|posted on 8-Sep-2001 3:24:31 AM|
|Title: Hail Jing-Bang|
Author: Red the Mighty
Rating: PG-13 - R
Disclaimer: Roswell belongs to 20th Century Fox and UPN and not to me.
Category: M/L M/M (CC)
Summary: Secret bases, conspiracies, evil aliens, truth, lies, betrayal, and things not being as they seem. All that good stuff.
Spoilers: Could be anything up to To Serve and Protect I guess.
Feedback: Yes please. I love feedback; it makes me so happy.
Archive: Hey, it’s all yours, just drop me a line telling me where so I can visit.
Saturday, January 20, 2001
My name is Maria Deluca and this really sucks.
I mean this may be cool for Liz I-am-going-to-be-a-famous-scientist-someday Parker, but I am just not a journal keeping kind of gal.
Here's the deal, I have to keep this stupid journal for a month, writing down the stuff that happens to me and the stuff I think about and then at the end of the month I get to turn it in to my English teacher so she can decided if the details of my life are worthy of a passing grade. Yeah right. The details of my life are worthy of an Ed Wood movie or internment in the psychiatric wing of Eastern NM Medical. I certainly can’t be honest about it to a high school teacher, who will either think I am super-creative, but didn’t follow the assignment, or a complete lunatic, and didn’t follow the assignment. It’s a lose/lose situation.
But, I have to write something so here is my best friend's suggestion. Keep two journals. Have this one where I can write down ALL the stuff that happens to me and then I can distill it down into the second journal making strategic edits and creatively leaving stuff out. Yeah, what a great plan, I really want to do this lame-ass project twice. Oh, no, wait, that wasn’t me.
She says it will be good for me to get all these feelings out and put them down on paper. Maybe some of this stuff will start making sense. I laughed so hard I spewed my Pepsi when she said that. I never knew she could give looks that dirty. She must be practicing in the mirror or something.
Let me just take a moment to point out the fact that the aforementioned best friend doesn't have to do this project and is now in fact my EX-BEST FRIEND. Okay, not really, but she's pushing her luck. But, seeing as she is almost always right about this stuff I think I'll try it her way. It's disgusting, really.
How to start.
Gee, there are just so many places I could start.
I remember hearing this Chinese curse once; "May you live in interesting times." I don't know who I pissed off but I am willing to do just about anything to get them to uncurse me.
Anyway, today was definitely "interesting".
Okay, so this afternoon I take over Brody's lunch to him at the UFO Center and we chat happily for a few minutes about what a loser Michael is. Well, I'm chatting and Brody is nodding and smiling and chewing, which is good enough. I had just gotten to the part about how Michael had tried to convince me that a motorcycle race is really a good place to take a girl on a romantic night out. . .
". . . and I can barely hear him over the engines. You know, motorcycles make like THE most annoying sounds. This whiney, high-pitched, screaming, screeching. . ."
Brody’s smile faded as he looked past her towards the front of the building.
"And, I am just the most boring person on the face of the planet." Said Maria as she watched Brody’s eyes drift past her. She smiled and shook her head. Why in the world would he want to hear about her date with Michael? Poor guy, he was too polite for his own good around her.
"No, no, it’s fine, I just thought I heard something."
"Hey, dude, it’s okay. I should probably get back to work anyway and let you eat in peace."
"No. I mean, I like talking to you, or rather, I like hearing you talk when you come over with my lunch. Makes for a nice break in the middle of the day." He smiled at her shyly.
"BRODY!" They both jump at the bellowing voice.
"Oh god." Whispered Brody, looking a little like he wanted to bolt.
"Brody, ye wee smowt. Git yer behookie oot were Ah kin see ye."
"Who is that and what did he just say?" Maria asked in alarm.
Brody looked back at her and was about to speak when a thick-necked, ruddy-faced, giant of a man came around the corner. The man stopped suddenly and leered at Maria before looking at Brody.
"Michty me! Brody, ye auld ned. There’s a sonsie lass ye’ve."
"Torquil. I, uh, it’s been ages. How are you?"
"What? Nae gaunae innarduce ma tae this fain lass? Feart hersel’ll be after a big auld duine like masel ‘stead o’ a wee sodie-heid? Gaun yersel, Brody." Torquil laughed uproariously at what could possibly have been a joke, Maria couldn’t tell. His accent was incomprehensibly thick and slurred.
She leaned closer to Brody while the man guffawed. "Is he speaking English?"
"Sort of." Brody turned back to his visitor. "So Torquil what brings you to New Mexico?"
"Aliens." Torquil had stopped laughing and leveled a razor sharp gaze at Brody. Then he shook his head and laughed again. He reached over and engulfed one of Maria’s hands in his own much larger one. "Ach, Ah’ll dae it masel. Lassie, Ah’m Torquil MacNab. Ye would be?"
"Oh, hi, I’m Maria Deluca. A friend of Brody’s. I work at the restaurant across the street. Just, you know, bringing him his lunch." She finished with an uncertain laugh and pulled her hand back.
"Sorry, Maria, Torquil and I went to school together years ago. I didn’t know you were interested in, er, extraterrestrials, Torquil.
"Oh aye, aye. Seen ‘em Ah have, wi’ ma ain eyen." Torquil stated offhandedly, he was staring and grinning broadly at Maria who was certain that she had stayed more then long enough. The man was making her seriously nervous.
"Torquil, it was really great to meet you but, sadly, I need to get back to work. It’s been fun, really. See ya, Brody." Maria smiled at both men and turned to walk out when one of Torquil’s meaty paws grabbed her shoulder. She narrowed her eyes in annoyance and spun back around to look at him. He had one hand on her shoulder and another wrapped around Brody’s slender arm.
"Weel chum wi’ ye. Ah’m awfy hingrie an’ forfochen." He smiled again. Did the man ever stop smiling? He was far too happy and way, way too creepy. Maria looked at Brody who simply shrugged his shoulders in gesture seeming to indicate that resistance was futile.
"Okay, whatever big guy, but you’re gonna have to take your hand off my arm so I can walk."
"Beauty tha’!" He exclaimed, showing teeth this time.
"Riiiight." Maria took one last searching look at Brody, who appeared to be resigned to his fate, before she turned and led Mutt and Jeff out of the museum.
Liz looked up from pouring a customer’s coffee when the door to the café opened, it’s bell jingling loud enough to be heard over the din. Her disappointment that the newcomer wasn’t Max was quickly replaced by curiosity when she saw Maria troop in with Brody and a large brute of a man. The man was laughing loudly and Brody looked a little glassy-eyed when he let the giant pull him to a booth in Maria’s section. Maria handed them menus and then made her escape, hurrying around the counter for safety. The image of Maria diving behind the counter like it was a foxhole and enemy gunners were aiming for her head nearly sent Liz into a fit of laughter but she managed to control herself long enough to finish what she was doing.
"Who is that with Brody?" She asked quietly, joining Maria by the salt shakers.
"His name is Torquil," Maria replied with an exaggerated, very bad, Scottish accent, "and he is an old friend of Brody’s."
"He’s kinda cute."
"Sure in a been-beat-about-the-head-and-shoulders-with-a-big-damn-stick sort of way."
"You did look a little shell-shocked when you walked in." Liz laughed.
"Liz, the guy is like way bizarre. I mean even on our scale of the bizarre which, admittedly, is a little more ‘liberal’ then the average person’s."
"Did he say something?"
"Not that I could understand." Maria stuck her tongue out slightly and glanced back over at the booth when another booming laugh rumbled through the restaurant.
"Well actually I did get a bit about him having seen aliens. And that, apparently, is why he’s here to see Brody. I think."
"What kind of aliens." Liz whispered, suddenly alert.
"Who knows, probably little green men in his freaky little world. If he’s been probed, I don’t want to know about it. You want more information, YOU ask him."
"MARIA! C’mre hen!"
"Great, now I’m his new best friend." She pulled some silverware from under the counter and handed Liz a knife. "Hey, Liz, will you do me a favor, real quick?"
Liz raised an eyebrow. "Sure."
"Kill me now. Go ahead." She nodded at the knife Liz held in her hand.
"With a butter knife?"
"Would a fork be better?"
"MARIA! Ye’ur nae rubber-earin’ ma, ur ye?" Torquil called out to her again followed by another round of his loud chortling.
Maria waved at him and signaled that she’d be over in a second. She turned back to Liz and whispered in her ear as she passed. "He needs to be medicated, NOW."
When Max walked into the Crashdown forty-five minutes later, Brody was still trapped in the booth with the endlessly jocular Torquil. He looked over at the pair briefly, trying to remember if Brody had mentioned that he had a visitor coming. He wondered who was watching the museum, but only for a moment before his mind was distracted by much more agreeable thoughts. Thoughts involving Liz Parker and a little out-of-the-way place far from prying-eyes. He grinned and walked to where she sat with her head bent over a book. He stooped down, wrapped his arms around her and nipped at her earlobe.
"Hey, mister, you better knock that off, my boyfriend is gonna be here any second now." Liz murmured leaning back into his embrace.
"Oh yeah? I’ve seen him. He looks kinda wimpy to me, I’m pretty sure I could take him." He breathed into her ear sending shivers down her spine. He smiled and ran his hands down her arms feeling the goose bumps that were a result of his current proximity.
"Mmm. I don’t know about that. He’s a big, mean, evil alien who’d melt your brains if he saw you even looking at me."
"I’ll risk it."
"You’re a brave man. I like that." Liz smiled and tilted her head up to receive a kiss.
They broke apart several long moments later when Michael threw himself into a chair on the other side of the table.
"You two are disgusting."
"Hey Michael. How was work?" Max pulled out a chair next to Liz and sat down without ever losing contact with her.
"So, who’s the guy with Brody?"
"You mean the guy Maria is hiding from in the back?" Michael asked with a smirk. The smirk turned into a frown when Liz kicked him under the table.
"Sorry, foot slipped." She replied sweetly. "His name is Torquil and he’s a friend of Brody’s. Maria said he mentioned something about having seen aliens and he’s come to talk to Brody about it."
Max sat up straighter, his attention now focused on the man sitting with his employer.
"What kind of aliens?"
"That’s what I asked. Maria didn’t say and didn’t seem too interested in finding out. They’ve been here for almost an hour and Maria’s had to wait on them the whole time."
"Yeah, she says he gives her the creeps." Michael said with a chuckle. "I mean he’s kind of loud but he just looks like your average paranoid delusional UFO freak."
Max looked at Michael with a hint of disbelief in his eyes. "I thought you were the paranoid one Michael. Strange guy comes to town talking about aliens and you don’t even freak a little bit?"
"I don’t freak. Look, we have to be careful but the guy’s obviously a wacko. Plus he’s hanging with Brody and you can keep an eye on him."
"Gee, Michael, I’d think you’d be at least a little more concerned considering he can’t seem to take his eyes off Maria every time she’s in the dining room. And, it’s not a real innocent look." Liz responded, dying to find a way to wipe the smirk off Michael’s face. Oh, there you go, Liz. Bingo.
Michael shot a death glare over to the booth and was pushing back his chair to go over there when Max lunged across the table to grab his arm.
"Sit down." He hissed. "He’s not going to do anything to Maria. I’ll go over there and say hi to Brody and see what I can get. Okay? Just calm down." Max looked down at Liz with a shake of his head, he knew she had tried to rile Michael on purpose in defense of Maria. She just smiled back at him serenely.
"Fine. Whatever." Michael slouched back into the chair slipping on his don’t-give-a-damn persona. That held up until Maria appeared from the back again and then his eyes locked onto her, following her as she walked resignedly back to Brody’s booth. His entire body seemed to tense for battle when Torquil grabbed Maria’s hand.
Max regarded his friend fondly and stood up to go rescue Maria from the clutches of the mysterious Torquil before Michael did something rash.
"Want to come over with me?" He asked Liz, dropping a kiss on her cheek.
"No, I need to finish reading this chapter and somehow I don’t think I’ll get the chance to do it later tonight." She said with a grin.
"I hope not." He laughed.
"So, Maria, hen, ye e’er seen an alien?" Torquil had her hand clasped in one of his. The guy was just too touchy feely.
"Uh, well, heh, what exactly do you mean by ‘alien’?"
"’S nae a haird question, lass." He replied with a chuckle and a wink.
"Um, well, I can’t say as I ever have seen a real one. Nope. Not me. I mean it’s kind of, you know, the cottage industry here and all, little plastic aliens everywhere. But you know, urban myths and. . ." She jumped when another hand touched her shoulder. She looked into the sympathetic eyes of Max Evens with a sense of relief that almost had her knees buckling.
"Max. Great, I’d like you to meet my old school mate, Torquil MacNab. Have a seat." Brody looked almost as grateful for Max’s arrival as Maria had.
"Sure. Umm, Maria, can I get a cherry coke?" Maria nodded at Max and retrieved her hand from Torquil’s grasp.
Max glanced over at Michael and saw him grab Maria’s arm as she passed. He couldn’t hear what they said but the brief conversation ended with Maria slugging Michael in the arm and her raised voice calling him a jerk. Liz just shook her head and never looked up from her book.
"There’s a soapy hen, an e’er there was." Laughed Torquil who was also watching Maria’s progress across the restaurant. Torquil sighed hugely and turned back to look at the two men across from him. "Max, was it? Ye’re workin’ wi’ ma auld freen, eh? Tha’s pure fain. What dae ye think aboot aliens?" He laughed again, suddenly and loudly. "Ach, Ah’m sitch a nebby. Ye’ll be after thinkin’ tha’s all Ah hae in ma heid."
"Ah, yeah." Max stared at Torquil at something of a loss for words. Michael was right. "What was the question, again?"
"Max is one of us, Torquil." Brody stepped in. "Turns out Torquil here is making something of a name for himself as a UFO investigator in Europe and Asia."
"Really? That’s great. So, uh, what brings you to Roswell?"
"Why tae see this auld heid-the-baw." He winked at Brody and then looked up with a grin when Maria returned with Max’s coke. "Maria, hen, is tha’ yer laddie o’er there? He looks tae be fair reekin. Quite ra big gallus ned. Nae ra fellow fer sitch a stoater sonsie lassie, like yersel. Say ra werd an’ Ah’ll melt ‘em."
"Uh. Right." She saw Brody out of the corner of her eye shaking his head vehemently. "Um, no, yes, I mean, Michael is my boyfriend, sort of, uh, he’s okay. I can handle him." She smiled and made her escape when Max started coughing, trying to cover his laughter.
"She’s a gorgeous lassie, Ah kin see wae ye’er sae taken wi’ hersel, Brody."
Brody looked down at the table and tried to come up with something to say to that.
It’s tough to play the hero, Max thought to himself before he opened his mouth and tried to drag the conversation away from Maria’s charms.
"So, you just came to the States to visit Brody?" Oh, well, that didn’t come out right. Some days it’s more of a challenge then others to be paranoid and tactful at the same time.
"What? Nae, nae. Ah were up tae Boulder in Colorado at a conference. An’ then Ah heard Brody here had hisel a museum here in ra UFO mecca o’ Roswell. Ah was in ra neighborhood, ye kin?" He laughed.
"Sure. So, um, you’ve seen aliens?"
"Aye. Ye, as well, eh?"
"I don’t really remember all the much."
"Oft how ‘tis. Ye’ve ra nicht terrors?"
"Uh, sometimes." Max had a sudden flash of his time in the white room and mentally kicked himself for leading the conversation this way. He looked over to Liz, as he often did when needing some reassurance. He wasn’t surprised to see that she had felt his discomfort and was now looking over at him with concern in her eyes. He smiled and shook his head.
"Max, doesn’t like to talk about it too much, Torquil. You know how that is."
"Oh, aye. Like Ah said, Ah’m sitch a wee nebby. Sorry, lad." For the first time that day Torquil had stopped smiling and actually looked stricken.
"That’s okay. Don’t worry about it."
"Actually, Ah’m here fer another reason, as well." Torquil’s voice dropped a few decibels. "Ah’ve come cross some information tha’ certain people ur bein’ held in a secret base here in New Mexico. Nae only tha’ but tha’ they’ve been tradin’ humans fer alien tech an’ ships an’ sitch."
"Humans?" Max looked at him with a raised eyebrow.
"They use ra humans fer experiments, Max, like when we were taken but they also use ra human DNA tae create a hybrid or hubrid race. A slave race. Ye ne’re wonder what happens tae ra weans tha’ disappear an ur ne’er found?"
Edited by - Red on 09/09/2001 03:29:56
|posted on 8-Sep-2001 3:27:13 AM|
Maria’s never-ending shift from hell did, eventually, end and the aggravating Torquil MacNab disappeared back to the UFO center with Brody. Michael had stayed on after his own shift ended but his presence didn’t do anything to make her afternoon any more pleasant. He simply sat at the table and alternated staring at her while she worked with glaring at Torquil and when Torquil finally left he just sat and stared at her.
By the end of the afternoon Maria was down to her last nerve and wanted nothing more then to go home and ignore the entire world. However, before he and Liz took off for parts unknown Max had ordered everybody to a meeting that night at Michael’s. Michael took the opportunity to suggest, in his oh so subtle way, that she should just go home with him and save herself the trip. Maria saw through that in a heartbeat. The guy was such a mooch, he just wanted a ride back to his place and maybe if he was lucky a little groping. Unfortunately for Michael she was absolutely not in the mood. She agreed to go over to his apartment after work anyway but only because she didn’t think she would actually manage to drag herself out of the house again if she went home.
When Michael realized that Maria wasn’t going to relax and actively participate in his make-out plans he grabbed the remote and started flipping aimlessly through the channels.
"This Old House? College Basketball? Infomercial? Xena?"
"I think we should call Sheriff Valenti."
"Maria, we live in Roswell, New Mexico, alien freak capital of the world."
"Yeah and you have a king and everything."
"That wasn’t funny."
"You should try it from where I’m sitting. I am serious Michael, Torquil is totally weird and I could tell that whatever he said to Max freaked him out too." Maria said, annoyed by his casual dismissal of her concerns.
"Max doesn’t freak out."
"Oh yes he does. And this was a total Max freak out moment. Really, I can tell. He gets really quiet, opens his eyes really wide, and doesn’t move a muscle. Panic, Max fashion."
"Great, insightful Guerin commentary. Why do I even try?"
"I have no idea." Michael grumbled and slouched back on his couch. It had been a long day and he didn’t need Maria bitching at him at him about that creepy friend of Brody’s. Bad enough that Max had decided to call one of his ‘meetings’ and get everybody together at Michael’s place later. Max didn’t even ask him if that was cool. Nope, his pad just turns into the default war room whenever something happens. Doesn’t matter what he says.
"Michael, are you even listening to me?"
"Probably not. Did you say something worth listening too?"
"All right, buster, listen up. Every time you have one of your psychotic episodes and feel the need to steal the Jetta I’m supposed to be all supportive and not question your mental health, but when I have a bad feeling about some nutcase who says he sees aliens and who is way too interested in me, by the way, I am being hysterical. Is that it? No way. Not this time spaceboy. Something strange is gonna happen, I can feel it and you better be paying attention."
"Are you done?"
"Can we at least wait until Max shows up before I soldier up?"
"Fine. Whatever." Maria leaned back with a sigh and looked over at Michael, watching as he continued to speed through the channels.
"Well then, could you not stare at me?"
"I am not being hysterical."
"I’m sure you aren’t."
"That wasn’t particularly comforting."
Michael rolled his eyes in annoyance and pushed himself further back into the cushions wondering if he had good odds on the couch suddenly coming to life and swallowing him.
They sat together in exasperated silence until, finally, a pounding at the door broke their tense standoff. Michael launched himself off the couch and with a mumbled but fervent "thank god" he sprinted for the door.
He jerked the door open and glared out at Isabel and Alex. "What took you so long?" He growled brusquely at his visitors.
"Well, gee, we’re sorry Michael, but the transporters weren’t working so we had to actually drive over here in cars. That kind of added to our travel time."
"So, can we come in Michael?" Isabel asked with more then just a hint of impatience in her voice.
"Oh. Yeah." He stepped back to let them in. "Where’s everybody else?"
"Tess should be right behind us and I have no clue where Max and Liz are. I’ve stopped asking them." Replied Alex as he brushed past Michael into the small apartment.
"I’m afraid they’ll actually tell me. Turns out there is such a thing as too much information. Hey Maria, how’s things?" He flopped down next to her on the couch.
"Great Alex, just great." She sighed dramatically and grabbing the remote turned off the TV.
"So are we all here?" Max asked as he appeared in the doorway with Liz and Tess.
"Kyle?" Maria asked.
"He’s got a match in Albuquerque tonight." Replied Tess. "Jim took him."
"We’ll just have to talk to them later. Everybody have a seat. Liz and I need to tell you what we learned this afternoon." Max told them.
"If sifting through hundreds of pages of reports consisting solely of unfounded conjecture on the subject of alien conspiracies, human genetic experimentation and secret bases in the Southwest, counts as learning something." Liz sighed and leaned against the wall. Her romantic Saturday afternoon had turned into an excursion into the depths of the truly bizarre. Even having grown up in Roswell, Liz had had absolutely no clue that people were actually that creatively paranoid. If nothing else, it was an eye opening experience.
"True, but some of what Torquil said to me struck a little too close to home."
"You could actually understand what he was saying?" Maria asked in astonishment. Her measure of Max Evans went up a notch.
"Um, well, Brody translated."
"Oh." She said, disappointed.
"Well, what did he say? You interrupted our Saturday night, the least you can do is get to the point, Max." Isabel snapped. She had been getting ready for a date with Grant when she received the call from Alex informing her of the evening’s gathering. He offered to pick her up and she hadn’t the heart to refuse. Unfortunately Grant arrived late and she was forced to break the date in front of Alex. The resulting awkward tension between the two of them made the short trip to Michael’s feel like an eternity and put her in a foul mood.
Max stared at his sister in surprise before blinking once, slowly and speaking again. "I’m sorry, Is, but I think this might be important." He looked over at Liz and nodded for her to take over. She smiled and moved to stand next to him.
"Okay, first thing, sorry Maria but I don’t think Torquil is as completely bizarre as you want him to be. We did some digging in his background and it looks like up until about eighteen months ago he was a Chief Inspector in the Strathclyde Police, assigned to a division in Glasgow. It kind of looks like he was on the fast track to being head of the division and eventually even Chief Constable of Strathclyde. That’s fairly huge. But, we found a report he filed dating back about two years stating that he had seen a strange object over a wooded area just outside of Glasgow and experienced about three hours of missing time. I guess he got into some trouble over the missing time. His superiors thought maybe he was having some sort of mental breakdown and put him on mental health leave. He returned a couple of months later only to resign a few months after that.
"Not long after that he started showing up in European UFO groups as a field investigator and then started going on the lecture circuit talking about his abduction experience and investigation methodology. He’s become quite famous because to some he legitimizes the field of UFOlogy by virtue of his actually being a trained investigator and previously a well-respected police officer. He was a keynote speaker up at the University of Colorado in Boulder last weekend at a conference on aerial phenomenon."
"How does he know Brody?" Alex asked.
"They went to the same university for a while, but I don’t really know how well the knew each other. It doesn’t look to me like Brody and Torquil would run with the same crowd. And it doesn’t seem that Brody knew Torquil was in the UFO business until today."
"If he’s so famous how is it that Brody didn’t know?" Asked Maria, clearly puzzled by the mystery that was Torquil MacNab.
"Torquil is well known in Europe and Asia, it could just be that his reputation hasn’t made it to the states yet. And Brody does tend to be kind of, um, focused." Replied Max with a shrug.
"So what’s the deal with his being here now? I know for a fact that it does not take a week to drive from Boulder to Roswell. 11 hours, tops." Maria continued.
"Oh well, he was on his way down when he heard about humming mountains near Baca Grants, Colorado. He had to go investigate."
"Humming mountains? What? They couldn’t remember the words?" Alex laughed but had to dive off the couch for safety when Maria went for his throat.
"Alex, please." Isabel shot him a withering glare.
"Sorry. Sheesh. God forbid, I should try to inject some humor into the conversation."
"I don’t know what that was Alex, but I am pretty sure none of us would classify that as humor." Maria said.
"Are we done here? Can we let Max get to the point?" Isabel asked sounding very much like an annoyed parent.
Liz looked over at Max as he watched the scene in front of him. She could tell he was getting frustrated with the situation. He had been spooked today and it seemed nobody wanted to take him seriously right now. She slipped an arm around his waist and gave him a comforting squeeze trying to get him to relax a bit. He gave her a small smile and brushed a lock of hair back from her face. She tightened her grip and turned to face the room.
"Guys? Please?" She quietly tried to bring back the group’s attention to Max and the situation at hand.
"Sorry, Lizzy." Alex replied contritely.
"It’s alright, Alex. So anyway, back to the humming mountains. Some people in the region, this is up in the San Luis Valley, by the way, or close to it, think that this is the result of an underground military complex of some sort. When we started looking into that I can’t even tell you how many references to underground bases we came across. By my last count there were at least a dozen in New Mexico alone and Colorado is one big underground base. Of course there is no evidence of any of this, just some rumors and third-hand accounts of people who supposedly dug tunnels for them or worked there as janitors. For some of these people the very lack of evidence is proof enough." The scientist in Liz Parker cringed at people’s willingness to believe, without doubt, in vague fantastic rumors. Of course the part of her that was in love with an extraterrestrial tried to keep an open mind.
Max picked up the thread of the story from her. "When Torquil was down in the valley he met a guy who used to be a field investigator for the Mutual UFO Network. He said he left MUFON because they were actually a government-controlled source of disinformation. But before he left he somehow managed to get his hands on documents and pictures that showed human test subjects. Children and teenagers mostly but also people he said were political dissidents or even soldiers and scientists that didn’t toe the government line. The thing these documents also showed was that the government was working with an unidentified alien intelligence. In exchange for technology from this alien race they would give them these humans for their experiments and also to use their DNA to mix with the alien’s own to try and create an hybrid race."
"Like us, Maxwell?" Michael was intrigued now.
"Sort of, except these hybrids are supposedly used as a slave race."
"So what are you thinking here? That maybe this is where the DNA that created us came from?"
"I don’t know, Michael. The guy didn’t let Torquil make any copies of these documents but the night after he talked to Torquil there were a bunch of UFO sightings in the valley followed the next morning by the discovery of a slew of cattle mutilations and the humming stopped. When Torquil went back to the guy’s place to ask him some more questions he was gone and his place was trashed. Torquil thinks They got him. And now he is afraid that They may be after him next. He says his hotel room was searched while he was out in the valley one day and that some of his notes were messed with and others were taken."
"I don’t know why this struck me so much but there is something about this that is pulling at me. Like maybe the thought that there are other’s like us here. Not just the skins but our people. But, if they are doing human experimentation and stuff like that. . .I just don’t know."
"I understand what you are saying, Max. I feel it too. Could this be the skins, though? I mean we know that they infiltrated the government at least on some level as evidenced by Congresswoman Whitaker. Nicholas and Kivar know we are in New Mexico, they know we have the Granolith. I mean that knowledge is kind of recent but they could have suspected about the ’47 crash and set up down here in preparation. And think of the damage they could do with an army of hybrids. They could’ve had over 50 years to get ready." Tess mused quietly.
"We don’t have anything to lose by checking it out. Especially if this kind of strikes a chord with you guys." Liz agreed. "Isabel? Michael? What do you guys think?"
Isabel was aware of her the tension in her brother’s face and sought to reassure him with her support. "Well I don’t think I feel anything about this. I mean, we don’t know this guy. For all we know he could be a paranoid delusional who sees little green men all over the place. But, if you and Tess think there is something to this Max, then I agree with Liz. We don’t have anything to lose for looking."
"Yeah, I don’t know if I feel anything but I agree with Maria that there is something up with that Torquil guy." Said Michael.
Maria’s mouth dropped open as she stared at him. "You agreed with me? In front of witnesses?"
"So what? It could happen." He shrugged uncomfortably. "So what’s the plan Maxwell?" He changed the subject hurriedly.
"We keep our eyes open. Liz and I offered to help Torquil and Brody with any research or anything. And I was thinking we might start taking some weekend trips up to some of these places where they say there are underground bases."
"So just start snooping, basically?" Tess smiled.
|posted on 8-Sep-2001 4:46:39 AM|
|posted on 8-Sep-2001 4:48:05 AM|
|Interlude I –|
North West of Aztec, New Mexico
January 22, 2001
"How’s that bore hole coming, Chris?" Jorge Alvarez had to shout to be heard over the earsplitting combination of the rattling mud pump and the whining drill.
"Ah, seems to be going smooth. We’ve been getting some loose gravel and sand up in the cuttings so I think we’re close." Chris shouted back, never taking his eyes from the equipment he was monitoring.
Jorge walked slowly around the set up and surveyed the land around them. Twisted scrub, some scraggly trees, sand, rock and hard, parched earth. Evidence of the last storm had all but vanished in the bright clear afternoon, with only a few small patches of dirty white snow hiding in the north-side shadows. He stopped his mind from wandering and turned back to the rig when the whine of the drill seemed to slow to a growl and then speed up again.
"Watch your pull-down, there. Slow the rotation a bit, Chris."
"We weren’t expecting rock were we?"
"Nope. Might be some cobbles. Give it a few more minutes to see if the drill’ll break through.
"Hey, Al, you watching the water in the suction pit?" He called over to the third member of their work group.
"’Course I am. I have done this before."
"Yeah, yeah. Check the cuttings every 10 feet or so now, okay?"
Al Chee knelt down next to the settling pit and dipped a small glass jar into the sediment at the bottom. When he pulled it back up he looked at the swirling red water curiously. "What the hell is this?" He muttered to himself. Looking back at the pit he noticed clumps of . . .something floating on the top of the water.
"Holy Jesus God." He stumbled back when the smell hit him, tipping over one of the guy wires and falling hard to the ground.
Jorge and Chris rushed to stabilize the rig and then turned to find Al on his knees a few feet away retching violently. Jorge started to step across the settling pit when Chris grabbed his arm and pointed to the muddy water. He leaned down to get a better look and saw what appeared to be gobs of hair and animal fat on the surface of the water. The wind shifted and he heard Chris start to gag behind him. When a hideously putrid odor finally drifted to his nostrils he was already fumbling for the drill and beginning the process of pulling it back up.
"Chris. CHRIS. Help me here." He pulled his t-shirt up over his nose and was trying to breathe through his mouth. That only worked so well and soon an oily scent of rot coated their tongues. They struggled with the drill and when they had pulled it up far enough they cut the motor and shut off the mud pump, which was still bringing up what looked like clots of blood and flesh.
They tried to keep from gagging and lurched back from the drill setup, pulling the still vomiting Al back with them. When they were far enough back. Chris dropped, panting, to his knees next to Al while Jorge ran to their truck to get his cell phone.
Jorge struggled with the phone for a moment. His hands were shaking horribly and his mind was working feverishly to come up with some explanation for what had just happened. Nothing feasible was coming to mind. Eighteen years of drilling had never turned up anything like this before. He finally managed to dial the number and listened impatiently for someone to pick up.
"Rosie? It’s Jorge. You need to get the Sheriff out to the site here. . .I don’t know. I just don’t know. Something came up when we were drilling. . . No I mean something literally came up when we were drilling. Something in the drilling fluid. . . We were a hundred fifty feet down. . . I DON’T KNOW. Just get him out here, Rosie. NOW."
Jorge ended the call and slumped back against the side of the truck. He drew several deep breaths filling his lungs with the sweet dry air. He coughed a bit and tried to spit out the taste of decay that lingered in his mouth, then looked back up to stare out at the empty and now quiet land.
"Lord have mercy." He whispered.
|posted on 8-Sep-2001 4:49:23 AM|
|posted on 8-Sep-2001 4:50:43 AM|
Monday, January 22, 2001
Dear Bound Together Stack of Paper,
Mondays are . . .well, what can I say about Mondays that hasn’t been said before?
Let me instead describe for you, in glorious Technicolor the details of the hideous train wreak of a day that was today. Liz says I am being overly dramatic. She may be right but she was also the one who said this was a good place to vent. So vent I will.
So my day started off at 7:50 a.m. with an in-class essay on three of the stories from Winesburg, OH. I mean, it was a fine book and all but somehow these stories about the strange, secret lives of small town people just aren’t terribly unique and compelling for somebody who has been abducted, several times, by an extraterrestrial who also happens to be her occasional boyfriend. Kind of redefines the words "strange" and "secret".
Anyway, it is my informed opinion that in-class essays are inhumane and should, for reasons of mental health and in the interest of furthering the cause of human rights, be banned. Especially when given before, I don’t know, let’s say noon.
I wonder if it would hurt my grade if I started referring to Ms. Howe as the Bride of Satan in this journal. Even if I had proof? Who else would assign a journal on a Friday, schedule an in-class essay on the following Monday morning and then before we could escape the room assign more reading? With such evidence as this at hand I am forced to conclude that she is evil.
Finally made it out of there with most of my sanity intact only to be intercepted by Michael while on my way to Spanish. He tried to drag me off to the eraser room and when I wouldn’t go, made a crack about PMS. He is so on my list now. Would it kill him to not be a jerk for two minutes? I would write it off as a Czechoslovakian thing if only Max wasn’t like the most disgustingly romantic guy in the universe.
Spanish was fine, except for Alex, who was being all weird and distant. I have no idea what his deal is. He didn’t want to talk to either Liz or I today. He wasn’t around for lunch and booked it out of the building as soon as the final bell rang. Whatever. I’ll call him later and pry it out of him. Or Liz and I will double-team him tomorrow. It’s for his own good.
Photography was a nightmare. I spent half the class developing a roll only to have it not turn out because, according to Mr. Chavez, oh dear, the film was somehow damaged. Either it was too old or was exposed to extreme temperatures or some other catastrophic something. I was like, okay dude, not my fault. You rolled it for me. You better freaking not give me an F because of your screw up. I just know there was an awesome picture on there. And now it is lost for all time. Oh cruel fates, why do you mock me so?
My locker was stuck shut between fourth and fifth and I had to pry Max and Liz apart so that he could get it open for me. So I was late for history and had to endure the sarcastic remarks of Mr. Campbell. "Yes, sir. I’m so glad I could join you, too. Believe me, I am happy to be here."
Lunch was uninteresting until Max showed up with flowers for Liz. Sweetheart that he is he gave me a tulip, too. Michael was oblivious.
The rest of the day was less then inspiring and I did a little happy dance when the final bell rang.
The capper of the day, though, was when I was working the dinner shift tonight.
"Maria, can you give me a hand with these?" Liz Parker asked her friend as she entered the dining room juggling 4 carry out containers.
"Sure, babe. What do you need?"
"Can you take, like, ten minutes and help me carry dinner over to the UFO Center for us?"
"You bet." The café was dead anyway. Only two tables were occupied and they were in another waitress’ section. "Wait, wait. Who is ‘us’?"
"Umm, Torquil, Brody, Max and I." Liz caught the look on Maria’s face and laughed. "Come on, Maria. He is NOT that bad."
"Yeah, well, he’s not fixated on you." Maria mumbled petulantly.
"This is true." Liz replied seriously, quelling the chuckle that lurked mischievously in her throat. "Could you grab the drinks, please?"
"Yeah, yeah. I should get hazard pay for this." Maria groused.
"Well, apparently Brody is going to pay me for helping out at the Center. So, I’ll tell you what, survive the next week with Torquil and we’ll go up to Albuquerque this weekend. My treat."
"Oh, Liz, the restaurant . . .?" Maria’s eyes lit up and thoughts of Torquil vanished at the prospect of lunch at her favorite restaurant.
"Of course. Old Town here we come."
"You rock, chica." Maria grabbed the drinks and followed Liz out the door. "So have you guys found anything yet?"
"No." Replied Liz with an edge of frustration in her voice. "All we find are these rumors and they are so obscure and unspecific it’s hard to pin down any good places to start. We have an incredibly long list of sites but I don’t think any of us wants to scour every corner of the southwest this year."
"Well, I’m all for some road trips but, yeah, that’s a bit much. But, hey, you’ve only been at it a couple of days."
"Right. So we’re just ‘narrowing’ now."
"Ugh. Better you then me."
"Thanks for your support." Liz said sourly as they crossed the street to the museum.
"Hey, I’m breaking-and-entering girl. You need stealth and theft of government documents I’m your woman. Just don’t make me go through the documents."
"Great, I’ll be sure and bring that up at the next meeting. I’m sure Sheriff Valenti will find this new aspect of you really fascinating."
"I blame Michael. My mother is right, he is such a bad influence on me." She sighed dramatically.
"Oh please, Maria." Liz rolled her eyes and waited for Maria to open the door for her.
"What? It’s true. How many times has he just gone off somewhere, stealing my car as he goes?"
"And how many times have you gone with him?"
"Well, I need to make sure he keeps the Jetta in one piece." She muttered.
"Oh, is that what you were doing? And everybody complains about me and Max." Liz said in mock disgust. "You two are so made for each other."
Maria stopped just inside the door. "What the hell does that mean? Liz, I thought you were my friend. How could you wish a man like Michael Guerin on me?"
Liz smiled and shook her head. "Give it up Maria. You’re in love. It’s disgusting the way you guys gush over each other." She left Maria with that thought and walked to the back room.
Maria recovered from her initial shock and ran after Liz. "I don’t gush." She replied in horror. "I never gush. I have a philosophical aversion to gushing."
Liz just grinned at her and pushed through another door. "Dinner, guys." She raised the containers in invitation to the three men who were bent over some of the various computer monitors and equipment that packed the large room. Max Evans scrambled to his feet and hurried over to her, trading a kiss for the carry out. The two other men also stood at the arrival of the young women, their eyes locked on Maria Deluca.
"Maria, hen, ‘tis yersel." Torquil declared brightly.
Maria stopped and her earlier indignation died in a sudden choking cough as if she had swallowed her words the wrong way. She glared at Max and Liz who were off in their own world again, oblivious to her displeasure.
"Yeah, ‘tis myself. How’s it going?" She sighed inwardly, note to self: strangle best friends with bare hands ASAP.
"Rather, slow, I’m sorry to say." Brody stepped forward to take the drinks from Maria’s hand. "Would you like to sit down for a moment?"
Maria smiled at Brody, he really was a sweet guy but the prospect of spending more time with Torquil then was necessary was extremely unappealing. "Well, I should really get back."
"Nae, nae. Ah’ve nae talked wi’ ye since yestereen. Dae nae be offski sae quick. Sit, lass."
Torquil took her hand and led her to a chair. He pulled out another and sat next to her, grinning broadly. The others sat as well and for a few moments the room was silent while they settled themselves to their dinner. Maria shook her head bemusedly when Torquil offered her one of his French fries. He persisted, however, and she was eventually forced to relent. Liz held back a snort of laughter at the sight of her friend sitting uncomfortably between Brody and Torquil with a soggy fry in her hand. The pained expression on Max’s face told her he was in a similar state of repressed mirth. She nudged him lightly with her foot and turned to the computer monitor behind her.
Max took the hint and cleared his throat. "Um, we have found a couple of things that are kind of interesting. Why don’t you, uh, come take a look at this, Maria." He motioned her over to where he and Liz were sitting.
Maria leaped eagerly to her feet and, with the now forgotten fry still in hand, crossed the room to the safety of her friends.
There was something about Torquil MacNab that totally set her on edge. It could be that he was probably fifteen years older then she was and that his apparent fixation on her was just creepy in itself. It could be the near constant maniacal grin on his face. Or it could be that his incessant chatter about aliens and his constant questioning of her on the subject had excited her nascent paranoia. Whatever it was, it seemed she was the only one he truly disturbed. Most of the group appeared to be amused by him and Max took his comments on government collusion with aliens very seriously. Brody just seemed resigned to weathering the storm that was Torquil. She was still a little unclear on how they had attended school together, as Torquil was a few years older then Brody, but neither of them were particularly forthcoming on the subject.
She jumped when Max put his hand on her arm, and then flushed when she looked down into his curious eyes. Shrugging, embarrassed by her uneasiness, she turned her attention to the screen Liz was working on.
"So, uh, anyway, based on what Torquil was told by his contact we have been able to narrow down our search area for this particular underground base to the northern half of New Mexico, the southern half of Colorado, the northeastern quarter of Arizona, and the southeastern quarter of Utah." Liz pointed to a map she called up on her monitor showing the four corners region.
"Sorry, babe, but that doesn’t seem too narrowed to me."
Liz typed in another command and the map was now peppered with small dots. "Well, it kind of is. In each area there are specific hot spots. Spots where there are more rumors or reports of UFOs and secret government stuff then are usual in other areas. See, like up here near Alamosa," she indicated an area located in south central Colorado where the map was thick with dots, "there are hundreds of reports of UFOs and there have been rumors of a government base in the area for years. In fact, this is one of our main suspect areas."
"Top of the list, huh?" Maria leaned closer to the map and studied it for a moment when something caught her eye. "Hey wasn’t there an UFO crash in Aztec in the 50s or something?"
"Hoax." Brody called out sharply, his voice tinged with disgust.
"Oh, sorry . . ." She began.
"No, I’m sorry." He said softly. "It’s not you. It’s just that those of us who search for the truth are so often ridiculed for incidents like those, where somebody set out to make fools of us all. It gets tiresome after a while." He looked at her for a long moment and then cocked his head to one side with an amused smile. "Are you going to eat that fry or are you saving it for later?"
Maria’s brow creased in confusion until Max plucked the French fry from her grasp with a quiet chuckle and dropped it onto the remains of his meal.
"Oh, yeah." She smiled and gave a self-deprecating little laugh. "Guess I got distracted." She wiped her fingers absently on her dress and looked back at the map again. "So, uh, what exactly do we do when we find the super-ultra-top secret government base run by evil aliens?"
Max coughed lightly and ducked his head as he and Liz exchanged a glance. They both remained silent, however, waiting for either Brody or Torquil to take the lead in this. It would never do to let the two men suspect just how tightly they were tangled in the truth and lies about an alien presence on Earth.
