|posted on 16-Sep-2001 8:47:33 PM|
By Chrystal Kay
Disclaimer: I don't have any claim or rights to any of the Roswell or Pretender characters. They belong to the great people who created them.
Summary: This takes place during and after 'The End of the World'. There are no skins here, just Max, Future Max, Liz and the gang.
Author's Note: There has to be another explanation for Future Max disappearing. You and I know that Max could never fall out of love with Liz. Right? Add a little 'Pretender' intervention and…well we'll see what happens.
Here is the address of the sequel: "The Other: Centre Stage" -[ broken link ]
Hope you enjoy this as much as I enjoyed writing it!
8:30 AM: Angelo sat watching and listening from an air duct in Mr. Lyle's private office. Mr. Lyle was making what he assumed to be a highly private and secured call. Before him on his personal lap top PC, he was receiving and sending encrypted information. When he was done, he took three pages from the printer, put them in a special file, locked it into his bottom drawer, and left.
Angelo clicked off the two recording devices he had and grinned. A short time later, he was seated on the floor of his favorite hideaway, reading the file and giggling.
Three hours later, Mr. Lyle came back , grabbed the file and left. Angelo just grinned.
About that time, in a motel room, three prints were popping out of a printer. The PC next to it had a great deal of information, of interest to the owner, downloading onto it. He popped the last piece of chicken nuggets from the last of four cherry red cardboard trays next to him, and typed 'Received and appreciated!', in the reply window. Within an hour, he was on the road and headed for Canada.
9:00 PM: He picked up his cell phone and pressed the button that would re-route his call. When the person answered on the other end, he had a question ready.
"Why is the Center getting interested in aliens again?"
The slow voice on the other end replied, "Jarod. You mean immigrants? They haven't that I know of."
"I know they have re-opened the Pretender program and now they are coupling it with some of the studies you have been doing with special talents. Shall we say they are interested in 'very' special talents?"
"I will certainly look into it. Jarod, can you tell me any more?" Sydney knew with a sinking feeling that just such a project could have been started without his knowing of it. Lyle or Raines? Lyle had been looking a little smug lately. And Raines had been snooping into impossible corners. Lyle it was.
In another room, in the Center, a well built flashing eyed brunette was pacing. "Broots…."
The man at the computer console looked nervously up over his shoulder. She gave him a withering look, one eyebrow raised.
Broots hunched his shoulders a little and went back to the task at hand. He had the dual task of trying to unscramble the voice signal on one hand, and attempting to trace one of Jarod's convoluted calls. Ms. Parker, however, was fast loosing patience. 'God she's beautiful when she's angry.' He thought. 'Of course I don't usually see her when she isn't….' "Got it!"
She was bent over his shoulder in an instant. "Where is he?"
"No, uh, I meant the unscrambler is doing its thing."
"Its... thing… Broots?" He started to turn around again and she hit him on his shoulder.
"Uh… yeah,...just now, about. Yeah here it goes."
Jarod was speaking again. "Dig around a little. I'm sure if you look in the dirt pile, you will find all the dirt you need." He looked down and saw the tracer alarm blinking. He smiled, knowing where the trace would lead them. "Sydney, do you like the Three Stooges?"
"Yes, a delightful trio." Sydney rolled his eyes. He was used to such unusual calls by now. He could see from his tell-tales, that someone was tracing this call. He also knew that wherever it led it would not lead to Jarod.
"What do you find in every room at least twice?" Jarod asked. Then he hung up with a smile.
Miss Parker turned her head from the screen into Broots face. "You are ...not going to tell me you failed."
The velvet low voice didn't fool Broots for a moment. The lower it got, the worse for whoever was on the receiving end. Broots cleared his throat. "Well… actually…It didn't quite finish." He could tell by her look that this was not what she wanted to hear. "The trace finished in the area of south west Washington… Before it... lost him."
"You... lost...him?" Her voice was down to a low purr.
Now he could be a hero and tell her what he had figured out. "Actually," He stopped and cleared his throat again. "I think I know where it is."
There was no answer, just another flash from her eyes.
Now is where he could dazzle her with his cleverness. "Yes, uh, well, it could only be Walla Walla. You see..."
"Walla… what?" She said with a snap.
"Walla Walla. It's a town in Washington. You see…"
"What makes you so sure…" She took out a cigarette and stood there with it. Broots just looked at her for a moment with his mouth open, before a sharp tap of her foot got him scrambling for his lighter. "… he called from there." She finished, after a big puff.
"Well, uh actually he gave us a pretty good hint. It's the Stooges and the room thing. You know wall and wall, Walla Walla." Now she would realize how smart he really was.
She started toward the door, and stopped looking back over her shoulder. "I guess it takes a moron to find a moron. We leave… now." When he opened his mouth she turned back to the door. "And if you ask me where, you can walk. All the way there. And back."
Moses Lake, Washington:
12:30 AM: Broots was hanging around the corner from where Ms. Parker was waiting. She had sent him to find out where the helicopter pad was located and how soon they could take off. He didn't want to have to report that the only way they were going to get to Walla Walla, was by car. She also wasn't going to like hearing that she couldn't get a car till tomorrow morning. 'Maybe this would be a good time for that trip to Alaska I've always wanted to take.' He thought wistfully.
With hands in his pockets and shoulders hunched, he peeked around the corner. Not two feet from him, arms crossed and one of those withering looks on her face, stood Ms. Parker. "Uh… I was just uh...coming to give you the news."
9:05 AM: Mr. Lyle and four hand picked men were at the car rental lot taking possession of two ATV's, when his personal phone rang.
After listening for about ten seconds, his face got red and he exploded. "She's doing what? Where?" The person on the other end stammered a reply and hung up, thankful for the distance that separated him from Mr. Lyle.
