looks, looks that turned accusatory when they realized they would not be selected for release.
Whatever happens now, Max sighed to himself, I've saved some people at least. His eye ached so much that he could hardly stand. He couldn't see out of it at all now. He felt his knees start to shake, and he knew that he was about to collapse. And then a pair of arms was holding him. They were thin arms, but arms that held a deep inner strength. He knew the owner of those arms and he knew now that he could allow himself to sink into the blackness that was threatening to take him. The owner of those arms would watch over him, in the same way that he would watch over her.
"I've got you," she whimpered. "Oh, Max."
"Liz," he sighed before giving in.

* * *

Part 13

"Something's happening," Isabel announced from the top of the SUV where she had been watching the diner through their binoculars for the past hour. She slid down the windshield and onto the hood, allowing herself to roll all the way to the ground. "Stay here," she continued. "I'm going in for a better look."
"Be careful, Isabel," Kyle called after. "And stay away from the feebies."
"Yeah," she called over her shoulder. "I will."
Isabel crossed the road, which had been blocked at either end. She chose to stand with another large crowd, quite close to the small communications center the police had set up. She doubted that she'd be noticed by anyone who might be on the lookout for her. Isabel stood next to the telephone pole and rested her hand against the cable that the police had attached earlier, so that they could have a direct line into the diner. She had tapped into it, using the same ability that allowed her to listen to CD's without using a CD player. Her patience was soon rewarded when she heard the phone ringing.
"We're ready to deal," a harsh voice barked. "Were sending out fourteen hostages. Six kids, their mothers and four old people who probably can't take it much longer. Just as soon as the power comes back on."
One of the men standing over by the FBI van with a set of earphones waved his hand towards the main office of the gas station. The diner was suddenly lit up and almost as instantly, the interior lights went out, leaving only the outside lights showing. Isabel knew that they would have enough light inside to see, but from out here, it looked pitch black.
"Damn," Isabel heard one of the nearby policeman swear. "They know what they're doing in there. This is going to take some time."
Isabel felt sure that somehow, Max was holding things together in the diner, to make sure no one, not even the gunmen, were hurt. Sometimes, Max was too considerate.
"Okay," she heard the calmer voice of a policeman speak down the line. "You can send them on out now."
"They're tied in crocodile fashion," the harsh tone continued. "The kids are in front, followed by the old folks with the moms at the back."
The diner door opened, and the fourteen released hostages started to file out. Their wrists all seemed to be tied together. From where she was standing, Isabel could see their tears, but she could sense their relief. The door closed behind them and the line moved for the nearest cluster of cars. A few police officers rushed out to assist them, cutting the twine that bound them all together, and leading them towards the fleet of ambulances. She listened carefully as the near hysterical mothers tried to explain about the tall dark haired young man who had just saved their lives. Isabel smiled, knowing they were talking about Max. Her blood froze when she heard about his horrific injury. The policeman assured the women that he would try to get the young man released so he could be treated in a hospital, but Isabel knew that Max would not leave that diner until everyone did. It wasn't over yet. Some of the freed hostages had other members of their family in there. In fact, lots of people on the outside had family members in there. Isabel had four.

* * *

"What are you doing, Jim?" Jeff asked when Jim had turned off of the main highway and onto some smaller roads.
They had been listening to the police channel hoping to hear if any of their kids had been discovered, but all they heard was the mention of roadblocks and how nothing had been heard from inside the diner. Each one of the parents was worried that the kids had chosen to sit back and watch the siege, giving little care for the fact that the FBI had agents there. Jim was still surprised that they had even stopped long enough to be caught on camera. Yet, in the stillness of their soul, each dared to think what they hoped no one else would. What if their kids were amongst the hostages in the diner? That would explain why Kyle was sitting down on the outside.
"Highway's closed," Jim informed him. "To keep sightseers away. We're going to have to come in the back way if we plan on getting there."
He continued to drive through a maze of roads. Pretty soon, they could all see the truck stop ahead of them, evident by the horde of helicopters swarming above it. They parked as close as they could get but still had to walk the last half-mile. They stood together while Jim tried to get his bearings.
"He was sitting on a big car beside an old barn," Jim told them.
"Over there?" Philip asked, pointing to an old building hidden behind the masts of the assorted media vehicles, as well as crowds of people standing on their car roofs trying to get a better view.
"Looks familiar," Jim nodded. "Let's go."
There was no sign of anyone they recognized when they approached the barn.
"I guess he was on the other side," Jim suggested.
As they rounded the corner, they all saw him at the same time. Jim's son, Kyle was sitting cross legged on the roof of a huge, four wheel drive vehicle, watching the diner through a pair of binoculars. He was alone and everyone feared that the others were hostages inside the diner.
"Kyle!" he called.
The binoculars fell from Kyle's hand and in one fluid movement, he was standing on his feet with a look of panic on his face. Then he saw his father. He was next to the SUV before the young man jumped down. Father embraced son while the other five watched with sad smiles on their faces. It was then that Kyle saw them, and feeling embarrassed, he broke away from his father. Smiling through tears that rimmed his eyes, Kyle shrugged away his feelings and embraced each one of the parents. No one seemed able to speak.

"Looks like Max is handling things on the inside," Isabel called out as she approached the van. "Some hostages just got released and they said..." Isabel saw them. "Mom? Dad?" She looked worried for the briefest of moments. "Oh my god! Mom! Dad!" She flew into an embrace with them, tears of happiness flooding from her eyes.
As Kyle before her, once she had hugged her parents, she hugged everyone else. They all knew the secret now, and even though Nancy seemed a little reluctant to hold Isabel, it was still good to see them.
"Isabel, where are the others?" Jim voiced the question that everyone wanted to ask.
"Where's my daughter?" Nancy asked.
"My daughter-in-law," Diane smiled, stepping next to Nancy and placing her hand on her shoulder.
"They're still inside," Isabel replied. "They went in just before that gang turned up. But don't worry. The hostages that just got released said that a tall, dark-haired young man was talking to the gunmen." She omitted the fact that they had managed to hurt Max pretty badly. He would heal that before he got back. Isabel knew that Liz would never let Max suffer while he could sort it out. "It's because of him that they were released."
"That doesn't give me any comfort," Amy told her.
"Or me," Nancy added.
"That's because you don't really know Max," Isabel smiled through the tears of joy. "Or what he's capable of. Don't worry. Michael will look after Maria, Max will look after Liz, Liz will look after Max, and Maria. Max will look after everyone."
"That sounds like Max," Jim agreed. "He's been looking after everyone for so long now, it's almost second nature to the boy."
"Apart from that," Philip managed to regain some control over his voice. "How is everyone?"
"Tired," Isabel laughed. "But were very much alive."
"Amen to that," Jeff replied.

* * *

As consciousness slowly returned to Max, the face of an angel was waiting for him.
"Max," Liz exhaled with relief. "Max, can you hear me?"
Max nodded.
"I tried to take the pain away," tears ran down her cheeks, "but I couldn't."
"It's probably just as well," Max groaned. "Someone might have started to wonder why my eye looked so much better."
"Max, no one's looking. Can you do anything to stop it hurting?"
"I can do a little, but not much. I'd have to repair tissue to stop the pain and that would be noticed."
Liz held Max and gave a tender kiss to his cheek, close to the damaged eye.
"Better already," Max smiled.

"He awake yet?" Frankie snarled.
"Yeah," Max started to rise, but the waves of pain made it unbearable.
"Listen, the cook's scared shitless. The waitresses are too. We want you and your pals here to cook us up some food. Once we've eaten, you can start feeding the rest of them."
Michael, Maria and Liz all helped Max up, and into the kitchen.
"Just as it was getting comfortable in there," Michael complained. "Next time we stop somewhere for work, I want it understood. No working in a kitchen."
"What? Like we enjoy waiting tables?" Maria demanded.
The pain was too unbearable so Max could only sit and watch as the three of them busied themselves around the kitchen. It all seemed so second nature to them. Michael turned on the grill, and the deep fat fryers. He checked that no one was watching and passed his hand over the appliances to bring them all up to the proper cooking temperature. At Liz's suggestion, they decided to just cook everything and anything, allowing the gunmen and then the hostages to simply help themselves. The two girls ferried food from the refrigerators to the large steel table and from the shelf where Michael placed the plates of cooked food out onto the counter. Meanwhile, Max had managed to struggle to get to the drink's dispenser and was pouring out assorted cups of Pepsi, Seven-Up, Root Beer and Fanta.

"Any more clever ideas, Max?" Michael snarled as they settled down to eat the last of the food Michael had cooked.
They had remained in the kitchen with the intention of cleaning everything afterwards. It was like they had told Frankie. What if they were here all night, and needed to cook breakfast.
"Not yet," Max grimaced. "But I'm working on it."
"Can you try talking to the girl?" Maria asked Liz. "Maybe she doesn't want to follow him anymore."
"Well, if she's anything like me," Liz smiled at Max, "she will."
"No one is like you, Liz," Max reached out and touched her cheek. "You're special. One of a kind."
Liz's face lit up.
"Yeah, and so are you, Max," Maria broke the spell. "You are nothing like Frankie, and like, if you were, I would have done everything I could to get Liz away from you. So the point is, maybe she's had enough already."
Everyone turned and looked at Liz.
"I'll talk to her," she agreed.

* * *

Liz left the kitchen and walked through the diner, lit only by the bright lights outside. Even in the gloom, she could see the way the gunmen looked at her. She forced down the shudder that threatened to sweep over her.
"I, uh, need to use the rest room," she told Frankie.
"Terrie," he called. He looked back at Liz with a smirk. "Unless you want one of us guys to take you."
"No, um... Terrie will do fine." Liz tried to hide the disgust from her voice, but she knew that they had all heard it."
"Come on," Terrie pulled Liz's sleeve. "Let's go."
Liz followed the young girl who held her gun in an uncomfortable manner. They pushed through into the ladies restroom and Liz turned to face her.
"So go already," Terrie snapped.
"I just wanted to talk to you," Liz admitted.
Terrie turned to leave.
"No, wait," Liz urged. "Come on, Terrie. Can you really stand there and tell me that this is the life you want?"
Terrie didn't reply.
"You'll all get arrested," Liz informed her. "That's if you don't get shot."
"Well, I must admit to seeing a side of Frankie I've never seen before. Did that ever happen to you?"
"Yeah," Liz admitted. "But even at its worst, it was... Max would never hurt innocent people. Heck, I doubt Max has ever physically hurt another person in his life. Except Michael. That's uh... his friend. But there were extenuating circumstances."
"I saw how you are around him." There was a touch of jealousy in Terrie's voice.
"How old are you, Terrie?"
"I just turned eighteen."
"Do you want to throw your life away? Even if you get out of here, you'll be on the run. You'll always be looking over your shoulder and wondering if today will be your last. You'll never see your family or your friends again."
"Is that what happened to you?"
"Sort of," Liz smiled. "Except Max doesn't rob banks or hurt people. He wants to help them. People like you."
"That doesn't sound bad. So how come you're on the run?"
"It's... like... complicated," Liz sighed. "But the thing is, I put up with it because I love him. I really, really love him. So before you cross that line, make sure your feelings for Frankie are genuine, and that he returns those feelings."
"Are yours?"
"My feelings? Returned?" Liz broke into a huge grin. "A hundred times."
"That sounds nice."
"Listen, it's not too late for you. If you want to get out of this nightmare, if you want to go home and start afresh, we can arrange it."
"Frankie would never let me go."
"That's not love," Liz shook her head. "If he gave you the choice, it might be."
"Did Max give you the choice?"
"He did. And I chose to share his life. Let me know if you change your mind."
Liz left Terrie in the restroom, and returned to Max. Her face told him that she only had a limited amount of success. He reached out and placed his hand over her cheek, which Liz leaned into, a move that was noticed by Terrie as she too came out of the restrooms.

* * *

The sun rose over a new day. They had taken turns to sleep in the surprisingly comfortable SUV while the others kept watch, promising to wake the sleepers if there were any developments. Jim and Kyle returned from a trip to another diner down the road, who had increased their prices to take advantage of their sudden popularity. They brought back coffee and breakfast for everyone. Having already eaten, Jim and Kyle took watch while the others had their breakfast.
"Isabel, honey," Diane started. "We, well... Nancy and I... were wondering, if you'd tell us about Max and Liz's wedding?"
Nancy looked up at Diane, smiled her thanks, and looked at Isabel with her eyes filled with expectation. Isabel looked at the three women listening attentively, and noticed that both Jeff and her father were waiting too.
"Okay, well... it was when we got to Idaho, a week or so after we left you guys, when we decided that it was safe. See, Max said that if he was going to be living with Liz, he wanted to do it properly. So we stopped in this cute little town called Cherry Creek, just over the state line. Max and the guys went to one place to find a suit, while Maria and I took Liz further up the road. We found this gorgeous outfit for her to wear. It was so lovely."
Isabel reached into one of the bags in the car and pulled out an envelope filled with pictures.
"Max said that you'd want to see these," Isabel handed her mother the pictures.
While they all looked at the photos, Isabel told them about the wedding day, how lovely and radiant Liz looked, and the goofy smile on Max's face when he realized that he had finally married the girl he had obsessed over since third grade.
"Oh, my," Diane sighed. "Isn't she just beautiful?"
A huge smile of pride spread across Nancy's face. A tear trickled from her lid. Jeff could hardly contain his feelings as he looked at his lovely daughter, and couldn't help but regret that he didn't walk her down the aisle and hand her over to the man who had already won her heart. He felt a momentary surge of jealousy for Kyle who had usurped his rightful place.
"They look so happy," Amy commented.
It was true. Not just Max and Liz, but all of them. They all looked so happy.
"Can we keep some of these?" Diane looked up and asked the question that Nancy was too afraid to ask.
"No," Isabel chuckled. "But you can take the negatives."
Both Nancy and Diane's faces broke into a huge smile.

"I wish I was there," Nancy let a small sob go. "My little girl's all grown up now."
Diane placed her arm around her shoulder for comfort.
"You were," Isabel smiled. "At least in spirit. When we went to the restaurant afterwards, we took a table with fifteen places. Liz had place names made up for each of you."
"But that's only thirteen," Diane pointed out. "Me, your father, Jeff and Nancy, Jim, Amy and Jesse. Thirteen."
"You missed someone," Isabel chuckled. "Maria got in a panic because of the number thirteen, so Max said that as the places were for our family and friends in spirit, there were another two people who had to be there to share their big day."
"So who were they?" Jeff started to frown. He looked at Philip to see if there was someone he could think of."
"Alex and Claudia," Isabel whispered.
Nancy started to cry.
"Liz reacted pretty much the same way," Isabel laughed.
"But are they happy, Isabel?" Diane asked. "I mean, they are so young."
"Oh, yeah," Isabel smirked. "They're so happy it makes the rest of us sick."
"Isn't that a little... insensitive of them?" Diane continued. "I mean they know that Jesse..."
"No, Mom," only Diane saw the brief flash of pain in Isabel's face. "No, they're... quite discreet. They don't flaunt it or anything. But you can't help notice how close they are. It's truly beautiful... when it isn't sickening."
"But they're being careful, right?" Nancy asked. "I mean, as much as I want to be a grandmother... some day, I don't think your circumstances are..."
"Don't worry, Mrs. Parker. I... uh... taught Liz a little trick. She won't get pregnant until she wants to."
"Oh," Nancy blushed.
"What about my Maria?" Amy asked. "Is Michael taking good care of my baby?"
"Yes, Mrs. DeLuca," she laughed. "They're not like Max and Liz, and sometimes, I think they actually enjoy the fighting, but he loves her, and he's looking after her."

* * *

Later in the day, Jeff and Philip found themselves taking the watch together. They had spent the time talking about Max, Liz, their relationship and how badly they felt that they weren't there for their kids wedding. They had made a pact to start a special fund to have the biggest ceremony Roswell had ever seen, once their kids had resolved their current situation.
"I know he's better able than me to protect her now," Jeff sighed. "But that doesn't make it easier to accept. But I will say this. You raised a fine boy, Philip."
"Thanks, Jeff," Philip smiled. "Coming from you, that means a lot. But you know, your daughter can claim some of the credit for that too. She was the one who brought him out of that shell of his. You must be so proud of her. I know that I'm proud to call her family now. She's a wonderful girl."
Jeff looked at Philip and smiled.
"I just wish there was something we could do," he sighed.
"Maybe there is," Philip's reply was cryptic.
"How do you mean?"
"I wanted to discuss this with you guys, but if we have the chance, maybe we can discuss it with Max and the others too."
"Are you going to sit there grinning and make me wait, or are you going to tell me?"
"I had a call from Jesse yesterday."
"How is he?"
"Missing Isabel as much as she's missing him, I think. But he met up with an old friend. She's in the media now."
"She?" Jeff looked over at Isabel talking with her mother. "Philip, you don't..."
"No, no. He's enlisted her help. She going to follow the kid's story, and do some kind of show or story or something, letting the people out there know that they have nothing to fear from our kids. You know, this is supposed to be the land of the free. Last time I looked, Max was a US Citizen. So he has alien DNA or something in him. Doesn't he have the same rights as the rest of us?"
"So this friend? Is she going to have them on a TV Expose or something?"
"No, nothing like that. She's going to have a continuing story, letting people know who they've helped, highlighting their case. Pretty soon, the FBI won't be able to behave the way they are. They'll have to be more open which means that they have to act within the law, and not outside it like they seem to be. I mean, they planned to shoot four high school kids without trial, just because they had their suspicions as to their origins. Can you imagine the outcry if they just shot some mob bosses like that? Murder is murder, Jeff."
"Well, it seems risky, Philip. Maybe we'd better wait and see what Max says. It seems they all defer to him."
"We'll see what Liz says too," Philip grinned. "From what I understand, they rely on each other."
"A perfect match, then," Jeff extended his hand.
Philip clasped the hand and they shook hands like old friends meeting after a long separation.
"Perfect," Philip laughed.

* * *

Darkness again fell on the diner. Frankie stood by the door and stared out at the masses of people who had gathered a safe distance away to watch the scenario unfold.
"I always hated reality TV anyway," Frankie spat.
"What are we gonna do, Frankie?" one of his friends asked. "Those goons aren't going to let us get away from here, are they? As soon as we step outside, they'll blow us away."
"Why don't we take one of those cars out there, and try and beat them to the state line?"
"Because the FBI are involved," Max spoke from the back of the diner where he was nursing his eye with an ice pack that Liz had made for him. "They'll just keep on chasing you."
"Not if we take all you hostages with us, and pushed one out of the car every so often until they stop following."
"You'd need a bus," Michael observed. "I can't see any buses out there, can you?"
"So we'll take a couple of those big four by fours out there."
"But how do we get to them, Frankie?"
"We surround ourselves with hostages, kind of like a human shield."
"Frankie, no!" Terrie cried from the booth she sat alone in. "You can't do that. You're not a killer."
"I told you to shut up, bitch," he spat at her. "I'm not going inside again."
Terrie looked up, a stunned expression was stuck to her face.
"Again?" she asked. "Frankie, you told me you were away, working."
"So I lied."
"But I thought you loved me."
The four guys started to laugh at her. Frankie grabbed his crotch and laughed obscenely.
"Yeah, sure, babe. Whatever."

Max's head snapped up and turned to Liz.
"Take Maria with you," he hissed.
He knew at that instant that Terrie had realized that she had been used. He knew now that she would want to talk to Liz.
"What? Max, no. I wasn't going to go with her. I was just going to help her get out."
"No, Liz. Listen. Michael and I can do this better on our own. I mean, I know you can handle it, but it would be better for all of us. The three of you can escape out the back. Find Isabel and Kyle, and get ready to run. In case the Special Unit is out there. We'll find you. I promise."
"No, Max."
"Liz, please?"
"Okay, but if there's no alien hunters out there, I am not running. I'm waiting for you."
"I can live with that," Max smiled.
Liz leaned in and the exchanged a brief, but tender kiss.
"I love you," Max whispered.
"I love you, too. Please be careful."
"You too."

Liz rose, and again approached Frankie. This time, she had Maria by her side.
"Can we use the rest room?" she asked.
"One at a time," Frankie growled.
"It's just that... I..." Maria doubled over clutching her stomach. "Cramps."
"Can you handle two of them?" Frankie asked Terrie, looking away in discomfort.
"Yeah," she nodded. "Come on. Let's go."

"Have you made up your mind?" Liz asked once the three of them had closed the restroom door behind them.
"I want to go home," Terrie started to sob.
She stumbled into Liz and although larger, she threw her arms around her. Tears started to pour down her cheeks.
"Okay," Liz eased the girl away, and took the gun from her fingers. "First thing we have to do is make sure this is clean.
Using some paper towels, Liz wiped the gun to remove any fingerprints and placed it in the sink.
"Okay," she continued, and climbed up onto the vanity unit. She opened the window so that she could peek through. "There, over there, can you see? There are some trees."
"Uh huh," both Maria and Terrie had climbed up to take a look.
"When I give the word, I want you to climb through this window, drop to the ground and run as fast as you can to those trees. Once you get there, hide, and wait till all three of us are there."
"But they'll see us, won't they?"
"Trust me, Terrie. They won't."
"Wait," Maria interrupted. "We're leaving Max and Michael here?"
"Yeah," Liz nodded. "Max told me to take you and go."
"Liz, when we don't come out, those goons in there are going to get pretty angry."
"Don't worry, Maria. They'll be fine. You know they will."

Shielding what she was doing at the window with her body, and hoping Maria was doing a good job distracting Terrie, Liz concentrated on turning the cement around the bars into sand. She soon had the bars free.
"Boy," Terrie commented when she saw the bars had been removed. "You're stronger than you look."
"Nah," Liz shook her head. "They never put enough cement in these things. All it takes is a bit of effort. Terrie, you go first, then Maria and I'll follow."
"Just see that you do," Maria warned.
"Okay, are we ready?"
"Wait!" Terrie cried. "The lights. Anyone could see us."
"Don't worry. Oh, you'd better close your eyes 'til I say go. Are we ready?"
"Yeah," came the two girl's replies.
Liz reached for the light fitting, and concentrated. Outside, unseen by Maria and Terrie, the exterior bulbs flared momentarily to a brightness they had never been designed to burn at. Then they exploded in a shower of sparks.
"Go, go, go, go!" Liz hissed.
Outside the diner, the sudden flare of lights blinded everyone. The officers wearing vision-enhancing goggles pulled them from their pain filled eyes and threw them to the floor. For a few vital seconds, no one could see, and by the time their sight had returned, the three girls had dropped from the window and had run across the clearing to the small thicket of trees. They were safe. Liz made sure they were all okay before she turned back to the diner, where her heart had been left behind.
"Be safe," she whispered, before leading Maria and Terrie away to safety.

* * *

[ edited 1 time(s), last at 25-Oct-2002 5:45:29 PM ]
posted on 1-Nov-2002 3:32:06 PM
Part 14

"What the fuck was that?" Frankie demanded when the sudden explosion of light sent him and his friends ducking behind tables and booths for cover.
They all held their guns at the ready, rubbing their eyes, blinded by the brightness. Many of the hostages were also rubbing their eyes. To add to matters, they were as afraid as the gunmen were, many were starting to wail in panic.
"Terrie!" Frankie called. "Terrie, what's going on out there? Can you see?"
As suddenly as the light had flared, darkness returned with an explosion of light bulbs. The noise made everyone jump, some hostages screamed, believing that Frankie and the others were shooting them.
"They've fucking cut the power!" Frankie cursed, rising to take aim at anyone that he could see outside.
"No," Max reassured him. "They haven't. The air conditioning unit is still on. It wasn't them."
"Terrie, what the fuck are you doing?"
The four gunmen had all risen; they were peering through the darkness trying to see if something was going to happen. The telephone started to ring, making them all jump.
"What did you just do?" Frankie demanded before the caller could speak.
"We didn't do anything," the calm voice reassured him. "We're just phoning to check that everyone's okay. We thought that maybe something had happened in there."
"No. We didn't do nothing."
"We'll check the Electric Company. Maybe they had a power spike, or something."
"You do that."
"Listen. Can we ask again that you consider releasing the young man that you hit? He must be in bad shape by now. You wouldn't want to have him going blind on your conscience, would you?"
"No one gets released till we get a helicopter."
"I don't think that..."
"That's the problem. No one out there's thinking. Well, think on this. If I don't hear real soon that you're getting us a helicopter, then maybe we'll start to think about these hostages, and all the nasty things that might happen in this here kitchen. That's where the most accidents happen, isn't it?"
"Look, don't do anything..."
Frankie hung up the phone.
"Go see what's keeping Terrie," he ordered one of his friends.

The friend returned moments later, holding Terrie's discarded gun.
"They've gone, Frankie. All of 'em. Alls they left was this. The bars have been torn clear off the window."
Frankie rose and, followed by his three goons, approached Max. He reached over, grabbed him by his collar and pulled him out into the middle of the room.
"What's going on?" he demanded, shouting in Max's face.
"I don't know," Max looked him in the eye. "I wasn't in there, so I don't know what happened. How would I?"
"She's your girl, isn't she?"
"I guess she and the others were scared enough to make a run for it. I don't know."
Frankie balled his fist and drove it into Max's stomach. Gasping for air and clutching the affected part, Max collapsed to the floor. His head bounced on the hard surface once only to be met by Frankie's boot as he aimed a kick at him. Michael started to move towards them both, but two guns in his face persuaded him that he should not help his friend. Michael watched helplessly as Frankie laid into Max, taking out all of his frustrations on the now limp body.
"That's enough, Frankie," his friend pulled him away. "You don't need no murder rap."
As soon as he had been left, Michael leapt to his friend's assistance. He cradled Max in his lap, and tried to produce some kind of healing power that might alleviate Max's suffering. Tears rimmed his eyes.
"Oh, god, Max," Michael moaned. "Look at you. Liz is going to kill me."

* * *

"Oh-oh," Jim murmured when he saw the lights flare wildly.
Jeff and Philip were instantly by his side.
"What do you mean, oh-oh?"
"That wasn't good," Jim nodded at the diner, now in darkness. "Whatever it was, it wasn't good. That light flaring like that and then going out? I think the SWAT Team are getting ready to make their move."
"But someone might get hurt," Philip objected.
"Max will look after them," Jim assured them.
"But what if it's Max who gets hurt?" Jeff asked in a hushed voice.
"Look, Max is used to this, okay? He's been shot at before. He knows how to handle it."
"Yeah, but..."
"What's going on?" Nancy cried as she emerged from the car, woken from her nap by the commotion.
"Jim thinks the FBI are about to storm the building," Jeff told her.
"No, they can't do that. Our kids are in there," Diane complained, stepping beside Nancy.
"It's okay," Isabel joined in. "Max will cover them. He'll probably cover all the hostages."
"But someone might see."
"Hold on," Jim interrupted, holding his hands up. Jim was wondering if it was wise to bring the others after all. He was used to this. They weren't. "If they were going to make their move, it would have happened by now. As nothing has happened, it was probably just a false alarm. Let's all relax."

Isabel smiled at Jim, and shook her head as she turned away. She looked up in time to see Liz, wandering through the crowds, looking for someone. Maria was right behind her, along with another girl.
"Liz!" she cried with excitement. "Liz, over here!"
Nancy heard Isabel and turned to see why she was calling. Then she too saw her daughter, alive and unharmed.
"Oh my god, Liz! Liz!"
Nancy ran towards her little girl. Hearing the names called out, everyone turned. Amy spotted Maria and her reaction was much the same as Nancy's. She too rushed towards her daughter. Jeff started to follow, but Jim held him back.
"Let the women meet," he smiled. "Dad's turn later."
Jeff nodded at him with a smile, and watched as mother greeted daughter.

Liz could hardly believe it. She heard Isabel call out to her, and no sooner than she had turned to greet her, her very own mother had appeared from the darkness, rushing into her arms.
"Mom!" Liz squealed as they hugged one another.
Both of their faces were wet with tears.
"Oh, Liz, honey. Are you all right?"
"Yeah, Mom. I'm fine. Really. How about you? Are you all right?"
"I am now that you're out of that place. I was so worried."
"No, mom. You mustn't worry, okay? You know, Max, he'll..."
"I know," she laughed, wiping her eyes. "I keep on hearing that. But allow me the luxury of worrying about my daughter. Okay? Oh, Liz. Look at you. I can't believe this. You're a woman now."
"Mom," Liz laughed, showing her embarrassment.
Next to her, she could see Maria going through the same process.
"Hello, Liz," Diane smiled from beside them. "We're all so relieved to see you out, safe. Welcome to the family."
She embraced her daughter-in-law, happy that Max had found someone as warm and wonderful as her.
"Thank you, Mrs. Evans. Uhm..."
"Please, it's Diane. Okay?"
"Okay. Diane."
"Did Max and Michael get out with you?"
"No, Max and Michael are still in there. There was a chance for Maria and I to escape, and Max made us take it. Oh, that reminds me. Excuse me a moment."
Liz looked around and found the girl she had rescued. She took her hand and led her across to Jim, waving to her father with a smile. She whispered a few words to the one-time sheriff. He looked surprised, but nodded. Then Liz spoke to the girl, who also nodded. The two girls exchanged a hug, and broke apart. Jim walked away towards his car, taking the young girl with him.

Liz watched them leave until they were out of sight. She then turned, and ran into her father's waiting arms.
"Dad!" she cried, hugging him tightly.
"Ah, Lizzie, Lizzie, Lizzie," he hugged her back, and kisses the top of her head. "What have you got yourself into?"
Liz looked up and felt relieved when she saw his teasing smile.
"The Crashdown is empty without you," he told her, all the while looking into her face.
"I miss it too, but you know, Dad, I'd have had to leave to go to college."
"I know," he smiled. "And I'd have still told you how the place is empty now."
"Maybe, one day..." She left it hanging.
"Is Max treating you right?"
"You know he is, Dad," she chuckled. "He treats me better than right."
"Are you happy?"
"You read my journal, Dad. You know how happy I am."
"Really? You didn't just write it to make us feel better?"
"Really. Yeah, I mean, sure. I wish we could live some kind of normal life. But, yeah. I'm happy."
"So where is Max, anyway? How did you get away?"
"Max and Michael are still in there."
"That's not good, Liz. Jim thinks the FBI are about to make their move. The lights suddenly flared and everything went dark."
"No, no, no, that was me. I did that so we could get out without any of the police or FBI seeing us. We didn't feel like answering any questions. See, that girl we brought out with us was part of the gang. She was infatuated with their leader, except she found out he was using her. She just wanted to go home to her parents. So we helped her."
"You kids are incredible," Jeff chuckled. "Here you are, running for your lives, but you risk so much to help others."
"It gives us a sense of purpose," Liz laughed, giving her father another hug. "I'm sorry for all those lies, and sneaking around behind your back, Dad. I don't feel proud of myself for deceiving you like that, but, you know, I would do it all over again."
"I know, Lizzie. And now I know why, and I can see how I only made things tough for you. Will you ever forgive me?"
"Dad," she shook her head. "I already did. Remember? New Years?"
"I guess we both crossed a bridge that night."
Father and daughter shared another hug.


* * *

Sitting in his SUV, driving down the road to the other diner, Jim carefully watched the young girl in tears beside him.
"Can I ask you something?" Terrie finally broke the silence.
"You can ask," Jim shrugged, indicating that he might not answer.
"What's Liz's story?"
"Liz is a girl who got lucky and found a guy who loves her as much as she loves him."
"Is that all you're going to tell me?"
"It is."
"They were pretty clever, huh?"
"They can move mountains, those two."
"So why did they help me? My... ex-boyfriend is going to beat Max to a pulp when he finds out I've gone and his girlfriend helped me. I hope he doesn't shoot him."
"Don't you worry about Max, he can end that situation any time he wants. My guess is that he was waiting to get you out of there, so you can go home. Now, as soon as we get you with your parents, all you have to do is say that you were with them. They can be your alibi. Frankie can say all he wants about how you were with him, but if the police find you with your folks, he'll have a hard time proving it."
"But what about all those people? They saw me?"
"Well, I think the police and the FBI will choose to ignore that particular testimony. I mean, it hardly makes them look good now, does it? How could a couple of girls sneak past all those guys?"
"You're all really nice people."
"Thank you, Ma'am," Jim laughed as he pulled into the diner's parking lot.
Together, Jim and Terrie walked to the phone booths, and finding one free from the myriad of journalists, Jim picked up the handset and deposited some quarters in the slot.
"What's your number, Terrie?" he asked.
She told him. As soon as the phone started ringing, Jim handed the handset to a startled Terrie.
"Hello?" she greeted the person who answered the phone with a wavering voice. "Daddy?"
She started to cry. Jim turned away from the conversation. Guessing that she was nearing an emotional breakdown, Jim moved away to give her some privacy as the young girl apologized to her father and begged him for his forgiveness. Jim felt a sense of pride, not just in Max and Liz, but in all of the kids. They each had their part to play, and it was their desire to do good in the world that had saved this young girl's future, as well as bringing a family back together again. It was less than thirty minutes later when a large family saloon car slid to a stop in the dirt by the telephones. A man climbed out, looking in the darkness for something, or someone.
"Daddy!" Terrie squealed, and rushed into the man's arms with another fresh bout of tears. "Sorry," she kept sobbing. "I'm so sorry."
"You must be Jim," the father greeted Jim as he approached the man.
"Yeah," he smiled. "That's me."
"Thank you, sir. I don't know how you got my little girl away from that... that... animal, but I thank God that you did."
The two men shook hands.
"It wasn't me," Jim shook his head. "It was a young man named Max Evans and his wife, Liz that saved your little girl. Although I'd appreciate it if you kept that name to yourself until after the whole thing is resolved."
"Max is still in there, Daddy," Terrie sobbed.

* * *

"What time is it?" Max groaned, looking around trying to work out where he was. He had just regained consciousness and the sudden flood of pain disoriented him.
"What?" Michael woke from a light doze. He looked at his watch. "A little after three in the morning."
"Liz and Maria get away okay?"
"Yeah," Michael nodded. "That's why they kicked the crap out of you."
"Oh," Max winced, trying to move. "I wondered why I ached so much."
"Anyway, thanks. For getting Maria out of here."
"Don't mention it. Now, I think it's time for us to end this."
"Are you in any state to do anything? Why don't you heal yourself, first?"
"No," Max shook his head. "Time for that later. Besides, I feel drained. I'm not sure how much energy I have left. I think my body is fixing some internal stuff on its own." He prodded a few bruises, testing them to see how bad they were. "We need to do something to distract everyone; some kind of diversion. Then, we can take out the gunmen, and try to slip away into the crowd when we lead the hostages out of here."
"That's going to be easier said than done, Max. Have you seen how many cops they have out there?"
"How far back are the police?" Max tried to look through the window with his one good eye, which was also black now, but he couldn't judge the depth accurately enough."
"I'd say about a hundred yards. Give or take."
"What if we made every pane of glass in the windows explode outwards? Everyone outside would duck. I bet even the gunmen would duck, wouldn't they? They'd be so scared that the SWAT Team was coming in, they'd duck down behind the booths. Then all we need to do is disarm them, there's only four, and knock them out. Someone calls the cops in, and the siege is ended."
"Max, your plan sucks."
"Do you have a better one?"
"No. But that doesn't mean I have to like yours. I'm not happy with just wandering out of here. You can't walk out; I'll have to carry you. Then some EMT's will come and try to cart you off to the hospital. You know? A nice, white hospital?"
"If you can think of anything better, please, be my guest."
"I'll take the left-hand side, and the front two and including the door. Can you handle the rest?"
"Yeah," Max nodded. "Wait. Do you think you can also blow every light bulb out there that Liz didn't? The ones by the gas station, and over the parking lot."
"Yeah," Michael nodded, his eyes going distant. "I think so, why?"
"Extra confusion. It will be so dark, the police and FBI won't react until they have the lights back on. They'll duck too. Maybe we can slip away in the confusion."
"Maybe," Michael agreed. It was a better chance than none at all.
"We need to blow the windows all at once. On three."
"Wait, is that on three, or after you've said three."
"Michael!"
"Okay, kidding."
"One, Two, Three."

There was a sudden explosion of glass. At the same time, the entire yard was plunged into darkness. Max could hear the screams of everyone, both inside and out. As he expected, the four gunmen dived behind the nearest piece of furniture to take cover. He could imagine that outside, the police too were hiding behind their cars. Max hoped that he didn't blow the glass too hard, and that people out there hadn't received injuries as a result. He heard a cry of surprise as Michael took out the first gunmen. Concentrating through the pain that wracked his body, Max raised his hand and pointed it at the gunman that was just starting to peek over the top of the seat. He saw the silhouette of the gun, and Max pushed it away from him, out the door into the parking lot. He spun around with a look of surprise, but he never saw the bolt of energy that knocked him unconscious. Two down, two to go. Where was Frankie? Max heard a sound to his left, and from the way Michael just raised his thumb, he knew that there was only one gunmen left. A cry of fear alerted Max to Frankie's whereabouts. He had just grabbed a young girl, and was holding her tightly to his body, his gun was pressed to her temple.
"I don't know what's going on in here, but I'll shoot the girl if you don't give up now."
In the darkness, Frankie tried to move towards the back of the diner, perhaps hoping he might slip away through the back door in the confusion. He passed by Max, who simply held his unseen hand over the gun, and 'excited' the molecules of the gun's handle, raising the temperature to a heat too hot to hold. Frankie dropped the gun with a cry of pain, and jumped back from the girl. Max swung his fist and connected with Frankie's jaw. He went down like a heavy sack of grain.
"It's over," he announced to the room.
There was rapturous cheering, and the now free hostages hugged and clung to each other, relieved that they had survived their ordeal. This went all unobserved by Max; he collapsed to the floor.

Even though they were free, no one in the room knew what to do.
"What now, Max?" Michael called.
"He's... he's... unconscious," the girl Frankie had used as a shield sobbed.
Michael hurried across the room, and dropped to his knees by Max's side.
"Someone call out to the cops. Tell 'em that the gunmen are all down. Tell 'em we're coming out."
One of the men went to the window and called through the open space.
"They're all down!" he yelled. There were some surprised cries from the crowd. "We're coming out now. Don't shoot or nothing."
Leading the way, the man started to walk across the lot, now lit by floodlights from the police vehicles. The hostages shielded their eyes against the bright beams as officers came out to help them. Some continued towards the diner with their guns held ready.

"You want some help?" an older man asked Michael. He appeared to be the father of the girl Frankie had tried to hide behind.
"No," Michael shook his head. He pulled Max's arm over his shoulder and lifted him. "I'm okay."
"When he's awake, will you thank him for us? I mean, all of us. I'm sure they'd all like to thank him themselves, but people react funny to these situations."
"Thanks. I will."
Michael waited until the man was gone and with a wave of his hand, he was wearing the uniform of the police officers he had seen outside. He waited until officers started to arrive in the building, and then he simply mingled with them.
"Looks like they hurt this guy real bad," Michael showed them Max's condition in the flashlight beams they all shone on them. "I'll get him to the ambulance."
The other officers nodded, checking on the four motionless bodies on the floor, searching for their guns.
"Weren't there five of them?" someone asked.

Michael shook off the attempts from the medic to place Max on a stretcher.
"No, it's okay, man. I got it."
"Put him in the back of that ambulance," the medic ordered, pointing to the one furthest away, one that could easily get out of the compound.
"Got it," Michael agreed, and headed for the line of ambulances.
As soon as he was on the far side, and hidden from the view of the others, Michael angled away, and started to weave his way through the crowd. People were giving him strange looks, but they moved out of his way. He was frantically looking for a friendly face.
"Oh my God, Michael!" he heard to his right.
Michael turned and saw Maria weaving towards him.
"We knew it was you guys," she hissed. "We spread out looking for you." Maria then saw Max and her face fell. "My God, Michael. Max. Is he?"
"Yeah, he's okay. I think. Come on. Let's get him to the van. He weighs a ton."
"What happened to him?"
"Frankie," Michael grunted. "He kicked the crap out of him after you and Liz got away."
Maria winced.
"I hope you got him back for it."
"Max did," Michael grinned. "Punched him on the jaw. He went down like a ton of bricks."
"Way to go, Max. Uhm... Listen. There's something you should know."
"What?"
"Our parents are here."
"What?"
"Yeah. It's a regular reunion. Listen, let's get Max back, then we can slip away from this crowd and hide out for a day or two. Catch up with our folks."
"But..."
"No buts, Guerin. Our parents are your parents now, whether you like it or not. We are all one big family now. We're in Max and Liz's family."

* * *


posted on 8-Nov-2002 4:19:13 PM
Part 15


DATELINE: September 4th 2002 - - - - - - Houston, Texas. NASA Scientists have confirmed today that they have, for the past three weeks, been monitoring a distant meteorite, whose current trajectory is likely to result in a collision with the earth.
Labelled WR-2002, it appeared out of nowhere taking everyone by surprise, sending Governmental Agencies around the world into a flurry of activity while they try to come up with a solution to the potential disaster. It was detected beyond the edges of our solar system but experts say that its possible collision with Earth will occur in approximately one month, due to its phenomenal speed. At this time, scientists are unable to determine its composition but its size is estimated as being equal to that of a medium sized shopping mall. NASA states that at this time there is no cause for alarm. They believe that anything not burned up during its entry into Earth's atmosphere would be too small to cause significant damage, unless it hits a densely populated area. Dr. David Lovitz is quoted as saying "When it [the meteorite] is closer, we will be able to accurately project the precise impact point and take any necessary precautions." - - - - - - Reuters.