Torquil stood up and walked over to them with yet another smile on his face. "Well, Maria, lass, Ah’m feart Ah cannae tell ye tae much. Jes kin tha’ Ah’ve hander freens tha’ll help us expose ra truth. ‘Tis fer yer ain safety, ye understand."
"Oh, yep, sure. My safety. I can totally get behind that cause."
"We’ve ra resources tae take oot this viper."
"Really? That’s, uh, fairly impressive. But, how do you know what you’d be fighting? I mean they could have an army or something." Maria stopped for a moment and then continued with a thoughtful frown on her face. "Oh, well, seeing as they are the government I guess they do have an army. And an air force and like marines and huge amounts of weapons and bullets and surface-to-air missiles and stuff. My point being, we don’t know what we’re up against, how do we know you have the resources to stop it?"
For the first time since his arrival in Roswell, Torquil MacNab’s face was completely expressionless as he stared at the young woman standing before him.
"Ye’ur nae jes a sonsie lass. Ye’ve a good bit o’ rumgumption as well, eh?" He murmured pensively.
Brody moved to break the wary silence that settled on the room. "Yes. Maria has always been very insightful. I’ve often found it extremely beneficial to chat with her for a bit."
"Gee, thanks. Maria appreciation night, huh? Well, yet again, it’s been a lot of fun but I really, really need to get back . . ." She jumped when the door slammed open.
"Maria, what the hell are you doing here? You’re supposed to be working." Michael stormed into the room, his eyes blazing.
"Jesus Christ, Michael. You scared the hell out of me." She yelled back at him.
"You didn’t answer my question."
"Okay, Guerin, last I checked you weren’t my mommy or my boss. What’s your damn problem?"
"You weren’t where you were supposed to be."
"And you got worried about me?"
"No." Michael replied petulantly. "I just needed to talk to you about something and I wasn’t in the mood to go tracking you down."
"Michael, we were kind of in the middle of something." Max spoke up quietly, trying to stifle his own need to shout at Michael for startling them all.
"Something you’re going to share with the class, Maxwell?" Michael asked sharply.
Max stared, dumbfounded, at his friend, a hurt expression crossing his face. He opened his mouth to tell Michael exactly what he thought of his attitude but was interrupted when Liz pushed him aside. He had stepped between Liz and the door when it had burst open and he hadn’t moved a muscle since.
"What’s the matter, Michael? Is everything okay?" Liz asked.
Michael’s irritation drained from him when he heard the concern in Liz’s voice. "Nothing’s wrong. I just needed to ask Maria a question." He floundered for a moment trying to come up with a viable explanation for his panic induced entrance. "I, uh, needed to borrow the Jetta." He finished weakly.
Maria regarded him with a raised eyebrow. "No."
"No? What do you mean ‘No’?" He felt his strength returning at the prospect of an argument with her.
"Ra lass, means nae, ye bastartin bear." Torquil snarled and put his hand on Maria’s shoulder, moving her behind him a bit. The muscles in his arms and shoulders bunched and flexed menacingly under his sweater.
Michael’s eyes narrowed and he glared at the man confronting him now. "None of your business." He spat.
"Nae true. Maria’s ma freen, an’ ye’ll treat her wi’ ra respect she deserves or Ah’ll gub ye, ye girny erse." His voice slipped into the cold, authoritative tone of the intimidating police officer he once was.
If Michael couldn’t understand every word Torquil spoke he could understand the meaning behind them clearly enough. His hands balled into fists and he took a step towards the burly Scotsman.
"Okay, this is just a little too Wild Kingdom for me." Maria proclaimed in exasperation as she stepped between the two men. "Torquil, thanks for defending my honor but like I said before I can totally handle Michael." She turned then to Michael and poked an angry finger at his chest. "And you. Talk to me like that again and I will make you regret the day you were hatched. Now, I am going back to work and don’t you dare follow me, Michael." With one last, annoyed punch on his arm she stomped out of the room.
Max crossed to where his friend was standing lost in his thoughts with a blank expression on his face. "Can I talk to you for just a second Michael? In private?" He hissed through clenched teeth.
Michael shook himself and let his voice cool a few degrees when he replied. "I’m a little busy Max. Got some things to do."
"Now, Michael." His voice made unmistakable the fact that this was a command not a request. Max didn’t wait for Michael’s reply this time, however, before grabbing his shoulder and propelling him out the door. "What the hell is wrong with you, Michael?"
"I don’t like that guy." Michael shook Max’s hand off angrily.
"Obviously. But, that’s not what I am talking about. Where do you get off doing that to Maria? You’re my friend, Michael, my brother, but sometimes you are a real jackass." Max sighed wearily and slouched back against the wall. "Michael . . ."
"What? Not done telling me how big a screw-up I am?" Michael snarled.
"You’re not a screw-up. You just need to stop expressing every emotion that you have so, uh, emphatically. Maria cares about you but she needs to know that she means more to you then as someone you can demand things from."
"Sorry we don’t have the perfect little relationship you and Liz do. Not everybody can be that shiny happy, Max."
"I am really not interested in arguing with you right now, Michael and this is not what I wanted to talk to you about. Liz and I have found six or seven sites we think are the best bet for this base. I’d like to come over to your place later tonight and . . ."
"Great, another team-meeting at my place. Couldn’t we just rent a freaking office so that I could have a night to myself for once?"
Max felt his temper rising. Michael was usually fairly difficult but he was seldom actually belligerent. "Just me and Liz, Michael. I think we need to make some plans before we move ahead. You’re my second in command, but if you don’t feel like you can handle it I can talk to Isabel instead." He snapped.
"Fine. Come over. Can I go now?" He turned and walked away before Max could respond.
Max, for his part, stood silently staring at Michael’s rapidly departing form. Being not of this earth just wasn’t enough when he couldn’t read his friend’s mind and it was just too difficult to figure out what was bothering him so much without that ability. He wished Michael would let somebody in. It didn’t even have to be him. He rubbed a hand across his eyes and took a deep breath.
Liz peeked around the door to see if Michael and Max were still talking. When she saw that Max was alone she came around and took his other hand in hers. She brought his hand up to her lips and kissed his knuckles softly. "What’s wrong with him?"
"I don’t know. He won’t say anything. He just seems really angry for some reason." Max laced his fingers with Liz’s and pulled her into an embrace. "Well, angrier then usual." He allowed.
They stood together in the embrace for a several long minutes before Liz pulled away. "Mm. Pleasant as this is, Max, we should get back to work. We need to gather what we can before we go over to Michael’s tonight." She stood on tiptoe to kiss his neck. "I can’t be out all night and who knows how long it will take for him to actually let us into his apartment." She smiled and pulled him back into the computer room with her.
Max grinned mischievously. "Why can’t you stay out all night? I can make it worth your while."
"Work first, Max. Then play." She winked at him and went to her seat.
He groaned. "You’re a cruel woman. You know that don’t you?"
He took his seat next to Liz and tried to concentrate on the files in front of him but was forced to look up again when he felt eyes on him. He glanced over to Brody who was looking more then a little upset.
"You okay, Brody?"
"Is Maria, all right?" He asked hesitantly.
Liz turned around and smiled her most reassuring smile at Brody. "She’ll be fine. I promise. She and Michael just have a kind of, uh, volatile relationship. I’ll call her later to make sure, though."
"Sorry, Ah went dinger wi’ yer freen there, Max. But ye maun admit he’s a roch auld ned." Torquil clapped Max on the shoulder with an apologetic smile on his face.
"Uh, yeah. I’m sorry Michael burst in here like that. He’s not usually like that but something’s bugging him."
"Well, uh, we better get back to work." Brody turned back to his computer and thoughts of Maria disappeared as he lost himself in the bizarre world of hybrids, reptilians, and global conspiracies.
They all turned back to what they were doing except for Torquil who watched Max and Liz curiously as they copied various files to a pair of disks they then tried to slip covertly into Liz’s bag along with several hardcopies. Once a copper always a copper and there wasn’t much that ever escaped his attention.
|posted on 8-Sep-2001 4:52:01 AM|
|posted on 8-Sep-2001 4:53:10 AM|
Torquil MacNab stretched his thick arms over his head and let out a mighty roar, or maybe it was just a yawn, either way it caused Brody Davis to start and drop the thick sheaf of papers he was carrying.
"Brody, ye auld daftie." Torquil chuckled to himself as he climbed to his feet to help his friend collect the papers from the floor.
"Tha’ were an interesting yestereen, wa’n it?"
"Um, in what way?" Brody asked, clearly distracted. He was shifting a stack of computer drives to get at a piece of paper that had slipped under their shelving unit. The shelf swayed precariously as he tried to snake an arm under it. Torquil leaped to his feet and dashed over to where the small man was about to get himself crushed under several stone of computer hardware. Torquil leaned nonchalantly against the shelf, bracing it with his massive bulk.
"Tha’ Maria hen an’ her bear o’ a boyfreen. He’s quite a warmer." Torquil growled in disgust while lifting the edge of the shelf at Brody’s frustrated pantomime that he should do so. "Himsel com’n in here like tha’."
Brody dove under the shelf and snatched the errant piece of paper. He sat back on the cold floor, raising it triumphantly in his hand. Torquil grinned and gently lowered the unit.
"Well, I must admit that I haven’t had too much contact with Michael. I really only know what Max and Maria have told me. And while Maria says a lot, not all of it having to do with his personality, and Max says not much at all, what little I’ve actually managed to gather on him says he’s had something of a rough go of it."
"Bahh. Ah’ve known many a roch ned in ma time. Nae call tae gae lettin’ ra hallirackets dae as they please ‘cause they’ve had it roch. Need a firm hand, they dae."
"Well, the Sheriff seems to have taken an interest in the boy."
"Good. ‘Cause Ah’ll melt ra bear if he treats ra lass like tha’ again."
Brody smirked at his friend. He knew it would be no good to try to talk to him now that he had decided Maria was his new friend but it would be well worth watching if he thought to take too big a hand in her affairs. Good intentions aside, she was a spirited young woman who wouldn’t take too kindly to Torquil’s interference.
"Now Max is an interesting lad. Quiet, eh? Nae a daftie, though. He’s got a good bit o’ smeddum. Doesnae talk aboot his abduction e’er, heh?"
Brody looked thoughtful for a moment before replying. "You know, I don’t think I have ever heard him talk about his abduction. I have brought it up once or twice but he gets even quieter then usual, turns rather pale, and says he prefers not to talk about it. I can only suppose that what they did to him was pretty nightmarish."
"Poor lad. Ye suppose he can talk wi’ tha’ pretty lassie o’ his? They’re awfy close it seems, fer twae sae young." Torquil tried to hide the questions in the guise of casual conversation, but he was remembering the odd exchange between the pair he had observed the day he met Max and Liz and wanted more information of the couple.
The girl had seemed focused on her studies that afternoon but when the conversation between the three men had turned grim and disturbing she looked up to watch Max closely. She was on the other side of the crowded café from them but somehow had managed to pick up on her young man’s tension. At one point she even walked over to the booth under the pretense of meeting Torquil. However charming she was it was apparent that hospitality was not her primary concern. Liz had stood close by Max, rubbing his shoulder and stroking his arm until some of the tension drained from his body. She made her excuses then and went back to her book. But from that moment on she had been the distant fourth member of their party. It was as though she listened to the conversation through Max.
"Hmm, yes. Very close." Brody was distracted again, this time by something on his computer monitor.
"Doesnae seem odd tae ye?" He pressed on, subtly interrogating his unaware friend.
He felt badly about questioning Brody unawares like this but he thought that perhaps he wasn’t seeing the whole picture of Roswell, and it had suddenly become vitally important that he did. There was an interesting dynamic within a certain sphere in this town and oddly enough, from what he had picked up in his few days here, it seemed to swirl around young Max Evans and Liz Parker. They showed an unnatural interest in this search. Threats of evil aliens and human experimentation seemed only to strengthen their determination to assist Brody and himself. They had even tried to surreptitiously purloin a number of documents related to what was clearly becoming a dangerous and most possibly deadly search.
Word had come early that morning from a colleague in the northern part of the state that a drilling operation and bored into something abominable. Not the first report of its kind he had ever heard but the first he had received from this region. It was a good sign only in that it served an indication that his investigative skills were as sharp as ever. He was close. He could only hope he had enough time.
"No. Why should it? Young love. It happens." Brody laughed and nudged his friend.
"Jes seems a wee bit more’n young love ‘tis all." He murmured thoughtfully. A second later another thought hit him and his customary exuberance returned. "An’ Ah tell ye, as much as Maria may be soapy, tha’ lad o’ hers is at it. Ah can feel it. A bear tha’ one."
"So you’ve said. Every twenty minutes since last night as a matter of fact."
"Michael an’ Max are close?"
"Yes, I believe so. He referred to Michael as his brother once. I believe he is also quite close to Max’s sister, Isabel. They were all adopted, you know."
"Were they, really? Born in Roswell or nae?"
"I’m not really sure. I’ve not been here too long myself. And, like I said before, Max isn’t particularly talkative." Brody finally pulled his eyes from his computer and glanced curiously at Torquil. "You’re quite inquisitive today."
Torquil grinned disarmingly. "Ah, ye kin ma, Brody. Hard tae give up bein’ a copper. Bunch o’ nebbies we ur."
|posted on 8-Sep-2001 4:54:23 AM|
|posted on 8-Sep-2001 4:55:33 AM|
"Mmm . . . Max, we’re supposed to be studying."
"I am studying."
"Oh really? What?"
Liz bit her lip and tried to stifle a giggle. She shook her head sternly at Max and pushed away one of his hands. It was a half-hearted gesture at best and Max did not hesitate to return to what he was doing. Within moments the suppressed giggle turned into a muffled chuckle, which then turned into a full belly laugh whereupon Liz lost the strength to further resist the wandering hands of Max Evans.
"Why Ms. Parker, I do believe you’re ticklish."
"No, no, no." She was breathless and trying to shift away from him. "I am not ticklish. No, Max, what are you doing? Stop." Max picked her up suddenly, eliciting a squeal from Liz. He walked her over to his bed and unceremoniously tossed her onto it.
"Yes Liz, you are. And as your boyfriend I think that this is something I need to know all about."
She sat up and tried to dive off the bed but Max tackled her, pinning her with his weight. He pulled her arms above her head and wrapped one of his large, strong hands around her delicate wrists, securing her capture. His free hand began to rove across her body. His fingers dancing lightly over her slightly exposed midriff and then drifting slowly up her side. Agonizingly slow. She squirmed on the bed, her laughter turning to frantic gasps for air. He loomed over her and gazed down with a hungry gleam in his eyes. Her breath caught in her throat and her stomach fluttered wildly when he lowered himself closer to her and put his mouth against her ear. "Does this tickle?" His hot breath swirled around her ear as his hand trailed down her side and then slid under her shirt and up again to her ribcage. She shivered and let out a ragged breath.
"Max?" A hesitant knock at the door and the voice of Diane Evans broke the spell holding the two young lovers together. Max rolled off of Liz and onto his back with a groan. Liz elbowed him playfully in the side and scrambled off the bed. Max watched in amusement as she hurriedly tried to straighten her clothes and hair. She turned back to him and raised one dangerous eyebrow at his wicked grin.
"Max?" This time Diane didn’t wait for a reply before opening the door slowly. She wasn’t sure how she felt about letting Max have his girlfriend alone with him in his room. She knew they were both responsible young people but they were also testing the exciting waters of adulthood and she remembered all too well what that was like. Nevertheless, she believed her son was entitled to some privacy in his life and the right to make his own decisions. Hopefully she and her husband had taught their children well and he would make the right choices. That said, she was still a little afraid she would walk in on her son in a compromising situation with his girlfriend. She was fairly certain that was something she could happily live without.
She entered the room and found Max sprawled on his back in the middle of his bed. He smiled at her with an openness that she had seldom ever seen. She couldn’t help but smile back in kind. She then glanced quickly around the room and spotted Liz at the desk with an expression of exasperated humor on her face. A quick check assured her that both of them were fully clothed and if they appeared a little flushed at least they looked more amused than embarrassed. Diane allowed herself to relax a little bit.
"Hey. How’s it going? What are you two up to?"
Max groaned again and covered his eyes with his arm. "We have a history test tomorrow. Honestly though, at this point I don’t think anymore studying is going to help. I either know it or I don’t. Nothing else is going to stick in my brain tonight."
"I just think we should go over these dates one more time, Max," Liz picked up a handful of index cards and waved them in his direction.
Diane smiled at them both, vastly relieved to see that they really did seem to be studying. "Liz, honey, would you like to stay for dinner?"
"Oh, no, I’m sorry Mrs. Evans I can’t stay tonight, I have to work. Thank you, though."
"No problem, I’ll take a rain check. How about tomorrow night?"
"That would be great, Mrs. Evans."
"Please, Liz, call me Diane."
Diane stood for a moment, unsure of what to say next. She realized she had probably better let them get back to their schoolwork but she found herself reluctant to leave for some reason. She sighed inwardly as she discovered that she was having a difficult time letting her little boy grow up. She shook off her misgivings for the moment. "Well, I’ll let you two get back to work. Dinner will be ready in about an hour, Max."
"Okay, thanks, Mom."
"You’re welcome, sweetie."
Max and Liz remained quiet for a long moment after Diane left the room, softly shutting the door behind her.
"I like your mom, Max. She’s really great," Liz said, breaking the silence.
"Yeah, she really likes you, too," Max replied softly. His mood seemed to sink as he drifted off into that dark place in his soul. Liz closed her eyes briefly, her heart aching for him. He was so sensitive about his family. She knew he loved his parents dearly but she also knew that the old, overwhelming feeling of not belonging and the fear that his life was somehow a lie would occasionally rise up without warning and he would shut himself behind his walls. Liz was bound and determined to keep these moments to a minimum. She knew what it was like to need time to yourself but she wasn’t going to let him hide himself in that fortress of pain and doubt anymore.
"Did you see the look on her face when she walked in? I think she was terrified she was going to find us in a hot and heavy make-out session. Good thing she knocked." Liz laughed.
Max pushed himself up on his elbows and looked at Liz fondly. He let the smile creep back across his face and then allowed himself to join her laughter. "Good thing. I don’t think the conversation would have gone nearly as well if I was trying to subtly remove my hand from under your shirt."
"That would have been a little awkward," She replied with a snicker.
Max watched her for a little while longer. He loved to just look at her and he reveled in the knowledge that if she caught him looking he no longer had to look away in embarrassment and hide his attraction. He watched as she organized the index cards on his desk and then bent over to dig through her bag for something or other. "I don’t suppose I could convince you do join me over here for a few more minutes," he asked huskily.
She straightened in her chair and smiled at him lovingly. "Sorry, Max, I know I’m no fun tonight. I’ll be all yours on Friday."
He smiled gently, "All mine?"
Liz met his intense gaze and, as always, the passionate regard she saw there was enough to burn every rational thought out of her head. "Yes," she replied weakly.
"Good," he said quietly as he stood up and crossed the room to her. She watched him approach her, finding it increasingly difficult to breathe with every step he took. He dropped to his knees beside her and brushed his fingers across her cheek. His hand slid through her soft hair to cradle the back of her head tenderly while the fingers of his other hand twined with hers. He leaned back and stared at her with something very like awe swelling in his chest. "God, I love you. Promise me I can worship you forever." His voice was harsh with emotion. She parted her lips to speak but Max brought his mouth down on hers before she could utter a syllable. She slid her free hand up his chest and let her fingers linger at his collar before moving on around the back of his neck, pulling him closer.
The phone was on the second ring before they heard it and the fourth ring before they managed to pull apart. Max leaned his forehead against Liz’s and reached blindly for the phone. "This has to be some sort of record," he mumbled irritably.
"Hello? Yeah, she’s here . . . I don’t know . . . uh, yeah, okay, hold on." Max looked more then a little confused when he handed the phone to Liz. "It’s Michael."
Her brow creased in bewilderment as she took the phone from Max. "Uh, hello? Michael? What’s wrong? Yeah, my shift starts in forty-five minutes . . . um, no, I don’t think that will be a problem . . . no, we’re not done here yet . . . studying . . . I don’t care if you believe me or not . . . no . . . I don’t know . . . fine Michael, whatever." She angrily jabbed the phone’s off button. "That has to be the most aggravating person on this or any other planet."
Max pried the phone from her grasp before she could do any damage to it. "What did he want?"
"He wanted to know if I was going to be working the shift tonight and then he started in on me about being on time and how I should get there early enough to get ready. You’d think it was my first night on the job. Oh, and then he made some sort of snide comment about us." She said in disgust.
"That’s weird. Why would he call you?" Max asked, perplexed by Michael’s behavior.
"I have no idea but if he is like this tonight I refuse to be held responsible for my actions and any damage he may sustain during his shift."
Max sat back again and idly caressed her palm with his thumb while he lost himself in thought. He was worried. This was the second time in as many days that Michael had acted almost insanely protective of two of the members of the group. Yesterday he had been furious when Maria wasn’t at the café for a few minutes and now he was checking up on Liz. Normally this wouldn’t upset him so much. Michael was the protector of the group and was beginning to take his role as such very seriously, however, Michael knew Liz was with him and he still called to check on her. That was disturbing.
"Max, love, what are you thinking?" Liz stroked his cheek softly.
"I’m just wondering what’s up with Michael. He has been so irritable lately and now he’s being weirdly possessive about you and Maria. It’s almost like he’s afraid of something."
"Hmm. He did seem really distant yesterday. You don’t suppose that something about this search is scaring him, do you? He seemed really interested in it when we met Torquil on Saturday. Now, it’s like he doesn’t even want to hear anything about it. He practically ignored us when we were over at his place."
Max sighed and leaned into her, wrapping his arms around her tightly. He inhaled the sweet scent of her hair and tried to get his tense muscles to relax. She ran her fingernails gently up and down his spine.
"I don’t know what’s wrong with him. He won’t talk to me," he whispered into her hair. "We’ve only been looking a couple of days and already things are falling apart."
"Nothing’s fallen apart, Max. Michael being a creep does not constitute the end of the world. Trust me on that." She pulled away from him slightly and took his face in both of her hands. She looked deeply into his golden eyes and kissed him lightly on the lips. "I’ll see if I can get something from him tonight. If he won’t give it up willingly Maria and I will kick him in the shins until he does."
Max laughed and kissed her throat. "Think that will work?"
"If it doesn’t, at least I’ll get some sort of therapeutic benefit from it.
"You’re a vicious woman, Parker." He said with a grin.
"It’s a tough world, Evans." She grinned back and kissed him one more time.
"So you and Maria are going up to Albuquerque this weekend, right?"
"Yep. We’ll talk to a couple of those people on Torquil’s contact list for Kirtland Air Force Base while we’re there."
"Maybe I should meet you two up there."
"You don’t think the base is there, do you?"
"No. I think it’s much farther north. Maybe even in Colorado. I just don’t like the idea of you and Maria going off to question these people without a Czechoslovakian around for protection." He grinned wryly at his own use Maria’s euphemism for those of extraterrestrial origin.
"We’ll be shopping and doing girly things, maybe Isabel will be better suited to the trip."
Max was relieved that she accepted his concern so readily, "No, Isabel and Alex are supposed to be going down to Las Cruces to talk to a professor there about the genetics involved in hybridization. No, how about if Michael and I meet you? Weird as he has been acting about you and Maria it probably won’t be hard to get him up there."
"Okay, meet us for lunch in Old Town on Saturday. That’ll give Maria and I the morning to hang out and stuff."
"You’ve got a date. So, uh, girly things, huh? What kind of girly things?"
"Wouldn’t you like to know." She quirked an eyebrow at him and then laughed softly at the look on his face.
He felt suddenly and unaccountably warm. He had to clear his throat before he could speak, "How much longer can you stay?"
"We’re not going to get any more studying done, are we?" She asked softly.
"I really hope not." He replied leaning closer.
Liz walked into the back room of the Crashdown twenty minutes later with more then a little spring in her step. She was just headed up the stairs when she saw her mother going through some boxes by the back door. "Hey, mom."
"Hello, honey. Are you ready for your test?"
"Yeah, I’m pretty sure I’ve got it all down. What are looking for?"
"Oh nothing. I was just getting ready to get together all our tax stuff and I decided I’d rather procrastinate and go through our storage room." Nancy Parker smiled guiltily at her daughter.
Liz grinned, "Need a hand?"
"No thanks. If I had help I’d probably finish too quickly. You’d better go get ready for your shift, Lizzy."
"Liz!" Michael’s sharp voice rang through the room making both Liz and Nancy jump.
"What?" She yelped, holding her hand to her chest as if that could somehow calm her pounding heart.
Michael stood in the doorway of the kitchen and stared at her with an unreadable expression on his face. He peered at her for a long, unnerving moment before he spoke again and when he did his voice was hard and cold. "Where’s Maria?"
"On her way, I suppose. What’s your problem, Michael?" Liz asked angrily. If there was something bothering him he didn’t need to be taking it out on either of them.
His eyes narrowed but he didn’t move or say anything. Finally, he turned abruptly and disappeared back into the kitchen. Liz let out a breath she hadn’t known she had been holding.
"Is he okay?" Nancy asked her daughter nervously. If that boy was going to be trouble she wouldn’t hesitate to let him go.
"I honestly don’t know." Liz shook herself out of her daze and smiled at her mom, "I have to go get ready. Don’t worry about Michael, okay?"
"I don’t know, Lizzy, if . . ."
"It’ll be fine, I promise," and with that she dashed up the stairs.
Liz was exhausted. She barely managed to climb the stairs to her apartment and when she got to her room she dropped limply onto her bed. She wasn’t even sure she had enough energy to get undressed.
The dinner shift had been insanely busy and Maria and Michael snapped and snarled at each other through the whole thing. And when Michael wasn’t glaring at Maria he was scowling at her. Every time she looked up his eyes were following her. It was extremely disconcerting. By closing time she couldn’t take anymore and told him that he didn’t need to help with the clean up and that he should just leave. He leveled a penetrating gaze at her but eventually left without protest. She and Maria had both sighed in relief and discussed his puzzling behavior at length. They finally called it an evening when neither of them could offer up any plausible explanation for his newest personality quirk.
Liz mustered up enough energy to roll off of her bed and when she could stand without wobbling she made her way to her bathroom. As she was passing her window she thought she saw a shadow move on her patio. Her body tensed and her senses went on high alert. It wasn’t Max, she could tell that much and nobody else she knew ever climbed onto her patio this late. She backed away from the window without taking her eyes off the shadows. Liz grabbed for the aluminum softball bat she kept near her desk.
The moving shadows converged into a black figure that moved slowly towards her window. As it got closer she could make out his features. "Michael?" she gasped in surprise.
He looked at the bat in her hands and motioned her to open her window. She hesitated for a moment. She wasn’t feeling all that safe around Michael recently. The look in his eyes decided her though, and she slid open the sash and stepping back let him clamber in.
"I won’t hurt you." He said softly.
Liz sat back on her bed and peered at Michael closely. The frighteningly blank expression that had dominated his face so much recently was gone, replaced by a sort of open fear that cut to her heart. She cared about Michael. Of course she did. He was Max’s brother, part of the group, part of her family. He was just so difficult to understand sometimes and lived so much in his own world. "What’s wrong Michael?" She asked gently, almost afraid that he would shy away and bolt out the window if she spoke too loudly.
"I . . . I need to talk, and you’re," he cleared his throat and took a deep breath, "you’re the only one who will understand. You can’t tell, Liz. Please, swear you won’t tell. Not until I can figure out all this stuff. Please, Liz." He pleaded with her.
"Michael, whatever it is, we can work it out."
"No Liz. You can’t tell. Please. I need to talk to somebody. I can’t go to Maria, or Isabel, or Max. Just you. You know what it’s like to have to protect the group. You understand. I know you do. Swear to me, Liz. I need your help." His words tumbled out of his mouth in a rush and his hands danced anxiously at his sides.
"I swear, Michael."
"Not even, Max," he said hurriedly.
"No, not even Max. If you say it’s important . . ."
"To protect the group."
"To protect the group." She echoed to show that she understood.
"It has to look real, Liz. You can’t tell anybody."
"I understand Michael. Please, tell me. I want to help you."
"The flashes you and Max get. That could tell him. No, this was a bad idea I should go."
"Michael." She grabbed his arm to keep him from climbing back out the window. "I can control the flashes. Max won’t know. He won’t, Michael." She felt her throat tighten at the look of relief that washed over his face. She knew what it was like to have a secret eating you alive and how it felt to finally share it with somebody. How the easing of that burden felt like the greatest gift in the world.
He knelt down on the floor in front of her and took one of her hands in both of his and stared at her fingers. His voice broke as he spoke. "Things are happening, Liz. Bad things. I’m scared."
|posted on 8-Sep-2001 5:00:35 AM|
|posted on 8-Sep-2001 5:01:53 AM|
Alex heaved a sigh of relief when the bell finally rang and the hallways emptied. He stuck his head around the corner and looked up and down the hall making sure the coast was clear. When he was certain it was safe he darted out and made a mad dash to his locker. He had managed to avoid the Maria Gestapo, "Vee haf vays," for three days. He knew it was only a matter of time before his luck ran out but he just wasn’t ready for any ‘girl’ talk yet.
He’d just opened his locker when he heard footsteps behind him. Suddenly he felt like a sickly gazelle alone on the savanna. A feeling only Maria Deluca could instill in him. He adored her but when she decided you needed to talk to her she was enough to drive a normal man insane. His heart rate increased and he turned his head slowly in the direction of the approaching person. His body relaxed and he let his forehead rest against the locker frame when he saw that it wasn’t Maria.
"Hey Whitman, how’s it going?" Kyle Valenti slouched back against the row of lockers and ran a quarter along that backs of his fingers.
Alex looked at him curiously for a moment before speaking, "What are you James Dean now?"
"What?" Kyle flipped the coin in the air and snatched it back with a flip of his wrist.
"Never mind." Alex turned back to his locker and dug through the pile of books in search of his psychology text. "So, I know I’m really late for class, but what’s your story, Valenti?"
"Oh, I’ve got this period off."
"And you decided to lurk the hallways of West Roswell High in search of a lowly computer geek to socialize with? Either my social status just skyrocketed or yours just tanked."
"Funny Whitman. So you’re taking your time, huh? It is a dark day for geekdom when Alex Whitman turns from hacker to slacker."
"Oh, you’re rhyming now. Buddha rap?"
"Do you want me to kick your ass?" Kyle asked conversationally.
"So you going to class today, or what?"
Alex dropped his books into his bag and slung it over his shoulder. "Yeah, yeah. Why do you care?"
Kyle looked casually up and down the hall, "’Cause I’m hoping I can talk you into ditching the rest of the day."
"Why would I do something like that?" He shut his locker and started walking slowly toward his class.
Kyle pushed himself away from the lockers and fell into step next to Alex. "Well, I kind of figured that we both have a sort of unique problem."
"And?" Alex waved his hand impatiently, trying to get Kyle to come to the point.
"And, I kind of need to talk to somebody about this and you’re the one that came to mind." He finished nonchalantly.
Alex stopped and regarded Kyle skeptically, "Me?"
He shrugged his shoulders, "Yeah, you. Look, if that’s not cool with you, fine whatever, I’ll let you get back to hiding from Maria."
"It’s that obvious?"
"She is pissed, dude. I’d be hiding too."
Alex groaned and turned around, heading for the nearest exit. "You’re driving, Valenti." He shouted over his shoulder.
"Where’re we off to?" Alex asked as he tossed his book bag into the back of Kyle’s car.
Kyle climbed in and started his car up, revving the engine a little more then Alex felt was necessary. Who was he trying to impress? "I don’t know. I’m kinda hungry. You up for food?"
"Sure, I could eat."
"Señor Chow’s?" Kyle suggested as he pulled the car out of the school’s lot.
"Yummy? What kind of guy are you?"
"Are you driving or are you questioning my manhood? You gotta pick one."
"I’m driving. So, uh, haven’t seen you around much recently. You gonna tell me why you’re hiding from Maria?"
"Not if I can possibly avoid it."
"Yeah. You know, I’m kinda torn on my membership in the I-Know-An-Alien club. I’m pretty sure I didn’t sign anything and yet here I am. Hell, I even have one living in my house. Not that I’d rather be dead or anything but you know what I’m saying."
"It certainly has its moments." Alex agreed. "Is this what you meant by our unique problem?"
"Actually I was thinking more of the, uh, female alien, uh, problem."
"Oh fantastic. My favorite subject," Alex groaned and leaned his forehead against his window. "Oh wait, make that my second favorite subject. If you wanted to talk about Max and Michael then that would be my favorite subject."
"Hey man . . ."
"No, no, it’s cool. Really. I totally understand. In fact, it’s kind of a relief to know I’m not suffering alone." Alex’s mood brightened considerably at that thought and he smiled cheerily.
Kyle glared at him and mumbled unkind things under his breath. Alex pretended not to hear and when they pulled up at the restaurant a short time later he almost felt like whistling. Kyle had a hard time not decking his companion, even going so far as to try some of his meditation chanting. The two young men managed to make it into the restaurant and to a table without incident.
They sat uncomfortably for a few minutes after the waitress took their order, neither knowing just what to say to the other. Kyle munched his way through the basket of sweet and sour tortilla chips while Alex looked around curiously as if he had never been to the restaurant before.
He finally turned back to Kyle and watched with a raised eyebrow as he devoured the chips with a bizarre sort of single mindedness. "So is your dad too busy saving the world to cook?"
"Tess cooks." Kyle said around a full mouth.
Alex was clearly stunned by this bit of information. "Tess? Tess cooks?"
"S’what I said."
"She’s not a good cook?"
"No, she is. She’s a really good cook."
"Are you afraid she’s trying to poison you?"
Kyle stopped chewing long enough to glare at Alex, "What? What the hell are you talking about, Whitman?"
"Huh. Nothing I guess." He sat silently for a moment before sobering slightly, "Hey, I heard what you did for Max and Liz. That was very, uh, noble. Or something."
Kyle waved him away uncomfortably, "Yeah, well you know. I figured it wasn’t a good thing to have an ali-, uh, Czechoslovakian pissed at me. Not that I’m afraid of Evans." He said quickly.
"No, of course not." Alex assured him.
"Yeah, whatever. Look, I still care about Liz, and she and Evans are just," he shrugged his shoulders, "I don’t know, they’re just right for each other, I guess. Besides, Evans isn’t too bad a guy. He makes her happy."
"Better to have him for you then against you, eh? I gotcha. So what, exactly, is it about our female Czechoslovakians you wanted to talk about?"
Kyle stopped eating and stared at the mostly empty basket in front of him for a few seconds before taking a long drink and finally realizing that he didn’t know what he wanted to say, "Um, just, uh, you know. Uh, stuff."
"Well, stuff. Sure. I can talk about stuff all day. Is this Tess specific stuff or Czechoslovakian in general stuff."
"Both I guess."
The waitress arrived with their lunch and Alex leaned back in the booth, getting comfortable. "Okay, my man, I am just going to sit here and let you take the floor. I’ll follow your lead. This is your show. Spotlight’s on you, dude."
"Are you done spewing cliches?"
"Umm, let me check." Alex made a show of mumbling to himself and ticking imaginary items off with his fingers. "Yep, looks like it."
Kyle seemed to fight some sort of internal battle; it ended with the decision that he would be better off if he just ignored the smart-ass side of Alex. He did glare at him one more time for good measure before moving on to the subject at hand.
"So, um, do you suppose that there is something about them that just sort of pulls us to them? Something, uh, Czech?"
"You mean are they tempting and seductive Sirens luring us to our dooms? Hoping that we will dash the ships of our lives against the rocks that lay hidden beneath the calming waves of a relationship with them, spilling out our life’s blood into a sea that we realize too late actually rages and boils around them and then we are forced to watch from our broken and drowning bodies as they finally suck up our souls and put another little check on their score cards? I would have to say yes."
"Um, so things aren’t going well with you and Isabel, huh?"
"No, they don’t seem to be." Alex said calmly.
"Yeah. If you’re asking if it is a Czech thing or a purely female thing, I don’t have an answer for you."
"Yeah, that’s kind of what I was wondering."
"So, you and Tess, huh?"
"Uh, not so you’d notice. I like her, though. I really like her. She makes home . . . home. My dad feels it too. We hang out more and stuff."
"Yeah, I . . ." Kyle was interrupted by a loud burst of laughter coming from a table not far from their booth.
He and Alex turned to find the source of the outburst. A large, red-haired, bearded, bear sized man was talking to one of the waitress. "Sofie, hen, can Ah get some more wassabi tae gae wi’ ma tacos?"
The two young men looked back at each other. "That must be Torquil."
"Gee, ya think?" Kyle asked and glanced back over at the Scotsman. He appeared to be alone but was chatting amicably with any of the wait staff who passed his way. He broke off a conversation with a busboy suddenly when his cell phone rang. He waived the boy away and talked quietly and seriously. His ruddy face went pale and he stood up abruptly. After tossing a few bills on the table he left the restaurant quickly.
Kyle, keenly deducing that something was up, stood hurriedly and pulled out his wallet.
"What are you doing?" Alex asked in confusion.
"I want to see what’s up with that guy. Come on." The waitress passed by and he pressed some cash into her hand and pulled Alex out of his seat. "Let’s go."
Kyle and Alex followed Torquil for about twenty minutes until he pulled up to a park on the northeastern edge of town. Kyle drove past and turned the car around half a block away, parking on the other side of the street.
"He was trying to shake a tail." Kyle said matter-of-factly. "He didn’t see us, though. My dad taught me how to tail someone."
"So I’ve heard. My dad taught me how to calculate compound interest. Your dad is cooler then my dad. Okay then Columbo, now what?"
"Well he doesn’t know who we are so we could get pretty close I think. He looks like he’s meeting somebody. You get out here and kind of walk around. I’m gonna drive around to the other side of the park and come at him from that side. We’ll meet over by that tree." He pointed to a tree close by where Torquil was leaning against the hood of his car.
"Ooo, covert surveillance. Nifty. Okay. See ya in a few." Alex jumped out of the car and walked slowly towards the park.
Kyle circled the park again; keeping an eye out for anybody else that might seem entirely too interested in the park. He stopped his car and grabbed a football from the back before walking onto the grounds. He tossed it carelessly from hand to and tried to look like any other teenager out for a day. Granted it was January and a little chilly but at least the sky was clear and the sun was out and it was as good a day as any for a little recreation.
Damn, this was hard. He was trying to look a dozen different directions at once and still pretend he was just hanging out. He spotted Alex sitting up against the tree he had pointed out earlier. He seemed engrossed in something on the ground next to him. Probably, looking for bugs, Kyle snorted to himself. He was such a geek. He couldn’t help but smile though. The I-Know-An-Alien club did have its amusements. Free reign to follow people and live that Mission: Impossible dream was definitely a cool benefit. He scanned the park again and saw that Torquil had moved from his car to a bench even closer to the tree. Oh, man. Score. I am good. Kyle grinned and tossed the ball high over his head and approached the bench.
He tossed the ball up one more time and had to run to catch it. When it was back in his hands he pretended to suddenly see Alex. "Hey Alex, what’s up man?"
Alex started guiltily and dropped the stick he was using to dig up bugs. "Oh, uh, hey Kyle. Not much man. Just hanging out, you know."
"Yeah. Hey wanna toss the ball around for a bit?"
"Oh, uh, sure. Sounds like fun." Alex forced a smile onto his face and climbed slowly to his feet.
They played catch for a while with Kyle getting a huge kick out of throwing the ball just over Alex’s head so that the other boy spent the whole time running around the park. Kyle was laughing so hard he almost forgot he was there on a mission and didn’t see the man who approached the bench and Torquil. Alex saw him though and deliberately threw the ball towards the bench making Kyle chase after it. The ball bounced against Torquil’s leg and he picked it up, looking sharply at Kyle as he came trotting up after it.
"I’m sorry sir. Can I get my ball back, please?"
Torquil’s face broke into a grin and he tossed the ball back. "O’ course, lad, o’ course. ‘Tis a fine day, eh?"
"Yes sir. A very nice day." Kyle smiled and nodded at Torquil. He took notice of his companion for the first time. If two people could be exactly opposite it would be these two. Torquil was six and a half feet tall at least and as thick across as the tree behind them, his skin was fair, his eyes were blue and his hair was a gingery sort of red. His companion however was small, not more then five-foot and he could probably hide behind a light pole, his skin was black as pitch and his eyes were as dark brown as eyes could get without being black, and he was completely bald. Kyle caught himself staring at the pair and nodded again. He apologized one more time to Torquil, threw the ball over to Alex and ran back to his place by the tree.
Alex finally begged, gasping and wheezing, for a break, and he and Kyle collapsed against the tree to watch the unlikely pair. Unfortunately they weren’t able to get too close and could only watch the men from the back. Torquil’s voice was loud enough to pick up most of what he said but the other man spoke more softly. They were able to pick up most of the conversation however and what they heard was enough to set them both on edge.
"We still don’t know where it’s at."
"How can we nae kin after all this time?"
"Have you had any luck?"
"Nae, nae. We’ve places tae look, but tha’s all."
"No evidence. They have global resources, we don’t."
"If we find him before They dae. . ."
"What can he do? What can any of them do?"
"You’d bargain him away like that?"
"Nae. O’ course nae. But, we’d have one up on Them. Finally."
"What good would that do if . . ."
"We’re close here. Four corners. They ur all here somewhere. Everything we need is here. Jess need time, jess time. Ah’m feart we’re almost oot o’ it, though."
"They are close, too. I saw one of Them at the motel."
"Crivvens! Ye cannae gae back there."
"No. I have to leave town. I’ll go back to Bangor. They don’t know who you are yet. I hope."
"Ah hope sae tae. Ah think Ah can play ra game a bit longer."
"Long enough to find him?"
"Aye. Ah have a lead. On him an’ on ra base."
"Would it be too much to hope that they were all together? He is enough but if we had them all . . ."
"Time. We jess need time. Ah’m close. They dae nae kin ma yet. Patience, ma freen."