Mr. Lyle marched away back towards the terminal, signaling with a jerk of his head for the others to follow. "Get me the first flight to Washington. I want the shortest way to Walla Walla! This can wait. Miss high pants is not getting Jarod before I do!"
Somewhere south of Moss Lake, on route 17:
Ms. Parker sat fuming in the back seat of a loaner car she had intimidated out of a repair shop owner. When her phone rang, she answered "What!"
After listening for a moment, she hung up, without a word, leaned over and told Broots with soft deadliness to turn around.
Broots tried to look at the road and Ms. Parker at the same time. "But..."
"Turn… around… and... drive!" She leaned back in her seat and lit a cigarette. Lyle was up to something and she was going to find out what. Jarod could wait.
Back at the airport… "Go drag my pilot out of whatever hole he's crawled into and tell him we're leaving for Winnipeg. NOW."
Gunton, about twelve miles north of Winnipeg:
6:30 PM: Jarod stopped at the only motel in town, a little four unit job with weathered sign and clean rooms. He cleaned up and stretched out on the old noisy bed, but he couldn't rest. There was a small table and chair in the corner.
Jarod opened first, his computer, then a small envelope containing three small disks.
The first was of a pretender, about Jarod's age. Jarod had known of him, but this was the first time that he had seen him. The scene was of the young man taking a tissue sample from a deformed alien embryo.
He was explaining the importance of balancing the alien's bio-chemicals. "The alien/human hybrid this came from, was already adapted to our balance, with a slight dependency on certain trace elements. But what you tried to do here was eliminate the human DNA and keep the alien. It won't work without finding the correct chemical dependency for the original alien body. That is why all your embryos died with serious physical deficiencies and deformities, like enlarged heads and atrophied bodies."
"You must be on the right track Martin, the embryos, kept in artificial suspension, are living far past the stage of those carried in host mothers. Four of the last six are still alive after almost six months. Their development looks more balanced also." A hand and arm came into the scene and warmly patted Martin on the back. "Looks like soon we will have our own live pet aliens to study!"
The voice sounded very pleased, but the look on Martins face showed how troubled he was.
The second disk showed excerpts taken from surveillance cameras on SL-27. These scenes he was sure no one had seen, except for Angelo. Because they were from six years ago when he had slipped his leash and gone exploring. No one had ever known he was gone or where he had been.
He had come out on a level that wasn't supposed to be there, and was shortly thereafter mistaken for Martin by a young female technician. "Oh hello, you must be Martin. I'm sorry, Dr. Cox has left. You were so late, we thought you weren't coming today." She led the way into a lab, then stopped at a desk, and turned with her hand lightly resting on a rather thick notebook. "I was just on my way to return this. Do you want to work on it now, or would you rather wait for Dr. Cox?"
Jarod pulled out the chair and sat down. "Oh I think I'll stick around for a while. Thank you." He gave her his big Jarod smile and she left.
He knew he should already be gone too, but he was curious what the other, Martin, was working on.
True to protocol, the first page had the goal of the project, followed by the first supposition. This preceded the description of work done and progress achieved, (or not). Each red tabbed page was a new supposition to work from. There were four of them.
He read through each summary and supposition and was hooked. They were trying to grow aliens to cut up, study and 'train'. They were close. There was enough of a hint at what final key was missing for Jarod to guess it. There was also a strong hint that the other was hanging back in 'discovering' it.
Jarod grabbed a paper and slipped it into the word processor. He made up a new supposition. It suggested a new chemical balance for all test subjects, and urged immediate compliance. If the new addition worked the way he thought it should, it would put an immediate end to the project.
The recording ended as he slipped out the door.
When he had gone back down a month later, there was no sign that the lab he visited had ever existed.
The last disk was one he had recorded from the series of files Angelo sent him yesterday, and was the reason he was on this trip.
It was dated about five years ago. It was a ceiling down shot of five doctors working around a boy, strapped to a table. He looked to be about twelve; he was awake and terrified.
One of the doctors spoke into his mike. "Session seven. Subject's dosage of suppressant has been increased to fifty cc's every twelve hours. We are now ready for the questioning." The 'questioning' was a polite term for what followed: electric shocks and 'tissue samples' taken from various parts of the body. All the while, a voice continued to demand information. It promised an end to all 'discomforts' upon compliance.
Through it all, the kid kept denying knowing anything that they asked. Finally he yelled. "Oh Luke, Luke, I'm so sorry!"
Then all five men slammed back away from the table and fell in heaps on the floor. Upon the table, the now lifeless eyes of the boy stared up into eternity.
Jarod shook himself, and placed the disk with the other two. He was sick at heart. That poor boy.
Before he could close his computer, his incoming mail signaled an urgent message.
"Fooled Lyles, sent him to Flin Flon. Ms. Parker got there first, knows the boy's not there. Lyle is on his way. Luke doesn't have much time."
Within five minutes, Jarod was speeding north to Poplarfield.
Roswell, New Mexico"
11:00 PM: "I'm Liz Parker and this has been a really long day." 'It seems that now every day is a really long day.' She thought to herself. Liz bit gently on the end of her pen as she gazed at the top of her roof ladder. She was thinking about how wonderful it would be if everything was as it should be, and Max would come peeking over the edge. If only she could hold him one more time.
"It tears my heart out to think that I have to make Max fall out of love with me. How will I live?" She sat drawing a line around those last four words. The tears dropping unheeded into her lap. "Why is it that our love has to endanger their lives and my whole world? But that's the problem isn't it? Max would never lie to me. Not the now Max and not the future Max. If he says it's so, then it is." Now she dropped her pen and put both hands to her face. 'But why, oh why does it have to be us?' She sobbed.