* * *

"Michael!" Liz yelled above the noise of the excited crowd. Her face was pale and drawn at the sight of her comatose husband supported by Michael. She stroked Max's face with her hand. "Take Max to Valenti's car. Maria, show him where it is."
"Okay," Michael nodded. "Where do we go from there?"
"Valenti knows where to go," she answered. "The authorities are trying to find the man who the witnesses say saved them. They want his statement."
"We can't let them find or identify any of us," Maria told him. "In case it gets back to the FBI."
"What about you?" Michael looked Liz in the eye. "Don't you want to come with him?"
"Of course I do," she looked offended. "But someone has to organize the others and get us all out of here. We need to try to force our way through all these sightseers that are still blocking our car in. Looks like no one wants to leave until they find the hero."
"So you took it upon yourself to..."
"Michael," Liz stared him down. "I'm not Max. I don't give a damn about your ego and I don't care if we're never best friends. Now get Max to Valenti's car and get the hell out of here."
"Come on, Spaceboy," Maria laughed, tugging at Michael's sleeve. "Remember what you said about our little Queen Liz? Now let's do as she says and get Max to safety."

* * *

"So how are you feeling now, Max?" Diane Evans asked her son. She had found him sitting in a sun lounger beside the swimming pool when she had risen that morning. "This is the first time you've been outside since we brought you here two days ago."
"I'm feeling better," he nodded, rising to give his mother a hug. "It's great to see you."
"You keep saying that," she laughed. "Just like you keep saying that you're feeling better. Not that it matters. I'll ask Liz how you're feeling. Where is she, by the way?"
"She's with her mom and dad in their room." Max paused, and looked up at his mother. "I'm sorry," he whispered. "The wedding. That we didn't wait until you could all be there, I mean."
"She's a wonderful girl, Max. I'm so glad that she's stood by you."
"So am I."
"Morning, Max," Liz called as she emerged from the room her parents shared. "I see you're up. Hi Mrs. Ev... Diane."
"Morning, Liz. Are your parents okay?"
"Yeah. They'll be out in a minute. Then we can see about getting breakfast."
"I was just asking Max here how he feels," Diane smiled. "He says he's fine but I thought I'd ask someone who would give me an honest answer."
"Oh, she has so got you, Max Evans," Liz laughed. "No, he's fine. He's feeling weak, like he did after he healed all those kids, but he's getting better. It'll take some time for him to be fully fit again, but at least whatever it was that drained him of his energy like that has been fixed. Anyway, the good thing is that we're all safe and well, and these last few days of just relaxing and recuperating with our families have been great."
"Family, Liz," Diane smiled, emphasizing the singularity. "It's like Maria said. We are all one big family now; bound by ties no outsider will ever be able to understand."
"I'm still trying to get a handle on Dad's news about Jesse," Max admitted. "I mean, I know what he's done makes sense, it's just a little..."
"Daunting?" Liz completed.
"Yeah. I mean, I've spent so much time hiding..."
"Behind that tree?" Liz's eyes danced with mischief.
"Yeah. Having our exploits spread across the papers like that. It's so..."
"It's romantic, Max," Nancy smiled, joining the conversation. "Morning, Diane."
"Good morning, Nancy."
"Good morning, Mrs. Par..."
"I told you it was Nancy, now," she chided. "And Liz's father is Jeff."
"I think that will take some time, Mom," Liz beamed. "Diane and Philip did such a good job with Max and his manners that it'll take a while to break all his barriers down. I mean, it took him months to just kiss me."
"So what did you mean, Nancy?" Diane continued. "Romantic? We all know what's going on, but how will the readers understand that?"
"It'll be like the days of the old west, when they used to tell the stories of the outlaws in those adventure comics. People will read the stories and they'll romanticize them. You'll see. It won't be long until Max and Liz are somehow linked with all the great lovers."
Max and Liz started to chuckle.
"Oh, Liz, honey," Nancy continued. "If you kids are moving on tomorrow morning, you might as well give me your wedding dress now. We don't want to forget it in the rush to pack."
"What's this?" Max asked.
"A precaution," Liz sat next to her husband and laced her fingers into his. "With all these near escapes, I'm terrified that something will happen to it. I don't want to lose it, so I asked Mom if she would take it home and keep it safe. When we get to do that ceremony we talked about, I want to be wearing the same dress."
"That's a good idea," Max nodded. "And they can take our electronic blockers I made. I can always make us some more."

* * *

In many ways, we are grateful to Frankie and his gang. Not because of the beating he gave Max, or the fear he brought upon so many innocent people, Terrie not the least among them, but because of the time he gave us with the people we love and care for, and miss more than I could have ever imagined. It was great to see our parents again, and to spend those quiet few days with them. We had a huge family meal that rounded off Max's and my wedding.
It was sad that Jesse couldn't have been there, but he was with us in our hearts. I know Isabel misses him terribly, and after we have resolved the situation with the kids from the hospital in Phoenix, Max has agreed that we will surprise Isabel with a trip to Boston. Although we know the importance of keeping our family safe, we also know the importance of renewing those bonds. Doing good deeds for strangers is one thing, but it's altogether something else when you do them for those you love.
I only hope that our parents got as much out of our get-together as we did.


* * *

"Next time something like this happens," Jeff called from the back of Jim's SUV, "make sure we get a bigger car."
"Are you suggesting that I'm getting fat?" Nancy asked.
Although there was a dangerous edge to her voice, it was laced with amusement. No amount of discomfort could destroy their mood. They had met with their kids and seen for themselves how they look out for each other, and how they were managing to keep themselves safe.
"Not at all, dear," Jeff winked at Philip. "Maybe it was all the wedding cake you ate at dinner last night."
"Well, Mr. 'Just-One-More-Little-Piece,'" Nancy started to wriggle as though trying to get comfortable in a lumpy old chair. "I guess I wasn't the only one."
They all started to laugh.
"It was great to see them again," Philip defused the situation, funny though it was. "You know, we should organize some form of communication. Some way we could get money to them, if they ever need it."
"We have a rather specialized way, don't we?" Nancy asked. "I mean, Isabel and Liz."
"True," Jim called out. "But as we saw with Max, we can't always count on them being able to use those particular gifts. Philip's right. We should set up a website, and some e-mail accounts that we can all use. And maybe we should come up with a code of some kind."
"Maybe that River Dog could help with that. Isn't he a Navajo?"
"You know," Amy interrupted. "Why don't they just leave the country? Why don't they just find someplace safe and remain hidden?"
The conversation in Jim's Explorer stopped.
"Because this is Max we're talking about," Jeff sighed.
"And Liz is with him," Philip added with a nod.

With the silence, Jeff's guilt reappeared. He hadn't told anyone about the missing diary. He had wanted to tell them, while they were all together, so that they could somehow come up with a solution, or an idea how to locate it, but he just couldn't stand the thought of seeing Liz's disappointment in him. What if their enemies had it? The fact the he had let everyone down was almost too much to bear. With a heavy sigh that matched the new somber mood in the vehicle, Jeff stared out at the passing red soil of New Mexico.

* * *

The sleek, dark Saab pulled up to a stop outside of a diner at a truck stop, near Las Vegas, New Mexico. The two inhabitants climbed out of the car and examined their surroundings. One of them studied a small, triangular device held in his hands.
"They stopped here, Excellency," Chyn confirmed. "The signal is stronger than it has been. They used much power here, and remained for a few days."
"Can you tell whose power has been expended?" Bektor asked.
"Negative, Excellency," Chyn replied. "The fields have somewhat dissipated. There's no way of telling what power was used, but it covered a large area."
"Perhaps it was Ava's mind warping?" Bektor surmised. "It would be too much to hope that Zan is using his power, weakening himself. Our task will be all the more easy if he is unable to resist us."
"We all volunteered for this. We know the cost of failure."
"As we know our rewards should we succeed," Bektor nodded. "Let us check inside. Although why we bother is beyond me. These earthlings are most unhelpful. It would appear that no one wishes to assist us."
"Perhaps we should just follow the signal and not worry about how far behind Zan and the others we are, Excellency."
"I would rather approach Zan with him ignorant of our presence, rather than stumble into the back of him. After all, we have no idea as to Zan or the others features. We only know what Ava looks like."
"Besides, this place has a look of transience about it. I would doubt that many people even saw Zan, let alone found out his earth born name."
"I am forced to concur, Chyn. We have already wasted too much time trying to talk to that old man who kept running away and the old woman who lied about being able to hear."
"Agreed. They are of no consequence. It is vital that we apprehend Zan, Ava, Rath and Vilondra. It is vital that we end this debacle once and for all."

* * *

"Damn this rain!" Kyle called from the driver's seat, peering through the water-covered windshield even though the wipers were on full speed.
"Ever since we left our parents, the weather has been appalling," Isabel muttered. "I thought we were still in the west. It's been raining on and off for ages now."
"It's the mountains," Liz confirmed. "Now that we're in Colorado, we get different weather patterns."
"It's not the weather that concerns me," Max growled. "It's our luck. That seems to have turned just as bad. I mean, running into Agent Summers on the forecourt of that truck stop like that. It brought back the whole... ordeal with... Agent Pierce, in the white room."
"We'll get away, Max," Liz turned and rubbed Max's arm. "We always do."
"I'm worried, Liz," Max admitted in a hushed voice meant only for her.
"Oh, Max. Why?"
"We've been playing hide and seek with the FBI for three days now. With their cars... and helicopters. Every time we seem to lose them, they crop back up again, usually behind one of their roadblocks. And it's getting harder to keep going into the mountains where we can use the trees as cover. They're trying to push us back out to the plains where we have no where to hide."
"Well, as long as we keep sticking to the roads that twist and turn and disappear beneath the trees, we should get away soon. Especially as the trees are getting thicker."

"No, no, no!" Maria screamed at Kyle.
"What?" Max called from the back. "What's the matter?"
"You didn't want to take that turn, Kyle," Maria snapped. "He didn't want to turn there!" she yelled back at Max.
Max and Michael exchanged glances.
"Why not?" he asked, the urgency in his voice all too clear.
"According to this map," she slapped the opened map with the back of her hand for emphasis, "this road is a dead end."
"How am I supposed to know that?" Kyle defended. "I need the directions before we get there, not after!"
"Duh!" Maria snapped. "If I wanted you to take that turn, I'd a called it!"
The tension in the car doubled. Max could almost taste everyone's fear as he frantically searched for an answer. Taking matters into his own hands, Kyle started to slow down.
"I'll turn us around," he called.
"You can't!" Max called, spotting the dark shape of an FBI vehicle through some trees. "They're right behind us! Go! Go! Go! Go!"
Michael looked back and fired off a bolt of energy at the shape he caught a momentary glimpse of. It didn't hit anything, but exploding harmlessly amongst the branches. It did force the pursuers to drop back a little further. Max aimed his hand, although he could see nothing. He fired off a bolt of energy but only hit a tree.
"Nice shot," Michael sneered.
The tree fell across the road, making an effective roadblock.
"Nice shot!" Michael amended in appreciation.
The track kept climbing, weaving a snake-like path through the trees.
"I can hardly see a thing," Kyle complained from behind the steering wheel.
Due to the dense vegetation and the overcast skies their visibility was poor.
"This isn't getting any better," Isabel groaned, peering through the back window. "We're leaving a trail in the mud that even a blind man could follow."
"You got a better idea?" Michael grunted.

"Yeah," she yelled. "We have to get back on the main road."
Kyle slammed on the brakes, stopping the car instantly. Everyone was thrown forward.
"What the hell was that, Valenti?" Michael cried out.
"A little warning would be good," Maria snapped, slapping his shoulder while rubbing her head.
"Ain't gonna happen, Isabel," Kyle called back, ignoring the howls of protest. "We ran out of road. Look."
Kyle had stopped their car at the very edge of a deep ravine. There was no where to go. They were trapped. Each one of the vehicle's occupants stared in horror at the edge of the cliff, and down into the ravine below. Across the gap, only fifty meters away, were more trees and the sheer rock wall.
"Everyone out!" Max yelled, sparking an exodus from the vehicle. "Grab what you can. We're going on foot."
There was a flurry of activity as people grabbed those belongings they felt that they had to take, leaving those that would only hold them back. Max bent down and examined a part of the car's body work
"What's that?" Michael asked, crouching down to take a closer look.
There was a small dart sticking from the plastic bumper with an even smaller electronic device.
"Now we know why we haven't been able to lose them," Max berated himself. "They must have tagged us when they spotted us in that truck stop."
"We should have kept one of those things you made," Michael shook his head. "We'll need to be more careful in future. We'll have to look for things like this."

They stood up at the whining sound of an engine approaching.
"Up the trail," Max pointed to a narrow track that led upwards, through the trees.
Kyle led the way, charging into the forest, closely followed by Isabel, Maria and then Liz. At the edge of the trees, Michael stopped and turned back to their vehicle.
"What's up?" Max stopped beside him.
Michael held up his hand and a look of concentration appeared on his face. The SUV exploded in a ball of intense flames. Max nodded his approval to his friend, and added his own energy to Michael's, increasing the temperature and melting the whole vehicle into a twisted skeleton. The FBI would find no trace of them in that wreckage. Max clapped his hand over Michael's back, and turned to chase after the others.

* * *

"That was a lucky break," Sean DeLuca noted. He was sitting in a large passenger helicopter high over the Colorado Rockies with Agent Baurline, on their way from Oklahoma City. Sean was looking out of the window, looking down at the passing scenery as though he might see their quarry through the low, grey clouds.
"What was?" Baurline looked up from the reports he had been reading.
"Your agent, what's his name, spotting Evans like that."
"Yeah. He was with Agent Pierce when they caught him the first time. He spotted the target when he was returning from that armed siege near Santa Fe. He called us right away. He's been rewarded with a reassignment to the special unit."
"It was quick thinking of him to tag their vehicle with that transmitter."
"We're trained for eventualities like this."
"Did he remember what serum they used to control his... abilities?"
"Yeah, he did. And we've had some made up. Each agent on the ground has a small supply."
"Good. Good. You will, of course, let me have the formula."
"What?" Baurline looked up again. "Oh, yeah." He searched through his papers and picked up a small sheet. "Here. Here it is."
Sean read the formula and folded the note into his pocket.
"What's that you're reading, anyway?"
"These," Baurline waved his hand over the pages of sheets of paper, "are the reports from my agents on the ground, detailing the last three days of chasing our targets."
"Did you ever consider that Evans was involved in that situation at the diner?" DeLuca ignored the other man.
"No," the FBI agent shook his head. "Why should we? The reports said that the gunmen had fled from a failed bank robbery, and that they had hostages inside. It wasn't until I saw the reports and heard about the strange things happening to the lights that I made the connection."
Scarcely paying attention, Sean's eyes went distant.
"You should see her in her waitress uniform from her father's diner."
"Who?"
"The Parker girl. Man, the things I'd like to do to her in that uniform. I'd order all kinds of things that's never been on any menu she's ever imagined."
"You're sick, DeLuca."

* * *

"That way," Max pointed along a new trail that started to lead back down, when he and Michael caught up with their friends.
"What was that explosion?" Liz asked, her eyes filled with concern.
"I blew up the car," Michael admitted.
"What is it with you aliens and blowing up cars?" Maria asked.
"I didn't want the FBI searching through our belongings," Michael shrugged. "Besides, there's no telling what clues we might have left behind."
"My journal," Liz moaned.
"This one?" Max smiled, pulling Liz's book from his backpack.
"Max!" she hugged him with a huge smile on her face. "Thank you."
"What about the money?" Kyle demanded.
"I keep it all in a money belt," Liz patted her stomach.
"That's good," Kyle looked relieved. "I'd hate to think that all my hard work was for nothing."
"It might still come to that if you don't get a move on," Max urged.

They continued to hurry through the trees, aware that the agents were not that far behind them. Every now and then, Max would stop them, both to allow his friends to catch their breath, and to listen for signs of their pursuit. They also took the opportunity to check their bearings and to drink some water. They were all exhausted.
"Are you okay, Max?" Liz looked concerned.
"Yeah," Max nodded. "Why?"
"It's just that you're starting to look like you did the other day. Weak."
"I promise, Liz. When we get out of this, we'll have a good rest somewhere. First, I have to keep you and the others safe. Come on. It's time to move again."
They hurried through the trees, accompanied by Maria's constant complaining. She complained about the weather, about the FBI, about the weather, about Max, about the weather, about how she's lost all her clothes and most of her possessions and most of all, about the weather.
"Shut up, Maria," Michael snapped. "The FBI are probably homing in on your voice."
"Can it, Spaceboy," Maria retorted. "It's your ass they want, not mine."
"Perhaps if you children have finished playing," Max complained in a voice that sounded more than annoyed.
"Children?" Maria demanded in a high pitched voice. "Children? Listen buddy. I think I'm being a good sport about this. If you..."
CRACK!
The rifle shot echoed around the mountains. There was a small impact against a tree near to where Maria was standing.
"Come on," Max urged them all, his voice echoing the fear that they would be caught.
"I'm coming, I'm coming," Maria hissed.

Rushing almost blindly, the path had started to rise again. Behind them, they could all hear their pursuers calling instructions to each other. They were getting closer.
"No, Maria," Max urged when she paused to try and catch her breath. "They're too close. We have to keep going."
Although she chose to glare at him, she knew, in her heart, that he was right. Groaning, she rose and continued moving.
"This is ridiculous, Maxwell," Michael panted. "They're gaining on us. Why don't we stand and fight?"
"Only when we have to," Max's breathing was heavy. "As a last resort."
A sudden scream from Maria drew their attention. They turned to see her sprawled out on the wet ground. She twisted around and grabbed her ankle. The two guys were at her side in an instant.
"She's sprained it," Michael called.
Max looked at Maria and then back at the distant shapes moving in the trees.
"Kyle!" Max shouted.
Kyle jogged back to join them. He was breathing as hard as everyone else was.
"You'll have to carry her," Max told them. "They're too close to us for me to heal her. We have to keep moving."
Kyle nodded, and helped Michael lift her. With Maria whimpering in pain, Max stayed behind them, watching their backs. Knowing that the FBI were likely to start shooting at any moment, everyone wanted Max's shield ready.
"I think it's time for that last stand," Michael yelled.
"No. Not yet. We'll cross that bridge when we come to it."

Up ahead, Liz and Isabel cleared the trees, but had just come to a stop. When the others caught up, they could see why. They had once again reached the edge of a ravine. They were trapped. With complete hopelessness, Liz and Isabel turned to look at Max.
"There!" Max yelled, pointing further up the ravine where it twisted around a corner.
They could all see a bridge spanning the gap.
"Well," Kyle groaned. "It looks like that bridge you said we'd cross when we got to it."
"Come on," Max groaned. "Let's go."

They reached the bridge just as the FBI agents emerged from the trees where they had done the same earlier. The rope-bridge looked sturdy, and perfectly safe.
"Look's new," Kyle commented when everyone paused.
"Why am I thinking of that scene from Romancing the Stone?" Maria groaned.
"Liz, you and Isabel go first. Michael, you and Kyle follow them with Maria. I'll bring up the rear, protecting us with my shield."
There was complete fear in Liz's eyes when she looked at Max.
"I'm not sure about this, Max."
"It's okay," he assured her. "It will hold us."
"It's not that," she shook her head. "I have a bad feeling about this."
"We have no choice, Liz. Once we're on the other side, we'll have time to get away. Please. Hurry."

Liz and Isabel started to cross the bridge, holding onto the rope handrails. Far below them, a narrow river, swollen from the rain, roared through the narrow channel between huge boulders and over small waterfalls. Apart from the swaying of the bridge, there seemed to be no cause for concern. The wooden flooring was solid and the rope was strong. Michael and Kyle struggled to carry Maria, but they managed to keep up. Behind them, Max was starting to lag behind, keeping an eye on the agents that were now approaching the bridge. As expected, the agents started shooting. Max's shield flew up to stop the bullets, but the agents spread out, forcing Max to widen his shield to cover the wider angles. Michael and Kyle were only half way across when three of the agents started to cross the bridge. Max tried to use the shield to push them back, but he was still not fully recovered from his previous ordeal.
"Hurry!" he called to his friends. "I can't hold them much longer! I'll need help to push these guys back."
Max stopped moving so that he could pour all of his efforts into the maintenance of his shield. The agents, however, managed to push Max's shield back, closing the distance. Michael reached the other side and leaving Maria to Kyle's care, turned to help his friend. Isabel was already waiting for Max's shield to fall so that she could start throwing her energy at the crossing agents. Michael was just in time to see the three men swarm over Max, his shield having fallen.
"Max!" Liz cried in horror when they saw that one of the agents had plunged a hypodermic needle into Max's arm.
Max struggled for a short while, but then he turned to face Michael. Their eyes met, and in that instant, Michael knew that Max would not be able to escape, and that without Max's shield to protect them, they were all vulnerable to the FBI's bullets. Michael knew what Max wanted him to do, he had resigned himself to his fate.
"The bridge!" Max cried out.
With Isabel and Liz screaming for Michael to do something, Michael started to move towards his friend, ignoring his unspoken command. Max's eyes seemed to blaze for a moment and Michael stopped. Ignoring the girl's urgent commands, Michael stepped off of the bridge
"Michael, no!" Liz ordered. "We have to get him."
Liz started to push past him, to go to the aid of her husband, her partner, her soul mate.
"No, Liz," Michael pulled her back.
Liz fought to free herself from him, to escape his grip.
"Do it!" Max ordered.
"I'm sorry, Liz," Michael whispered, pinning his Queen to a nearby tree.
"No!" she cried, her voice filled with pain. "No!" Liz struggled to free herself. "Don't do it. Don't do it."
Michael turned to the bridge and saw Max struggling to hold the agents from rushing across the bridge.
"No, Michael, no!" Isabel called, only now realizing what Max had been ordering. She was in shock. She would have stood in the open and watched the horror that was unfolding in front of them, exposed to the bullets being fired from the other side of the ravine had Kyle not pulled her behind a boulder for shelter.
Ducking down to present less of a target, Michael touched each of the bridge supports in turn, severing them. The agents clung to the ropes, fearing the worse. At last, the bridge was cut.
"Maaaaaaax!" Liz's pain filled, heart broken scream echoed down the whole ravine.
"Don't let them catch you!" Max's final words echoed behind Liz's cry.

* * *

posted on 15-Nov-2002 5:34:28 PM
Part 16

The changing pitch of the helicopter caused Baurline and DeLuca to look up from the reports they had been reading. They both looked out the windows down to the ground below.
"We're landing," Deluca stated.
"Looks like a ranger station," Baurline observed. "There'll be a car waiting for us." He was keen to emphasize that he did not consider himself to be the junior in this partnership.
The helicopter landed on the wide landing pad while Baurline packed his reports into his brief case. An attendant opened the door for them and stood back. Even though the weather was overcast, they snapped on their sunglasses and climbed out. As they crossed the helo-pad, ducking low to avoid the whirling blades that passed harmlessly over their heads, another agent approached them.
"Agent Baurline, Sir," the man called, holding out a brown envelope. "I have the latest reports."
"Give me the basics, Agent," Baurline ordered as he accepted the package.
"Yes, sir," he acknowledged as they all climbed into the black SUV that was waiting for them. "Agents in pursuit followed them deeper into the mountains. The targets apparently took a turn up a dead-end road. When they reached the end, they had to get out."
"They're on foot now?" he looked surprised. "Good. It's only a matter of time, then. Has their car been searched yet?"
"Uh, no, sir. They blew their car up. It burned like it was made of wood. We found absolutely nothing in the wreckage."
"Oh," Baurline shook his head. "With all this pressure on us, we needed something tangible. We need a break. Who's in charge of the agents up there?"
"Summers seems to have taken control, sir. Seeing as how he was involved before and knows what he's doing."
"Good. Where's Agent Summers now? What's going on up there?"
"We're not sure," the agent shook his head. "What we do know is that while being chased, the targets had to cross a bridge over a ravine. One of them held back to prevent the agents following the rest of the group. Summers and two others rushed him, and managed to inject him with that serum we had made up. Reports suggest they got a whole vial into him. Anyway, when the others reached the other side, they cut the bridge. The three agents and one target fell into the river. If the impact against the wall didn't kill them, they would have been bashed against the rocks below. We doubt there were any survivors."
"I want that river combed, all the way to the sea if you have to. Find his body."
"Whose, sir? Agent Summers?"
"I don't give a damn about Summers or the others. I want that target's body ASAP!"
"We don't have the manpower, sir. That could take..."
"Just find him!" Baurline snapped. "In the meantime, keep after the others."
"We have no idea where they are. They could have taken any direction. If they were willing to kill one of their own like that, you can bet that they'll want to get away as fast as they can. Especially if they know we're out there."
"I didn't ask where they were, Agent," Baurline snapped. "I ordered you to keep after them."
"Which one was it," Sean DeLuca interrupted in a smooth, detached voice.
"Does it matter?" Baurline answered with one eyebrow raised.
"It does to me. Which one was it?"
"We think it was the one we had already once apprehended. The one who seems to be in charge."
"Evans is dead?" Sean looked shocked. "No. I don't believe it."
The agent shrugged.
"Show me on the map where this bridge is."
The agent opened a map and started to study it, following the line of a river with his finger.
"Right here, sir," he stabbed the map with his forefinger.
DeLuca stared at the map.
"Can you drop me off in the nearest town? I have something important to do."

* * *

The red Toyota Celica pulled to a stop outside the house that stood surrounded by recently harvested wheat fields in the middle of nowhere. The woman in the pale blue suit looked at the house for a while, taking note of the realtor's 'For Sale' sign nailed to the front wall. She stepped from the car, smoothed her outfit and lifted her briefcase from the back seat. She took a deep breath and walked towards the door, knocking on it with confidence. An elderly woman answered.
"Mrs. McCarthy? Hi, I'm Sarah Brackham. We spoke earlier."
"Oh yes," the woman responded with a smile. "Hi, Ms. Brackham. Yes. I hope you'll forgive me, but I had you checked by my lawyer."
"Forgive me for saying, Mrs. McCarthy, but what does the mother of the youngest Senator in Washington need a lawyer for?"
"Oh, well," Granny grinned. "We don't want to abuse whatever power it is you seem to think he holds."
"Well, that brings us neatly into what I'm here for, Mrs. McCarthy."
"Oh, please. Call me Granny. Now. How is it exactly that you think I can help you?"
"Well, I know that you had some guests staying with you a while ago. I know that these guests helped you, and that they had to leave rather suddenly."
"There's nothing wrong with that," Granny looked wary.
"Granny, I'm trying to help these kids. I'm trying to raise the people's awareness of the Special Agent's and their rather dubious, if not illegal activities in the pursuit of these kids."
"They're hardly kids anymore. They've had to grow up rather fast."
"I know," she nodded. "One of them is married to a friend of mine."
"That would have to be Isabel," Granny nodded. "So you're friends with Jesse?"
"That's right," Sarah nodded.
"Tell me, Ms. Brackham..."
"Sarah."
"Tell me, Sarah," Granny smiled her acknowledgement. "Are you single?"
"Yes," Sarah looked confused. "Why?"
"Why don't you join us in the other room. It's more cozy," she moved Sarah towards the kitchen. "Besides, there's someone I want you to meet."
There was a young man in his early thirties sitting at the plain kitchen table.
"Sarah Brackham, this is my son, Glenn."
Granny couldn't help the smile that spread on her face. The look that was exchanged between the pretty reporter and her son could only be described as electric. While it lacked anything like the intensity she had witnessed between Max and Liz, there was a spark, the simple beginnings of love.
"I'll just get us some coffee."
With her back to the two young people, Granny pulled out her second most prized photograph, after the one of her husband and her son. It was a photograph of Max and Liz exchanging a look that only they could. Neither knew that she had taken it.
"I don't know how you got her to come to my house," she whispered to the couple. "But I'm so glad that you did. That's something else I owe you." She looked over her shoulder to see her son say something to Sarah. Sarah smiled at whatever it was. "It may be too early to tell," Granny told the photograph, "but wouldn't it be great if you could come to their wedding?"

* * *

It was with a feeling that he could only later describe as a nauseous-ness that reached through to his very bones that Michael watched the bridge fall, pivoting against the remaining fixtures on the opposite side of the ravine and swinging in a long, slow arc against the far wall. Even above the roaring of the flume below, Michael swore that he heard the sickening thud as the four bodies hit the rock face. All four then tumbled into the rapids. He saw that at least one body hit a boulder that protruded from the water before they all vanished beneath the white foam. Feeling inadequate that he could do nothing to rescue his friend, he stared at the point where he last saw him. Michael could hear Liz's wretched sobs behind him. When he released her from the grip he had applied to hold her away from him, she collapsed to the floor, bringing up the entire contents of her stomach. How would he ever be able to face her again, he wondered?
"Where's Max?" Isabel asked in a voice whose numbness matched her face.
"He's..." He's what, Michael asked himself? Gone? Missing? "He's dead," he choked at last.
Isabel dropped to her knees and started to cry.
"No," she sobbed. "No. That's not possible. He's supposed to look after me. After us. He said we would all stay together. He said..."
"I saw it myself, Iz," Michael tried to soothe her. "The agents, they... the bridge, I... I had to cut the bridge. He... they... all got smashed... against the rocks. No one could have survived."
"So he's really dead, huh?" Maria looked as though she were in shock. Propped against a tree, she was staring into space.
"Yeah," Michael nodded.
"Oh, God," Kyle exhaled, holding his hands to his head. "No, no, no. This can't be happening."
Michael looked around at his friends.
"I'm aware of our need for rest," he groaned. "And to grieve. To lick our wounds, well, one very big wound. But I won't let Max's sacrifice be in vain. He wanted me to cut that bridge for two reasons. First, there was no way Max wanted to face a white room again and second, he would rather die than let Isabel or Liz face that same ordeal. So to make sense of his death, we need to get away."
"I don't know that Liz would look at it quite that way," Kyle whispered, but not loud enough so that the others could hear.
"Isabel, can you walk?" Michael asked.
Leaning against the rock, bent over with her hands on her knees, Isabel lifted her blank face and nodded.
Maria could hobble with his assistance, but it was Liz who appeared to be the problem. She was now a limp bundle, overcome with her own grief. Michael could only shake his head in wonder as he considered the strength of the bond that she had shared with Max.
"Valenti, can you carry Liz?"
"What?" Kyle looked up. Like everyone else, he was in a state of shock.
"We have to leave. As soon as the FBI finds a way up here, they'll have agents all over this mountain. We have to leave now."
"Yeah," Kyle nodded, his eyes filled with pain as he too looked over at Liz's unconscious form. "Yeah, sure. Whatever."
He rose from his seated position and crossed to Liz. He lifted her up into his arms with little effort, but he could not bear to look at the agony that was etched on her face. He turned and followed Michael, Maria and Isabel down the narrow path that led down the mountain that had so cruelly robbed them of an important member of their family.

They walked for the rest of that day, at the pace that Michael had pushed them. Kyle suspected that the speed was more so Michael could get away from his own part in Max's death as much as from the FBI. No one spoke. At last, just as the sun was dropping below the mountain ridge, bringing a premature darkness to the small valley they had descended into, Michael allowed them to stop. He and Kyle searched through their remaining packs to find what food they had managed to bring with them. It wasn't much, but no one felt like eating in any case. Liz had remained unconscious during the trek. Kyle had laid her down as gently as he could on a bed of ferns, and covered her frail body with his jacket. She had been making some whimpering noises in her sleep, as though she was crying in her dreams. Isabel had started to cry again and it was not long before Maria joined in.
"Michael?" Kyle asked as the two of them worked to fix up a lean-to with branches Michael had 'extracted' from some nearby fir trees. His voice shook. "Does this mean you're going to get that seal thingy again?"
"Shut up, Valenti," Michael spat.

It was with little surprise that they all slept badly that night. They managed to grab moments of rest during the interminably long, cold night, and as the sun started to peek over the mountains, they rose to find Liz awake, standing to one side and staring up the mountain down which Michael had led them the previous day.
"Liz, honey," Maria was the first one at her side. "I'm so sorry. Are you okay?"
Kyle and Isabel approached her, both waiting for her response, expecting her to break down again. Michael remained by their shelter, afraid to come near.
"Yeah," Liz answered, although her voice was very quiet.
Isabel stepped up next to her and placed her arm around her shoulder.
"Come on," Michael called in a shaky voice. "Let's get moving. We need to get as far away from here as we can."
"No!" Liz ordered. The authority and strength in her voice was a shock to all of them. Even Maria, who perhaps knew Liz best of all of them, looked surprised at her friend's command. "We find the river."

"Liz, I don't think..." Michael started.
"We find the river, Michael. And when we find the river, we'll look for Max."
"There's no point, Liz."
"There's every point, Michael. He's not dead."
"Liz," Isabel cried. "You have to let it go. We all have to let it go. Michael's right."
"No!" Liz barked with determination. "Don't you get it? Max didn't die. I didn't feel it."
"What do you mean, feel it?" Isabel asked.
"When Max died that other time, with the Wheelers. I felt it. I felt the moment that Max died."
"That's right," Maria nodded. "She sat bolt upright and said 'Max is dead.' Talk about spooky. Of course, I didn't believe her. But she was right."
"But he wasn't dead. Not really," Isabel reminded her. "He was just..."
"But I still felt it, Isabel. He did die, at least, his body did. If he died again, I would feel it this time, too. Max is alive. I know he is."
"If Liz says he's alive, I believe her," Maria stated.
"Me too," Kyle nodded. "These two have something different to everyone else. If Liz says he's alive, then Max is alive."
"How do we find him?" Isabel asked.
"We travel down the river until we do," Liz shrugged.
"But the FBI will be doing the same thing," Michael objected.
"Then we will have to move fast and be clever and deal with the FBI when we find them."
"You're getting awfully familiar with that 'we' word," Michael growled.
"We're in this together, Michael. Now let's get a move on."

* * *

Maria's ankle was a little better that morning, and with the assistance of the crutches that Isabel conjured up from some fallen branches, she was able to move more swiftly through the narrow trail that they hoped would lead them to the river. It had taken them nearly all day to circle the mountain, and come upon the river. As darkness fell, Liz reluctantly agreed that it was pointless to continue. Tired and hungry, they set up camp behind the shelter of some small, thick bushes.
Kyle sat on a rock at the river's edge and watched the tell-tail ripples of water left in a small pool, sheltered by some large rocks in an elbow of the river.
"I wish I had a fishing rod," Kyle shifted as his stomach rumbled.
They had eaten the last of what little food they had at lunchtime, and everyone was starving.
"What do you need a rod for?" Isabel asked.
"Fish," Kyle pointed at the large, dark shapes that drifted in the water.
Isabel stepped to the water's edge and held her hand over the surface. She concentrated hard, focusing her power into a tight beam that sounded like an underwater detonation. Half a dozen fish floated to the surface, belly up.
"I caught them," Isabel smiled at Kyle. "You can clean them."
"Thanks," Kyle gave a wry smile as he leapt to his feet and started to gather the fish before they drifted away on the current.

Their stomachs were full from the fish supper and berries that Liz and Maria had harvested from the nearby bushes. They all slept a lot better that night. The dark mood had largely dissipated, and they began to believe that thing's were going to be all right after all. Where each of them had firmly believed that they had lost Max yesterday, today had been different. The connection between Max and Liz had never been wrong before. If Liz believed that Max was alive, then Max was alive. In spite of this, no one except Liz believed that they would actually find him. Alone and probably battered and bruised, each knew that Max would climb from the river, heal any broken limbs, and not knowing where his friends were, would have left to continue on his good deed quest. But it was like that lady once said in that old film, when she had decided that thing's weren't as bad as they seemed. Tomorrow 'is' another day.

* * *
Special Agent Steven Baurline stepped over the fallen branches and grimaced as his foot came down in some mud. Brushing the green stains from his pants, he looked at his surroundings with disdain.
"Why can't they hang out in a mall?" he demanded.
Baurline was not the outdoors type. He looked up at the extra men he had managed to gather together, using the pretext of searching for the fallen agent's bodies, carefully searching the riverbanks.
"We haven't found a goddamned thing," one of his regular agents complained. "Not even a shoe."
"Keep looking," Baurline urged. "There has to be something."
"What if we find him?"
"Well, if he's dead, that sorts that problem out. If he's alive... Has anyone seen DeLuca?"
"No, sir. We believe he went to a camping store. I think he's out there hunting for himself."
"If we find him alive, get him to a secure area before DeLuca finds out we have him. I'd like to keep him away, if we can. I don't trust him."
"He really has it for that girl, doesn't he?"
"It's become an obsession," Baurline shook his head. "As you may have noticed, gentlemen, DeLuca does not take defeat well. I think there's a personal score he wants to settle between him and this particular target."
"What's his story? How did you hook up with him anyway?"
"It's a long story," Baurline looked uncomfortable. "And I think that the time would be better spent searching."
A sudden shrill whistle from further up the river caught their attention. Men started shouting, and pointing to a dark shape bobbing in the water.
"Body in the river!"
Using their pole, one of the men managed to catch the body and drag it to the bank. From where he stood, Baurline could see that the body was dead. If it was the target, well, at least he had proof that he was not chasing shadows, and his efforts and expense would be vindicated. If it wasn't, if it was one of his agents, then it would be another murder to be attributed to those... monsters.

* * *

"Okay," Liz took over control of the little group. A new day had dawned and Liz was now directing their search efforts. "We'll split into two groups. Kyle and Isabel, you two climb over to the other side of the river using those rocks there, like a bridge."
She pointed to a row of low boulders that someone could easily hop from one to the other.
"Search the edges, and around any rocks and boulders. Look closely at any trapped trees or branches, okay? Oh, and look at the bank, too. See if there are any signs that someone climbed out of the water. Michael and I will search this side, Maria can keep an eye open for any FBI search teams as we move down stream."
"Regular task master, isn't she?" Isabel muttered.
"And you would be different if it were Jesse who was missing, how?" Maria raised her eyebrows.
"Come on," Liz clapped her hands. "You know what you have to do."

They had only covered a few miles by midday. In that time, they had found no trace of Max, or of any of the FBI agents that had fallen with him. Michael and Maria had stopped to take a breather, collapsing onto a bed of lush grass while Liz scrambled up onto a large boulder. She saw the dark shape trapped by the boulder over by Kyle.
"Kyle," she called, pointing out the rock. "On this side, trapped in the tree."
Kyle had to climb into the water as he worked his way to the position that Liz was pointing to. Holding the tree, Kyle worked along to the dark shape he could now make out. From his reaction, Liz could tell that she had been right; it had been a body. Kyle had to use a branch from the tree to pull it free, but the current swept it away before he could grab it. He caught a momentary glimpse of the bloated face of Agent Summers before it disappeared in the white water.
"It's okay," he called to Liz. "It wasn't Max."
"I already knew that Kyle," Liz shook her head. She knew Max was alive.

* * *

Liz sat alone, away from the small fire that Michael had made to cook the fish that Isabel had caught earlier. The fire was well sheltered, and could not be seen through the surrounding trees. Liz couldn't even see it from where she sat, even though she could still see her friends.
"River Dog would be proud," she had laughed, praising Michael.
Liz stared down the river, into the darkness.
"It's almost as if she was pushing her mind out, trying to find him," Maria commented.
"I know you guys want to believe her," Michael didn't look up from the fire he was staring at. "But I don't think she's all there right now. I think Max is dead."
No one contradicted him.
"I agree," Isabel answered.
Michael looked up, and seeing something in her eyes, nodded.
"What makes you say that?" Kyle asked.
"Because I can't find him on the dream plane," she whimpered.
"Maybe he, like, wasn't asleep, or something," Maria objected.
Isabel looked over to her friend and shook her head.
"Remember when he was in the white room? He was awake and drugged to the eyeballs and I still got into his dream. Even then, I found him. Trust me, Maria. If Max was alive, I could find him."
"Wait. What about when he was in New York? You couldn't find him then."
"Yeah, only 'cause there were hundreds of miles between us. Maria, he couldn't have gotten that far away from us."
"But Liz said she didn't feel him die," Kyle took up Liz's defense.
"I have a theory on that," Michael countered.
"Let's hear it," Isabel urged.
"Liz was hysterical, a screaming hell cat when I cut that bridge. Plus, I was holding her with my... power. With all that going on, plus her emotions, maybe at the moment Max died, she just... missed it. Or maybe he didn't die till she passed out. She was out a long time."
"She's not going to listen," Maria shook her head. "She thinks Max is alive."
"I can give her one more day to look," Michael shrugged. "If we haven't found his body by then... We have to get away from the FBI. Agreed?"
"Agreed," Isabel nodded.
"Yeah," Kyle sighed.
"Whatever," Maria looked across to where Liz was at. She rose from her seated position and limped over to sit by her friend's side.
"How's your ankle, Maria?" Liz asked before Maria had even come into her line of sight.
"Oh, uh, fine," Maria showed her surprise. "Spaceboy did what he could, but you know, he's no...."
"Max," Liz finished with a nod. "As soon as we find him, he'll sort it out for you."
"Sure," Maria smiled as she hugged Liz.

Maria shuffled back to the fire, and Isabel took a turn to talk to Liz.
"I can't feel him anymore, Iz," Liz admitted as her sister-in-law sat beside her.
"What do you mean?" Isabel looked surprised.
"I've never really noticed it before, because I've grown so used to it. But I can feel Max. At least I could. Not like I knew where he was or anything. Just that it always felt like a part of him was always with me, you know?"
"Did you feel that loss when you were in Vermont?"
"Maybe," Liz shrugged. "But, I uh... had a little too much to drink that night, so a lot of it was... fuzzy."
"Maybe it's nothing," Isabel tried to make light of the situation.
"Will you try to dream walk him tonight?" Liz asked. "I tried to project myself earlier, you know, to see if I could find where he was, but it wasn't working."
"Of course I will," Isabel sighed. She reached over and pulled Liz into a hug. Like Maria before her, she left her alone with her thoughts and rejoined the others.