"If we run out . . ."
"Then we run oot. Fussin’ isnae gonna dae us any good. Send twae teams each tae ra coordinates Ah picked oot here. These ur our best bets."
"Okay. And I’ll send another team to help you here."
"Nae! Tha’ would draw tae much attention tae me. Ah’ve hander freens here tha’ll help. Ye kin Brody Davis?"
"Yes, I remember him."
"He’s gorra couple o’ young freens o’ his ain tae help. Smart lad an’ lass. More tae ‘em then it seems."
"Children? Is that wise? To put them . . ."
"’Tis fine. Trust ma. Ah’ve a thought aboot them anyway."
"What kind of thought?"
"Ne’er mind fer now. They’ll be ra help Ah need fer ra time being. If Ah need more, Ah’ll call in." Torquil stood up suddenly and Kyle and Alex shook themselves out of their daze. Alex pretended to be looking for bugs again and Kyle picked at the laces on his football. He nudged Alex and they started a quiet, innocuous conversation about some of the people at school.
"Ye should gae before they get on tae ye. Dae ye need money?"
"No. I have enough on me. I’ll make my report and have the teams sent out for you within twelve hours." The man stood up and started to move away but stopped after a few steps. He turned back to Torquil and spoke quietly. Alex and Kyle strained to hear what he said. "You’ll find him, won’t you?"
"Aye." Torquil replied just as quietly. "Ah’ll find ra king."
Alex felt his heart stop beating and he scrambled shakily to his feet, pulling at Kyle to get him to stand as well. He grabbed his arm and tugged him around the tree and started jogging out of the park.
"Hey man, my car’s the other way."
"We’ll go around and get it. I don’t want Torquil to see us again."
"You . . . You think he was talking about Max?"
"Don’t you? I mean I guess he could have been talking about Elvis but somehow I don’t think so. We’ve gotta talk to everybody."
Kyle looked back over his shoulder but more trees and bushes now obscured his line-of-sight. It wasn’t the first time he’d thanked god he wasn’t Max Evans but he was pretty sure this time was the most sincere.
|posted on 8-Sep-2001 5:03:21 AM|
|posted on 8-Sep-2001 5:12:08 AM|
Jemez Mountains, New Mexico
Run, run, run.
Oh god, oh god. Faster.
I can hear Them. They are making so much noise. I can’t hear what They are saying.
Oh god, oh god.
I can’t hear a sound. Oh god, They are so loud I can’t hear anything.
My hands hurt. There is blood on them
OH GOD THERE IS BLOOD ON MY HANDS.
No, no. Okay. It is my blood. It’s okay. I still have blood. It is on my hands.
A rock. It tripped me. It put the blood on my hands.
But it’s okay. It is my blood. All mine.
I hear Them again. That sound. So loud that I can’t hear it.
Oh god, oh Jesus.
They’ll kill me and They’ll eat me and They’ll wear my skin on Their boots.
Wipe the blood. Save it on my shirt. I might need it later.
Run, run, run.
Stop wait. Hold still. Can’t let Them see me. Can’t let Them know I am here.
Wait. I am alone.
There was another.
Another one running. With me.
I hear him.
He has to be quiet. Doesn’t he know he has to be quiet?
They’ll hear him in Their noise.
A tree, another tree, I have to find another tree.
Good thing, I am in a forest. All these trees.
The trees like me. The let me hide amongst them.
They whisper sweet songs to me.
A rush of wind, like a river flowing. It washes away Their noise.
I am quiet behind the tree.
I can’t breath or They’ll know. But the tree breathes for me.
It whispers in my ear.
The trees must not like him.
He is still making too much noise.
They like the noise, the noise you can hear, because it makes Their noise so much quieter.
Soundless noise. I cover my ears it is so loud. It hurts.
They got him.
I want to laugh, you’re boots now, buddy.
But I can’t because They’ll hear me and I don’t want to be footwear yet.
I am sorry They have him, but maybe he’ll let me be free.
Maybe the trees will keep me.
Oh the good aria of pine again.
It makes Their quiet go away.
I can move again. They are too busy with him.
Run, run, run
Let the trees sing a way out.
Quiet. I am so quiet. The trees are hiding me in their song and the soundless noise can’t hear me.
OH MY GOD!
OH MY GOD!
Lights. In front of me.
They found me. How could They find me?
I thought the trees liked me.
No, it’s a road. That was a car.
It wasn’t Them.
It was just a person. Maybe somebody who can’t see or hear Them.
Will They find me if I go to the road?
I have to get out.
Oh please. I have to get out.
I am so tired.
I want to be safe again.
I want to be still again.
I want to not hurt anymore.
I don’t want to die.
If They find me, I will die.
God please let me be free. Please let me be safe.
I can’t run anymore.
My legs don’t work.
My heart is too tired.
My lungs can’t hold the air.
Another rock makes me fall.
The trees may like me but the rocks don’t.
Maybe they work for Them.
I want to laugh again. But I don’t.
"Whoa. What was that?" Andrea Lucas turned the wheel hard and slammed on the breaks, coming to a stop on the shoulder of the darkened highway.
Her companion, Mark Rains, peered out into the darkness. "A bear?"
"A bear?" She asked skeptically.
"Well, we are in the mountains."
"Yeah. Okay, city boy. It is January. Any self-respecting bear is hibernating."
"There it is!" He shouted, ignoring her jab.
"Oh my god. That’s a person. Come on." She opened her door but was pulled back by Mark.
"You don’t know who he is. He could be an axe murderer or something."
"Look at him, Mark. Does he look like he could lift an axe? We can’t just leave him here. He looks like he lost a fight with a bear, at any rate. I have a first aid kit under your seat. Hand me the surgical gloves." Mark did as she asked with some trepidation. He handed her the gloves and watched as she got out of the car and started walking slowly towards the man.
Mark climbed out after her, scanning the area around them. Yeah, he was a city boy and out here in the forest it was just too dark for him. He felt a hundred unseen eyes on him. The only light was coming from the headlights of Andrea’s car and it was casting an eerie, narrow, tunnel of light on the area. He followed her over to where she was talking gently to the man who was now sitting and shaking on the guardrail over a small drainage ditch.
"Hey, hey. It’s okay. You’re okay. Why don’t you let us look at you?"
The man shied back from her touch and was mumbling under his breath. Something about the trees and a noise you couldn’t hear. His thin, white shirt was spotted and smeared with blood and his black sweatpants were torn. He wasn’t wearing any shoes. How in the hell did he get out into the middle of nowhere in January wearing practically nothing? It was bitterly cold out. The man should have died of hypothermia a dozen times over to get here as he was from the nearest town. Maybe he was camping and something happened.
A sudden rustling in the trees on the other side of the road had Mark’s heart pounding wildly and with a strangled yell the man tried to dive over the guardrail and up the other side of the embankment into the trees again. Andrea grabbed his arm, though, and tried to pull him back. They both ended up sitting on the pavement breathing heavily.
"Mark, help me with him. Please." Andrea was trying to pick the man up. His eyes were opened wide and he was staring in horror at the forest on the other side of the road.
"You can’t hear Them, They are so loud," He whispered hoarsely, tears streaming down his face. "They are everywhere but you can’t see Them. Everything is blind and deaf to Them."
Mark eyed the man nervously. He was obviously unhinged, but was he dangerous? The fight seemed to go out of the man, but he kept his wide, staring eyes on the trees around him, and continued his incoherent ramblings. The rustling came again and the terrified man flinched, pushing his back against the cold metal rail and with a whimper curled up onto his side. "Pleasegoddontletmedie. Pleasegoddontletmedie. Pleasegoddontletmedie."
Time to go, Mark thought. He had a bad feeling about this place and was damned sure he didn’t want to wait around anymore to find out what had this guy so scared. He helped Andrea lift the man to his feet and they guided him to the back seat of her car. He curled up on the seat and started mumbling about noise again.
Andrea was nervously looking around them now. Seems the man’s fear was infectious. She smiled sheepishly at Mark who just shrugged and hurried around to the passenger side. What was she embarrassed about? He was the guy and he was the one who didn’t even want to stop. He felt like a complete moron. A freaked out moron, but still a moron.
She started up the car again and with a quick glance at the man in the back seat, turned the heater up to full blast. "I think there is a doctor in Jemez Springs. That’s a lot closer then Los Alamos. This guy needs help as quick as we can get him to it."
"Drive, Andy, please just drive." Mark whispered to her. He had been looking past her out the window and saw three dark figures melt out of the black forest. Andrea pulled the car back onto the highway and he turned in his seat to keep an eye on them as they drove away. He could barely make them out in the dark night but he watched as they slowly walked up to the road and crossed to the other side. They stood by the guardrail that the man had been sitting on just minutes before. Mark kept watch on the motionless figures until he couldn’t see them anymore and even then refused to take his eyes from the road behind them until they arrived in the small town of Jemez Springs.
|posted on 8-Sep-2001 5:13:17 AM|
|posted on 8-Sep-2001 5:15:15 AM|
Saturday, January 27, 2001
Coming to you live from the fashionable Ramada Inn Albuquerque!
Liz and I were originally only going to spend Saturday, but it’s a long drive for an afternoon, so we decided on Thursday to stay for the whole weekend. Obviously.
We didn’t count on overnight guests, however.
Both of whom are doing their damnedest to drive me out of my mind.
Before I go into the finer points of this road trip I should probably go back and cover some of the stuff that happened this week that kept me from writing in this stupid journal. It was one of those weird weeks, where it is either really boring so what’s to write about, or unbelievably insane so where do I have time to write about it.
The bizarreness quotient increased dramatically around Wednesday when Alex and Kyle of all people, demanded a meeting. So we all gathered round the Crashdown after closing.
Sometimes it’s kind of funny, I feel like we’re in the mob or something. I half expect Max to start saying "capice?" He and Michael would look fantastic in pin-stripe suits. You know, I think it’s time for our yearly viewing of the Godfather.
So everybody was there, including Sheriff Valenti. Jim. Jimbo. The big guy. He and my mom are grossing me out on a whole new level. Kyle and Tess caught them making out at their house so Kyle started yelling at me about that. I’m like, hey, if they weren’t at your place they’d be at my place, better you then me, dude. Not that I don’t want my mom to be happy or anything, and Sheriff Valenti has been a totally good guy to all of us, and if my mom is happy then she isn’t on my case about Michael all the time. It’s just that I don’t want to have to witness the source of this happiness. Ick, now I’m going to have that going through my head when I try to sleep.
Okay, the meeting.
We all get there and we’re sitting around waiting for somebody to start but everybody keeps quiet. Kyle and Alex keep shooting Max these weird looks and he’s getting all nervous and Liz finally says "Out with it!" or something like that. So Kyle and Alex go into this long story about how they ended up ditching school to spend the afternoon spying on Torquil and following him around town. Jimbo didn’t look too happy at the ditching school part but he let it slide. They kind of glossed over the how they ended up at Señor Chow’s at 11:30 together and discounted anybody’s notions that it might be a little odd for the two of them to suddenly start hanging out together.
I kept a close eye on Alex. He continues to be weird. I don’t need anymore weirdness from my friends. He refused to go anywhere near me all night. Subtly refused, that is. He never fled the room screaming if I got close or anything. He’d just get the sudden urge to stretch his legs if I was near and he seemed to hide behind the Sheriff a lot.
Anyway, so Torquil met this guy at a park on the edge of town and they started talking about how they were running out of time and that there was a mysterious Them after them and how they were looking for somebody. The kicker is that when the guy gets up to go he asks Torquil one more time if he can find ‘him’ and Torquil tells him yeah, he’ll find the king. We all turn to stare at Max. He goes kind of pale and sort of freezes in place. Poor guy, it’s like he lives at the edge of a cliff and keeps falling off of it. Every time he gets back on top the ground turns into a mudslide again.
I looked over at Michael, who hadn’t said a word the whole night, he’d just sat in the corner of a booth and scowled at everybody. The scowling isn’t so unusual; it was the silence that was eerie. This time, though, his face was completely blank and he wasn’t looking at Max like everybody else was, he was looking at Liz.
Liz was standing behind Max, kind of rubbing his shoulders, and looking down at the table where his hands were clinched into fists. She didn’t appear too shocked by this revelation either, she just seemed really, really sad. Maybe even scared. Not for herself. Liz is never scared for herself. I totally admire that about her, but it makes me worry, too. I mean, who knows what she’ll do to protect somebody, since her own safety always comes second. So, since she won’t worry about herself, I have to worry about her.
I just realized something kind of strange. She and Michael are a lot alike like that. I worry about him for the same reason. He’ll go on some self-appointed mission to protect everybody and not even think twice about what could happen to him. He goes off without a thought, playing the errant knight but Liz goes off with a list of logical reasons behind her. Wonderful, I’m not sure which one of them is more of a danger to themselves. This is bad. I think they’re going to give me an ulcer.
Anyway, so after that little bombshell we talked for a little bit about who or what Torquil could be. As sorry as I am to admit it, I don’t think he’s a skin, or whatever form Kivar’s people are taking now a days. He’d know who Max was and he doesn’t know Max is a king otherwise he wouldn’t still be looking. Unless of course he’s not looking for his royal ETness, but really how many kings do you have to go looking for? They tend to be kind of easy to find. Alex couldn’t resist cracking the Elvis joke, which earned him a subzero glare from Isabel and a punch on the arm from Kyle.
The Sheriff said he’d look into Torquil’s background some more but when we saw him on Friday he didn’t have much more then what Liz and Max already told us. He was put under psychiatric review (big surprise) after his little jaunt in the woods with aliens, and rode a desk for a few months before he finally decided the life of a Glasgow police officer no longer suited him. But, other than that, Jimbo said Torquil had a boatload of commendations from the Strathclyde police and was like the youngest Chief Inspector ever. Seemed everybody liked him, his colleagues respected him and his superiors adored him. Weird. He must’ve cracked later, then.
Max still believes that Torquil is looking for ‘evil’ aliens, so he thought we should continue to help Torquil and Brody with their search. Tess and Liz backed him on that, and may I just say how funky that was. Isabel was concerned that even if he was looking for bad guys he could be a bad guy, too, and she was more then a little freaked at the fact that Torquil and Co. were looking for Max. Kyle, Alex and the Sheriff agreed with her. The Sheriff was worried that Max would somehow end up in the middle of something, kind of caught between Torquil’s mystery people and the ‘evil’ aliens. I figure we’re already in the middle of everything, so it doesn’t even matter at this point anymore, we may as well learn everything we can when we can.
Hold on. My hand is cramping.
Where was I?
Max decided to keep working with Brody and Torquil, he and Liz both agree that this mystery menace is real and they want to find the base. The Sheriff was uncomfortable with that, but agreed with me that it was best to know as much as we could. Kyle and Tess said they’d start keeping their eyes out for the sinister Them. Alex and Isabel were going to do some digging on the Internet and look into the genetics angle some more, and I was going to try and remain sane around Torquil. Michael glared at the wall and didn’t say a thing. Eventually, after trying to talk to him for like ten minutes with no answer, Max got mad and started yelling at him but he still didn’t say anything, he just looked at Max like he was something gross he found in his fridge.
I tried to pull the conversation back around to the planning portion of the night’s meeting. Big mistake. I mentioned the trip Liz and I were taking to Albuquerque on Saturday and Michael hit the roof. Well, at least, he finally said something. He ranted and raved about how idiotic it was for us to go off by ourselves, like we were three years old or something. How dangerous it was and how we weren’t going to learn anything in Albuquerque because didn’t Liz just say that they thought the base was way north? It was a "freaking stupid damned waste of time." Michael is so eloquent. I told him exactly what I thought about that attitude. First off, I can take care of myself, second, Liz promised me the trip if I could survive the week with Torquil, third, it was none his damned business what I did with my time and since when did he care anyway, fourth, if it was a waste of time then it was my time to waste and if we learned even one thing about this whole stupid mess then it was worth it, fifth, I was having lunch at my favorite restaurant on Saturday and neither he nor a whole damned alien army was going to stop me.
I have never seen Michael so angry before, ever. I’ve seen him irritated, annoyed, and yes, even mad, but never like this. His face turned an odd shade of purple and he slid out of the booth. It was like everything went into slow motion. He stood up and started walking towards the table where most of us were sitting. The look on his face even made the Sheriff nervous because he stood up too and looked like he was going to try and get between Michael and the rest of us. But, it wasn’t the Sheriff it was Liz. Suddenly she was right there in front of him. She grabbed Michael by the arm and pulled him to the back room. Little Lizzy Parker stood between me and an enraged, extremely destructive, extraterrestrial twice her size and somehow had enough of a, I don’t know, ‘power’ over him to get him to leave the room. God, that girl scares me sometimes. Max and I shared a look when they left. His eyes were huge and I could tell he was as terrified as I was.
I am so worried about Michael. Seriously, I feel sick to my stomach when I think about the way he’s been recently. The only thing that is keeping me together right now is that he’s clinging to me like he’s a drowning man and I’m his life preserver. Awake, he glares at me like I just killed his dog, but asleep I have my Michael back. Yep, that’s right, he is asleep next to me at this very moment. I did mention guests on the road trip, did I not? Max and Liz are next door. Yeah, I know, our parents wouldn’t be too thrilled with the boy/girl arrangement but the only other option was to put Max and Michael in a room together, and truthfully I don’t think they would both survive the night. I am not exaggerating, either. They were so scary to each other today.
"Liz, Liz, Liz, the sun isn’t even up yet. Why do we have to leave so early," Maria whined tiredly. It was 5:30 a.m. and she’d just gotten her road trip wake-up call.
"Because, I want to try and talk to some people before we meet Max and Michael for lunch. You know we’re not going to get much of a chance after they get up there." Liz had the phone balanced on her shoulder and was digging through her overnight bag, mentally going over her last-minute checklist.
Maria groaned and pulled herself out of bed. "Michael is going to burst a blood vessel when he finds out we left without them."
"That’s too bad for Michael, then. If we leave soon we’ll have, at least, a three-hour head start on them. Come on, Maria, you can’t tell me you actually want to sit in a car for four hours with Michael this morning."
"Oh god no. But do you think it’s a good idea to leave him alone with Max for that long? They couldn’t even stand to be around each other all week. Now they are both going to be pissed that we left early and then they’ll be stuck together all morning. Sounds like a recipe for massive amounts of destruction, to me."
"I’m sure they’ll survive. They’re both big boys. Besides, I told Max on Tuesday that we were just going to spend the morning shopping and hanging out and that we’d meet them for lunch. I never agreed to a change of plans in that regard. He just assumed I’d go along with his revised plan." Liz was getting a little annoyed, where the hell was her blasted shirt?
Maria was randomly pulling articles of clothing out of her drawers. She tugged out a pair of pants, looked at them critically and then tossed them onto her bed near her still unpacked bag. "I thought you weren’t going to lie to Max anymore."
Aha, found it, Liz thought to herself and pulled out the red flannel shirt from the back of her closet. "I’m not lying to him, I just failed to inform him of the fact that I didn’t agree with his new arrangements for our Saturday."
"That’s a pretty fine line, Lizzy. He’s not going to like it."
"You’re awfully worried about what Max and Michael are and aren’t going to like this morning, Maria."
Maria snorted and tossed a pair of socks over her shoulder towards her bed, they missed and bounced to the floor. "Just trying to keep the peace, girlfriend."
"Hmm," came Liz’s muffled reply as she pulled on her shirt. "Are you almost ready?"
Maria turned around and looked at the pile of clothes strewn across her bed. She dashed into the bathroom and grabbed her overnight kit, "You bet."
"Sure you are. You’re not dressed are you? Do you even have your bag out." Liz rolled her eyes and lay back on her bed.
"Liz, babe, I am as ready as I ever get. I’ll be there in twenty minutes."
"I’m holding you to that."
"Just have coffee and food ready and waiting for me." Maria grinned and pulled on a pair of blue jeans.
"Twenty minutes," Liz said and hung up.
Whoo-boy, Maria thought as she lobbed the phone onto a chair, Liz wasn’t in a much better mood then anybody else had been recently. Time to change that. Maria Deluca and Liz Parker on the road again. Czechoslovakian free for at least seven hours and hovering parent free for forty-eight. WooHoo!
Maria was determined to have a good time on this trip and nothing Michael or Max could do or say was going to ruin that. She stopped shoving things into her bag long enough to note that that was probably a sure-fire way to curse the weekend but she wouldn’t let it. No, her resolve was strong. She would have fun and so would Liz.
"There goes a fine example of why drugs are bad." Maria smirked at Liz and shook her head at the greasy man in the ill-fitting suit walking briskly away from them. He was walking as close to the wall as he could without running into it and his head jerked and bobbed oddly as he tried to look every direction at once.
Liz sighed, "No kidding. And I thought we had wackos in Roswell. Yikes."
"Well, check one more off of Torquil’s list of the extremely paranoid and mentally unstable. These people were supposed to help us how? The guy won’t even walk past the chimp house because he thinks they are actually the result of an evil government experiment on children gone wrong."
Maria snorted derisively at the absurdity of it all and pulled her coat closer when a cold wind blew up from the river. She and Liz had agreed that they would only meet these people in public places and they had had to bribe this last guy to meet them at the zoo. When he finally arrived they were treated to the ‘truth’ about chimpanzees.
"I know, I know. I think Torquil’s group should screen their informants a little more carefully. Like, I’m supposed to believe that guy has access to top secret bunkers in the Sandias? Um, no."
"I wouldn’t give him access to an empty shoebox."
Liz laughed loudly and leaned against her friend. Good, Maria thought, see we are having fun. Laughing is good. Excellent. Thank you strange little lunatic man.
Liz pulled a piece of paper out of her coat and looked it over. "We have three more people on the list. Why don’t we just call it a morning and head over to Old Town? We’re supposed to meet the guys in an hour."
"Right on. I know it’s kind of chilly but do you suppose the craft market is open?"
"I don’t know. It’s a sunny day, not snowing or raining or anything. I guess we’ll find out."
It was a short drive from the zoo to Old Town Albuquerque and Liz and Maria made the most of their hour, wandering in and out of the shops that lined the plaza and talking to the merchants who had their wares displayed on blankets on the sidewalk market. They strolled down one of the narrow side walkways and through a quiet courtyard to another small collection of shops. Liz saw a silver and turquoise bracelet she thought would be perfect for her mother’s birthday and Maria found a tiny boutique with a short, colorful skirt she "absolutely had to have."
They were laughing and talking comfortably about non-Czech related subjects when they finally made their way back to the plaza. As they walked along the warm, adobe walls surrounding the San Felipe de Neri church, they were so engrossed in their conversation they failed to notice the two young men watching them approach. Liz started to cross the street to the plaza when she heard Maria’s yelp and felt a strong hand on her elbow. She turned and found herself facing the fierce gaze of Max Evans.
"I thought we agreed to come up here together," his golden eyes flickered angrily.
Liz pulled her arm from his grasp and moved back to lean against the adobe wall, letting a gaggle of gray haired old ladies past. She pushed her back against the wall; its sun soaked warmth working through her jacket and into her tense muscles. "You agreed. I never said that that’s what we’d do."
"It is too dangerous . . ." He started, but she cut him off quickly.
"There hasn’t been a direct threat against any of us. As far as anybody knows we are just helping out your boss."
"So you’re just gonna run around until somebody makes a move? That’s when it would be too late." He said urgently.
"What’s the matter Maxwell? Things aren’t all rosy in Pleasantville, huh?" Michael sneered spitefully at Max.
Max whirled and took an angry step towards him. "You shut the hell up."
"Hey, fuck you, man." Michael snarled.
Maria drew in a sharp breath. Things were going way too far here. Michael and Max had their moments. It certainly wasn’t unusual for them to get into shouting matches, occasionally there was even a little pushing and shoving was involved, but she didn’t think she’d ever heard Michael’s voice turn so absolutely venomous. She put her hand on his arm and tried to move in front of him but he shoved her back.
It was Liz who, once again, kept things from getting out of hand. Max was reaching out to grab Michael by the jacket when Liz stepped in front of him. She placed a hand on Max’s chest and looked Michael in the eye. "That’s enough. Both of you. We don’t need this now."
"Yes, mommy," Michael replied sarcastically.
Max stiffened again at Michael’s tone. "God damn it, Michael," he growled.
"Ah, what’s the matter, Max? Don’t think Lizzy here can take a little joke? Guess she’s in for a big surprise then, when you finally get in her pants, huh?" Michael taunted and grinned maliciously at them both.
That was more then Max could take and he pulled Liz roughly out of his way. He grabbed Michael by his jacket and threw him violently into the wall. He hit him on the jaw and followed it up with a sharp punch to the stomach before Michael could get his feet under him. He was pulling his fist back for another blow when Liz pushed between them.
"ENOUGH!" She put both of her hands on his chest and shoved him away from Michael.
Max stumbled back and looked at Liz, anger, hurt and sorrow all swirling in his eyes. "Why the hell are you defending him?"
Liz moved over to him and wrapped her arms around his waist. She leaned into him, closing her eyes tightly and whispered "I’m not defending him, I am trying to keep you from doing something you’ll regret."
Michael was climbing to his feet and laughing weakly. "Truth hurts, doesn’t it Maxwell?"
Maria stared at him with an expression of horror on her face. This couldn’t be her Michael, could it? She watched as he dropped to his knees again gasping for breath. How hard did Max hit him? He coughed and sat against the wall. She walked over to him slowly, her emotions churning in confusion. She loved him but was stunned by the things he had just said to their closest friends. In a daze she knelt down next to him and pushed her fingers gently through his mop of hair. He stared off across the plaza, refusing to look at her.
When her fingers brushed against the dark bruise on his jaw he pushed her hand roughly away. "Knock it off, Maria. I’m fine. Not my fault fearless leader can’t take a joke." His voice was soft and the jab, half-hearted.
She opened her mouth to reply but remained silent when she saw the flash of pain and loneliness that crossed his face. He shrugged into his jacket and looked down at the pavement. She felt her throat tighten and tears began to sting her eyes. "God, Michael what’s wrong? Please," she pleaded, her voice cracking.
He looked at her then and, for a moment, she saw her Michael in the lost and lonely vulnerability that always seemed to lurk in his eyes. It only lasted for a moment, though, before his eyes became cold and hard again and he stood up suddenly. "I’m fine, Maria. What are you deaf? I just said that." He surreptitiously grabbed his stomach when he straightened but tried to hide his discomfort by making a show of adjusting his jacket. "Are we gonna eat or what? I’m hungry."
"You really are a bastard son of a bitch, aren’t you?" Max asked, his voice thick with disgust.
"Max," Liz said gently, trying to keep him from saying anymore.
"Lizzy, why don’t you and Max go have lunch together?" Maria asked quietly.
"Are you sure, Maria?"
"Yeah, I’d like to digest in peace. Look there’s a great restaurant like two streets over that way," she gestured south across the plaza. "Michael and I will go to my restaurant. It’s no big deal. We’ll take the Jetta and meet you at the hotel in a couple of hours, okay?"
Liz hugged Maria close and whispered into her ear, "Don’t let him make you angry and don’t give up on him. I swear it will be okay."
Maria pulled back and looked at her friend in shock. "What . . ."
"I promise." Liz said and, taking his arm, pulled Max across the street.
She and Michael watched them walk across the plaza for a few long seconds before either spoke again.
"So where is this great restaurant of yours?" He asked.
Maria gestured to an intersection at the other end of the church. "That building there."
"That’s a gift shop." He said shortly.
"I know that, Michael," she said, forcing herself to be patient. "It’s at the back of the shop."
"You have to go through the shop to get to the restaurant?"
"How lame is that?"
"It makes it a ‘best-kept-secret’ kind of place, Michael. You’ll like it. All the waitresses wear these really frilly psychedelic Mexican dresses. They’re about on par with the Crashdown’s outfits," She laughed.
They started walking along the church again and Maria jumped in surprise when he took her hand in his. "Food’s good?"
"It wouldn’t be my favorite restaurant if it wasn’t."
|posted on 8-Sep-2001 5:16:37 AM|
|posted on 8-Sep-2001 5:18:58 AM|
"You can’t let him get to you like that, Max," Liz said quietly, breaking the silence that had settled on the couple as they wandered through the streets of Old Town Albuquerque. Her small fingers traced an aimless and distracting pattern on the back of his hand.
"I know, I know. He just . . . ahh, the drive up here was insane. It’s like I’m his enemy now. I swear I almost stopped about halfway here and shoved him out. Four hours, Liz. I had to listen to four hours of snide comments and nasty backhanded remarks and flat out insults." Max ground his teeth at the memory. "God, then he started in on you. I’m sorry, sweetheart, I know I shouldn’t have hit him, I just couldn’t take anymore."
Liz looked up at the frustrated expression on Max’s face and leaned her head tiredly against his shoulder. This wasn’t fair to him, to Michael, or to any of them, for that matter. Unfortunately, they never seemed to have a choice. "He’s doing it on purpose, you know. He’s scared."
"Of what?" Max asked in a tense voice.
She shrugged her shoulders noncommittally. "You know how he is when something is bothering him. He closes up and pushes people away."
"But like this? This . . . this hatefully?" Max shoved his fingers angrily through his hair and growled, "Damn it! I wish he would tell me what the hell his problem is." Max took a deep breath and continued bitterly, "Never mind. I know why he won’t. Hell, I wouldn’t even talk to me. I’ll just end up telling him what a mess he’s made or something and he’ll end up feeling like a total screw-up."
"Max," Liz said warningly.
He stopped and slumped wearily against a wall, rubbing his hands roughly over his face. "God, I am such a jerk to Michael sometimes."
Liz pulled his hands down and regarded him intently. "Max, stop it. Look, you two have been best friends forever. You’re family. But you each have such wildly different personalities, so of course you’re going to come into conflict. He’s a jerk to you, too. But, Michael respects you and I know you respect him. I don’t think this is about you, Max, and maybe you’re not the person he needs to talk to about this. Whatever it is."
"Michael’s not really one for talking," Max sighed.
"No, he’s kind of a man of action," She observed wryly.
"Yeah, just kind of." His face broke into a small smile before quickly becoming serious again. "Can I ask you a question, Liz?"
"Of course, love."
"What’s going on between you and Michael? I’m not suggesting anything bad," He clarified hurriedly. "It just seems like he backs down whenever you tell him to. When he came storming into the UFO center on Monday looking for Maria. The other night at the Crashdown when he was so furious, he even scared me, Liz, but he stopped and let you pull him into the back. And today, when he just kept pushing, you were the one who kept things from getting too out of hand. Not even Isabel has ever had that kind of control over him."
"I don’t know how to answer that, Max." She said, her voice subdued.
"How about with the truth?" He suggested with just a hint of frustration in his voice.
She raised an eyebrow at him but decided not to take the bait. "I think Michael and I have come to an understanding. Maybe even a kind of partnership. Sort of. That’s not really the right word, though. We both want to protect the group and I think we both trust each other to do whatever is necessary and whatever is right for the group. And in our roles as protectors we can see things from the same point of view. Maybe understand things the other is going through that nobody else really does." She stopped for a moment and considered the nature of her relationship with Michael. "I don’t know why he lets me take charge of those situations like that. Maybe he just sees it as a way out. He knows I’m not going to play any sort of guilt card with him, so when I pull him out of the situation it’s sort of a chance for him to calm down and take a breath without anybody calling him too much on his behavior. I’m not going to bring ten years of personal stuff into any sort of argument with him. Not that I’m saying you and Isabel are fighting dirty or anything, it’s just that he has a clean slate with me." She looked back up at Max and asked, "Does that make any sense?"
"Huh. I guess it kind of does. But of anybody I would have figured maybe Maria."
"No. She’s too close to him. I am just far enough removed that we can sort of be objective to each other about things." She silently willed him to accept that fairly nebulous explanation for the moment. She was tired of having to keep things from Max and, though she refused to lie to him anymore unless absolutely necessary, she was also tired of having to censor her own conversations with him, omitting certain things and hiding the truth in ambiguity, when the greater good reared its ugly head again. She could only pray that this would be over soon.
"Oh. So has he said anything to you about what’s wrong?"
Damn, so much for her no more lying to Max edict. Liz wanted to scream in exasperation. "Not really. I know that something is scaring him. I don’t know what exactly."
"Will you tell me what it is if he tells you?" Max asked almost hesitantly.
"If I can, honey." Please, please, Max, Liz begged in her mind, please let it go. She knew he wasn’t going to like that answer but she also knew he was aware of the fact that they all occasionally found themselves trapped between that rock and the hard place as far as secrets and protecting the group went. She hoped he would trust her to do what was best.
He pushed away from the wall and took her small hand in his and they began walking again. "I understand," he said quietly.
"Thank you," she murmured gratefully. "Are you ready for lunch?"
"Not yet. Do you mind walking around a little more? Unless you’re hungry now."
"No, I’m okay."
They fell into a companionable silence; each lost in their own thoughts as they drifted through the narrow, shop-lined streets. When they stopped to gaze through the windows of a pottery shop, Max looked down at Liz while she examined a small bowl closely. He reached over and gently stroked a finger across her cheek. "We haven’t really had any time to ourselves since we got back together, have we?" Max asked quietly.
She glanced up at him and clasped his hand tightly, kissing the palm before responding with a small smile. "No. Things got kind of hectic pretty quick, I guess. I’m glad you’re here."
"I really wish you wouldn’t have come up here alone, Liz. I know you can take care of yourself but I just worry about you." He pulled her into an embrace and let his cheek rest atop her head.
"I know you do, love." She sighed against the warmth of his chest. "But I kind of needed some Maria time this morning and I think she needed some me time, too."
"She probably needs it now more than she did this morning," he said sourly as they started walking again.
"Probably, or maybe Michael needs some Maria time. It’s a very important thing, you know." She grinned up at him slyly.
"What? Maria time?" Max laughed for the first time all day.
She slid her arm under his jacket and around his middle. "Yep. Never underestimate its therapeutic value."
"Very true. I don’t know how I would have made it through the summer without her." Max draped his arm across her shoulders and gloried in her presence at his side.
Liz remained silent, unsure what to say. They had finally gotten past all of that destiny agony but they were still rather raw and bitter memories. Neither of them liked to pick at it much. She hugged him tighter and smiled at the thought of Max and Maria hanging out all summer. That, at least, was funny. "I’m so glad you guys were able to hang out, and, hey, you did end up rating ‘girlfriend’ status and not just anybody gets that."
"Lucky me," he said dryly. "She called me that in front of my dad one day when we went to lunch at the Crashdown. He gave me the weirdest look."
Liz snickered, "Did you have to reassure him that you liked girls?"
"Not funny. Before you and I were together, he and mom talked about that at least once that I know of. I kind of, unintentionally, heard that conversation. Really unintentionally." His face turned slightly red with embarrassment.
Liz bit her lip to keep from laughing. "Oh Max," she said in a somewhat strangled voice.
"Anyway," he continued, clearing his throat loudly, "they were thrilled when you came over for dinner on Wednesday. So thrilled, in fact, I thought Isabel was going to kill me by the end of the week. They kept asking her when she was going to bring a nice boy home for dinner." Max laughed.
"Well that explains the dirty look she gave me on Friday night."
Max frowned. "She gave you a dirty look?"
"Relax, love. I’ve seen her give you a variation of that look so I figured it was more sisterly annoyance than anything else."
"Oh, I know that look." He shivered dramatically.
She laughed. "Yeah. That’s the one. I kind of felt flattered, actually. Later. After I’d thawed out."
Max chuckled, he’d been at the receiving end of Isabel’s frosty glares his whole life and he wasn’t sure how she’d take the knowledge that one of them, when leveled at another person, could be taken as a sign of acceptance and familial love. If nothing else it would earn him another such look if he told her. It might be worth it, though, he thought mischievously, to see the look on her face, however brief, when she found out that her fearsome wrath could have a warm and fuzzy side.
Liz watched and laughed as an impish smile touched his lips, "Okay you can stop thinking of devious things to do to your sister and take me to lunch now."
"How’d you know?"
"Please, Max, that’s the what-evil-thing-can-I-do-to-Isabel look. It’s the only time you ever truly look like trouble." She winked at him.
"I guess I can’t carry off that bad-boy image then, huh?" He sighed in exaggerated disappointment.
"No, you better leave that to Michael. You do have that dark, brooding, stranger mystique, though. Much more sexy, if you ask me." She purred.
He stopped suddenly and pulled her into a narrow alley, backing her up against a wall. His voice dropped to a low rumble that hummed through her chest, setting her heart pounding wildly. "You know, Liz, if we weren’t in a public place . . ." he trailed off dangerously while he brought a long finger to her throat. He stroked the soft skin there before dragging his finger down to hook in the collar of her shirt then slipped his hand inside and across her shoulder.
She felt the air leave her lungs in an involuntary gasp when his hand traveled down from her shoulder to trace the line of her bra. "Max."
"Mmm?" He smiled lazily and watched a flush creep up her face.
She groaned when his fingers dipped even lower. "We are in a public place."
He breathed a small laugh and brought his hand back up to her shoulder and then around behind her neck. "Lucky you."
"Oh god, I don’t think so." But she sighed in pleasure when his lips came down on hers.
He broke off the kiss after a short time and put a finger to her mouth when she tried to continue it. "Later," he promised.
She sagged against him and tried to get her breath back. "The movies are right."
"All aliens are evil," she moaned.
"ET wasn’t evil." He grinned at her when she pulled back and eyed him severely. "And besides I think even the so-called evil aliens in the movies are just misunderstood. Alien, for example, it’s not the aliens’ fault that the stupid humans went stumbling into their nursery. Then in Aliens, the aforementioned stupid humans went back to look for the aliens. Really, your species is just asking for trouble."
Liz was having a hard time keeping herself from giggling. She poked him in the ribs. "Oh, stop it."
He laughed and drew her to him again, wrapping his arms tightly around her. "Okay, doll face, where to for lunch?"
He looked down and smiled crookedly at her. "Yeah, doll face. I kind of like it."
She smiled and shook her head. "Okay then, tough guy, how about that restaurant behind us? Looks okay to me."
"Perfect." He took her hand and led her inside.
They emerged an hour later relaxed and with renewed energy.
"So what’s the plan for the rest of the day," Max asked.
"Well we still have three more people to contact on Torquil’s list. Oh, and I think you and Michael should stay up here tonight. I don’t know if you planned to or not but I don’t like the idea of you driving back to Roswell so late." She said absently as she dug through her bag for her phone.
He smiled at her concern and took her bag from her, holding it while she dove in with both hands. "I had no intention of leaving you up here alone and I wasn’t sure how long we’d be so I brought a bag just in case."
She laughed quietly and placed a gentle hand on his cheek. "My Max." She returned to her search and quickly found the phone.
When she withdrew her hand he peered into the bag at its jumbled contents. "How did your bag end up looking like this?" Max asked bemusedly.
"Maria." Liz replied, that one word speaking volumes.
Liz smirked and punched the speed dial. "Hey Maria, it’s Liz."
"Hey girlfriend. How was lunch?"
"Good. Where are you?"
"Um, well, that’s a good question."
"No, that should be an easy question."
"We’re in the mountains."
"Yeah we’re on some road right outside Kirtland Air Force Base."
"Oh please tell me you two aren’t going to try to get on the base." Max eyes widened in alarm and he stepped closer to Liz. She put a comforting hand on his chest and turned her attention back to Maria.
"God no. At least I hope not. Spaceboy you better not be thinking about tying to get on that base." Liz heard Michael’s annoyed but unintelligible reply in the background. "He says he’s not. Don’t worry he just wants to get a look."
"Okay. Look, I don’t think Michael and Max should drive back to Roswell tonight."
"Way ahead of you, Lizzy. We went back to the hotel and got us another room for the night. Of course, this was before I managed to talk Michael out of driving up to Los Alamos."
"Los Alamos?" Max’s body tensed under Liz’s fingers and she rubbed her hand soothingly across his chest.
"All sorts of government wackiness there, according to Michael." Liz heard the rumble of Michael’s voice again. "Fine Michael, whatever. He says it’s still worth a drive up there just to have a look around. I don’t know what he’s looking for." She said pointedly.
"Try not to leave the immediate Albuquerque area today if you can help it, please." Liz pleaded.
"Don’t worry about it. So what are you and Max gonna do?"
"Well I think we’ll try to hit the other three names on Torquil’s list. Unless you two want to take one of these people?"
"Yeah, I have the information for the Diaz lady so we can take her if you guys will get the other ones."
"That’ll be fine. Um, Maria?"
"I’ve been thinking. Um, I don’t know that it’s a good idea to have Max and Michael in a room together tonight."
"Phew. No kidding. War of the Worlds at the Ramada Inn. It’d be hard to sleep through that."
"Are you okay sharing a room with him?"
"Yeah, it’s okay, Lizzy. He’s being tolerable right now. He liked lunch. The chimichanga drenched in honey was a big hit."
"Honey?" Liz said in disgust.
"Yeah, originally for the sopapillas but he says it tastes better on the chimichangas. I took his word for it. He grossed out our waitress," Maria laughed. "Okay, so anyway, we got the room right next door to the other one and Michael and I put our stuff in there. You have the key card to your room, right?"
"Yeah, I’ve got it, thanks. So you were planning to stay with Michael all along, eh?" Liz teased.
"Please, Lizzy. I can’t believe they both survived the drive up here. I am not leaving Spaceboy and his ETness alone together anymore on this trip."
"I’m kidding. Okay so how about we meet at the hotel for dinner around seven? That should give us plenty of time to check out these people and maybe relax a bit."
"Relaxing, huh? Is that what you and Max are planning to do tonight?"
"Seven it is, babe. I’ll call you if Michael abducts me and the Jetta again and we end up in Los Alamos."
"Yeah, I’d appreciate that call." Liz rolled her eyes. Given their past history of disappearing, the probability of that happening was absurdly high.
"So?" Max asked anxiously.
"Maria and Michael are driving around the mountains trying to get a look at Kirtland. Apparently he wanted to go up to Los Alamos for some reason but Maria talked him out of it. For the moment. She and Michael are going to take one of the contacts on this list and that leaves two more for us."