The future Max sat watching from a nearby roof top, wrapped in a blanket he had borrowed from Liz. He had to give her some space tonight to adjust to the whole idea, but watching her, watching what it was doing to her was tearing him up. 'Oh Liz, if there was only some other way.' He thought. ' I would rather give up breathing than do this to you. To us.'
Poplarfield, Manitoba, Canada:
10:30 PM, same night: Jarod sat in his car on a dirt road. It was the street behind the house he must visit. But though he had been thinking furiously all the way up here, he couldn't decide how he was going to convince this kid to come with him. He couldn't just walk up to the door and say "Oh hi, I'm Jarod. Your life is in danger. Come with me now."
The young man in question was pacing the floor at that moment. All day he had had an uneasy feeling. Disaster was approaching. But from where or from whom, he did not know. These feelings had saved his bacon many times and he wasn't about to discount this one.
He didn't dare go to bed. He felt he should run, but in which direction? A backpack was loaded and standing by the door. The last time he had felt such an overpowering dread was when his brother had disappeared.
He had felt the very moment of his brother's death. He had even heard him call out his name. The memory sent shudders of re-opened grief through him. Alone, in all the world. Was there one person who could understand him? Who would accept him as he really was?
There was one person who could help him, but he didn't have any idea who he was. Just a face in a dream. A rather likable face, with a kind of boyish smile; but where was he and how could he help?
Finally, the feeling of foreboding became overpowering. He grabbed his backpack and jacket and flew out the back door. As he fled down the back alley, two cars came screeching to a halt at the front of his house. He cut across a back yard and between two houses, to the next street. A strange car there immediately put him on his guard. It was a low fast looking sports car. Definitely not the type people around here would consider. He started to walk slowly by, trying to look tired and bored. Just someone on his way home. 'Think normal' he thought. But the man in the car jumped out and called his name.
Luke turned, ready to blast him and run, but even in the partial light of the moon, he recognized the man from his dreams.
The man called out again. "Please! I need to talk to you."
Luke turned, threw his pack in the back seat, jumped in and asked. "Can you talk and drive at the same time?"
Five minutes later they were speeding down highway seventeen toward Winnipeg. Three hours later, they were in a little motel south of the Canadian border, on route 29.
Jarod had filled Luke in on the identity of those following him. Luke was surprised and shaken when Jarod told him how he had found out about him. The recording, the information Angelo had given about Lyles interest in this young man, and Jarod's own interest in keeping anyone safe from the center that he could.
What he couldn't tell him was the source of the recording of his brother's death. It wasn't a center recording. Jarod hadn't waited to do research. All his efforts since receiving the information had been spent in getting to Luke. Jarod and Luke both, would like to know who these others were.
Someone had gotten Lyle on the scent. Someone who knew the Center's abilities and connections. And… their inside reputation for being utterly heartless and totally outside the law, whenever it suited their purpose….which was most of the time.
"But how did they find us in the first place? We didn't exactly advertise that we were different." Luke couldn't think of a single instance in which he or his brother had been indiscreet enough to draw attention to themselves.
"It was your birth records." Jarod replied.
"Or rather your lack of them." Jarod ticked off the particulars. "Two boys approximately six years old, found wandering naked, in the snow, with no sign of distress from the cold, and speaking no known language. No one reported you missing. A search of the surrounding countryside gave no clue as to where you could have come from.
I find that a bit unusual. So did others."
"So it wasn't a mistake we made." Luke felt a sense of …what? Not relief exactly, but he was glad he had in no way been the reason for his brother's death. "What now?" Where did a kid go when he had no place to go? And no one to go with?
"Would you be interested in coming with me for a while? If you find a place that fits your fancy and want to stay, I can fix you up with U.S. identity papers and a plausible past." Jarod liked the kid. He had no one, and needed to find himself. As in a way Jarod did. Perhaps they could spend some time searching together. One thing for certain. He wasn't going to let Luke end up like his brother.
"I would like that Jarod. But won't you be in danger by being with me?"
Luke had only his feelings and a dream to go on. But he felt that this man was worth having as a friend. You don't put friends in danger.
So Jarod spent the next couple of hours telling Luke a little about himself. He had Luke laughing at some of the adventures he'd had and at the various ways he had baited his pursuers.
With the car safely hidden a block away from the hotel, the two weary travelers had a good night's sleep.
Two nights later they stopped over in Oklahoma City. They were heading west. There had been no sign of pursuit, for Luke or Jarod and for once, Jarod was happily at ease. Luke, however, was very quiet and thoughtful. He had had another dream.
10:15 PM: Future Max and Liz sat on her roof top. Liz was crying silently; the tears just wouldn't stop. The look on Max's face when he saw her with Kyle would haunt her forever. Her Max, who could never again be her Max.
Future Max was dying inside. He wished he would just disappear and it would all be over. Seeing Liz fall apart like this was more than he could handle. He sat down beside her and wrapped his arms around her, rocking her like a baby. Liz turned her tearstained face up to his and God help him, he couldn't help but kiss her.
Flash after flash filled Liz. The feelings as one by one everyone Max loved died, horrified and dismayed Liz. She pulled away hiding her face in her hands, as if covering her eyes would shut out the pictures that came into her head.
"Oh God. Max!" She cried.
"Liz. Liz, oh I'm so sorry. I didn't… I couldn't..." Future Max jumped up and walked across the roof from her. "I didn't mean for that to happen. I'm sorry." He felt like he had just kicked her after knocking her down. He stood staring out over the city. 'Why can't it just be over!' He thought in self disgust.