"Valenti," Michael called in a loud whisper. "Go keep her company. Be there for her. Don't let her be alone tonight."
"Why Kyle?" Maria demanded. "If anyone should be there for her, it's me. Her best friend."
"Look, he used to date her, okay?" Michael snapped. He didn't like how everyone kept undermining his position. "We're going to need to keep her on a tight leash. She was only Queen because of Max. Now he's gone, I don't want her thinking she's in charge. So maybe she should think about moving on, the sooner the better. For all of us."
"Isn't that a little insensitive of you, Michael?" Isabel asked.
"Look, Valenti? Just get close to her, okay? I know you still have a thing for her anyway. It's not like it's something you don't want to do. If nothing happens, then nothing happens."
"I'll do it," Kyle sounded angry. "But only because, yeah, I care for her. But it's not going to happen. Even if Max is dead, she's not..."
"What do you mean, 'if'? Haven't you been listening? Isabel can't find him on the dream plane. Neither of us can feel him. Liz can't even feel him. She can't find him either. He's dead."
"No," Kyle shook his head. "He's not dead till Liz tells me he is. And quite frankly, I trust her feelings in those matters over yours any day." Kyle started to walk towards Liz. He paused and turned back. "And Michael? When it comes to leadership? I'll follow your Queen before I follow you. At least she cares."

* * *

"Your turn, huh?" Liz asked when she sensed Kyle approach.
"Yeah," Kyle sighed.
"Did they send you?"
"Yeah," Kyle nodded, sitting down beside her. "Captain Schitzo did."
"Captain Schitzo?" Liz arched her eyebrows.
"Michael in leadership mode."
"Oh, yeah," she giggled.
"I hope you know that I would have come over anyway. I mean, are you okay?"
"What do you think, Kyle? Max is out there somewhere, hurt and alone."
"Liz, is there any chance you could be wrong?"
"What?" Liz's eyes widened with shock. "No!"
"It's just that Isabel told us how you can't feel him anymore. Neither can she or Michael. Plus, Isabel can't dream walk him. She tried last night. She said something about her even finding him that time Pierce had him all drugged up."
"I didn't know that," Liz frowned. "That she couldn't find him, I mean."
"You know, even when we were dating, I knew that you had this secret crush on Max."
"You did?"
"Yeah. I'm not blind. It bothered me, you know? That you felt those things for him even when you were dating me. But I always figured that he would never try and take you from me. He never seemed that kind of guy, and I knew you would never approach him. So when the two of you acted totally out of character and started getting closer, for what looked like no real reason, and then all the strange stuff with my dad. Man, I was so scared that you were getting into something bad. Remember that time I found you all in that sleazy motel?"
"Yeah," Liz gave a sad laugh.
"You know, I never did find out what that was about. At the time, I thought it was some weird sex thing."
Liz laughed again.
"No. It was alien stuff."
"I guessed as much. Later, when I found out, I mean. Does it matter what?"
"Not really. We found a key to a house in Texas. Michael got a flash from the key. Anyway, we were on our way there when you found us. We found some papers belonging to this guy, Atherton. He was one of the murder victims way back. Anyway, the FBI broke into Max's house and stole the papers back."
"So you never found out what it was about?"
"No. Except they found a necklace that came from their planet. Max gave it to me last year."
"Do you still have it?"
"No," Liz gave a sad shake of her head. "Max locked it away with the orbs."
"Listen, Liz... If... if you're wrong, and Max is... You know that I'll be here for you, right?"
"I'm sorry Kyle," Liz smirked. "For one thing, I'm not wrong. Okay? I can't really explain it, but I know Max is alive."
"Even so. I'm here, if you need a friend."
"Thanks, Kyle. But I don't see me in your future."
"So who do you see?"
"I'm not sure. It's just not me, unless I've bleached my hair."

* * *


posted on 22-Nov-2002 3:59:37 PM
Part 17

Not that I need to tell the others, I'm sure they can read me only too well, but I am really upset at not having Max in my life right now. I know he's alive, I just miss him. If I feel this bad now, I only hope nothing ever does really happen to Max. I don't think I would survive that.
I wish I could understand how it is that no one can feel him, or find him with our unique talents, yet I remain absolutely convinced that he is alive. My heart is telling me so.
Perhaps the others are right and that is a thought that frightens me. Maybe my connection to Max is based on what I want it to be rather than what it is.
Michael might not like me taking over like this, but I have to ask myself: Do I care about Michael's feelings?
No. I refuse to give up. One of the wisest women I ever knew, someone I totally loved and trusted once gave me a piece of advice. At the time, I had misgivings about that advice and when I turned my back on it, it brought all kinds of problems. I won't do that again. I will do exactly as Grandma Claudia had told me to do. I will follow my heart and find Max. I will restore him to his rightful place, in my arms, in my heart and in my soul.


* * *

"Liz, we can't do this anymore," Michael stood his ground after Liz had suggested they start the day's search.
"Okay," Liz shrugged.
"So you agree with us?" Isabel looks surprised. "You accept that Max is dead?"
"No," Liz shook her head. "I accept that you can't do this anymore."
"So you'll come with us?" Maria asked.
Kyle looked at Liz with a smile. He already knew her answer. He was surprised at Maria.
"No, I didn't say that. You do what you think it is you have to do. I know Max is alive. I know Max is out there and I know that he needs me. He needs us, actually, but seeing as you're prepared to turn your back on him, he'll have to make do with just me."
"That's not fair, Liz," Isabel wailed.
"I'm not trying to be fair. I'm trying to do what's right. What would Max do if it were you who had fallen? Michael? Or you, Iz? Or Maria or Kyle?"
There was no need to ask what Max would have done if it had been Liz who had fallen. Max would have taken the entire river apart to find her, boulder by boulder, grain of sand by grain of sand. Liz left no doubt in anyone's mind that she would do the same for him. But she didn't have a fraction of the control over her abilities that Max had. She would have to make do with what she could.
"So if you feel that you can't do this, then don't. I respect your decisions. Now. If you'll excuse me, I have a husband to find." Liz turned towards the river.
"Liz, wait," Kyle called. "I said that I would be here for you. Max saved my life. Max saved my dad's life. Heck, he's saved all your lives when he took over that time in the auditorium. I'm not turning my back on him until I know for sure that he's dead."
"Michael," Maria turned to her boyfriend. "I can't leave Liz. I'm sorry."
"You know she's right," Isabel shrugged. "We owe him that much."
"It's not that I don't want to find him, or anything," Michael ran a hand through his hair. "He's my brother, as well as my friend. In a way that you guys could never understand. But I have to think of you. Max would never forgive me if I let you get caught by the FBI."
"Like I said, Michael. My mind is made up. I'm looking for Max. That absolves you of all blame. Max knows that you can't force me to follow you."
"I haven't tried force, yet," Michael flexed his muscles.
"Michael," Liz warned. "Don't even think about it. I will fight back. Now I've had enough of the talking."
She turned away, and headed for the river. Without a second glance, Kyle followed her. Maria looked at Michael and kissed his cheek.
"Sorry," she shrugged and chased after Liz.
"What do we do now, Michael?" Isabel asked.
"Now I know why Max hates those words so much," Michael grimaced.
Isabel gave a weak smile and turned to go after the others. Michael reached into his inside jacket pocket and pulled out a bent and battered tarot card. He stared at the picture of the two naked figures for a while and shrugged.
"Two more days," he nodded, and after tucking the card away again, he turned to go after his friends.

* * *

"Jim? Are you there?"
Jim Valenti was sitting in the front of the Sheriff's Department's SUV out on the highway, watching that the speeds of the approaching vehicles were within the law.
"Yeah, I'm here," he answered, holding the button on the handset down. "What you got?"
"A reported disturbance a four thirty three Crestview. Something about an alarm going off in the garage."
"Yeah, okay," Jim was alert. Very alert. "I'm on it."
It wasn't an emergency call, but Jim treated it like one. He had the truck started and was rolling at a high speed towards town as fast as he could. There weren't many addresses that would cause Jim to react like this. The Crashdown was one. Amy DeLuca's was another, as was the Evan's on Murray Lane. But four thirty three Crestview was where Tess had lived when she and Ed Harding had first moved into town.

He pulled up outside the residence and stared up at the house. It looked less threatening now that the house had been sold, and had curtains up at the windows. The garage door was open and with a little trepidation, he approached it. Nothing seemed amiss. There were boxes strewn over the floor, and an assortment of tools hung on the walls. A baseball bat was propped up in a corner, with a baseball sitting a short distance away.
"Can I help?" a man's voice asked.
"Oh, ah," Jim stammered. "Yeah, Valenti. Deputy. Roswell Sheriff's Department. You reported a break in?"
"No, sir," the man shook his head. "Not a break in. An alarm. We heard an alarm go off. In the garage."
"Uh huh," Jim looked around, but couldn't see the sensors that would be wired to the alarm.
"You heard the alarm, but I guess no one was breaking in?"
"Deputy. It wasn't this garage."
"Oh, I'm sorry. When the call came through, I just assumed that it was your garage that you heard the alarm in. I must admit, I did wonder. Was it your neighbors?"
"Perhaps you'd better come with me."
"Uh huh," Jim nodded.
"You see," the man continued as Jim followed him through the house. "When we bought the place, we were told that the garage didn't come with it. That it's ownership was being retained by the previous owner."
"It was?" Jim looked confused. "So... why...?"
"Anyway, we didn't worry about it. After all, we have the garage at the front of the house. Who needs one at the back."
"The back?" Jim asked, stepping out into the yard.
There at the back of the yard was another garage, accessed by a service road that ran behind the row of houses.
"We were just sitting there, watching TV. When it started. At first, we couldn't tell where it was coming from, but we slowly realized it was from in there. The closer we got, the louder it sounded until we had to move away from it. It was just too painful for our ears. About five minutes later, it just stopped. The doors are still locked, and it doesn't look like anyone got in, but we thought maybe you'd know who owned the place and could let them know."
"I'll just check things out," Jim scratched his head. "Why don't you just go on about your business. We'll find the owners and get them to check it out for you."
"Thanks, Deputy."
"Not a problem. Have a nice day, now."
When the man had left him alone, Jim pulled the small lock pick from his belt and tried to open the lock that held the side door. Nothing. He couldn't get it to open. The fact that Tess, or Ed Harding had made a stipulation that the garage not be sold in the event that the house was sold in his absence meant only one thing. If either of them died, they did not want someone to find what was inside. This might be something for Max to look into.

* * *

The first thing that Sean DeLuca did when he was dropped off in the nearby town, was to call into a bank. After withdrawing a sizeable amount of cash, his next action was to visit the first realtor's office he came to.
"So you see, Mr Timmins," he told the rheumy-eyed gentleman behind the desk, "I need my privacy. I'd like to rent a cabin somewhere in this vicinity. As close to the river as I can get."
"You don't have to worry, Mr. ah... Smith. I have just the property for you. I'll get the keys and a map while you fill out the paperwork. How will you pay? Check or card?"
"Cash."
The man's eyes lit up.
"Excellent," he smiled.
"You'll see to it that sufficient provisions for the month are delivered this afternoon?"
"Of course, Mr. Smith. Do I take it that you are a beer drinker?"
"Yeah. Plenty of beer. Oh, and a bottle of champagne, too. Make it good, 'cause I plan to celebrate."

As soon as he had finished with the realtor, his next port of call was a camping and hunting store.
"I'll need detailed maps of the area, a compass, climbing grade rope, half a dozen karabiners, four sets of handcuffs, four sets of leg irons, a couple of water containers, oh and," Sean looked up at the hunting knives on display behind the counter. "One of those. That one should do." He pointed at one with a sharp, wicked looking nine-inch blade.
"Cuffs and Irons?" the sales clerk raised his eyebrows. "You heard they outlawed slavery, right?"
"Depends on what kind of slave you're after," Sean sneered. Wiseass. "Yeah, and can you give me bullets for my gun."
"Uh huh. Can I see some ID?"

From the camping and hunting store, Sean made his way to one of the larger drug stores.
"Yes, sir," the Asian man in the long white coat asked. "May I be of assistance?"
"Yeah," Sean handed him a list scribbled on a sheet of paper. "Can you fill this order?"
"I am sorry, sir," he shook his head. "But these are all restricted. This sedative, for instance, is the most powerful one we have. It is only used in extreme circumstances. I cannot let you have it. And as for this other one. It is not even a legal mixture. It hasn't been given the necessary licenses."
"What's your name?"
"Patel, sir."
Sean reached into his pocket and produced a small black wallet. He held it open for the man to see.
"Well, Mr. Patel. You will fill that order and you will fill that order now or I'll be forced to take action. Drastic action. You don't want to see me get mad, Mr. Patel."
"I will have to verify this," Mr. Patel's eyes widened as he glanced at his telephone.
"You can do that later," Sean pulled his coat back to reveal the gun in his shoulder holster. "Right now, I just want you to fill that order."
Clutching the bag under his arm, Sean smiled to himself as he walked back to his rental car, pulling the pieces of fake skin and the false moustache from his face. So what if the CCTV caught him? There would be no positive identification, and neither would any check on his fake ID produce a match. With a smug smile on his face, he drove out of town, heading for a place that most sane people would stay away from.

The bar looked as bad on the inside as it did from the outside. The place reeked of stale whisky, old tobacco smoke, sweat and other unwholesome odors best not questioned. As he approached the doors, he could hear the loud buzz as the assorted lowlifes discussed their latest and often exaggerated conquests and plans. The buzz dropped to a hush when DeLuca stepped into the room. He removed his sunglasses and looked around the room, ignoring the hostility he felt all around him. At last he saw what it was he was looking for, and deliberately walked between the tables to the back, where several small knots of men were clustered around four grimy pool tables.
"Hey, Chief," DeLuca nodded, standing next to a young, heavyset Native American who was in the process of lining up a shot.
"DeLuca," the man didn't look up.
"It seems I need your help."
"Not interested." He emphasized this by hitting the cue ball, sinking the red ball he was aiming at.
Sean grabbed the man and pinned him against the wall.
"It wasn't a request," he hissed.
A blade was pressed against Sean's neck.
"My man says he ain't interested," a Hispanic man hissed in his ear.
In a fluid movement, Sean twisted away from Chief, pushed the arm that held the blade away, down and around so that he now held the knifeman's arm behind his back. He forced the man down, twisting the arm until he dropped the knife. With another twist, there was a sickening click and the Hispanic man screamed out in pain. Sean released him, and wiped his fingers across his neck where the blade nicked him. He stared at the room, licking the blood from his fingers.
"Let's go, Chief, before I'm forced to break both your arms for what that shit did to me. There's someone I want you to find."

* * *

"They were here, Excellency," Chyn nodded, staring into the triangular device that he had fixed to the dashboard behind the steering wheel of the Saab they were driving. They had stopped outside a motel in the northwest of New Mexico. "But the people here look like they're travelling from one place to another. I doubt anyone would remember them."
"You are quite correct, Chyn. I don't think we need waste any time asking questions. We will, however, take the opportunity to rest ourselves. Perhaps we can contact Kalyn. We have not heard from her in a while. We are close to Roswell. Perhaps Zan went back there."
"Have you noticed... never mind."
"Speak, Chyn."
"Have you noticed how the people who have met Zan have no wish to talk about him. It's as though he did things to... help them."
"But that is most unlike the Zan we knew. No one had ever wanted to help him, except his own family members, or out of duty."
"After what we learned from Ava, the sooner we find him the better."
"Agreed. I dislike chasing after him like this. If there were any other way, I would take it. But this business requires personal... attention. We will take a few days to recover, then we will proceed as quickly as we can. The sooner we terminate this business, the sooner we can return to the comfort of Antar."
"I fear that Zan won't be as compliant as Ava has led us to believe."
"Look how easily she dealt with him before. She has always been his weakness. We will easily terminate this duty with or without Ava's assistance. Zan will not be able to prevent us from fulfilling our mission, and we will return home in triumph."

* * *

Jeff whistled as he flipped the burgers over on the grill, checked the condition of the fries in the fryer, and arranged the meal he had just finished. Through the open window, he saw Nancy enter through the front doors with a huge smile on her face. In her hands, she carried a large, square box.
"I haven't heard you whistle in the kitchen in a long time," she chuckled as she pushed through the doors to the staff area. "And old songs at that. Someone is in a good mood."
"What can I say?" he smiled. "I'm happy. We know the kids are all right."
"They're hardly kids any more, Jeff," she reminded them.
"I know," he chuckled. "But to me, they're always gonna be the same kids who used to haunt the Crashdown when school was out."
He started to laugh.
"What?" Nancy demanded.
"I was just remembering some things. Like Isabel's wedding. Liz stood up to me. Did you know that? She told me she was dancing with Max, not because she had found some loophole but because they loved each other. Did you know that even then, she knew she wanted to be with Max?"
"You mean that you didn't?"
"Well... Anyway, then there was that time they all gathered here last New Years Day. It was so strange. Michael got really, really drunk and was so ill, he spent the night in Lizzie's room. Liz slept on the couch in the staff room while Max and Maria spent the night at Enigma. Apparently, Max worked out the clues, with Maria's help. Liz let Maria go while she babysat Michael. I guess he was always pulling stuff on Maria like that. Jesse was out of town and had arrived home only a while before to find Kyle and Isabel asleep on the couch. I knew that morning, when they all gathered together that this group would never be separated. That they were a team who trusted each other implicitly. And now, I trust them too. And Philip and Diane, Amy and Jim. All of us. We're in this together."
"It's a good thing that I share that trust, cause I might start to get worried."
"Huh?" Jeff looked concerned.
"You have an admirer," she nodded back into the diner. "That women in the corner booth has been staring at you ever since I came in here."
Jeff looked up and then looked away again.
"She's been in here before. She just sits and stares. Maybe she's FBI. Anyway, what's in the box?"
"Oh, look what I did," she erupted into a huge grin.
Nancy opened the box and pulled out a wedding photograph album in which she had placed enlarged photos of Max and Liz's wedding. She leafed through each picture, allowing Jeff to shake his head in wonder at the smiling face of his daughter.
"Oh, Nancy. I wish... I wish we could have done this properly. Look how happy she was."
"How happy she is," Nancy corrected him. "And I have some bigger ones to hang up on the wall. I want to put one in the diner, too. I want the world to know that Max and Liz are together. I am so proud of my family."
Jeff looked at the bound album. "It looks just like a journal," he noticed, feeling a little uncomfortable.

* * *

As was her custom, Liz sat to one side of the gang, still visible to them yet separate.
"You okay?" Maria asked, coming to have her usual talk with her.
"Yeah," Liz nodded, holding her hand up to indicate the patch of ground beside her.
Maria sat down and wrapped an arm over Liz's shoulder. Liz leaned into her friend.
"It's been a week, Maria." The barely contained tears were very much in evidence as she spoke. "We haven't even seen a sign of him. All we've seen are the FBI agents and from the way they're behaving, they haven't found him either."
"I guess that's one consolation."
"What should I do, Maria? What if we've missed him, and he's like, already heading somewhere. Far away, maybe. I could spend the rest of my life looking for him."
"Liz? What does your heart say?"
"It tells me that he wouldn't leave here until he found me."
"Then that's what we do."
"Thank you, Maria."
"Hey. It's what friends are for. Now come on, babe. Let's go back and get a good night's sleep. Things will seem so much better in the morning."
"You say that every night," Liz observed. "And every morning, you know what? They don't. Every morning, I still wake up without Max. I miss him."
"Hey, I have to be right sometime. Right?"

On his sentry duty that night, Kyle sat against the tree and watched Liz toss and turn in her bedroll.
"She hasn't slept properly since Max... disappeared," he nodded towards her when Isabel relieved him. "I hope we find him soon. I don't think she can take much more."
"I don't know, Kyle," Isabel shrugged. "I would feel better about this if I knew why she was so sure when none of us can feel him, nor find him on the dream plane."
"I believe in her."
"I haven't told him yet," Isabel admitted. "I haven't told anyone yet."
"Who?" Kyle asked. "What?"
"Jesse. My parents. Since Max... disappeared, I haven't dream walked them. They don't know what's going on."
"Isabel, why not? They need to know. They deserve to know. Think how you would feel."
"Kyle, I know how I feel, okay? That's my brother out there." Isabel sighed, and sat down on the fallen tree trunk. "It's just that if I do, tell them I mean, it makes it more... real."
"You can't get more real than that," Kyle indicated Liz's pain-filled face. "Did you know she said she saw someone in my future. A blonde." Neat change of subject there, Kyle.
"Well don't look at me," Isabel waved her left hand with her rings in place in front of his face, smiling. "Married, here. Okay?"
"Message received and understood," Kyle chuckled, standing up and heading for his own bed. He looked up at the star-filled night sky. "At least it's stopped raining."

They rose early and soon broke camp. As before, they combed the riverbanks, taking care to search for the tracks of someone passing by. They had found that the tracks of the FBI agents kept getting in the way, but they could tell that the imprints they left in the soft mud looked nothing like the imprints Max would have left had he passed that way.
"Does anyone smell smoke?" Isabel asked.
"There are some tracks here that I haven't seen before," Kyle called.
"They aren't big enough to be Max's," Michael sighed. "Maybe whoever left them has seen him. Let's go check it out."
They followed the strange trail and soon left the river. In a small clearing beneath a small waterfall that cascaded over a small rock rise, they came upon an old man panning for gold in an old sluice gate. He was watching them with wary eyes.
"Excuse me," Liz called. "Have you seen a young man? Tall, dark brown hair and brown eyes."
"Maybe. Who wants to know?" he called back.
Liz spotted movement to her right. A figure appeared through the brush for the briefest of moments before he turned and darted through the trees, heading deeper into the woods.
"Max!" Liz screamed and without thinking, charged after him.
"Liz!" everyone called after her.
"She's cracking up," Michael growled. "Did anyone see Max?"
"No, but who cares?" Kyle started running.
They started to give chase, following the hidden trail that Liz had disappeared along. After only a few moments, they had lost sight of her. Out in front, Kyle held his hand up. They all stopped.
"Listen," he urged.
All they could hear were the birds calling out, and the rustle of wind in the leaves still on the branches overhead.
"Where did she go?" Isabel asked.
"I don't know," Kyle growled.
They stood in a small group staring into the trees

* * *

posted on 1-Dec-2002 3:22:09 PM
Part 18

In more pain than he thought was humanly possible, the young man, cold and hungry, staggered along the muddy path beside the torrential river. Every step that he took sent a fierce bolt of pain rocketing up his legs and through his body. One arm was hurting badly, while the other had no feeling at all and hung down his side bouncing with his movements. If he could have seen his face, that would have explained the dull ache that he felt there. Dried blood caked around a swollen nose that looked broken and both of his eyes were a mottled purple and yellow color. From the pain that seared through his head, he had to think that he had a fracture in his skull somewhere. He couldn't know that any normal human being would have long since died of his injuries by now. He really wanted to stop, and rest, and perhaps find a way to recover, but he was being driven. He couldn't quite explain what it was that drove him on, but he was aware of one thing, a warning that echoed in his mind. He couldn't let them catch him. The young man wasn't exactly sure who 'they' were, but then, he wasn't really sure who 'he' was either, so he followed the path in a determined effort to get as far away from here as possible, wherever 'here' was, and escape from 'them'.

He knew that he must have been in the river at one time, because he remembered that when he woke up, his clothes were wet. If that was so then the large boulders and rocks in the river helped to explain why he was in so much agony. He must have been dashed against them a number of times before he somehow struggled free from the current. He remembered waking up at the water's edge and he remembered forcing himself to stand up and start to follow the path he had found. He remembered nothing before that. He thought that he could recall someone screaming a name, a name that felt familiar, but it was too vague to have any meaning. Something in the back of his mind told him that this was important somehow, but he didn't really want to think about that just yet. What he wanted to do now was to get as far away from 'them' as he could, find some place where he could tend his injuries, and find some food. That was when he smelled the smoke.

* * *

The smoke reminded him of something. Smoke means fire, and fire is used to cook food. Food, he knew, would solve one of his immediate problems. Perhaps he could steal whatever was cooking. He didn't like the idea of just taking it, but he knew that he needed to survive. He knew that someone was counting on him. Who, or to do what, he didn't know. There was a just a feeling inside of him.
It took him some time to find the fire, but he eventually did. It was cleverly built, in the shelter of some rocks, and an old tree. He was almost on top of it before he found it. Realizing that he had almost inadvertently stumbled upon someone's home, he ducked for cover behind a bush while he surveyed his surroundings. There was an old cabin, almost on the verge of collapse, standing a short distance back from the riverbank, hidden amongst the trees, almost invisible from the path. The fire was burning a short distance in front of the cabin, over which a small animal carcass was roasting. An old man with a long white beard, wearing clothing made from animal hides stood by a narrow stream that poured from a man-made sluice built beneath a waterfall from a small rock face. He was swirling a wide, shallow pan in small circles, staring intently at the contents.
"You might as well show yerself," the man called to him. "I been listenin' to ya creepin' up on me fur nigh on twen'y minutes. I ain't got nothin' worth stealin', but yer welcome to share my lunch."
Don't let them catch you.
The young man leaned against the tree and peered around. It was only the old man there, by himself. His heart pounded in his chest, and he stared at the cooking animal. He licked his lips as his stomach rumbled. The old man put his pan down and approached the fire. "Suit yerself," he called, and sat down, cutting himself a generous slab of cooked flesh from the side of the roast. The young man gave in to his desire and stepped out to approach the old man, his eyes darting from side to side all the time.
"You look as 'o you bin in the wars, boy," the man spoke through a mouthful of meat. Fat ran from his lips into his beard. "You got a name?"
The young man remained silent.
"Well, you can call me Jeb. Short for Jebediah. Jeb'll do."
He passed the man a sharp knife, and pointed to the fire. The young man ignored the knife and attacked the meat with his one good hand, ripping chunks off and almost ramming them into his mouth.

* * *

"Sit still boy," Jeb commanded.
He was trying to wrap the young man's wounds with a poultice of mud and leaves using animal skins. He had already splinted the limp arm, and deciding that he had hairline fractures in both legs, had splinted those too.
"Now, these wet animal hides'll shrink as they dry. They'll hold your broken bones better 'n any plaster cast. Course, I couldn't set them straight like they could at a 'ospital, but as you didn't want to go to none, you'll prob'ly not mend straight. Now, I knows all about hiding, and I can tell that you wants to hide from someone, so I'll respect your wishes. You can stay with me fer the winter. Don't normally like company. Too talksome. But you seem a quiet sort of guy, so you'll be all right."
"Thank you," the young man mumbled. "But as soon as I'm okay, I'll have to keep going. I can't let them catch me."
"You on the run from the law, boy? Course, it don't matter to me, none. I've got my own reasons for avoiding the law, but if they're going to come looking for you, maybe it would be as well to keep going. But until yer legs mend, you'll be going nowhere. Now you stay tight for month or so and maybe we can get you out to a bus stop or something. And in the meantime, until you remembers yer name, I think I'll call you... 'Boy'."

* * *

"Hello?" Diane answered the phone, which had just interrupted her reverie as she was looking through her children's wedding photographs, yet again. "Diane Evan's speaking,"
"Hello, Diane?" the familiar voice queried. "It's me. Jesse."
"Jesse!" she exclaimed with a smile. "I was just thinking about you."
"You were?" he exclaimed.
Diane frowned at his tone.
"Yeah, I was just looking through your wedding photos."
"Oh, yeah." He sounded... disappointed. "I guess you have some of Max and Liz now, huh?"
"Yes," Diane chuckled. "You know, I always liked her. She was so good for Max. I always hoped... And now she's married to him. I'm so glad that both of my children found such wonderful people."
"Isabel told me how excited you and Liz's mom were. Sounds like you had quite a gathering."
"Yeah, but you know we all missed you, Jesse. We were all thinking about you."
"Isabel told me."
"So... how are things in Boston?"
"Lonely."
"I can imagine." Diane paused. "Jesse, no one will blame you if... if you..."
"No," Jesse sighed. "I couldn't.... I don't think... You know what? Ask Liz if she could ever be with anyone other than Max. Maybe she can explain it better than I can."
"I think I get the picture," Diane sounded embarrassed.
"Diane?" It was Jesse's turn to pause. "Diane, have you heard from any of them lately?"
"Now that you come to mention it," Diane frowned. "No."
"I think something's happened. I haven't heard from Isabel since last week. Diane, I'm getting the next flight out of here."
"Jesse, wait..."
The line was dead.

* * *

"You know," Jeff looked up from the stack of paperwork he was working on. "Of all the things that I need to do for the café, I really dislike paperwork the most."
"It was your idea to buy the place," Nancy reminded him.
"It was either that or my Grandpa's bar," Jeff laughed. "It's not like the world of employment was open to me."
"I don't know. You could have been a rock star."
"Yeah," Jeff grinned. "All those groupies hanging on to me, underwear being thrown at the stage. I'd a liked that."
"I bet," Nancy gave a dry smile.
"Were closed," Jeff called at the hammering on the door.
His call was ignored, and the door was hammered on again.
"I said," Jeff shouted looking up. "Oh... Philip, Diane." He stared at his friends standing outside gesticulating at him. He shook his head and crossed to the door, flipping the catch. "Hey, guys. What's up?"
"Have you heard from Liz lately?" Philip urged.
"Okay, you guys are worrying me here. What going on?"
"Have you?"
"Now that you mention it, no. I haven't," Jeff shook his head. "Have you, Nance?"
"No," she too shook her head. "I could check the e-mail..."
"We haven't spoken to her since we left them at the motel. They don't know about the accounts yet." Jeff frowned. "Why? What's happened?"
"We don't know. Jesse called. He's on his way to Roswell. He said he's worried because he hasn't heard from Isabel in a week."
"You don't think..."
"I don't know," Philip's frustration was evident. "That's what makes it so hard for us. We'll never know what's happening to them."
"What about Jim?" Nancy asked in a voice she hoped sounded stronger than it felt.

* * *

"Thanks for lunch, Jim," Amy smiled. "I had a great time."
"Me too, Amy," Jim nodded, opening his front door to let her into his house. "It's good, you know, not being Sheriff and not having to worry about a call because someone's being stupid."
"Do you remember that date we had when you had to run out on me? There was a disturbance at the soap factory, I think."
"Yeah," Jim nodded. "I remember that."
"Was that really about the disturbance? Or was there more to it."
"Amy, I'm not proud of what I did. I like to think that I can see the good side and the wrong side of things. I had these suspicions that Max was different, and I really thought that he was responsible for all those unsolved murders I knew about. I mean, not once did I question the fact that why would a person who killed to keep his secret, risk that secret by healing a young girl. It took me a while to realize I was on the wrong side."
"Thanks, Jim."
"What for?"
"For being there for my daughter and her friends."
"You know, Amy, we've been kind of seeing each other a while now."
"Yeah, we have." Amy had a strange smile on her face.
"And I was kind of..."
There was an insistent knocking on his front door.
"I'll just ignore them," he shook his head. "Like I was saying..."
There was more knocking. Harder this time.
"Jim!" someone called. "Jim!"
"Just let me get rid of them, Amy," Jim sighed, walking to his door.

"Jim, thank God," Philip announced pushing past the bemused Jim and into his living room. "Oh, hello, Amy." He turned to look at Jim, apology in his eyes.
"Hello Philip, Jeff, Nancy, Diane," Jim stood back to allow the others to enter. "What can I do for you?"
"We're sorry to barge in on you... like this," Philip looked at Amy and blushed. "It's the kids."
"What about them?" Jim closed the door and crossed to Philip.
"What's happened?" Amy demanded, rising to her feet.
"We're not sure," Diane shook her head. "Jesse called. He hasn't heard from Isabel in a week. Neither have we."
"And we haven't heard from Liz either," Nancy continued.
"I knew we should have given them a phone, or something," Jim clenched his fists at his side. "Does anyone have any idea what we can do?"
Jeff and Philip exchanged awkward glances.
"Actually, Jim," Philip coughed awkwardly. "We think there is."
"What?" Jim demanded.
"Remember in Liz's journal? How she saved Max, that time in New York?"
"Yeah?"
"Jim. We want you to try to get in touch with Max."
"I don't think... besides, I'm not connected to Max like Liz was. And in any case, I haven't the faintest idea where to start."
"Jim?" Nancy stood next to him and held his arm. "Please. You're our only hope right now."

Jim looked at each of the expectant faces in front of him and released a heavy sigh.
"Okay," he threw his arms up.
Jim closed his eyes and crossed to the arm chair where he sat down.
"Let's see. Every time I saw Max do anything, it seemed to me that it was all about concentration."
"I think that you would need to think about Max," Diane added.
Jim squeezed his eyes shut and concentrated hard, thinking about sending his mind into the world to find Max. Nothing was happening to him except the realization that he was holding his breath. Taking a new breath, he tried again. Nothing. It was clear to him that he did not have any powers yet. Jim did not know what to do. He looked up at his friends, feeling defeated.
"She had Isabel to help her," Jeff admitted. "It was worth a try."
Jeff clapped Jim's back, and sank into the settee.
"My baby," Nancy sobbed.

* * *

"You ain't normal, boy," Jeb told Boy that morning while checking his injuries.
"How's that?" Boy asked.
"You been with me nigh on a week now, and already you're near healed. You don't need the hides on yer legs no more, and I think your arm's a healing too. And your face. Damn if that weren't healed but a few days back."
"I... oh." Boy scratched behind his ear. "I'm... uh... sorry."
"No need fer 'pologisin'," Jeb shrugged. "I guess you'll be considerin' a movin' on soon."
"I'll leave as soon as you want me to," the young man shrugged. "But I need to stay around here."
"How come?"
"I... I don't know. I just know that I can't move on. Not yet."
"But what about thems that's after you?"
"I... I can't let them catch me. That's all I know."
"Have you 'membered anything yet?"
"No."
"You ever panned for gold, 'fore?"
"No."
"You want to learn? Maybe you could help me."
"Sure."
"Okay, there's a spare pan in the cabin. Over the fireplace. You go fetch 'er an I'll teach you."
Boy walked over to the cabin, and ducked down through the doorway that was much too short for him. He crossed to the fireplace and picked up the flat pan that hung from a nail hammered into the wall.
"Best you start in the river," the old man nodded towards the bank. "Come along now."
Boy followed the man through the trees towards the river
"Now, you scoops up the gravel like so, with some water," he instructed Boy, using the pan to do as he said. "Then ya swirls it in circles. See? The trick is to take out all them big rocks and then the little 'uns. The idea is to find them tiny little fleck a gold. You might be here all day and not find a thing, but other times, you might git lucky. Here. You have a try."
The old man topped away the contents of the pan and handed it to Boy. Boy bent down, and scooped up a pile of the riverbed, like the old man had shown him. Boy then pulled out the larger rocks with his fingers, and then started to swirl the pan to filter the gravel into its grades, allowing boy to continue removing what was obviously not gold.
"Is this what I'm looking for?" Boy asked.
The old man looked into the pan and saw a tiny, gleaming piece of gold.
"You got the touch, Boy," Jeb smiled, clapping him on the back. "Now take 'em out and put 'em in here." He handed Boy a small leather pouch.
At midday, the old man returned to tell Boy that lunch was ready, and to see what Boy had been up to.
"At this rate," he grinned, "you'll be finding a dollars worth by nightfall."

After their lunch, Jeb took Boy over to the sluice gate he had built, and started to teach Max how to pan using that. Together, they spent the afternoon collecting little flecks of gold, filling the small pouch before the afternoon was half over.
"You're a lucky charm, boy. I ain't found this much gold in one day ever, 'fore you came."
"I'm glad I could help," Boy smiled.
"Now you take this pouch and place it under that loose floorboard in my cabin, an' bring me an empty 'un."
Leaving Jeb to continue with the work, Boy took the pouch and returned to the cabin. He pulled the loose board in the far corner of the cabin, and left the full pouch with the other one already there and picked up one of the half a dozen empty ones. He started to walk back towards his friend.
"Someone's coming," he heard Jeb hiss.
Boy froze and remained hidden in the foliage. Jeb continued to work as though he didn't know anyone was coming.

"Excuse me," he heard someone call out. He looked through the leaves and saw them. There were five of them. Don't let them catch you. The one speaking was quite petite, with long dark hair pinned in a ponytail. Her dark eyes were filled with sadness, visible even from Boy's hiding place. "Have you seen a young man? Tall, dark brown hair and brown eyes."
"Mebe. Who wants to know?"
The girl turned her head and looked straight at him. It was almost as though she knew he was there. They had found him. He burst through the trees and ran into the woods. He had to get away. The dark haired girl yelled something, and she started to chase him. Not looking to see if the others were following or not, he ran into the dense forest. He could hear her calling behind, him. Summoning help, he knew. He kept running, ignoring the pain that shot in bolts through every part of his body. Someone leapt out of the trees to his side, a little ahead of him. Her accomplice, perhaps? The dark skinned stranger tried to grab him around his waist. With the man's hands grasping the loose cloth of his shirt, Boy tried to push the man off and was surprised when he flew into the trees as though he had been flung from a catapult. Boy doubled his efforts, ran hard, and fell into a small ditch that he failed to see. He climbed up, expecting to find the dark haired girl standing over him, gloating over his capture. He saw her, but she wasn't standing. She was some way behind him, collapsing to the floor at the feet of a light haired young man. He watched as the man lifted the girl with little effort, and disappeared into the trees.
"No!" he cried, though he could not understand why.
Why did the sight of this man holding that girl make him feel... bad?

* * *
posted on 7-Dec-2002 3:28:00 PM
Part 19

Liz was feeling light headed as she started to wake up. She felt nauseous too; there was a strange taste at the back of her throat. It reminded her of... chloroform. She tried to stretch her arms, which were aching. That was when she found that they were bound behind her back by a pair of handcuffs. Her legs too, she realized, were chained to an iron bedpost upon which she was laying. What was going on? It all came rushing in. She remembered it all now. She had seen Max, of that she was sure, but so many worrying questions ran through her mind. No sooner had she spotted him, he turned and ran into the trees. Why was he running away from her, as though she was his enemy? Why did Max look afraid of her? Without thinking about it, Liz had started to run after him, calling his name. She couldn't remember how long she ran, but she remembered seeing the strange Native American leap out and try to tackle Max. No, no, he had succeeded, she recalled. The man had a hold of Max, but Max did something, and the stranger went sailing backwards. Max seemed to redouble his efforts, and run faster. That was when she felt herself being knocked over and that... that cloth pressed to her face. Yes, that was the last thing she remembered. Liz groaned and struggled to raise herself.

"Ah," she heard a familiar voice speak. "You're awake, I see."
A shape appeared in front of her. She struggled to bring the shape into focus. Once she had succeeded, she wished she hadn't. Sean was sitting in front of her, the wrong way around on a kitchen chair.
"Hello, Parker. It's been a long time, hasn't it?"
"Not long enough," Liz spat.
"Now don't be like that," Sean feigned disappointment. "After all, we were nearly lovers."
"Wrong. I nearly made a big mistake. A stupid mistake. But I woke up. Actually, you know what? It was then that I realized that you were just a distraction. If I had paid more attention, I'd have seen everything coming."
"What are you talking about?"
"Never mind."
"So I see you married him," disgust dripped from his voice. "I tried to take the rings off, but they wouldn't budge. When I free your hands, you'll have to remove them."
"Not in this lifetime."
"Then I'll be forced to cut your finger off," he showed her the large hunting knife.
"You can try."
"My, my," he smiled. "You have spent way too much time with my cousin."
"You know what? I can't even believe you're related."
"Yeah, it's a mystery to me too."
"So what do you want?"
"You mean, apart from you? Now, I'm going to go out on a limb here and guess that you know all about your boyfriend's..."
"Husband."
Sean gave her a cool stare, one from which Liz refused to flinch.
"Your boyfriend's... immigrant status."
"No comment."
"I could never understand his attraction to that bimbo. You know, the one that disappeared. I tried so hard to find her. I liked how she distracted him so much that it pushed you to me. I liked that. Where did she go to?"
"I guess you'll never know. Are you going to tell me what you want, or not?"
"I told you, Liz Parker," he emphasized her maiden name, denying her marriage to Max. "I want you. Well, once we've scrubbed you clean of his stench, that is. How can you stand him touching you? I want your boyfriend too, but not in the same way. Him, I want for what he can do for me. You, I want for what I can do to you."
"They call that rape," Liz shuddered.
"Ah, no. See, that's where you're wrong. You'll climb into my bed willingly."
"In your dreams."
"You see, it's that or I hurt your beloved Max. You make nice with me, and I keep him safe. Of course, he'll be running little errands for me. And he won't try to hurt me because I'll tell him about the little explosive device that I'll embed inside you that will detonate when it can't detect my heartbeat. See, you'll have to spend the rest of your life tied to my hip. I think I'd like that. Of course, we'll have to change your wardrobe. I like my girls to be a bit more..."
"I bet you do," Liz sneered.
"And the attitude will have to go. I'll expect you to be very loving."
"Yeah, right."
"Doesn't the fact that you'll be the lover of the most powerful man on the planet do anything for you? You'll be universally adored and envied."
"You do realize that you've made the biggest mistake of your life, right?"
"I'm not like those morons in the FBI. I don't underestimate my enemies."
"So what's this all about? Is it just wanting someone you could never have normally?"
"Oh no. Think of what I can achieve with Max's power behind me. I could rule the country. Maybe the world."
"So you want to become the president?"
"President?" Sean chuckled. "Oh, no. You can only be president for so long. Besides, I wouldn't have enough time for my other pleasures." He licked his lips and leered at Liz. "No, I want to be the man behind the president. I'll give my backing to the men, or women of my choice, make sure they win and rule through them. And Max, Michael and Isabel will help me realize this."
"In your dreams."
"Oh yeah. We'll have time to act out all those dreams I've had of you soon enough. Right now, I need to catch Max."
"I'd like to wish you good luck, but I wouldn't want your death to be on his conscience. He's too decent for that."
"I don't need luck," he shrugged. "I have the right bait."

* * *

The Native American that Liz had seen jump out at Max knocked on the opened door and took a nervous step into the room.
"Ah, Chief. Did you find him?"
"No," the young man shook his head. "He gave me the slip."
"What?" A sudden flash of anger swept across Sean's face. "You asshole!" Sean hit Chief across his face with the back of his hand. "I thought you were supposed to be able to track ghosts."
"This one is more than a ghost," Chief wiped the blood that trickled from the corner of his mouth.
"He's got that right, Sean," Liz smirked. "You don't know what you're dealing with here."
"I want you out all night if you have to," Sean ignored Liz's comment. "I want him found."
"I'll look for him, but he'll be miles away by now."
"No," Sean nodded at Liz. "No, he'll stay close by. He'll want to rescue her. So why was he running from you, Parker?"
Liz just glared at him.
"I wouldn't want to be in your shoes just now."
Sean looked at her, turned and left the room. She heard the front door close.