"Okay, who?" He moved around behind her and wrapped his arms about her waist.
Liz pulled a sheet of paper out of her pocket and looked at the remaining names. "Crowley Hill."
"And Jordan Trailor. We may as well start with ol’ Crowley." Liz opened her phone again and dialed. "Hello, may I speak with Crowley Hill please. Mr. Hill, my name is Liz Parker and I work for the UFO Center in Roswell. I’m up here doing some research and we had your name on a list of contacts regarding government projects involving an alien intelligence. I wondered if you might have time to meet with us today. Well, I hope you’ll understand sir, but we’d prefer to meet in a public place. That would be fine sir, we’re not far from there now. Twenty minutes? That would be great. Thank you. Okay sir, I’m sure we’ll spot you." Liz disconnected the call and tilted her head back against Max’s chest with a sigh of resignation. "Another one. He’s going to wear a green tissue paper carnation so we can recognize him and he wants to meet out in front of the Museum of Natural History."
Max laughed and bent over to rest his chin on her shoulder. "Long morning?"
"Would you like to know the truth about Chimpanzees or maybe how genetically engineered foods are being designed to cause brain damage and weaken the wills of the people?" Liz asked scornfully.
"Um, do I?"
"No, I don’t think you do." She assured him.
Max laughed and buried his face in her hair. He inhaled deeply. Ah, she has a new shampoo, he thought. It was sweet and floral without being cloying. It smelled natural and, he smiled to himself, absolutely delicious. He brought his lips to the side of her neck to taste her skin and felt her shiver. His heart swelled at the knowledge that he could do that for her. Two years ago he would have died of pleasure if she had asked to borrow his pencil and now he had her trembling in his arms. Life was good. Weird, he added, considering their lives of the past year and a half, and his life in particular, but ultimately good.
"Have I told you what a remarkable woman you are, today? And that I am madly in love with you?"
She turned slightly in his arms to look up at him. "Um, no I don’t remember you saying anything like that today." She said thoughtfully.
"Well you are and I am." He kissed her gently.
|posted on 8-Sep-2001 5:20:30 AM|
|posted on 8-Sep-2001 5:22:27 AM|
"Okay, what is it with these people? I mean, I know aliens really do exist so not everybody who believes in them is going to be a lunatic but, geez, could they just limit themselves to one delusion at a time." Liz asked in annoyance as she and Max walked back to the jeep after their meeting with Mr. Hill.
"You don’t buy the secret, arctic, Nazi base theory, huh? Atlantians from the Orion Nebula don’t do it for you? Pleidian/human hybrids don’t strike any chords, either, eh?"
"I’m glad you’re enjoying this, Mr. Not-of-this-Earth."
"It is kind of funny." He pressed with a smile.
Liz finally relented and laughed. "Oh Max, I almost feel sorry for these people. And we thought our world was a scary place."
"Well, at least we’ve faced our enemies and know who they are," He said quietly.
"Exactly. Okay, one more contact. Dr. Jordan Trailor at University Hospital."
"What kind of doctor?"
"A psychiatrist, I think. I called yesterday to see if we could make an appointment but she said she’d be in and out all day today and we might just be able to catch her at some point."
"This could be a step in the right direction," Max said. "If she’s a psychiatrist chances are good she’s not insane herself."
"Yippee. The hospital isn’t far. I hope we can catch her."
They found the hospital with little difficulty, however the same couldn’t be said of their search for Dr. Trailor’s office. The warren of corridors and departments had them quickly lost.
"Who drew up these maps?" Max asked when they found themselves in the radiology department fifteen minutes later.
"Somebody who has never been in this building, obviously." Liz said, peering at a color-coded map that seemed to be telling them to follow the black diamonds on the floor. Unfortunately, they were at an intersection of corridors and the black diamonds went in three directions. "Okay, I hope you brought your GPS locator, ‘cause I think that’s the only way we’re going to get out of here."
"I hate hospitals," he mumbled nervously and headed towards the nearest nurse’s station. "Excuse me ma’am."
"Yes, what is it?" The nurse asked briskly, never taking her eyes from the papers she was working on.
"We’re trying to find the offices for the psychiatric wing. Could you point us in the right direction?"
"This is the radiology department."
Ah, yes, that explains everything. Max bit his tongue and continued politely, "Yes ma’am, and could you tell us how to get to the psychiatric department from here?"
"Follow the black diamonds." She said shortly.
"Uh, the diamonds go in a few different directions."
"Follow ‘em long enough and they’ll get you there." She indicated that their conversation was now at an end by turning her back on Max and beginning to sort through a filing cabinet.
"Thank you for your help, ma’am." Max walked slowly back to Liz who was still studying the map.
"What did she say?"
"Follow the black diamonds."
"That’s not very helpful."
"No, it sure isn’t." Max replied dryly.
"Well, I guess we’ll either find it eventually, wander into a restricted area and have security escort us out, or we’ll end up spending the rest of our days wandering aimlessly through the building."
"Um, lets follow the black diamonds and hope for the first one."
Another fifteen minutes of faithfully following the winding trail of tiles brought them to the psychiatric offices located in an annex building. With only a few more stops to ask directions they finally stumbled upon Dr. Trailor’s office.
Liz said a silent prayer to whatever deity might be listening and opened the door hoping that Dr. Trailor was in. They stepped into a small, tastefully decorated waiting room and walked over to the receptionist’s desk.
"May I help you?"
"Yes, my name is Liz Parker and I called yesterday about a meeting with Dr. Trailor. She said she’d be in and out today but that we might be able to catch her at some point."
The woman behind the desk smiled warmly at the couple and nodded her head, "Yes, Ms. Parker, Dr. Trailor told me to expect you. She just stepped out to talk to a colleague but she should be back shortly. If you’ll follow me please, I’ll have you wait in her office."
Max and Liz followed her into a cheerful room at the other end of the office. The room was decorated with several comfortable couches and chairs and a tasteful leather topped desk sat in one corner. After asking if they wanted something to drink the receptionist disappeared, leaving the couple to relax. Liz sank down in one of the overstuffed couches and Max wandered to the window. The office was on a corner and looked out over a small park sandwiched between several hospital buildings. Max leaned his head against the cool glass and tried to calm his agitated nerves.
"Max, love, are you okay?" Liz asked quietly.
"Yeah, I’m fine. Large, institutional buildings just sort of make me nervous you know."
She smiled gently at him and patted the couch next to her in invitation. "Yeah, I do know. Come on; relax for a few minutes. We don’t know how long Dr. Trailor will be."
Max sat down just as the door flew open. He bounced back up again in surprise and faced the woman who dashed through the door. She was tall and thin with blond hair streaming wildly in every direction.
"Hello." She said brightly. "You must be Liz Parker."
Liz stood up and held out her hand, "It’s wonderful to meet you Dr. Trailor, this is Max Evans, he works at the UFO Center as well."
Dr. Trailor shook both of their hands and threw herself into an overstuffed chair opposite the couch. "You know Torquil?"
"Yes, we’ve been working with him quite a bit this past week."
"Mm, I’ve only ever spoken to him over the phone and through email correspondence. Wonderful man, truly charming."
Max shared a small smile with Liz, "Yes, he is very interesting."
"So, Liz, over the phone you said you were doing research, looking into government collusion with an extraterrestrial power, is that right?"
"Um, yes, Torquil believes that there is a base somewhere in the Four Corners region where a government group is working with these aliens and trading people and their DNA for scientific and technological advances." How strange was this, Liz thought, talking to a psychiatrist about aliens and knowing that she’s not going to call for a little white jacket for me?
"Well, I don’t know what I can tell you about conspiracy theories, I have to admit I don’t pay too much attention to them. Most of my work is done with people who are suffering from emotional trauma that they attribute to alien abduction. Now, not every case that lands on my desk is a true abductee but there are a few truly intriguing cases. In fact, I have one right now that I think you’ll both find fascinating. This is why I was so happy to meet with you, Ms. Parker." Dr. Trailor stood up and shuffled papers on her desk in search of the apparently elusive file. She was struck by a thought and glanced back at the couple on the couch. "Do either of you study psychology?"
"Yeah, we’re both taking psychology this year." Liz replied.
"Oh good," Dr. Trailor smiled and came back around to sit on the chair, opening a file in front of her on a low coffee table. "Where do you go to school?"
"Uh, West Roswell High."
Dr. Trailor looked up sharply and considered them both for a moment before shrugging her shoulders and going back to her file. "Well, let’s not tell anybody that piece of information. You understand that these medical records must be kept confidential. It is just as well that the man is a John Doe. You two are students interested in the phenomena, okay?"
Max and Liz nodded in agreement but both were wondering just what kind of woman Dr. Trailor was to give them a confidential case file or just what was in the case file that she would risk her career for.
She smiled reassuringly at them and started to read from the file, "Male, aged approximately 28-32, 6’2", 185 pounds, brown hair, brown eyes." She stopped and stood up again. "Actually, come with me. I should go check on him anyway. I’ll tell you a little more about him as we go."
They filed out of the room and began their wanderings of the hospital’s hallways again. Dr. Trailor continued her lecture when they left the annex building and entered the hospital proper. "Now many reported cases of alien abductions seem to center around a phenomena often referred to as an Old Hag attack or more clinically, sleep paralysis. It is something that most of us experience an awareness of at least once in our lives. As I’m sure you know, when you enter REM sleep your mind becomes extremely active, your body, however, is paralyzed. This is a sort of safety feature to keep you from hurting yourself while you dream. Now when sleep paralysis occurs what generally happens is that a person begins to wake and come out of the REM stage of sleep, but they don’t make it all the way out. Your subconscious and conscious minds have a little tug of war and the line between dream and reality blurs. Your body is still paralyzed, which, in itself, can be a disturbing experience, however your brain is still tossing up dream images. So your conscious mind is trying to come up with a reason for why it can’t move and your subconscious may offer up an explanation in the form of something you’re afraid of. An alien standing at the foot of your bed, for example. More often then not you drift through this state quickly and settle back to a more peaceful sleep stage, unfortunately, for some people this can last for a while and can occasionally be quite traumatic."
"Yeah," Liz said, "I think I’ve had that. I just remember waking up but not being able to move. I didn’t see any aliens or monsters. It was bad enough that I couldn’t move, but I just fell back asleep."
"Exactly. For most people the experiences are brief and seldom occur very often. I would say that about sixty-five percent of the cases that I see involving supposed alien abductions report frequent or sporadic episodes of sleep paralysis. Most people are absolutely convinced that it is an alien that is holding them paralyzed and in a few cases that may even be true but in most it is this sleep disorder."
She led them down another confusing series of corridors until they came to a security desk deep in the heart of the building. She flashed her ID and introduced Liz and Max as students interested in her studies. The guard accepted this but gave the couple a stern warning about not entering restricted areas. They were buzzed through and Dr. Trailor continued speaking.
"Now I tell you this so that you know that most abduction scenarios are usually false. Yes, there is a phenomena wherein a large, unconnected, segment of the population experiences these symptoms they believe are related to aliens, however, most of this has to do with other mental problems and stress and seldom with actual extraterrestrials. As I said earlier, though, there are always a few very intriguing cases that seem to point at something else going on. This man is a fantastic example of a true alien abductee." She laughed, "My colleagues would have a fit if I admitted in front of them I believe there are actual alien abductees."
They walked on for a few more minutes and finally came to a stop in front of a room with a large, reinforced glass window in the door. "Meet, Mr. John Doe. He was found on a highway two nights ago in the Jemez Mountains. He was wearing only a pair of sweat pants and a t-shirt. No shoes, no coat, and a good thirty miles from the nearest town and no explanation of how he got that far out into the wilderness on a cold January night. The couple who found him said he came running out of the forest and collapsed on the side of the highway. They reported that he was rambling incoherently about a sound you couldn’t hear and people or beings you couldn’t see but who were everywhere. They took him to a doctor in Jemez Springs who then had him transported down here.
"His body shows signs of extensive and prolonged physical trauma, torture perhaps, and his behavior patterns seems to indicate extreme psychological damage as well. He cannot stand either bright lights or complete dark. So we modify the light in the room. A little brighter during the day and a little darker at night. He has an extreme aversion to silence. In fact, he will become dangerously agitated when it is too quiet. We discovered, quite by accident when he was sedated and mumbling about the singing trees, that if we pump white noise into the room he calms significantly. We alternate between the sounds of waves crashing, a rushing stream, and his favorite, wind in pines. A colleague has suggested that we might try whale song if he remains unresponsive. The songs have a coherent, lyric quality that he might respond to and the hope is that it may help to give him a few moments of lucidity."
Max peered through the window at the man who was curled in the corner as far from the door as he could get. He had one hand on the wall and was rubbing it back and forth in, what seemed to be some sort of pattern. "What is he doing, doctor?"
She looked over Max’s shoulder and nodded thoughtfully, "Yes, he does occasionally lapse into a compulsive behavior pattern. It doesn’t usually last but he reverts to it when he becomes frightened or agitated."
"You said he showed signs of physical trauma, what kind of trauma?" Liz asked curiously.
"Several of his ribs appear to have been broken and healed at various points recently, as have a number of his fingers, his collar bone, his jaw and his nose. His cheekbone and ocular bone were both cracked when he was brought in. We have found a number of puncture marks on his legs and back that could not have been self-inflicted as well as patches of scar tissue where skin and muscle have been obviously cut away. Based on the physical evidence we believe that he had been held captive for as long as seven months. He also has a small tattoo on his right shoulder blade. An odd looking thing. It looks rather like a brand or cataloging mark. We also found a small piece of metal in his sinus cavity when we ran x-rays. That was the only implant we could find. We had it removed but the object disintegrated as soon as it was pulled out."
"Wow," Liz murmured, "So you think he really was abducted?"
"Yes, I do. By whom or what I could not say. But somebody took this man against his will and subjected him to extreme physical and mental abuse. The state police are investigating and have run his fingerprints through the national criminal and government databases but they’ve had no luck yet and there are no missing persons reports that have come across as matching his description so we’re not even sure where he was taken from. All in all, he is a mystery."
"How terrifying." Liz gazed over at Max who was staring intently at the man. She could feel him fighting back a wave of panic and she was certain he was remembered his experiences in the white room. She walked up behind him and put a comforting hand on his shoulder.
"There but for the grace of god," he whispered. Except he didn’t think Pierce had had any intention of letting him survive to madness.
"Are you all right Mr. Evans?" Dr. Trailor inquired kindly.
He shook himself and managed a small smile. "Yes doctor, I’m fine. I want to thank you for taking time out of your day to meet with us and talking to us about this poor guy."
"You’re welcome, I hope this has been helpful. I hope that Torquil and his people can find who did this to this unfortunate man and put a stop to it. Are you going back to Roswell today?"
"No, we’re staying the night."
"Ah. Well, when you get back tell Torquil that I’ll send him along a copy of this man’s file in the next few days. Perhaps through his contacts he can find out who Mr. Doe is."
"We will, Dr. Trailor. Thank you again."
"Certainly. Now let me help you find your way out of our little labyrinth," she said with a chuckle.
|posted on 8-Sep-2001 5:24:38 AM|
|posted on 8-Sep-2001 5:26:31 AM|
"Why the hell not?"
"Because, Michael, it is getting dark, we still have to talk to that Diaz lady, and we have to meet Max and Liz for dinner in an hour and a half. We are not going to Los Alamos tonight. That’s final." She turned and tried to read Michael’s face in the fading light. Oh hell, his jaw was set and jutting out like it did when he got it into his head to be stubborn. Must nip this in the bud. "Don’t even think about it, Guerin. Kidnap me and I will make your life a living hell. If you still want to go in the morning, we’ll go, okay?"
"Whatever," he growled through clinched teeth.
Maria sighed loudly and sat back in the seat. She looked out the window and up to the darkening sky, watching as the stars slowly appeared from the blackness. Spaceboy. This was hard. Liz’s words kept bouncing around in her head. ‘Don’t let him make you angry and don’t give up on him. I swear it will be okay.’ Don’t let him make me angry? Deep breath, Maria. Deep, soothing breath. Deep, soothing, calming, cleansing breath.
"Are you hyperventilating or what?"
"I am trying to resist strangling you, Michael."
He glanced over at her sharply and then turned his attention back to the road with an unintelligible grunt.
‘Don’t give up on him.’ Well that’s easier then, don’t let him make me angry, Maria thought. She’d invested a lot of time and heartache in Michael Guerin, and she wasn’t about to throw that away because he’d slipped into a funk. Admittedly this was the lowest she’d ever seen him. But, you just don’t leave people and give up on them when things get rough; she told the stars determinedly. Michael was worth so much more to her then that. Not to say she wouldn’t smack him in the head if he deserved it or anything.
‘I swear it will be okay.’ That was the most curious thing Liz had said to her. It was more then just the encouragement of a friend. The way she said it, the whispered urgency, it was almost like a plea. Could Liz know what was going on with Michael? No. Maria dismissed that fairly uncomfortable thought, quickly. She’d been as annoyed with Michael this week as everybody else had. Maybe she was just being supportive. Yeah. Well for lack of a better explanation that one would have to do until she could corner Liz later.
She jumped, shaken from her thoughts by his sharp bark, "What?"
"I’m not going."
Maria tried to get her befuddled brain back on track. What had they been talking about? "You’re not going where? To Los Alamos?"
"No," he mumbled softly, "I’m not going to dinner with you."
"Why not?" She asked in surprise.
He stared out at the road ahead and gripped the steering wheel tightly. "I can’t be around him."
"Michael, he is your best friend. Are you ever going to tell me what’s wrong?"
"Nothing’s wrong. I’m just sick of his crap." He paused for a moment before continuing quickly in an attempt to forestall any further conversation, "I don’t freaking want to talk about it."
Maria closed her eyes tightly. Normally she wouldn’t hesitate to start something with Michael but getting into an argument about Max right now wasn’t going to get them anywhere. He was on the edge, she could see it in every line of his body, and she was worried that he’d go over if she pushed too hard. She bit her lip and let the car lapse into an uncharacteristic silence.
Michael broke the silence after a few tense minutes, "Where the hell are we going, anyway?"
Maria rubbed her aching temples before digging in the glove box for a map. She fought it for a few seconds before she managed to beat its creases into submission and fold it back. She pulled out a small flashlight and holding it in her teeth, peered closely at the road map. It didn’t take her long to figure out where they were and where they were going. Being friends with Liz Parker for eternity had many benefits, one of which was an advanced knowledge of cartography. Liz wouldn’t go anywhere without having at least two routes mapped out before leaving, three or four if she could swing it. They had poured over the map of Albuquerque the day before and figured out where each of the contacts lived or worked. Maria was sure Liz knew the streets of Albuquerque better then a native now.
"Hey Magellan, are you gonna navigate or are we going to wander around all night?" Michael snapped.
"Shut up, Michael," she mumbled around the flashlight still clamped in her teeth. She finished looking at the map and struggled with it again before finally giving up and jamming it into the glove box. "Okay, looks like the easiest thing is to just go into town on I-40 then I-25 north to exit 232 and east on Paseo Del Norte."
It was full dark when the Jetta pulled up to a large house near a vineyard at the base of the Sandia Mountains. Maria and Michael sat for a moment and looked at the black windows of the house.
"Think she’s home?"
"Only one way to find out," Michael said climbing out of the car.
He and Maria made their way up to the small entryway. The faint light from a street lamp was their only illumination and Maria had lifted her hand to knock on the door before she saw that it was ajar. She nudged Michael who swore under his breath when she pointed to the open door. He pulled her back behind him and pushed the door open slowly with his foot. Michael held his right hand out in front as they crept through the open door. His innate sense of paranoia went into overdrive as he listened as hard as he could for any sign that somebody or something else was in the house. His concentration was so intense he jumped when Maria threw a light switch, bathing the foyer in an almost painfully bright glare.
"Shit. Maria, couldn’t you have freaking warned me?" he hissed angrily.
"I thought maybe we were going for stealth," she started.
"Which went right out the window the second you turned on the goddamned lights," he snarled.
She turned to face him squarely, "So what was your plan? Stand around in the dark for a few hours and hope, maybe, information would come crawling our way? We’re here and we’re already trespassing, so we may as well take a look around. Obviously something’s not right, so stick close to me, Spaceboy, and let’s see if we can find Ms. Rosa Diaz." She boldly moved off into the house. Michael repressed the urge to growl and took a few quick steps to join her.
They were met almost immediately by chaos. Strewn about the living room were the torn and tattered remains of somebody’s home. A coffee table was in pieces in the middle of the room, the couch was upside down and the stuffing from its cushions lay thick on the floor. All the pictures were smashed, the glass from their frames ground into the carpeting. The television was the only thing in the room that seemed to escape total destruction and that only because it had been meticulously taken apart, it’s pieces laid out carefully in one corner.
The two teens picked their way nervously across the room. Each afraid that they would find the house’s owner in a similar state. The walked from room to room, Maria calling out softly, Michael tense and ready to act. Through each doorway they saw absolute devastation but no sign of Rosa Diaz.
When they reached what must have once been the study they both hesitated before going in. The room had been completely annihilated. There wasn’t a single recognizable piece of furniture left and every book and file in the room was shredded. Nothing had been spared and nothing was distinguishable as anything. Walking through a ransacked house was disturbing enough but coming across this room was terrifying. Michael took a couple of steps in, his shoes crunching on bits of metal and glass, while Maria hovered in the doorway. She figured there was no reason for either of them to go into the room. After a few seconds her uneasiness got to her and she reached out to plucked at Michael’s shirt, motioning him to come out of the room. He cast one more glance around the room before leaving.
Maria took a shaky breath and gave the remains of the study one last look over Michael’s shoulder. "I . . . I think we need to leave now. Whatever it was Ms. Diaz had for us, somebody else got to it first. Um, let’s just go and call the police from the road."
Michael shook himself out of his thoughts. "Why are we calling the police?"
"Because, there’s been a break-in and the owner of the house is missing. Sounds like a job for the local authorities to me." She grabbed his arm and they made their escape from the devastated home.
With the exception of a brief stop at a gas station to phone the police, the drive back to the hotel was done in silence. Maria had her hands tucked under her legs to keep them from shaking and Michael kept a nervous eye on the street behind them. He took the most roundabout way back to the hotel he could manage and even backtracked a few times. It was half-past seven when they finally pulled into the hotel parking lot and they sat for a few moments to collect their thoughts before going in.
When they were safely in their room, Maria knocked on the door connecting their room to the one Max and Liz shared. The door opened immediately and she faced the concerned faces of her friends. Liz saw the tension on Maria’s face and darted a dark glance at Michael. Maria begged off telling them about the trip to Ms. Diaz’ until they could get something to eat and Michael stuck to his earlier decision and refused to join them, saying there was a hockey game on he couldn’t miss. Max looked unhappy about that but he simply returned to the room he shared with Liz to grab his wallet and keys. They found a restaurant a short distance from the hotel and sat for nearly two hours talking about what they had discovered that day. Max and Liz were disturbed by Maria’s tale of destruction and Maria, in turn, felt a rush of sympathy for the mysterious John Doe.
When they returned to the hotel they found an anxious and annoyed Michael Guerin pacing between the rooms. He snarled at Max and pulled Maria into their room shutting and locking the door behind him.
Max stared at the door for a long moment before Liz pulled him back and sat him down on the bed. She moved to stand between his legs and ran both of her hands through his hair, tugging his head back so that he would look up at her. "Ignore him, love. Just for tonight, ignore him." She placed a soft kiss on his lips and continued to stroke her fingers through his thick hair. She looked deeply into his dark, expressive eyes and watched as worry clouded them again. Liz tightened her grip. "Max," she whispered huskily, leaning in, "we have a hotel room all to ourselves, tonight. Just you and me. I’d hate to waste it." Her mouth was only inches from his and she closed the gap quickly. She felt his arms slip around her and she grunted in surprise when he pulled her roughly to him. She opened her mouth over his, her tongue darting out and tracing his lower lip, asking for entrance. He parted his lips and groaned deep in his throat when she dove in.
She cried out softly in annoyance when he broke the kiss. She was beginning to see the attraction to the very sweet and very spicy combination the aliens were so fond of. That was the taste of Max and she couldn’t get enough. He drew her down on the bed and slid an arm under her shoulders, pulling her body underneath his. He launched his own assault on her mouth and groaned again when he felt her tugging his shirt up to slide her warm fingers across his torso. He sat back and quickly pulled his shirt off to allow her full access, before resuming the kiss.
She sighed as his mouth wandered from hers and he began placing wet kisses along the line of her jaw. He worked his way to her ear and ran his tongue enticingly around the edge, nipping as he went. He felt her shiver under him as he blew gently across her ear. Suddenly he needed to make her tremble even more. He licked and bit his way down her throat and when he got to her collarbone he brought his free hand up and began to undo the buttons of her shirt. For every button he undid he pushed the fabric aside and placed a hot, open-mouthed kiss on her newly exposed flesh.
Liz couldn’t stop the involuntary shivers that shot through her body like lightning each time his lips touched her body. She ran one trembling hand up and down the smooth skin of his back, letting her nails gently graze his strong muscles. Her other hand alternated between gripping his shoulder tightly and threading through the soft hair at the back of his head trying to pull him closer. She gasped when his fingers brushed against her breast and arched her back when she felt his scorching kiss through her bra. "Oh god, Max," she whimpered. He lifted his head to look at her and she could see the ragged edges of his control as it slipped away from him. Staring into his golden eyes, she felt herself begin to melt away into their depths. How was it possible, she wondered with her last coherent thought, to feel so much for another person? To love them so completely?
All thoughts of control and restraint dissolved when he cupped her breast in his hand and began to knead it softly. She tugged his mouth down to hers and tried to devour him in a hungry kiss.
Liz tore her mouth from Max’s and looked over at the now open connecting door. Maria stood just inside, her arms crossed and one eyebrow raised.
"Why didn’t I lock the door? I should have locked the door. I should have melted the door shut," Max groaned and buried his face in the crook of Liz’s neck.
Liz tried to get her breath back, "What’s wrong, Maria?"
Maria pursed her lips, "You gonna take your hand off my friend’s boob, buddy?"
"No," came Max’s muffled reply.
Liz groaned and pushed at Max’s shoulders to get him to move. He slid his body off of hers and glared at Maria.
"I need to talk to you, Lizzy. Now." Maria’s voice was thick with anxiety.
Liz was immediately concerned, "Okay. Um, can you wait next door while I, uh, pull myself back together?"
"No. I’ll wait for you in the hallway. The hotel has a café, it’s probably still open, we’ll go there." She didn’t wait for an answer before walking through their room and out the door.
"Are you sure Maria isn’t an alien?" Max asked.
"Uh, pretty sure. Why?"
"She has this gift. It’s like precognition. She knows exactly when the absolute worst time to interrupt us is and she hits it every time. She’s way too consistent for it to be coincidence. It’s freakish."
"Well I wouldn’t say that that was the absolute WORST time . . ." Liz laughed.
Max looked up at her and blushed before grabbing for her. "Close enough." He pressed a kiss between her breasts and growled in annoyance when she pulled away and began buttoning up her shirt again.
"I won’t be long," she promised looking down at him. Her breath caught in her throat at the sight of him on the bed with his hair tousled, his lips red, his face flushed, and his chest delectably bare. She swallowed heavily, "I really, really, won’t be long."
"Isn’t it a little late for coffee?" Liz asked when they sat down at a small table with their drinks.
"A little late for what?" Maria replied bitterly. "So you and his highness seemed a little too comfortable with each other. He better have some sort of protection."
"Maria." Liz blushed furiously.
Maria met her blush with a no-nonsense look. "Well?"
Liz cleared her throat before replying, "Yeah, he does."
Maria’s eyes widened a little in surprise, "Have you two . . . you know, made love?"
"Maria . . ."
"No, I claim best friend privilege, you are required to tell me these things. Have you two had sex?"
"No, Maria, we have not had sex, and I promise, when we do, you’ll be the first to know."
Maria regarded her closely for a few seconds. "You’re sure you two haven’t had sex?"
"Trust me, Maria, that is something I would remember."
Maria sat back, obviously satisfied with that answer. "So I gather I interrupted a fairly momentous event then."
Liz felt her cheeks heat again. "Yes, I do believe you did."
"Okay, he’d better have protection or you’re trading rooms with me tonight. Unless you want to run over to the convenience store across the street before we go back."
"Maria, it’s fine. You know, I’ve had a similar discussion with my parents, and while I appreciate your concern, I think we’ve got it covered."
"So to speak," Maria smirked.
Liz sighed at sipped at her hot chocolate. "Okay, Maria. What’s going on? You didn’t drag me out for a late night cappuccino just to talk about my sex life. Is it Michael?"
"It’s this whole situation. What are we doing, Liz? I mean it’s all cool and dandy to play along with some UFO nut who says that there is a mysterious and nefarious alien presence with a super secret evil base and all, but things are starting to get kind of scary. There was a totally bad vibe in that house today, more then just the general bad guy vibe. And that guy you saw at the hospital, he’d been experimented on and marked and had an implant. And don’t get me started on Torquil. There is something totally up with that guy.
"So what seriously happens if we stumble across this base? I mean people are disappearing now and others are turning up as total basket cases. I guess we could take that as a sign that we are getting close. But what do we do then? Do the eight of us charge this military complex in some sort of suicide raid for the good of the planet? ‘Cause that is really not cool with me.
"But, okay, yeah, mainly my current massive sense of unease originates with Michael. He was okay before this secret base crap and now he is totally insane. Liz, it’s like he hates everybody, especially Max. I mean, really hates him. If I couldn’t see my Michael in his eyes, I would swear he was a shape shifter or Rath or something. I kind of rely on the stability of the instability of my relationship with Michael. He may be a cold, insensitive jerk but he’s my cold, insensitive jerk. And he can push me away but so long as, you know, we can talk and argue, I know he’s okay. But, now he just snaps and snarls in, like, this totally uncharming, unSpaceboy-like way. He’s mean and angry. And I’ve known Michael Guerin for a long time. Maybe we haven’t always liked each other, but you know, we’ve been around each other and I have never seen him like this. Liz, he is scaring me. I’m not worried that he’s gonna hurt me or anything but, like today, at one point I was out of his line of sight for about thirty seconds and he went insane. Oh, and god forbid, I should mention Max or even slightly press him on what is wrong with him. He’s okay until one of those three things happens and then it’s like he loses a really tenuous grip on sanity." Maria stopped her rambling and took a deep breath.
She reached for her coffee and after taking a long drink, leveled an intense, searching gaze on her friend. "What I want, no, what I NEED, is to know what’s wrong with Michael. I can storm the castle walls and take on the mutant-zombie-alien-hybrid armies if I can know that Michael is okay. If I can have that peace-of-mind everything else is cool."
"Maria . . ."
"Don’t lie to me, Liz. I need the truth, and I think you know what it is." Maria said sharply, thwarting any protest of ignorance from Liz.
Liz didn’t flinch back from her friend’s demand, and kept her eyes locked on Maria’s while she thought of the best tactic to take. She decided that the truth was her only option. The bare, unpalatable truth, she was sure. "I can’t tell you."
"What do you mean, you can’t tell me?" Maria shot back hotly.
"I meant exactly what I said. I can’t tell you." She replied calmly.
"So you know what’s wrong with him?"
"And you won’t tell me?"
"I can’t tell you. There is a difference between can’t and won’t, Maria."
Maria’s eyes blazed as she looked across the table at her oldest friend. "We are talking about my boyfriend. I think you owe me the truth."
Liz took a sip of her hot chocolate, hoping it would somehow cut the acid that was swirling in her stomach. Everything about this situation was close to intolerable and it was only getting worse with every passing day. "I have told you the truth."
"So Michael went to you and not to me? Is that right?"
"There is a reason why he came to me, yes. But I can’t tell you what it is. I am so sorry Maria. Please, please, you have to trust me." Liz broke at the stricken look that crossed Maria’s face.
"Why should I trust you?" She asked harshly.
Liz’s head jerked in shock. "Why wouldn’t you? I swear to god, Maria, we aren’t doing this to hurt you."
"Really?" Maria laughed scornfully and stood up quickly. She stared blankly at Liz for a moment before turning and walking out of the café.
Liz sat in stunned silence, looking into her mostly empty cup of hot chocolate. She wondered idly if the sludge could be read like tea leaves. She could use a little guidance and support about now from the mystical forces of chocolate. Oh good Liz, your best friend turns on you for keeping secrets about her boyfriend and you start begging for help from the gods of hot beverages. Not a positive sign. Maybe you should go back to Dr. Trailor and have her put you in the padded cell next to Mr. John Doe. She snorted a laugh and stood up, following Maria out of the café.
She ran swiftly through the hallways trying to catch up to Maria. She’d just put her hand out to touch her elbow when they heard the sound of raised voices. Maria turned to her with her eyes wide and both young women started to run back to their rooms.
Liz fumbled with the keycard for a moment in her haste to get into the room. She had no doubt that the angry shouts coming from the room would disturb other guests in the hotel and she didn’t want to draw that sort of attention. She finally got the door open and she and Maria dashed into the room hoping to stop, or at least, tone down the fight.
Max and Michael stood inches from each other. Their faces red with rage and their bodies tense with fury.
"We’d all be better off if I was the fucking King. Then at least something would get done. Instead we’ve got to go through all this Charlie Brown wishy-washy shit every time a decision needs to be made. It’s no fucking wonder our planet fell apart, you were too busy being the bleeding heart to do what needed to be done."
"And what is your great solution? I’m not sure cold son of a bitch is a political office unless, of course, we just call you a tyrant."
"Since when is making tough decisions tyranny?"
"Since the ends justify the means. Any means. I didn’t know you’d turned into such a ruthless bastard, Michael."
"There’s a lot you don’t know Maxwell. I’m just sick of all the angsty "oh what if I make the wrong decision" bullshit. I think it’s that kind of crap from you that’s kept us from knowing more about ourselves. Maybe I think you need to get your head out of your ass and start making some hard choices if you want to be the King. Because if you don’t do it then I fucking will."
"Was that a threat?"
"Take it however you want it, Maxwell. You ever think that maybe Kivar’s not the bad guy? Huh? Maybe you were the bad guy. Maybe it was your shitty leadership that tore our planet apart and maybe YOUR people tried to keep hold of your pathetic reign by shipping us off to the asshole end of the galaxy with the Granolith. Some sort of fucked up last ditch effort to keep hold of power. Maybe you were the tyrant, Max. Has that ever crossed your mind?"
"Michael! Max!" Liz hissed sharply, crossing the room to step between the two enraged men. Maria gawked at her seemingly willful disregard of her own safety. "We could hear you down the hall," she said angrily, "and I’m sure others could, too. This is not the place to do this."
Michael sneered and swayed closer to Liz in an attempt to intimidate her with his size. "You know, Liz, I don’t really care what the fuck . . ."
She held her ground and glared up at him. "Leave now, Michael." Liz’s nostrils flared in irritation. "You have more then made your point."
Michael towered over her for a long second, as if to drive that point home, before turning without a word and disappearing into the next room.
Liz rubbed her hand tiredly across her face before turning to face the immobile Maria. "Do you want to sleep in here, tonight?"
Maria managed to shake off the paralysis at the sound of Liz’s voice. "No. I’m fine. It’ll be fine. It’s not me he hates." And with that she followed Michael, shutting and locking the connecting door behind her.
Liz turned around and looked at Max. An expression of bewildered pain was etched across his face. Liz’s heart broke at the sight. She’d been haunted by a similar look once before and she’d never wanted to see it again. "Oh Max. Oh, sweetheart." Her voice cracked and she choked on the last words. She wrapped her arms around him, hoping to give him some modicum of comfort and she let her tears fall onto his chest when she felt him return the embrace with crushing strength.
Maria stood in the middle of the room feeling lost. She watched Michael throw himself onto a bed and pick up the remote control as if nothing had happened. She grabbed her bag and disappeared into the bathroom to change into her pajamas and get ready for bed. She decided a long, hot shower was required if she was ever going to get to sleep. But after fifteen minutes under the pounding, scalding spray her body was still tense. She dried her hair and went through the other rituals of bedtime, all the while watching her pale face in the mirror as if it were a peculiar stranger in the glass not her reflection.
Feeling no more relaxed but exhausted nonetheless, she made her way to the other bed and pulled her journal from her bag. If ever there were a time for journal writing to impart some clarity on a situation this would be it, she thought. She scribbled for a while about the events leading up to the trip here when she sensed Michael’s presence at her side. She looked up at him and wondered, "what next"?
"Cause this bed has a better angle on the TV."
"Fine." She started to get out of the bed and go to the other when Michael grabbed her hand.
"You don’t freaking have to get out of bed. I just said to move over."
She glared at him but did as he requested anyway. He stretched out on the bed next to her and started flipping through the channels again. She watched him for a few seconds before returning to her journal writing. He landed on a sports talk show and after a few minutes drifted into sleep. He rolled over on his side and threw his arm across Maria’s waist. She looked down at him, surprised, but kept writing anyway. He started to mumble in his sleep. His grip on her tightened and he threw one of his legs over her own and pressed his face into her side. She felt tears sting at her eyes and she brushed his hair gently from his face. She finished what she was writing in the journal and tossed it onto one of the side tables. Then she turned off the TV and the lights and slipped down beside her Spaceboy, wrapping her arms around him and holding him as tightly as he held her.
The alarm clock’s numbers floated ghostlike in the dark room. 3 a.m.
"‘In the real dark night of the soul, it is always three o’clock in the morning, day after day.’" Michael mumbled to himself. He may not have been right, exactly where Michael was at that moment but he suspected that Fitzgerald’d gotten pretty damn close.
He closed his eyes tightly and buried his nose in Maria’s sweet smelling hair. He was spooned up against her. Her small body wrapped securely in his arms. His heart broke as he considered what he was about to do. God, he hoped she would forgive him. He’d said some pretty unforgivable things to Max, and that was painful enough, but he didn’t think he could make it if he thought Maria would never forgive him.
He held her tightly for a while longer, savoring what would probably be his last taste of peace for a long time. He roused himself from that blissfully warm cocoon and after placing a loving kiss on her cheek he shook her roughly from sleep. "Maria, wake up." He rumbled in her ear.
She jerked and squeaked and looked up at him with panic filled eyes. "What, Michael? What is it?"
"We have to go."
|posted on 8-Sep-2001 5:28:50 AM|
|posted on 8-Sep-2001 5:31:32 AM|
Tuesday, January 30, 2001
There is no doubt in my mind that Sunday was the worst day of my life. Not in some "oh my hair was awful", "oh I broke a nail", "oh my appendix burst" minor sort of way. No, this was watching everything I knew and loved and all the truth and trust in my life being blown apart in front of me. My heart turned to ashes. And there wasn’t a damn thing I could do about it.
It’s like that dream you have where you’re trying to get to something or get away from something and no matter how fast you run, and how hard you push yourself, you can’t move at all. Helplessness. Panic. Fear. I guess all of that.
Damn it. I told myself I couldn’t cry anymore. The stupid ink is running. Smearing. A mess. How appropriate.
I’m stronger then this. He was just some guy. Sure I was in love with him. Am in love with him. I’m strong enough to tell myself that truth. At least, I can have that, if nothing else. But, he made his choice. And I am stronger then this. If I weren’t strong would I have left him? Or was I weak because I left him. He made his choice and I made mine, there is strength in that. But if I gave up on him and ran, there’s not strength in that. Oh Jesus, I am so confused.
How could he do this? How could things be so bad that he couldn’t even talk to me? He probably never loved me. He never talked to me. He never really let me see inside. He never wanted to.
I still can’t believe it. I guess it’s just shock. There is just this weird sensation like there’s nothing inside anymore and I’m collapsing in on myself, like all the air just leaves my lungs and my lungs don’t want to draw any breath back in. My hands shake, my mouth is dry, I can’t hear, I can’t see. My mind feels like there’s this electric buzz that just hums through it all the time now, sometimes it is so loud I can’t even think. Sometimes I just want to lay on my bed and cry for the rest of my life and sometimes I am so angry I literally see red. I always thought that was just a saying, "seeing red," turns out when you get that angry everything actually does take on a red tint. Weird.
I don’t even know who I’m angry with.
Liz, because she’s keeping things from me?
Max, because he was supposed to be Michael’s best friend?
Michael, because he betrayed everything and left me?
The world, because all the men in my life leave me?
The universe, because it sent me Michael Guerin and took him away like some sort of cosmic practical joke?
Myself, because I wasn’t strong enough for Michael? Because I couldn’t understand him? Because I always gave him such a hard time? Because I wouldn’t shut up long enough to let him know that I was someone who would listen? Because I demanded too much? Because I couldn’t give him the love he needed?
Oh, well, I guess that answers that question.
Part of me knows I’m not the only one who’s in shock over what happened, but I can’t seem to bring the rest of me to care. The Czechs will huddle up and moan and groan about fate and destiny and family and betrayal and how no mere human can understand them. The humans will try and comfort me by heaping sickening clichés and platitudes on me until I puke. They’ll say they understand. They love aliens too. Gee, maybe we should have t-shirts or something. Liz will be the worst. I don’t even want to hear what she has to say. She and Max are so noble in their tragedy. He’s the King; she’s his soul mate. Michael and I were just . . . us. God knows that was a big enough pain in the ass most of the time. Our relationship certainly would never have qualified for some sort of melodramatic Opera.
I’m so tired. I haven’t left the house in two days. I absolutely do not have the energy to deal with any of them right now. But really, at this point I’m just pushing to see how long I can pull this off for before my mom tries to send me to a doctor and I drag my ass back to school.
And, may I just say that she is no help? I love her and she tries but she keeps bringing up the mistakes she made when she was younger, like I’m just a reflection of her and not my own person. God, she asked me if I was pregnant and if that was why Michael left and why I was so upset. I’m afraid I lost my temper. I know it’s a time honored teenage rebellion thing to say "mom, you just don’t understand" but in this case, Mom, you just don’t understand. She doesn’t understand why I’m so upset. All she knows is that I broke up with my boyfriend. Yeah, it hurts, but I’m young. There will be other guys. Better guys. I don’t think she ever fully recovered from finding Michael in my bed. She’s not ‘in’ on the whole extraterrestrials live among us thing, of course, and therefore isn’t aware of the magnitude of the betrayal. Good word. Betrayal. Very dramatic. Very powerful and epic.