Max felt a timid touch on his shoulder, but couldn't make himself turn around. "Max…." There was so much sorrow in that word. "Max, look at me. Please." When he didn't, Liz continued. "I'm glad that happened. Max. It will help make me strong. Every time I want to tell him, you, I'll remember this and I won't let it happen."
Max turned slowly around. God how would he ever live without her? She was so strong, even when hit the hardest. She had been the strongest part of him for so many years. Could Tess ever fill that place in his heart? In his life? He couldn't see how.
"Liz , if there was just something I could do for you."
Liz sniffed back a tear. "You could dance with me." When he just looked at her with a curious pain in his face, she continued. "I want my wedding dance Max. The one you had, that I never will." She held up her hands to him and he took them tenderly in his.
He opened a connection ever so slightly. Enough that she could share the music that danced in his memory and his heart. Enough that she could feel the love and joy shared that one night, a night that could never happen.
Liz closed her eyes, seeing with his memory and floating in his arms. He swung her out in a twirl and as she left his hand, he could feel himself fading. 'Good by my love. My only love.' He thought as the nothingness took him.
Before the twirl was over, Liz felt the loss. She opened her eyes and looked around at the empty roof. Slowly she sank to her knees and sobbed helplessly, hopelessly. Max was gone. That meant that Max, her Max did not love her anymore. It had worked the way they had meant it to. But how was she going to live without him now?
That night Liz lay sleeplessly in her bed or sat curled up on the chair on her roof. She couldn't close her eyes without seeing the flashes that Max had given her with his kiss, or the look on Max's face when he saw her with Kyle, or the feel of the last dance, their dance. The combat of emotions left her hollow eyed and sleepless, tearless.
It was late the next morning when she came down stairs, nearly eleven. Being Saturday, Liz didn't have to work until two and wouldn't have come down till then, if hunger hadn't brought her down. She hadn't eaten the day before and there was no way she could go a whole shift without eating at least a little.
Liz stopped at the door in the back of the Crashdown. Through the little window, she could see Max, Iz, Alex and Michael sitting at their usual booth. Maria was perched on the edge of the table opposite of them. The scene was so normal, so…other. How could it look that way? How was she going to deal with it?
She wouldn't. Liz knew if she went out there and faced Max, she was not ready to face whatever reaction he gave her. If it was disgust and loathing, or hurt and a demand for explanations, or… whatever.
Max looked up toward the door, and said something to Maria. She stood up and started toward the back. 'No. Not yet.' Liz said to herself. 'I need some time!'
She turned and ran back up the stairs to her room. But once there, she felt trapped. Maria would come up and find her. Was she ready to lie to her? She couldn't tell her the truth. She couldn't tell anyone.
With feverish speed she began throwing stuff into her biggest book bag. The one she used when she spent the night at Maria's. Two minutes later found her down her ladder and far down the street. A quick stop at the bank, and her savings was added to the meager roll of tip money she had been keeping in her dresser.
There was a Greyhound bus station a block further down the street. She would buy a ticket on the first bus to anywhere.
Liz rounded the corner of the bus terminal and immediately jumped back out of sight. Sheriff Valenti was standing not three feet from the door talking to Amy. If either of them saw her, she would never get away. There was an empty bus sitting on the side of the building. She could hide in there for a few minutes.
Liz slipped up the steps and down the isle to the back. She could just see around the corner enough to see that they were still there. Would they never leave? She slid down on the back seat, curled up under the window and sighed. It would be so hard to leave. She closed her eyes hard to stop the tears from coming again, and settled down to wait.
4:00 PM: Maria came rushing into the Crashdown and looked wildly around. "No one's back yet!" She said to Michael who was following at a more decorous pace. She shook her head. "This can't be good." She plopped down on a booth seat and rummaged through her purse. "Now where is my cedar?" She mumbled to herself. "Why can't I ever find it when I need it?"
Alex and Isabelle pulled up in front, and Maria ran out. "Is she here?" "Did you find her?" Isabel and Maria asked together.
Alex got out and put one arm around each of the girls. "Now don't worry. Max has probably already found her. You know Max and Liz. He will find her, wherever she has gone."
Maria scrubbed at her nose with a handkerchief and sniffed. "When I get my hands on Liz, I'm goin' to shake her till her teeth rattle! See if I don't."
Sheriff Valenti drove up at that moment with Liz's dad. "Any luck kids?" He called. At their glum looks, he turned to Jeff Parker, and clapped him on the back. "Don't worry too much. Even in a town this size, it's not too hard for a girl to hide out for a day. Liz is a stable girl. She'll be alright." He turned to the Crashdown gang. "When she gets back, call me. I'll have my deputies keep a look out until I hear from you."
Liz's dad got stiffly out of the jeep and walked silently into the Crashdown. Then with a tip of his hat, the Sheriff took off.
"This is so unlike Liz." Maria stated as she stalked up and down in front of the café. "Where is Max!"
Michael put his arm around her and steered her into the Crashdown and sat her down. "You are going to make me crazy if you don't sit still for a moment."
Maria put her hands on her hips, "Oh and I don't suppose you are worried at all?" She demanded heatedly.
Michael put his hands in his pants and shrugged, trying to look unconcerned, but the tight look on his face said it all. With all the worry and wondering about alien 'others' showing up, it was not an easy thing having one of the inner group missing. 'What if...' Kept popping up in all their minds.
The phone rang and Maria leapt to take it. "Liz!" She yelled into it. "Oh Max, have you… Oh, where all have you looked? Yeah we checked there too. Yeah, okay." She handed the phone to Isabel and walked back to the booth. One big tear hanging off the end of her nose. "Oh I'm going to shake her and shake her." She muttered.