At his departure, Liz released the energy she had gathered to help defend herself from him. While she knew that she could, with some effort, free herself, she believed that she might be better off waiting for rescue, rather than revealing to Sean her own abilities. She also let down the defenses that had allowed her to maintain her composure. She wanted to fight back more, but she knew that he was expecting that from her. Now that he was gone, she was able to turn her attention to one question that Sean had asked, one that she did not want to think about in his presence.
Why had Max run away from her?
"You've scared him," Chief chuckled. He looked relieved now that Sean had left.
"What? Why?" Liz asked. She looked at her shackles.
"Because you're not acting the way he's been taught how people would react. You're supposed to be terrified of him and what we'll do to you and your friends."
"Oh," Liz smiled. "You have no idea what this is all about, do you?"
"No," Chief agreed. "And I want it to stay that way."
"So how do you know Sean?" She had time to kill. Liz remembered a phrase she had once heard and decided to put it into practice. Know your enemy.
Chief looked at her, shrugged and sat down on the corner of the bed.
"A few years ago, I was accused of a crime I did not commit. What chance did I have when all the white men said I did it? I was sent to a juvenile detention center. That was where I met DeLuca. We shared a cell."
"Is that when the FBI made a deal with him?"
"Sort of," Chief laughed. "You see, DeLuca isn't a member of the FBI. He's not even a snitch for them. DeLuca is a CIA agent."
"What?" Liz could not help showing her surprise. "Boy. We must be desperate. Wait. I thought you said you shared a cell with him."
"I did, but in his case, he wasn't a sentenced Juvie. He was on a mission."
"What kind of mission does the CIA do in a juvenile detention center?"
"The son of a major drug baron in South America was arrested in this country. Carjacking. DeLuca was sent in undercover to work his way inside the organization. He was almost in, too."
"What happened?"
"The FBI agents turned up. They didn't know he was a spook. They just saw his name on his record, and they offered him this deal. All he had to do was to spy on some kids his cousin knew. Anyway, he grew really excited about the deal. He really wanted to accept it but he was stuck on his assignment. I guess he managed to resolve that."
"What happened? Did he get reassigned?"
"The kid died. Unexplained circumstances."
"Oh," Liz nodded. "So how is it that you know all this?"
"DeLuca has a big mouth. He told it to me when he... recruited me to help him."
"You don't seem to like him. Sean, I mean. Can you help me and my friends? We can help you, you know."
"I will never trust the white man," Chief sneered.
"You trust Sean?"
"It's easy to trust a man who has enough evidence to lock you and your family up for years, even if it is false. I thought about killing him, but I know he would have that covered."
"I'm sorry," Liz looked down. "Not everyone is like those people who betrayed you. Or Sean."
"I have a man to find," Chief stood up and started to leave the room.
"Chief," Liz called. She tried her best to sound sincere. "For your sake, I hope you don't find him."

***

Sheltered by a cluster of thick bushes, nestled in a small hollow, Boy lay on his back, gasping for air. He had been running for ages, pushing his painful limbs beyond the limits of his endurance. He wasn't altogether sure that the injuries he had had when he found himself beside that river had healed, but they ached nonetheless. Safe in his hiding place, Boy was forced to admit that he had been running as much from the strangers as from the strange feelings about that girl that had threatened to overwhelm him. What did it all mean, that he was as afraid 'for' that young girl as he was afraid 'of' her?
With his labored breathing at last under control, he twisted his head from side to side, trying to pinpoint any noises that would indicate that his pursuer or pursuers were approaching. All he could hear was the calling of the birds and the feint rustling of small animals running through the fallen leaves. His mind again found itself dwelling on the dark-haired girl, and the sense of outrage he felt at the thought of that man grabbing her like that.
A white butterfly with silver piping flew over his head and settled on the bright red leaf on a nearby bush. It stirred things deep inside him, things he could not explain. He was not altogether sure if he liked those feelings. The butterfly flitted away, towards the direction he had just run from. He couldn't help but think that like the butterfly, the girl should be free. He rolled over onto his stomach and climbed to his feet. With a reluctant glance back down the path, he started to head deeper into the woods. He couldn't let them catch him. After a few steps, he saw a cluster of smaller butterflies hovering over a small bush. The bush reminded him of a person's head, and the butterflies above it reminded him of something. A crown, perhaps? In the dark crevices of his memory, they seemed to signify something to him, stirring feelings so deep inside that he could not ignore them. They signified a promise made, not out of obligation or duty, but something... else. A momentary image grabbed him. The dark-haired girl wore a crown of butterflies and he had just made her a promise. His shoulders fell, and with a sigh of trepidation, the young man turned back towards the path he had just fled down, and retraced his steps. He couldn't let them catch him, but he couldn't break his promise, whatever it was.

Boy crept along the edge of the path with care, wishing to avoid the man who had surprised him earlier. He reached the last place where he had seen the girl, but there was no trace of her. He looked around, searching for some sign that might guide him. He found none, but was possessed by a desire to travel along a narrow, hidden path. Both expecting, and fearing that someone would leap from their hiding place, he moved with caution. Light was fading fast and it was already dark when he came upon the cabin. It was not crude, or hidden, like old Jeb's, and the windows were all brightly lit. Other than the lights, there was no sign of any inhabitants.
Nevertheless, Boy knew that the girl was inside. Something was calling to him. He remained hidden in the shadows and watched, waiting for an opportunity to effect a rescue. A dark figure approached the house, forcing Boy deeper into the shadows. Even in the approaching gloom, he could see that it was the man who had grabbed the girl. He forced down the sudden welling of hatred that nearly forced him from his hiding place. It was a good thing that he remained still, for another man also stepped out from the shadows. Boy recognized him as the man who had grabbed him.
"Any sign of him, Chief?" the first man asked. His voice seemed almost desperate.
"No. He's long gone by now. I followed his trail for five miles. Then, it just... vanished. That's the last we'll see of him."
"No. He'll return. Now make yourself scarce. Me and the little lady have some unfinished business and I plan to take my time."
"I think you will not find her as willing as you would hope."
"Like I give a damn. Just do what you're supposed to and leave me to my pleasures."
Chief turned away and jogged into the woods. The other man grinned, licked his lips and turned to enter the cabin. "Honey," he called. "I'm home."

* * *

Baurline entered the motel room he had checked in to, removed his jacket and his shoulder holster and hung them over the back of the chair sitting in front of the desk. They had booked a dozen rooms of a cheap motel to use as their base.
"What progress have we made?" he asked his aide as he sat down on the bed and started to remove his mud covered shoes.
"We have placed a team twenty miles down river. Tomorrow, they'll start to move up river, checking everything and everywhere. They should meet the other team we have moving down river tomorrow. Both teams have divers on standby to check underneath any obstructions that have formed from huge trunks and things. We also have teams of trackers looking for signs of anyone leaving the river, but they are encountering difficulties with the additional tracks being left by the searchers. Oh, apart from our own men, everyone thinks they're looking for an escaped felon. It was the only way I could get the manpower acquisition approved."
"How come?" Baurline looked up sharply. "Usually, you only have to say the word 'Special' and everything gets passed."
"You haven't seen today's paper, then have you?"
"No," Baurline shook his head. "I've been out in the god forsaken mud all day."
The agent handed Baurline a rolled up newspaper.

"The FBI. The Law, or Above It?
It would have taken months of planning. There were dozens involved, carefully arranging a day that would not be forgotten by the inhabitants for some time. But these plans had not gone unnoticed by the watchful eyes of Special Agent Steven Baurline of the FBI. With a dedication that could only be described as obsessive, he [Baurline] carefully planned an operation that would deliver justice upon the ringleaders. In this case, though, it was not the Justice of a U.S. courtroom, with a prosecution, defense, judge and jury. No, the justice this particular Agent sought to deliver was his own. Trained SWAT snipers hid in the rafters of the Gymnasium of the local High School, the high powered telescopic sights trained on the four that Special Agent Steven Baurline had already judged and declared guilty. The justice that the FBI had planned to deliver was at best assassination, at worst, murder. What heinous crime were these four about to embark upon? This dangerous foursome was about to graduate from the very same high school that the FBI were setting up in.

For reasons known only to himself and his hand picked henchmen, this senior agent of the FBI was about to murder, in cold blood, four high school teenagers. What it was that prompted their miraculous escape, we might never know, but escape they did. Aware of their peril, the four teenagers left the safety and security of their loving families and fled into the night, pursued by Special Agent Steven Baurline and the FBI. What was it that attracted the FBI in the first place? Two of the small group chanced upon the mugging of a young mother, scaring off the assailant and saving her life.

Most readers would assume that these kids would henceforth embark upon a life of crime, that they might be empowered to feed and clothe themselves. But that was just what they did not do. Instead, they sought work, albeit under fictitious names, at a camping site up in the mountains of Idaho. While there, they acquitted themselves as hard workers. They not only prevented the robbery of the employee's wages, but prevented the murder of the owner's daughter. For their gallantry, they were rewarded with the attention of the FBI, where they fled from their jobs and their few days of peace and safety.

From the mountains, the small group of close friends turned eastwards. In the foothills of Nebraska they came upon a lonely old widow in danger of losing her farm. Rather than continuing their flight to safety, they stopped and offered what assistance they could, bringing in the woman's harvest and preventing her bankruptcy. But an unfortunate incident where the brave friends prevented the rape of two young women at the hands of a Hell's Angel gang brought their location to the attention of the FBI. Once more, they were forced to flee, with armed agents hot on their tail. They escaped again.

Their current whereabouts are unknown by me, and hopefully, by the FBI. With every step they take, it seems that basic law and civil rights are infringed. The FBI act with impunity, as though they believe themselves to be above the law. It seems that they answer to no one. Just who does Agent Baurline think he is, that gives him the right to try, judge and carry out the execution of four of this country's citizens? Perhaps the FBI are getting above themselves, and believe that they are answerable only to themselves. Perhaps it is time that we, as free people living in the seat of democracy, stand up and say, "No more!" It is time that the FBI obeys the law they have sworn to uphold."


"Damn!" Baurline spat, throwing the paper to the floor.
"That's not all, sir," the other agent added, fidgeting with his briefcase.
"There's more?"
"Yes, sir. Remember that woman? In Nebraska?"
"Yeah."
"It seems that her son, Senator Glen McCarthy, has called for a Senate Inquiry."

* * *

"I expect you're hungry," Sean leaned against the doorframe and smiled at Liz. To her, it seemed more like a leer. "Would you like to prepare for dinner?"
"No, thank you," Liz shook her head.
"Of course you would," he shrugged. "There's a dress in the closet and makeup and stuff in the bathroom. I expect you'd like a shower to freshen up. If I free you from your bonds, will you give me your word that you won't try to escape?"
"No," Liz shook her head in defiance. "Instead I will give my word that I'll try to get away at the very first opportunity."
"It's a pity," Sean shook his head. "I had hoped we might enjoy a civilized evening together. I mean, sure, I like it a bit rough, you know? But I thought our first time should me more... you know."
He crossed the floor to stand before Liz. He reached out and ripped her shirt open, her buttons flying across the room. He licked his lips as he stared at her bare midriff.
"I'll fight you every step, you know," Liz started to focus her energy again. "The only way you'll have me is by knocking me unconscious. Even then, I'll fight."
Unbuckling the belt that held his pants up, Sean started to approach her.
"You'll grow more submissive," he laughed. "I promise you that."
There was a loud pounding at the door. In her relief, Liz felt her collected energy flow away.
"Go away, Chief!"
The pounding on the door continued.
"I swear, Chief," he spat as he stormed out of the room and across to the front door. "This had better be good, or I'm stringing you up by your own..."
When he opened the door, a fist in the face met him. He flew backwards and was unconscious by the time he hit the floor.

* * *

Liz looked through the gap in the door and saw Sean fly backwards. It had to have been Michael, she decided, to have hit Sean that hard. She was about to call out when he stepped into the room and stood over the motionless body rubbing his knuckles with a sense of satisfaction. Every nerve in her body called out to him.
"Max!" she sang with her voice filled with relief. "I'm in here, Max."
The tall, dark haired man walked into the room with a manner that suggested he was afraid of her.
"Oh, Max," she cried with relief. He was alive, and he had come for her. "I knew it. I knew you weren't dead. I just knew you were alive."
She was practically bouncing on the bed. But Max made no move to embrace her. He showed little sign that he even knew her.
"Max?" she asked. She started to feel concerned. "Are you okay?"
He looked back at her. She could see the confusion in his eyes. He looked at her torn shirt, and the chains binding her legs. Liz twisted so that he could see the handcuffs. Max turned back into the other room where he crossed to Sean and started to search through his pockets.
"I... I can't find any keys," he looked everywhere except at her.
"You don't need a key, Max," she frowned. What was up with him?
When Max made no step towards her, Liz started to worry. Why didn't he seem as excited to see her as she was to see him?
"It's got locks," he pointed at her feet where the shackles held her legs to the bedpost. At last he approached her, stepping back into the room, looking all the while at the chains that held her feet.
Liz sighed and concentrated on her cuffs. She couldn't do it as easily as Max, but she managed to free her arms. With Max staring at her with his mouth opened in shock, she reached down to her ankles and freed her feet.
"What did you just do?" Max demanded, his eyes widened with fright. He started to back away towards the door.
"Max, it's me. Liz. Max?" Why was he acting like this?
Max turned to flee, but Liz refused to let him escape again. She threw her energy at the door, pushing it shut before Max could reach it. He tugged at the handle, looking over his shoulder as Liz approached him. Max stopped and turned to face her, his back pressed against the door as though he hoped to slip through some invisible gap.
"Who are you?" he demanded.
Liz realized that she was experiencing Max's worst nightmare; being looked upon as a monster.
"I don't know what's wrong with you," Liz shook her head as she approached Max, "but I can guess. And the only way I can think of to help you is this."
She stepped up to his body; she could feel him trembling, cupped his fear filled face in her hands and pulled him down to her. He resisted at first but as she nibbled at his lips with a determination she never knew she could muster, she could feel him yielding. At last, he started to respond. His arms folded around her, pulling her into his body. He was no longer trying to retreat from her anymore. Instead, he was driving her backwards, towards the bed. When she collapsed backwards on to it, their tongues were already entwined as one. The images came fast and furious and Liz learned of Max's fall, waking injured and alone, and his struggle to remember who he was. When she reached the part where the butterflies reminded him of his promise to her, Liz thought she was going to burst into tears. Even in the depths of amnesia, Max could not truly forget how important she was to him.
"Liz!" Max gasped, filled with emotion. "Oh, Liz."
Liz's soul rejoiced. Max had returned to her.
"Come on, Max," she urged, wrapping the ends of her shirt around her. "Let's find the others before they think I'm dead, too."
Max nodded.
"Thank you," Max whispered, resting his forehead against hers.
"For what?"
"For not giving up on me. Now. Before. Ever. Liz, I know now what my life would be like without you. Meaningless. Empty."
Liz looked into Max's deep eyes, and seeing the love that radiated there, hugged him to her.
"Come on, Boy," she teased, pulling him from the bed.
As they stepped past Sean's inert body, Liz gave him a contemptuous kick.
"I tried to warn you," she shook her head. "I would say that you got off lucky, this time."

* * *


posted on 13-Dec-2002 3:32:28 PM
Part 20


DATELINE: September 22nd, 2002 - - - - - - New York - - - - - - It's official! The moon, 'Muggins', first spotted by Jeremiah Muggins back in July, has been confirmed by a second, independent source today. Research under-graduates at Cornell University in New York have announced that they too have spotted the moon behind the distant planet Pluto. Stuart Hargreaves, from the Astrological Society said, "After Mr. Muggins made his finding public, we all laughed at him. But we decided that we would take a look for ourselves. We took a series of time-delayed photographs over a period of one lunar month, and compared them on a day-by-day, hour-by-hour basis. For weeks, we found nothing out of the ordinary. Then, in last night's sequence of pictures, there was an anomaly, as though something, the moon we think, was momentarily visible. Now, we realize that this isn't conclusive evidence, but we tend to believe the existence of the moon, and therefore agree with Mr. Muggins about the strange orbit that it must possess. We think it was very clever of Mr. Muggins to have spotted it, as the 'blip' was there in one photo and gone the next, giving a maximum window of visibility of only two hours, maximum. Maybe less."
So far, NASA has failed to comment on the university's findings, but a press release has stated that as yet, they have not had the opportunity to reposition the Hubble Space Telescope.
Needless to say, if they [NASA] fail to verify the moon's existence before more home astronomers copy Cornell's actions and provide additional proof, they just might be left with egg on their face. Of course, most amateur astronomers don't have the resources that Cornell has, for instance, the Radio Telescope at the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico. This, as most readers are aware, was the telescope used on a recent James Bond adventure. - - - - - - UPI


* * *

It felt strange walking through the dark woods with Max. The last time we were in the forest at night, we weren't together, and he was searching for clues about his heritage. Now, we know his heritage and we are the most together that two people could possibly be. The darkness seems more threatening than it did then. Who said a little knowledge is a dangerous thing? Perhaps it's the fact that there might be an FBI agent hiding behind any tree, or maybe it's because the darkness represents how we know our lives would be without each other. One thing I do know is that Max is my whole life.

It was bad enough that the FBI were after us but we always had the hope that maybe justice would prevail and they might be forced to back down so that we could live a semi-normal life together. The discovery that the CIA are now involved worries us. From what I told Max of our conversation, he believes that Sean has gone rogue, and that he is working on his own. I hope so. I don't think we are strong enough to fight everyone at once. In that typical way that Max has of making light of our situation, he says that we're as strong as we need to be.

I know he worries that he may one day let me down. I think I'll just have to show him that he can't.


* * *

Holding her hand tighter than was necessary, Max led Liz back through the trees towards the river and Jeb's cabin.
"Not that I'm complaining, Max," Liz smiled in the darkness as she felt his hand tighten around hers. "But, you know, I'm not going anywhere."
"I almost lost you, Liz," Max stopped and tried to let Liz see all the love he felt for her in the moonlight reflections of his eyes.
"But you didn't," Liz shook her head, just letting his adulation wash over her like a soothing balm.
"I don't ever want to come that close again," Max sighed, scratching behind one ear. How else could he answer Liz's factual statement? It was, after all, true. In spite of everything, fate had led him back to her.
Liz pulled him to her, and wrapped her arms around him.
"I love you so much," she murmured into his chest.
"I haven't been all that I could be, to you, Liz," Max caressed the back of her head, holding her tight. "But I'm trying to make it all up to you. I hope that one day, you can be proud of me."
"I already am, Max," Liz sighed. "I already am."

Through the leaves, they saw their friend's worried faces as they sat in a semi-circle around the fire. They all leapt to their feet with an almost instinctive alertness when the two young lovers stepped hand-in-hand from the trees.
"Max!" Isabel was the first to react. She ran across and into her brother's arms. Max could feel her body shaking with relief. He hugged her tightly until she regained her composure. Isabel stepped back from Max and slapped him across his shoulder. "Don't ever put me through that again!" she yelled, but her eyes showed her happiness. She turned to Liz, gave a gentle smile, and hugged her sister-in-law.
Maria was next.
"Welcome home," she gave a smile of amusement at him, though he could see the emotion in her eyes. "I knew Liz was right, all along."
"Evans," Kyle extended his hand. Max took it and was just as surprised as everyone when Kyle pulled Max into an affectionate--almost brotherly--embrace. "Welcome back."
Michael's stance was awkward. After all, it was he who had cut the bridge, he who had tried to take them as far from Max as he could, and he who had refused to believe Liz. Damn that tarot card, he cursed himself. He would never doubt the love again. Sensing his unease, Max approached him.
"Thank you," Max embraced him.
"Uh, yeah," Michael felt surprised. "What for?"
"For obeying an order without question. I mean, I know how hard it must have been for you," Max nodded towards Isabel and Liz talking quietly by the fire. "And for standing by Liz when she wanted to find me."
"It was nothing," Michael drew a picture in the dirt with his toe. It was easier than looking into Max's all-seeing eyes. "Uh, and thank you, too."
"What for?" It was Max's turn to be surprised.
"For trusting me," he shrugged. "And for showing me that you can make the right decisions when the chips are down."
"Well, I wouldn't say my decision was right," Max looked again at Liz. "But it was one that had to be made."
"I couldn't have made it."
"I hope you never have to, Michael."

* * *

Kyle stood outside of the fire's circle of light and although he was supposed to be watching for Chief, Sean or any of the FBI goons, he watched his friends. Everyone had been very happy that Max had been found alive and well; well, alive, at least. Max looked in a bad way and Kyle wondered why he hadn't healed himself. He had been bursting to remind everyone that he had been right when he had told them that he trusted Liz's connection. Instead, he had remained quiet while Max and Liz each explained their ordeals, or rather, what they could remember. Poor old Jeb had not been able to take all the company. With his eyes narrowed, watching them all, Jeb had excused himself, leaving 'Boy' and his friend's to the campfire. But as the night progressed, they decided that they needed some sleep. Kyle had volunteered to take the first watch. Michael, Maria and Max were the only ones who seemed to be able to sleep. Isabel and Liz were both too keyed up to relax. After all, in different ways, they both loved Max Evans almost as much as their own lives.

* * *

"You know, you and I have never really... you know, bonded," Isabel looked at the dark haired girl who held her brother's heart.
"Sure we did, Isabel," Liz smiled. "It was just over time."
"No," Isabel shook her head. "I mean, right from the very first day, when Max healed you, you... you've always been there for Max. For us. When the chips have been down, you've been there helping us to get through."
"Not always," Liz shook her head, remembering a time when she had run away from Max when he needed her.
"And Max? Well, he's this... he's this whole other person when you're with him. You know, Liz. I bet if you had been on Antar with us, if it had been you instead of...Ava, I bet none of this would ever have happened."
"I wish I knew more about your lives back then," Liz sighed.
"I don't," Isabel shook her head. "My life here is much better than it could possibly have been. I betrayed my friends, my family. I..."
"No, you didn't."
"Excuse me?"
"You didn't. Vilondra did. In the same way that Max never married Tess. That was Zan and Ava. It's like Max has been saying, right from the day you found out about your previous lives. None of you really listened. Perhaps if I had listened to what Max was saying that day, things might have been..."
"Don't."
"Don't what?"
"Don't blame yourself for any of this, Liz. Any of it. What matters is that we're alive, we're together, and we have hope. Whatever you did, you did for us and you believed that it was the right thing to do. So don't even think about blaming yourself. If you're going to be our Queen, then..."
"I'm not a Queen," Liz blushed.
"Well, Max is our King, you're his wife, so that makes you..."
"No. Max abdicated. Remember?"
"Yeah. Sure. I remember lots of things. I remember a young girl who lied to her best friend to help Max, and ultimately us. I remember that same girl always being there even though my bonehead brother thought she was better off if he stepped back. I remember her putting up with another alien trying to take him away from her. I remember that same girl risking her life rescuing him from the FBI. I remember..."
"I get the point, Isabel."
"No. I don't think you do. You see, you and Max, it's like... it's like the heavens want you to be together. Liz? I think you and Max, with our help, have something important to do. Look at the obstacles that have been put in your way, and yet you have endured them to come out tougher than ever, still so deeply in love. That which does not kill us serves only to make us stronger. Liz? You should see the two of you. When you're together, you can do anything. Power like that has to be there for a reason. Whatever he says, Max is our King. That makes you our Queen. I for one can't think of anyone that I would rather have as my Queen, my sister-in-law and my best friend. I love you."
Liz's eyes stung with tears that she tried hard not to spill. When Isabel pulled her into another embrace and in a voice choked with emotion, whispered "Thank you," Liz lost her battle and the tears fell.

From his vantage point, he could see the river, as well as his friends. Kyle heard every word and saw every emotion. He turned away and wiped his own tears from his eyes. He knew Max Evans was someone he could trust. Had he not shown this time and time again with his concern for those that he knew? The small kernel inside Kyle that still held at least a few misgivings towards Max died that night. Not because of what Max had been through, or even what he had done for them, but because he finally understood that the two women he cared most about in this world loved Max, unconditionally. Who was he to hold a grudge when the two hurt the most by Max's inexplicable actions in the past so easily forgave him?

* * *

Jeb woke them all from their dozing before the sun came up.
"Strangers be approachin," he warned Max.
The six of them rose and started to pack their few belongings into their tattered bags.
"'S all I kin spare," Jeb held out a few tins of corned beef, and a few of mixed vegetables. "Yer welcome to take 'em. Figure I kin buy me some more wit' the gold you found fer me, Boy."
"Thank you," Max shook the old timers hand. "For the food, and... for everything."
"Thank you for taking care of him," Liz surprised Jeb by hugging him.
"You take that there path," he composed himself when Liz released him. "It takes you through the trees and into a small town. There's a bus stop there. You kin take it to get away to wherever you wants to go."
"Good bye, Jeb," Max added his good byes to those from the others.
"Good bye, Boy. If you ever sorts out what you're up to, you kin allus come back and pan fer gold."
"I might just do that," Max ran his hand through his hair.
After a moment of silence between the two men, Max turned and led his friends along the track Jeb had pointed out to them.

"You don't have to hold so tightly," Max smiled at Liz.
"I seem to recall a similar conversation last night."
"Yeah," Max squeezed her hand.
"I'm afraid that this might be a dream," Liz admitted. "That you're not really here."
"I'm here," Max reached his free hand to caress down Liz's cheek, tucking a stray lock of hair behind her ear. "And I'm staying where I belong. At your side."
"I saw you doing something to that sluice thing, earlier. What did you do?"
"I fixed it so he'll find a few little flecks of gold everyday."
"Max, that's a really nice thing to do. But why didn't you just change a big rock into a nugget? He could retire then."
"Because he's not out here to get rich, Liz. He's doing this for the peace and tranquility it brings him. He can hide from the modern world out here. If I give him riches, I'll take away his whole reason for living. Believe me, Liz. For a while there, I knew what that was like."

* * *

Following old Jeb's directions, they found the small town with ease. As the old gold prospector had said, there was a bus stop on the main street. They had a few tense moments when some FBI agents drove into town, but when they had all disappeared into a diner - for their breakfast, Max presumed - they breathed a little easier.
"Hour and a half," Kyle called from the timetable that had been posted on the side of a shelter made from rough-cut wooden planks. That takes us up to a place called Carbondale. That looks like it's a little bigger than this place. Maybe we can hole up in a motel somewhere and wait till the FBI move on. We need to buy more clothes, and we need a new car. We need to plan our next move."
"If the FBI are hunting up here for us," Maria narrowed her eyes, "why don't we go back to Roswell? Our parents could help us out. We could pick up more clothes, and maybe even take one of their cars."
"Because we know that they have at least one agent still there," Max reminded her. "Just because Deputy Owen arrested him doesn't mean he won't still be there. If not him, another."

* * *

The old bus climbed up the winding mountain road, gaining altitude with every twist and turn. Occasional dark colored SUV's passed them in both directions.
"Maybe we should go further than Carbondale," Max observed.
"I think getting you rested is more important, Max," Liz stroked his arm. "You know that trick with the gold you did? Can you try to fix some of your injuries?"
"I tried," Max admitted, looking down at the floor, between his feet. "I couldn't."
"Well that pretty much settles it. We go no further than Carbondale until you're fully healed. We'll just make sure we find an out-of-the-way place to stay."
"My head, my legs and my arm still ache, Liz," Max sighed. "But I can take that. My heart aches. That's a pain I can't bear. I can't shake the thought that I had forgotten you."
"But you didn't Max, you didn't forget me. The butterflies proved that."
"But what if I had never seen those butterflies? What if I just kept running? I mean, I only just got to you in time." Max looked out of the window, staring down the valley and into the dark trees. "What if he... what if..."
"Max? Nothing would have happened. Trust me. I would have blasted him into next Thursday. You don't spend so much time with aliens without learning a trick or two."
Max looked up to see Liz laughing at him. Max's mouth bent up at the corners and he started to chuckle. Max pulled Liz closer to him, and inhaled the warm fragrance of her hair.

"Haven't seen the FBI in a while," Kyle commented as they stepped clear of the bus.
"So this is Carbondale," Maria stretched her limbs, looking around at her surroundings.
"Except for the trees and mountains, it reminds me of Roswell," Liz nodded. "It looks about the same size."
"We better find somewhere to hole up," Michael nodded at a weary looking Max, who was leaning against Liz.
"There's a map over there," Kyle pointed at the wall of the bus depot. There was a large frame onto which had been pinned the bus timetables, and a large map of the area, and a street map of Carbondale. "I'll go take a look."
"He's right," Maria looked up and down the street. "No FBI anywhere."
"I hope Jeb's all right," Max whispered as Liz helped him to a bench.
"Do you guys know where we are?" Kyle asked on his return.
"Carbondale," Michael grunted.
"Yeah," Kyle sneered. "Down that road is Snowmass and Aspen. We're right in the heart of ski country."
"Unless I'm mistaken, Valenti," Michael cast him a sour glance. "You need snow to ski. We're only half way through October."
"Well, that gives us a head start on the rest of the people who'll come up here looking for work. We could take our pick of the jobs."
"A job's not what we need right now, Kyle," Liz stepped between Michael and Kyle's posturing. "We need a motel."
"Yeah, I found one. It's up there about half a mile."

* * *

To keep their costs down, Liz had suggested that they rent only two rooms. Isabel would share with Max and Liz, while Kyle would move in with Michael and Maria. Once they had settled, they had gathered in Max's room to discuss their options.
"We'll need food," Isabel pointed out. "Corned beef and tinned vegetables are okay, but I'd prefer a more varied diet."
"What we didn't lose when we left the car, we ate during the past week," Maria agreed. "And can I suggest that we stay clear of fish for a while."
"Seconded," Liz raised her hand.
"We'll all need clothes," Michael continued. "And we could use some new bags."
"And a car," Kyle pointed out. "I know we could use busses and stuff, but I would feel happier if we were able to go when and where we wanted."
"Do we have enough money for all that?" Max had been very quiet all morning, a fact that did not go unnoticed by either Liz or Isabel.
"Yeah," Michael jumped in before Liz could speak. "We have plenty. No need to worry about that side of things."
"We could all use a rest," Liz stepped into the middle of the room. "And showers. And a decent meal. How about we all get cleaned up, have a rest, and then meet up for lunch. Maybe we can just take a look around this afternoon. Tomorrow, Michael, Kyle, Isabel and Maria can go into town and buy new clothes and bags. We can think about looking for work later, when we're all recovered from our recent ordeal." She looked at Max. "Then after you've been to town, Kyle, maybe you and Michael can go find a cheap van or something. It only has to run enough to take it somewhere private for Michael to fix it up."
"Can you handle that?" Kyle asked.
Michael glared back.
"It's a good a plan as any," Isabel nodded, warding any possible comment from Michael.
"What about me?" Max asked in a weak voice. "What can I do?"
"Don't worry about it, Max," Michael shrugged. "You just take it easy."

* * *

The groups separated and went to their allocated rooms.
"You go first, Max," Isabel suggested.
Max nodded, and rose from his bed the way an old man would. He hobbled to the bathroom. A few moments later, they could hear the sound of falling water.
"Is he all right," Isabel asked, her voice filled with concern. "I mean, really?"
"No," Liz shook her head. "He's so weak. And he doesn't seem to be regaining his powers at all. I mean, he does, but just not very quickly."
"I don't like this Liz. Something's not right."
"I know, Isabel. But what? Is there something you could do?"
"I don't know, Liz," Isabel sighed. "I don't know."
While he was showering, Liz crept into the bathroom, and started to pass her hand across Max's clothing, cleaning and repairing them in one motion. She stood by the door, and looked at the blurred image of Max's naked form through the shower curtain. She could also see the darkness of the ugly bruising that marred his body. Tears formed in her eyes when a feeling of helplessness welled over her as she lifted her hand towards him. She wanted so much to help him, but she couldn't. She wished more than ever that she had inherited Max's abilities to heal. She would help in anyway she could, mentally and spiritually if not physically. One way or another, she would make sure that Max was healed. Flashing him a look of love that he never saw, she closed the door and went back to join Isabel.

"Did either of you tell our parents that I'm okay?" Max asked, stepping out of the bathroom looking clean. He still looked tired.
"Not yet," the two girls exchanged awkward glances.
"I mean, they've probably been worried sick since you told them."
"Actually, Max?" Liz held her husband's hand. "We were both kind of... too emotional to tell them. We haven't spoken to anyone since you... you..."
"I haven't even spoken to Jesse," Isabel sounded heartbroken.
"And last night, I guess we were both too relieved to have thought about trying."
"But they'll be frantic," Max's face fell. "They'll be thinking that something has happened to all of us. As soon as you can, can you contact them? Tell them we're safe."
"Should we let them know what happened?" Isabel asked. "They'll want to know why we've been silent."
"Yeah," Max nodded. "You two take your showers. We should think about getting something to eat. I don't know about anyone else, but I could use some sleep."
Max laid back on the double bed and closed his eyes. He didn't see the concerned looks that passed between Liz and Isabel.

* * *

Everyone was watching Max as they ate their meal at the diner across the road from the motel.
"He's hardly eaten a thing," Maria whispered to Liz as Max pushed some fries across his plate.
"I know," Liz whispered back.
"He hasn't gotten any stronger then?"
"No," Liz's eyes darkened. "Maria, he's covered in bruises and he's in so much pain right now. But there's nothing I can do."
"You can just be with him," Maria placed her hand over Liz's arm. "You do know your mere presence helps him, right?"
"I know. It's just..."
"Liz, stay with him. Let him rest."
' "Don't worry, Maria. I plan to."
While the others went on a their exploration of the small town, Max and Lix remained in their hotel room. After their meal that night, Max again returned to his bed, drifting off to sleep as soon as his head hit the pillow.

* * *

Isabel was in the living room of the house that she had grown up in. Around her were all the things she remembered, some of which had, in reality, changed years ago. With her in this dream was her mother, her father and Jesse.
"That's terrible!" Diane exclaimed after Isabel had explained what had happened during the past week. "Oh, Isabel. Poor Max. Poor all of you."
"You should have told us, Isabel," Philip scolded. "We're not that far away from you. We could have come up and helped look."
"We... I... I didn't want to tell you. I mean... I could hardly believe it myself. I didn't want to... I just couldn't bring myself to say it."
Jesse wrapped his arms around her in a protective embrace.
"I know," he nodded. He had seen first hand the bond between these siblings. He could imagine what she had been going through. "But, Isabel? Please, whatever happens, don't leave us out of the loop like that again."
"I won't," she smiled at her husband.
"So how's Max?" Philip asked.
"He's not too good, Dad," Isabel admitted. "He should have gotten all his power back by now. Liz says that he doesn't have enough to heal himself properly. We're both worried."
"We are all worried," Diane added. "You know, maybe you should bring Max here. I mean; we could help look after him."
"We don't want to risk it, Mom. But I think Liz is going to talk to Max about it tonight. Talking of which, I just heard that Liz has finished talking to her parents. She says they're on their way to see you. Bye Mom, Dad," Isabel embraced each of her parents. She turned and hugged Jesse, kissing him lightly on his lips. "See you tonight," she whispered.
"In my dreams," he laughed.
"You know it."

* * *

The three of them sat in their seats in the Evans' living room, and just looked at one another. They were too stunned to say anything. After Isabel had left, they had roused themselves from their beds to await the Parkers. Only the pounding on the front door prompted them to rise from their thoughts.
"We've heard from Liz!" Nancy squealed as she and Jeff almost fell through the door when Diane opened it to them. They could hear the relief in her voice. "They're okay. They're all okay."
"Yes," Diane pulled Nancy into a hug. "We just heard from Isabel. She told us the whole thing."
"Poor Max," sobbed Nancy, her emotions getting the better of her.
"Poor Liz," Diane followed suit.
Philip and Jeff exchanged relieved glances and then went to the assistance of their wives.
"I just called Jim," Jesse announced as he entered the room. "He says he'll drop by and collect Amy and then come right on over."
The others in the room exchanged knowing glances.
"What?" Jesse looked at them all.
"Jesse," Philip coughed. "Jim and Amy are... sort of... dating."
"Oh," Jesse nodded. His face colored and he broke into a grin. "Oh!"

Jim and Amy arrived by the time Diane and Nancy had made some coffee. They were all seated in a circle.
"But they're all okay?" Jim double-checked.
"Even Maria?" Amy added.
"Maria only twisted her ankle," Philip confirmed. "She's fine now. Max, Max is another matter. Isabel says that they're all worried about him, but Liz will sort that out. We don't doubt that. They've lost their car and their belongings and I guess, from the sounds of things, their running low on cash."
"I'm so glad Liz gave me her wedding outfit," Nancy placed her hand on her chest. "Liz would have been heartbroken if Michael had to have incinerated that."
"And the negatives," Diane reminded her. "I bet they lost their copies of the wedding photos."
"We can print them off some more," Nancy promised.
"While we're at it, I can take some money out from our savings account," Jeff agreed. "I mean, I'd rather it help them when they need it the most."
"I have some put away. They're welcome to that," Philip added.
"I have some cash," Jesse nodded.
"I guess we can all get some," Jim shrugged.
"Jim," Philip looked at his friends. "We couldn't let you put your mortgage payments in jeopardy. "The kids would never forgive us."
"I want to help too," Jim objected. "That's my son out there."
They all exchanged awkward glances.
"Jim," Nancy broke the silence. "You have already done so much for our kids, and given up so much in the process. It's our turn now. At least until you're on your feet again."

Jim looked around the room and seeing that it was useless to argue with them, he backed down. There would be other times.
"Well," he sighed. "Perhaps there's some way I can help out. I have some information that might give you hope. Now, I don't want you to tell the kids about this because I don't want them to relax their guard."
"What's that, Jim?" Philip asked.
"The FBI are in trouble. They're being forced to justify the actions of the special unit."
"You mean Sarah's article helped?" Jesse looked pleased with himself.
"Or I bet this is Granny McCarthy's son's doing," Philip added.
"So it's over?" Amy asked. "The kids can come home?"
"Maybe," Jim nodded. "This might spell the end. Heads will definitely roll, that's for sure. There's talk about accusations of misappropriating of funds. Heavy duty stuff."
The mood in the living room turned into one of jubilation. There was almost a feeling of celebration as the parents hugged one another. Only Philip seemed unaffected by the news.
"What's wrong, Philip?" Diane's smile turned into a frown.
"Don't forget that the Special Unit was already closed down once before."

* * *

Michael stepped out from the diner where they all had lunch and shielded his eyes against the sun rising above the surrounding mountains.
"It's beautiful," Maria murmured as she joined him.
"It's cold," he complained.
"We're in the mountains, Michael," Maria shook her head. "And winter's on the way."
"I'm aware of that."
"Why do I even bother?"
"So..." Isabel joined them. "Shall we go?"
"Why can't you two go shopping while me and Valenti go find a car?"
"Safety in numbers," Kyle added as he joined his friends.
"Sounds like someone got up on the wrong side of the bed this morning," Liz laughed as she and Max came out through the diner's door.
"Come on, guys," Isabel called as she started to head across the parking lot. "We're wasting shopping time."
"Whose idea was this again?" Michael demanded.
"Yours!" four voices answered as one.
"I'm sorry to leave this all to you guys," Liz frowned.
"No, that's okay, Liz," Maria placed her arm across her friend's shoulder. "You know the only way we can make Max relax is to put you on sentry duty. Like making out with him is so hard on you."

* * *

"Hmmm," Maria frowned as the four of them walked along the side of the road to the small mall they had been given directions to.
"Problem?" Isabel asked from behind her.
"Yeah," Maria turned to face Isabel and Kyle.
With a roll of his eyes, Michael stopped and turned around.
"After we take out enough cash for a week in the motel, and enough to cover meals, we don't have much money left." Maria fanned out the bills she held in her hand. "We have two hundred and twenty seven dollars left."
"We ain't gonna get far with that," Kyle shook his head. "I wonder if there's a garage taking anyone on?"
"Here," Michael reached across and took the money from Maria's hands. "Let me." He passed his hand across the bills, and changed their denominations. There was over a thousand dollars there now.
"I don't think Max will like that," Kyle shook his head. "He wants us to stay all legal, like."
"What Max doesn't know won't hurt him," Michael grunted as he turned towards the mall.
They all shrugged, and followed Michael.

They spent the morning wandering through the mall, choosing sturdy clothing for each of them.
"How do we know what size to get Max and Liz?" Michael asked.
"Please," snorted Maria. "Liz has been my best friend, like, forever. I've know her sizes ever since we were old enough to shop."
"And I think I know Max's sizes," Isabel added.
"Buff," Maria smirked.
Michael glared at her.
"What? I was kidding."
"Yeah," he muttered, heading for a music store.
They bought jeans, shirts, sweatshirts and sturdy hiking boots and new heavy-duty bags. Because of the weather, they also decided to buy some heavy coats, just in case.

"I would give anything to buy a dress for a dance or something," Isabel grumbled. "I miss those days."
They had stopped to have a cup of coffee, but decided to stay for lunch.
"I know what you mean," Maria added. "I would love to stop somewhere and have a nice night out, kind like we did over in Idaho."
They fell silent while they each reminisced.
"How's Max?" Kyle asked, breaking everyone's thoughts.
"Not good," Isabel shook her head. "Remembered when he healed those kids? He lost his powers for a while, but they came back. This time, his powers aren't coming back, at least, not very fast. He must be really weak."
"Yeah," Maria nodded. "He still looks bad, doesn't he? Who knows what damage he got when he fell into that ravine. And they injected him with that stuff, right? You know, what you were saying earlier? About stopping and having a night out? We all could. But Max could really use a week out. A whole week away from worrying about anyone except himself and Liz."
"You're right," Michael sat back and ran his hands through his hair.
"Excuse me?" Maria's mouth fell open. "Who are you and what have you done with my boyfriend?"
"He needs a break. But it's not like we have that much cash and Max would know for sure if I changed up some more money. To give them the break they deserve, we'd need real money. We'd need to be rich or something."
Isabel sat back, her eyes going distant.
"Wait here," she rose from her seat. "I'll be back in a moment."
With everyone staring as she went, Isabel disappeared into the crowds. They had all grown quite cross with her when she returned an hour later. She wouldn't tell them what she had been up to, but she had a smile on her lips.