Sheriff Valenti, ‘call me Jim’, gets it. He really liked Michael. I know he did. I think, of everybody, he understands how I feel best. He’s pretty pissed. Did that whole denial thing when I told him Sunday evening. "No, Michael wouldn’t do that." "That’s not like Michael." "I don’t believe Michael would ever do something like that." "Something else is going on." Yeah, Jim, well I’ve been there too and guess what, it looks like none of us knew Michael as well as we thought. Then I got a huge lecture on my apparent irresponsibility, how we shouldn’t have lied to our parents about Michael and Max coming up to Albuquerque, how we shouldn’t have gone off meeting mysterious and potentially dangerous strangers without telling him, how stupid is was of me to go off with Michael, yet again, that morning. I’m afraid I lost my temper again. But, then it was kind of cool. After I stormed off to my room, he knocked on my door a few minutes later and apologized to me. I started crying so hard. I hadn’t meant to. I just couldn’t stop. And he held me while I blubbered like a baby. That’s the first time I ever really knew what it was like to have a dad. Sure Jeff Parker always sort of had that father-figure thing going for him but I don’t think I could ever weep in his arms.
God, I hurt. I didn’t think it would hurt this much. Maybe it’s not so much the fact that he left as it is the way that he left.
"Get out of here."
Those were the last words he said to her. He grabbed her arm and growled them in her ear before shoving her away. The palms of her hands still stung from the bite of the dirt road when she fell. It was all she could feel anymore. Her hands. The sting as the scrapes pressed against the steering wheel, her knuckles aching and stiff from the tightness of her grip on the wheel, her fingers white and cold. Maria shifted her hands slightly, grinding the small cuts against the hard plastic, the flash of pain bringing her to her senses again.
You’d think that would have been enough to get the message across, she thought. No. Not Maria Deluca. She’s got to push her luck as much as she can.
She remembered getting to her feet and facing his dark, furious glare. She glanced over his shoulder at the three men standing just at the edge of the trees. She shivered at the memory. The tall one, what was his name? Lal? Lah? Something. His eyes were cold and dead. And they followed every move she made. Every gesture he made and every word he spoke conveyed the fact that he regarded her as some sort of potential prey. Then the arrogant one, Tesher, he’d touched her and looked at her like she was a piece of property he was considering buying. And, finally the average looking one, Wix. The scary one. Of course. He looked at her like he wanted to dissect her. Maria fought down a wave of nausea when her mind briefly wondered what would have happened if she’d come across the three men without Michael nearby.
Michael. She pulled over to the side of the highway when her stomach lurched and her vision swam. She closed her eyes and let her head rest against the back of the seat until the nausea subsided. The nausea passed fairly quickly only to be replaced by a pounding headache. She cracked her eyes open when a semi barreled by, shaking the Jetta. Gazing out the window she tried to remember how she got there. She decided she was about an hour south of Albuquerque, halfway home, but she didn’t remember much of the trip from Sulphur Springs. She remembered stopping to get gas in Santa Fe, but that was about it. She’d made the three-and-a-half hour drive on autopilot. God. Another three hours seemed like torture for her. All she had were her thoughts. Just running over and over in her head what had happened. She just wanted to stop thinking about it for a little while. She wanted to be safe at home, where things occasionally made sense.
Maria wrapped her trembling hands around the steering wheel again and pulled back onto the highway, and as the road slipped by under her tires her mind replayed the morning one more time.
His breath was hot in her ear when he shook her awake. He’d insisted that she hurry, only letting her scribble a hasty note to Liz and Max before pulling her roughly out of the room. They were one the road in minutes, the car headed north. She’d wanted to stop for breakfast in Los Alamos but he refused, saying they had to get where they were going as soon as possible. Another hour of winding roads brought them to a campground near the small town of Sulphur Springs. Michael parked the car and ignored any questions she asked about who they were waiting for and how he knew to drive to such an out of the way location. When she began to raise her voice he cut her off quickly and harshly, telling her simply to shut up and spurning any of her attempts to draw him into an argument.
They sat in stony silence for almost forty-five minutes. As Maria watched, Michael became more tense, angry and frightened with every moment that passed. He swore and got out of the car when the three men emerged from the forest. They spread out as they approached the car. Michael tried to intercept them, but the scary one, Wix, walked around him and opened the passenger side door. He gestured to her and she warily climbed out.
Michael talked quietly to the men as she stood by the side of the car. The three would take turns watching over her, two of them talking to Michael as the third would examine her closely. When it was Tesher’s turn with her, he touched her hair and ran his fingers along her face. Michael, who had been keeping a close eye on her, finally stormed back over to the car and pulled Tesher roughly from her side. He then turned on her and, handing her the keys to the car told her to leave. When she reached for his hand and asked him what was going on he pushed her away. She stumbled and fell to the ground. They watched her silently until she drove off.
Maria remembered thinking that Michael was in some sort of trouble and there was no way she could just leave him. She was too far away from Roswell to call for backup and she couldn’t find the number of the hotel in Albuquerque to call Max and Liz. With her mind made up to help Michael, whether he wanted it or not, she pulled the car off the road and got out. She hiked the half-mile back to the campground and, approaching it through the trees, tried to stay as quiet as she could.
When she could see the clearing again, she was surprised to find another dozen men and women surrounding Michael. It looked like a SWAT team jamboree. Scary as hell. She knew she was treading dangerously as she tried to get close enough to hear what was being said. They were watching the surrounding area closely and at any misstep of hers they would be on her in an instant. However, she was worried enough for Michael to risk it. How did he know these people would be here? What did they want with Michael? What was going to happen to him after they got what they wanted?
"So, was the prophet right about you?" Tesher asked Michael, a smile on his face.
Tesher walked slowly around the clearing, addressing Michael as he wandered. "He tells me you’re a man of great ambition and power. Do you think he’s right?"
"Hell if I know."
"Do you have the Granolith?"
Michael stared at the man for a second. "What do you mean, do I have it?"
"Did you bring it?"
Maria held her breath. They wanted the Granolith? And they thought Michael would give it to them? Is that what this was? They obviously didn’t know too much about it if they thought Michael could have it on him.
"Of course I didn’t bring it."
Tesher turned and walked back to stand in front of Michael. His voice was tight with irritation when he spoke. "We have an agreement, Michael."
"I know what our agreement is, Tesher. Problem is, though, I’m not too sure I trust you all that much."
"You’ll get what you want, Michael. As much as we need the Granolith we need a strong show of leadership as well. I don’t think the people will follow me but they will follow you."
"What about the king?"
"Well, it’s a rough world, it is entirely plausible that he could have met with an unfortunate accident in all the years he was away, but you, as his trusted second, could easily stand in his stead. You already have followers of your own, and I am sure the Royalists will gladly accept your reign. Better you then Kivar, eh?"
Michael considered the man for a moment before replying, "Better me then Max or Kivar. You’ll get the Granolith when I know I can trust you. I know some of my followers are here, I want to talk to them and I want to talk to this prophet of yours."
Tesher smiled and clapped Michael on the shoulder. "I understand, Michael. This has been a bloody war, friends are foes and foes are friends and nobody is quite as trustworthy as they were once upon a time."
Her mind had gone through the morning several more times when she finally pulled up in front of the Crashdown. No matter how many times she replayed it, nothing made anymore sense then it had when it happened. She pried her fingers from the steering wheel and looked down at her scraped palms. It all was so unreal. She noticed, dispassionately, that some of the small cuts seemed to be bleeding again. She poked at one and watched the blood ooze out. The sharp pain again served to draw her mind from the fog it wanted to settle in.
Maria got out of the car and stretched her stiff and tired limbs. She looked over at the café and wondered to herself if she really wanted to go in. She knew she was going to have to go over the morning yet again and was dreading that. However, she wanted answers. Liz knew something, or at least thought she knew something, about the whole situation with Michael. Maria found it hard to believe that they would be working together to give up Max and the Granolith. She needed to know what Liz knew and she needed it in the worst way.
And Max. Oh god. How did she tell Max what happened? How was she going to look Max in the eyes and tell him that the man he loved like a brother was negotiating to trade the Granolith for power? How did she tell him that Michael had turned on all of them so that he could be the king? Unable to come up with any answers, Maria rubbed the tears from her eyes and shuffled brokenly into the café.
Standing just inside the door she surveyed the Crashdown warily, as if afraid their enemies might have beaten her back. The café was quiet, January not being tourist season and the lunchtime rush having passed. She spotted Max and Liz talking to Jeff Parker at the counter. She hadn’t gone two steps before a booming voice stopped her.
"Maria, lass, ye look pure forfochen. Ur ye ill?" Torquil came up beside her and was trying to lead her to the booth he had been sitting at.
She tried to politely extricate her arm from his grip. "Thanks, Torquil, I’m okay. I just really need to talk to Liz and Max."
"How kin ye tell ma yer fine? Ah kin see in yer eyes yer hert roasted."
"It’s nothing. I . . . My boyfriend and I, uh, had a fight. He, uh, left me." Her throat was tightening unbearably. She didn’t want to go into this with Torquil.
Torquil growled, "Michael. Tha’ bastartin bear. Did he hurt ye, lass? Ah’ll melt ra sleekit ned."
"No, I’m okay. Please. I just need to talk to Liz."
Torquil looked at her closely before finally stepping away. "O’ course, Maria. O’ course. Ye kin where tae find ma if ye need ma," he said gently.
"Thank you, Torquil." She started across the café again. When she looked up she saw that Max and Liz were watching her approach.
"My god, Maria. Are you okay?" Liz asked hopping off the stool. She sat Maria down and looked her over carefully. She turned Maria’s hands over to look at her palms when the other young woman flinched and tried to pull her hands from her friend’s gentle squeeze.
"I fell." She said simply, answering the question in Liz’s eyes.
Liz just nodded. "We should clean those cuts out."
"Forget it. I’ll clean ‘em later." Maria looked down at her hands again. They were bizarrely fascinating today. It was almost like they were her only connection to the world; the rest of her was trying to float away. She jumped when Max put his hand on her shoulder.
"Maria? Are you okay? What happened?"
She refused to meet his gaze, knowing what she’d find there. His warm eyes trying to give her some sort of comfort but also trying to peer into her to puzzle out what was going on. She shook her head and place her trembling hands on her knees.
"Michael’s not coming back." She said simply and quietly. She looked on with some sort of satisfaction as Liz rocked back on her heels, clearly surprised by that bit of information. Max however didn’t digest that news so well.
"What? What do you mean he’s not coming back?"
"I mean he is not coming back. He . . ." She took a deep breath and felt the first sparks of anger burn through her dazed mind. "He is going to try to trade the Granolith for power. To be the ruler of your goddamned planet."
Max was thunderstruck. His mouth opened and closed several times before he could get any sound out. "No. That can’t be right. You must not have seen or heard what you thought you did. Michael would never do that."
"Oh, believe me Max, he did. He thought I was gone. He didn’t know I heard it. The guy he met, Tesher, was pretty clear about their deal. Michael would give him the Granolith and in return Michael would get their support to become king."
Max blinked a few times and his voice was harsh when he spoke, "How? I don’t understand. What do they get from Michael and the Granolith?"
"Tesher said that his people needed the power of the Granolith but they also needed a strong leader figure. Tesher was certain that the people loyal to Michael and the people loyal to you would follow Michael in your place if something were to happen to you. He seemed to think that that would be enough to topple Kivar."
"What?" Liz asked sharply as she came around to stand next to Max.
"If something happened to me?"
"He mentioned an accident."
Max went deathly pale and felt the bile rise in his throat. This couldn’t be happening. Michael would never betray them, would he?
"What I want to know, Liz, is what you know about this." Maria turned her angry gaze on her oldest friend.
Liz froze, completely unsure of what to say. She stared blankly at Maria for a long moment. "Maria, I don’t know . . ."
"Don’t give me that, Liz. What do you know about this?"
"Maria, I really, don’t . . ."
"Damn it, Liz," she hissed, "I am your best friend. Don’t I deserve to know what is going on here?"
"Wait, wait. Liz, do you know about this?" Max asked, clearly confused.
"Look, Maria, I don’t know what to say. I don’t know what to tell you."
Maria jumped off the stool, her smoldering anger finally igniting. "I just watched Michael betray everything. EVERYTHING. Why? Why did he do this? Why the hell is everything so ridiculously complicated all the time? How hard is the fucking truth? And I don’t want to hear any of that end of the world crap."
Liz shook her head helplessly. Maria had a point. Why did everything have to be so complicated? "I have to think."
"You have to think." Maria pressed her lips together tightly and tried to swallow back the sorrow that was threatening to overtake her. "I don’t know how much longer I can do this, Lizzy. How many times can I die inside before I can’t take anymore?" The tears were now rolling freely down her face as she turned and left the restaurant.
Liz stood in the Crashdown seemingly lost in her own world. She had a hand pressed over her mouth and her eyes shut tightly, trying to ward off any words or tears.
"Liz?" Said a choked voice behind her.
She turned to Max and put a gentle hand to his face and looked into his wounded gaze. "I am so sorry, Max. Please, I swear it’s not what you think. It’s not what you think, honey."
"What is it then?" He asked, pain evident in his voice.
"I’ll tell you. I just need some time to think. Okay? Just a little bit. We . . .we can call a meeting for tonight and I’ll tell everybody."
"I thought we agreed to no more secrets or lies," He said quietly.
Liz felt sick to her stomach. She’d hurt him again. God, how many times did she have to do this? "We did. We’ll talk about this. I just need to think and then I’ll tell you everything. Tonight. I promise."
Max looked at his beautiful love for a long moment before nodding slightly. He wished they could always be honest with each other. He wanted to believe that she would never feel that she had to keep anything in her life from him. He wanted everything of hers and to give her everything of his. No questions, no qualifications, just the open sharing of their lives. However, he could think of times when he could conceivably feel that, if it was for her safety, it might be necessary to keep things from her. Ultimately, the truth was that he loved her and most importantly, trusted her. His heart was broken over the revelations of the afternoon but she swore to him that it wasn’t what it looked like and he would place his faith in her until she decided to share everything with him.
"Tonight," he whispered, pulling her into a tight embrace.
"I love you, Max." She kissed him lightly on the cheek and walked into the back room.
He rubbed his hands roughly over his face and slouched back onto his stool. He looked out across the mostly empty café and his gaze fell on the mysterious Torquil MacNab. Torquil was engrossed in some papers spread out in front of him and seemed oblivious to his surroundings, but Max suspect that that was far from being the case. He realized that he hadn’t told Liz he’d be at the UFO Center and turned to follow after her.
As he pushed through the door to the back room, his mind was going in two dozen places at once. It didn’t register with him at first that Liz was standing in the middle of the room, seemingly frozen and staring at the blank wall in front of her. It took him a moment longer to realize that she hadn’t responded when he’d said her name. And it was just another moment before his greatest fear would manifest itself as she collapsed limply to the floor.
|posted on 8-Sep-2001 1:51:30 PM|
|What's a gal got to do to get this to go to a second page?|
|posted on 8-Sep-2001 2:02:02 PM|
Max’s body turned to ice, his heart freezing in his chest as Liz dropped, unconscious, to the floor. He fell to his knees next to her and fumbled for her wrist, checking for her pulse. His own heart started beating again when he felt her strong pulse and could see her chest rising and falling with an even breath. Max pulled Liz into his arms and patted her cheeks gently, trying to revive her.
"Liz, sweetheart, come on, wake up. Please, baby, wake up for me," he pleaded.
"Oh my god, Lizzy." Jeff Parker had been going over inventory when he heard Max’s frantic cry and now he saw the young man cradling his daughter’s still form as he tried to wake her. "What happened Max?" He asked running over to the pair.
"I don’t know, Mr. Parker. I came back here to tell her something when she just passed out." Max fought back the waves of panic that were crashing through him and turned his gaze back to Liz. "Please, baby. Liz, wake up. Look at me, please," he tried and failed to keep the tears from his eyes. This was his greatest fear. That something would happen to Liz and he would be powerless to help her.
Jeff watched Max as he tenderly caressed Liz’s cheek and whispered to her to wake for him. He was sick with worry but was also surprised to find a swell of jealousy. Jeff resisted the urge to pull his little girl from Max’s grasp and climbed to his feet to call for a doctor. At that moment Liz stirred in Max’s arms and her eyelids fluttered open.
"Max?" She whispered.
"I’m here, sweetheart. It’s okay. You’re okay." Max choked on a tiny laugh when relief flooded his body. He cupped her face with one large hand and pulled her tighter against his body with the other. He was about to make a connection with her, to heal whatever was wrong, when Jeff dropped back down beside them and took one of Liz’s hands.
"Lizzy, honey. Are you alright?"
Liz looked over at her father, surprised. She hadn’t known he was there. "I’m okay, dad." She realized what Max was about to do and tried to pull herself away from him, however that only succeeded in making him hold on to her even more tightly. "Max, let me sit up, at least."
He growled in annoyance but loosened his grip on her so she could move to sit next to him on the floor. He refused to take his arm from around her shoulders, though, and kissed her cheek gently when she gave him a sour look.
"Lizzy, I want you to just sit there for a minute, I’m going to go call Dr. Vernon’s office."
"No. Dad, really, I’m okay. I . . . uh, I think I’m just tired. It’s kind of been a long weekend. You know. Lots of hours in the car and not getting much sleep or eating right and stuff. I think I just need to, um, eat something and take a nap."
Jeff looked his daughter over carefully. He could see the lack of color in her face and the dark circles under her eyes. She did appear to be run down but that did little to assuage his concern. "Liz, you fainted, honey. That’s serious. I really think you need to see Dr. Vernon."
Liz shook her head at her father and started to get to her feet. She ignored the sounds of protest that came from both Jeff and Max, but was secretly glad Max was insisting she let him support her. She wasn’t feeling particularly steady on her feet. What she really needed was to get Max alone for a few minutes to talk to him.
"Liz . . ." Jeff started again.
"Dad, really. I’m fine."
"Max?" Jeff turned to his daughter’s boyfriend. If she wouldn’t listen to him maybe she’d listen to Max.
Max’s eyes widened in shock and he looked back and forth between father and daughter a couple of times. This can only end badly, whichever way I go, he thought to himself. Concern won out and he found his voice after a long, uncomfortable pause. "I think maybe your Dad’s right, Liz. Um, it wouldn’t hurt to have a doctor just check you out. I mean, maybe you, uh, just need to take a break or something, but I know we’d all feel better if we knew for sure you were okay."
Liz didn’t appreciate being double teamed by her father and her boyfriend. "Alright, guys, knock it off. I’m serious. It’s low blood sugar or something. I just want to lie down for a little while." She shook off Max’s arm and started towards the stairs. In her irritation she changed her mind about wanting to speak to Max.
Max exchanged a frustrated look with Jeff before taking a few quick steps to Liz, picking her up in his arms.
"You want to go take a nap, fine. But you just passed out and the last thing I need is to watch you fall down the stairs."
Liz tried to squirm free but he simply glowered at her and locked his arms around her more securely.
"I am entirely capable of walking."
"And I am entirely capable of carrying you up those stairs and since I’m not putting you down I don’t think you have a choice."
"You’re an infuriating man." She replied petulantly.
"You’re an infuriating woman." He shot back.
She sighed and rested her head against Max’s shoulder. She knew she was just being stubborn as a point of pride, she hated seeming weak in front of anybody, especially Max and her father. There were, however, worse things then being carried to bed by Max Evans, she decided. "Fine."
Jeff followed Max up the stairs, a smile on his face. He was still worried about Liz but was more then a little relieved that she seemed to be plenty strong enough to put up a fight. He watched as Liz put her arms around Max’s neck and sighed again, and he watched as Max bent his head to brush a kiss against her forehead. He was struck once again by a pang of jealousy. He was the one who was supposed to protect and comfort his little girl. His knee-jerk reaction as a father was to deny that any man, let alone a teenaged boy, could ever take care of his daughter like she deserved. Jeff realized, however, that he was in danger of underestimating Max Evans.
He’d watched the boy moon after Liz forever, it seemed, and he remembered all too clearly the day that adoration from afar turned into something else. To be sure, their relationship seemed to have had some rather serious ups and downs, but since Christmas they had been nearly inseparable. At one point he and Nancy discussed the possibility that they were spending too much time together and perhaps they should step in, but they’d decided against that course of action. Liz was happy, her grades were as solid as ever, and her work didn’t seem to be suffering, in fact, she’d taken on a second job at the UFO Center.
And Max. He’d seen the fear in the boy’s eyes when he cradled Liz in his arms, he watched how tenderly Max held her, and could clearly see how much the young man cared for Liz, how devoted he was to her. Jeff made a mental note to talk to Max, man to man, as soon as possible.
Max carried Liz into her room and laid her gently on the bed. She struggled against him when he tried to take her shoes off of her. "I am not an invalid, Max. Dad, make him stop." Max just smiled and continued what he was doing while Jeff stood in the doorway with an amused expression on his face.
"He seems determined, honey. Better let him finish or you’ll never get that nap."
She mumbled something that sounded suspiciously like a condemnation of the male of the species, any species, and sat back against her headboard. She looked down at Max while he removed her socks and pulled a blanket up over her legs. How could she stay annoyed at him when he was so endlessly sweet? She needed to get rid of her father so she could talk to him.
"Dad, could you get me a glass of water and maybe an apple or something? I think I need to eat a little bit."
"Sure honey. I’ll be right back."
Max sat down on the edge of her bed, clasping her hand in his. "Are you sure you’re okay, Liz?" He asked quietly.
"I can’t believe you were going to try and heal me with my father right there."
"It didn’t matter."
"Max, he would have found out."
"God, Liz, you can’t honestly believe I care about that. You’re all that matters." He brought a hand up and brushed a finger across her lower lip. "I love you, Liz. I’ll do anything for you. I think you should let me check to make sure you’re okay."
"I really am okay, Max." She kissed his finger and relaxed back against her bed. "I had a vision."
Max raised a surprised eyebrow. "What kind of vision? That’s what made you pass out?"
"Yeah, I guess it was just a little too much for my mind. I . . . I’m not sure what the vision was. The images were all jumbled and chaotic. I need to think about it, try to sort it out."
"Was it related to what’s been going on? The search and . . . and Michael?"
"Yeah, I’m pretty sure it is. It’s starting to fade away. Like a dream."
Max gazed at her for a few minutes while her mind worked on the problem. He smiled and leaned forward to take her lips in a kiss. She responded almost immediately, enjoying immensly the feel of his lips massaging hers. They broke off the kiss before it deepened when they heard Jeff approaching the room again. Max sat back, unembarrassed. He loved Liz and he didn’t care who knew it, on the other hand, he wasn’t particularly comfortable with making out with the man’s daughter in front of him.
"Here you go, Lizzy." Jeff said, setting a plate of fruit and cheese by her bed.
Max cleared his throat and stood up. "I’m gonna go now, if you’re sure you’re okay Liz."
"I’m fine, Max."
"I’ll be right across the street at the museum if you need me. Brody and Torquil are going someplace this evening but I’ll be there until probably nine or so."
She nodded, acknowledging his subtle message. "Maybe I’ll come over later with some dinner for you."
"Only if you’re feeling up to it, otherwise I’ll just come back over here. Okay?"
He leaned down and placed a quick kiss on her lips. "I love you, doll face," he whispered.
She laughed and shook her head at her new nickname. "You’re such a sap. I love you, too."
Max walked slowly into the restaurant’s dining room, the stress of the past week seemed to be catching up to him, he felt drained and exhausted. Liz’s collapse and the news of Michael’s treachery were enough to do him in. He decided he wasn’t quite up to going back to the UFO Center, so he slid weakly into the nearest booth. He closed his eyes and rested his head in his hands, trying for just a moment not to think.
"Ye look pure puggled, lad."
Max jumped at the sudden thunderous voice in his ear. His head snapped up and he stared dumbly at Torquil, trying to get his thoughts back in order. "Huh?"
Torquil smiled at him and took a seat across from Max. "Tired. Ye look tired, lad."
"Oh, uh, yeah, it’s been kind of a long few days."
"Yer freen, Michael’s at it, eh?"
"Uh . . ." Max felt his stomach clinch at the mention of his oldest friend, but was unsure how to respond.
"Ye’d rather nae talk aboot it? Ah can understand."
"Thanks," Max mumbled. He was more then a little wary of Torquil MacNab these days. Kyle and Alex’s revelation that he was looking for Max, or rather, the king, put him on edge around the burly Scot. He liked Torquil, he really did, but his trust evaporated quickly, replaced by anxiety and suspicion.
Torquil, however, wasn’t ready for the conversation to end. "Ah can see tha’ ye’ve a mountain on yer shoulders. Ye’ur young tae be sae burdened. Ye’ur nae responsible fer yer freen's actions, ye kin?"
"Aren’t I?" Max muttered, more to himself then as a response to Torquil. Questions and self-doubts were swirling all about his mind. Michael was his friend, his brother, and his general. How could he have let this happen? How could he have let the faith they had in each other erode to such a point that Michael would leave? He abruptly stomped on those thoughts before they could weigh him down any further. Liz told him this was not what it seemed and he clung desperately to her assurances.
"Nae," Torquil replied firmly. He let his thickly muscled forearms rest on the table and leaned towards Max. "Ye an’ all yer freens seem tae carry a lot upon yersels. Why is tha’? Ye should be goin’ tae parties an’ worryin’ aboot exams an’ makin’ fun o’ yer instructors. ‘Stead ye all look like ra fate o’ ra world is restin’ on ye." He said evenly, his unblinking gaze locked on Max.
Max recognized the look in Torquil’s eyes. It was a look he’d seen in Sheriff Valenti’s eyes before he knew about Max and the others, when he was trying to solve the mystery of the Crashdown shooting. It was a look he’d seen in Ms. Topolski’s eyes when she tried to find out which of them were alien. It didn’t ease his mind much that they’d both turned out to be allies. It was a look that meant Torquil knew something and, more importantly, that he knew Max knew something.
"I don’t know what you’re talking about."
"Really? Yer face, lad. Pale an’ wan. Ah see it in yer lass’ face as well. An’ Maria, sad an’ ragin’. ‘Tis more than just yer freen bein’ an erse. Auld hurts runnin’ deep, they ur. Ah’m nae a numpty, lad, an’ ah’ve eyen in ma heid."
"It’s nothing." Max replied firmly.
Torquil leaned even closer and narrowed his eyes, searching Max’s face for something. Max fidgeted uncomfortably under the intense scrutiny and cast his eyes around the empty dining room for some sort of escape. Max sighed in relief when he saw his sister enter the café with Alex in tow. She didn’t look very happy but it was the distraction he needed. Isabel saw him immediately and was crossing the room towards him when Alex grabbed her arm and turned her towards him. After a few whispered words Alex dashed out of the café.
Torquil turned to see what had attracted Max’s attention and looked curiously at the young woman who stood in the middle of the café. Isabel turned back around and the perplexed expression on her face faded as she fixed a glare on Max. He groaned audibly and rolled his eyes.
"There’s a stoater lass. Beauty." Torquil said appreciatively with a wink at Max.
Max looked over at the other man in disgust. "That’s my sister."
Isabel stopped next to Max and looked down on him imperiously. "Max."
Max took his opportunity and jumped up out of the booth. "Uh, Torquil this is my sister, Isabel. Isabel this is Torquil. Um, Is and I need to talk so, uh, I’ll see you later, Torquil."
Max didn’t give either of them time to exchange pleasantries before he grabbed Isabel’s arm and pulled her from the café. Once outside Isabel yanked her arm from his grasp.
"What’s your problem Max?"
"He knows. He knows." Max replied breathlessly, darting a look behind them to make sure Torquil hadn’t followed them.
"He knows what?"
"I don’t know."
"Okay, our lives are cryptic enough, you don’t need to add to it."
"Why did Alex leave so suddenly?"
"You’re changing the subject."
Great, Isabel sighed inwardly, he was focused on something else. It was Hell having conversations with her brother when he was preoccupied. "He didn’t want Torquil to see him."
"Oh." Max fell silent again and they continued walking.
"Max? Where are we going?"
"Huh? Oh, I need to talk to you and I just want to make sure Torquil’s not around."
"Okay, Max, I think we’ve gone far enough. Stop." Isabel reached out for his hand and noted for the first time how worn he looked.
"Torquil. I don’t know. He was just giving me that look that says he knows who I am. What I am."
Isabel stared at Max in shock. "You think he knows who we are? How?"
"I don’t know. But remember how, before he knew us, the Sheriff used to always be around wherever we went, and how he was always asking everybody questions? Torquil does the same thing. It’s making me nervous and we know he’s looking for the king and now this whole deal with Michael and . . . and . . . god." He squeezed his eyes shut and put a hand to his forehead.
"Wait. What whole deal with Michael?"
"He’s gone. Uh, Maria got back about an hour ago I guess. She said that he, uh, damn it," Max swore and tried to pull his scattered mind together. Where was his self-control when he really needed it? He took a deep breath and tried again to get the words out. "She said he made some sort of deal with, I guess, another faction in the war. The Granolith for political power."
Isabel shook her head, refusing to believe what she’d just heard. "No, no. No way."
"Yeah, I know. Maria was, um, fairly devastated. She’s pretty convinced that Michael’s turned on us. You know she’d give him the benefit of a doubt but she was . . . she looked terrible, Is." He looked at his sister’s pale, drawn face and continued on hurriedly. "But, but, Liz knows something about what’s been going on with Michael. She says it’s not what it appears to be. I’m going to have everybody meet at the Center tonight and she’ll tell us what’s going on."
"Why the hell doesn’t she just tell us now? Why do we have to wait tonight? Michael could be in trouble." Isabel’s eyes blazed at the thought of a threat to her family.
"She passed out a few minutes after Maria left."
"I assume she’s okay because you’re standing here with me. I want to know about Michael."
"I know, Is, but I want Liz to rest. She’ll tell us tonight."
They aimlessly walked the streets of Roswell for nearly half an hour.
"How would Liz know what’s wrong with Michael? I didn’t think they ever really had anything to do with each other." Isabel asked, finally breaking the silence.
Max shrugged. "I’m not sure. She talked about the two of them being the group’s protectors. I guess maybe they’ve talked more then we thought they did." He stopped walking and turned to face his sister. "I have to go back to work. I told Liz I’d be there if she needed me."
"What are you going to do about Torquil?"
"Nothing for now. I don’t really want to go back but I can’t avoid it. Do me a favor, Is, call everybody and tell them we’re going to have a meeting at the Center at eight. Torquil and Brody are leaving at seven for some sort of dinner meeting."
Isabel nodded her agreement and looked closely at her brother’s face. "Do you think Michael’s okay?"
Max put his arm around Isabel’s shoulders and squeezed gently. "I hope so."
|posted on 8-Sep-2001 2:06:46 PM|
|posted on 8-Sep-2001 2:20:02 PM|
Liz Parker crept as soundlessly as possible down the stairs that led from her family’s apartment to the restaurant below. Her parents had been hovering like gnats all afternoon. She’d even had to feign deep sleep to keep her mother from dragging her to the hospital when she found out about Liz’s collapse. When restlessness and her frustrated thoughts finally got to be too much, she climbed out of bed and put on her most cheery demeanor, then she spent the better part of the afternoon convincing her parents that she felt a million times better. Unfortunately her mother’s maternal overprotective instinct was as sharp as ever and Liz was forced to agree to a doctor’s appointment later that week. She thought better of asking them if she could go across the street to see Max and decided just to go.
Liz ducked quietly out the back door and walked slowly along the side of the building. She wasn’t looking forward to tonight. Seeing Max was always a good thing but she didn’t think she’d make it through the night unscathed. Maria was furious, and rightfully so, but even now Liz wasn’t sure she was doing the right thing in breaking Michael’s confidence. The only thing that would make this situation worse would be if it was Future Michael who’d come back to get her to lie to all her friends again. She snorted a soft laugh. Well, at least she was enjoying her newfound gallows humor.
She crossed the street with reluctant, plodding steps and hesitated in front of the museum. Was it her fate, she wondered, to be the alien secret keeper? And if it was could she politely decline the honor? She stiffened her spine and pulled open the door, she would go in and do what she had to do. There wasn’t one thing about her life that she regretted, because it brought her Max, but sometimes she wished the answers were a little less vague. Oh, well, vague might even be a step up, she allowed, muddy, murky, dark and indistinct was more like it.
She stopped at the top of the stairs and looked at everybody gathered below. The Sheriff sat on the small couch with Tess, and Kyle was perched on the arm next to her. Isabel and Max sat at a long fold out table and Alex hovered at the edge of the room watching Isabel. This wasn’t going to be easy. She started down the stairs and stopped again when she realized she didn’t see Maria.
"Liz?" Max called.
She shook herself from her confusion and continued on. "Where’s Maria?"
Sheriff Valenti, his face tired and lined with worry, answered, "She wasn’t feeling very well, Liz. She told me what happened with Michael. Or, at least, what she thinks happened with Michael. I have to tell you, I’m having a hard time believing it."
"We’re all having a hard time," Isabel spoke up, her icy gaze locked on Liz. "What is going on, Liz?"
"Isabel." Max barked.
Liz put a hand on his arm. "It’s okay, Max. She’s just worried."
"Where is Michael? What’s wrong with him? Who are these people he met with?" Isabel continued tenaciously.
"That’s enough, Isabel." Max snapped.
"Please stop. I’ll tell you what I know. Can I just sit down?" Liz asked quietly.
Alex crossed the room to his friend and pulled her to a seat at the table and then sat next to her. "It’s okay, Lizzy. Just tell us what happened as best you can."
She nodded gratefully at Alex. She took a deep breath and looked up at Max who moved his chair to sit at her other side. Calmed by the supportive presence of her closest friend on one side and her love on the other, she took a deep breath and tried to decide where to start.
"Today would be nice, Liz."
"Leave her alone, Is." Alex said shortly.
"Look, Isabel, I know you’re worried about Michael, and I am too. I didn’t expect him to go off like this. I don’t like that he’s out there by himself, either." Liz said, trying to mollify the angry young woman.
Kyle, Tess, and the Sheriff joined them at the table and Liz took one more deep breath before plunging into her tale. "I guess it started a few weeks ago, right after New Year’s. Michael started having these really weird dreams. At first that’s all they were, just strange dreams, but then they started to become more coherent and consistent."
"Wait." Kyle interrupted. "I thought you and Michael didn’t even like each other, and he’s telling you his dreams?"
Liz put her elbows on the table and tried to rub the weariness from her eyes. She’d already been over this with Max and she wasn’t even sure she’d explained it very well to him. "Michael and I, well, we kind of understand one another. We, I don’t know how to say this, we respect each other. After he found out about the whole Future Max fiasco he came to me with about a million questions. Mostly he wanted to make sure that the group was safe. That there weren’t going to be any further repercussions from the whole situation. I told him what I could and then we just started talking. About our roles in the group, how we feel about our duty to protect everybody, about the pressures of our lives, about Maria, about Max, about everybody and all the insanity. We don’t talk very often. As you know, Michael isn’t very communicative, but it’s been nice to have somebody around to talk to with a different perspective. And I know Michael feels the same way."
"When did this start?" Max asked, a little uncomfortable with the fact that his girlfriend and his best friend had become so close without his knowledge.
"Well, it was after we got back together. I think he came over right after you told him what happened with your future self and the end of the world. So, I guess, Christmas."
"Why didn’t you mention any of this?"
"We weren’t hiding anything, Max. You know how Michael is, how closed off he is. I think he was just kind of embarrassed that’d he’d opened up so much. He didn’t want anybody to know that we talked so much about the stuff that goes on in his head. His way of dealing with painful or difficult situations is to make it look like he doesn’t feel, like he’s stone, but if everybody knew that he wasn’t stone then he’d feel like maybe he wouldn’t appear to be strong enough. That’s just the way he is. And when we talked he could just say things, how he felt, without any sort of judgement or pity or defensiveness from me. Like I told you, Max, he has a clean slate with me. We both want the same thing and we both respect that we will do what we need to, to protect the group."
"Is that what this is about?" Tess asked. "Protecting everybody? That’s why he’s gone?"
"Yeah," Liz said sadly. "Normally, I wouldn’t go along with one of his push everybody away schemes, but in this case, it really was the only way. They were watching too closely."
"Who’s watching?" Sheriff Valenti asked, immediately on guard.
"Let me start from the beginning, okay?"
Max took her hand and squeezed it reassuringly. "It’s okay, sweetheart, just take your time."
"Okay, so a few weeks ago he started having these very odd dreams. In them he was meeting with this woman and a man she called the Prophet. They started to come to him every night. And every night the dreams would become more vivid. The Prophet never spoke directly to him but the woman, who he just called the Protector of the Prophet, began to tell him things. She told him that he had to protect the Oracle and that there was a Disciple and his right-hand man who were after the Oracle. They wanted the power and authority and respect that came with possession of the Oracle. She told Michael the he was one of a very few who knew about the Oracle and that he had to do everything he could to keep it safe. Eventually, Michael decided that the Oracle was actually the Granolith.
"The Protector told him that the Oracle belonged with the King and that this Disciple absolutely could not be allowed anywhere near it or the King. She warned him that the Disciple was on Earth and getting closer and closer all the time. The Disciple had his right-hand man out looking for the King because if he found the King and he’d find the Oracle. She also told him that this Disciple had gathered an army to him and he had formed an alliance with an Earth government.
"Michael never told me about these dreams, by the way. Or at least, not until last Tuesday. He was trying to push me away just like everybody else, and I have to admit, he was doing a pretty good job of it. He scared me a bit and I lost my temper with him a couple of times this week. He wouldn’t talk to me at all until Tuesday night. Even then I know he was so scared and so close to losing it he tried to keep some things back, but he just had to talk to somebody.
"Anyway, the dreams got pretty intense for a couple of weeks and then faded away until last Saturday night. If you remember that’s when we told everybody about Torquil and the secret base. Then the Protector and the Prophet came back to him and told him that the Disciple’s right-hand man was in Roswell and was watching all of us."
"Okay, so if this right-hand man was in Roswell and I think we can assume he found Max, why didn’t they just send their army down and wipe us all out?" Kyle asked.
"We don’t know. In fact, what was even weirder, was that this guy, Tesher, approached Michael on Sunday afternoon. I guess he’d been watching for a number of days and he saw some sort of huge argument between Max and Michael earlier that week. This Disciple decided that the easiest way to get the Oracle, Granolith, was to get Michael to go to their side and Tesher seeing this argument made them think that maybe there was a rift between Michael and Max that they could exploit."
"Which was why he started fighting with me even more," Max said quietly as the pieces of Michael’s behavior the past week began to come together for him.
"And why he was so protective of Maria and I. He couldn’t protect everybody all the time but he knew that Max and Isabel would be close together and, of course, Sheriff Valenti, Kyle and Tess all live together. So the only ones who were really exposed were the two of us. Well, and Alex. He tried to keep an eye on you, too, Alex, but he was starting to spread himself kind of thin at that point. I told him I’d watch out for you. But since you’ve spent the past couple of weeks hiding from Maria, we hoped that maybe since you hadn’t been seen with us very often Tesher wouldn’t pay too much attention to you."
"Well that’s a relief. I was getting kind of nervous seeing him every time I turned around. I was afraid Maria sicced him on me or something." Alex replied with a small laugh.
"That doesn’t make sense, though. Why not just come after us? If they have an army and if they are working with the government like we suspect, they have more then enough power to face us." Kyle repeated.
"Why do they need Michael at all?" Isabel asked, her voice thick with concern.
"We really don’t know. But, I think I could make a guess. Maria said Tesher was there at the meeting this morning. According to her they need somebody who can pose as a leader. If they figure they can lure Michael with a promise of a political position, with the title of King, then they can get Michael’s followers and Max’s followers to back them. That plus the power of the Granolith would be enough get rid of Kivar and then they would have control of your planet."
"Another faction?" Tess asked in surprise. "Damn. Kivar and Nicholas just weren’t enough?"
"I guess not, but we don’t know exactly how much power they have."
Isabel sighed and leaned back in her chair. "So he’s up there with these people, all alone? Is that right? We don’t even really know where he is and how many of them there are."
"Why didn’t he ask any of the rest of us for help?" Valenti asked.
"It had to look real. It had to look like Michael’s relationships with all of us were really disintegrating. They are watching us. I’m not even sure I should have told you now, but I’m worried about Michael. I didn’t think he’d go off with them so quickly."
"That’s pretty tight timing. Torquil showing up with a story about a secret alien base on the same day that this Protector visits Michael in his dream again. And then the next day he’s contacted by this Tesher fellow." Valenti observed. "That’s mighty suspicious."
"Yeah, no kidding. Especially with Torquil talking about finding the King." Alex agreed.
"You think maybe Torquil is part of this?" Max asked the Sheriff.
"Well, I think he bears closer watching, that’s for sure."
"What about your vision Liz? Did that tell you anything?" Max asked gently.
"What? You’re having visions, Lizzy?" Alex asked in shock. The others around the table looked equally stunned by the announcement.
"Well actually just the one. This afternoon. It kind of made me pass out."
"Did you figure any of it out?" Max asked.
"It’s so hard to put it all together. A lot of it faded as time passed but, well, I think it was this Prophet guy and had something to do with Michael. I think maybe he was trying to contact me."
Torquil MacNab stood in the shadows of the UFO Center, listening to the conversation below. His stomach muscles clenched in dismay and a cold sweat trickled down his back. He realized he’d just run out of time.
|posted on 8-Sep-2001 2:23:37 PM|
|posted on 8-Sep-2001 2:25:45 PM|
San Juan Mountains, South Central Colorado
Perched on a boulder high on the side of a snow swept mountain, a tall, lanky woman looked out over the vast valley below. Far to the east the white-capped, purple peaks of another mountain range rose above the horizon like a line of fearsome storm clouds. A bracing winter wind whipped up the side of the mountain and tousled the woman’s short shock of black hair. She shivered and turned her face up to catch what little warmth the winter Sun’s weak rays offered.