5:05 PM: The driver of the bus waited until all the passengers had filed out, before walking to the back of the bus. He had seen the curious looks given by some of the rear passengers to the right back seat. He gazed down at the wee figure of the girl curled up there asleep. She looked so vulnerable lying there. He sighed and sat down next to her. His daughter would be about her age if she were still alive. He gently reached down and placed his hand on her shoulder and shook it.
Liz woke up slowly, wondering why she felt so cramped. Then she realized that she was in a strange place and sat up with a start.
The bus driver held his hands up at her wild look. "Whoa there, I come in peace!" He said with a smile.
Liz smiled shakily back and pushed her hair back from her face. "I guess I sort of fell asleep. Didn't I" She said shyly.
"I guess you sort of did!" He stood up and held out his hand. "Come on, we need to talk, and you probably need to eat. I'm buying"
Liz shook her head. "Oh no I couldn't…"
He cut across her, "I've never seen a teenager yet that couldn't eat more than any two kids or three adults. And I'm hungry!" He smiled again. "Come on, you aren't going to make a liar out of me are you?"
Liz smiled a real smile this time and gave him her hand.
"Is that yours?" He added, looking at her bag. "Better bring it along."
Inside the café, at a back table, they wrapped themselves around two colossal burgers and talked. The driver gave his name as Henry, and tried to coax Liz's story from her.
Liz tried to tell him as much as she could without telling him too much. No she wasn't running away from home, and no she couldn't go back yet. There was an impossible situation back home that had to have time to work out. " I just have to stay away for a while." She finished miserably.
"Where do you plan to go?" He finally asked.
"I don't know, maybe Los Angeles." She answered.
"Oh I wouldn't recommend that." The bus driver returned. "There are birds of prey that haunt bus and train depots looking for wrung out kids to take advantage of. And if you won't take it too badly, you look like the kind of kid they would jump for."
Liz smiled sadly, "I guess I don't look too connected right now." She admitted.
"What you need, if you are telling me the truth," and with this Henry looked at her sternly, "Is a quiet safe place to get yourself together and ride out whatever is wrong at home. Right?"
When she nodded, he cleared his throat and continued. "North of Flagstaff, there is a place called Kaibab camping grounds. My sister runs a bed and breakfast/general store/café/gas station sort of place near there. It's quiet, secluded, and my sister is a big sweetie that will sass you, give you a place to stay, and probably work you too." He looked at Liz quizzically. "Do I call her and tell her you are on your way?"
Liz didn't think about it long. It sounded like just the sort of place she needed right now, and she told him so.
"Um, one more question, and don't take it wrong, but do you have the money to get there?" He asked.
Liz told him that she did indeed have the money and thanked him for his implied offer. He gave her directions on how to get there, and arranged for the next leg of her trip.
Henry watched her bus pull out of the station and shook his head. ' Don't know why I did that,' He thought, ' but there is just something about her.'
Liz found the next leg of the trip hard to take. She was awake. And achingly aware of every mile that came between her and home, her and Max. She would have to call and let her family and friends know she was alright. But not yet. Not until she was farther away.
11:30 PM: It was a glum group that sat around the Crashdown that night. The Sheriff had reported that no one answering her description had been seen in or around the bus station, or on any of the roads leading out of Roswell.
A thorough search of her room had revealed some missing clothes, book bag and her empty secret cache of cash. It looked more and more like Liz had skipped town on her own. But how? And with whom?
Max sat almost comatose in his seat. He didn't feel it when Tess took hold of his hand, he didn't see the dark looks Maria cast in her direction, or hear the rattling of the door when Kyle tried to get in. He was blaming himself for Liz leaving. She shouldn't have to run away from home. From him. She shouldn't have to be alone, away from everyone that cared about her. Now she was out there somewhere and he couldn't protect her. He couldn't tell her that, no matter what, he still loved her.
He would always love her.
Iz let Kyle in and he immediately stalked over to Max. "What did you say to her? What did you do that would make her go? Wasn't it enough that she was willing to do anything to get you to break up with her?" Kyle was angry with himself for going along with Liz on their little charade, angry enough that he had to take it out on someone and Max was that someone.
Kyle's words got through to Max and he was out of his seat and on top of Kyle before he could move back. Michael and Alex dived in to separate them and got their share of bumps and bruises before they succeeded. Both Max and Kyle found it a very satisfying way to vent their frustration, worry, and guilt.
Maria passed around the ice bags, trying not to grin. All four had black eyes or bloody noses. Max was still too mad to heal himself or anyone else, and Isabel was too disgusted to volunteer. "You both deserve what you got." She said with a flounce. And pointing at Michael and Alex, she added, "And you two should have just let them get it out of their systems."
Kyle looked around the bag on his eye. "Can't you do one of your alien things or something, and find her? I thought you guys could do anything!" He looked from Max to Isabel, to Michael. "Well?"
Tess spoke up for the first time that night. "If she left, then maybe it's because she wanted to. Why can't you just accept the fact that she wants out?"
Kyle turned on her, anger sparking in his eyes again. "Oh I don't suppose you mind at all! You and Max are the reason we went through the whole bed act anyway!"
"Act?" Asked Max.
"Bed? What bed!" Maria demanded.
And the whole story came out. Kyle had opened his mouth and stuck a jeep in it this time. Liz would kill him. He thought glumly, and then swallowed when her disappearance rushed back on him. 'Oh God, Liz, you can yell at me for a year, only be okay. Come back to us.'
Kaibab camping grounds, Arizona, Elsie's Stop 'N' Place:
9:00 AM: Liz got off the tour bus and was immediately greeted by a slightly plump, red headed woman with a big smile. "You must be Liz!" She said as she took Liz's bag and started herding her towards a rustic collection of buildings. Her nonstop chatter brought a small smile to Liz's lips. She looked around and sighed. ' I think Henry was right,' She thought to herself. 'This is a good place to put my life back together.'