* * *


posted on 20-Dec-2002 8:16:16 PM
Part 21

The middle-aged man with round glasses perched on his short, squat nose dropped the newspaper onto the kitchen counter. The headline that screamed out across the open page was Sarah Brackham's article about the FBI. He swept his hand over his close-cropped hair, and turned to look through the kitchen window where he watched a small group of young boys playing tag football in the yard outside. His eyes grew distant and he smiled while shaking his head at their antics. The man turned from the window, walked through the kitchen and across the living room to his study. Once inside, he crossed to the wall that held a map of the western United States. From a small pot on his desk, he pulled a handful of colored pins. He stuck a green pin in the center of the Sawtooth National Forest in Idaho. He then proceeded to stick another green pin in the southwestern edge of Nebraska. He turned to his desk, unlocked the bottom drawer, and leafed through an old newspaper he had carefully placed there. He opened the page at a description of events that unfolded during an armed siege at a roadside diner in northern New Mexico. He was good at making wild connections, and he made one in his mind now. The man stuck a blue pin on Highway 85, midway between Santa Fe and Las Vegas. He ran his fingers down the map until they reached Roswell. He tapped the location three times with his finger before placing a red pin there. He sat down at his desk, and switched on his computer monitor. He called up his web browser and selected the search page. He typed in a couple of words and pressed the search activation button. He scrolled down the displayed results and selected one that caught his attention. He read the article about the FBI and a group of missing teenagers from the town of Roswell. He narrowed his eyes and caressed his chin between his thumb and forefinger.
"Honey," he called out, leaving his study. "I have to make a trip."
"Oh," a short, dumpy woman stepped out of a small room with an arm full of laundry. "Where are they sending you now?"
"No, it's not a business trip." He was stuffing clothing into a bag. "It's... personal."
"Oh?"
"Yeah, I... I have a score to settle."

* * *

Max woke from his light doze to find Liz watching over him, her eyes filled with concern.
"Hey," he smiled.
"Hey, yourself."
"I'm okay," he answered her unspoken question.
"No, you're not, Max," Liz shook her head. "You can fool the others, but you can't fool me."
"Honest. I feel fine."
"Then let me see."
"What?"
"Max. If it had been me who'd been through that ordeal, you wouldn't rest until you'd checked me over at least three times. Let me in so that I can see for myself."
"Liz, I..."
"Max, do I have to do this the hard way?" Liz's eyes sparkled with merriment.
"Okay," Max gave a slow nod.
"I can't believe you," Liz shook her head.
"What?"
"You look like you don't want to kiss me."
"You think so, huh? Come here."
Liz molded herself to Max's body and, spread across the bed, they started to kiss. It was gentle at first, a disciplined introduction to something they had been without for too long. Max started to suck at her bottom lip, nibbling at her. She bit back, trying to capture his lips with her own. Their tongues darted to meet each other in minor skirmishes and before long, the kiss had erupted into a full, passionate embrace. Max opened his mind to Liz, trusting to her his entire soul. Liz was filled with a sense of awe as she once again felt Max's deep and abiding love for her. She hoped that he could feel that love returned. With a heavy reluctance, yet fierce determination, Liz ignored the flashing imagery that assailed her senses and instead, started to allow her mind to meld with Max's and sweep through his body, checking over his whole physiology. She quickly found the not-quite-healed fractures in his legs and his arm. She saw the torn tendons, the ruptured muscles and the bruised and battered flesh. She found the damage to Max's skull, and a strange, loose cable-like cord that ran down his spine and just stopped. She tried with all her heart to heal even the smallest of his many hurts, but she couldn't. Only Max could heal.
"Oh, Max," Liz choked when the connection between them closed. Tears flooded her eyes. "You must be in agony."
"I feel so weak, Liz," Max admitted.
"Try using your powers, Max. It's been a whole day since you last used them."
Liz went into the bathroom and emerged with half a glass of cold water. Max held his hand over the glass. It was shaking as he concentrated on heating the liquid. Sweat appeared on his brow, but he managed to make the water steam. It was obvious that even that simple task tired him.
"Get some rest," Liz frowned. "Let me give this some thought."

* * *

"Okay," Maria turned to Isabel when they dumped their shopping bags in their motel room. They had returned from their shopping trip by taxi, while Michael and Kyle had gone in search of a cheap car. "Spill."
"What do you mean?" Isabel smirked.
"Okay, you've had, like that stupid 'I know a secret' grin on your face ever since your mysterious side trip at lunch."
"I don't know what you're talking about."
"I've had that stupid smile myself often enough. You're up to something devious, and I want to know what it is."
"Not now, Maria," Isabel shook her head. "Nothing may come of it, and I don't want you getting upset if it doesn't. But if it does, work out, I mean, trust me. You'll love it."
"Do you have any idea how much I hate it when someone says, trust me? You do realize that I'm going to spend the rest of the day wondering what it is."
"It'll help pass the time, then. Won't it? Now help me with these," Isabel indicated the shopping bags. "We need to keep everything packed in case we have to make a quick getaway."
"We've been on the run too long," Maria complained.

* * *

The approaching engine that stopped with a rattling sound right outside of their motel room woke Maria and Isabel from their nap. They both leapt to the window and peered through the curtains; Isabel had a look of determination on her face. She stood where she could keep an eye on Max and Liz's door. Both sighed with relief when they saw Michael and Kyle climb from an aging, orange Volkswagen van. The two girls stepped outside to inspect their new transportation.
"It isn't as good as the last one we had," Maria pointed out, her nose wrinkled. "The one Jesse got us."
"It's better than the bus," Michael shrugged,
"Or walking," Kyle added.
"True," Isabel nodded.
They looked over the van, taking note of the rust patches and dents in the poor bodywork.
"Michael just fixed up the engine, suspension, brakes and hydraulics. You know, the stuff that people won't see," Kyle kicked the front tires. "He said that people expect to see vans this old in such a... crap condition."
"New tires?" Isabel asked, watching Kyle's actions with a smile.
Michael looked disappointed and shook his head.

Maria laughed and turned back to the motel room.
"Has anyone checked in on them?" Michael cast a glance at the other motel room door.
"No," Isabel shook her head. "We didn't want to go in, you know, in case... I so do not want to walk in on my brother."
"The way Max was looking, it's gonna be some time before he's able to..." Kyle left it hanging.
"Liz will see he's okay. You'll see," Maria shrugged.
"Yeah," they all nodded.
"Come on," Michael took over. "Let's go inside in case an FBI van drives by and someone recognizes us.
"Oh," Isabel looked at her watch. "You know what? You go on in. I have a small errand to run."
"What's she up to?" Kyle asked as they watched her walking towards the reception office.
"Who knows?" Maria shrugged and entered the room.
"Who cares?" Michael joined her.

* * *

"Are you feeling any better?" Liz asked as Max woke up from another short nap.
"Yeah," he nodded. "What time is it?"
"Late afternoon," Liz shrugged.
"Are the others back yet?"
"Yeah. They're all next door. I think they're giving us some space."
"Oh, right." Max scratched behind his ear. "Liz, I'm sorry. I..."
"Shhh, Max," Liz placed a finger against Max's lips. She smiled when he stopped talking and kissed her fingertip. "It's all right. We'll have plenty of time later. Let's get you better, first. Okay?"
"It's just..."
"No, Max. I understand. And I've been thinking. You know, normally, you get weak after you use a lot of power, but it all comes back, right?"
"Yeah," Max nodded. "Eventually."
"So, in a way, you're like a battery. When you run flat, you just recharge. But what if somehow, the lead that focuses the energy back into the storage cells came loose?"
"You mean, that... tendon you found?"
"Yeah. Suppose that tendon came loose when Frankie hit you that time. That's why you've been feeling so weak all the time. You're not charging up properly."
"That makes sense, I guess," Max nodded.
"Do you think you are strong enough to heal just that tendon, Max? If I'm right, you'll start to feel better. Then, when you're fully fit, you can fix up the rest of you."
"Where would I be without you in my life?" Max wondered out loud.
"You know what, Max?" Liz's eyes sparkled. "I don't even want to know."

* * *

The old, orange van entered the small, private airfield through the main gates, admitted by the tired, old security guard that sat in the small box. The airfield looked deserted, except for the cluster of small airplanes that sat in three rows over on the far side of the runway.
"What are we doing here, guys?" Max looked at his surroundings with confusion in his eyes. Ever since he had healed the loose tendon that Liz had found, Max had been getting stronger. He seemed more alert, more like his usual self.
"You'll see," Isabel and Maria grinned.
"Have you noticed how strange they've been acting lately?" Liz asked Max.
Isabel steered the car away from the runway and towards some hangers.
"It's not just you two who can find people in trouble, people who need our help," Isabel called over her shoulder.
She parked the van by the side entrance to one of the more grand hangers. They all climbed from the vehicle and followed Isabel to the doorway.
"We heard about this couple who need some help. The kind of help only we can give."
"That's great, Iz," Max smiled with pride.
Isabel laughed and opened the door. Everyone followed her inside. The hanger interior was brightly lit, and they could all see the white Lear jet sitting in the middle. A set of steps led up to the half-opened door. Max and Liz hesitated.
"It's okay," Isabel nodded at the jet. "This is something only the two of you can do. Trust me, Max."
"I do, Iz, but..."
"No buts, Max," Isabel showed her impatience. "You wanted to do good deeds. Now go in there and do this one."
"Yeah," Maria added. "Come on, Liz."
"Okay," Liz broke her silence. Her eyes narrowed. "What's going on?"
"If you don't go inside, you'll never find out."
"Come on, Max," Liz shrugged. She took Max's hand and led him up the steps. "Let's get this over with."
Max followed her up and into the jet. Inside, the interior was luxurious, upholstered in white leather.
"How the other half live," Liz murmured as she ran a hand over the smooth material.
The door slammed closed behind them, making them spin around. Through the small, round porthole, they could see Michael twisting the lever to lock it shut. Standing on the steps while Isabel, Maria and Kyle pulled them free from the plane, Michael waved at them. Still looking confused, Max turned to Liz. Together, they looked through the windows to see their four friends grinning and waving at them.

"Good morning, Mr. and Mrs. King," a gentle voice called from behind them. A stewardess wearing a pale pink and white uniform stepped out from the cockpit. "Would you please be seated and prepare yourself for takeoff?"
She indicated two seats.
"Take off?" Max demanded.
"What's going on?" Liz added.
"It'll all be explained to you once we're in the air," the stewardess assured them.
In spite of the warnings that his mind was screaming, Max sat down, beside Liz who had already seated herself. Together, they fastened their seatbelts.
"Liz..." Max began.
"I guess it's okay, Max," she smiled. "There's no way they'd let you out of their sight if it wasn't."
Max jumped when the turbine engines fired up. Their friends ran towards the front of the aircraft, out of sight, which did little to ease Max's concern. The jet plane started to move and as it left the hanger, Max saw his friends standing by the huge doors they had just opened. As the plane left the building, the four grinning conspirators gave another wave.

* * *

Michael stood at Maria's side and watched the Lear jet taxi to the runway. The small plane paused for a second and then started accelerating to its take off speed. They all gave a final wave as it started to climb into the sky. It banked to the left and disappeared into a cloud. Only Isabel continued to wave.
"It feels weird," Michael sighed.
"What does?" Isabel asked, not taking her eyes from the spot where she had last seen the plane.
"I've never just stood here while he's gone off on a trip. Usually, he just disappears."
"Yeah," she sighed.
"Oh, oh," they heard Kyle groan.
Michael looked at Kyle and followed to where he was looking. A black limousine had just entered the airport gates and was driving towards them.
"Should we run?" Kyle asked, trying to judge how far they were from their van.
"No," Michael shook his head. "Isabel and I can take care of whoever this is."
The limo drew closer, and parked in front of them. The driver climbed out and put his peaked driver's hat on.
"Are one of you ladies a Ms. Vilondra?"
Michael's eyes narrowed as the others exchanged glances.
"Yes," Isabel acknowledged with a cautious tone.
"If you would be so kind as to step into the limo, Miss." The driver opened the passenger door and stood formally to attention.
Michael stepped forward to object.
"Would you be Mr. Rath?" the driver almost ignored his belligerent stance.
"Uh, yeah." Michael looked at Maria, who looked back with an equally blank expression.
Maria's eyes widened as she lifted her shoulders. The driver reached into his breast pocket and before Michael could react, the driver was holding a thick envelope out to him. Michael accepted the envelope and was not fully aware that Isabel had already stepped into the limo. He tore the envelope open and his eyes widened at the sight of a thick wad of fifty-dollar bills. He looked up in time to see the limo pulling away.
"I can't believe you just let her get in like that," Kyle looked worried. Then he saw the money. "Where did that come from?"
"Hang on, there's a note," Maria pointed to the bills.
Michael started to curse himself as he pulled the note free. Where was the limo taking Isabel? If the note provided no answers, he was going to act. He quickly read the hand written message. His eyes widened with surprise and he looked up at the disappearing car.
"What the f...?"

* * *

Isabel climbed into the back of the sumptuous limo, and heard the click of the door shutting behind her. Through the tinted window, she saw Michael's look of confusion and concern as he accepted the envelope that the driver held out to him. She wondered if she should put a stop to all this, but after the arrangements she had made for Max and Liz, she couldn't help her curiosity. The limo started to move and Isabel looked again at Michael. The window between her and the driver opened, and he handed her a CD jewel case. As soon as she had accepted it, the window closed again. He opened the case and picked up the CD. She saw the player in front of her, and slid the disc into the tray. On a small monitor in the back of the seat in front of her, a grinning face appeared.
"Oh my God!" Isabel exclaimed, her eyes widening. "You did this?"

* * *

Max continued to look through the window until the ground disappeared beneath the clouds. The stewardess appeared through the cockpit door again.
"Can I offer you some refreshments, Mr. King?" she asked. "We have champagne, wine, whisky?"
"Uh, do you have coke?"
"You just want a soft drink?"
"Yeah," Max nodded. "Cherry cola, if you have it."
"And you, Mrs. King?"
Liz looked from Max to the stewardess.
"Can I get a fruit juice? Orange?"
"Sure. How about some chocolates?"
"Ooh," Liz smiled. "Yes, please."

"I think we've been set up," Max muttered, half under his breath when the stewardess had returned to the cockpit.
"Do you think?" Liz laughed. "I wonder where they're sending us? I wonder how they could afford this?"
"Probably a little out of this world magic. Like the time Michael and I went to La Jolla. You know, where Iz..."
"Yeah," Liz nodded. "Don't be too hard on them, Max. They did it for a good cause." Liz reached over and teased Max with a slow, sensual kiss. "A very good cause."
Next to Max's seat, a small telephone started to beep. Max narrowed his eyes and looked at Liz. She just shrugged with a look as confused as his. Max picked up the handset, and at once, a monitor in front of him flickered to life.
"Hello?" Max spoke.
A man's grinning face appeared.
"You?" Max spluttered.
"Hello, Max," the image sneered. "Long time no see."

* * *

posted on 27-Dec-2002 3:51:47 PM
Part 22

Somewhere over the Midwest, a Lear jet climbed high above the clouds. Inside the cabin, a very surprised young couple were staring wide-eyed and open- mouthed at a video screen, filled with the last person on Earth that Max had ever expected to hear from.
"Max," Liz stammered. "Isn't that..."
"Langley," Max nodded. "Kal Langley."
"I'm flattered that you remember me, Max," Langley smirked. "I thought, given our... differences, you would want to forget me and your... sojourn to LA."
Max started to chew the inside of his lip. He looked everywhere except at the screen while he fidgeted in his seat. His face started to color.
"Good afternoon, Mr. Langley," Liz recovered after she looked at Max. "To what do we owe this pleasure?"
"To whom, actually, Liz. It's so nice to talk to you at last, by the way. I've heard all about you of course, and I even came down once to see for myself."
"Oh... thanks," Liz was taken aback at his comments. "Uhm, so whom, then?"
"Isabel," Langley folded his hands in front of him. "Isabel called me up and asked..." Langley leaned forward, closer to the camera. "That's right, Max. Asked." He leaned back again. "She told me what's been happening to you. At first, I was going to say no. I mean, I don't exactly owe you anything, do I? But then, big hearted softy that I am, I started to think about all the things that you've been up to since the FBI tried to capture you. That was clever, by the way. Your escape, I mean. A nice touch, to run interference so your friends could escape. You risked your own life to save theirs. So I thought, why not? It's the human thing to do. See, Max? It's your human side who defines you. Keep hold of that and you'll get through everything that's thrown against you. Your very salvation could come from you being human and not Antarian. Who knows? Maybe even the salvation of Antar could come from you being human. But then, I don't really care if Antar goes to pot, or not. I don't want to go back, and I'm suspecting that neither do you."
"Thank you, Langley," Max nodded. Although his color had returned, he still appeared uneasy talking with the man whose life he had destroyed. "For what you're doing for us."
"Mr. Langley?" Liz called. "Where are we going?"
"Ah. They were right about you, Liz. You get right to the point. Well, the other day, Isabel said that the two of you had been through some tough times together over the past year, and that you, out of all of them needed a break. She also hinted that you never had a proper honeymoon. I'm a little offended that I wasn't invited to the wedding, but I guess under the circumstances... So call this my wedding present. You are, after all, Max, my King."
Again, Max shifted, looking a little uncomfortable. Langley just smirked.
"Anyway, I knew that your passport photo might get spotted if you went somewhere where you needed one, and with all the security in place these days... So, I thought why not bring you out here to California? The pool, the beach, the parties... But, no. I think that Max and myself might start to feel a little claustrophobic around one another, so then I thought about Florida. In the end, I decided to push the boat out. You're going to Puerto Rico."
"The Caribbean?" Liz squealed. "Oh, Maria will be so jealous. When we were juniors, we talked about going there for spring break senior year."
"Well, I guess it turned out that you had better things to do," Langley chuckled. "Anyway, you'll be met at the airport by a limo. The driver and the staff at the hotel where you're staying, at my expense, thinks that you're there to research locations for my next film. So no one will question you. Just sign everything and anything you do on the resort to me."
"Langley," Max spoke at last. "This must be costing you a fortune."
"What's money to me, Max?" Langley shrugged. "If I can't make it all back honestly, I have other means available to me. I don't feel bound by the same morals you feel. In a way, I'm more like Zan. All I ask is that in future, you only ever contact me in an extreme emergency. And please, no personal visits. I'll try to keep an eye on you, and I'll look out for your parents, but that's all I'll do. Oh, don't worry about the others. I'll make sure that the FBI won't find them. There's an envelope in the drawer next to you. It's got your spending money in it. It's only pocket change to me. Treat yourselves. Have fun, and look after Liz the way our Queen should be looked after. Max? Don't ever forget who it is who has defined your humanity since the first day you saw her. Maybe now that you don't have a sycophantic court around you, you'll be the king you were meant to be. Liz? I want you to promise that you'll do whatever it takes to keep Max human. And that you'll be alien when you need to be."
Before either could respond, the screen turned blank. Both Max and Liz stared at the silent monitor.
"Are you ready for your meal, now?" the stewardess made a timely appearance.

* * *

"Hello, Isabel," Kal Langley spoke to her through the CD. "I'm sorry you have to make do with my recorded message, but I'm actually talking to Max right now, face to face. I guess it's kind of important that we talk. I figured that you wouldn't wait too long to find out what's going on before you start to panic, so I came up with this compromise. Even I can't be in two places at once. I apologize for having the driver call you Vilondra. I know that you have grown to abhor that name, but I didn't want my driver to accidentally remember that he once collected an Isabel Evans for me. I only hypnotize my minions to do these... secretive tasks; I don't mess with their minds. Hypnosis is pretty good, but sometimes, someone starts to remember things at the most inopportune of moments. Anyway, I was very touched by your care and concern for your brother, even though in my opinion, he doesn't deserve such loyal friends and family that he has surrounded himself with now. But, I have to admit, Max has been... different since his... visit. It's good to see that you are as far from the Vilondra you once were as Max is from the Zan he once was, and for a while, was close to becoming again. So, anyway, I decided that Max wasn't the only one who deserved a reward. I thought that I'd give you a break too. Michael is Michael. He'll be happy with a big bed for him and his girlfriend, a wide screen TV with all the sports channels and unlimited room service. I'm sure Maria would get a kick out of pretty much unlimited shopping. But you, I know, would want something different. I know that there's a place that you've always wanted to visit. The limo will drop you off at Denver Railway Station, where you'll catch a train that will take you all the way to New Orleans. First class, of course. It's a shame you couldn't have hung on 'til the spring. You could have gone during Mardi Gras. Any way, have fun."
"Sure," Isabel groaned as her thoughts went out to Jesse, wishing that he could have joined her.

Satisfied by the fact that this was not some complicated FBI plot to capture her, Isabel relaxed and watched the scenery as it passed by. Soon, the trees started to give way to houses and factories and the limo entered Denver. When they arrived at the station, the driver stepped out first and opened the door for her. Feeling important, Isabel stepped out and tried to look glamorous. It was a difficult task, given that she was wearing jeans and a pale pink sweatshirt. The driver then went to the trunk, and lifted out a medium-sized suitcase.
"If you would follow me, Ms. Vilondra." The driver led her through the station and onto platform twelve where the train was already waiting.
He led her to one of the coaches and helped her board the train. Down the narrow passageway, he stopped outside of a first-class cabin, and swung the door open. He placed the case down on the floor and stepped back to let Isabel in.
"Here's your cabin key, and you'll find the first class lounge and dining hall down that way. Have a good trip, Ms. Vilondra." The driver touched his peaked cap with his fingers and gave a short bow.
"Thank you," Isabel responded in a daze.
Even though the cabin was tiny, it was more luxurious when compared to any of the accommodations she had stayed in since they had left Roswell. The sofa doubled as a pull out bed, and she had her own bathroom compartment. But she was on her own. She didn't even have her friends to keep her company. She would miss Max and Michael. She would miss Liz, and yes, Maria too. She would also miss Kyle and his stupid jokes that made her laugh in spite of how corny they were. Isabel sat back on the sofa and sighed deeply. She needed to talk to someone. She decided on Max.

* * *

Isabel appeared in a white leather interior of a jet aircraft. Every where she looked, white rose petals were strewn about the place, imitating a fine layer of snow filling the cabin with its heady fragrance. Pink scented candles burned in silver holders. Small white and silver butterflies flitted around the cabin. The whole aura exuded pure... romance.
On a large double bed of satin sheets, covered in another layer of rose petals, Max, wearing a white tuxedo, and Liz, wearing a figure hugging, pure white gown of silk, were making out in a serious, passionate clinch.
"Oh my god, Max!" Isabel shrieked and with her face burning brightly, turned away.

"Isabel?" Max looked up, his face burning with embarrassment. At once the scene changed to a normal, but still luxurious looking plane interior. Liz, dressed like Max in her jeans, was leaning against him, sleeping. "Uh, sorry, I was... just..."
"Daydreaming, I know. No, I'm sorry, I should have... uh... called first."
"It's not like we have dream phones," Max chuckled.
"Just out of curiosity, what are you and Liz doing right now?"
"Well, we were both kind of dozing. We had a huge meal. Anyway, I think we'll be landing soon."
"Cool. So where are you headed?"
"You didn't know? Langley's paying for us to stay at a luxury hotel in Puerto Rico."
"Oh, wow. You're so lucky."
"Thank you, Isabel. I hear this was your idea."
"Yeah. But hey, I got my own reward."
"Getting rid of us for a week?"
"No, Langley's sending me to New Orleans."
"All of you?"
"No. Just me."
"Isabel. I wish I had known. I'd have tried to tell Jesse. How long will you be there for? Maybe you could call him?"
"I can't risk that, Max. What if the FBI are watching him?"
"Yeah. Isabel, I'm... sorry."
"I'm just lonely."
"I'm here for you Iz. Any time you need to talk. I'll, uh... try not to daydream about Liz too much."
"Thanks," Isabel laughed. "So. Have you joined the mile high club yet?"
"Well, I think I was about to, in my dreams. But we have this stewardess who keeps popping in and out. So, no, we haven't."
"Well, I think I'll shower and change. Langley sent me a suitcase. I hope he packed a dress. I haven't worn a dress since that night out we had in Stanley."
"That seems like such a long time ago."
"For us, it feels longer, Max. Just ask Liz."

* * *

Isabel lifted the suitcase onto the sofa, and popped the catches open. Inside there were some very nice, elegant dresses. There were also a few that, while still just as nice, were not the sort of dress that Isabel would wear while unaccompanied, unless it was her intention to advertise her availability. That couldn't have been further from her mind. When she uncovered the lingerie, she couldn't help blushing. Without a doubt, she knew that a guy had packed this case. Judging from the character assessment Max had given of him, it had probably been packed by Kal Langley himself. Isabel locked her cabin door, chose a more conservative dress, and some less... revealing lingerie, which she altered to make a touch more conservative, and went into her bathroom to have a long, luxurious shower.

* * *

"There's gotta be five, maybe six grand in there," Maria's mouth hung open.
"What does the note say, Guerin?" Kyle demanded. He still kept his eyes on the disappearing limo.
"It says that Max and Liz are being sent somewhere for Max to recover from what he has been through and that Isabel is going to find something she's lost. Oh, it says here that there's a credit card inside. We're to use it to check into a luxury hotel for the week and live it up."
"Does it say where?" Maria frowned.
"No. I guess that's up to us. According to our intrepid explorer here, we're in the middle of ski country. We must have dozens to choose from."
"What about Max and Liz? And Isabel?" Maria demanded. "Suppose they can't find us? And what if the FBI do?"
"Maria? The last place that the FBI are going to look for us is in a top class hotel just up the road from their last sighting of us. Anyway, it says here that the FBI have problems of their own."
"Who's it from?" Kyle still looked worried.
"It's from Kal Langly."
"Isn't he the guy Max went to see in LA?" Maria narrowed her eyes. "The producer who killed that actress in Roswell?"
"Yeah, I guess Isabel didn't like the idea of using our powers to get all this stuff and gave him a call."
"So where do we go?" Kyle asked with a big smile. "Aspen or Snowmass?"
"We could flip a coin," Maria shrugged.
"We go the other way," Michael decided. "Glenwood Springs."
"Any particular reason?" Kyle wondered out loud.
"Yeah," Michael nodded. "It's on Highway 70. It gives us more escape routes."
"I thought you said the FBI had problems. Surely we don't need to worry about them."
"Sean's not FBI," Michael growled. "We don't know how deep the CIA are involved or if it's just him on his own. We need to be ready."
"Okay, then," Maria smiled. "Glenwood Springs, here we come."

* * *

"Oh, Michael," Maria squealed. "Check this out!" Maria moved through their luxury suite, taking everything in. When she came to the view from their balcony, she had all but stopped breathing. "Imagine how this would look in the middle of winter."
"First snow isn't too far away," Michael chuckled, leaving the wide screen TV and its handset to embrace Maria from behind. "I heard someone down in the lobby say it should arrive in a few weeks."
"We only have a week," she complained.
Michael shrugged.
"I've never stayed anywhere like this," Maria shook her head. "I mean, so... high class."
"Me neither."
"Well, there's something we have to do before we do anything else." Maria's grin was almost childish.
"Test the bed?" Michael wiggled his eyebrows.
"Get your mind out of the gutter, Guerin. No. We have to hit the mall. If you think that were dressing in jeans and sweats while staying in a place like this, guess again."
"I knew this was too good to be true," Michael groaned.

* * *

The first thing that Kyle did, after sinking into the most comfortable bed he had slept on since leaving home, was to turn on the huge television set and check out which sports channels and which adult channels he could get. As he settled back to watch some female wrestling, the second thing he did was to order a steak sandwich, a baked potato with butter and cheese and a side order of coleslaw, along with an ice cold beer to wash it all down with. He was going to enjoy his stay here, he decided while he watched the not so very feminine forms on the screen grapple with one another. He could swim, work out in the gym and even relax in the sauna afterwards. He even wondered if Michael would consider taking a time out from his sex-a-thon with Maria to play him at racquetball. Kyle promised himself that he was going to have the most fun a guy on his own could have. The smile fell from his face and he released a deep sigh. Even though he was not romantically linked with either of them, he was missing Liz and Isabel already.

* * *

Isabel sat in her cabin watching the New Mexico landscape go by. She had returned from the first class lounge to get some respite from the older businessman who seemed to think that the size of his bank balance was a turn on that Isabel just couldn't resist. She tried bragging about her husband, but the older man seemed to suffer from selective deafness and ignored her comments. In the end, the desire to be left alone outweighed her need for some light conversation to help make her feel less lonely. After her shower, she had felt fresh, alive and ready to face the world. She had just forgotten how bad the world could be.
"Albuquerque," the small speaker in her compartment informed her. "The next stop is Albuquerque. Change at Albuquerque for Santa Fe."
As the train started to slow down, Isabel stepped out into the corridor to look out the window. She hoped to see any of the familiar landmarks that she had seen before during one of her many trips here with her parents. She was aware of the looks she was receiving from the other passengers who walked up and down the passage, stepping behind her, but she ignored them.
"Look all you want," she whispered to herself. "I'm taken."
The train stopped, and for a while, there was a rush of passengers looking for their allocated cabins. The train started up again, and the foot traffic died down. A pair of hands wrapped themselves over her eyes.
"Guess who?" a sultry voice asked, one that she had heard every night in her dreams for too long now.
"Jesse?" she squealed. Isabel thought her heart would burst. She could hardly believe it. "Jesse!"
Isabel turned, making Jesse pull his hands away.
"Oh my God, Jesse!" Isabel couldn't help her excited babbling. "I can't believe you're here."
"Neither can I," he looked as thrilled as she did.
Isabel wrapped herself around him and started to kiss him with a desire and desperation that could only be described as... hunger. Even though there was a part of her that was aware that they were blocking the corridor with their heated and very public embrace, Isabel didn't care. She just kissed him more.
"Get a room," she heard someone complain.
Isabel reached behind Jesse's back and fumbled for the door handle to her room. The door popped open and they fell into her... no, their cabin. Fingers plucked at buttons as hands caressed one another.
"Thank you, Kal," Isabel groaned as the first real kiss in months with her husband started to get hotter.

* * *


posted on 3-Jan-2003 4:27:32 PM
Part 23

Through the small, oval windows Max and Liz peered at the green island below, surrounded by the azure blue of the sea. The ground grew closer and soon, the green foliage gave way to the gray tarmac and the plane bounced when it finally touched down, the tires squealing out in protest. The small jet taxied towards a smaller hanger that had a few other small airplanes standing nearby. At last, the engines shut down, and the stewardess appeared from the cockpit to open the door for Max and Liz.
"Good bye," she smiled. "Have a great time and we'll see you soon."
Holding her hand, Max led Liz down the small steps that the stewardess folded from the plane's floor.
A man in a charcoal gray suit stood in the baking heat at the bottom of the steps, next to a white limousine. The passenger door nearest to them was open.
"Mr. and Mrs. King," the man gave a formal bow. He spoke good English but with a Spanish accent. "On behalf of the management and staff of the Copamarina Beach Resort, I would like to welcome you to Puerto Rico."
"Thank you," Liz grinned up at Max.
Together, they followed the driver back to the car and climbed into the back of the limo. It was still cool from the air conditioning. The driver showed no trace of concern over their lack of luggage.
"The airport that we are just leaving," the driver called back to them through the opened window between them as they started driving away, "is just outside of the city of Ponce, on the southern coast of Puerto Rico. The resort is about half an hour's drive to the west. It is near to a town called Guanica. Just sit back please, and enjoy the view. You will find mineral water and fruit juice in the refrigerator."

* * *

"Max, have you ever seen anything so beautiful?" Liz couldn't hide the awe in her voice as her eyes flickered everywhere, taking in the hundred different shades of green, and the splashes of red, blue, yellow and white that were all visible through the window.
"No," Max whispered. "Never."
Liz turned to smile at him, but the smile spread to her whole body when she saw that he wasn't looking out of the window, but at her.
"I was talking about the view," her eyes sparkled.
"So was I," Max moistened his lips.
Liz gave Max a look of pure love, and was delighted to see his whole body shake.
"All this green," she continued. "Even that weekend we went to Frazier Woods, or last week while we were looking for you in Colorado, I don't think I've ever seen so much green. Or so many shades of it."
"Liz," Max smiled. "Wherever I am, it's only beautiful if you are there with me. Without you, it's just another place."
"Thank you," Liz kissed his cheek.
"You know," his eyes sparkled. "It really is my pleasure."

* * *

"Oh!" Liz sucked in her breath when the limo pulled up in front of the Copamarina's reception. The two main buildings that seemed to form the bulk of the resort were built in a semi-circle, which framed the outdoor pools, restaurants and bars in the middle. Through the palm trees to the beach, dozens of small villas stood like islands in a sea of green.
"Wow," Max agreed.
"Welcome to the Copamarina Beach Resort, Mr. and Mrs. King," an olive skinned woman in a white linen suit greeted them as they climbed out of the limo the driver had just opened. A badge pinned to her breast announced her as Ms. Hernandez. "We trust that your stay with us will be most satisfactory as well as relaxing. If you would be so kind as to follow me, I'll take you to your room. Your luggage has already been unpacked for you."
"Our luggage?" Max raised his eyebrows and looked at Liz.
"Yes, it arrived this morning. We took the liberty of putting it all away for you."
"Uh... thank you," Max shrugged.

The young couple, walking through the grounds with their heads swiveling in all directions, was stunned when Ms. Hernandez led them into an incredible villa close to the beach. It was huge. Double doors led from the enormous living room onto a patio which itself looked across the wide expanse of the white, sandy beach to the crystal blue water that lapped at it's edge. The master bedroom, complete with a four-poster double bed, had its own bathroom, which had a large shower cubicle. There were two other bedrooms, both of which contained double beds, and a separate bathroom.
"There must be some mistake," Max looked around the room. "There's only the two of us. I mean, we... we're not sharing with any one else... are we?"
"There is no mistake, Mr. King," Ms. Hernandez reassured them. "Mr. Langley requested our best accommodation for you. He was most insistent. He specifically stated that it must be suitable for royalty. This is our best suite, and you will not be sharing with anybody else. Now, through here is the kitchen. We placed some snacks in there for you as well as some mineral water, soft drinks and fruit juices. He didn't request it, but we took the liberty of including some different wines for you to enjoy." She walked over to the door. "We hope that you enjoy your stay with us. If there is any thing you need, anything at all, just call reception."
Max pulled the envelope from his back pocket. A momentary panic hit him when he saw only hundred dollar bills.
"Oh, no," the woman smiled. "There is uh... no need to tip me. But thank you anyway."
"Well, Max," Liz stepped up to Max and wrapped her arms around him, pressing her cheek to his chest. "What would you like to do first?"
"Well," he smiled. "Later, after we've showered and changed, we could take a walk around the grounds. But first..."
With a gentle smile of pure adoration, Max lifted Liz into his arms and carried her towards the bedroom, and the four-poster bed.

* * *

After too many days sitting in his room watching television, eating the best food that the hotel could provide and working out in the gymnasium and swimming pool, Kyle was bored. In the three days that they had spent there, Kyle had not once seen Michael or Maria. He gave them up as lost. After another heavy lunch, Kyle looked out of the window and decided that he would take a walk and see a little more of Glenwood Springs. He spent the afternoon in the center of the town, checking out the potential nightlife, before he turned towards the ski slopes. It was while he was enjoying a cup of coffee that he overheard two men talking about a job opening. Deciding to apply, he went under the name of Carl Valentine, which was the name Max had changed on the diploma and was the name on the resume he had created for him, after their stint in Idaho. Kyle was glad that he had the foresight to have saved them from the car they had to abandon. After an interview, which went rather smoothly, he was offered the job. The very next morning, Kyle had an early breakfast, dressed in his work clothes, and headed for an honest day's work.

It was easy work, really. With another man, he formed a maintenance team to check, service and repair the ski lifts that would be used by the thousands of tourists through the coming winter months. The first day went by with few problems. It helped that his partner was as competent as Kyle. Simon Mason was a tall, slim man in his late forties, with steel gray hair.
"You're the first person I've worked with who hasn't pestered me with incessant chatter all day," Simon acknowledged as they were preparing to go home. Apart from the odd instruction, request, or their introductions that they had made that morning, they had been the first words either had spoken all day.
"Yeah," Kyle shrugged. "I guess I don't have much to say."
"Are you in a hurry to get on home?"
"Nah," Kyle shook his head. "I was thinking about going into town for a drink."
"Do you mind some company?"
"Not at all," Kyle nodded. "As long as you don't mind a sports bar."

During the next few days, the ill-matched pair formed a tentative friendship. Neither asked the other about their past. They worked well together, building an almost instinctive trust that ensured they completed their allotted tasks with an efficiency that bordered on ruthlessness. As well as they worked together, in customary silence, so too did they play well together. They spent their lunch, and the early evening in the sports bars, playing foosball, or watching a game on television, always in a comfortable silence. If Simon had formed any opinions on Kyle and his reluctance to speak, he never mentioned them, just as Kyle never commented on any suspicions he had of Simon's reluctance to bring up his past.
"What do you usually do for dinner, Carl," Simon asked.
"I usually grab a bite in my room," Kyle shrugged. He didn't want to admit that he was currently staying in first class accommodation. "Why?"
"I was kinda thinking that maybe you could come back to my place for dinner."
Kyle's eyes widened, and he shifted from foot to foot.
"Uhm..." he began. Not once did Kyle imagine that Simon leaned that way.
Sensing Kyle's unease, Simon started to laugh.
"No," he chuckled. "It's just... me and my daughter, we're so... we just don't often meet new people, you know? I thought maybe you could use some company for a change. It might do you some good. I know it will do Chrissie some."
"Sure," Kyle nodded, shaking his head as his face colored. "That'd be..."
"See you at seven. Two seventy-one, Cedar way. Apartment sixteen."

* * *

At seven o'clock, Kyle stood outside of Simon's door, suffering the same feelings he remembered suffering on his first ever date. He had taken his time getting himself ready, and had stopped at a liquor store to buy a six-pack of beer. Breathing into his hand, and checking his breath, he finally knocked on the door.
"Carl," Simon nodded, opening it for him. "Come on in."
The apartment was small--compact would be a better term--but it was tidy. Simon and his daughter appeared to have as few possessions as he did. The sofa showed signs of being used as a bed, while Kyle guessed that Chrissie probably used the single bedroom behind one of the three doors that lead from the room. The kitchen and bathroom were behind the others.
"Do you like chili?" Simon asked. "I hope so. It's all I know how to make. Chrissie's going to be late, I'm afraid. She has a job as a chambermaid over at the Alpine Lodge. They had some problems today and she stayed behind to help."
"That's okay. I understand," Kyle nodded. He held up the six-pack. "What do you want me to do with these?"
Simon took the beers from Kyle, and pulled two of the cans free from the packaging.
"You want a glass?" he asked, handing a can to Kyle.
"This is good," Kyle took the offered can and pulled back the ring-pull.
"The game's on in a minute. Giants, Angels. Game six."
"Great," Kyle sat in the indicated chair. "I have a feeling about the Angels."
"Me too."
The door opened, and a tall, young woman entered. She had bleached blonde, shoulder-length hair, and looked to be in her early twenties. Kyle glanced over to the newcomer, but as he turned his head back to Simon, he again looked at Chrissie. His hands started to sweat, his eyes grew wide, and his pulse started to quicken. He hoped that she couldn't hear his heart pounding. Kyle was in love. A memory of a past conversation with Liz drifted into his mind.

"Even so. I'm here, if you need a friend."
"Thanks, Kyle. But I don't see me in your future."
"So who do you see?"
"I'm not sure. It's just not me, unless I've bleached my hair."


"Sorry I'm late," she called as she hung her jacket over the stand.
Kyle wiped the palms of his hands on his jeans, and tried hard to remove the desire from his eyes.
'Fuel is injected into the chamber,' he told himself. 'The upstroke compresses the air and fuel mixture. A spark ignites the mix, which forces the piston down. On the next cycle, the burnt fumes are pushed out through the exhaust outlet. Breathe, Valenti. Breathe.'
"Hi, Chrissie," Simon greeted his daughter. "This is Carl... Carl, this is my daughter, Chrissie."
"Pleased to meet you," Kyle extended his hand wishing his voice sounded more assured. Her firm grip surprised him.

In spite of her four years seniority, it appeared to Kyle that she enjoyed his company as much as he enjoyed hers.
'I wonder if this was what it was like for Evans,' Kyle wondered as he sneaked another glance at Chrissie. 'All those years watching Liz.'
Unlike her father, she seemed to enjoy conversation, and delighted in talking about her school days, although Kyle noticed that she never mentioned the names of towns or friends. Kyle could tell from her stories that her life was spent moving from one place to another. He hoped he hadn't become mixed up with someone involved in a life of crime. That would be all he needed. But he couldn't help feeling attracted to her. To keep things moving, Kyle regaled them with tales of his own past, taking care, like Chrissie, not to mention anything that might indicate who he really was or where he really came from.
"Then there was this girl I liked, only she dumped me for this other guy," Kyle chuckled.
"I bet you sorted him out," Simon laughed. "I expect you were a jock, am I right?"
"Yeah," Kyle nodded. "And I wanted to, sort him out, you know? I really didn't like how she seemed to be so... different around him. I never really understood what love can do to you, I guess. Anyway, something happened and they stopped seeing each other. It was really weird. You could see that they still liked each other, but there they were, separate. I was kinda happy, even though she didn't give me any signs she'd take me back. Anyway, she won this blind date on a radio contest. It was to be broadcast live on the radio show, the whole town turned out to see it. Me and my buddies got a little drunk, and I went round to razz my rival about it. I ended up getting him drunk, too. I mean, I knew what he was going through. It was so funny. I guess we sorta did some bonding. We even snuck into her bedroom. Anyway, you know, talking to him that night, I realized that he was an okay guy, and how well suited he was to my ex. It was so obvious they were in love. She even ditched her radio date to help him out. Then he kissed her in front of this whole auditorium of people, when the DJ made her choose between the three of us. We had to give our reasons why she should pick us. Me? I just said I was happy to be considered. The blind date said something he thought was prophetic, but my buddy? He walks straight up to her, kisses her senseless, and just leaves. You should have seen the look on her face. Pleasure and pain in one go. I knew then that they were meant to be together. I like to think I helped them that night. Who knows? Anyway, we eventually became the best of friends after that."
"So what happened?" Chrissie asked. "To your ex and your friend?"
"Oh, they got married, eventually. They're deliriously happy now."
"Sounds like you have good friends, Carl," Simon leaned back in the chair with his arms folded. "Friends you can count on."
"The best," Kyle admitted.