"I can hear the rain falling and burning on a hot summer day."
She turned her head to look over at her charge. He’d been murmuring softly to himself for the past hour while his hands danced restlessly over a large block of clay. She stood, and after stretching her chilled limbs, walked over to the wooden table he was sitting on. The air was still and the crunch of snow under her feet seemed unnaturally, painfully loud.
"Who is the rain?" She asked softly.
"I don’t know. Maybe the boy. Maybe he is the sun. Some people pray for storms and others fear them. Some worship the sun and others curse it."
She watched him closely as he hunched over his clay, his dim, damaged eyes intent on his creation. "What are you making?"
He seemed to resent the intrusion and shrugged his shoulders petulantly. "A place."
"A place I saw while I slept last."
"Is it an important place?" She persisted.
"All places are important. If it’s your place."
She sighed and leaned her hip against the table. She glanced back across the valley and was struck again by how beautiful this planet was. Her planet was beautiful once, too.
"They are bringing him here. They’ll be here this afternoon. He wants to meet you," she told the man.
"I know. I want to meet the girl, though."
"Of course you do," she said wryly.
"She’s pretty. I’ll meet her."
"Yes. Soon. But the boy first." He sat back and eyed his sculpture critically before returning to his work.
"He’s not just a boy."
"That’s how he sees himself. Just a boy. A bad boy. His mind is torn."
"They don’t know who they are, do they?"
"They know but they don’t know."
"They know what they’ve been told. But they don’t remember."
"They remember some. But they don’t know what they remember."
She shook her head and lifted herself up beside him on the table, pulling her cold feet out of the snow. "You tried to contact the girl yesterday, didn’t you?"
"That was dangerous, you could have hurt her. I told you we’d talk to her tonight. You should have waited for me. She’s not like they are."
"Yes she is."
"No. She’s human."
"No, she’s not human? How can that be?"
His hands stopped moving and he stared at his clay. After a moment he continued thoughtfully. "She is like them but different. There are no others like her."
"Nowhere. She is a creature unique."
"How did she come to be here?"
"She is a force, all her own. The universe creates what it needs."
"She was needed, huh?"
"Obviously. She exists."
"For what purpose then?"
"When the balance is too perfect or the stillness too great or the unbalance too tilted, the universe will do what it must to stoke the fires of chaos and stir up the waters of creation."
"Well? How will she do that?"
"I don’t know. She is outside of our knowledge."
"She’s just a girl."
"He’s just a boy."
"You know, it’s hard to have conversations with a prophet."
"Guardians’ minds work oddly," he countered.
"Are we cursed or blessed, then?" She asked with a laugh.
He looked up at her for the first time and smiled crookedly. "Yes."
End of Interlude
|posted on 8-Sep-2001 2:26:52 PM|
|posted on 8-Sep-2001 2:27:57 PM|
|hmm hmm hmm|
|posted on 8-Sep-2001 2:30:30 PM|
Liz stood completely still for a long moment, letting her eyes adjust to the blackness. It didn’t occur to her that there was anything odd about the fact that one minute she’s laying in bed reading and the next she’s in some sort of dark, stone building. She had obviously fallen asleep. What did strike her as odd was her awareness of the transition from waking to dreaming. This hadn’t happened before and she was curious, if a little apprehensive, about what could be coming.
When her eyes finally adjusted to the faint light she sought out the source of the warm glow coming from the other side of the building. She seemed to be in a workshop and crossing the large room in the little light she had was turning out to be a rather hazardous proposition as she tripped and stumbled over numerous hidden obstacles. She nearly tumbled over a small stool hidden in the dark and when she gained her footing again she noticed Michael slouched against the wall next to a large furnace.
"Couldn’t you have materialized my dreamself someplace a little closer to you?" She asked.
She could just make out his smirk in the murky light and he raised his hands towards her and waived them slightly. "I had nothing to do with it."
She spun around, noticing the other two people in the room for the first time. A small man smiled up at her from a stool in front of the furnace and a tall woman stood next to him. She appeared to be appraising Liz.
Liz shuffled her feet uncomfortably. "Um, hello."
The woman finished her evaluation and nodded with a smile. "My name is Sef, and this is Tobin. We are honored to meet you."
Liz looked back at Michael who just shrugged. "It’s nice to meet you. Uh, I don’t mean to be rude, but can I ask what’s going on? Are you okay, Michael?"
"Yeah, I’m fine."
"I believe Michael has told you some of what is happening?"
"I told her everything I knew." Michael rumbled.
"Good, good. Simply put, the Disciple, Zhilag, and his man, Tesher, want the Granolith and we don’t want them to have it."
"What is the Granolith, exactly?" Liz asked.
Tobin spoke up then, "A good question without an easy answer. The Granolith is many things. Power most of all. Aimless, formless, shapeless, neither good nor evil. It is simply power in myriad forms. Like nature herself."
Liz stood for a moment, trying to digest that information. The man, Tobin, had such an odd way of speaking; there was a cadence to his voice that was almost hypnotic. "And the Disciple wants this power," she stated simply.
"Wouldn’t you want such power? The power of nature?" He asked.
"Uh, not particularly."
"Just as well for all of us then. It’s yours anyway." He responded and bent over to fiddle with something on the floor.
Sef stared thoughtfully at the top of Tobin’s head before blinking slowly and turning back to Liz with a small smile. "Before you ask, I don’t know what he means either. It’s my job to keep him safe not interpret his babbling."
"I do not babble," he muttered as he picked up a long pole from the floor and shoved an end of it into the white-hot cinders of the furnace. "Your mind is deaf to my meaning."
"You are purposely obscure."
"You are willfully dense."
"You revel in ambiguity and laugh up your sleeve when nobody can take your meaning."
"You mock the divine mysteries when your little brain cannot wrap itself around them."
Liz raised an eyebrow as she watched the exchange between the two. They had obviously been companions for a long time, and their insults were good humored and traded without rancor. She glanced at Michael who was trying and failing to appear disinterested. "They’re kind of like you and Maria, only quieter."
Michael smiled slightly. "Is she okay?"
"I don’t know. She won’t talk to me," Liz replied sadly.
Michael’s brow was creased in concern. "Why not?"
Liz sighed deeply and shook her head. "When she came back on Sunday she was really upset. She wanted me to tell her what was going on with you and I just couldn’t. I had to think about things. I mean, I made you a promise to keep all this quiet until you could figure stuff out and then you up and took off on me. I was a little stunned to say the least."
"Sorry. Tesher was hanging around Roswell. I wanted to get him out of there. Did you tell Max what was going on?"
"I’m sorry Michael, I had to. He was there when Maria came back."
He waved her off. "It’s okay. Did you tell Maria?"
"No, not yet. Like I said, she’s not talking to me. We had a meeting Sunday night. Everybody was there except for her. She wasn’t at school today and she won’t return my calls."
"Oh, man," he groaned.
Liz decided to change the subject. She would take care of Maria, Michael didn’t need to add that to his list of worries. "So you went off with them?"
"Yeah. I caught Tesher hanging around behind the Crashdown on Thursday and I told him I was ready to go and that I’d meet him at Sulphur Springs. It got him out of Roswell, at least."
"Where are you now?"
"Some place in Colorado. Not too far from the New Mexico boarder. Uh, we’re at the western edge of this huge valley."
"That must be the San Luis valley. You’re at a base?"
"Yeah. It’s pretty damn massive. I guess they have a couple other places, too. Uh, labs near Sulphur Springs west of Los Alamos and someplace else in northern New Mexico. They didn’t tell me what that was."
"You’re sure you’re okay?"
"Yeah, yeah, I told you, I’m fine."
She smiled at him. Same old Michael, he always pretended he hated having people worry after him and he hated looking like he needed anything or anybody.
"He’s with us, Liz. We’ll look after him. We are not alone, either." Sef spoke again.
"You’re with the Disciple?"
"Yes. He is trying to use the Prophet to find the Granolith. We have done our best to mislead him."
Liz glanced over at Tobin who was ignoring them all now. She watched him curiously and tried to figure out what it was he was doing. After a short while it became obvious. Glass blowing? Okay. A glass blowing prophet. Good thing her life was already strange.
"He’s always making stuff." Michael mumbled.
"Okay." She shook her head. "So, now what? The Prophet is supposed to find the Granolith for the Disciple and we don’t want that to happen. What do we do now?"
"For now we wait," Sef said.
"There are other forces at work, Liz. We have allies on Earth but I am not wholly certain who they are, yet. I know they have been working against the Disciple’s faction, and Kivar’s, for some time, though. We also have allies within Zhilag’s camp. Michael’s followers." She laughed when Michael rolled his eyes at the mention of his so-called followers. "However, I think it may take a while for them to warm to each other."
"What are we supposed to do in Roswell? What do I tell everybody?"
"You may, of course, tell them of our meeting. We will try to keep in contact with you. So that you will know Michael is well and to warn you if Zhilag makes a move against you. I think it best for now if you concentrate on learning as much as you can about the Disciple and his forces. We will feed you what information we can."
"I don’t know. I don’t like this," Liz said uncertainly. "I don’t like that Michael is with these people. It is too dangerous."
"I can take care of myself, Liz," Michael growled in annoyance.
"How many of them are there, Michael? A hundred? A thousand? And you’re just one man, by yourself. I’m sorry but I am concerned," she replied hotly.
"I understand your concern, Liz," replied Sef, trying to keep the calm. "I could wish that Michael wasn’t up here with us, as well. He has chosen to play a dangerous game. The outcome is uncertain. However, perhaps it is what we need to shake the balance within Zhilag’s group and weaken his forces."
"How long can you go, Michael, without giving them the Granolith?"
Michael snorted a laugh. "They don’t even know what it looks like, Liz. Tesher thought I had it on me when I met up with them at Sulphur Springs. I can probably keep them guessing for a little while."
"I warn you, Michael. You have not met Zhilag yet and he is not so easily deceived." Sef told him sternly.
"Great. Just great." Liz rubbed her hands over her face. "Okay. So what should we be doing in Roswell? Looking into this base some more? Trying to find out who our allies are? Sharpening our swords?"
"Funny." Michael muttered.
"You know, Torquil said something about having the resources to take out this base. I still don’t know what he’s after, or whose side he’s on, but he could be helpful."
"Be careful with him, Liz."
"We will. We have the Sheriff watching him. Max is worried because he thinks Torquil has figured out he’s alien."
Michael felt his body go cold with surprise. "What?"
"Don’t worry about it, Michael. We’ve got our eyes on him and I’ll look after everybody, you know. Just take care of yourself, okay?"
Michael nodded and looked past her, clearly uncomfortable with her anxiety for him.
"Uh, so how do I contact you, if I need you?" Liz asked Sef. "I mean, I’ve only done the dream walk kind of thing once, and I had Isabel’s help. Can I do that by myself?"
"Concentrate on any of the three of us and you should be able to contact us. It would be best if you are in a calm, quiet environment, and relaxed, as if about to sleep. If we do not hear from you, we will contact you every three days or in the event of an emergency."
"Is there a way to contact me that doesn’t make me pass out? That kind of scared Max and my parents."
Sef shot a glare in Tobin’s direction but he was concentrating on the small glass vase in front of him. "I apologize for that. Tobin tried to contact you without my assistance. I’m afraid his abilities in this regard are not subtle. It will not happen again."
"It will not happen again," Tobin echoed, "because her mind will be receptive now. Any of us can contact you now. This is why we chose you."
"Michael chose her."
"The universe chose her. You will not pass out again. Your mind will simply drift. You will appear to all to be lost in your thoughts."
"Uh, okay. That’s good, I guess."
Sef smiled kindly at her. "We should let you rest now. You have had a long night. We will see you soon."
Liz watched as Sef and Tobin began to fade from her sight as the darkness began to envelop her. She began to drift off but Michael’s voice pulled her back.
"Make sure Maria’s okay."
"I will, Michael."
"Tell her . . . um, tell her to be careful and not do anything stupid and rash and lose her temper like she usually does and get all hysterical and stuff." He finished in a rush.
Liz laughed. "Can I edit that so that she doesn’t threaten both of us with physical harm?"
Michael breathed a small chuckle. "Yeah, I wouldn’t want you to be in the way of her fists of fury."
Liz walked over and hugged Michael tightly. "Please be careful. Don’t make me tell Maria that something happened to you."
Michael was flustered by Liz’s affection and patted her awkwardly on the back. "Yeah."
Liz let go of him and stood back. "Good."
The darkness started to swirl again. "Hey Liz?"
"Tell her I love her."
Liz bolted upright in her bed and took a deep breath. She looked over at her alarm clock. 5:30. She groaned and flopped back on the bed. She had to get up in thirty minutes. She felt like she hadn’t slept at all. After a few minutes she pulled herself out of bed. If she didn’t get up now, she’d never make it. Plus she was anxious to see Max and tell him about her dream. And today she was bound and determined to get Maria to listen to her. Lord, it was going to be a long day.
|posted on 8-Sep-2001 2:32:12 PM|
|posted on 8-Sep-2001 2:34:13 PM|
When lunchtime finally rolled around on that dreary Tuesday, the aliens and their human counterparts had their first chance of the day to gather together and discuss the state of things. Their lunches had turned into power lunches over the past several months. Business was conducted, discussions had and decisions made at that meal that would rival the most high-level power lunches the corporate world could offer. It was seldom relaxing.
Max walked into the packed cafeteria and, not needing to look around, made directly for Liz and the table she occupied with Isabel, Tess and Kyle. He considered once again how fortunate it was that they all shared the same lunchtime. He suspected, however, that fortune went by the name of Alex Whitman and owed more to his hacking skills then Fate’s influence on school class schedules.
Liz looked up from her conversation and turned her head to meet his eyes as he approached the table. They hadn’t had much of a chance to talk all day. Max and Isabel had had a huge argument before school over some stupid family thing he couldn’t even remember now. The result of that fight had been that they showed up late to school and he missed his chance to talk to Liz until their Psychology class. Unfortunately, the class was watching the movie "Sybil" and they didn’t get the chance to talk much more there. She told him briefly about her dream and he was anxious to hear more.
Max was so focused on his goal as he crossed the crowded room he nearly trampled a freshman girl who got in his way. His strong arms caught her before she fell and he easily set her back on her feet. He apologized and smiled and continued on his way. Liz watched the encounter with pursed lips, trying to keep from laughing. The girl turned beet-red and dashed over to her friends who were giggling and sneaking looks at Max.
"You just made her day," Liz said as Max straddled the bench next to her.
He leaned over, pulled her against him and kissed her soundly before replying. "Whose day?"
"That girl you just ran over."
His brow creased in confusion. "How exactly did I make her day by stomping on her?"
Liz laughed and patted his cheek. "Trust me, love, she is now the envy of all her friends."
Max’s cheeks reddened with a slight blush. He shook his head at her and smiled before turning to the others at the mostly empty table. If there was one benefit to having almost everybody at school think you were part of some weird cult it was that you never had to share a table in the lunchroom, no matter how jammed it got.
"Hey Izzy, Tess, Kyle. Where’re Alex and Maria?"
"I don’t seem to have that freaky alien power that lets me stalk my friends with telepathy or whatever," Kyle muttered and glanced around the room. Tess slapped the back of his head and shrugged her shoulders apologetically at Max.
"Alex was arguing with Vice Principle Blake about something. Don’t ask me what because I have no idea. He’ll probably be here in a minute." Isabel said shortly.
Max ground his teeth. I guess we’re not quite over that argument, he thought.
He turned back to Liz when he felt her warm hand on his knee. "Relax, honey, we’re all just a little worried about Michael."
He frowned and brushed a finger across her cheek as he looked at her face closely. "You look exhausted, sweetheart. If these dreams are going to be this tiring for you, maybe we should consider coming up with some other way to talk to them."
"There isn’t another way. And besides, it’s probably just because I haven’t done it much before. I’m sure I’ll adapt."
He briefly thought about arguing but decided to save it until they were alone. "Maria?"
"Nope. She’s not here again and she won’t return any of my calls. I even went over to her house before school but nobody answered the door."
Max rubbed her back soothingly and rested his head against hers. "I’m sorry, Liz. We’ll work it out. I promise," he murmured.
"Wow. This table is like a little island of depression. What’s going on?" Alex asked as he slid onto the bench next to Liz.
"Hey Whitman, what’d you bring for lunch?" Kyle asked, perking up slightly.
"Um, let’s see." Alex peered into the brown paper bag and pulled out a thick sandwich. "Looks like chicken salad. What do you have?"
The two boys slid their sandwiches across the table.
"Hey, hey, hey," cried an indignant Tess. "You don’t like my meatloaf all of a sudden?" She asked, shooting an accusing look at Kyle.
"Hey, no, it’s just that we had that for dinner last night and, well, his mom goes to this really great deli for this chicken salad." The dark look remained on Tess’ face and he hurriedly tried to come up with something to say that would keep him from being forced to eat TV dinners for the rest of his natural life. "Plus, I told him what a great cook you were and he was really anxious to, uh, try out your cooking. Isn’t that right, Whitman?" He glared at Alex, daring him to contradict him.
"Oh absolutely. He went on and on about your tuna casserole the other day. I couldn’t get him to shut up. He mentioned something about it being like Nirvana." Alex let out a strangled yelp when Kyle kicked him under the table.
Tess looked at them both suspiciously but let the matter drop when Alex took a bite of his sandwich and made suitably appreciative noises.
"Whatever," she said. "So, Liz, were you able to talk to that protector lady last night?"
"Yeah, actually I was. And," she looked over at Isabel; "I talked to Michael, too. He’s okay, and the Protector, Sef, says she’ll look after him."
Isabel gave Liz a small smile of gratitude. "So where is he?"
"Colorado. Looks like the base we’re looking for is on the western edge of the San Luis Valley. But he said there were two other facilities, both in New Mexico, occupied by the Disciple’s people."
"Damn. So can we go back to the why haven’t they killed us all yet, point?" Kyle asked.
"Sef said that there were other forces out there opposing the Disciple. Attacking us would probably draw their attention and if they killed us all then they wouldn’t get what they wanted. The Granolith and the support of Max and Michael’s followers."
"Okay, good point." Kyle conceded.
"Yeah, I’ve been thinking about that," said Max. "With Kivar, all he wanted was the Granolith, and we know he’s the one with all the power on our planet. The Granolith is what he needs for unification and the end to the war. Now the Disciple needs not only the Granolith but also the support of the followers of the royal family. So if he just had the Granolith then I’m thinking Kivar could probably just take it away from him because he doesn’t have the force to oppose Kivar’s people. That’s why he needs us. Or Michael, at least."
"True," Tess agreed. "But the Disciple is probably the one with all the power here on Earth. When we destroyed the Harvest and I, uh, destroyed all the skins, we probably really hurt Kivar’s power here. I’m sure it wasn’t a sudden interest in diplomacy that had him call for the meeting in New York. When he couldn’t take it by force, he had to try to pressure you into giving it up with politics."
"Well, whatever it is with these two, the Protector and the Prophet were pretty adamant that we not let anybody get their hands on the Granolith," Liz told them.
Isabel shifted uncomfortably and leaned her elbows on the table. "And Michael is right in the middle of this."
"Yeah," Liz agreed sadly. "Michael left to try and get Tesher out of town. I guess he was starting to hang around the Crashdown a lot. It was making him really nervous. So, he figured that if he agreed to go with them then they’d get out of Roswell.
"Sef told me that she wished Michael wasn’t up there but that his presence might be what they needed to mess up the alliances in the Disciple’s group and maybe weaken him. She mentioned that some of Michael’s followers were in the Disciple’s camp, too. So, maybe, Michael can have his own little army with him."
"Liz, did you try to find out more about the Granolith? We know it’s some kind of religious artifact and powerful but that’s all we know," Max asked.
"I asked them what it was and it was the Prophet, Tobin, who answered me. I guess I shouldn’t have expected to get a clear answer from a Prophet." She laughed a little at the memory of the strange little man. "He told me that it was power. He compared it to the power of nature, and sort of left it at that." She told them quietly, wondering if she should tell them about the odd comment he had made about that power being hers. She felt uncomfortable reveling that when she didn’t even know what it meant. She decided she would tell Max later and let him decide if they should share that with the group.
"That’s it?" Isabel asked.
Liz shrugged. "That’s all that made sense. He and the Protector started trading insults and I didn’t get any more out of him about it."
"Did they say anything else? What are we supposed to do now?"
"They said we should keep up with our research to learn as much as we could about the bases, the Disciple, his forces and maybe we could find out who our allies are on Earth. They also told me that they would feed us what information they could and give us any warnings if they went to attack us or came back to Roswell or something."
"When are you going to talk to them again?" Tess asked.
"Well, Sef said I could contact any of them whenever I needed to, but otherwise they would talk to me every three days. Unless there was an emergency or something."
"It’s not going to make you pass out again, is it?" Max asked with worry.
"No. Tobin said I would be receptive now. If they try to contact me when I’m not sleeping he said it would just look like my mind was wandering, you know?"
"Zoned out, huh?" Offered Alex.
"Is that it?" Isabel asked one last time. "Did Michael say anything else?"
"Well he just wants me to keep an eye on everything and everybody here and make sure Maria is okay. That’s really pretty much it."
Max straightened in his seat and started issuing orders. "Okay, so all we can do right now is keep on with what we’ve been doing. We don’t have the knowledge or the resources to face the Disciple head on right now. So we’re going to have to trust that Michael can, uh, rally his followers. So, Liz and I will keep working on the base and sift through the rumors to see what we can find on the Disciple. Tess and Kyle, you guys keep an eye out for anything or anybody strange. Um, stranger then usual, I mean. Is and Alex, you guys find out what they’d need to make these hybrid clones. What type of facility and what sort of supplies they’d need. Maybe we can link shipments or something to an exact location that way."
Max looked at the solemn faces around the table as they nodded their assent, one by one. A loud burst of laughter came from a table behind him and he turned and watched several other teens joking and laughing. He recognized the girl he’d run into earlier. She was jumping up and down trying to get her purse back from a much taller boy who was laughing loudly while he held it above his head. Their friends were cheering them on. He turned back to his friends and wished for the millionth time that they didn’t have to bear the burdens they did.
Max hadn’t been able to concentrate at all in History class that afternoon and when it was over he walked Liz to her final class of the day and left school early. He thought he was driving his jeep aimlessly around town, trying to clear his head and think of the next great plan. Needless to say, he was surprised to find himself outside the Deluca’s house fifteen minutes later.
He approached the house hesitantly but while climbing the steps to the front porch he realized that he needed to do this. He knew almost exactly how Maria felt and he knew that the longer she and Liz were estranged the more difficult things would be in the group. Besides, Maria was one of his best friends. She’d been his lifesaver while Liz was gone all summer. It was time for him to return the favor.
He knocked on the door and waited patiently for a response. He raised his hand to knock again when it finally opened. Amy Deluca stared out at him. A mixture of relief, hope, and worry danced across her face.
"Hello, Mrs. Deluca. Um, is Maria here?"
"She says she doesn’t want to talk to anybody. Can you tell me what is going on? It isn’t like Maria to shut herself up like this."
"I’m not really sure what happened between her and Michael. I just want to make sure she’s okay. Can I come in for a minute?" He pleaded.
Amy sighed and stepped back from the door. "She’s in her room, Max. Good luck."
Max stared at Amy for a second. That didn’t sound good. "Uh, okay, thanks."
He walked down the narrow hallway and stopped at Maria’s door. He took a deep breath and prepared himself for battle before rapping lightly on the door.
"Is he gone?" Came a muffled inquiry.
He smiled wryly. "No, he’s not."
The door flew open so suddenly he felt a breeze pull at his hair.
Maria stood in the doorway, facing him squarely with one hand on the door and the other on her hip. Her eyes were flashing with anger. "Go away, Max. I don’t want to hear about it."
"Yes, you do."
"No, I don’t."
Maria tried to end the argument by slamming the door but Max slapped the palm of his hand on the door and pushed it back. Maria struggled for a moment before she finally realized the futility of it and stomped back into her room. She sat down on her bed and crossed her arms, daring Max to speak.
He entered the room cautiously. He came over here to check on her not make her angrier. "How are you?"
"How the hell do you think I am?"
"We’re all worried about you, Maria. We haven’t seen you since Sunday and you won’t talk to any of us."
"You know what? I am totally not in the mood for this whole destiny angst thing. Okay? I am sick of aliens and I am sick of saving the world and I am tired of having my heart being used for target practice by the aforementioned aliens."
Max closed the door and crossed the room to sit next to her. "So am I."
Max’s simple, but heartfelt statement seemed to take the wind out of her. She slouched over with her forearms on her knees and couldn’t stop the tears from flowing. She leaned against Max when he put his arm around her shoulder.
"Will you listen to what I have to say?" He asked quietly.
Maria nodded and tried to regain her composure.
"Liz told us what really happened. Michael made her promise not to tell anybody. She said she was surprised that he went off so suddenly. It caught her off guard and she wasn’t sure what to do. That’s why she wouldn’t tell you on Sunday."
"Okay, are you going to get to a part where you start to make me feel better or are you just going to defend Liz to me?" She snapped bitterly.
"Well you’re just going to have to be quiet and listen," he told her patiently. "Look, Maria, she did what she did for a reason. She didn’t like it but she did it as a favor to a friend. She did it because she thought it was important."
"A favor? To Michael?"
"He didn’t betray us, Maria. These aliens that we are looking for found us first. Michael was trying to keep them away from all of us."
She shook her head, wanting desperately to believe it was true but also afraid that it was. If it was true did that mean she’d given up on Michael?
"It’s true. Remember a couple of weeks ago when Michael and I got into that huge fight about what to do with the orbs?"
She nodded weakly. It had been a knockdown, drag-out kind of fight.
"Well that guy, Tesher, saw it. He thought that maybe things were really bad between Michael and I. See, they need the Granolith and they need more people on their side. They figured that with Michael they would get both of those things. Now Michael had been having these dreams . . ."
Max related the entire story to Maria right up to the lunch discussion that day.
"So he’s okay?"
"Liz said she talked to him and that he said he was fine. Also he has some followers up there and so he’s not really alone."
"Oh great. His ‘followers’. Yeah, I know all about his followers," Maria said with disgust.
Max laughed and decided that now was as good a time as any to bring up the subject of Liz. Maria was understandably, still a little upset that Liz had kept this from her. He opened his mouth but was interrupted by a knock at Maria’s door.
Amy popped her head in, "Maria, Alex is here. Do you want to talk to him?"
"Look what you’ve started." She glared accusingly at Max. "Yeah, sure mom, send him in."
When Alex walked through the door of Maria’s room his carefully planned speech flew out of his head. "Max!" He exclaimed in surprise.
"Okay, so it takes utter and devastating heartbreak on my part to get you to come talk to me. Is that right, Alex?" Said Maria, breaking into their staring contest.
"Looks like it, doesn’t it?" Alex responded a little sheepishly. "So, I take it his majesty filled you in on what really happened with Michael."
"Don’t call me that," Max grumbled.
"Yeah, he told me everything."
"So, uh, are you okay now?"
"No, but I’m feeling a little less manic."
"That’s my girl, always looking on the bright side. No little white jacket for you, today."
"Okay, so, uh . . ." Alex realized too late that his plan to help a distraught Maria backfired horrifically and now he was stuck with the more or less okay Maria he had been avoiding for weeks.
"Pull up a chair, Alex."
Alex darted a quick look at Max, his eyes begging for help. Max just shrugged helplessly and smiled.
"I’ve missed you, Alex. I mean, you’ve kind of been, I don’t know, what’s the word I’m looking for? Oh yeah, avoiding. You’ve been avoiding me for a few weeks now. So what’s up?"
Alex let a sickly smile cross his face as he sneaked another look at Max. "Uh, you know, just busy."
"Sure, sure. How’re things with Isabel."
Damn, she was sharp. Of course, he’d known that, but he hated it when she directed her powers of perception at him. "Uh, well, honestly, there are no things."
"What happened? I thought things were going well with you two?"
"Well, yeah, until Mr. Manly Geologist, also known as, Neanderthal lad, showed up."
"Grant?" Max asked.
"Neanderthal lad." Alex confirmed.
"Just my little pet name for him. You have to admit, he does have a freakishly low forehead."
"Um sure." Things were becoming clear to Max. His sister had been in a foul mood for quite a while. It must have something to do with this Grant/Alex thing. Though she always denied that Alex was anything more then a friend, Max decided that she was undoubtedly confused as to her true feelings. She wouldn’t be this upset otherwise. Max smiled. He hoped she figured it out. He liked Alex and he knew Alex saw more in Isabel then just her looks.
His smile fell when he saw that Maria was glaring at him. "What?"
"Nothing. Just wondering why Liz got the good alien."
"Hey now." Max started, suddenly on the defensive.
"I don’t know, Maria. He really did a number on Liz last spring."
"Very true. Very true."
"Hey, hey. Look, how did this become about me, all of a sudden?"
"Bad luck?" Alex suggested.
"No kidding. Come on. Let’s, uh, talk about my sister. See, I’m sure we can come up with a way to get you two together." Max was casting about for some distraction. Maria loved her little ‘operations’ maybe he could distract her with Operation: Alex and Isabel.
"Um, no, look if she’s not interested in me, then I don’t want to force the issue."
"Nice try, ET," Maria said with a grin.
"And look, Maria, look how far Michael was willing to go to keep you safe. There’s gotta be something in that."
"It was very noble," Alex agreed.
"Great, noble. Noble is going to get him killed," she said sadly.
Max put his arm around her again. "He will be okay, Maria. Really."
"You’re still not off the hook, Max."
"So, you got all the good genes, I guess. Makes sense seeing as you’re the king. You’d get the primo batch, I suppose."
Alex nodded sagely. "Figures. They must not have had too many of the good genes. A shortage, do you think?"
Max stood up abruptly. "Alright, that’s enough. I won’t sit here and listen to you abusing my friend and my sister. Come on. Be fair. We’re trying to work through all this crap just like you are."
Maria laughed then. "Max, relax. We’re just teasing you."
"Maria?" They all looked up at the soft voice coming from the doorway.
"Liz." Maria replied. Her voice was just a little on the cool side.
Max walked over to Liz and pulled her into the room, then he nodded to Alex, who was grateful for the chance to escape before he was further interrogated about his relationship with Isabel.
"Why don’t Alex and I take off and we’ll let you two talk?"
"Fine Max." Maria said, dismissing the two young men.
Max and Liz shared a brief kiss before he and Alex disappeared out the door.
Liz stood uncertainly for a moment before making a move towards Maria. Maria cut her off and pointed to the chair Alex had occupied.
"Have a seat."
"So Max told me everything."
"Good. Good. So, how are you?"
"Kind of pissed, to be honest."
"I understand. I wish it didn’t have to be like this. You know why I did it, right?"
"Sometimes that just doesn’t make it any better."
"Yeah, I know."
The two fell into an uncomfortable silence. The silence stretched for several long minutes until Maria’s worry overtook her pride.
"Max said you talked to him."
"Yeah, he’s okay. He was worried about you. That was the first thing he asked me, if you were okay." Liz smiled gently.
Maria tried to sniff back tears. "Really, well, okay. What did you tell him?"
"Well, I didn’t have much to tell him. I just told him you weren’t talking to me so I didn’t know how you were."
"Oh, that’s true."
"But, he looked okay. I mean, granted it was like his dreamself but he seemed good. He had his grim sense of humor well intact."
"Oh. Well, glad to hear it."
"He had to make it look like he wasn’t getting along with any of us. He was most scared for you. He couldn’t quite push you as hard as he pushed Max, but he tried. I know that doesn’t make it easier, either, but he knows you care for him, you were the one he had to convince the most. If just for a little while."
"Well, like you said, it doesn’t make it easier, especially not when I think that I gave up on him when I was supposed to stick by him."
"Maria, he would have just ditched you at some point. He went up to Albuquerque to make sure that you were safe, but he’d planned to leave anyway. He told me. I don’t know why he took you with him when he left but I guess maybe it was just too hard for him to let you go."
"Probably just wanted to make sure I wasn’t left without the Jetta," Maria mumbled.
"Maybe, but that wasn’t the whole reason. You know it. You never gave up on him, Maria. I know it, Michael knows it and you have to know it. If you did you wouldn’t have demanded answers from me when you got back. You would have just accepted what he’d done, however upsetting."
"What they hell have I been doing the past two days?"
"Sorting stuff out. This is such a mess, Maria. But Michael is okay. He really is. And he’ll be okay. I’ll keep in touch with him and make sure everything’s okay. I really think this was the best thing given the situation we had to deal with. He’s up there. He’s not alone. He can keep an eye on this Disciple guy. I know it sounds dangerous, and it is, but for as, uh, rash as Michael can be sometimes he’s not stupid."
"I know. I know. Man, this is just insane. How did our lives get so insane?"
"I was shot."
"Oh, that’s right, it’s all your fault."
Liz chuckled. Maria was coming back. "I take full responsibility. I truly am sorry, Maria. I hope that you’ll trust me again."
"Yeah, yeah. Don’t worry about it. I’m still upset but I guess it’s just this whole situation."
"I totally understand."
"So did my spaceboy say anything else?"
"He told me to tell you that he loved you."
Maria’s eyes grew wide and her face paled. "Oh my god! Did he use the word ‘love’?"
Liz was confused by her friend’s sudden panic, she thought she’d be pleased. "Yeah, he said ‘Tell her I love her’. What’s wrong?"
"What’s wrong? What’s wrong is that he only says those kinds of things when he’s sure he’s doomed and I can’t act on them. Oh my god, oh my god."
"Maria, calm down. He’s okay. He’s just worried about you."
"When do we get him back?"
"I don’t know. Could be a while."
"Um, are you okay?"
"Just fine. I just need to figure out what to do first."
"Well it’s between kissing him and kicking his ass."
"Oh. Well, I’m sure it will come to you."
"I’m sure it will."
|posted on 8-Sep-2001 2:37:32 PM|
|posted on 8-Sep-2001 2:39:45 PM|
|posted on 8-Sep-2001 2:45:45 PM|
Sheriff Jim Valenti leaned back in his chair and rubbed his burning eyes. He loved his job, he really did. But sometimes he wished it didn’t entail so much paper work. The worst of the week had to be going over the reports of his newest deputy. He was a good kid, extremely sharp, had great potential, but the thing with some rookies was that they wanted to prove themselves so badly they tended to overdo it when it came to their reports. They averaged about two or three times longer then the ones submitted by his veteran officers. He bent back over to sift through the long-winded report. Seems there were some cattle thieves in the county. If it kept up the local ranchers would be up in arms. Probably literally.
A knock at the door pulled his attention from a witness report. "Come in."
"Hey dad." Kyle and Tess walked into the Sheriff’s office.
"Hey kids. What’s up?" Jim was glad of the interruption and happy to see his son and the young woman who’d become such an important part of his family.
"Well," Tess perched on the edge of his desk. "Max told us to watch out for anything strange or unusual and so we figured we’d check with you to see if you’ve got anything for us."
"I hate to disappoint you but unless you’re looking for cattle rustlers, I don’t have a whole lot today."
Kyle threw himself into a chair across the desk from his father and shrugged his shoulders nonchalantly. "No big deal. It’s still raining out and to be honest I’m a little tired of driving around town in an what’s probably a futile effort to alleviate the paranoia of his Royal Highness."
"Kyle," Tess admonished.
"That’s enough, son. You know we all have good reason to keep our eyes open. I have to tell you I’m not real happy that either of you are involved in this but since you are I want to make sure that we know everything we can know about what’s going on. I’ll be better able to keep you safe if I know all the facts. That said, if you two do see something or someone you think is suspicious you are not to approach them. Do you understand me?"
"Yeah, I got that." Kyle replied sullenly.
"Good. So what are your plans for the afternoon?"
"We figured that since the Disciple’s people probably know all about us, we’d keep an eye on the places we usually hang out. See if maybe we can catch somebody watching us," Tess told him.
"That sounds like a fairly reasonable plan," Jim agreed. "Just be careful."
"First sign of anything and we’ll call you, okay?" Tess promised.
"That’s fine," he told her with a smile. "It looks like I’m gonna be a little late getting home tonight. Do you two need some money to get dinner, or are you okay."
Kyle stood up then and turned towards the door. "We’re good. We’ll probably get something at the Crashdown later."
"Alright then. Call me if you need anything."
"Fine. Bye." Kyle walked quickly out the door.
Tess hopped down from the desk and with a small wave and a smile said her goodbye and hurried after Kyle.
When she caught up to Kyle she grabbed his arm, trying to slow him down. "What is wrong with you?"
"Nothing. And put those away."
"Put what away?" She had no clue what he was talking about. And why was he in such a hurry? Five minutes ago he didn’t want to go anywhere or do anything. It had been his idea to come to the station in the first place.
"Those . . . those dimples."
Tess choked on a laugh and when he turned his angry glare on her she had to lean against the wall for support as the laughter burst out and shook her small body.
He leaned closer to her and whispered fiercely, "You think you totally have him wrapped around your finger, don’t you? You just flash those dimples and he’ll forgive you anything. If you ever call him daddy, I swear I’ll puke."
After a few long seconds of gasping for breath, Tess was able to get out a few words. "God, Kyle, you are just too much."
"Don’t deny it. You’re making me look bad. All that agreeing to everything he said. Yes Jim. No Jim. Of course Jim. We’ll do anything you say Jim." He stopped to scowl at a passing deputy who smiled a little too warmly at Tess.
"Are you even listening to yourself? Do you have any clue how ridiculous this sounds? So I’m nice to him. So what? He was just being a concerned father. Do you know how lucky you are that your dad is as worried about you as he is? And yet he still cares enough to let you do what you need to do. Do me a favor, Kyle. Grow up." She pushed away from him and walked briskly out of the station, leaving Kyle to stare glumly after her.
"This is boring."
"So you’ve said."
"No. No, this is really boring. This supercedes all previous levels of boredom."
"Well, why don’t you meditate or something."
"No, I’m too bored to even meditate."
"Kyle, please don’t make me hurt you."
"You wouldn’t hurt me, Tess. You like me."
"Not right now, I don’t."
For three hours, Kyle and Tess had patrolled the streets of Roswell, eyes peeled for anything even slightly suspicious. They made careful and repeated passes up and down the streets and through the neighborhoods where the various members of the group lived. Now they were parked across the street from the Crashdown, watching things there for a while.
"You’re always hungry. I am trying to concentrate, you know." Tess was using her powers to hide them from anybody passing by.
"Yeah, yeah. Want me to turn the heater on again?"
"So . . ."
"So . . ."
"I know we never talked about it but I was kind of . . . wondering . . ."
Tess looked at him inquisitively when he didn’t continue. "Yes?"
"Max and Liz."
Tess leaned back against her seat with a tired sigh but otherwise remained silent.
"I was wondering how you felt about it."
"How I felt about it," she repeated quietly.
"It’s honestly not my intention to upset you or anything but you’ve never talked about their getting back together. And especially that whole deal with the world ending because . . ." He stopped short, suddenly feeling like an idiot. He didn’t want her to think he blamed her for anything.
"Because I left?" She finished for him.
"Yeah. I mean, no. The world ending because Max pushed you away."
She smiled a small grateful smile at him. "Thanks, Kyle."
"So, how do I feel about it all?"
"Yeah. It’s not good to keep these things inside. You need to cleanse your soul of these burdens."
"Okay, Buddha boy. You know, I’m really not sure how I’m supposed to feel."
"What do you mean?"
"Well, I remember some things from . . . from before. I know that he cared about me. No. I know that he loved me and I loved him. But, now, today, this life, I don’t think I feel anything more for him then just friendship. And, if I’m being honest with myself . . ."
"Honesty is good."
"There’s nothing in me anymore that even wants what we were before. I just don’t feel that pull or desire or whatever you want to call it."
"Jealous?" she teased.
"No," he snorted.
"But, I do feel connected to him. I feel connect to Isabel and Michael, too. We’re . . . we’re family, I guess. Sometimes, I just don’t . . ." She stopped then, when her voice grew thick with emotion.
"You don’t, what?" He asked, placing a gentle hand on her shoulder.
"I doubt that."
"Sometimes, I just don’t know where I fit in. I know it sounds so childish to have believed and held onto this fairy tale for so long. This make-believe world where I’d marry a dashing king and I’d have a wonderful family, and all I had to do was find them. It didn’t turn out that way and, yes, part of me really wishes it did. I guess because then I wouldn’t be alone."
"You’re not alone. You’ve got me and my dad."
"I know, Kyle. But I really am connected to them. I belong with them in some way. It’s just that trying to find that way has been kind of hard. To see them together, how close they are and to know that if the timing had been just a little different my life would be so unlike it is now. If I had come out of the pod sooner or they had come out when I did, we all would have been together, and I wouldn’t be so isolated from them."
"So it’s not just about Max," Kyle murmured.
"It never was. Well, okay, it was a lot about him, yes, but I wanted Isabel and Michael to love me, too. To want me to be part of them. Things are better now. Not great. I know that they don’t completely trust me yet and I can totally understand why. I mean, what I did to Max when I first got here was . . . was pretty inexcusable."
"You didn’t know any different. Nasado told you . . ."
"Yeah, Nasado," She said in a tone of mild disgust. "If I would have thought about it, I mean really thought about it, I would have realized that wasn’t the way to go. But I was just so close to my goal, to them, to the family. This dream I’d dreamed my whole life. It was so close I could taste it and then it fell apart. I really couldn’t understand why they didn’t like me, why they didn’t want to see that what I had to tell them was the truth. It took me awhile to realize they had their own dreams, their own hopes and fears. It was wrong of me to force mine on them."
"They could have tried harder to understand you, too. Come to think of it, they still could."