Roswell, the Evans' house:
Same time: Max sat on Isabel's bed, the disappointment clear on his face.
"I'm sorry Max." Isabel pushed her hair back and sighed. "I could sense her but she wasn't asleep and I couldn't get through to her." The look of exhaustion on her face, told the story of how often she had tried that night to reach Liz.
"Look, let me get a good meal down, and some rest, and I'll try again. If she didn't sleep last night, she's bound to fall asleep sometime today. Okay?"
Max looked at his sister and she saw how much her offer meant to him. She patted his hand. "We'll find her Max. And we'll bring her back!"
East of Flagstaff, on Route 40:
10:00 AM: Jarod looked over at Luke. He had been unusually quiet yesterday, and if anything he was even quieter this morning. "Alright, a dime for your thoughts." He said. Luke looked at him curiously. "Inflation." Jarod smiled, and Luke smiled back.
"Remember how I told you I had dreamed of you, and that's why I trusted you right off the bat?" He asked. "Well, night before last, I had a dream of a girl and a guy. It was really weird, because they were just sitting on a park bench, and not saying a thing. Both of them seemed sad for different reasons. I don't know what the reasons were; it was just a feeling. But the really strange thing about the dream is that I had the feeling she could feel me. I swear it. She turned around and looked at me and I got such a rush! I mean, I had this sort of feeling of connection." Luke stopped and looked up at Jarod for a moment. "Am I making any sense to you at all?" He asked.
"Does that mean she is a real person? She's out here somewhere?" Jarod thought that seemed logical; given the fact that Luke had dreamed him up before he arrived.
Luke nodded and had a faraway look to his eyes. "That's not all. I dreamed of her again last night." He stopped and sighed. "Somewhere out there is another one like me and my brother. Somewhere that girl is waiting for me to find her. And she is the one I will spend the rest of my life with."
That gave Jarod a lot to think about, and he was quiet for a while himself. If there were more kids like Luke out there, he would have to help him find them.
"I have a job to do in a little while. It shouldn't take long and then we'll see what we can do about finding the girl of your dreams." He put one hand on Luke's shoulder, and smiled. "Alright?"
Luke grinned and took a deep breath. "I shouldn't let a dream affect me so much, but I can't get her out of my mind. Thanks! I can't wait!"
Kaibab, Elsie's Stop 'N' Place:
1:30 PM: Liz walked wearily up to her room, and took a long hot shower, hoping it would help her sleep. Tired as she was, she still didn't want to close her eyes. There was too much lurking there in her memory. But sleep, real sleep, would be wonderful.
Elsie was everything Henry had said she would be. She refused to let Liz pay for her stay, and seemed untroubled by the fact that Liz didn't even know how long she would be staying. Liz had tried to reason with her. "What will you do if I stay forever?" She asked, smiling up at the big woman. "Adopt me?"
Elsie grinned down at her. "If necessary! Now scoot. Those eyes are burning holes in your face. Get some sleep and we'll talk later."
'Well,' Liz thought to herself, 'She won't stop me from working for my keep!' Liz needed to work. Work so hard that she would be tired enough to fall asleep every night.
With a deep sigh, Liz lay down on her bed. And in spite of her fears, she sank down into a deep sleep.
Roswell, the Crashdown:
3:00 PM: Maria's cell phone rang and she answered it almost before it quit the first ring. "What." She listened for a few seconds, then answered, "We're out of here." Then she bolted for the door, a startled Michael and Alex running after her. "Isabel dreamwalked Liz!" She called over her shoulder.
"Well what are you waiting for!" Alex called after her jubilantly. Now they would find Liz!
Max had the door opened for them when they arrived at his house. The look on his face was not what they expected. It was grim.
Michael felt a tightness in his stomach. He grabbed the now motionless Maria and moved her into the house.
Alex rushed past Max, straight to Isabel who was pacing back and forth in the living room. He gently took her clenched hands in his and sat her down on the couch. "Talk to us Iz. Tell us what you saw." Isabel just stared at him with a look of horror on her face. Alex looked up at Max for an explanation.
Max shrugged helplessly. "She's been like this ever since she woke up." He murmured. "I thought maybe with all of us here, we could calm her down enough to find out what happened." The look of pain on his face, that something she had seen from Liz had put her into this state, was harder to look at than the one on Isabel's.
Maria rummaged through her purse and pulled out a small bottle. "Maria, " Michael moaned, "This is not a time for your quacky aromatherapy."
But when Maria pushed it under Isabel's nose, she jumped in Alex's arms, and lurched away from it.
"What kind of scent is that?" Demanded Michael.
"Ammonia. You never know when someone is going to faint or… whatever." Maria said defensively. "Besides, it worked." Isabel was now taking deep breaths and trying not to cry, but she was definitely not freaked out anymore.
Max sat down on the other side of Isabel, and Michael knelt in front of her. Both trying to give her moral support. "Come on Izzy." Max said gently. "What happened? I've never seen you like this before." Maria, for once, was without words. She just watched, and stood wringing the bottle in her hands.
Isabel looked down at her hands and gave a big shuddering sigh. Then she looked at each one of them. "I…I have to go back." Before anyone could say a thing, she continued. "But not alone. I need someone to come with me."
The protests came loudly from all present. From Max, Michael, and Alex, that she was not going to go back into a situation that could do that to her. Maria that she was not taking Michael to whatever had freaked her out.
"All of you just shut up!" She shouted in her best Isabel scream. They shut.