The rest of the evening was spent in comfort, watching the ball game.
"Well, I guess I'd better get going," Kyle stood up from his seat when the Angels won the game. He stretched the weariness from his limbs. "Thanks for inviting me, Simon. It's been a great evening."
"It's been a pleasure, Carl," he winked. "Why don't you see him out, Chrissie?"
Chrissie looked at her father through narrowed eyes then took her coat from the rack. The unheated corridor was cold. She escorted Kyle down the stairs to the main door.
"Well, g'night," Kyle mumbled, staring at his feet.
"Yeah," Chrissie nodded. "Night, Carl."
'You can do this,' he told himself.
"Uh, Chrissie?" Kyle looked up. "You wouldn't wanna, maybe... you know... like go out... one night... on a... date... with me?" What was with the stammering? Jeez, Kyle, he berated himself. You sound more like friggin' Evans every day. "Would you?"
"Sure," she nodded, a pleasant smile playing on her lips. "How about tomorrow night?"
"Really?" Kyle squeaked out. Chrissie smiled at his look of surprise on his face when she accepted. "I mean," he controlled himself, "great. Tomorrow it is. How about I pick you up at eight? Maybe we could have dinner, and take in a movie or something?"
"Sure, Carl," Chrissie confirmed. "I'll see you here, at eight."
The door closed, and Kyle turned down the path.
"Yes," Kyle leapt and punched the air with his fist.
He walked back to his hotel room with the biggest grin he could ever remember plastered to his face, and the bounciest step he could remember having in his legs. He couldn't help wonder what he would do when his friends returned, and it would be time to leave, but, hey! This was his first date this year.

* * *

Maria woke up in the huge, comfortable bed that she shared with Michael and wondered where the time had gone. Max, Liz and Isabel would be returning in a few days, when they would have to start their life as fugitives again. It was not a prospect to which she looked forward, although she was eager to see her friends again. As great as it was spending all this time with Michael, women needed the companionship of other women.
She started to think what her life might be like right now, if the FBI hadn't decided to curtail their education. She would be on her own in Roswell, with Liz living with Max in Chicago and Isabel with Jesse in Boston. It would be just her and Michael. Liz would make other friends, confident that she would never betray Max's secrets, as would Isabel who had lived that kind of life before and knew how to keep superficial friends at arm's length. But Maria knew that with her tendency to babble, she might one-day say something unintended to someone she should not have babbled to. With a groan, she shrugged Michael's outstretched arm from over her, and rolled over to look at her boyfriend.

This, of course, brought her to her latest problem. There was a time when she would have welcomed this particular problem, envious that Liz suffered with it all the time, well, most of the time, while she so rarely saw it. That problem was romance. During the past few days, since they had waved off their three friends, Michael had all but bent over backwards to be the traditional romantic boyfriend. She could scarcely believe that she was concerned about this, she had wanted it often enough. The thing was, this was so unlike Michael, yet at the same time, his half-baked attempts were typically... him.
While being sweet it was also a little embarrassing. It had started small, a flower plucked from the meadow through which they were taking a morning stroll. It would have been touching had Michael not picked a dandelion, the only one in a field of daisies and buttercups. He followed this up by presenting her with a combination set of body wash, shampoo and conditioner, all matching and separate like the time Max gave the same to Liz, but delivered still in the brown paper bag with Walgreen's printed on the side. The romantic, candlelight dinner he had promised her turned out to be room service take out, signed to their bill to be paid for by Mr. Langley, served at a table in their own room. Michael would never be Max, Maria had accepted that a long time ago, and he only made things worse by trying to match him. She loved Michael the way he was.

After they had raised themselves from their bed, and had fed themselves with a late brunch, Michael and Maria decided to take a walk along the paths that would later be used for Nordic skiing. In spite of the bright sunshine, it was turning cold. They had worn their thick jackets to protect them from the bitter chill. Snow appeared to be just around the corner, early, as they had heard many of the locals say. They had stopped at a mountain side café and were drinking hot chocolate.
"Maria," Michael spoke after a lengthy silence. "How does Liz feel about all this? About being married so young."
"Huh?" Maria blinked. "Are you serious? You saw the smile on her face that day she married Max. You've seen how she positively glows with happiness. Look how she was last week when you all thought he was dead."
Michael just nodded.
"You know," she continued. "I'm glad that we were forced to go on the run like this."
"What do you mean?"
"Well, up until this happened, Liz was going to Chicago with Max following her..."
"Wait!" Michael interrupted. "Max was going with her?"
"Yeah. What?" Maria rolled her eyes. "Did you think Max would just let Liz go off on her own while he stuck around Roswell? After everything those two went through?"
"He never discussed that with me."
"Hello, Michael! Since when does Max need your permission?"
"It's just..."
"It's just what? Michael! You can't seriously expect that Max would ever have consulted you about his future. I mean, even you said it. He's your King."
"Still..."
"Look, can I finish here? I mean, I'm pouring my heart out and you're upset because Max wanted to follow Liz to Chicago when even you must know how he'd follow her to the ends of the earth."
"Sorry. Go on."
"As I was saying, when Liz was accepted into Northwestern, I suddenly realized that Liz was leaving and I was going to be stuck there in Roswell. I sort of knew there and then that Liz's life was moving away from my own."
"You would have still had me."
"It's not the same, Michael. So you see, this premonition thing that sent us on our... trip. It's kind of been a godsend for me. So I'll put up with anything and everything to make sure that Liz stays happy. Because without Liz, I mean, who am I?"
"Maria, will you marry me?"
Maria fell silent, something that caused Michael to fidget in his seat.
"Excuse me?"
"I'm not like Max," Michael sighed. "I'm not this romantic guy who can do the things with class like you seem to think Max does. But you know how I feel about you and you know that I'm committed to our new life style. I was kinda thinking that like Max, I'd like to do this properly. I owe you that much."
"Michael, as happy as I am that you asked me, and believe me, you don't know how happy that makes me feel just that you asked, I don't want to get married just because it seems the right thing to do. Just like you're not Max, I'm not Liz. That sort of thing isn't important to me. I don't know why it was so important for those two to do things properly when they're so much in love, but I guess there's something special going on, something we don't know about. I'm happy the way we are, Michael. So for now, can we keep it this way?"
"Okay, Maria," Michael sighed. "But I never want to hear you complain how we're not married."
"Don't worry, Spaceboy," Maria kissed his cheek. "You won't. Now. Do you want to tell me what's brought all this on?"
"What do you mean?"
"Come on, Michael. I'm not stupid. The bad romance. The marriage proposal. Something's bothering you."
"It's nothing."
"No. It's something. Now tell me."
"I... I've been..." Michael sat back and ran his hands through his hair. "I've been having these dreams. Strange dreams. I can't even remember them, but when I wake up... I feel... alien. Maria. It scares me."
"Max'll be back soon," Maria hugged him. "Let's see what he says."

* * *

"This place is great," Jesse leaned over and called in Isabel's ear.
He had to shout over the loud music that the Jazz band up on the stage in the club he and Isabel were spending their penultimate night.
"Yeah," Isabel nodded, swaying with the sultry sounds of the saxophone.
They had found this club, just off Bourbon Street, after another day of sightseeing. They had chosen to eat here and wind down before heading back to their hotel. They had been lucky and found a table at the back corner with two spare seats. The older couple that they had joined took no notice of them, lost in their own world as well. The couple left, leaving them alone.

"I still can't believe you're here," Jesse smiled, gazing into his wife's face.
"Well," Isabel waved her hand in front of her. "Here I am."
"How did you manage it again?"
"I contacted someone we know. One of us, but different. A protector. I asked him to arrange something for Max and Liz, because of what they've been through. He did this for me, for us."
"Why didn't he do anything for Michael?"
"Seeing as I didn't even know that he did this for me, until he surprised me with it, I have no idea if he did or didn't do anything for the others."
"How come he's not closer? How come he's not helping you guys out if he's a protector? From what you say about him, this guy sounds kind of harsh."
"He's different from us."
"I can tell," Jesse smirked. "I could probably point out all the places you're different."
"You sure did a good job of that last night."
"I still can't believe you're here."

"Do you mind if we sit here?" a tall man, roughly the same age as Jesse, leaned down and shouted over the music.
At his side, an attractive redhead smiled, bouncing with the music.
"Sure," Jesse called back, though at that moment, the music stopped making Jesse bellow in a silent room. "Sure," he repeated, in a hushed tone while looking around the room with a beetroot face.
The other couple sat down.
"Martin," the man extended his hand. "Martin Cunningham. This is my wife, Tracey. We're from Indianapolis. I'm a Management Consultant. Tracey is an elementary school teacher.
"Carlos," he shook Martin's hand. "Carlos Rodriguez. And this lovely lady," he wrapped his arm around Isabel, "is my wife... Violet. Boston. I'm a lawyer and... Violet is a... fashion consultant."
"I can see that," Martin smiled.

They spent the next hour talking, as best as they could over the loud music of the Jazz band, about their lives.
"This is great," Isabel told Jesse when Martin and Tracey went to the bar to buy more drinks. The club was so crowded; the waiters were unable to make it to the back tables. "You know? It's so... ordinary. I can pretend, if only for a while, that things are just normal for us. That we're an everyday husband and wife on their vacation. Making friends."
"They're a nice couple," Jesse nodded at the pair at the bar. He had his arm around her and was whispering in her ear.
"They seem so much in love," Isabel laughed.
"They kind of remind me of Max and Liz," Jesse agreed.
"No," Isabel shook her head. "Nothing like them. You can actually feel Max and Liz's love for each other."
"Hey listen," Martin shouted as they placed the drinks on the table. "Tomorrow, Tracy and I are going to a restaurant in the back of the Latin quarter. It's supposed to serve the best traditional Cajun cuisine in town, and they have a dance club right next door. I was wondering if you'd like to join us?"
"Martin," Tracey objected. "Didn't you hear them? It's their last night tomorrow. They probably don't want company."
"Oh," Martin looks crestfallen. "You're right, babe. I'm sorry."
Jesse and Isabel exchanged glances.
"No," Isabel smiled. "That sounds like fun."

* * *

"I've always wanted to treat you like this, Liz," Max lifted his wine goblet, filled with fruit juice.
"And I've always wanted to be treated like this," she smiled, lifting her own juice filled glass to touch Max's.
Behind them, the moon was rising, casting a silvery glint over the calm sea.
"Did I tell you how lovely you look?" Max's eyes danced over the midnight blue, silk dress that Liz was wearing.
"Once or twice," Liz teased. "But I don't get tired of hearing it. Especially from you."
"Oh?" Max blinked. "Are you saying that I'm not the only one paying you that particular compliment?"
"You most certainly aren't," Liz's eyes twinkled in the candlelight. "But yours are the only compliments that I want, or that I even hear."
"So, how was your bug?" Max chuckled.
"It's called a lobster, Max," Liz shook her head.
"I still think..."
"This from a guy who's upset that they don't serve space rings."
"What can I say? There's something about space rings. They're almost an aphrodisiac."
"I don't think it was the rings, Max."
"No, now that I come to think of it, it was a certain dark haired waitress who served them."
"Uh-huh?" she smirked.
"You didn't answer me. How was your lobster?"
"It was wonderful, Max. This is wonderful. You're wonderful."
"And you, my lovely lady, are just so incredible. Did it hurt?"
"What? The lobster?"
"No. The fall. When you fell from Heaven."
"Oh, Max," Liz started to giggle. "That was so cheesy. I can't believe you said that."
"I could always serenade you." He wiggled his eyebrows.
"No. You know what? Let's not."
"Would you like to dance?" Max indicated the dance floor to the side of the restaurant, where a few couples were dancing to the soft tunes of a dance band.
"Max," Liz's heart appeared in her eyes. "I'd love to."

Max rose and extended his hand to Liz. She accepted it, and stood next to him. They walked through the restaurant and onto the dance floor where the attractive couple drew the attention of the other diners. Aware of their exhibition, Max stood back a little, resting one hand on Liz's hip while holding her hand with the other. Her other arm was laced around his neck, playing with the collar of his lemon polo shirt.
"Everyone's looking at us, Max," Liz smiled.
"No," Max shook his head, his eyes never leaving hers. "Everyone's looking at you, Liz. Everyone is seeing what I have seen for a long time now. They're all seeing this kind, warm, caring person, someone incredibly loyal, and... true."
Liz's face lit up.
"I love you, Liz. I know I keep saying how much I want to give you the life you deserve, but I want you to know that everything I endure, as long as we're together, I'll endure it willingly."
"Max. As long as we're together, I know, deep in my heart, that we'll get through this. I know we can't see the future, at least, not the bits we want to see, but I know it's with you. I know that as long as we are together, we'll survive and we will win."
"You are my whole world, Liz Evans. And if anything should ever happen to me, my soul will protect you, waiting for you for all eternity."
"Max, if anything should happen to you, your soul won't have to wait long."

Max pulled his hand, still joined to Liz, down to his hip, depositing her hand there. He then wrapped his arm around her waist drawing her closer to him. The heat that was generated between their pressed bodies could have powered space ships to distant suns. Their audience forgotten, Max and Liz were alone on the dance floor as the slow melody floated through the air around them. Their faces drew towards one another. Their eyes started to close, in direct contrast to their mouths, which started to open. Their lips touched, a gentle, tentative brush. Both emitted a soft sigh and their lips caressed again. Barely in contact, their tongues darted out to feel for the other. With a slow and oh so sweet torture, their lips closed and pressed together. The darting tongues slid between their lips, and teased one another. Max started to press Liz's lips between his while his hands danced a slow caress up and down her back. Liz responded by pulling Max tighter to her own body, burning with the need to feel him. The kiss intensified. It flared. It burned. The images, now so much a part of their love flew through them. There were no secrets between these two, and these images helped to create a bond such as none have seen before. They were like the sun; no one could look at them with the naked eye and not be burned by the love that radiated from them.
"Max," Liz groaned in a husky, sensual voice. "The music's stopped."
"It hasn't, Liz," Max gasped. "When you're with me, there's always music."

* * *


posted on 13-Jan-2003 3:23:54 PM


Part 24

"What can you tell me, Chyn?"
"I'm afraid that I have only bad news for you, Excellency," Chyn chewed the inside of his lip and frowned. "Zan seems to have vanished from the scope."
"What?" Bektor, who had been sitting back in a chair, leapt to his feet. "How can that be possible? It's calibrated to detect the seal's signal in a one hundred-mile radius. There is no way for him to disable the seal. Is the device malfunctioning?"
"Negative, sir. That was my first thought when it showed that Zan had moved in a southeasterly direction at great speed. By the time I had carried out the diagnostics and proved that the device was in working order, he had vanished."
Bektor turned to face the east and stared into the distance.
"Perhaps he has returned to Roswell. Have you been able to contact Kalyn?"
"That's some more of the bad news, sir. Kalyn is not responding to our call. I have no idea if she is receiving the signal or not. Perhaps she is ignoring us. Sometimes I fear she is not as committed to our task as we are."
"No. Kalyn would never go against orders, regardless of her own opinions."
"Should we return to Roswell?"
"He was moving fast, you say? Faster than when they travel in a road vehicle?"
"Yes. Much faster."
"Was it in a straight line?"
"Not to start with, no. It sort of headed north and then looped around until it steadied in the southeasterly direction."
"I think he was on one of their air vehicles."
"Why would he be doing that? Roswell is not so far that they have to fly there."
"Perhaps their destination was not Roswell."
"Should we try to follow?"
Bektor continued to stare at the horizon.
"Inform High Command," he said at last. "We will wait here until we receive their instructions. In the meantime, we continue to try to reach Kalyn. She had better have a good reason for ignoring our transmissions."

* * *

Philip Evans sat back in his chair and stared at the board on his wall, now empty of all the clues he had tacked there a few months ago. As soon as he had discovered the truth, he had gathered every shred of evidence he had collected and burned them. This was one secret he wanted no one discovering by accident.
"There's a Mr. Curtis to see you," Wendy, Philip's part-time secretary called from his doorway.
"Oh, right," Philip sat up straight and closed the file that had lain opened and unread on his desk. "Send him in."
A short man with close cropped hair and round glasses entered the room. He was dressed casually, not like the normal businessmen Philip was used to dealing with.
"Hello, Mr. Curtis," Philip rose and extended his hand. "I'm Philip Evans. How can I help you?"
"Yes, sir," Mr. Curtis shook Philips hand. "Yes, I, ah... there's no easy way to say this. Mr. Evans?" He looked around the room, his eyes darting everywhere. "Is it safe to talk in here?"
"Of course," Philip nodded.
"No, I mean, really safe. Forgive me, Mr. Evans, but I remember the article about the missing teenagers from Roswell, and the interest that the FBI has shown in them. I'm also aware that because one of the missing teens is your son, it's quite possible that your office is... shall we say... infested?"
"It's perfectly safe," Philip confirmed. "We had the room... fumigated, and we have our own... countermeasures."
"I need to find someone," he continued. "I have a part payment for a service carried out that I can never truly repay. I was hoping you might be able to see that it gets passed on to the payee."
"I see," Philip sat back in his chair. He threw his pen onto his desk. He tried to keep his tone friendly. "Mr. Curtis, I'm not a missing persons bureau. Neither am I a Private Investigator. I think that you might be better off..."
"You see, I believe that the person I'm looking for saved my son's life."
"Oh?" Philip sat up again.
"Yeah. It was Christmas, two years ago. My little boy, he was in the hospital, in Phoenix. He was dying of cancer and the specialists feared the worse. My son said that an Angel had visited him in the night, and made him all better. Mr. Evans, the next morning, he was cured. Cancer gone. There was no trace of the illness. At all."
"I see," Philip was forcing himself to remain calm, not wanting to give anything away.
"I could never repay the... angel who did this, but I would like to think that he could call on my services anytime. I mean, sure. We went through a time of hell afterwards. You see... the angel left this silver handprint on his abdomen. About the size of a young man's hand. It disappeared two days later, but these guys from the FBI turned up. They were determined to interview him. When we refused them permission, they tried to kidnap him, straight from the streets. It was only my quick thinking and the fact that I carry a gun that prevented it. The police arrived within moments, and they were brutal the way they treated the guys in the van. I mean, everyone thought they were pedophiles or something. Then they produced their badges. Of course, the local courts were curious as to why the FBI felt snatching young boys was in their jurisdiction. You know what they said? National security. Now, I know that the... angel who cured my little boy didn't mean to cause these problems for us, perhaps he never even considered them. All I know is that I will get to see my little boy grow up, play sports, go on his first date, his prom, his graduation, and I will get to see him marry whatever sweetheart fate chooses for him. Now, I like to think that I'm an intelligent man, and my line of work has led me to question the existence of other life out there in the universe."
Mr. Curtis paused and ran his hand over his short hair.

"Mr. Evans, I work for SETI, you know, the Search for Terrestrial Intelligence. The other month, we received this transmission."
"I read about that. The report said it was an echo."
"No. It wasn't an echo. Now I'm not saying that I believe that the angel I'm looking for is an alien and neither am I saying that I believe that your missing son has anything to do with this. And I am not claiming that you know where your son is, or that you even know how to contact him. All I ask is that if you are ever in a position to, would you please see that your son receives this disk?"
"Well, I'll hold it in trust for the day that my son might one day come home," Philip accepted the disk. "Though I can't see what interest my son would have in a signal from outer space."
"Of course not," Mr. Curtis smiled. "Oh, and when you do see him, would you pass on the heartfelt thanks of my wife and I?"
"I'll do that."
"Thank you. My contact details are encrypted on there too. If he can translate the signal, my encryption should be a piece of cake. Tell him... anytime he needs help, then I will be there for him. He only has to ask."

* * *

"Here's the file you requested, Glenn," the senator's aide handed him a plain buff folder.
Glenn McCarthy sat at his desk and reflected on the latest turn of events in his life.
"John, do you believe that there are any other forms of life, other than ourselves, in the universe?"
"It would be arrogant of us not to, Glenn. I mean, with all billions of stars out there, surely there must be at least one planet capable of sustaining life."
"And do you believe that aliens visit our planet, that they might actually be walking around down here?"
"What's brought this on?"
"But do you?"
John Frobisher turned and looked at his friend and boss.
"It's difficult. Sometimes, I think, yeah, there must be. But at others? I tend to believe things I see with my own eyes. You're not seriously considering making it public that you believe, are you?"
"Why not?"
"You lose votes is why not. Everyone would call you a crackpot."
"But what if I sat on the fence? What if I stated that while I doubt the existence of aliens on our planet, that I believe it would be wise to accept that they will arrive and that we should be prepared to welcome them in friendship."
"It's a fine line to tread," John rubbed his jaw line.
"I'm getting a name for being the man who instigated the questioning of the antics of the FBI. Maybe I could build on that by asking 'What if there really were aliens?' I mean, think about it. If their technology is such that they could visit us in secret, what would that mean for us? Think about this, John. Suppose we sent an American astronaut to another planet and found it to be inhabited by a race less technologically developed as us. Now ask yourself this. Suppose this race killed our astronaut. Not just, bang, bullet to the head killed him, but dissected him, alive, on a sterile table. How do you think we would react? What makes us think that these... aliens would react any differently?

* * *

"Sarah?" Glenn looked at his new girlfriend from across the small table in the quiet Italian restaurant. "I think that any more... articles publicizing these kids might be counter productive."
"How do you mean?" Sarah reached for another bread stick. "I think the world deserves to know what a great... human being this Max Evans really is."
"I agree," his eyes grew distant as he thought. "It's just..." Glenn leaned back and sighed. "Anyone with an ounce of intelligence can put two and two together and come up with the answer that this Max can do things. You know, all this good that he does. He's an example to us all. We, as human beings, could learn a lot from this unselfish young man and his friends. Maybe that's what his greatest gift is. Anyway, it's not just the FBI and their gung-ho assassins or autopsy tables that we have to worry about. And it's not just the US government agencies that might show an interest. Foreign agencies, organized crime. You name them, they'll be interested. And even if we could protect him from them, what about the rest of the population? We could have mass hysteria breaking out. He'd never get a fair hearing then."
"Are you saying that we just leave these kids out to dry?"
"No," Glenn sighed. "We're caught between a rock and a hard place. What we really need is positive proof that aliens exist. Other aliens, I mean. Not our friendly ones. Once we have the public acceptance that we are not alone, we can then think about introducing Max Evans as... an ambassador or something. We could use a political instead of a personal angle."
"But I think he just wants to be a normal guy, you know?"
"This Max will never be normal. He was never normal to begin with. Maybe the problem is that this Max Evans is too nice. You know, it might scare people off his back if he would instill some fear into people. You know, make them wary of him."
"But then he wouldn't be Max."

***

Kalyn sat cross-legged inside the dusty remains of the Pod Chamber, miles outside of Roswell, and stared at the ruined cavern that once housed the Granolith. Her eyes were not focused on anything in particular. Her shoulders were dropped and her face was sad. Opened in front of her was Liz Parker's missing journal. She lifted a small gray box to her mouth.
"Record seventeen. I haven't reported for weeks. I haven't even recorded my thoughts in that time. It is all so overwhelming. I have been finding things out about Zan's life, and I'm not sure I like what I am discovering. It all started when I was watching the Earth born guardians of Zan and Vilondra. Another man seemed to have had their confidence, and when he arrived one evening to collect a large book, something told me that I needed to follow him. The man returned to his home, a dining establishment that mocks our existence. For days, I watched them from a table at the back, but could see nothing that justified the abandoning of my post. I still watch him from time to time. Then, late one afternoon, the man, a Mr. Parker, left with the book. I followed him out to the desert where he seemed to be about to destroy the object that I now had an overwhelming desire to read. I easily flooded his mind with emotions that he already held, and while he was unconscious, I took the book.
"It has taken me weeks to translate and read the first quarter of the book, but I am getting faster at deciphering their strange squiggles that represent their words. What I have read is not good. I cannot believe that we allowed this to happen. It is no wonder we are having the problems we are. The only good thing I learned from the book was the location of the pod chamber, and the place they had hidden the Granolith. I came here at once, and have spent too much time here. Chyn and Bektor are probably trying to reach me, and I know their signal will not reach through these walls. But I have a feeling that this book, as connected as it is to Zan, will show us his strengths and more importantly, his weaknesses. I suspect that Bektor is wrong when he says we can easily handle Zan. I am going to activate the holo-view, and see what Zan and the others look like now. I've been putting it off. What if I have already seen them? Passed them in the street? I must find out everything I can. The success of the mission may depend upon it."


Kalyn put the box away, rose from her seated position and crossed to a wall. She passed her hand over a small section and a control panel opened up. She manipulated the buttons, and turned back into the room. A shimmering cylinder appeared in the middle of the chamber. In the middle of the cylinder, a shape appeared. Slowly, the shape coalesced to form a holographic image of Michael. Kalyn couldn't help laugh and shook her head.
"You are as ugly here as you were there, Rath. Are you still as bull headed?"
The shape faded, to be replaced by Isabel.
"I see they chose to maintain your beauty, Vilandra," she smirked. "I wonder if you have paid for it here as you did back home?"
Tess was the next shape that appeared.
"Ava," she smiled. "Things might not have worked as you thought, but there is still hope. Fear not."
The shape changed again, and this time Maria stood there.
"And who are you?" Kalyn walked around the image. "I don't think you are the one who wrote that book."
"And who might you be?" An image of a tall thin man with baggy pants and a huge chain hanging from a belt buckle to his pocket appeared. "Another one?" she gasped when a broad youth wearing a blue and gold letterman jacket appeared, replacing Alex. "How strange that they have sought out humans and have somehow made them important."
Kyle dissipated and the image of a tall dark haired man with a serious countenance appeared.
"Zan," Kalyn breathed. "Like your sister, they made you as attractive to this race as you were to ours. Are you still the same, I wonder?"
Max's image faded and a petite, dark haired young woman with determined, yet lovely eyes appeared.
"No!" Kalyn screamed. Her eyes flared with first, complete shock, and then intense hatred. She hit out at the image. "No! No! No! No!" She accentuated each exclamation with another punched fist at the image, sending a shower of colored particles of energy across the chamber like dust where they slowly faded.
She turned to the book and held it as though it were a box of deadly snakes. Now, more than ever, she had to get to the bottom of this. She had to translate the book fast. They were all in more danger than they realized. For the first time since accepting this mission, she believed that they might even fail.

* * *

"Max?" Liz called from the four-poster bed. After their dinner and their dance last night, they had gone for a moonlight walk along the beach, where they had talked of little things while their connection talked of deep, abiding love. They almost didn't make it back to their room before their desires grew so overwhelming that the need for one another was unbearable. Liz couldn't remember when they had ceased their lovemaking and had finally fallen asleep. She was disappointed to wake up without finding Max's protective arms surrounding her.
"Out here," her husband's deep voice called.
Slipping a silken dressing gown over her naked body, Liz followed Max's voice through the living room and out onto their balcony, overlooking the beach. She found him wearing just a pair of boxer shorts, seated next to a table, signing a slip of paper for the waiter who had just delivered their breakfast.
"Good morning," Max smiled up at her when the waiter had gone. "Are you hungry?"
"Of course," Liz grinned, allowing her gown to fall open. She straddled Max's thighs, wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him soundly. Her bared breasts pressed against his chest.
"Uh, Liz?" Max gasped through her urgent kisses that rained down on his lips. "As happy as your greeting makes me feel, anyone passing by can see us."
"So?" Liz's eyes had a dangerous glint to them.
"So I'd like to keep my wife's delightful charms to myself."
"So you do only want me for my body."
"Mmmmmm," Max hugged her. "Busted."
Max eased her gown closed, and helped her climb from him.
"Spoilsport," Liz pouted, reaching for a glass of orange juice.
Standing next to the table, Liz was now between Max and the morning sun. Her exquisite body was silhouetted through the silk dressing gown. Max groaned, and wished he hadn't decided to have breakfast on their balcony.
"So what are we doing today, Max?" Liz offered Max some juice while biting into a croissant.
"I thought we could spend the morning on the beach," Max reached over and helped himself to a pastry.
"Sounds great. What about this afternoon?"
"Ah," Max smiled. "That's a surprise."
"Tell me," Liz smirked. "Or I'm stripping and climbing onto you again.
Liz shrieked when Max leapt from his chair, grabbed Liz's arm and pulled her, laughing and squealing back into the house.

* * *

"Max," Liz hugged her husband as the sun started to fall behind the hills to the west. "That was a great surprise. Thank you."
"It was my pleasure, Liz," Max returned her hug. "As soon as I saw the flyer for it, I knew you'd want to see it."
"Yeah, Max. I did. I mean, I knew it was here, but you know? I never once thought about it since we arrived."
They turned and looked down at the huge radio telescope.
"You know," Liz couldn't tear her eyes away from the huge disk, it's enormous gantries and the miles of cables. "With your... heritage, I'm surprised you never considered going to Cornell."
"For as long as I can remember, there was only one place that I really wanted to go, Liz," Max turned and waved at the taxi that had just dropped off some people.
"Where was that?"
Max opened the back door for Liz to climb in. As she scooted across the back seat, Max climbed in behind her.
"Where ever you went," Max smiled at her. He turned to the driver. He was the oldest taxi driver Max had ever seen; he looked well into his eighties. "Copamarina Beach Club, please."
"Si, senor," the driver glanced at the rear view mirror at Max. His eyes widened and he spun around in his seat to stare hard at Max. "Creo que no! Senor Henderson. Is that you?"
"Excuse me?" Max and Liz looked at the driver with confused eyes.
"Senor Henderson. It is me. Diego. Diego Valdarama."
"I'm sorry," Max exchanged a look with Liz. "I don't know you. And my name isn't Henderson. It's uh... King."
"You look like a man I once knew," his face fell. "Senor Henderson. I am sorry, Senor. Lo siento."
"It's nothing," Max waved the episode away.
Something about the conversation bothered Liz.
"Excuse me, sir?" she called. "This Mr. Henderson. When did you know him?"
"We were amigos, senorita. We grew up together."
"Forgive me for saying this, sir, but uhm... you're a little older than we are."
"I thought they might have brought you back."
"Who?" Max asked, his eyes narrowed.
"Them," the driver shrugged. He pointed upwards in a way that mirrored Max's own gesture all those years ago when Max admitted his origins to Liz. "I thought perhaps they had brought you back. When they crashed, I thought they might have been bringing you home. I had hoped to see you again."
"Who?" Max pressed. "What crash? When?"
"The ones who took you," the driver shrugged. "When they crashed a few years ago. Ninety-one. Up there." The man pointed towards the mountains to the east of them. "At least, people say it was up there. But not me. I know it was their plane that crashed there. I know the ship crashed in the sea."
Tears appeared in the man's eyes. "It was a long time ago. Sesenta... sixty years. My friend, he was visiting me from the mainland when he was abducted from my fishing village by them. I had always hoped they would bring him back, and when they crashed... Lo siento, Senor King. I take you to your hotel now."

* * *

"Can I help you sir?" the man at the front of the restaurant asked Jesse as he and Isabel entered.
"Yeah," Jesse nodded. "We're meeting friends here. A Mr. and Mrs. Cunningham. We have a reservation."
"Certainly, sir. Your friends have already arrived. If you would just follow me," the man picked up two menus and led Jesse and Isabel through the restaurant to a table out on a patio at the back of the building.
Martin and Tracey rose as they approached. The men shook hands while exchanging kisses on the cheek with each other's wife.
"We already ordered some French wine," Martin and Jesse waited for the ladies to sit. When they had, he and Jesse followed suit. "I hope you don't mind. It's a Chardonnay."
"Oh," Isabel looked up from the menu she had just opened. "I'm sorry. I'm teetotal. Alcohol doesn't... agree with me. Would you mind if I just ordered a mineral water?"
"Not at all," Martin shook his head, waving his hand in the air to attract a waiter.

The evening went by too quickly for Isabel's tastes. It was so nice pretending that this was an everyday occurrence for her, meeting friends for dinner. The only thing she had to worry about was whether she would turn up wearing the same dress as her friend. Tomorrow, they would return to that other life. Jesse would return to Boston, and she would join her friends in their flight from the FBI. As nice as it would be to see the others again, she would miss Jesse. Martin and Tracy proved an amusing couple, and the conversation showed no sign of dying down.
"How are we going to handle this?" Jesse looked at the bill that lay on the plate in the middle of the table.
"Well," Martin shrugged. "With ten percent for a tip, how about we split it fifty-fifty? I mean, we had practically the same things."
"That's fine with me," Jesse smiled. "I believe in keeping things simple."
The two men counted out cash, neither commenting to the other on the fact the neither used a card.
"Shall we go to the dance club next door?"

The dancing turned out to be just as much fun as their meal. The main bar in the dance club was quiet enough that they could talk without shouting, while the music on the dance floor was loud enough that they could feel the bass beating through the floor. When they weren't dancing, they were at the bar where as usual, Isabel drank only mineral water. The two guys talked about sports, discussing the World Series, or the chances of their teams for the current NFL season, while the girls traded fashion tips and discussed life in their respective cities. Isabel had to make up what life in Boston was like.
"Well," Tracey stood up and collected her evening bag. "If you gentlemen'll excuse us, it's time for us ladies to powder our nose."
"Of course," both men stood up.
"She's great, isn't she?" Martin watched his wife walk away.
"Yeah," Jesse agreed, his eyes on Isabel.
"Violet's lovely too," Martin added. "I mean, they are both lovely women. I guess we're a couple of lucky guys," Martin slapped Jesse's back.
"I guess," Jesse thought how hard it would be to say goodbye to her tomorrow.
"Do you guys... I mean, have you ever... Nah. Forget it."
"What?" Jesse asked, not really hearing what Martin was saying.
"Do you guys swing?"
"Excuse me?" Jesse's mouth dropped open.
"You know," Martin winked. "Have you ever swapped?"
"No!" Jesse shook his head. "No, never."
"Listen. I know you find Tracey attractive. I've seen you checking her out."
"No, no, Martin. You haven't. Trust me. I only have eyes for... Violet."
"Well, why pass up a new experience?"
"Martin? Without causing offense, I'm not interested, okay? And Violet isn't interested either. Now you can either drop this now, or we'll leave as soon as the girl's get back."
"No offense taken, Carlos. And I didn't mean to spoil your evening. I was just testing the water."
"Trust me. The water's cold."

"Ah, there you are," Martin rose as the girls returned.
Isabel raised her eyebrows when Jesse wrapped an arm around her waist and hugged her.
"What's up?" she asked.
"Nothing," Jesse shook his head. "Just pleased to see you."
"Do you feel up to dancing?" Martin asked Tracey.
"Tell you what," Tracey looked at Jesse. "You and Violet dance. I'd like to talk to Carlos about some legal matters."
"Shall we?" Martin indicated the dance floor with his hands.
"Sure," Isabel nodded, and led Martin out while Tracey started talking to Jesse.

"You're quite lovely," Martin told Isabel as they danced to the jazz tracks the DJ was playing.
"Thank you," Isabel smiled. "Tracey's lovely too."
"She is," Martin agreed. A strange look passed his face.
"What?"
"Well, as great as she is, she's not the one. You know?"
"The one?"
"Yeah. The one person in the whole universe that you know you were meant to be with. The one person you know is meant for you. Do you know what I mean? Sorry. You must think I'm crazy."
"No," Isabel shook her head. "No. I don't. You see, I know someone like that. He believed that someone was meant for him. He proved that he was right, too."
"So he found her?"
"Yeah."
"Just like that, huh?"
"No. No. It was kind of... complicated."
The current song ended, and a slow number replaced it. Martin looked at Isabel with his head cocked to one side. He held his arms out in invitation. Isabel nodded, and stepped closer to Martin, but keeping a respectable distance between them.
"I think I found her."
"Who?"
"The one?"
"You have? Where?"
"Here. You."
"Excuse me?"
"Violet, didn't you feel it? When me met? Didn't you feel the same attraction to me that I feel for you?"
"Martin, I..."
"Let's slip away. No one will notice. We can say we got trapped in a crowd that left and by the time we got back, the others had gone. Come on."
"I'm sorry, Martin," Isabel removed herself from his arms. "Whatever it is you feel, I just don't feel the same way. I love... Carlos."
"But he's not the one, is he?"
"I don't know. I'm not like M... my friend. I've never felt that way. But that doesn't mean I think you might be that one either."
Isabel left the dance floor to join her husband. Although she felt uncomfortable for the rest of the evening, she tried to join in with the laughter, for Jesse's sake, who tried to behave as normally as he could for Isabel. Both were relieved when the evening was finally over.

* * *

Liz couldn't help laughing when Max declined her invitation to have breakfast on the balcony again. Although their passion last night had been a little dulled by the strange conversation with the taxi driver, and what that might indicate of Max's DNA origins, they had woken for their last day refreshed and ready to enjoy their time together. Liz was in the mood to play, and refused to let Max escape with a perfunctory kiss. She had all but devoured him that morning, making the most of their last full day alone together. She would show Max Evans all about letting his reserves down. She would tear them down, if she had to.
"So what are we going to do today?" she inquired as they lay in each other's arms, descending from the heights they drove each other to.
"How would you like to try scuba diving?"
"When did you learn to scuba?" Liz traced a familiar design on Max's chest. She had been doing that a lot lately, a triangle with two swirling arms emanating from it. Max had caught her drawing it in the sand yesterday. It was the symbol on her pendant, the whirlwind galaxy.
"La Jolla," Max giggled beneath her tickling fingers. "When Michael and I went out there that time."
"Don't you need to like, take a course or something? I mean, don't you have to show a certificate to get your air tanks."
"Liz," Max sounded disappointed.
"Oh, yeah," she chuckled. "Sure. If you're sure I'll be okay."
"You'll be more than okay," Max hugged her to him. "Besides. I'll be with you."

* * *

Liz stared from the small boat across the wide expanse of empty sea to the distant land far to the north.
"Aren't we a little far out?" she asked the boat's captain. They had chartered the boat asking the captain to take them to find sights for the underwater part of the film. The captain said that the most picturesque part of the sea was right here.
"Relax, Liz," Max reassured her. "You'll be fine. I won't let anything happen to you."
"I know, Max. It's just..."
"After years of being surrounded by desert, all this water is a little..."
"Daunting. Yeah, Max. But I know that I'm safe. Just like I know you'll look after me."
"Now, want me to run through the equipment again?"
"No, I think I have it all."
"Yeah," Max smiled. "Remember the signals?"
"Yeah. Thumbs up means okay, right?"
"No," Max frowned.
"Kidding, Max. I have it. Honest."
"Okay. Do you want to carry the camera? Or shall I?"
"I'll carry it," Liz picked up the expensive Nikonos underwater camera Max had bought, promising that he would return it as good as new and have the money refunded to Langley. She had decided that she would carry it, if only to show Max that she was as capable as he was.
"Ready?" Max asked.
Liz pulled her mask down, placed the regulator into her mouth and made a circle with her thumb and index finger. While Max sorted out his mask and regulator, Liz climbed down from the boat and into another world.

Guided by Max, Liz followed him down in stages to the coral and brightly colored fish below. She was absorbed by the beauty around her, and hadn't even given a thought to the fact that she didn't know what she was doing. It just seemed natural to her. They took pictures of each other with breathtaking scenery behind them. They chased bright colored fish and each other. They even tried sharing an underwater kiss, and almost sucked in a gallon of seawater. Max checked his dial, and indicated that Liz should do the same. She was getting close to the red zone; they would need to think of making their way back up to the surface soon. She gave Max the okay signal. As Max swam past a strangely shaped rock formation, she decided on another picture. There was only one left. She tapped his leg, and he stopped to turn and face her. She held the camera up and pointed at both him and the rock. Max knew what she wanted. His arms waved back and forth to hold him steady. Liz lifted the camera to her face to frame the picture. What she saw made her drop the camera. She was glad that it had been strapped to her buoyancy control device. She didn't think about that, however. With her eyes almost bulging through her facemask, Liz pointed at the rock beside Max. Where his hand had passed over the top, a silver handprint glowed.

Max looked from Liz to the rocks and back to Liz again. The rock was triangular in shape, with a length of about twenty feet. At its widest part, it looked ten feet across. Liz looked into Max's questioning eyes, and although she feared what might happen, she nodded her head. Max pressed his hand to the glowing print and at once, a panel in the rocks slid open, similar to the opening that had appeared in the pod chamber, to show a glowing blue interior. No air bubbles rushed out. Liz watched Max staring into the opening. She could see that he was close to hyperventilating. She wasn't sure, but she doubted that was good this far below the surface. Liz laid her hand on Max's arm, noting the almost instant calming affect she had on him. He cast her a grateful glance, before he looked again through the doorway. He pointed in, and looked at Liz. He then indicated the two of them. Liz understood that Max wanted to go in, but refused to do so without her. Taking Max's hand, she formed the okay signal with her other and together, they swam into the portal.