"Maybe. But they had a lot more to deal with then I did. I mean, I knew who we were. I’ve always known. They just found out. And part of the problem is that it is so tempting to believe in that destiny, even if you don’t want to believe in it, because if you have a destiny then you have a purpose and you’re not just a freak all alone on this planet."
Kyle slid his hand from her shoulder to tenderly caress the back of her neck. "You’re not a freak and you are not alone. Understand?"
She nodded her head and tried to fight back the sting of tears and the ache of loneliness that swelled in her heart.
"Hey. Look at me," Kyle demanded quietly. "You’ve got family here. You’ve got friends. Much as I hate to admit it, and believe me I do, you and Max seem to be turning into pretty good friends."
"Yeah. He’s been great. I know he’s made a point to include me in everything and I’ve tried to support him as much as I can. I guess I still need to work on Michael and Isabel a little more." She chuckled.
"The Ice Princess and Stonewall Guerin. Good luck." His voice conveyed his thoughts that this was a nearly impossible task.
"Thanks," she replied with a crooked smile. "And . . . and Liz has been really nice, too. She has every reason in the world to hate me."
"Liz isn’t like that. She’s pretty forgiving. The only person she actually actively hates is Pam Troy. There was this whole noodle incident in sixth grade. It wasn’t pretty."
Tess laughed. "Wow, that’s a long time to hold a grudge."
"Well, like I said she’s pretty forgiving but this was world war three and she can be fairly vicious when she needs to be."
"I’ll keep that in mind." She reached up and took Kyle’s hand in both of her own and closed her eyes for a brief moment. It was so nice to have somebody who actually cared what she thought and felt. Somebody who would listen. She opened her eyes to look at him and was about to tell him that when she saw something moving at the edge of her vision. She grasped Kyle’s hand more tightly and turned her head, trying to see into the shadows that draped the street near the Crashdown.
"What? What is it?" Kyle whispered.
"I think I see something. Over there by the trashcan."
Kyle squinted and tried to find what she was talking about. "Oh, wait. I see it. It looks like a person."
"Do we consider this suspicious?"
"Yeah, I think we do."
"Should we call your dad?"
"Um, I don’t know. Let’s see what they do first. It could be nothing."
"There’s no such thing as ‘nothing’."
"True. Let’s just wait and see anyway."
"Well, if we really wanted to see what they were doing we should probably get out of the car and follow them. Don’t you think?"
"Hmm. I’d have to agree. I mean, it could just be some jerk spying on his girlfriend or a kid playing a game."
"Absolutely. No reason to call your dad out if that’s the case."
"Better to be sure."
"He’ll go ballistic when he finds out."
"I’ll just flash my dimples." Tess opened her door and started to climb out. "Get a move on, Buddha boy."
Kyle got out of the car and hurried to Tess’ side. "Don’t use your powers. It’s dark enough that we probably won’t be seen. It’d be best if you didn’t wear yourself out in case you have to, you know, incinerate."
She suddenly pushed Kyle against a wall and clamped her hand over his mouth. He was about to protest but stopped when he saw the figure cross the street. There was enough light from the streetlights to make out the figure as that of a woman. She dashed across quickly and made for the UFO Center.
"Is Max working tonight?" Tess whispered.
"I don’t know. I didn’t see him in the Crashdown."
"He could be in the museum all alone, then."
"Yeah. We don’t have time to wait for your dad. Let’s call him and then try to get to Max."
She fished out the cell phone from Kyle’s pocket and made an urgent call to the Sheriff. When it was over she handed the phone back to him and shoved him towards the entrance of the museum.
"What did he say?"
"He told me we should wait for him."
"Which we are, of course, not going to do," Kyle said blandly.
"No." She nudged him and pointed. "She’s going down the side. Probably heading for the back entrance."
They ran swiftly but silently along the front of the UFO center and when they got to the corner Kyle peeked his head around. "She just turned towards the back."
The pair ran after her and when they got to the back entrance they found the door slightly ajar.
"How’d she get in so quickly? I’m sure they keep that door locked," Tess said.
"Damn freaky alien powers," suggested Kyle.
They entered slowly and looked around the dimly lit back room cautiously. Kyle poked Tess’ arm and pointed towards the door leading to the museum itself. They watched the woman disappear into the darkened building. They closed the door before slipping quietly after her.
She seemed to be searching for something and Kyle and Tess hung back and watched her move. She headed towards the stairs but stopped and looked through the window at the top before deciding to try and sneak down.
Tess imitated her and glanced below. She saw that the room was lit and she watched how the woman hugged to one side of the stairs and her head scanned back and forth, here eyes warily moving over everything below. The woman froze suddenly when Max and Liz entered from one of the back rooms. Then she started to slowly move back up the stairs. Never taking her eyes off the couple.
Kyle and Tess pressed themselves into a corner when the woman stopped at the top landing again. She seemed uncertain and hesitated before moving back into the center.
Tess pulled Kyle’s head down to her and whispered in his ear, "You go down and tell Max and Liz what’s going on and I’ll keep watching her."
"No way. You go down."
"Don’t argue with me Kyle. I have ‘damn freaky alien powers’, remember? You’re just a puny little human. Go down and tell them."
Kyle grumbled a bit but knew she was right. Still it was a little blow to his pride and male ego that he was going to be the one left behind. "Fine. But, be careful. It won’t take my dad too long to get here."
"I will. Hurry. She’s heading towards the front."
Kyle dashed down to where Max and Liz were sitting on a couch talking quietly. They both looked up in surprise as he came down the stairs.
"Kyle, what’s . . ." Max began but Kyle cut him off with a hiss.
"There’s some lady upstairs. Tess and I spotted her sneaking around the outside of the center and we followed her in," he said breathlessly.
Max and Liz scrambled to their feet without another word and hurried up the stairs with Kyle close behind.
They walked slowly through the center until they came upon Tess again. She put a finger to her lips and pointed to the other side of the room. The woman had her back pressed up against the wall and seemed to be breathing heavily.
Max stepped out of the shadows, shrugging off Kyle’s attempts to hold him back. He crossed the room towards the woman who noticed him immediately.
"Can I ask what you’re doing here?"
She looked wild-eyed and with and incoherent cry she rushed at him.
"FREEZE! POLICE!" Jim Valenti burst through the front door, his gun trained on the woman.
She stopped in her tracks and sank to the floor with a strangled sob.
The Sheriff walked cautiously over to the woman and ordered her to stand up slowly and face the wall. She complied, her whole body telegraphing a defeated sort of resignation.
"There’s nae need fer tha’, Sheriff. Ah kin ra woman." Torquil MacNab stood in the front entrance, his massive form blocking out the light from the street.
"Torquil." The woman turned and threw herself at him. "They know who we are. They’re here. They followed me. You have to get out of here."
"Rosa, Rosa, ‘tis all richt, hen. Ah swear."
"No, no," she cried hysterically. "If they find you here, they’ll kill you."
"Ah cannae leave, Rosa," he told her gently, one large hand stroking the woman’s dark hair as he held her in a comforting embrace.
"You have to."
"Nae, hen. Ah kin where they ur an’ they kin where Ah am. ‘Tis time. Ah called for ra teams. They’ur here now."
"How do you know where they are," hope was beginning to dawn in the woman’s face.
"Ah found him. Ah found them all."
"Them? The . . . the king?"
"Aye." Torquil turned the woman to face Max. "Meet ra king o’ Antar."
|posted on 8-Sep-2001 2:49:31 PM|
|posted on 8-Sep-2001 2:59:49 PM|
"Meet ra king o’ Antar."
At Torquil’s pronouncement everybody went still, except for Liz who moved to stand by Max. After a stunned moment Rosa walked up to Max and touched his face gently, as if checking to see if her was real. Max felt Liz tense at his side and shift uneasily when the other woman approached.
Rosa turned back to Torquil, her voice tinged with disbelief. "He cannot be the king. He’s just a boy."
"Aye. Ra poor lad. ‘Tis ra truth. Aye Max?"
"I think you’d better explain yourself," Sheriff Valenti told Torquil. He hadn’t holstered his weapon yet and he wasn’t sure he’d do it any time soon, unless Torquil explained quickly.
"Perhaps we could gae someplace tha’s nae sae dark?" Torquil asked with a grin.
"Downstairs," Max ordered firmly.
Everybody tensed again when Torquil moved past Max. The large man put a hand out towards Max, perhaps to pat his shoulder but both Liz and the Sheriff stepped in his way, preventing him from getting close to Max. He chuckled to himself and motioned Rosa to join him.
"Kyle, Tess, get everybody else over here please," Max told them absently, his eyes on Torquil.
"Sure, Max," Tess agreed quietly before pulling Kyle outside.
Max put his hands out and grasped Liz by the shoulders, pulling her back against him, before addressing Jim. "Sheriff, will you go down and watch Torquil? We’ll, be down in a minute."
"Are you okay, Max?"
Max was silent for a second. "I don’t know."
"Alright, son. Take your time. Torquil’s not going anywhere."
They watched the Sheriff disappear. Liz turned to face Max and put a hand on his cheek, trying to peer into his eyes in the dimly lit building.
Max gazed down at her and forced a smile. "Is it too much to hope that he might be one of the allies the Protector talked about?" He asked her quietly, trying to keep his voice light.
Liz saw through his weak attempt to keep her from worrying and leaned up to kiss him on the chin. "Anything is possible," she told him.
"Yeah, I guess." He didn’t sound so sure of that, however.
"It’ll be okay, Max. Whatever happens, I’m here," she told him firmly, trying to give him strength in her love for him.
Max smiled a real smile then, small though it was. He cupped her face gently in his hands and bent to give her a sweet kiss. "Do me a favor Liz."
"Anything," she murmured against his lips.
"Please, don’t ever step between me and somebody else like that again. You almost gave me a heart attack."
Liz smiled sheepishly and leaned her forehead against his chest. "Sorry. It was just sort of instinctive."
Max pulled her more tightly against him and let his cheek rest on the top of her head. "Um, let’s work on the ‘stand behind me when the freaky guy walks by’ instinct a little more, okay?"
Liz chuckled and kissed his neck tenderly. "We should go down and see what Torquil has to say."
"Yeah," Max agreed. However, he was hesitant to go. He wasn’t sure what it was but he was almost afraid to find out who Torquil really was.
Sensing his reluctance, Liz stepped back from him, took both his hands in hers and gave him a small tug to get his feet moving. "Look at it this way, love, at least we’ll have some more answers."
He nodded but remained quiet. He was trying to brace himself for whatever was coming next. He needed to maintain and strengthen his control and he was afraid the revelations awaiting him downstairs were going to shake that discipline.
Max had Liz’s hand gripped tightly in his own as he made his way slowly down the stairs. He nodded to the Sheriff who stood behind Torquil and Rosa and then his eyes locked on Torquil and he approached the other man with a grim determination. He stopped about ten feet in front of him and waited for Torquil to speak.
"Ah’m nae yer enemy, lad."
"Who are you?" Max asked coldly.
"Ye kin who Ah am. Ah kin ye looked intae ma background."
"That’s not good enough," Liz told him. She was still standing at Max’s side, her arms crossed now as she eyed Torquil suspiciously.
"What else is there?" Torquil asked with a small smile.
"How do you know about the king?" She retorted, ignoring his avoidance of the question.
"Ahh, who doesnae?"
Liz pursed her lips and raised an eyebrow. "How do you know about the king?" She asked again, more firmly this time.
Torquil considered the young woman for a long moment. He still hadn’t figured out her place in things. Other then her obvious position at the king’s side as his consort. He felt perhaps there was more to her then even that, though. She had a bearing and an aura about her as she faced him now as powerful as that of any king.
"We’ve captured some o’ ra Disciple’s people over ra years. They’ve told us aboot their search."
"Who is ‘we’?" Asked Max, taking the lead in the conversation again.
"We ur a group o’ humans tha’ ur tryin’ tae keep these sleekit craturs from takin’ over ra Earth."
Liz and Max shared a look at the edge of anger they heard in Torquil’s voice.
"I see. And you’ve been looking for the king? Why?"
Torquil chuckled at the boy, he still hadn’t admitted to being the king. He was as evasive as Torquil was. He sobered quickly, however, with the realization that now was not the time for such evasiveness. Their enemies were close.
"Aye, we’ve been lookin’ fer ye fer a dozen years or more. Ma ain search fer ye has nae been quite sae long but ‘tis been consuming. But perhaps we’d best wait fer yer freens tae arrive before Ah continue."
"Fine," Max agreed quietly.
Neither he nor Liz made any move to sit down or even relax. They watched Torquil closely almost forgetting Rosa existed until she jumped and gasped audibly when Tess and Kyle came clattering down the stairs.
"Maria is changing out of her uniform and Alex and Isabel should be here any minute," Tess reported.
"Great. Thanks," Max told her.
They didn’t have to wait for Maria for long. She came down the stairs with a smug smile on her face. She stopped next to Liz and glared at Torquil. "What’d I tell you, babe?"
"We’ll see," Liz told her with a fond smile.
Alex and Isabel appeared a few minutes later. By that time everybody had grown weary of the silence and they were ready for some explanations.
Torquil grinned broadly when Alex arrived and then looked over at Kyle with a laugh and a rueful shake of his head. "Ye’ve good spies, here Max. Ah’m nae an eejit, but Ah maun admit Ah did nae pay as much attention tae these twae as Ah should have. They kin how tae act it. Ah guess ye’ve had a thought aboot ma fer almost as long as Ah’ve had yin aboot ye."
Max’s face remained impassive. "Now that everybody’s here, let’s start again, Torquil."
Torquil sighed heavily. "Fine, lad, fine. Yer ra king."
The Sheriff moved impatiently behind Torquil when he didn’t continue. "You’re not really in a position to play games here, Mr. MacNab."
"Yer richt, o’ course." Torquil sat back and crossed his massive arms across his chest and heaved another sigh before beginning his story. "Ah kin ye’ve looked intae ma background. An’ ye’ve found tha’ Ah wa’ a police Inspector. Ye kin tha’ Ah wa’ abducted by aliens abune twae years ago, an’ ye kin tha’ Ah’ve been traveling aboot as a UFOlogist in Europe an’ Asia. What ye likely daenae kin is tha’ shortly after Ah left ra police Ah wa’ contacted by a group tha’ wanted tae protect ra Earth from an alien menace they assured ma wa’ already here. Seeing as Ah had been abducted, Ah gave them a chance tae tell ma their story. They showed ma some things Ah couldnae deny an’ Ah believed in their cause.
"Ah was nae entirely truthful before, Max, when Ah told ye we were a group o’ humans an’ tha’ we got all o’ our information from captured aliens. See, there ur a few aliens in our group, tae. Antaran’s, like yersel. Come tae Earth some fifty years ago tae find ye."
"You’ll understand if we aren’t too excited about that, Mr. MacNab," the Sheriff told him when it looked like Max wasn’t going to say anything. "We haven’t had the best of luck with other aliens."
"There is a civil war on Antar, Torquil. There are factions that want me dead. How do I know what you and your aliens want?" Max told him, acknowledging finally that he was the king.
"Ah kin all aboot ra Disciple, Max, and Ah kin aboot Kivar. Kivar’s been quiet recently, though. However, ra Disciple has been becoming gey aggressive over ra past few years. Ye maun trust ma when Ah tell ye tha’ we want tae help ye, Max. These Antaran’s o’ mine, as ye say, ur loyal tae ra Royal House." Torquil stopped and looked over the group in front of him. "Ah’m guessin’ yer sister there an’ yer freens Michael an’ Tess ur ra other members o’ yer Antaran family here. Aye?"
Isabel glanced over at Max. She couldn’t believe that he was being so unresponsive to the things Torquil was saying. She had a million questions and Max just stood there staring at the man.
She couldn’t take it anymore. "How do you know who we are?"
Torquil grinned and looked over at Isabel. "Well, lass, let ma tell ye. Ye’re a good bunch at hidin’ things. But, Ah wa’ a policeman fer a long time. Hard tae give up tha’ trainin’, aye Sheriff? We’re all a lot o’ nebbies. Stickin’ our noses in where they dae nae belong. Always havin’ our eyen open fer suspicious things."
"Such as?" Liz asked.
"Well, ma first clue wa’ when Ah saw ra connection between the twae o’ ye," he said addressing Liz and Max. "When ra lad’s upset, ye come ‘round awfy quick. An’ he tae ye. Then ye seemed awfy anxious tae help masel oot wi’ this search. A search tha’, if Ah were nae a complete daftie, wa’ goin’ tae be quite dangerous. Ah also caught ye twae takin’ some print oots an’ a disk or twae from ra center, here."
Liz rolled her eyes and groaned slightly at their carelessness. Max broke out of his stoic shell long enough to smile down at Liz and put an arm around her shoulder.
"Go on," he told Torquil.
"Well, these were small things, tae be sure, jess enough tae make ma notice ra twae o’ ye. Next, Maria there seemed jess as interested in ra search as ye did an’ when Ah told her tha’ Ah had ra resources tae take oot ra base she said something aboot ye nae knowin’ what ye were up against how did ye kin that Ah had ra resources tae help ye." He looked over at Maria and winked at her. "See an’ here Ah wa’ thinkin’ ye were helpin’ ma oot. An’ she took an awfy close interest fer bein’ jess a freen bringin’ over dinner. Then when tha’ bear o’ a freen o’ yers, Michael, came over, she told him she’d make him regret ra day he wa’ hatched. Ah daenae kin tae many people tha’ were hatched. O’ course she could hae jess been lettin’ him kin she thought he wa’ a snake but Ah did nae think sae, nae wi’ ra way she said it."
"Damn," Maria murmured, her face flushed with embarrassment. She looked up at Max with a guilty smile but he just shook his head and smiled back.
"Anything else?" Max prompted.
"Oh aye. Ah asked after ra lot o’ ye an’ when Brody told ma ye’d been adopted, Ah started tae have a thought aboot ye. Lookin’ fer ra king tha’s been on ra planet fer fifty years, none o’ us expected ye tae be 17. Nae even ra Antaran’s. They dae nae kin everything aboot how ye were set up on Earth. When ye’d be born, erm, hatched tha’ is." Torquil laughed loudly. "It did nae come tae ma richt away. But if Ah’m lookin’ fer aliens tae begin wi’ anything is possible, heh? Ah had ma final confirmation on Sunday nicht. Brody had tae gae fetch his little girl sae we left our dinner meeting early an’ Ah got back here in enough time tae hear Liz’s story aboot Michael and his dreams. Tha’s when Ah called fer our teams tae come tae Roswell."
"Aye. We’ve an army o’ our ain."
Kyle snapped his fingers suddenly and let out a soft whoop. "That’s why the Disciple’s people never attacked us. They were afraid of old Torquil here."
"Well they did nae kin aboot me until recently, but, aye, they know aboot ma group an’ they’re wary o’ us. They could nae show themsel fer fear o’ givin’ themsel away tae us an’ Kivar."
"Why should we trust you?" Max asked cautiously.
"Tae be honest, lad, ah dae nae have a good reason fer ye. Ah can give ye all ra assurances in ra world tha’ ah mean ye nae harm an’ tha’ we want tae help ye, tha’ we ur on yer side, but ye got tae trust ma tae believe tha’ an’ Ah’ve ocht proof fer ye. Ah can tell ye tae ask Doctor Trailor aboot ma, or Brody, though he doesane kin this part o’ my life, ye can ask Ms. Diaz here, an’ Ah’d like fer ye tae meet yer Antaran subjects but Ah fear we’ve nae ra time. Ah’ll call them anyway if ye’d like."
"Please do. I’d like to talk with them."
"Diaz?" Maria mused quietly. "Wait. Rosa Diaz? No way. Oh my god."
Everybody turned to look at Maria and then back to look at the small dark woman who was huddled quietly in the corner of the couch next to Torquil.
Liz glanced at Maria, her eyes wide with comprehension. "Oh my gosh. Max, this was the lady whose house Michael and Maria went to when we were up in Albuquerque."
Max turned his warm gaze on the frightened woman. "We were worried that something had happened to you. I’m glad to see you’re okay."
"No, I’m not okay. I’ve been running for days. They almost had me at my house. I knew Torquil was here but I know They followed me down. I know it. I saw Them just outside of town," her voice was hoarse with fear and exhaustion and she started to shiver. Torquil leaned across the couch and pulled her to him.
"What are they looking for?" Maria asked. "I mean they totally trashed your house. It was super creepy."
"I took a piece of equipment out of one of their labs up in Los Alamos, as proof that I’d been there and as proof of what they were doing."
"You know where their labs are?" Liz asked, excitement in her voice.
"I found one of them. I’m a physicist and I’ve done some research at the Los Alamos National Laboratories. I am fairly familiar with the LANL set up, and when I came across some documents listing equipment shipments to a lab I’d never heard of, I got a little curious. You see I’ve worked with the group since I was a child. They helped me get to college. Trained scientists who are also believers are not easy to come by."
"Oh, there you go, Lizzy, I bet you can get a full ride scholarship from the mysterious Human/Antaran Group," Alex grinned at her.
"Thanks, Alex. I’ll keep that in mind."
"Oh aye, yer a bright lass, tae be sure." Torquil beamed at her.
Max cleared his throat and tried to pull the conversation back to the main issue. "You’re welcome to stay with us, Ms. Diaz, though, I guess you’ll probably feel safer with Torquil. Either way, we’ll help you if we can."
"Now Max, Ah’m worried aboot yer freen, Michael. He’s up wi’ ra Disciple, isnae he?"
"Yes, he is."
"Can ye get him back?"
"What do you know, Torquil?" Max asked sharply.
"If we move against ra Disciple Ah wouldnae like tae see him caught in ra middle."
Liz felt Max tense even more next to her and when she looked up at his face he could see the muscles in his jaw working as he ground his teeth in frustration.
"When do you think you’d be ready to move against them?" Liz inquired.
"Ah daenae kin richt now. Ah’ll have tae meet wi’ ma team leaders."
"Why don’t you do that then and get back to us with a time table." There was more then a hint of command in Liz’s voice and Torquil smiled his approval at her.
"Ah will, lass. An what will ye lot dae?"
"We’ll continue with what we’ve been doing. We need to find the location of the Disciple’s bases. Michael is going to try and get us an exact location but we don’t know how long that will take." Max stopped suddenly when he realized he was making plans with Torquil. How did that happen? When did he decide he trusted Torquil enough to include him here? If what Torquil said was true, the man had had every opportunity to turn Max and the other’s over to either the government or the other alien factions, and he hadn’t. Still he wasn’t entirely comfortable trusting Torquil yet. He pulled Liz closer to him and bent his head to whisper in her ear. "Liz, I want you to contact the Protector and the Prophet and tell them about Torquil. I’d like to hear what they suggest. Maybe she knows more about our allies on Earth then she mentioned and she can tell us if it’s really Torquil’s people."
Liz nodded her head in agreement. "I’ll do it as soon as we’re done here."
Torquil was smiling at them both and Liz couldn’t help but wonder about the man. They were talking about getting ready for a war and he was grinning like a madman.
"Alright then. Torquil, I am going to trust you since I don’t think I have much of a choice at the moment, but that trust only goes so far. I want to know everything you’re doing and I want to talk to the Antarans as soon as possible. Everybody else, I want you all to stick together. Don’t go out alone if you can help it. If Ms. Diaz is right then the Disciple’s people have come back and we’re vulnerable again. I need to think for a little while. I think we all do but I want us all to meet again tomorrow afternoon. We’ll go to Michael’s. Torquil I’ll give you the address tomorrow."
Torquil chuckled, yes that trust did only go so far. "Fine, Max, jess fine."
Max stared at Torquil for a moment, his eyes suddenly cold and hard. "Don’t make me regret this Torquil."
"Ah swear, lad, ye can trust me. Ah’ll nae disappoint ye."
Max held Torquil’s gaze for a moment longer before turning to the rest of the group. "Then we’ll all meet tomorrow. Kyle, Tess, thanks. If you guys hadn’t been watching out it might have taken longer to get this information out of Torquil."
Torquil laughed loudly. "Aye lad, it might hae at tha’."
Kyle shrugged his shoulders and cast a curious glance at Torquil. "Yeah, no big deal man. My Wednesday nights are never boring anymore."
Everybody laughed then, enjoying for a moment a break from the tension that had held the room in its grip. They took a moment to say their good-byes and then headed for the comfort and relative safety of their homes.
"Ah’ll lock up ra center, lad," Torquil told Max as he and Liz watched everybody leave.
"Oh, okay, thanks."
"Morra, yer majesty." Torquil winked and Liz laughed at the look of consternation that flashed across Max’s face.
"Don’t call me that," he mumbled.
"Come on, Max, walk me home." Liz grabbed his hand and they walked out quietly.
Neither of them said anything until they entered the Crashdown. "Do you really think we should trust Torquil this much?"
"I don’t know, Liz. But, I . . . I want to. I know that we’re in a really bad situation and it’s probably dangerous but I want to trust him. If he’s telling the truth he could be a really great help. Not just with this but with everything. I’m trying not to get my hopes up, though."
Liz saw her father watching them from across the mostly empty restaurant. "Max, say goodnight to me here and then meet me on my balcony in fifteen minutes. I’ll try to contact Sef and Tobin then and we can find out what they have to say. Oh and there’s something else I meant to tell you. I was going to tonight but then Kyle showed up and well, I just didn’t get the chance."
Max frowned in concern. "What is it?"
"Don’t worry, just something about the Granolith. I’m not sure what it means. Kiss me goodnight before my father decides to come over here, Max."
Max looked up startled and saw Jeff Parker watching him with an calculating look. Max was suddenly nervous but he didn’t have time to worry too much about it because Liz pulled his head down to hers and the moment his lips touched hers all thought flew out of his brain. They pulled apart a long minute later.
Max was pacing the roof outside Liz’s window when she climbed out thirty minutes later. Her father had started asking her questions and she hadn’t been able to get away any more quickly.
Max strode over to her and wrapped his arms around her and devoured her mouth in a hungry kiss. When they came up for air, Liz felt her knees tremble and sank down onto her deck chair.
"Wow. What was that for?"
Max shrugged. "I just wanted to kiss you. Is that okay?"
"Wow. Of course, it is. You can kiss me like that any time you want."
Max grinned then and sat back in the chair and pulled Liz up against him so that she was laying on his chest. "Then I am the luckiest man in the universe."
"I am definitely the luckiest woman."
Max chuckled and Liz could feel the rumble of the laugh as it passed from his chest into hers. It was such an amazing, warm sensation. She wanted to melt into Max.
"I thought I was the sap of this relationship," Max said accusingly. "You’re infringing on my territory."
Liz rubbed a hand on his stomach and kissed his jaw. "I reserve the right to be sappy when you’ve been sappy first. It’s only fair."
"Oh, okay then."
They lay together in silence for a time, just enjoying each other’s company. When Liz felt herself begin to drift off she sat up. "I don’t want to fall asleep out here, it’s too damp and cold. Let’s go into my room."
"Are you sure that’s a good idea, Liz?"
"I trust you." She smirked.
Max groaned. "I’m glad one of us does." He stood up to follow her into her room.
Max took off his jacket and shoes and lay down on Liz’s bed. She climbed in after him, snuggling against his warmth.
"Hey, Liz what was it you wanted to tell me earlier? About the Granolith?"
"Oh yeah. I didn’t want to say anything in front of anybody else ‘cause it was really kind of weird. When I asked Tobin what the Granolith was and he told me it was the power of nature and I mentioned something about that being why the Disciple wanted it and then he asked me if I would want such power. I told him not particularly and then he said something and I wasn’t even sure I heard him at first but Sef, Michael and I all sort of froze and stared at him. He told me it was just as well that I didn’t want the power because it was mine already."
"What? The power of the Granolith is yours? How can that be?"
"I have no idea. He and Sef started insulting each other and then he didn’t say anything else about it. I don’t know what to think about that, Max."
Max sighed and kissed the top of her head tenderly. "Just one more mystery in our lives. We’ll try to figure it out, but I don’t want you to worry about it too much right now. If Tobin says anything more or you feel anything you tell me, okay?"
"Of course, Max."
"I love you, Liz." He tightened his hold on her. "Okay, how do you do this? How do you contact them?"
"I’m just supposed to relax and think about one of them and they should show up. I haven’t tried it yet."
Max ran his hands slowly up and down her back, rubbing gently trying to help her to relax enough to contact them. "I’ll be here as long as it takes."
Liz mumbled something incoherent and drifted off to sleep in his warm embrace.
She recognized the workshop immediately and started across the room to the furnace. This time she managed to avoid most of the hidden obstacles, only tripping once over a toolbox.
"Tobin? I thought I was trying to contact Sef?" She looked down at the small man sitting on the stool in front of the furnace.
"You were, and I’ll try not to take offence, but she and Michael are meeting with his followers now and she cannot leave yet."
"Oh, well I didn’t mean to offend you."
"I jest, girl." He grinned up at her.
Liz smiled back. "Okay. Um, we need a little bit of help."
"I am here to guide you if I can."
"We met a man who said he is with a group of humans and Antarans who are trying to stop the Disciple. We’re not sure if we should trust him."
"Tricky business, this trusting people."
"Yeah, it seems to be. We thought his group might be the ally Sef mentioned, but we really have no way to be sure."
"You can be sure. Look into him and what do you see?"
"I as in me or I as in me and my people in general?"
Tobin laughed and clapped his hands. "Oh, rapture, you are as literal as Sef. She is so much fun. You as in you. It is a leap of faith, the hardest leap to make and you being as you are will have the hardest time with it and yet it’s one of your many gifts."
"So you’re saying I should trust him?"
"No, I am saying you should look inside of him and find what you seek there. Since there is no science in that you will have to jump to catch your answer."
"Me? I make this decision? Not Max? Me?"
"You. You make this decision. Not Max. You."
Liz felt a wave of trepidation swell up towards her. "How do I know I’m right? This is everybody’s lives if I’m wrong."
"Leap, girl, leap."
"Leap," she said uncertainly.
"Leap," Tobin agreed.
Liz’s eyes came open slowly. She could hear Max’s deep, even breathing under her ear and she wondered how long they’d been asleep. She shifted to turn over and look at her clock when her eyes caught the first blush of dawn in her window. All night. She’d shared a bed with Max all night, again, and nothing happened. This was becoming a nasty habit. Not that she would ever truly complain about waking up next to Max. It was her deepest, most fervent desire that she would be able to do it for the rest of her life. Unfortunately her parents were down the hall and they needed to get up for school.
"Max. Max, honey, wake up."
He muttered and rolled over, trapping her underneath him. She relaxed briefly, enjoying the feel of his weight upon her but her alarm clock was going to go off soon and he needed to go home.
"Max. It’s morning. Wake up."
He finally opened his eyes and looked down at her. "Morning, doll face."
"Morning, love." She kissed him tenderly.
"I have to go."
"I know. You don’t want to get in trouble."
"How absurd is that? I spend the night worrying about an interstellar war and I have to hurry home so I don’t get in trouble with my parents," he mumbled in her ear.
"Well, I spent the night trying to contact a prophet from another planet so, I’d say our lives are, at least, very interesting. In the most absurd sense of the word, of course."
"Did you contact them?" Max asked, suddenly alert.
"Yeah, I talked to Tobin."
"What did he say."
Liz took a deep breath before continuing, "He says we should trust, Torquil."
|posted on 8-Sep-2001 3:06:34 PM|
|posted on 9-Sep-2001 1:14:39 AM|
Michael stood on the trunk of a twisted pine jutting precariously sideways from the side of the mountain and out over a steep, rocky drop. He stared contemplatively at the valley below, willing his mind to go blank. Then he climbed as far out as he thought the tree could bear his weight and sat down on the rough bark, his feet braced on a branch. Reaching over he scooped up a handful of snow from a small drift that had piled up on a mat of needled branches. He rubbed the snow roughly into his face and around his neck, hoping that the shocking, painful cold could somehow cleanse his mind of the horrific things he’d seen that day. It worked only so long as he rubbed but as soon as he stopped the images would come flooding back into his mind.
He ground his teeth in annoyance when he heard the shuffle of feet behind him. He didn’t bother worrying if it was a friend or a foe, his bodyguards wouldn’t let anybody near him who wasn’t ‘safe’. The stomp of feet got louder but he refused to turn.
"Get lost, Amal, I don’t want to talk about troop movements anymore."
"I’m sure Amal’s heart will be broken when he hears the news."
Michael turned his head slowly, trying to hide his surprise, and watched Tobin scamper agilely across the tree towards him. Michael managed to resist gaping at the little man’s dexterity, especially given the fact that he was almost completely blind. Tobin seemed to think nothing of his perilous perch and dropped down easily to sit beside Michael. He squinted and took in the view offered by their vantagepoint with a contented sigh.
"I have paints."
"Good for you."
Tobin laughed and peered up at the large man beside him. "You paint, Michael."
"I haven’t in a long time."
"Oh, you should paint again. We could paint together. The things we see outside, we see inside with different clarity, we work our hands and create them anew and then we see them again for the first time."
"Where’s Sef?" Michael asked sharply. He wasn’t in the mood for the man’s obscure pronouncements.
"Oh, you’re lousy with hurts today, aren’t you? I told Sef I was going to my workshop and made a run for it when she went to talk to Tesher." Tobin told him with a roguish grin.
The corners of Michael’s mouth turned reluctantly upwards at the image of the small prophet dashing gleefully through the halls of the military complex.
"She’s not gonna be too happy about that."
Tobin dismissed his concern with a wave of his hand. "She’ll survive her annoyance quite well, I am sure."
Tobin laughed a wheezing laugh and patted Michael on the shoulder. "I will. Some protector she would be if she killed the person she was to protect. Besides, I do this to her from time to time. It makes her feel useful."
The two men fell silent then and sat in the branches of the swaying tree, listening to the rush of the wind in the pines. Michael’s mind turned back to his morning and as much as he wanted to think of something else he could only see the abominations that left him heaving up his breakfast. He scrubbed another handful of snow across his face and tried to think about something else. He wished he were back in Roswell with Maria. God, he’d give anything to hear one of her diatribes on his lack of emotion and what exactly she was going to do about it. He took a deep breath and conjured up the memory of the look on her face when he poured honey on his lunch that weekend in Albuquerque. It had taken every rock in his stonewall to keep him from laughing out loud in that restaurant. His thoughts moved on to linger at the way she’d felt in his arms when he’d held her close on Sunday morning.
"You are in pain and a gentle balm sooths your hurts." Tobin nodded his approval at the shift in Michael’s emotions.
Michael, however, disliked the invasion of his private thoughts. "What the hell are you talking about?"
"It is a blackness in your mind. Swirling and gnawing at your heart. Your body is sick with it. What did you see this morning, Michael?"
"Nothing," Michael mumbled uncomfortably.
"You saw wickedness. Pure and hateful. You saw what the people of your world are willing to do to the people of this world to reach their ends. But most horribly, when you saw faces they belonged to those you loved. Friends. A blond-haired young woman who drives you to madness of love and frustration. You think to yourself, against your will, what she would look like if she were in one of the vats. You try not to feel her pain. You pray she is safe but you fear for tomorrow."
"Okay, so why are you asking me if you know everything already?"
"I know what you saw, Michael. And I know your blond beauty. I’ve seen her in your dreams. From that I have a notion about what you thought but I cannot know all your thoughts, and I do not know from what angle you see what you saw."
Michael growled, "Stay the hell out of my dreams."
"Dreams are what I see most clearly, Michael. A second sight where I lack a first. An eye to read a page from the grand old Universe’s tome of secrets. A light in my mind unveiling shrouded mystery. It comes unbidden to me. A gift or a curse."
Michael sat quietly for a time, trying to digest that, before he finally spoke up again. "So what is it? A gift or a curse?"
"Depends upon my supper," Tobin said, his voice a teasing singsong.
Michael narrowed his eyes and glared at the prophet. "Whatever."
"I spoke with the lovely Liz last night."
"Yeah? What’d she say?" Michael asked, suddenly very curious to hear what the man had to tell him. He was starved for word from home though he’d only been gone a few days.
"Oh she is such a glittering shimmering star. True and swift winged hope. A fair soul of grace, crafted from Nature her creature of most honest beauty."
"Tobin," Michael snarled. "What did she say?"
"A man came to them and offered an alliance. She sought advice."
"What man? What did you tell her?"
"A man, I know not who. She said he was human but stood already with our people. She wondered if he would be a faithful and constant confederate. How would she know."
"And," Michael prompted.
"She had the answer already. Though she is an exacting seeker for answers of the tangible, she has a genius of seeing all truth, through artifice, through faithlessness, through fear and anger. Truth that lies in the seen and unseen. She lacks only in faith, but she is strong and with the favor of time she will find it."
Michael shook his head in frustration. "What does that mean?"
"It means she had the answer, I had only to show her where to look for it. Their path is set now. Things will progress apace."
"You know, you keep making all these hints and stuff that Liz is more then she seems. What do you know about her?"
"Liz is exactly what she seems, you simply have not seen the whole of her." Tobin looked up at Michael again and whispered conspiratorially, "Neither has she."
"And you have?"
"I have seen more then either of you, but not the entirety. Completion occurs in the Universe’s course. It exists not in one single moment but is the result of many moments played together like the nimble gait of a splendid dance. Each step alone is not the dance. Or the music for that matter."
Michael rubbed a finger across his eyebrow thoughtfully. "We haven’t seen everything about her yet because it’s not all there to be seen yet?"
Tobin bounced up to his feet on the trunk and shook Michael’s shoulders gleefully. "Exactly! We are the sum of many days."
"Great," Michael said his body tense and ready to lunge the moment the prophet’s wild caperings sent him flying off the tree. "And yet, somehow, that totally didn’t answer my question about Liz."
Tobin sat back down beside him. "Of course it did. Perhaps you failed to ask the right question."
"42," Michael mumbled.
"Nothing. So, okay I get it. I asked if she was more then she seemed and you answered basically yes. She’s human, so how does she have all these gifts? How is it she has the power of the Granolith?"
"Many of your gifts Michael are human gifts, you know that. As for some of her other gifts, well, the Universe does not send its children out on their paths unprepared."
"And the Granolith?"
"I do not have that answer for you, Liz must discover it."
"You don’t know?"
"Then how do you know it’s hers?" Michael persisted.
"Michael, Michael, obstinate, Michael. I am not omnipotent. I can see pieces others are blind to but I do not see all creation, all time, all place."
Michael sighed and leaned back in the tree. He inhaled deeply the cold, sweet scent of pine and let his gaze wander down across the valley. "What about me?"
Tobin grinned and nodded. "Yes, yes. Lost Michael. Cast adrift in a sea of stars. A wounded boy whose only desire is to know that around one dim star somewhere his is a soul valued and loved. He seeks his worth among the distant bodies hung aloft and curses a fate that brought him to this lonely globe."
"Not helping," Michael grumbled.
"What answers do you truly seek, Michael? You want to know if you are worth more then your own estimation. You want to know you have a place and value in this universe. You want to know if you will always be so sick at heart with loneliness. I can tell you Michael, that you have these answers already. They are obscured by your fear. Your trepidation that if you seek that which you long for you will find instead that which you dread most deeply. You reason that if you never look then that fear can never take the form of reality. But Michael if you never look then that fear you live with day by day will always cast its shadow on your life. If you can gather the courage to look you will find more then you suspect, more then you can imagine, your deepest desires hide behind your greatest fears. Which do you deny, Michael? Do you want to hide from what you fear or search for what your heart calls for most?"
Michael clamped his jaw shut tightly and swallowed convulsively a few times, trying to keep the prophet from seeing how deeply his words had affected him. He looked everywhere but at the smaller man until he thought he could speak again. "I don’t know what you’re talking about," he said gruffly.
"Michael, you are brave, and strong, and loyal, and gentle, and caring, and a horrible liar. What do you think it matters to me if you lie to me? It does not. To lie to yourself is to deny the possibility of joy and happiness. Do not think so poorly of yourself. Your path is rocky enough, with thorns besides, do not make it more difficult then it need be. You have much you need to accomplish and much you need to bear upon your shoulders in this lifetime. The weight will not be near so crushing if you know the truth or your own heart."
"What if I never find what I want?"
"What makes you think you haven’t already?"
"I think I’d know."
"Would you? Or has doubt interfered with what you see? Answer one question for me, Michael, and swear it will be truth. Where do you want to be right now?"
Michael sat silently for a moment, not sure what to say. Was the automatic answer on his tongue the truth or was it what he’d trained himself to say over the years? Always wanting to appear strong and hopefully finding strength in that, he shied away from anyone knowing any truth about him. He offered as little as he could. His life had taught him that any little thing could be used against him. Used to torment and torture. Not everybody was like that, though, and he knew that too. "Home."
"Roswell," he said quietly at first with his voice gathering strength as he continued. "Right now I want to be back in Roswell and I want to be with Maria. That’s what I want."
"Have you ever finger painted?"
Michael had to laugh then. His emotions were buzzing wildly inside of him and the little twerp went and changed the subject to something totally ridiculous. "Nah, man, I’ve never finger painted."
Tobin glanced at Michael, his eyes wide with horror. "No, never? How horrible. No wonder you’re such an angry young man. Come, come, let us go fix that horrible gaping hole in your life."
Tobin got to his feet and scampered happily down the trunk, jumping to solid earth with a flourish. Michael followed him more slowly and carefully, stepping with all the dignity he could muster off the tree and onto the ground. He may be getting in touch with his inner feelings and all that crap but he didn’t need to make himself look like an idiot in front of his bodyguards.
|posted on 9-Sep-2001 1:18:48 AM|
|posted on 9-Sep-2001 1:23:59 AM|
|posted on 9-Sep-2001 1:28:48 AM|
The jingle of the front door drew Jeff Parker’s attention from the paperwork spread out on the counter before him. He watched as Max Evans stepped in to the restaurant and hesitated for a moment, his eyes scanning the crowded room. Maria slid easily around customers to meet him by the door. With a few words and a casual gesture she directed him to a booth near the back. The booth Jeff recognized as Max’s booth. The one the boy had occupied for countless hours over countless years. No, not a boy, a young man, Jeff corrected himself. Time for that talk, he decided. Liz would be a while getting ready and who knew when he’d get the chance to talk to Max alone again.