She pressed the fingers of one hand to her forehead and gathered her thoughts. At least now she could think again. Then she tried to explain the unexplainable. "Okay. Liz was dreaming. But it wasn't a normal dream. It was a memory …or a series of them." She grabbed onto Alex's hand and continued. "She… I… Max, parts of them are memories of a flashback she got from you. Memories she couldn't get from you. They are a huge nightmare thing that keeps replaying and replaying." Isabel stopped and looked at Max, pain in her eyes. "Max, she can't wake up."
Isabel lay on the couch. Max and Michael were head to head on the floor, one hand of each reached up and held onto Isabel. Maria sat in a chair facing them, and Alex perched on the back of the couch, a tight worried look on his face.
Isabel stood in the place of dreams. She couldn't see Max or Michael, but she could feel them there. She felt and heard Liz's dream bubble, still hovering by. The sound was sour and the feel was like that of fingernails on a chalk board. It ran up and down her spine setting every nerve on edge. Isabel called it to her and held it lightly in her palms. 'I can do this' She thought to herself, and then placed just her fingertips against its surface. They weren't going to enter in. Yet. They were going to see it as Liz saw it. "Okay boys, here we go."
They saw Max, only not Max, appear. * A shape shifter! * *Shh, wait. * They felt Liz's fear as she thought the same thing. Saw the proof of the Mariachi band, and the roses. Heard his reason for coming, what he had to ask her to do. They felt the pain and heartache as she tried to do what had to be done. The planning with Kyle and the unendurable grief it caused when Max looked in and saw them. Then there was the kiss and all the acid-like memories that were etched onto her mind. The horror that nearly consumed her. Her determination. "I'm glad that happened. Max. It will help make me strong. Every time I want to tell him, you, I'll remember this and I won't let it happen." Then the dance and when he disappeared, there was the belief that it had worked, that crushed her to her knees, there on the roof.
They saw Max, only not Max, appear…
* Enough! * Max was beyond caring what the consequences were for everyone. He had to get to Liz. He had to hold her and tell her that there was another way. There had to be, and they would find it. * Iz. Get me in there! * He demanded. * Max! It's dangerous! * Isabel cried.
* Do it! *
Isabel spread her hands and the bubble expanded, then Max stepped through and disappeared from sight.
Max stepped into a dense dark fog. It felt oily and had the smell of something dying. The overpowering sensation of utter despair. He began to call for her. Pushing against a strange resistance. It was Liz. She didn't want him to find her.
Instead of using his eyes, he now used his feelings. All the good things that had happened between them. All the best memories. These he used as a weapon against the resistance. Even as a divining rod, they began to lead him toward her.
Finally the mist started to lift ahead of him, and there, kneeling on the ground was Liz. His Liz. She was rocking back and forth with her face in her hands. He rushed forward to take her in his arms, but at his first touch she leapt up and started to run away.
* Liz! * There was so much pain in that one word, that she stopped for a moment.
* Could he still care? * Asked her heart. * No! You can't! * She yelled, backing away. * Leave me alone! *
* Liz I love you! I'll always love you! * He cried, putting every bit of feeling into it that he could.
* No Max. I have to stay away from you. * She wailed and began to disappear into the mist again.
* Liz! Listen to me. There is another way! There has to be. Max, the other Max is gone. But I still love you. I love only you! Liz, he's gone, and I still love you!* Was it his imagination or was the mist beginning to thin?
* Max? * Liz called meekly. He looked around trying to see her in the darkness. * Max, if it's true then I can't come back yet. *
* But why? * She could feel his hurt, but she had a handle on the first hope she had felt since this whole thing started. She wasn't about to give it up.
* Max, if there is another way to keep Tess there , with the group, then you have to find it. For her, for us, for everyone we love. Find it Max. And then I'll come back. * Max felt himself being pushed firmly out of the dream bubble. * Find it Max. I'll wait. I can now. I'll wait forever as long as you love me. *
Then he was out. The last thing he heard before he left was a distant sobbing cry. There was sorrow and loneliness in that cry, but there was something else there too.
It was hope.
4:30PM: Luke watched over Jarod's shoulder as he worked on his next identity. Luke was fascinated at how meticulous Jarod was. All possible employees at the next target were crosschecked for every place they had ever worked and every city they had lived in. A list was compiled of the combined locations. Then a list of national parks was brought up, and every one geographically near any of the above listed locations was eliminated. Jarod then picked two or three and started checking out all history, ancient and current. Including legends, personal reports and news items. Then he picked the one that best suited his interests and began making transfer papers from that park to the Grand Canyon National Park, for one J. Rod Forrest, Jarod for short.
"Why did you pick that park to transfer from?" Luke wanted to know.
"Because it's the most boring. Luke, your new uncle is in search of variety and adventure! Now let's pick up some dinner, and head to our next stop."
"Nope, there is a little place not far from there, called Kaibab camping grounds. It's close enough to use as home base, and the owner of Elsie's Stop 'N' Place is a friend of a friend. She'll put us up for a while." Jarod smiled at the memory of that friend. An obnoxious little twerp that he had helped to find his direction. The kid was now working in a hospital in Ohio, and happily engaged. Elsie was his aunt and had been delighted at helping Toby's 'savior' with no questions asked.
6:00 PM: "Jarod!" She hollered as she came out of the café, wiping her hands on a towel, and grinning all the way. "Welcome to my little hideaway. And who might this young man be?" She asked as she put one hand behind each back and began herding them inside.
"Elsie, meet Luke. He will be my nephew for a while." Jarod said with a grin. Elsie tipped her head and smiled up at him then turned to Luke. "He was also the 'uncle' of my Toby for a while. And a rascal of a nephew he made, too. You try to be a little easier on our Jarod, you hear?"