* * *


posted on 20-Jan-2003 3:17:29 PM
Part 25

It was a tight squeeze for the two of them, especially with the tanks on their back, but neither one of them considered entering the opening in the rock without the other right beside them. As they swam, hand in hand through the opened doorway and into the glowing blue interior, something strange happened. They both fell to the floor into a chamber that was not filled with water. The first thing that they noticed was that they were bone dry and there was no puddle on the floor. Behind them, the sea appeared to be held back by a silvery bubble. Liz's first reaction was to reach for her regulator, but Max reached over and stopped her before she could take it from her mouth. He shook his head at her, and pointed to himself. Liz nodded, while Max reached up and took the regulator from his mouth. He took a short breath and held it. He repeated this action a few times before he seemed satisfied that the air was fit for them both to breathe. Max nodded at Liz, and pulled his facemask off. Liz copied him.
"What is this place, Max?" she asked him as they looked at the interior of the strange cave.
It reminded the two of them of the interior of the Lear jet, except that this was completely devoid of any furniture, and was more angular in its construction. It was higher at one end than the other. Unlike the pod chamber, these walls were smooth, appearing to be like polished steel. A purple-blue color seemed to glow from the walls and they were etched with symbols that reminded them of the symbols they had found in the River Dog's cave.
"I'm not sure," Max shook his head.
He walked to the shorter end of the chamber, a task made awkward by the fins he wore on his feet. As he reached the wall, a door slid open.
"How did you know that there was a door there, Max?"
"I don't know," Max's voice was filled with awe. "Look at this."
Liz waddled to the doorway and peered into the room that Max had found.
"Max!" Liz gasped, her eyes widening

The room was much smaller than the one in which they had fallen into, but it was not empty. In the center of the room was a single seat. Slumped forward in the seat, restrained by a harness, was a figure. The figure was not human, rather, it was what Nacedo had looked like that time they had healed him in the Pod Chamber.
"Max," Liz whispered. "He... he's from..."
"Antar," Max finished.
Max stepped into the room and crossed to the being. Although it was clear that he was dead, his body showed no sign of decomposition.
"If we still had the stones," Max pondered, "we could heal him."
"Would that be such a good idea?" Liz entered the room and started looking around. She found a small notebook, similar to the destiny book. "I mean, he might be an enemy."
"He would be a source of information," Max shrugged. "What's that?"
"I'm not sure. It looks like a book." Liz started leafing through the pages. "It's got two different types of writing. The first set is like the symbols we're used to seeing from your planet. These others... I... I'm not sure. Max, I think I've seen these before."
"Where, Liz?"
"I'm not sure."
"Well, as intrigued as I am about this, Liz," Max looked around the room. "I think it's time we got back."
"Yeah," Liz nodded. "I'll hang on to this." Liz lifted the book. "Maybe you should tell Langley about what we found. Max? Do you think it's a ship of some kind?"
"Yeah," Max nodded. He stopped, and looked at the pilot. "I wonder what these are?" He unclipped two devices from the pilot's belt.
"That one looks like a gun, Max," Liz pointer to a small device that looked as though it fit into a hand. "Maybe they both are."
"We'll check it out when we get back. Come on, Liz. There's nothing here."
"You're not tempted to see if it flies?"
"What for? To go back to Antar? My future's here, Liz. There's nothing on Antar that could possibly persuade me to leave what I have here with you."
Liz replied with a huge smile.
"Can we go now? This tank is getting kinda heavy."
"Sure," Max tucked the two devices into pockets in his buoyancy jacket. "Come on."
They went back through to the main chamber and replaced their masks and regulators. Max helped Liz out of the doorway, and climbed out after her. With a wave of his hand, the portal closed and once more appeared nothing more than a rock formation.

* * *

"Albuquerque's coming up," Isabel whispered as she and Jesse stared from the bed in their cabin out at the passing countryside. They had spent as much time as they could sharing intimate moments together.
"Yeah," Jesse sighed.
"You've been pretty quiet," Isabel observed.
"I can't do this, Isabel," Jesse turned to face her.
"Can't do what?"
"I can't go back to how it was again. I can't live for a few days here and there. I can't live for a dream-love life that only makes things worse. I just can't."
Tears marred Isabel's eyes.
"I knew saying goodbye was going to hard," Isabel whimpered. "I understand, Jesse. And if you want out..."
"What? No. No, that's not what I want. I want to come with you. I want to be a part of your life. A part of your team."
"Jesse, no. I can't let you throw your life away like that. You don't know what our life is like."
"Do you even know what mine is like, Isabel? It's hell. It's torture. It's a non-life. I want to be with my wife. I want to share the same fears, the same dangers and the same joys that you do. Isabel, Liz is prepared to do this for Max. Maria does it for Michael. Please. Let me do this for you."
Isabel pulled Jesse into a fierce hug.
"I never want you to leave me again," she sobbed.

* * *

"Hi, Mom," Liz greeted her parents with a huge grin. "Hi, Dad."
She stood in her preferred place, beside the television.
"Lizzie!" Jeff smiled up at his daughter.
"Liz," her mother resisted the impulse to rush to her.
"Right on time," her father laughed. "We thought that maybe you might be late, or miss these arranged visits while you were... away."
"Don't mind him," Nancy slapped Jeff's shoulder. "How is your vacation going?"
"It's really great, Mom. It's so beautiful here, and it's so nice that Max doesn't have to worry about everyone. I guess you could say that we're having our honeymoon at last."
"How is Max, now?"
"He's fine, Mom. Just like he was last night. And the night before that."
"Just checking. You know how we worry about you kids."
"Yeah," Liz laughed.
"Oh," Jeff interrupted. "Before we go any further. Liz, Jim wants to know if you and Max can stop off in Roswell on your way to meet the others."
"Is it safe, Dad?"
"Jim says that you can land at a small strip out by Dexter. It's pretty secluded, so he could keep an eye open for unwanted visitors."
"Do you have any idea what it's about?"
"No, he wouldn't say. He just says that it's important."
"Okay, Dad. I'll check with Max, but if Jim thinks it's urgent, I guess we'd better come."
"I'll speak with him later. Why don't you drop by when you get on the plane. Jim can make sure he's there to meet you then."

* * *

The Lear jet pulled to a stop at the small, seldom-used airport an hour's drive away from Roswell.
"Are you sure you want us to put you down here?" the stewardess asked, looking around at the empty, barren landscape.
"We're expecting someone," Max told her.
"As you wish. Well, good bye, Mr. and Mrs. King. It's been a pleasure having you."
"Thank you," the young couple smiled as they climbed from the plane with their cases in their hands.
They stood back and watched the young woman pull the steps back up into the plane and close the door. The jet moved away, turned onto the runway, and accelerated away, rising into the sky.
"Did he say how long he'd be?" Max asked, taking Liz's case from her.
"No," Liz shrugged. "I would imagine that he's parked nearby and keeping watch, making sure no one is going to surprise us."
"This looks like him now."
They stood together and watched Jim Valenti's SUV approach them. He parked in front of them and leapt out of the vehicle to help them.
"I'm sorry about this, Max," he lifted their bags into the back. "I thought it might be important."
"Sure," Max nodded as Jim gave Liz a hug. "What is it?"
They all climbed into the car and buckled themselves in.
"How did the vacation go?" Jim asked, his eyes showing his amusement.
"It was..."
"Fun," Liz smiled up at Max, running her hand along his thigh.
Jim shook his head and laughed.
"I bet. Typical honeymoon, huh?"
"Something like that," Liz started to blush now.
"Good. And you've both recovered now, right? From your ordeal?"
"Yeah," Max nodded.
"Oh, your grandma's book is in the back," Jim told Liz.
"What's this?" Max looked surprised.
"You know those symbols I recognized in the book we found? I think they're Native American glyphs."
"And you think that your grandma's book can help translate them?"
"It won't hurt to look, Max."
"Oh, and your dad gave me a computer disk, Max, as well as a small laptop computer. He said you probably wouldn't have access to one. He's put all kinds of details on there so you can keep in touch with us in a more earthly way." He took a sly glance towards Liz.
"What's on the disk?"
"He wouldn't say. Just said a friend gave it to him and said you might find it useful."
"Okay," Max shrugged his shoulders at Liz.
"Which brings me to this business, Max. I got a call the other day, from four thirty three Crestview."
"Isn't that where the Hardings lived?" Liz asked.
"Right," Jim nodded as he stared at the road ahead. "The new owners called because the garage out back had an alarm going off. It was silent by the time I got there. The thing is they said that the closer they got to it, the louder the alarm got. I tried to pick the lock, but... Max, I'm pretty good at picking locks, but it seemed like something was stopping me, you know? I think this might be something you need to check. It wasn't included in the sale of the house. Technically, it still belongs to Ed Harding."

* * *

Max approached the door, feeling more nervous than he had in a long time. He held his hand over the lock, and felt the small force barrier that prevented Jim from picking it. He bypassed it easily enough and unlocked the door. He turned the handle and the door creaked open. Max looked at Liz, then at Jim, took a deep breath, and stepped into the garage. It was empty.
"Why have an alarm on an empty garage?" Liz asked as she stepped behind her husband.
"Beats the hell outta me," Jim scratched his head while he looked around the room.
"There's something here," Max whispered. He stepped further into the room, cocking his head from side to side as though he was listening for something. "It's here," he said at last. Max kneeled to the floor and passed his hand across the solid concrete. A small, silver handprint appeared.
"There's power here. It's resisting me," Max told them when he placed his hand over the image. "It's Tess's." He heard Liz gasp.
"But, Max. She's..."
"No, this is earlier. From before. Hang on, I'll put more energy into it. She was always strong."
"Be careful."
"I will. Hang on. What's this?"
"What?"
"It looks like... It's my seal. No wait, not quite. Let me... yes... there."
A crack appeared in the solid floor, in the shape of a perfect rectangle. The rectangle popped inwards and slid across with an audible hiss and a rush of air. In the opening below, fluorescent lights blinked into life with a feint hum, casting an eerie green-white glow up into the garage. Max stepped onto the staircase and down into the secret room. Liz and Jim were close behind. Max was surprised to see Jim was holding his gun.
"It's a lab," Liz gasped.
The room was fitted out like a doctor's office. There was a steel table on one side of the room and steel workbench along the other.
"Dentist's chair?" Max asked, looking at the strange looking chair that sat in the corner of the room.
"Gynecologist's," Liz shook her head. "Don't ask."
There were charts on the walls, X-rays on light-boxes and written records on the bench. Liz picked a journal, and while Max continued to search the room, Liz started to read.
"They're all mine," Max murmured.
"Excuse me?"
"The charts, the records, the X-rays," Max picked up a large slide and stuck it on a wall mounted light box. It showed his green cells. "They're mine."
"Where'd they get 'em from, Max?" Jim stepped up to study the cell structure. This was the first time he had seen documented evidence of Max's heritage.
"Pierce," Liz moaned. "Max, Nacedo didn't destroy everything. He saved it all. He and Tess set this lab up and stored everything that Pierce took from you in the white room." She continued to read the journal. Liz emitted a choked sob and fought to remain standing on legs that now shook violently. She looked up at Max with tears stinging her eyes and struggled to move further away, shielding him from what she had just read. Studying something else, Max didn't notice.
"Liz? What is it?" Jim asked stepping up behind her.
Looking over her shoulder, Jim's eyes widened as he read the same page that Liz was reading. He placed his hand on her shoulder, and his finger to his lips. Liz nodded, and wiped away the tears. She turned over the page and both of their faces blanched in horror. Liz's legs gave out and she would have fallen had Jim not been there to catch her. As she flicked through the pages, she came upon other things that they had done to Max that he did not remember, or if he did, he had hidden that fact from her.
"I'd never have run away from him if I had known half of what they did to him, Jim," tears appeared again. "Not when he needed me that much."
Jim nodded his head, and turned away. Liz turned to the next page.
"Oh my god!" her voice was strangled. Even Max heard her this time.
"What is it, Liz?" he stepped towards her.
Spotting the small refrigeration unit on the bench, Liz rushed to it and yanked it open." She didn't want to believe what she had read until she saw it with her own eyes. Her eyes widened and her whole body sagged, crumbling to the cold concrete floor.
"Max," she croaked. "You'd better look at this." She was still sitting on her heels as she waited for him to come to her side.
"What is it?" he stepped up next to her placing his hand on her back.
Assorted sealed tubes containing diverse fluids sat in special holders. One was labeled 'Blood Sample.' Another was labeled 'Saliva' but the third was labeled 'Semen.'
"Max!" Liz moaned, her hand finding his, pulling herself up off the floor to stand beside him and lend her support to him.
"What are these?" Max pointed to a small Petri dish.
"Eggs," the disgust in Liz's voice was shocking. "Tess's. Max, she artificially inseminated herself." Liz indicated the journal that gave her the proof. "Using her eggs and your semen that Pierce... collected from you."
"What?"
"Max, they tricked you. Even more than you realized. You never made her pregnant. She did it herself. Probably because when you... it didn't work."
"Or maybe they didn't," Jim said from behind them. "I mean, if Tess went to all the trouble to set this up, and she inseminated herself, it wouldn't matter if you slept with her or not. Wouldn't it be easier to just warp you into believing that you did?"
"See those two there?" Liz continued, pointing to a separate dish "Look. They're already fertilized. She probably kept these as standby. Max? Maybe that was why she came back. Maybe she hoped that one of these would be part Antarian."
"I can't believe it. Liz, what kind of a person must I have been back on Antar to have loved someone like... like... that?"
"Max, maybe she... maybe... Max. You're different now. You're not that person any more. You know, maybe this explains why your son was one hundred percent human. Maybe the... alien side of you only transfers with the act of conception. Maybe because if you didn't..." Liz paused. Her eyes widened. "Max, maybe you didn't!" She leapt into his arms.
Max could only give a goofy smile and held her, feeling a little awkward under Jim's scrutiny.
"We have no evidence of that, Liz," he stroked her hair for comfort. "As much as I want to believe it... I mean, why didn't she tell you? I mean, before she... when she told you... why didn't she tell you that?"
"That's easy, Max. She wanted to be sure that you would take good care of Zan. If she took away the responsibility of fatherhood from you, if she felt that you wouldn't feel responsible for a child that you had no hand in conceiving... maybe she was afraid that you would turn your back on him. She didn't know you as well as I do."
"I can't tell you how relieved I am, Liz," Max hugged her.
"What are we going to do about all this, Max?" Jim felt awkward for his interruption of a tender moment. He knew what this news would mean for them. It had almost broken them up.
"Destroy it," Liz commanded. "Like Nacedo should have done."
With Max, Liz moved around the room disintegrating all the charts, slides, records, scrapings and samples as they found them.
"What about these," Max's voice was filled with pain as he looked at the fertilized eggs.
"You have to destroy them, too, Max," Jim urged.
"What?" Max gasped. "Jim, I don't think..."
"He's right, Max," Liz told him in a voice that was filled with as much pain as Max's. "We have to destroy them."
"I can't." Tears flooded his eyes.
"Max. You have to," Jim's voice was etched with sorrow. "I hate telling you this Max, and I can see how painful this is for you. But trust me, Max. You have to destroy them."
He looked at Liz. She nodded as tears of her own fell from her lashes. Max stared at the dish, his vision clouded by the tears that filled his eyes. In slow motion, Max held his hand over the dishes, shaking violently. Liz splayed her hand on his arm, an act of sympathy and compassion. As tears poured over his cheeks, his hand started to glow and the dishes began to melt into a cloud of white smoke. When nothing remained, Max turned and ran up the steps. Jim stopped Liz from following.
"Give him a few moments, Liz."
"But..." Helplessness filled her face. "He needs me."
"He'll be okay. He just needs some time to come to terms with what he did. Trust me, Liz. Now, let's finish up here."
With her own tears still leaking from her eyes, Liz made sure that everything to do with Max was gone from the lab. Only the equipment remained. The lab was completely sterile.
"We'll keep the rest as it is," Liz looked around. "You never know when we might need it. We could always use this as a hospital if one of us needs it. We can also use it to store things we might need to get in a hurry. Like the orbs."
They climbed up into the garage to find Max sitting against the back wall of the garage. His knees were drawn up against his chest and his face was buried in the shelter of his arms that were wrapped around his knees. On the wall beside him, a darkened scorch mark radiated from a point halfway up. She could feel his pain emanating from him.
"Are you okay?" Liz asked, hurrying to his side. She knelt beside him and pulled him tightly to her body in a compassionate embrace.
Max nodded, but she could see that he wasn't. She understood why he was in such pain, though it hurt her to think that the pain was caused for destroying something that was part of Tess.
When the door to the lab hissed to a close, Max roused himself and locked it using his own power.
"Only my seal can unlock it now," he told them.

* * *

"So you know where we're going?" Liz sat beside Max on the greyhound, doing her best to prevent him from descending into a dark fit of depression.
Jim had driven them as far as Santa Fe where they caught the bus that went through Glenwood Springs.
"Yeah," he nodded, though he was staring out at the frost-tinged trees of the Colorado Mountains. His fingers that were laced through hers gave a gentle squeeze. "Isabel said that Michael, Maria and Kyle have rented an apartment with the money they had left over from their week in the hotel. I have the address."
"Did she say how they all were?"
"They're all fine. She said they all had a good time."
"I'm glad. Did you tell her..."
"No," Max shook his head.
"I was going to say, did you tell her that we had a good time, Max. I know you're not ready to talk about... what you had to do just yet."
"I'm sorry, Liz," he turned to face her at last. His eyes still showed his pain. "I'm sorry for... for... I wish I could forget it, you know, erase it from my memory. But I can't. And I can't talk about it yet, either."
"I'm right here, Max." Liz curled an arm around his waist. "Whenever you're ready, I'm right here."
Max looked deep into her eyes, drawing her soothing warmth into him.
"It looks cold out there," he turned back to the window. "I wonder if we'll get any snow?"
"Max? Will you go skating with me again? If there's ice, I mean."
"Of course, Liz. And if we get the chance, we can go skiing, too."
"I can't wait till we see our friends again," Liz smiled. "Wouldn't it be great if we were still here for Christmas?"

* * *

"Liz!" Maria squealed pulling her friend into a hug, blocking the doorway of their new apartment. "It is so good to see you, babe. I missed you."
"Hey, Maria," Liz giggled. "Missed you too."
"Max," Maria finally let Liz go and moved onto the other.
"Hey Maria," he hugged her back.
Maria pulled back, looked at Max and frowned.
"Is everything okay?" Maria asked Liz when she finished hugging Isabel, who was now hugging Max.
"Not really," Liz shook her head. "Max had a tough time."
"You wore him out, huh?" Maria winked. "You go, girl."
"What? No. No, Maria," Liz shook her head. "Uhm, can you drop it please? Can you let Max and me work this out between ourselves?"
"Is everything all right between you?" Maria's brow wrinkled with concern. "I mean, you're not breaking up or anything, are you?"
"What? No. No. Max... we just made some disturbing discoveries over the last two days. We... he needs time to come to terms with everything. Once he has, we'll tell you. Okay? So how did your break go?"
"It was... fine," Maria pulled back. Liz knew that some thing was up, but as she had just asked Maria for some space, she would afford Maria the same courtesy.

* * *

"Max, Liz," Isabel called. Everyone had said their hellos now, and everyone seemed pleased to see Jesse. "Can I have a word?"
"Sure Isabel," Liz answered for them.
She could see the surprise in Isabel's eyes. From the corner of her eye, Liz saw Kyle's look of disappointment. It seemed someone else wanted to talk to them as well. Liz led Max and Isabel out into the yard.
"So, Isabel," Liz indicated that they walk in a circle around the gardens. "What was it you wanted to talk about?"
She saw the look of concern Isabel cast at Max. Isabel had noticed that Max seemed more subdued than usual. Liz knew that Isabel would be surprised with her forthrightness, but she would help Max any way she could.
"Jesse wants to stay," she blurted. "He doesn't want to leave me again. And I don't want him to leave."
"I'm sorry, Isabel," Liz looked at Max for confirmation. "He can't."
"Excuse me?" Isabel looked shocked. Liz could see that Isabel had expected her to be her biggest ally.
"Why not?" Max asked. He had spoken very little since their return.
"Because you don't need more responsibility, Max," Liz held his arm. "You need less."
"Jesse won't be anyone's responsibility," Isabel objected. "I want Jesse with me, it's impossible to be without him. What do you say, Max?"
"It's hard enough looking after the six of us," Liz continued. "Seven makes it worse. Right, Max?"
"I think this is something we need to talk about," Max sighed.
"So let's talk," Isabel waved her arms in the air.
"Isabel?" Liz looks through narrowed eyes at Max. "Can you give us a moment?"

"Why didn't you back me up?" Liz demanded.
"You're angry with me," Max winced, shaking his head. "Liz, I'd liked to have talked about these things first. Before you made up your mind. She's my sister. I don't... I can't upset her like this."
"But you agree with me, right? Why didn't you say so?"
"No, Liz. I disagree. And I think, deep down, you do too. This snap decision of yours, it's just not you. Not the caring Liz Evans I know."
"Max," she snapped, "I..."
"I know you're only looking out for me, Liz, and I appreciate it. But if someone told me I couldn't be with you, well, let's just say that I wouldn't stay where you weren't welcome."
"Max, you've been through so much."
"We've been through so much, Liz. We're in this together. Isabel wants to be with the one she loves. Liz, what would you do, how would you feel, if the others sent me away? How do you think I would feel if they tried to send you away? Now, you made the decision and I won't unmake it for you. I love you too much to embarrass you like that. But, Liz? Please don't make me do to others what I wouldn't let them do to me."
Liz stared at Max, emotion clouding her dark eyes.
"I refuse to believe it," she shook her head.
"What?" Max's eyes widened.
"That you were a bad leader. Max? I don't think that you were such a bad person. I think you were... misunderstood."
"So?"
"I'll tell Isabel that I changed my mind. If Jesse wants to stay, then he can."
"Thank you, Liz," he pulled her into a hug. "I love you."
"So I guess we're the magnificent seven now?"

Max stood back and watched as Liz and Isabel embraced each other, and returned to the gang to tell them all the news. He just wanted to spend some time and think. He had so many things on his mind.
"Evans?" Kyle asked. He had come down after Isabel had announced the addition of Jesse to their group. "Can I speak to you for a minute?"
"Sure, Kyle," Max turned to face him. "What's up?"
"I kinda got bored while you guys were away. I mean, I can only take so much obscure sport and room service."
"I thought that would have been your element."
"So did I," Kyle chuckled. "Anyway, I went out and got a job."
"Oh, right."
"The long and short of it is... I met a girl."
Max took this in. His eyes widened in understanding.
"Do you want to stay here? When it's time to move on, I mean."
"Yeah. Max? Now that Jesse is here and what with Isabel and Liz being able to keep in touch with me, if they need to... Maybe it would be best for everyone concerned if I stayed here with Chrissie and see if anything develops."
"I'll miss you, Kyle. We all will."
"You're kidding, right?"
"No, I'm not," Max shook his head. "You've been a good friend to Liz, to Isabel... to me. You know they'll be upset, right?"
"They'll get over it. I mean, Liz has you, Isabel has Jesse. This was bound to happen, sooner or later."
"Yeah. But we still have some time before we need to split up. No need for good-bye's 'til then. Do you want to keep this quiet until the time comes?"
"No. I thought that maybe you could all meet Chrissie first. Then I could tell everyone my plans."
"Okay, Kyle," Max scratched behind his ear. "And thanks. Thanks for everything."

* * *

The front door of the large duplex house in a medium sized town over the mountain from Glenwood Springs opened and a young couple emerged, dressed warmly against the cold temperatures that were surprising everyone this year. The young man helped the young, very pregnant young woman towards the station wagon parked in the driveway.
"What a lovely night," an older man, standing next to an older woman at the doorway commented.
' "It's cold though," the young man observed. "You don't want to stand out here too long."
"Why don't you stay the night? You know there's room," the older woman called out.
"I gotta be at work in the morning," the young man shrugged. "Everyone's 'specting snow early. We gotta have all the machines ready to get the runs prepared.
"Well, good night then. Drive carefully, and look after Jen. We can hardly wait to be grandparents."
"I will, Pop," the young man smiled. "'Night. Thanks for the pies and things. I don't know why you make so much, Mom."

"It's 'cause they don't think you earn enough to support me, Bill," the woman smiled when her husband climbed into the car beside her.
"I know, Jen," he shrugged, starting the ignition. "But there's enough to keep us going for a couple of weeks." Bill shook his head.
"Slow down," she urged her husband as he accelerated his car along the empty highway. "You know what they say. Arrive alive."
"I know," he nodded. "It smells of snow. I just wanna make sure we get home before it falls."
"We won't get much this early. Will we?"
"It's happened before," he hunched his shoulders. "No sense in hanging around."
"Maybe you shouldn't have stayed for the final period of the hockey game."
"Are you kidding? It was a classic. I'd rather risk a blizzard than have missed that game."
Twenty minutes later, he got his wish.

"It's coming down harder than I'd a thought," Bill was leaning close to the windscreen, peering through the window being cleared of snow on the fastest wiper setting. "I've never seen it lay up so fast. I think I'll take the Valley Road."
"Are you sure that's wise?" Jen was starting to worry.
"Sure," he nodded. "It's protected by the mountain on one side, and the trees on the other. I've never heard of that road being blocked in."
"I think we should stay on the main road."
"Don't worry, hon. I'll soon have you home and in the warm."
The elements, however, conspired against him. The snow started to lay on the Valley road, and the station wagon, without four wheel drive and without snow tires, struggled to maintain its grip on the snow.
"We're sliding around a lot." Jen held the seat belt over her shoulder with one hand, and had the other pressed against the dashboard, just above the glove box.
"Thicker than I thought," he grunted.
"How far along the road have we gone?"
"Not sure," he shook his head. "Maybe half way."
"So there's no point in turning back?"
"Not really. We'll be all right. You'll see."
It was strike three. Bill missed the curve of the road where the side markers were hidden by a drift. The car ran off the road, and in trying to steer back onto it, he slid sideways down the slope. It crashed into a thicket of small, bushy, cedar trees, and was enveloped in a cloud of green and white.

* * *

"So, are you okay with this?" Kyle was leading Chrissie up the steps to his apartment stamping their feet to shake the snow from their shoes.
They had arranged for Kyle to introduce her to everyone after their next date. They had shared a nice, quiet dinner, taken in a movie, and were now about to perform what to Kyle felt like an act of torture. He hoped his friends liked her. "I mean, we could have done this so you meet them a few at a time."
"To be honest, I'm scared stiff," Chrissie twisted her fingers together. "But I want to meet your friends, and it will be easier to do it all in one go. I just hope they like me."
"Yeah. We've been through a lot together. They'll probably appear a little imposing to start with, but trust me, they'll warm up to you."
"I'm sure I've met worse. You've never really talked about them. What are they like?"
"Okay, I'll give you a quick run down. First, there's Mark. He's probably the worst. He'll come off as arrogant and cold, but he's okay, really. His girlfriend, Mary, will be very defensive and full of questions. Don't feel you have to answer 'cause she just babbles for the sake of it. Bella will come over as cold and suspicious. It's her defense mechanism, so don't let it worry you. Her partner is Jose. He'll probably warm to you once Bella does. He probably won't say much. Then there's Betty. She'll be warm, kind, open, and very welcoming right from the get go. She's great. Her partner, Ray, he's kind of silent and distant. But don't let that fool you. He hides his true feelings and he's a good judge of character. He'll be fine once he knows Betty trusts you, which she will. Basically, ignore most of them and anything they say. They'll open up, once Betty starts talking to you."
"So is Betty, like, the leader or something?"
"No," Kyle chuckled. "Betty's like our radar."
They stopped at the door. Kyle put his key in the lock, turned it, but held the door closed.
"Ready?" he asked.
"Ready," Chrissie confirmed.
"Guys?" Kyle called to his assemble friends. "This is..."
"Connie?" Max, Liz, Michael and Maria all exclaimed with surprised faces. "Connie Griffin?"

* * *
posted on 7-Feb-2003 4:52:06 PM
Part 26

DATELINE: October 28th, 2002 - - - - - - Washington, D.C. - - - - - - It was announced today that the Senate's hearings on the activities of the FBI have resulted in the censure of the organization that was set up to uphold the law and has recently been accused of breaking it. Already forced to disband in September 2000, the Special Task Farce in charge of investigating potential Extra Terrestrial anomalies was once again forced to close. The FBI is to make their accounts available for examination by an independent body pending allegations of misappropriation of funds. The agents involved are to be assigned to new departments, and are forbidden to seek contact with ex-colleagues regarding their recent investigation. It is rumored that criminal charges might be brought against the senior agents. This is resulting from the unauthorized attempt on the lives of four teenagers from Roswell, New Mexico, suspected of involvement in the explosion at Edwards Air Force Base, an allegation strenuously denied by the friends and parents of the accused teenagers. This was what caused six teenagers, now called The Roswell Six, to flee from their homes in fear of the very people sworn to protect them. Unconfirmed sources claim that the agents have recently killed one of the teenagers in an ambush in the mountains of Colorado, where three agents also lost their lives in what was believed to be an accident. Although the bodies of the agents have been recovered, proving that they died from injuries of a fall, or drowning, the teenager's body was never recovered. - - - - - - Reuters.

* * *

"What should we do, Excellency?" Chyn looked up from the tracking device that now showed a steady white line. "Zan has returned but does not seem to be moving anywhere yet."
"It's a pattern he follows," Bektor scratched his chin. "He moves somewhere, then remains stationary for a short length of time. Then he moves somewhere else. Have we heard from High Command yet? What of Kalyn?"
"Of Kalyn nothing. Commander Kell suggests that we move closer to Zan and watch, from a distance. He thinks that as Zan is behaving in a most extraordinary way, we study him to ascertain the causes. As before, his predictability made things easy. These new developments concern Zan as much as us."
"Agreed," Bektor nodded once. "Tomorrow, we will move up into the mountains that Zan is hiding in and locate him. We can set up surveillance once we have determined his appearance."

* * *

"Michael?" Connie gasped. "What are you doing here? And what's with the false names?"
"Long story," Michael grunted.
"You know each other?" Kyle's face fell.
"Yeah," Connie nodded. "I met him a few month ago. Max, Liz and Maria, too. I was in Roswell for a while."
"Great," Kyle shook his head. "I finally meet a girl and she already knows Evans."
"So how come I never saw you?" Isabel frowned.
"Or me," Kyle stepped up beside Connie.
"It was when that plane crashed," Max told her. "You and Jesse were... still coming to terms with... things. I don't know where you were, Kyle. Oh sorry. This is Isabel, my sister. And this is Jesse, her husband."
"Hi."
"Hey."
"So how did you meet?" Kyle looked between Michael and Connie.
"They helped me and my dad out."
"We saved him," Max admitted. "Her father got caught up in a whole... unexplained incident, so we got him out."
"From the air force base?" Kyle's eyes widened. He let out a long, low whistle. "Okay. As we're using real names now. I'm Kyle. I'm, ah... sorry about the false names, but... you know how it is. How is it, by the way? Why do you need a false name?"
"'Cause my dad's wanted by the Air-Force. The cover story they used was that he was killed in the explosion. I doubt they want him walking around to prove they wanted to cover something up."
"Cover what up?"
"That my dad crashed into a UFO."
"Wait. Was that T..."
"How is your dad?" Max blurted. "Where is he? We should all get together."
"Uh, fine," Connie nodded.
"Anyway," Isabel took over as the perfect host. "Let's not all stand around here by the door. Why don't we move into the living room?"

* * *

"Are you okay, Jen?" Bill leaned over his pregnant wife and ran his hands up and down her legs.
"I'm fine," she confirmed. "No breaks, or anything."
"I think we're stuck," he groaned.
"No shit, Sherlock," Jen looked out through the window at the white that pressed against it. "How long 'til someone comes, d'ya think?"
"It could be ages, Jen. No one really uses this road much. Only the park staff. They'll clear the highway first. And as no one knows we came down this road..."
"Bill, we can't stay here."
"I know," he slumped back into his seat and ran his hands through his hair. "Listen. The best thing I could do is to see if I can make my way to town. Maybe I'll find a bar or something."
"Bill..."
"You said it yourself, we can't stay here. Now either we stay here and hope someone comes, or I can go and get help. You have plenty of food, you can melt some snow for water. There's a blanket in the back, so you should be okay here until I bring back some help."
"Bill..." she grabbed his arm.
"I will," he nodded.
Bill leaned over and kissed his wife. He opened his door, having to lean against it heavily to force an opening, and slipped out into the darkness. Jen leaned across and placed the flat of her hand on the window of the door he closed.

* * *

Clutching his lapels together against the cold, and leaning into the biting wind, Bill struggled to push through the snow that was already building into deep drifts. He held his arm before him, sheltering his eyes from the falling snow. It wasn't just the wind that made him cold. He had slipped and fallen so many times, it was hard to tell where the snowdrifts ended and the snow collected on his wet clothing started. It was cold. He was cold. He was also so very tired. He knew, though, that he could not sleep. There were people depending on him to get through. He had to find help for Jen's sake. Stamping his feet to dislodge more snow, he again started to plow through the blanket of white.

Tiredness was the worst, he decided. The cold was just about bearable; he had long since ceased to feel his fingers and toes.
"The grand old Duke of York!" he bellowed into the waning darkness. Dawn was just around the corner. "He had ten thousand men. He marched 'em up to the top of the hill and he marched 'em down again."
Singing helped take his mind from his desire to sleep. When he stopped singing, that was when the struggle resumed.
"Five minutes," he told himself. "What harm would five minutes do?"
He no longer walked in a straight line, but staggered in a snake-like trail. Bill stopped and bent over, leaning on his knees for support. Clouds of steam blew from his mouth as he struggled to gain his breath.
"A hundred bottles a beer on the wall, a hundred bottles a beer..."
Must keep going. The sun started to rise. He was cold, he was hungry and he was tired.
"Five minutes," he groaned. "Just five minutes."
His body started to sway to and fro. His heavy eyelids started to droop.
"Have to stay awake," he argued. "Just five minutes."
"Hunert bottle a beeronawall, hunert wattles a beer..."
The ground rose to meet him. Sleep seemed so welcoming. The darkness seemed so warm. As the blanket of snow surrounded him, he was out. He didn't see the hands reaching for him.
"S'okay, buddy," a voice called that he didn't hear. "We got you."

* * *

How things change. I'm happy for Isabel and Jesse that they have decided to stay together, although I feel slightly ashamed for the way I reacted to the news. I do worry about Max and the responsibility he carries for all of us. I know he's trying to share the load, but it's just Max's nature to worry. But Isabel's happiness helps Max, so I guess I over reacted a little.
Accepting Jesse into our ranks is tinged with the sadness that we will soon lose Kyle. I'm happy that he has finally found someone he feels comfortable with, and anyone can see that although their relationship is still new, they have deep feelings for each other. He has decided that he will stay with our friend, Connie, rather than feel left out with us. I can understand that.
It's impossible to describe what the discovery of Tess's actions regarding the conception of Zan makes me feel. I know there is no concrete evidence that Max didn't, in fact, sleep with Tess, but I can't help feel that it all really had been a mind warp. It doesn't really matter. We have both moved on from that dreadful time, and have come to terms with it. The thought that Max hadn't betrayed what we had after all is almost like extra icing on an already iced cake.
But Max is hurting. It's hard to describe how I felt when he destroyed Tess's fertilized eggs. I mean, even though they were Tess's, they were also a part of Max, they were a form of life. I know that it almost destroyed Max, who has never killed before. It would have been better had Michael been there, but he wasn't. I can only be there for Max, and hope that somehow I can help him get over the latest damage to his psyche. I almost wish the FBI might turn up so he has something else to think about.
But the FBI no longer seem to be a threat. Not that we will let our guard down. We thought that the Special Unit had been disbanded years ago. There is also Sean, although I hope he has learned his lesson. Somehow, I have this horrible feeling that we haven't seen the last of him. I hope Max doesn't get a hold of him. I think Max might kill him, something I fear might do irreparable damage to the gentlest of souls.

* * *

"So how did you make out?" Kyle called from the sofa where he was sitting with a bag of potato chips.
"Hey, Kyle," Maria called from the door where she and Michael were taking off their jackets. "It's snowing again."
"Been in long?" Michael slumped in an armchair and helped himself to one of the donuts on the small table.
"'Bout ten minutes," Kyle shrugged. "So? How'd you make out?"
"I hate job hunting," Maria jumped onto Michael's lap.
"It's not like you've had to do that too often," Michael grunted.
"It doesn't mean I like it any better!"
"Guys! Guys! Focus!" Kyle pointed both index fingers into the air, holding them just either side of his temples. "Jobs. How... did... you... make... out?"
"I got a job in a day care center," Maria shrugged. "No big deal."
"You? Working with kids?" Kyle's eyes bulged.
"What?" Maria sat upright. "Okay, so they were desperate. The sudden unexpected snowfall has caused a panic, okay? They got thousands of families headed this way and they need someone to look after the kids."
"So what about you, Michael? Short order cook?"
"Security."
"What?"
Michael looked at Kyle.
"Valenti, if you don't stop laughing, I swear. I'll..."

"Hey guys," Isabel called from the doorway. "Who's home?"
Jesse and Isabel removed their coats and walked through to the living room.
"Hey," Maria greeted them, rolling her eyes at Michael and Kyle. "Did you find anything?"
"Yeah," Isabel grinned.
"Great," Kyle looked away from Michael, controlling his laughter. "So what are you doing?"
"I'm working at a day care center. You know, a caring profession."
"No kidding?" Maria giggled. "Me, too."
"Beats the security job Michael has," Kyle chuckled. "How about you, Jesse?"
"Hospital orderly," Jesse sat in the sofa.
"Has anyone heard from Max and Liz?" Isabel sat next to Jesse and their hands found each other's.
"Not yet," Kyle smirked. "There's probably not many positions out there for a husband and wife team."
"Hey," Maria held her hand up. "You know what they could do? They could do some stage show. Max could dress in a dark tux covered with sequins and Liz could wear this figure-hugging, sparkling dress while Max does magic tricks on the stage. He could call himself 'The Amazing Zan.'"
"Has Liz said anything about Max?" Isabel sat forward on the edge of the sofa. "About what's making him so..."
"Down?" Maria completed the sentence. "Liz wouldn't say. She said he found out some stuff is all. I was worried they'd had a falling out or something."
"Those two?" Kyle raised his eyebrows. "Fall out? Not a chance."
"Maybe I should talk with him," Isabel continued.
"Leave it to Liz," Maria shook her head. "You know there's only one person who can help him when he's like that. Speak of the devils." The front door opened. "We're all in here, guys."

"Hey," Max nodded. His eyes still looked flat.
"Hey," Liz echoed stepping up beside Max, taking his hand in hers.
"Security," Isabel pointed to Michael. "Hospital orderly, day care, day care. So how about you guys?"
"Receptionist at the Plaza," Liz laughed at Isabel's antics.
"Safety," Max scratched behind his ear. "I, uh... get to dress up in a red jacket and wander around the pistes making sure everyone is okay. If there's a... an avalanche or something, I get to help look for survivors."
"Or hope you are one," Maria looked concerned. "Don't they have to go, like, where people aren't supposed to ski 'cause there's a danger of one?"
"I think I can handle it, Maria," Max frowned.
"Yeah," she nodded. "I guess you could."
"So we're all set up," Kyle stated.

* * *

"Are you seeing Connie tonight, Kyle?" Max asked when they were sitting around the dinner table.
"Not tonight," Kyle shook his head. "Why?"
"We need to talk," Max laid his knife and fork across his plate. "All of us. There's some things you should know."
"About time," Isabel murmured.
"Liz and I'll clear up, first," Maria rose and started to collect the empty plates. "Jeez, see how quickly we fall back into the routines we established up in Idaho? Now that we're fending for ourselves again."
"Idaho," Kyle nodded. "That seems like such a long time ago."
"I know," Liz laughed, carrying some dishes to the kitchen sink.
"Well," Max rose and started to help. "Many hands make light work, right?"
With everyone helping out, they were soon gathered in the living room, with everyone watching Max and Liz.

"We went to the observatory, you know, that huge one they used in that Bond film?"
"Uh huh?" Everyone nodded, expectation filling their eyes.
"That it?" Maria rolled her eyes.
"Did you bring your snapshots?" Kyle opened his mouth and patted his lips with the fingertips of his opened hand.
"I was recognized," Max silenced them all.
"FBI?" Michael was alert. "No, wait. They were too busy trying to save their ass. Was it DeLuca?"
"No," Max shook his head. "It was an eighty-year old taxi driver."
"Huh?"
"If you'll let me continue," Max shook his head. "This old guy, he says how he can't believe it's me. He was convinced I was a friend of his that got abducted by aliens sixty years ago."
"So this friend was your donor," Michael understood. "So...?"
"Well, as amazing as that is, what really caught our attention was he started telling us about a crash, in Puerto Rico, eleven years ago."
"And?" Michael was ignoring the comments of the others. "Come on, Maxwell. Out with the story."
"Well, we looked it up on the internet. In 1991, there was a crash in the hills. The Air Force said it was just one of their jets. Eyewitnesses said something else was involved. The driver told us that it was a UFO and that it crashed in the sea, not the mountains."
"Oh, cool," Michael sat back. "Good story, Max. Tell it to the grandkids."
"Michael!" Maria slapped him across the shoulder. "Carry on, Max."
"Anyway, Liz and I went diving," Max started to leaf through a paper wallet of photographs.
"Oh, no," Kyle groaned. "Max, I was kidding."
"We saw this," Max passed around the photo they had taken of the strange rock.
"Interesting rock formation, Maxwell," Michael was beyond frustration. "I thought you had something important to say."
"Does it help if I tell you that this thing had a silver handprint, and that Liz and I went inside?"
"Not another pod chamber?" Michael's eyes widened.
Everyone was sitting on the edge of their seats now.
"No," Max shook his head and looked at Liz. "It was a ship."
"A ship?" Isabel gasped.
"There was a pilot, too. But he was dead."
"So what did the skeleton look like?" Kyle
"That's just it. The guy had been dead for eleven years, yet he looked... normal. For what he was, I mean."
"What did he look like?" Isabel wrung her hands together.
"Like Nacedo that day we healed him in the pod chamber," Liz confirmed.
"Did you get any indication about what they were coming for?" Michael stood up to look at the rest of Max's photographs.
"No," Max shook his head. "The thing was empty, except for the pilot."
"And the book," Liz added. "And those... devices."
"What book?" Michael looked up. "What devices?"
"When we went into the cockpit, I found a book and the pilot had these two strange devices on his, uh... belt. One looked like it might be a weapon. We have no idea though."
"You'd better let me have them. The book too."
"No," Liz shook her head. "I'm looking at the book. I'm going to try to translate it. As for the strange devices, we left them with the orbs and the destiny book in the la... somewhere safe."
"Convenient," Michael sneered.
"What's up with you?" Max turned from Liz and narrowed his eyes at his friend.
"Did it fly?"
"What?"
"The ship. Did it fly? Was it still working?"
"I didn't try," Max shrugged. "Michael, what's going on? What's with the intense questioning? Has something happened?"
"Nothing," Maria pulled Michael's arm, leading him away from the group.
"So what does this mean, Max?" Jesse looked nervous standing on the outside of the group.
"I'm not sure, Jesse. It could be nothing. The... cargo area was empty. Maybe there were some others on board."
"Only now they're loose, right? They could be your enemies."
"They could also be our friends. But that was eleven years ago. They could be anywhere."
"Or nowhere," Liz added. "Maybe it was empty. Maybe it was sent to collect, rather than deliver."
"You mean, us?" Isabel's eyes widened.
"Maybe," Max agreed. "It's just something else to be aware of."