Jeff approached Max slowly, looking the young man over closely. He’d been shy and quiet for as long as Jeff had known him but there was also an air of self-possession that lingered about him. He quickened his pace when Max looked up and saw him coming. "Hello, Max. Liz’ll be down in a little bit. She went up to change just a few seconds before you got here."
"Hello, Mr. Parker. That’s fine," Max said quietly with a small smile.
"Mind if I sit down for a bit?" Jeff asked indicating the seat across the booth from Max.
Max’s eyes widened slightly but he gave no other sign of surprise. "No, of course not. Go ahead."
"So, what are your plans for tonight?" Jeff asked casually.
"Well, we thought we’d go to an early movie and then dinner afterwards."
"Planning on lingering over dessert?"
"Uh . . ." Max was absolutely certain that there was no way to answer that question that wouldn’t be taken the wrong way by his girlfriend’s father.
Jeff smiled a rather cold smile at Max. "Can I ask you a question Max?"
Max swallowed. "Of course, Mr. Parker."
"Are you and my daughter having sex?" Jeff stared at Max expectantly and when the young man seemed to hesitate he continued, "Please don’t lie to me, Max."
Max felt cold shock shoot through his body at the suddenness of the question and it took him a couple of seconds to get his brain working again. "No, Mr. Parker. Liz and I are not having sex," Max told the other man firmly.
Max was looking Jeff squarely in the eyes, his face slightly flushed but his features resolute and strong. "Are you sure that’s the truth Max? I’ve seen how close and how physically comfortable you and Liz are together these days."
"It is the truth."
"Are you planning on having sex with her?" Jeff asked immediately regretting the question. He hadn’t meant to be so blunt, but it seemed he just couldn’t help it. Unfortunately, it was the kind of question that could rebound on him badly.
Max stared at the other man and considered his answer. "Liz and I have discussed it and we both feel that while we love each other very much we’re not quite ready to take our relationship there yet." And, if he omitted what had almost happened in a hotel room in Albuquerque, that was pretty much the truth, too.
Jeff sat back with a smile, convinced by Max’s sincerity. "That’s good, Max. You don’t want to jump into things. You’re both still young."
"However," Max continued, coming to a decision and feeling he needed to try and impress on Liz’s father the true degree of his attachment to her. Jeff’s eyes snapped back to Max’s and he felt himself tensing for what would be coming next. "I have to tell you the absolute truth, sir. I’m in love with your daughter. And it’s not just for this month or this year or even for this lifetime. I love her for all time. I’m telling you this so that you can understand how I feel. I would never force Liz to do something she wasn’t comfortable with. I would die before I hurt her. At some point, yes Mr. Parker, Liz and I will be making love. But not today and not tomorrow. Since I plan to spend the rest of my life with her I will wait for her for as long as it takes. Until the time is right for us."
Jeff took a deep breath, shaken somewhat by the conviction with which Max spoke. "I see. I appreciate your candor, Max. Understand, though, that she is my little girl. She will always be my little girl. You are both very young and I am not prepared to give her up to you yet."
Max struggled to resist the defensive and possessive impulses that were rising up inside of him. There was no way in this or any other world he was going to lose Liz. It couldn’t happen, he absolutely refused to let it. He took a deep breath though, and when he spoke he managed to remain composed. "I’m not asking you to give her up, but I just want you to know that she is the most important part of my life. I want to be with her."
"I don’t want to see Liz make any mistakes she’ll regret, Max."
"Neither do I, Mr. Parker," Max told the older man softly.
"I’m glad we understand each other." Jeff gave Max a severe look but had to relent when he saw the emotion in Max’s eyes. Damn it, he was never any good at playing the bad guy. "Max, I don’t mean to sound like a harsh, controlling parent. I’m just a father protecting his daughter. I know you don’t want to hurt her and I have no intention of keeping her from you. I trust that you are both intelligent, responsible young adults, but even the best of us make mistakes. I want to keep Lizzy from that if I can."
"Yes, sir," Max whispered.
Jeff took a deep breath, and wondered briefly if he was about to do the right thing. "Max, I’ve watched you watch my Lizzy for years. There is no doubt in my mind that you care for her very deeply and I know she feels the same way about you. I do remember what it’s like to be your age, hard as it is to believe a human being can remember that far back." Jeff laughed slightly at his own joke before continuing on a little more unsteadily. "I know that that right time will come for you and Liz probably a decade or so before I’d like it to. Just tell me you’ll both be careful. Please."
"We will, Mr. Parker." Max choked out.
Jeff cleared his throat a couple of times and looked anxiously around the restaurant. He finally turned back to Max, his mind resolved. "If, when it comes that time, Max, you need, um, or I mean, you have any questions or doubts or anything you need to talk to another man about. I’m sure you can talk to your father, of course, but if for some reason you can’t or something else is going on, I want you to be able to come to me. I can’t promise I’ll be thrilled inside but if you honestly need advice or, or anything . . . I know that it wouldn’t be really ideal or comfortable for either of us, but I know that you want to take care of Liz. We both do. So for Liz. Okay? For Liz we can talk man to man if you ever need to, um, about anything. And, and, if when you’re both ready if you need, uh, that is if you’re too embarrassed to, um, purchase the necessary items, I know I can’t stop nature but I can, err, run to the drug store."
Max felt like his face would burst into flames at any moment. He couldn’t quite manage to choke out any words but he nodded his head jerkily and made a grunting sound he hoped could be taken for agreement. Where were the armies of skins when you really needed them, he wondered to himself?
"Well, that said, I just have one request Max."
"Yes sir?" Max asked a little fearfully.
"Can you try and wait until I’m dead?" Jeff asked him with an eyebrow raised and a wry smirk on his face.
Max grinned in relief. "Well, Mr. Parker, you could, and I sincerely hope you do, end up living a very long healthy life and I’ll wait for Liz forever but I don’t know about you."
Jeff laughed. "Well you could always kill me."
"I don’t think Liz would like that."
"What wouldn’t I like?" Liz asked appearing finally.
"Nothing Lizzy. Max and I were just joking around." Jeff smiled fondly at his daughter and stood up. He put his hands on her shoulders and looked down at her. "You look beautiful tonight, honey."
"Thanks dad." She blushed slightly but grinned happily up at her father.
"Okay, kids. Have a good night. Lizzy, home by 12:30 please."
"Fine dad. Night."
"Goodbye, Mr. Parker it was good talking to you."
"Just remember what I said, son."
"Yes, sir." Max’s face went red again but he didn’t flinch from Jeff’s gaze.
Jeff watched as Liz and Max crossed the restaurant and out the front door. He saw how they moved together so effortlessly. How Max’s hand rested gently but possessively on her back. How she tilted her head back and to the side to look up at him with a loving smile on her lips. He was most impressed by the changes he saw in Max when he was around Liz. How centered and confident he seemed. As uncomfortable as their talk had been, Jeff knew Max had been totally honest with him, he also knew they were still probably more intimate then he’d like but, after the talk, he realized he respected Max. He was grateful that his daughter had found a young man who treated her so tenderly, lovingly and considerately. He sighed at the surge of melancholy that arose with the thought that his darling little baby had finally grown up. But, my how she had grown up. The melancholy was replaced by a wave of pride. She was so intelligent, so beautiful, such a gentle soul. And when she and Max were together there was a grace and power that existed between them that was almost awe inspiring.
He sighed one more time and turned back to his papers. He felt better for having the talk with Max. Confident that his Lizzy was in good hands.
"Okay, so since when do you and my dad joke around?" Liz asked Max as the left the Crashdown and strolled down the street. This was their first real date since Christmas. With everything that had been going on there just hadn’t been time for ‘them’. She was glad Max had finally pulled her off the computer and insisted that they take a night off to just be together.
"Since he ambushed me while I was waiting for you to come down." Max told her, relieved beyond belief to have escaped the scrutiny of Jeff Parker more or less unscathed.
Liz raised an eyebrow. Ambushed wasn’t a word she would have ever really associated with her father. "Ambushed?"
"Yeah. He asked if I was having sex with you."
Liz clasped a hand to her mouth, trying to stifle the giggles that were threatening to break free. "Oh my god, Max." She said breathlessly.
"Yeah, it kind of came out of nowhere."
"What did you tell him?"
"Well, I told him the truth. Though, I think we need to buy Maria something really, really gaudy and expensive for interrupting us in Albuquerque. Otherwise that conversation would have ended with me running from your father and his shotgun," Max deadpanned.
Liz was biting her lips and she shook her head. "My dad doesn’t have a shotgun."
"He would have found one," he assured her. "Anyway, then he asked me if I was planning to have sex with you."
Liz couldn’t keep it in anymore. She threw back her head and laughed. Max grinned at her. He loved the sound of her laughter. There had been so little to laugh at recently. But the pure and unfettered joy that flowed from her with the laugh warmed him through and through. It was worth being interrogated by her father for that.
"And you told him what?" Liz asked between gasps for air.
"I told him we weren’t quite ready for that."
"Good. Safe answer."
Max continued with a twinkle in his eye. "But then I told him that since I was going to spend the rest of my life with you I would definitely be having sex with you at some point."
Her eyes opened wide in shock. "You didn’t?"
Max nodded his head happily. He was enjoying himself now. The emotions that flitted across Liz’s face were priceless. "I did. I told him I’d wait for you. However long it took. And, I will Liz. Even if I have to wait 50 years." He told her seriously.
"Max, I have no intention of being a 67 year old virgin," Liz said, slapping him gently on the shoulder. "What did he say to that?"
"Well, then we both agreed that we didn’t want to see you get hurt or make any mistakes you’d regret."
"I could never regret a single instant I’m with you, Max. Besides, I’m more then capable of making my own decisions. I don’t need two great big hairy men deciding things for me." She snorted indignantly.
"I know that sweetheart." Max slipped his arm around her slim shoulder and pulled her close. "But the best part came next."
She gaped at him. "Oh god. There’s more?"
He grinned and nodded. "He told me that when the time came for us, when we were ready to have sex, if I had any questions or needed advice, you know, guy stuff, I could talk to him about it."
Laughter erupted from Liz again and she sagged against him.
"And then he said he’d buy us protection if we were too embarrassed."
Liz had to stop walking then. Her legs didn’t seem to be working anymore and she couldn’t get her breath back. Her shoulders shook with mirth and she leaned heavily against Max for support. "No way," she said through a wheezing gasp for breath.
"There’s more," he said mischievously.
"No, please," she pleaded with him weakly.
"Sorry, doll face. Then he asked if I could wait until he was dead." Max stroked Liz’s hair gently when she buried her face in his shoulder, trying to muffle her giggles. "I told him I couldn’t wait that long and that’s when he told me I could always just kill him."
Liz was helpless as waves of hilarity whipped through her. "Oh my god, Max. That is so funny. I’m so sorry he ambushed you like that. God, I can’t believe he did that."
"I guess all things considered it didn’t end too badly. I mean it kind of started out as the dad speech, you know, touch my daughter and die, and ended with him offering to buy us condoms."
Fresh guffaws broke from Liz and she had to grab Max’s arms to keep from falling over. When she finally composed herself there were tears streaming down her bright, red face. She took several deep breaths and smiled up at Max. "That’s pretty classic, Max."
"Yeah, that’s one for the grandkids."
They finally made it to Max’s jeep and he helped her in and waited patiently while she dug through her purse and fixed herself up. He watched as she fussed over her makeup. She didn’t wear much, he didn’t think she needed any really, but he was enjoying watching her. She looked up and caught his eye.
"You look happy tonight, love."
"I am happy tonight. I love you." He reached over to stroke her cheek gently.
She grinned at him. Her heart felt light for the moment. He was so adorable when he was being romantic. "So what’s the plan, oh king of my world."
He smiled smugly back at her and started up the jeep. "Well I thought we’d go to a movie neither of us will actually end up paying any attention to. I’ll have my arm around your shoulder and I’ll rub it gently with my hand. You’ll have your hand on my thigh and you’ll make those distracting little designs on it with your fingers. We’ll spend most of the film sneaking glances at each other and probably a few kisses. Then we’ll go to dinner and stare at each other some more while holding hands. It’s a good thing you’re ambidextrous, by the way. We’ll talk about our friends and family and school but mostly we’ll stare. We’ll say little lovey-dovey things to each other that would make all of our friends gag but we won’t care ‘cause they aren’t there. Then I think we’ll take a little drive out to the desert and we’ll sit on the hood of the jeep and I’ll wrap you in a blanket and we’ll whisper to each other for a bit and then we’ll kiss until it’s time for me to take you home. How’s that sound?"
Liz laughed. "Excellent plan. I’d say it sound like we are made for each other."
"Thank god," he told her fervently.
"No evil alien talk tonight, though, right?"
"Right. No evil aliens."
"Unless they attack."
Max chuckled. "Or unless you end up taking Maria’s side on any Michael subject that may come up."
Liz smirked up at him. "Guess we’ll see how it goes then."
He reached over and took her small, warm hand in his. He brought it to his lips and pressed a tender kiss to her fingers. "Guess so."
|posted on 9-Sep-2001 1:32:00 AM|
|posted on 9-Sep-2001 1:37:18 AM|
Friday, February 2, 2001
Die January! Die!
Finally, the month from Hades has ended.
I have survived.
The Deluca women roar again.
I’ve decided what I’m going to do. I’m going to strangle Michael first and then kiss the hell out of him when I get his sorry extraterrestrial butt back.
So we have a day off school today. Teacher in-service. Whatever that means. They probably just show off their thumbscrews to each other. And I didn’t have to work today so I wanted to be totally lazy for once. Except of course that I have to help plan for a war. Scary thing is that’s not a euphemism for like a date or a football game. Literally a war. And Michael with his special knack for digging himself in deep has landed on the wrong side of the front. Liz tries to reassure me that Michael isn’t alone, he’s got the Prophet and the Protector and, I shudder, his followers. Whatever. He’s not where I can keep an eye on him so I’m not feeling particularly good about the whole situation.
Okay so looking back at my last couple of journal entries I sense some crushing depression. I’ve come to realize that being a teenager just sucks enough anyway without the added complications. On the other hand, I will never regret not doing anything exciting when I was young. I’ve done all the wild and crazy rebellion things, almost all, like running from the law, aiding and abetting the breaking of laws, taking off with the town badboy on some roadtrip without my mother’s knowledge, letting said badboy sleep in my bed, just sleep, really. If I weren’t so gosh darn responsible I’d be in a cell next to my loser cousin. Plus we’ve got the Sheriff in our pocket. He can hardly arrest us for breaking and entering when he’s the one who told us how to break and enter.
Anyway, back to the additional angst in my life. I don’t think my mother’s very happy that Michael, still absent, has somehow managed to worm his way back into my good graces. Granted, she’s thrilled that I’m not demon girl anymore and I’m more or less back to normal but we were really getting into the whole ‘girl power’/’men suck’ thing. It was good bonding time. Not that she’s buying into the ‘men suck’ philosophy at the moment, what with her current infatuation with a certain rugged lawman. She’s such a poser. But I think she’s finally starting to understand how I feel about Michael. This isn’t just some passing crush, fling, what have you. I still can’t tell her exactly what happened so she doesn’t know what kind of man Michael truly is but with a little brush up and creative storytelling I’ve managed to make him look less like a delinquent then usual. It’s a step. A small step, but a step none the less.
The Sheriff has been great, too. I knew that he liked Michael but I don’t think I ever really knew how much. I think that maybe he feels sort of responsible for Michael. I know he feels responsible for all of us, him being the supervising adult and all, but he suspected things were really bad for Michael while he lived with Hank and he probably regrets that he couldn’t ever help him out, that his hands were tied. And it’s like he’s trying to make up for that now by trying to project that whole father figure/role model thing. He’s been doing that a lot lately. I spent two hours yesterday trying to figure out if I’d have to acknowledge some sort of relation to Tess if my mom and Jim got married. I came down firmly on the side of ‘no’. She’s almost eighteen and he’s just her temporary guardian. I’ll make believe, tell myself that and sleep better at night for it.
On to the war. I am not ashamed to admit I am scared as hell. Everybody is. Mostly we’re scared of ugly painful death. But, I catch Liz watching Max, and I know she’s afraid that he’s going to try to push her away for her own safety. I told him yesterday that wasn’t going to go over real well with her so he’d better not even be considering it. He looked a little sheepish but said it was only a passing thought. He couldn’t do this without her anymore. God, he is such a sweetheart it makes me sick sometimes. But, despite what I sometimes tell him, I wouldn’t want Michael to be any other way. I think he could try a little harder on the romance front occasionally, get some pointers from his pal Romeo but he really sucks at expressing emotions so when he actually does it at least I know they are genuine.
Speaking of emotion. I cannot believe that he told Liz to tell me he loved me. Yes, okay, I panicked. Why does he only do this when he’s walking away or in mortal danger? Like I said, he does it so rarely that at least I know it’s the truth, but I can’t reciprocate damn it! That’s why he does it. Coward. God, I am so worried about him. Yeah, I thought I’d feel better about what was going on if I knew everything but turns out I feel just as bad and I have enough truth that I’m able to come up with all sorts of plausible scenarios for Michael getting himself killed. These are the fun thoughts that wake me up in the middle of the night.
Now it’s even worse because Torquil’s people are everywhere. February is not tourist season in Roswell but there has been a definite increase in new faces around town in the last seventy-two hours, subtle it isn’t, and they are all part of Torquil’s ‘teams’. This doesn’t even include the ones he has at a camp somewhere east of town or the ones he’s got up in Los Alamos, or the ones in southern Colorado. I don’t know how many people he has and he’s kind of avoiding giving out any numbers to anybody but Max or Liz. However, I know they are all gearing up for storming the castle walls, you can see it in their eyes. What is that? Bloodlust? Ugh.
And it seems we’ve all been assigned bodyguards. I don’t know how I’m supposed to convince my mom that the man lurking in the bushes is really a good guy. They at least have been kind of subtle, sort of. You just kind of start to notice the same faces hanging around wherever you go. It’s a little disconcerting and yet comforting at the same time.
Anyway, Torquil offered to show us how to fight and defend ourselves just in case. He doesn’t expect us to be part of the actual battle, he says, we are the generals, we make the plans. Translation, we are the ones who stay nice and safe and direct the poor saps that are going off to get themselves killed. Wonderful. So, if we screw up in the planning we could get hundreds of people, maybe even thousands, killed. No pressure.
Torquil. My favorite subject. Now I have no excuses for escaping from his maniacal clutches. In fact, joy of joys, I’ve been ‘assigned’ to work with him. Yippee. Apparently we have some sort of rapport and he trusts me. So, I get to play liaison when he’s not at our meetings and follow him to some of his meetings with his people. Part of Max’s subtle ‘sure we trust you, Torquil. Maria, go spy on him for us’ plan.
It’s getting harder and harder not to tell our parents what’s going on. We’re never at our homes anymore and they are starting to get concerned. My mom’s starting to ask questions but she’s held off freaking out too much. I’m sure that’s because Michael’s not around. If he were and I was gone all the time like this, I’d be getting more lectures on the virtues of abstinence. He’d be getting more death threats. I’ve just told her that Michael’s gone off to find ‘himself’ and I need to be with my friends during all this. I hate to look like some weak, pining, little woman, god especially in front of my mom, but whatever it takes to get her off my back and keep the peace I’ll do it.
I’m sure our schoolwork is bound to suffer for this, too. What a thing to worry about. ‘Sorry, Ms. Howe, I couldn’t read For Whom the Bell Tolls because I was off fighting back the raging hoards of an alien/hybrid army. Can I get a few makeup days?’ If we win we get to bust our asses to make up for all the work we’re not doing now, if we lose we’re all dead and homework means nothing. Nope, still don’t want to lose. The past couple of days have been intense, and when I’m not in school or sleeping, I’ve been at Michael’s. Head Quarters. HQ. Alex started calling it that and the name is beginning to stick. He’s got Torquil and Kyle doing it, too. It’s like an inner James Bond all guys have. Max has been fairly resistant but I can tell he’s starting to cave.
Now let’s talk about stressed out, shall we? Max says he hasn’t been home in days except to make brief appearances at the dinner table and Isabel is pressuring him again to tell their parents about their not-of-this-Earth origins. I know he’s scared that they are going to think he’s some sort of freak, but he’s got the best parents. I mean really, these are people who took in two little lost six-year olds out of the goodness of their hearts, there is no way they are going to ever reject those kids. Nope. He doesn’t want to hear about it though. He gets, well, kind of cranky if you bring it up. And Isabel, she’s breaking up inside. She’s scared too and she wants her parent’s reassurances. Oh, look, journal inspired insight. Anyway, their shouting match this morning was fairly epic. It took the combined efforts of everyone to get them to calm down but then Max left in a huff saying he needed some air. He was gone for most of the morning. Liz eventually went after him after promising Isabel that she’d talk to him about it. Isabel looked like she wanted to tell Liz it was none of her damn business but Alex distracted her by whispering something in her ear and Liz escaped without incident.
Liz has had it a little easier then the rest of us on the home front. I guess that’s kind of relative, actually. We meet a lot at the Crashdown so her parents see her around more and her employment at the UFO Center has been a good way to get out of family things, too. Oh, but her mom was totally insistent on that doctor’s appointment. Liz tried everything she could to get out of it but Nancy didn’t buy it. Everybody held their breath through the afternoon Wednesday. I mean, Ava told Liz that Max changed her when he healed her, so we were all a little nervous wondering if this would show up in any tests the doctor would run. Max and Kyle had an elaborate plan for breaking into the doctor’s office and destroying her records if something turned up. Fortunately all her blood work and stuff came back normal so the doctor decided that it was just exhaustion and poor diet from the weekend that made Liz pass out.
Collective sigh of relief.
Okay crushing depression has changed to general terror. Oh, but not everything has been all grim and scary lately. Oh my god, the funniest thing happened yesterday and I saw it but missed it at the same time. Max came to pick Liz up for their first date in like forever, and Jeff decided to have a little talk with Max.
|posted on 9-Sep-2001 1:41:25 AM|
"And then I guess he told Max he’d buy us condoms," Liz told her friend, giggles threatening to overwhelm her again.
Maria was slouched back on Michael’s couch, her eyes wet and clutching her stomach. "Oh . . .oh, man. That is just too funny. No wonder they both looked like they were going to spontaneously combust."
"I know. I know. My dad and Max are both so, I don’t know, shy about this really private stuff. I’m amazed they both survived the conversation."
Maria snickered again. "My favorite part was when Max told your dad he would definitely be having sex with you at some point. That man’s got enough arrogance to be a king, if we ever doubted. Ballsy’s gotta be the word I’m looking for."
"I couldn’t believe it when he told me he said that," Liz agreed.
"You do realize you’d be in a nunnery if he’d told your mother that, don’t you?" Maria asked with a laugh.
"I have every confidence Max would break me out."
"I’m sure," Maria said wryly.
"Anyway . . ."
"Anyway? There’s more?" Maria chuckled.
Liz nodded with a grin. "Yeah. Anyway, then my dad asked Max if he and I could wait until he was dead, when Max told him he couldn’t my dad told Max he could always just kill him."
Maria threw her head back and laughed loudly. "Oh my god. That is priceless. Max probably thought about it, too, for a second. And I’m sure your dad was hoping he’d just go ahead and do it and save them both the embarrassment. I can just picture Max going to your dad for ‘advice’."
Liz joined her friend’s laughter. "Well, I think both of them are fairly comfortable with the thought that that will never happen."
"Holidays would be so much fun at the Parker-Evans household, though."
"Well, you know the Deluca-Guerin household will always have a standing invitation to the festivities."
Maria snorted. "Like that’ll ever happen."
"What? You and Michael? Maria, you guys love each other. You just have to know it will work out."
"It doesn’t always," Maria replied, her light mood darkening.
"But sometimes it does," Liz insisted.
Maria picked at a loose thread on the arm of the sofa. "Do you ever think about what will happen if they leave? You know, return to their planet."
"Have you and Max ever talked about it?"
"Not directly. But he asked me once never to leave him and I have to believe that that goes both ways. If he goes back to Antar, I’ll be going with him."
"Simple as that, huh?"
"Yeah, simple as that."
Maria was silent as she thought about that. Would Michael ask her to go with him if he ever did leave? And if he did ask her, would she go? One answer was so full of hope and the other so full of heartbreak and disappointment.
"This sucks, Liz," Maria said finally.
Liz shrugged her shoulders uncertainly. She didn’t know what she could say to her friend. What solace she could give. She knew Michael loved Maria and vice versa but she also knew that for as much hell as she and Max had gone through in their own relationship they never really doubted their own feelings for one another. That made any decision of this magnitude fairly uncomplicated. They belonged together, end of story. However, she supposed that not everybody had that sort of clarity in their relationships. Maybe Maria in particular, afflicted as she was with some massive insecurities of her own, was more muddled then most. The threat that Michael might leave her was a lingering dread in her life. Not just that he’d leave her for another planet but that he’d leave her on this one. Leave her because of his nagging doubts and fears.
"Okay, so are we going to have to start keeping a bowl of Prozac by the door here?"
Maria and Liz looked up as Alex entered the tiny apartment. Maria managed a wan smile and Liz a soft ‘hi’. Alex shook his head and dropped onto the couch next to Maria, nudging Liz over. He slipped an arm around Maria’s shoulder and pulled her into a comforting embrace.
"So ladies, what’s got you so down?"
"Oh, not much, just, you know, Czech stuff. What have you been up to?" Liz asked.
"I am up to my neck in nothing," Alex answered. "Isabel and I are running out of ideas on where to look and what to look for on our little assignment. The professor down at Las Cruces last weekend could just give us general ideas because Earth technology is still a few years away from human hybridization."
"You didn’t come right out and tell him that’s what you were looking for, did you?"
"Give me a little credit, Lizzy. Nah, I’m an aspiring science fiction novelist. Besides, I don’t think the guy could pick me out of a lineup or even remember what we were talking about, Isabel is just a tad too distracting." Alex let out a small laugh. "He gave us some ideas of what to look for if somebody was doing hybridization but the contractors who would supply the necessary equipment work exclusively for the government or large drug or bioengineering companies. They go to great lengths to keep their information confidential. No matter how much we dig or search, we haven’t been able to find anything helpful. There’s really nothing more we can do on our end. Much as I hate to admit it, I think we’ve hit the wall and it would be best if we hand this over to Torquil’s people. They’ve got contacts we don’t have."
"Okay," Liz agreed tiredly. "Torquil should be here soon, we’ll bring it up with him."
"And, while I’m bringing up things to talk to Torquil about, I was thinking. That John Doe guy. He was found in the Jemez Mountains, right? Not too far from Los Alamos and we know the Disciple has labs there, so we gotta figure they were probably experimenting on him for their hybridization projects," Alex continued. "Now Ms. Diaz knows where some of those labs are so couldn’t we have somebody stake them out and see if that’s where the hybridization is going on? Or if they are just performing experiments there and the actual cloning or growing or whatever is being done in a larger facility someplace else? I’m sure they’d have to go back and forth between the two places."
"Shouldn’t Torquil already have people on it? He’s got teams up at Los Alamos, doesn’t he?" Maria asked Liz.
"Yeah, he does. We’ll have to see if they’ve reported anything," Liz said quietly.
"How do you know he’ll tell us everything?"
"We have to trust him. I know that’s contrary to every sense of self-preservation but I honestly believe he’s here to help us. But, just to be sure, you’ll be around to keep an eye on him."
"Lucky me," Maria mumbled.
"You were the one who told us all along that there was something up with him. Who better to spy on him then somebody who’s already got his number?" Liz asked with a small smile.
"Yeah, yeah. I’m taking one for the team. Trust me, Liz, if that man is hiding anything I’ll find it."
Liz nodded to Maria and the three friends fell into a weary silence. A short time later Liz stood and after stretching her limbs, disappeared without a word into the kitchen. Maria and Alex could hear her on the telephone but couldn’t make out whom she was talking to.
"Must be a tough job to be an alien king’s better half, huh?" Alex remarked quietly. "Or an alien general’s better half." He smiled down at Maria.
"Don’t even say it," Maria said shortly.
Alex looked confused. "Say what?"
"That he’ll be okay. I’m sick of people telling me that he’ll be okay. It isn’t helping."
"Right, sure. I wouldn’t dream of it. Um, so, change of subject?"
Alex was trying to come up with a safe, non-depressing topic when the door to the apartment opened again. Isabel stood hesitantly in the doorway. She looked at Alex but her eyes darted away from his before they did more then acknowledge his presence. Maria, she noted, was tucked comfortably in his embrace. She looked around the small apartment then and saw Liz pacing in the kitchen, talking urgently but quietly on the phone. She sighed tiredly and crossed the room, dropping into the chair across from the couch.
"Who’s she talking to?" Isabel asked, nodding her head in the direction of the kitchen.
"No clue, but if I had one guess, I’d say Max," Maria replied.
"He hasn’t been here yet?" Isabel asked in surprise. It was unlike her brother to stay away from his obligations. She felt a twinge of guilt at the thought that their fight that morning might be what was keeping him away.
Maria shrugged her shoulders. "I haven’t seen him since this morning. I guess he could have come and gone. I’ve only been here for about an hour."
"Oh, so did Alex tell you what we found? Or didn’t find, I guess."
"Yeah, I told them. If we really wanted to keep on it I’m sure that we could work with Torquil’s people. But, I don’t know how important an angle this is to pursue at this point." Alex said.
"There isn’t much point to it," Isabel agreed. "We know where they are."
Isabel shifted restlessly in her chair; her thoughts still on her brother. "Um, did Liz mention talking to Max earlier?"
"About the telling your parents thing?" Maria asked. "No, she hasn’t said anything."
Isabel was clearly disappointed by that. "Oh."
"He’ll come around eventually, Isabel," Alex told her. "There’s just so much going on right now."
"Which is why it would be great to have our parent’s support. I’m sick of lying to them." Isabel replied hotly. She was tired of Max’s obstinate refusal to even see her side of the issue.
"He just has so much to deal with . . ."
"So do I!" Isabel stood up, her hands balled into fists at her side.
Alex stood when she did and crossed hurriedly over to her. He put his hand on her arm. "Isabel, Isabel. Hey, look at me. Just give Max a couple of days to get his feet under him. Okay? We’re on your side here, but Max is just scared right now. We all are, but he’s the one who has to take responsibility for everything. Let stuff settle down a little bit. Give Liz some time to talk to him about it some more. It’ll be fine."
"I’m just so tired of having to keep things from Mom and Dad. They know something’s going on and it’s killing them that we won’t tell them." Isabel tensed slightly when Alex put his arm around her shoulder but after a second gave in and relaxed against him.
Alex rubbed her back soothingly and looked over her shoulder at Maria who was watching them with a small, curious smile on her lips. He narrowed his eyes when she started to laugh quietly and with some elaborate facial gestures, pleaded with her to say something.
Maria smirked at him but took the hint. "Hey well, if you want a good idea of just how stressed Max is right now, get this. I guess Jeff gave Max the dad talk last night." She laughed at the memory.
"The dad talk?" Alex repeated with a raised eyebrow. Isabel sat back down in her chair and Alex perched on the arm.
"Yeah, generally a death threat from a father to his daughter’s boyfriend. You know, ‘if you even have an impure thought about my daughter I will rip you limb from limb.’"
Alex laughed. "Oh, that dad talk."
"Except Jeff’s not really a make threats kind of guy. I guess he crumbled pretty quickly and ended up offering to be their condom supplier."
Isabel was fighting to keep a smile off of her face, but she could imagine the look of panic that probably crossed Max’s face and she had to chuckle. Alex’s face had turned purple with his own laughter and he was struggling to get his breath back.
"Poor Max," he gasped.
Isabel smiled deviously. "I’ll have to be sure he never lives that down."
Liz returned from the kitchen then and smiled at her friends; happy to see the earlier tension had eased some. Anything she may have been about to say was interrupted by the arrival of Torquil MacNab.
"Hullo, lad and lassies," he greeted them jocularly. He turned to Liz and bowed. "Yer Majesty."
Liz rolled her eyes in exasperation. "Torquil, knock it off. And stop teasing Max about that, too. He’s tense enough as it is."
"Ahh, Lizzy, but Ah cannae resist. Ra poor lad gets sae flustered."
The presence of Torquil in the room made the small apartment seem even smaller. He sat down next to Maria on the couch and smiled at her warmly. He looked up then and made an impatient gesture to the door. The others looked towards the entrance again and saw a small, black man hovering in the doorway.
"E’erybody, this is Joseph Morgan. He’s yin o’ ma associates in ra group. He’s oor intelligence man. An’ a finer freen, there ne’er wa’."
Joseph smiled and nodded at the greetings from the room’s occupants. He stopped at Alex and looked the young man over curiously. Alex for his part grinned back at him unconcernedly. Joseph laughed heartily then when he recalled where he had seen the boy before.
Alex grinned more broadly. "Yep."
"Very good. That is very good. Torquil, you were right, children yes but apparently valuable friends to have."
"Ah’m always richt, Joseph." Torquil replied with a chuckle. "An’ were is ra King?"
Liz shook her head at him. "He’s on his way. It seems one of your people was caught on a cattle ranch outside of town. There’ve been some cattle thieves around and the rancher wasn’t too happy about this guy’s presence. Max and the Sheriff have been trying to straighten things out."
"Och. Who is ra bastartin eejit?" Torquil asked in irritation.
"Max didn’t say. He sent him back to your camp with one of his bodyguards. Oh and there has been an increase in prowler reports around town. I don’t suppose you could get your teams to stop sneaking through people’s yards at night." Liz chastised.
"Ah’ll be havin’ a wee talk wi’ them, tae be sure," Torquil growled. It was difficult enough to hide the sudden influx of people into the small city; they weren’t helping themselves by being overzealous in their investigations.
"Okay. One other thing. I know you have teams up in Los Alamos. We know that the John Doe Dr. Trailor is treating was found near there. So we want to know if our teams have noticed anything that might lead us to the third base."
"Nae. In fact, ra lab Rosa found wa’ deserted when oor team there checked intae it. However, we daenae believe tha’ it wa’ ra only lab under their control. We’re searchin’ ra area."
"What are we searching for?" Max asked as he arrived with the Sheriff, Kyle and Tess in tow.
"Labs near Los Alamos," Alex replied.
"I thought we knew where that was?"
"Looks like they moved it."
"An’ now we’re searchin’ ra area, Max," Torquil told him with a smile, spreading his hand out in front of him.
"I see," Max replied simply. He glanced around the room at the expectant faces looking back at him. His gaze immediately fell on Joseph.
Joseph stood staring at Max. The expression on his face was one of wonder. "Your Majesty. It is an unimaginably great honor to meet you," he whispered, unshed tears glistening in his eyes. "We have searched for so many years."
Torquil was roaring with laughter when he stood up and put a monstrous hand on his small friend’s arm. "Max, this is Joseph Morgan, oor intelligence man."
Max smiled uncomfortably at Joseph and stuck out his hand. "It’s nice to meet you, Joseph."
Joseph was stuck dumb with awe and took Max’s hand in both of his, holding it tightly for several seconds. He finally let go when the still chortling Torquil pulled him back. Max smiled weakly and escaped across the room to stand by Liz. Isabel and Tess shared a brief but amused glance. It was hard to resent the fact that Max made all the decisions when he was clearly so uncomfortable with the situation.
"Och, Ah’m such a daftie. Joseph ye’ve nae idea who we’ve got here. There’s Maria, ma great freen." Maria rolled her eyes. "Isabel, ra king’s sister." Isabel’s head jerked up in surprise when Joseph moved to press a kiss to her hand with a murmured and reverent ‘your highness.’ "Ra King’s good freen Alex ye already kin." The nodded to each other companionably. "Liz, ra Queen," he winked at her and laughed at her exasperated ‘Torquil.’ Joseph stared at Liz with much the same expression on his face as when he looked at Max. Her smile held him immobile for a heartbeat before he bowed deeply. "Ra Sheriff o’ this fine town, Jim Valenti an’ his boy Kyle, who Ah think ye kin as well." Joseph laughed and patted Kyle on the shoulder and shook the Sheriff’s hand. "An’ Tess, ra King’s good freen as well, an’ a member o’ ra royal four." Tess smiled warmly at Joseph who moved to kiss her hand, too, and managed another awestruck ‘your highness.’ "Michael’s ra king’s second an’ he’s ra lad’s wi’ ra Disciple now. We’ve got tae make sure we can get ra boy oot before there’s tae much trouble."
Joseph was clearly overwhelmed by the people he had just met, people he spent half a lifetime searching for. It took a few seconds for him to clear his mind and focus again. "Oh, yes, the Disciple. Well, as intelligence officer, I must recommend to you that we hold out on an assault until we have much more information. I do worry that the Disciple may view the presence of our forces antagonistically and move to strike at us. I should have liked to have had our troops pulled back some and not be sitting on the Disciple’s doorstep as it were. However, I believe that we must pin him in now to keep him from decamping and disappearing again. This will inevitably lead to skirmishes, I’m sure, but I don’t see as we have much choice. I suggest we have the teams hold the line for now."
"Aye, logistics will begin tae become a big issue soon. We’ll need tae send fer oor Captains an’ have them assess their supply needs." Torquil shook himself and smiled up at Max. "None o’ which is a concern fer ye. Perhaps we’ve bought oorsels a bit o’ time yet. Ye’ll get tae meet yer Antarans before ra collishangie begins, Ah think."
"I thought I told you to call them already," Max said coldly.
"Ye did, lad, ye did. An’ so Ah did. But ye maun kin tha’ they cannae jess drop e’erything. They’re all anxious tae meet ye, but they’ve ends tae tie before they can come oot here."
"When will they be here?"
"Tuesday, at ra latest," Torquil assured him.
"Alright." Max ran a hand over his face and slouched back against the wall. He tried to think of where to direct everybody next. Sometimes it was just so frustrating because he didn’t have anymore of a clue then anybody else in the room then. He almost wished Torquil would just take over and stop deferring to him. Almost. He was still wary of the big Scot. "Well, I think it’s vital we find out the location of the third base and if there are any more labs."
"I’ll try and contact Michael tonight to see if he has any information for us," Liz said.
"Yeah, Max, our search has come to a dead end as far as our resources go," Alex told him. "If we want to keep looking into supply sources for their operation we’re gonna need the resources of Torquil’s group."
"Anything ye need, lad."
"Okay, then, Alex, you and Isabel keep up the research end with Torquil. Now, I’ve been thinking I’m kind of curious about what’s going on up in Los Alamos. I’d like to go check it out."
"Nae lad. Tha’s tae dangerous fer ye," Torquil said quickly.
"Torquil, you know the Disciple knows you have teams up there. How long until he moves the labs permanently? We know they are a smaller operation, so maybe your teams wouldn’t necessarily see them. Maybe a smaller group will pick out what they’ve missed."
"What are you suggesting, Max?" Jim asked.
"I was just thinking that maybe this is a search that will need a not-of-this-earth search party. Maybe if Kyle and Tess and Liz and I go up there we can find out a little something more."
"Ye still daenae trust ma, lad?" Torquil asked, a hint of frustration in his voice.
"No, Torquil, I’m sorry. Not entirely, not yet. Plus, I need to feel like we are doing something. Something that will enable us to get Michael away from the Disciple as soon as possible."
"An’ getting’ yersel killed’ll dae tha’ fer ye, will it?"
Max tightened his jaw and leveled an even gaze at Torquil. "We are not helpless or powerless, Torquil."
"They want ye dead! They want yer power. Think how they’ll crow o’er yer dead body, an’ yer lassies an’ yer freens’. Ye’ll be givin’ ‘em e’erything they want. Nae. Yer tae important tae us, Max. Yer nae tae gae."
"And how do you propose to stop me, Torquil?"
Torquil stared at Max in shock. It was one thing to go around introducing the boy as a king and enjoy teasing him with his titles, it was another when that boy turned into the king and demanded fealty.
"’Tis foolishness, Max. Ye maun see tha’." He pleaded.
"Torquil, I barely know what I’m fighting for, I can’t think of anything more foolish then that. I have to know what is going on. I have to see it. I have to."
"At least take yer guards wi’ ye."
"No. They’d draw too much attention, you know that. Besides you’ve got people up there. We won’t be without backup if we need it."
Torquil groaned and sat back heavily on the couch. "Yer a stubborn bear, ye ur. Ye had yer mind made before ye brought it up, did ye nae?"
"I did," Max confirmed.
"Ah cannae be sure tha’ yer exposin’ yersel will be worth ocht ye may find. Ah’m nae happy aboot this lad, jess sae ye kin."
"I know. We’ll only be gone a couple of days. The weekend."
"What are you going to tell Mom and Dad, Max?" Isabel asked. There was an edge of anger in her voice. She couldn’t believe he was about to risk himself like this for no apparent reason then pure stubbornness.
"That I’ve gone to talk to Michael. To try to get him to come back," he told his sister simply.
"God, I can’t believe you Max." She stood up then and disappeared into Michael’s bedroom, slamming the door behind her.
"Yer set? Is there ocht Ah can say tha’ll convince ye nae tae gae?"
Max knew he was being reckless but he was suddenly feeling so disassociated from the whole thing he felt he was loosing his objectivity and balance. He need to see the people who were going to fight for him and he needed to feel like he was making a real contribution other then simply shouting orders. "I just have to see, Torquil. Look, we’ll make it an official visit to your camp up there or something. Tell your Captains or whoever that we’re coming but not to crowd us. We’ll stay with them when we’re up there," Max conceded.
"Lizzy, can ye nae say ocht tae him?" Torquil appealed to Liz, hoping she would be a voice of reason he would listen to.
"Max and I have talked about this, Torquil. I happen to agree with him."
Torquil threw up his hands in exasperation. "Fine! Hell mend ye! Jess mind ye kin what’ll happen tae all o’ us if ye get yersel killed."