* * *


posted on 7-Feb-2003 4:53:52 PM
Part 27

"Kyle left early," Maria observed with a yawn over the breakfast table.
They were all getting ready for their first day at work.
"That was a surprise, huh?" Liz reached for some marmalade. "The girl Kyle's interested in being Connie."
"That's for sure," Maria nodded.
Max took the jar from Liz and spread a spoonful of its contents over two pieces of toast he had prepared for himself and Liz.
"He said you saw her, Liz," Isabel observed. "How come you didn't recognize her?"
"I don't always see everything so clearly," Liz shrugged, biting into the toast. "And sometimes, what I see is so vague, it's best to ignore it until I see the same thing again."
"What else have you seen?"
"Well," she smiled. "I saw that some of us would be late if we don't get moving."
"Well, I gotta go," Max kissed Liz, caressed her hair, and left the table for the front door. His voice was more quiet than usual.
"Me too. Wait up, Max," Isabel called, kissing Jesse's cheek.
"I better..." Maria looked at Michael and nodded at the departing friends.
"Yeah," Michael rose.

"What about you, Liz?" Jesse asked.
"I have a few minutes. And as I have to go in the opposite direction to Max, there's no point in going outside into the cold just yet. How about you?"
"My shift doesn't start for another hour." Jesse started to tidy up the table.
"I'm glad I had the chance to get you alone," Jesse paused with the tub of margarine in one hand and the marmalade in the other. "I've been wanting to talk to you for sometime."
"Oh, Jesse, what's up?"
"He still scares me."
"Who?"
"Max. Michael too. I can't forget that time he... they... what Michael did."
"That part of Michael has gone now," Liz reminded him. "Max took it back."
"Yeah. And what's to stop Max from freaking out like that?"
"Max is able to control it," Liz shrugged. "In all the time I've known him, Max has always had this... softness to him. Michael likes to portray this macho soldier, but he's just the same as all of us, underneath. As for Max... you know Max would never hurt anyone, right? He's just... Look, Max has been playing the role of leader and protector for so long, he might seem a little..."
"Overbearing?"
"Max? Overbearing? You really don't know him at all. Sure, he might come over as controlling from time to time, but you know, he loves his sister, he loves us all. That's what he was doing when you were getting married. He had to be sure that you were okay. Not just for Isabel's sake, because he trusted her and her opinions, deep down. Max just has a hard time listening to his heart. But he had to make sure for our sakes, too. Michael, Maria, Kyle, Jim and even me."
"Especially you, I'd say."
"He needs to be sure he's not exposing me... us to danger."
"And you're happy with all this? Giving up your life like this?"
"Jesse, I hope you can understand me when I say that I could never have loved anyone as much as I love Max. And you know, this king thing means nothing to him. Not anymore. All it really is, is that he's looked on by us as the king of the six, well, seven of us. And don't feel he expects you to bow and scrape and do as he says. If you think something should be done differently, he'll listen. He might override you, but he'll listen. And if you ever decide to go your own way, he'd never stop you. Jesse, Max would never think that you owe him anything. As long as you love and protect Isabel, then you will be his best friend."

* * *

Steven Baurline pushed his way through the huge glass doors of a large official looking building and paused at the top of a wide, descending staircase to look around at the city skyline. He patted his pockets and shook his head. He started down the steps.
"Fifteen years service, Mr. Baurline," a man appeared beside him. "Fifteen years of loyal and devoted service to making this country safe for its citizens, and they repay you by firing you."
"Who are you?" Baurline raised his left eyebrow at the tall, thin man in the dark suit.
If he hadn't known better, Baurline would have presumed the man to be an agent.
"A friend, Mr. Baurline," the man looked around him. "A friend who believes that loyalty should be rewarded, not punished by dismissing a man whose only crime is that he cares about his country. Not like your so called friends in there." The man waved at the building behind them. "They threw you out into the streets and sent your colleagues to remote outposts where they'll probably finish their careers as filing clerks."
"And just what is all this to you?"
"As a friend, Mr. Baurline, I am merely showing my concern and my dismay at the way in which our government has rewarded your steadfast loyalty."
"Well, that doesn't pay the bills. Now if you'll excuse me, I..."
"I'm aware that bills need hard cash to be paid with, but I have more than concern and dismay to offer, Mr. Baurline. I am in a position to offer you a job."
"What kind of job?" Baurline narrowed his eyes and looked sideways at the man.
"Oh, it's a job that you are more than qualified for," the man nodded, resting his hand on the neck of Baurline's shoulder. "And I daresay, one from which you would gain the utmost of satisfaction. I would feel more comfortable discussing this with you in a more... shall we say, private location."
A black stretched limo with tinted glass pulled up at the bottom of the long marble staircase.
"Would you care to join me, Mr. Baurline?"

* * *

"What are you doing?" Max asked in a gentle voice as he sat next to Liz, watching her fingers fly over the laptop's keyboard.
"Missing Alex," she sighed. "He could have cracked this in next to no time."
"And this is...?" Max peered at the figures on the small screen.
"That disk your dad sent was a signal received by SETI. Apparently, the father of one of the kids you healed that time works there. He put two and two together and guessed that the missing Roswell teenagers might be... interested in this strange signal they received from outer space. He gave a copy of it to your dad, asking that he pass it on to you."
"The father of one of the kids I healed? Did he leave his name and address? We could use it to help cross reference against the other names."
"Yeah," Liz nodded. "It's encrypted on here."
"So, how far have you gotten?"
"It seems to be broken down into four binary numbers. The first two are really short. So is the fourth one. They probably represent decimal numbers. But this one here is huge, look."
"Liz, if we tried to convert that into a decimal number, we'd be here all night."
"This computer can't even cope with it."
"So maybe it's not a decimal number. Maybe it's like ... like a kind of bitmap."
"I'm thinking that way too. Like on the Viking Voyager. It sends out a binary signal that when you arrange the ones and zeros onto a grid, it shows the basic human form, and the location of us in relation to the sun. That sort of thing."
"Have you tried doing that? Mapping it out, I mean?"
"The trouble is, I don't know the grid size."
"Maybe the first two binary signals represent the rows and columns."
"I tried that. And reversing them and using the numbers as columns and rows. It just comes out as a mess. Besides, there are too many binary digits in the long message to match."

"Max? Is everything okay?" Liz looked up over her shoulder at Max's face, hovering inches away.
"Yeah, why?"
"It's just... you seemed like you wanted to ask me something."
"Why did you lie to Michael? About leaving those devices behind?"
"It was easier than arguing with him," Liz shrugged. "He was getting kind of..."
"Defensive?"
"Aggressive. He's acting strange, Max. I think you might need to keep an eye on him."
"He wouldn't hurt anyone."
"I know. It's just... Max. We found those devices, not Michael. In the past, whenever we discovered something alien, he's done some... things that maybe he shouldn't have. Like the time he kidnapped Maria. Or what about the signal he sent for Nacedo after we found those symbols? Max, I don't want him touching these things until you and I have had a chance to figure them out. You know, we should go somewhere deserted and study them, when we get the chance."
"I don't disagree with your motives, or your actions, Liz. I was just wondering why you didn't tell Michael. I'm glad you didn't. It'll save arguments later, I hope."
"Maybe you should talk to him, Max. Something's bothering him."
"Yeah," Max sighed. "You'd think this would get easier, that he'd learn how his actions affect us."
"Speaking of learning, Max, did you tell Langley about the ship?"
"Yeah," Max nodded. "He seemed pretty unimpressed. He said that it crashed, and like the other ship, probably wouldn't work. I told him I had no intention of even trying."
"Good," Liz smiled.
"Take a break, Liz," Max caressed her hair, pulling her head to him and kissing her forehead. "I doubt this signal is that important. To us, anyway. Let's go and join the others."

* * *

"Mr. Rodriguez," someone called after Jesse as he pushed the empty hospital gurney to the room at the end of the corridor.
"Yes?" he nodded, turning to see who had called him. "Nurse Grayson."
Everyone had warned him to watch out for Nurse Grayson, the ogre of Glenwood Springs General. She was short in stature, short on patience, and her graying hair gave evidence that she was at least in her late fifties. Some claimed that she was a bitter old woman intent on making life miserable for everyone, but Jesse recognized experience when he saw it. He saw at once that she would accept only the highest standards from those working with her. If you didn't meet her expectations, she worked you hard to attain them. Recognizing this, and doing his utmost to meet her standards, Jesse was her preferred orderly by the end of his first day at work.
"I'm sure that you're eager to go home to your wife, Mr. Rodriguez, but I wonder if you might do me a favor. We have a patient in ICU, suffering from acute frostbite in his extremities. He's been in a coma all day, but his condition has finally stabilized, so we want to move him to the special frost bite unit so we can try to save as much of the rest of him as we can."
"You want someone to push him, Nurse Grayson?" Jesse smiled. "Consider it done."
He followed the older woman into the ICU ward and over to the man who looked to be in critical condition. His skin was a mottled gray color, and his feet and hands were wrapped in thick bandages, which were kept soaked in freezing cold water. Jesse's eyes bulged. The man on the gurney was his friend, Martin, from New Orleans. No. Now that he had a chance to look, he only looked similar. It wasn't Martin. Jesse started to breathe a little easier.
"What's his story?" Jesse asked, helping to gather up the machines that he was plugged into.
"Some Park Rangers found him," the Nurse balanced the last monitor on the bottom of the gurney. "Early this morning. He was frozen stiff and only moments away from death."
"What was he doing out in weather like this?"
"I have no idea. The Rangers think he'd been out all night. He probably got stuck in the snow and decided to walk to town. The doctors think he'll lose his fingers and toes, at the very least. He'll be lucky if that's all he loses."
And he might be even be luckier still and get visited by... an angel, Jesse nodded.

* * *

"I don't know why you girl's put yourselves through this torture," Michael shrugged as they watched another television show filled with angst and drama. "The characters change so much, I can't believe that you can get to know them."
"And you're different, how?" Isabel smirked.
"You know," Kyle laughed. "The way the hero changes from the kind, caring guy to that conceited monster, it's almost like he was the victim of one of Tess's mind warps."
Looking pale, Max rose and left the room, closing the door of the bedroom he shared with Liz.
"I... I'm sorry," Kyle looked with widened eyes from the door Max had disappeared behind to Liz. Everyone else was exchanging worried glances. "I didn't mean anything. I didn't..."
"What's up with Max, anyway?" Isabel interrupted. "He's trying too hard to be his normal self, but he can't hide the distance he's feeling. What's going on, Liz?"
Everyone turned to Liz as she stared at the door Max closed. She shook her head and sighed.
"You're just going to have to give Max some space for a while," she sighed.
"Liz? Something's happened," Isabel continued. "You have to tell us. It's like you said. We're in this together, and if there's something going on between you two, we need to know."
"I... I was hoping Max would tell you. It's sort of important, and although it doesn't affect you, it's something you need to know. I feel like I'm betraying him, or something, but I guess you deserve to be told."
"Told what, Liz?" Isabel crossed to her sister-in-law and sat beside him.
"We received word that Jim wanted to see Max."
"My father? What was that about?"
"Let her finish," Michael growled.
"Anyway, on our way back from Puerto Rico, we arranged to stop at a small airfield near Dexter. Jim met us, and drove us to Roswell."
"Did you see our parents?" Maria asked, leaning forward.
"He took us to the house that Tess lived in," Liz shook her head at Maria. "You know, the one she moved into when they first turned up. There's a garage 'round the back. When the house was sold, the garage wasn't included. It's still owned by Ed Harding. The new occupants of the house heard an alarm one night and called the Sheriff's office. They sent your dad, Kyle. Jim tried to pick the lock, but couldn't. He felt this might be alien related, so he left a message with my mom and dad for Max. When we got there, the lock was protected by this... power. So Max managed to open it and we all went into this empty garage. Max looked around and found a hidden doorway in the floor. Tess had put it there."
"What was it hiding?"
"I'm getting to that, Iz," Liz turned to her. "It took some doing, but Max opened it up to find a small laboratory. I don't know how he went down there, it looked like a kind of... Anyway, you know when Pierce had him? Well all the charts and stuff that he took that time, they were in this lab. Nacedo didn't destroy them at all, he gave them to Tess." Liz's face went white. "I found a book, a journal, of all the things they... the things they... did... to Max."
"Oh, Liz!" Isabel gasped, wrapping her hand around Liz's arm.
"The thing is, I don't think he knows the full extent of what they did to him. It made me feel so... Then I read something that made my blood go cold, but it also made me suspect something." Liz looked at her friends, before she continued in a low voice. "They extracted some semen from him."
"How?" Maria questioned.
"Well, you know, there's one way," Liz shook her head. "But I can't see Max being too cooperative when he was so terrified for both his own, and my life."
"Yours?"
"Yeah. They were threatening to kill me to get his cooperation."
"How else could they have taken it, Liz?" Isabel asked in a small voice.
"Let's just say that it's not as pleasant," Liz shuddered.
"Okay," Michael interrupted. "As distressing as all this is, it doesn't explain Max's behavior."
"I opened the refrigeration unit, and my horrible suspicions were confirmed. As well as Max's semen, and stuff, stored in there, there were also some of Tess's eggs."
"But Tess wasn't in the white room."
"I know. She must have taken them herself, when the lab was built."
"Why?" Maria narrowed her eyes.
"We found two separate from the others. They were fertilized."
"No!" came the collective gasps.
"So she, like, what?" Maria's eyes widened, as she understood. "She artificially inseminated herself?"
"Yeah," Liz nodded. "Which I think was the reason she came back. She was going to try and impregnate herself again with one of the spares. But she didn't have time."
"'Cause all hell broke loose when she rescued Zan," Kyle shook his head and looked away from the group.
"What happened to these eggs?" Isabel put her head in her hands.
"Max... he..." Liz was struggling to find the words. "Max destroyed them."
Silence filled the room.
"Oh," Jesse exhaled. "So he thinks he's a..."
"Murderer," Michael nodded.
"We have this suspicion that Tess mind warped him into thinking he had sex with her. We can't prove that, but it would make sense."
"So," Kyle groaned. "When I said about mind warping and the guy's personality changing, it..."
"Brought back memories he'd rather forget," Liz nodded.
"Oh God, Liz. I'm sorry."

* * *

"Max?" Liz gave a soft knock on the door and entered the room she shared with him. She found him sitting on the edge of their bed in the darkness. "Are you okay?"
"Yeah," he nodded.
"No, you're not," Liz sat beside him and placed her hand in his. "Kyle didn't mean anything by what he said."
"I know. I can't expect people to forget what happened to us all back then, or what a jackass I had been."
"Max, you know it wasn't all your fault, right? I mean, I have to share some of the blame."
"Not you, Liz," Max folded his arm around her. "Never you."
"I told them."
"Oh," Max sighed after a silent pause. "I guess they deserved to know."
"Why can't you just put this behind you, Max? I know that what you had to do hurt you, but this other stuff. You can't keep dwelling on what happened before she left."

"It's like... whoever... said. Those who forget their past are doomed to repeat it."
"Santayana," Liz smiled. "That was Santayana."
"Liz, I screwed up on Antar and they sent me here, as a half human, half Antarian... insurance plan. I can't regret that I messed up back there and got killed, because it brought me to you. But I almost even screwed that up."
"But you didn't, Max. You found your path again. You found your way back to me just like I found my path back to you."
"I'm so afraid that this isn't over. I'm so scared that my past, which I can't remember, is going to catch up with me and ruin our future."
"Then we'll just have to make sure that it doesn't."
They sat in silence, drawing comfort from each other's presence.
"I killed them, Liz," he sobbed. "They were innocents. Whatever justification Jim painted for me, I killed them in cold blood."
"Max? I can't pretend to know all the answers and I wish I could help heal you of all this pain you're in, like I so desperately want to, but, you know, maybe... in a way, you saved them."
"How do you mean?"
"Well, take the worst case scenario. Kivar incubates them, and they are born. Either they will be rejected and probably executed because they are human, or they will be accepted as your heir and used to perpetuate the civil war, maybe even forced into a showdown against you. At best, they could have remained in that refrigeration unit, a life sentence of non-life until a power cut robs them of what life they have. Max? Maybe you should consider that by..." Liz swallowed hard, "destroying them like that, you freed their souls to have a... a normal existence, elsewhere."
Max looked into Liz eyes, which were glistening with tears that, he himself shared.
"You are so incredible, Liz. Now I really want to know my past, warts and all. No matter how bad I must have been up there, I had to have done something good to have deserved your love."
"That's easy, Max. You were you."

Max looked at her for a while before leaning into her. Their lips touched, a slight brush at first, but their love for one another demanded more. Max took Liz's lips into his mouth, as though he were trying to devour them. He wrapped his arms around her, while Liz turned into him, and straddled his thighs. Liz withdrew her bottom lip and managed to grip Max's. While her small hands cupped his face, Max laced one of his hands into Liz's warm, soft hair and the other slid beneath her shirt and up her back, caressing her skin. Max leaned back, inch by inch, until he was lying on his back with Liz pressing herself into him from above. Her hair cascaded to hide their faces. Max's tongue teased between their lips, seeking permission to invade, and when Liz opened her mouth to grant access, Max teased her tongue. As their passion deepened, and their connection flared into life, the familiar images again assailed them, reminding one another of their love.
Max tucking a stray strand of hair behind her ear at the Crash festival.
The symbol with a central triangle and two spokes radiating from this to form a protective circle.
Max holding Liz after her grandmother had died.
The symbol with a central triangle and two spokes radiating from this to form a protective circle.
Liz and Max kissing on her balcony at the break of the heat wave.
The symbol with a central triangle and two spokes radiating from this to form a protective circle.
The kiss they shared when Max took his step back.
The symbol with a central triangle and two spokes radiating from this to form a protective circle.
The kiss Max initiated in the back room of the Crashdown.
The symbol with a central triangle and two spokes radiating from this to form a protective circle.
The bittersweet pain of their admitted love in the old van.
The symbol with a central triangle and two spokes radiating from this to form a protective circle.
Max's refusal to give up on her when she returned from Florida.
The symbol with a central triangle and two spokes radiating from this to form a protective circle.
Liz's determination to protect him, even at her own cost.
The symbol with a central triangle and two spokes radiating from this to form a protective circle.
The rebirth of their friendship that Christmas.
The symbol with a central triangle and two spokes radiating from this to form a protective circle.
Liz's pain at hearing Max tell her he was leaving for Antar.
The symbol with a central triangle and two spokes radiating from this to form a protective circle.
The night Max took Liz hang gliding
The symbol with a central triangle and two spokes radiating from this to form a protective circle.
Their dance together at Isabel's wedding.
The symbol with a central triangle and two spokes radiating from this to form a protective circle.
Their reunion when Liz brought Max back from the dead.
The symbol with a central triangle and two spokes radiating from this to form a protective circle.
Liz's joy when she knew Max wouldn't go near the space ship.
The symbol with a central triangle and two spokes radiating from this to form a protective circle.
Max's proposal to Liz.
The symbol with a central triangle and two spokes radiating from this to form a protective circle.
Their wonderful wedding.
The symbol with a central triangle and two spokes radiating from this to form a protective circle.
Max carrying Liz over the threshold of Granny's apartment.
The symbol with a central triangle and two spokes radiating from this to form a protective circle.

Liz slowly pulled her face back from Max's, her eyes glazed with tears at how deep their love was, to have survived throughout the terrible turmoil that had surrounded them almost from the very first day.
"Max? Did you see all that?"
"Yeah," Max nodded, his own eyes distant.
"What does it mean? That symbol. You said I drew it in the sand. I was drawing it on your chest, and now I'm seeing it in our flashes. I know it's the whirlwind galaxy, but what does it mean?"
"I'm almost too afraid to speculate."
"You think you know." It was almost an accusation.
"Liz? I'm afraid that part of my life isn't over after all."

* * *


posted on 7-Feb-2003 4:55:29 PM
Part 28

Ex-FBI Agent Steve Baurline shrugged his shoulders, and without hesitation, allowed the stranger to guide him to the limousine that had just pulled up. After all, he told himself, what did he have to lose? He climbed into the open door ahead of the newcomer, and was not surprised to find another similarly dressed man, complete with dark glasses, already sitting there.
"Come in, Mr. Baurline," the man already seated indicated where he should sit. "Make yourself comfortable."
The other man climbed in behind him, and sat next to his partner. He watched the two men eye him in silence.
"You said something about a job?"
"To the point," the second man nodded. "I like that. You see, Mr. Baurline, we have been aware of your determined efforts to expose this menace to our planet. After all, regardless of the good that these... beings have performed in the past, I notice that there has been no mentioning of the... let's just call it evil, which they have perpetrated. Did that newspaper article bring up the strange, unexplained deaths? The murdered agents? The mysterious disappearances? No, I think not."
"We are aware," the first man continued, "of the existence of extra terrestrial life forms already living on this planet, having taken the form or ordinary human beings. In this case, teenagers."
"We are of the opinion, that these teenagers are merely... sleepers, members of an alien race, waiting for their orders from the mother ship, which we have no doubt will lead to the invasion of our planet. They must be stopped, Mr. Baurline."
"I agree," Baurline nodded. "They need to be killed. All of them."
"Yes..." nodded Number One.
"And no," Number Two shook his head.
They both wore a tight-lipped smile.
"You see, we need to know the location of the other sleeper cells," Number One continued.
"To that end, we need to capture one of them alive. So that we can... extract certain... information."
"Any one in particular?" Baurline narrowed his eyes.
"This one," Number Two showed him a photograph of a tall, dark haired teenaged male with dark brown eyes. "Their leader, the Alpha Male."
"He's dead," Baurline shook his head. "Fell into a ravine two weeks ago."
"No, Mr. Baurline. He is not dead. Trust me. He walked from that fall and was found by his friends."
"Shit," Baurline cursed. "So you want this one alive? Does it matter in what condition?"
"So long as his brain is still active, no."
"Good," Baurline seethed through clenched teeth. "What about the others?"
"Capturing any of them alive would be a bonus for which we would pay handsomely, Mr. Baurline. Especially these two." He showed them a picture of the tall blond female and the petite dark haired one.
"What is it about her?" Baurline pointed to the brunette.
"Why do you say that?"
"My associate, DeLuca, he was fucking obsessed with the bitch."
"I cannot say," Number Two shrugged. "For now, just know that she represents money to you. We will advance you two hundred and fifty thousand dollars for running expenses, and pay you a another half a million upon delivery of the Alpha Male." He tapped the image of Max Evans. "We will pay one hundred thousand for each of these two women, and a another fifty thousand for the heads of the others."
"Do you have any ideas where they went?" Baurline'e eyes were a mixture of greed and revenge.
"We know only that they stayed in the region where you thought the Alpha Male was killed."
"Once you have extracted that information," Baurline looked hopeful, "will you still need the Alpha Male?"
"No," Number One shook his head while looking at Number Two. "At that point, he will become expendable."
"I'll take only half that bounty on him if I can kill him personally... and slowly. Very slowly."
"That can be arranged," Number Two smiled.

* * *

"Griffin," Max was not surprised to see Connie's father at the door. "Come on in."
"You've been expecting me?"
"Yeah," Max scratched behind his ear as he stood back to allow Griffin into the room. "You remember Michael, Liz and Maria," Max pointed them out. "This is my sister, Isabel and her husband, Jesse. Kyle and Connie are..."
"Out on a date. Hey," he nodded as they called their greetings. "I only came to... you know, thank you. From before. We never really got the chance to talk."
"Yeah," Liz nodded. "Things were a little tense."
"I mean, I've thought about it, over and over. Connie said you were just high school kids, but you broke into a high security Air Force base, broke me out of a guarded cell, leaving a trained assassin in my place, and just... drove out again. It was like you... owned the place. How did you guys do that?"
"Just lucky, I guess," Max shrugged, looking down to his feet.
"And then the van changed color. I really wish I knew how you did that. It sure would have come in handy from time to time."
"So... what have you been up to? Since..."
Griffin stared at Max for a moment before shrugging.
"Well, first off, Connie and I drove day and night to Dallas. When you've been with the military as long as I have, especially with some of the people I've been involved with, you learn a trick or two. I had already set up a false persona, you know, bank accounts and stuff, and kept the cards and papers in a safety deposit box there. Once I got what I needed, we decided to head for California. I figured what with the tourists and all; we could hide out and maybe find jobs in the leisure industry. Hiding in plain sight. We both found jobs at Disneyland. It was a strain at first. We kind of argued for a while. We soon learned to live with each other, though."
All of the gang nodded, remembering their own darker days when they had their own cabin fever.
"But then, one day, while I'm workin' on a broken ride, an old pilot buddy of mine spotted me. I arranged to meet him at a bar that night, but Connie and I ran instead. Who knows who he might have told. Hey, guess who I ran into today? We headed north, to Oregon. We hid out in a lumber camp where I found work in a sawmill. One of the guys started getting a little too familiar with Connie, and if she hadn't have damn near killed him when he tried to... I would have."
"Connie knows kung fu, or something," Michael snorted. "I've got a taste of it when I took your helmet to her."
"Rather than answer questions," Griffin nodded, "or face possible retribution from his buddies, we lit out again. We followed the Rockies for the most part, stopping here and there, looking like were planning on settling. To make sure that the guys don't try anything, Connie picks up one of the locals as her boyfriend. Just casual, you know?"
"And Kyle?" Liz looked full of concern.
"The guy she started dating when we got to Glenwood Springs, about a month ago, ditched her on account of she wouldn't... you know, put out. So I figured Carl, rather Kyle, would be a good 'temporary' match because he seemed to have secrets of his own. But then Connie tells me that she's actually developing feelings for the guy. So you don't have to worry, Liz. Connie's not using him. Anyway, I chose jobs for us here where we wouldn't come into contact with the tourists much. This is the longest time we've stayed at any one place."
"So other than the guy that saw you at Disney, no one has any idea where you are?"
"No," Theodore Griffin shook his head. "They taught me a lot about evasion. Trust me. I know what I'm doing. So what happened with you guys? Did they find out it was you? Who freed me, I mean? Or did you really blow up that base? Connie told me you guys were on the run, too. Was it on account of me?"

"Sort of," Maria saw that no one else had any intention of speaking. "For some reason, the FBI thought that Max, Michael, Isabel and Liz were part of this organization that blew up the Air Force base. They aren't, by the way. But we found out that the FBI had them pegged as being guilty, and were going to kill them in cold blood. So we did what any sane person would do under those circumstances. We got us a van and ran. Except for us, everywhere we go, we seem to find ourselves... like... in the wrong place at the wrong time..."
"Or the right place at the right time," Liz interrupted.
"Semantics," Max nodded.
"Depending on how you look at it," Maria continued, looking at Max. "In the mountains of Idaho, we stopped a robbery at this campsite that we were working at, and saved the life of the owner's daughter. In Nebraska, we saved the farm for this sweet, little old lady, and the virtues of a couple of women who were having problems with some Hells Angels. In New Mexico, we got caught up in an armed siege and saved everyone's butts from these morons who might have shot everyone. And every time we help someone, the FBI finds out and are just one step behind us."
"Wow," Griffin leaned back with widened eyes. "I thought we had it tough. How long have you guys been on the run?"
"A month less than you," Max sighed.

* * *

"Max," Jesse approached him while he was seeing Griffin out of the front door. "Are you still on this 'doing good deeds' kick?"
"It's not that I get a kick out of it, Jesse," Max closed the door. He turned to face his brother-in-law. "It's what gives me my sense of purpose, you know?"
"Even though it draws the FBI to you like moths to a flame?"
"I'm sorry, Jesse. Liz and I are committed. This is what we want to do. This is what we've decided to do."
"In spite of the danger you're putting everyone else in?"
"We're not forcing anyone to stay, Jesse. They all know what we're doing, they all know that they're free to leave any time they want. If you and Isabel want to go, then, I won't do anything to stop you." Max indicated the door. "I won't like it, but..."
"What about Liz?"
"Liz?"
"Is she allowed to leave anytime she chooses?"
"Of course she is." Max's face fell. He looked less sure of himself. "Jesse, are you trying to tell me that Liz wants to leave?"
"No. But how do I know that, like, you haven't taken over her mind, or something?"
"Not my mind, Jesse," Liz stepped from behind him and wrapped her arms around Max. "Just my heart and my soul. Why are you doing this, Jesse? I thought we cleared all this up?"
"Because something's come up," Jesse turned a scarlet color at being caught cross-examining Max. "The trouble is, if every time you do something good, the FBI charge in... I'm afraid of exposing Isabel to danger."
"It's what we do, Jesse," Max pulled Liz tightly to him. "We do good, and get exposed. If we worry about everything, we'll never do anything, and that will be that."
"This was easier when I only had to sit at home and imagine the danger you guys went through. The reality of it is much worse."
"It gets easier. Now, what is it that's come up?"
"There's this guy, in hospital. He's in pretty bad shape. They dug him out of the snow, suffering with exposure and frostbite. He's still in a coma and they're afraid he's going to lose his fingers and toes. Maybe even more. I was wondering. Was there something you could do?"

* * *

"Here's how we should do this," Max paced across the room while six pairs of eyes watched him. "Isabel can go to the security room, and distract the guards so that no one notices us on any CCTV cameras. Liz and I will go in dressed in whites, while Jesse in his greens leads us to the room that they have this man in. With Jesse and Liz keeping watch, I'll heal him. I'd disable the camera, but I've never healed frostbite before. It might take some time to repair whatever damage it is that's been done, and in that time, they're bound to send someone to check on the broken camera."
"We can probably do some research in the library, first, Max," Liz pointed out. "I mean, maybe if you read up on some medical journals or something, so that you know what you're looking for, and how to fix it."
"Yeah," Max stopped and nodded at Liz. "That's probably a good idea. I'll fix him up as good as I can, but I don't know if we'll have time to warn him about the side effects."
"What happens then?" Jesse looked up. "I mean, the staff are bound to notice the handprint, not to mention the miraculous healing."
"Then we'll have to leave," Max shrugged. "We can pack our things beforehand. The rest of you can leave at the same time as us, or just after and meet us outside the hospital. When we're done, we'll make for the flatlands of New Mexico, and skirt down the side toward the border."
"This is sooner than I thought," Kyle murmured. "I was hoping that you guys would stay put a while longer, maybe for the winter, you know? I was hoping that you'd stay until I got closer to Connie."
"Max?" Liz looked from Kyle to her husband. "What if instead of healing him all in one go, you healed him a little at a time. If you visited him each night, pretending to be doing some routine checks, and healed him in small segments, making him better slowly, no one would get suspicious. Would you even leave a print then?"
"That way, we wouldn't attract any attention to ourselves," Maria nodded.
"Which means you can stay a little longer," Kyle beamed at Liz.

* * *

"Nice," Max looked Liz, dressed in her crisp, white nurse's uniform up and down. "Maybe we should keep that, you know, for those... quiet moments together."
"Max," Liz smirked, as she smoothed the white dress down.
"Come on," Jesse rolled his eyes. He pushed the gurney along the corridor with Max, dressed in a doctor's overcoat and Liz by his side. Beneath the blanket covering her on the gurney, Isabel sat motionless. In the dead of night, there were few sounds except for the wheels rolling, and squeak of the hospital shoes they wore.
"Here's security," Max whispered so Isabel could hear.
After checking that the corridors were empty, Liz pulled back the blanket, and Isabel rolled to an upright position and onto her feet.
"Liz will tell you when we're in position," Max reminded her. "We need just ten minutes from when she tells you."
"Are you sure you'll be all right, Isabel?" Jesse asked for the third time.
"Jesse," she sighed. "I know this is hard for you, but we know what we're doing, okay? Now relax and look like you belong here."
Jesse nodded, and at Max's signal, continued to push the gurney after the other two.

* * *

"Okay, Liz," Max nodded as they stopped outside of the door leading to the frostbitten man.
Liz's mind went distant for a moment, and then she was back.
"Okay," Liz nodded, and looked down at her wristwatch. "We have ten minutes."
Jesse stood by the door and watched up and down the corridor, while Liz scanned the room for any kind of cameras.
"We're in luck," she called as Max settled down beside the patient. "No CCTV. Isabel won't have to do this every night."
"What exactly is she doing?" Jesse asked.
Max looked up and gave an almost imperceptible shake of his head.
"She'll just talk to him," Liz shrugged. "Probably make out she's some kind of manager and ask all kinds of questions. You know, get a bit bossy."
"Oh," Jesse looked relieved.

Max laid his hand over the man's body, surprised at how cold it felt. Still in a coma, it would be difficult to form a real connection, so Max concentrated instead on the composition of the man's tissue, trying to connect with the DNA instead. He quickly found the cells that had been destroyed as a result of the water content freezing, expanding, and breaking the cell membranes. He worked from the edges of the good tissue, and repaired the damaged ones, allowing the ice to thaw while he fixed the torn membranes. He worked on only the worst of the damage and raised the temperature just a little. Max did not want to draw undue attention to the man.
"This could take weeks," Jesse kept squeezing his hands into fists as Max explained to Liz what he had done.
"Do you have something better to do?" Max smiled.
"How do you guys stay so calm?"
"You learn to cope," Max shrugged.
Liz lifted the man's arm, covered with the strange material that helped keep his limbs at the lower temperatures, to tuck it back beneath the sheet.

She was standing at a gravesite. All around her, snow covered the ground. A coffin was being lowered into the ground. The man lying on the hospital bed was standing beside it, crying. His hands and feet were in bandages. Behind him, two elderly couples wept as they tried to seek comfort in each other's arms.

"Max," Liz hissed, her eyes widened with anxiety. "We have a problem."
"Liz?" Max turned to her, his face a mask of concern. "What is it? What's wrong?"
"I just saw him. He was burying someone. I think it was his wife. Max! Jesse said they found this guy, walking in the snow. What if he was trying to get help? What if his wife is stranded out there somewhere?"

* * *

"This isn't good," Jesse shook his head, pacing their living room. "She could be anywhere. How are we going to find her?"
"With this," Max handed a photo of the man to Isabel. "Hopefully."
"What is it?" he looked at the picture. It was a photo of the man, taken when they had brought him in. "Where did you get that?"
"While you went to get Isabel," Liz smiled. "Max and I visited the admin office."
"You mean, you broke into the office and stole that?"
"Don't go all legal on us, Jesse," Max frowned while Liz rolled her eyes.
"So how's that going to help?"
"I'm going to dream walk him," Isabel looked at the photo.
"What?" Jesse looked shocked. "I don't think... I mean... Isabel, I don't think that's such a good idea."
"Hey, relax," Michael shrugged. "He won't be dreaming of her, okay? She's going in to find out where he left his wife."
"So he won't see you?"
"Even if he does, he won't know who I am, or why I'm there. Relax, Jesse. I've been doing this for a long time now. I know what I'm doing."
Isabel relaxed herself, touched her forefinger to the picture, and closed her eyes. Moments later, she was sitting up again. Her eyes showed her disappointment.
"Couldn't you get in?" Liz asked.
"No," Isabel shook her head. "The picture, it's too... It's not clear enough. He doesn't normally look like this, so instead of getting a clear image of him, I'm getting a dozen or more... shadows. It's impossible to tell one from the other, and even harder to get in."

"Where was he found, Jesse?" Max stood up with a look of determination burning in him.
"They brought him in from the bottom end of town, out by a place called Valley's End or something. Why, Max?"
"Because at first light," Max narrowed his eyes. "I'm going to go out and start searching."
"The words needle and haystack spring to mind, Max," Liz looked at him with concern.
"There's no way I can just sit around and do nothing," Max rose and crossed to the hallway to get his jacket.
"You're not starting now," Liz sounded cross.
"No," he shook his head. "I'm going back to the hospital. I'll heal him completely. Then he can tell me where his wife is and I'll go get her."
"Max," Liz's voice was filled with determination. "Could I just speak with you a moment?"
Liz and Max locked eyes. He gave a slow nod, and followed her into their room.

"Max," she spun on him. "You can't. This isn't about you."
"I know," Max growled. "It's about that woman out there."
"And if you heal him completely, maybe you won't have enough energy to help his wife. And in the meantime, the attention you'll attract could mean that we have to leave before we can even start to look for her. And what if he has the same problem you had? What if he comes around and has amnesia? What if he can't remember where he left his wife? Maybe we're the only ones who can save her, but we'll be too busy running from whoever it is that will turn up."
"But she could be dying out there, Liz. He was found yesterday morning. Who knows how much longer she can survive?"
"Max?" Liz's tone dropped to a more soothing resonance. "I get these premonitions for a reason. I'm sure we'll find her, okay? We don't need to panic. Now, lets stick with the plan that we came up with, together. It was a good one."
"But the plan included Isabel dream walking him."
"Look, we can use the computer your dad sent to surf the net. We only need to check for missing persons. We might get lucky and find that friends or family have posted a recent photograph of him. Isabel, Maria and I can look for him there, while you and the guys look for his wife.
"Okay," Max sighed, his shoulder slumping. "It's just..."
"I know, Max," Liz hugged him. "I know."

* * *

"Enjoy the movie?" Kyle asked as he and Connie walked along the sidewalk, lined with banks of snow from the cleared roads.
"Yeah," Connie nodded. "It was good. Dinner was nice, too. How can you afford all this? I know you're not earning as much as my dad."
"Don't worry about it, okay? It's covered."
"Can I ask you something?"
"Sure?" Kyle gave a slow nod.
"Why do Max and Liz think that they can help this man in the coma they visited with Jesse?"
"Well, you know Max," Kyle looked away. "He kinda... he's like... Max has this... need, to help people. He just thinks he can help this man and he will do anything in his power to try."
"Except people often misunderstand what he does, right? That's why the FBI get involved? Is he like... some kind of psychic?"
"Well, sort of. Anyway, yeah, he needs to be a little... secretive."
"You're not telling me everything," Connie laughed. "But that's okay. I understand. Maybe one day, you'll trust me enough to tell me."
"It's not that I... we... don't trust you. How can I put this? I, uh... When Liz first found out what it was, about Max, she kept it a secret from her best friends. She once told this good friend of hers that it wasn't her secret to tell. I guess that's it, in a nutshell. I want to tell you, but until they say I can, I won't."
"I understand, Kyle. Don't look so worried."
"It's just... I'm not very good at this relationship game. I mean, I watch Max and Liz all the time, and I'm not even sure I know what it is he does that makes it so easy for him. I think they have whole conversations with their eyes."
"You're not doing so bad."
"I'm not?"
"No." Connie leaned over and kissed Kyle's cheek.
In the darkness, Connie couldn't see that Kyle's face turned bright red, nor could she see his goofy grin.
"So how did you find out that he has a wife trapped out there somewhere?"
"I think we're getting into that secrets area again."
"But you're going out to help look for her, right?"
"Yeah," Kyle nodded. "Except I have to work, too. I can't afford to lose that job."
"If you'd like, I could come with you." Connie reached her hand out and took a tentative hold of Kyle's.
"I'd like that," Kyle smiled, looking down at their hands.

* * *

"This is like looking for a needle in a dozen haystacks," Maria complained as she sat in front of the laptop computer.
They had spent the morning taking turns to check out the various search engines on the Internet for missing people in Colorado and surrounding areas. They had been surprised not only to find sites dedicated to that, but that there were so many missing men out there.
"They just better not blame it all on alien abductions," Maria joked.
"Yeah," Liz nodded. "I know this is a long shot, but maybe someone's posted a missing persons report. Just 'cause the police don't know who he is doesn't mean someone isn't missing him. He has parents somewhere. So does his wife. Someone must know who he is."
"We've checked the library, the papers, everywhere," Isabel groaned with frustration."
"How's Max?" Maria asked, noting how Liz seemed vacant for a moment. She knew that Liz was checking in with him on a regular basis.
"He's like, being driven."
"Because of the..."
"Yeah. I'm so afraid of what will happen to him if we don't save this woman. It's like he's..."
"Obsessed."
"Yeah," Liz gave a slow, sad nod.
"Let me take over," Isabel offered.
Maria rose from the seat at the table, took three steps and collapsed into the sofa.
"When will this nightmare end?" she groaned. "And I have a shift to do at the day care center."
"Me, too," Liz looked at her watch. "I'm on duty soon."
"Oh my god!" Isabel gasped. "It's him!"
"You found him?" Maria sat upright. "You found our mystery man?"
"No," she shook her head. "No. I found Martin."

* * *