Elsie had heard plenty about Jarod and was surprised at how normal he looked. According to Toby, he should be seven feet tall, have a wagon of thick books in tow, and be reciting sage advice with every breath. She liked him at first sight. There was a sort of boyish quality about him that made you want to help him. 'Ha!' She said to herself, 'As if the likes of him would need help from the likes of me!'
Inside she called out. "Two growing boys to feed!"
At their protests that they had just eaten, she tish-tished and tush-tushed, and sat them down, wiping an invisible speck of dirt from the counter. "Liz, how about a couple Grand Canyon Banana Splits?" She yelled.
"You boys can have your pick of rooms. Don't get many boarders this late in the season. Just look them over and pick the one you want; they ain't locked. Then tell me and I'll give you the keys." With that, Elsie went bustling back into the kitchen.
Liz came out a moment later with their set-ups, and asked them if they wanted something to drink. "Elsie is making your banana splits, she forgot that I don't know how she makes them."
"Don't get many orders for them?" Asked Luke.
Liz smiled, "I don't know, I haven't been helping out very long."
"And how long would that be?" Jarod asked.
"Oh, about an hour and a half."
Luke looked around at the empty room. "Brought you in for the rush hour, did she?" Then grinned to show he was trying to make conversation, not a point.
Elsie made a grand entrance just then, with two of the biggest banana splits in the country. No ordinary banana split bowl could hold one. Two long sweetly ripe bananas, six scoops of ice-cream lined up three on a side, with a canyon down the middle, marshmallow cream topped with macadamia nuts on one 'rim', and green mint sauce topped with chocolate chips on the other.
Liz put both hands over her mouth to hold in a giggle at the look on Luke's face. Partway between dismay and awe. Jarod just said, "Looks interesting. Do you recommend tackling the north rim first, or should I try sneaking up on the south one?"
Liz took her hands down and nodded her head sincerely, "Oh I definitely think the south rim for your first approach." Elsie called her into the kitchen, so she wished them good eating and rushed out before she started laughing uncontrollably.
She still had to get a better grip on her emotions. They were sort of roller-coaster right then. Max still loved her. She couldn't go home yet, but he loved her!
Later when she came back to clean up the table, she noticed the condiment bowl of chopped jalapenos on the table. There was a couple of small pieces left in one of the split bowls. 'Huh!' She thought, 'A combination worthy of Michael's taste buds…. Yech!'
Liz was about to go up to her room when Elsie called to her. "Would you do me one more thing before you go up pet? The boys have picked room six. Would you take them some towels and glasses for me?"
Liz delivered the items and was just swinging around the corner onto the stairs, when she ran right into Luke coming up from the car. Liz rebounded off the rail and started to tumble head first down the stairs. Luke's heart jumped to his throat and he grabbed her with both hands and sat down hard, pulling her into his lap. For one stunned moment each looked at the other, and then Liz stammered a thank you and ran down stairs. She didn't stop until she was safely up in her room.
Luke sat for a full minute in stunned surprise before going on to the room. He burst through the door, and announced to a surprised Jarod, "She knows her! The girl! I was just wondering if I would dream of her again tonight, and there she was!" At Jarod's questioning look, he added. "Liz! She knows the girl of my dreams!"
Liz dropped down on her bed trying to gather her thoughts together. It couldn't be! Could it? She had been thinking of Max and wondering if Iz would bring him back into her dreams that night, when bang! Luke had grabbed her and she had gotten a flash from him. The same kind she could get from Max. Liz jumped up and paced back and forth. She was so confused! Who was he? Could he really be one of Max's people? And, the big question, why was he thinking of Max and Tess! Finally she dived for her phone. She wasn't going to leave this to chance. Max had to know now!
Edited by - Chrystalkay on 09/22/2001 17:03:59
|posted on 16-Sep-2001 8:52:32 PM|
Roswell, the Evans house:
7:00 PM: Alex and Maria arrived almost at the same time, to make their reports. Alex had been to Valenti's office to tell him that Liz was okay but that they didn't know where she was yet. When he told Valenti how they knew, he just smiled and kind of shook his head, with a 'why did I even ask' kind of look in his eyes.
"He's kind of cool with this alien stuff, but I think it makes him nervous." Alex confided. "Where's Isabel?"
"Coming!" She called as she came into the front room with a huge bowl of popcorn and a pitcher of juice. "I thought we'd need some serious thinking food."
Alex went to help her, and Maria plopped down on the couch. "Next time, you take Liz's mom and I'll take the sheriff." Maria had gone to try and comfort her. She had known her almost all her life, and thought she could help. "How can I convince them that Liz is okay, when I can't tell them how I know! I think they think she called us and didn't call them! All I did was hurt them more." She gave a big sniff and wiped her nose. "Now, where is Michael?"
"He went to find Tess." Max said.
Michael opened the door and walked in with two six-packs of soda and a four-pack of pizza. "Actually I went to get some serious thinking food." He said. At the look on Max's face, he added. "She's not home or at the Crashdown or in the park or anywhere else, it seems." He set the pizza on the coffee table and took a slice. He looked around at the faces of the others and said, "What?" Then shook his head and plopped down next to Maria and popped a can open. He looked around at everyone with a half smiling half pissed look on his face, like 'what did you expect me to do?'
Alex grabbed a piece and a can and sat down on the floor next to Isabel's chair. "Maybe we should make a list of everywhere a girl goes when she doesn't want to be found. Liz and Tess are bound to be easier to find that way. We just have to follow the list." Having Tess drop out of sight, after Liz, made him nervous. Who would be next? "Iz. If you should decide to drop out of the picture, take us with you, huh? It will make it easier on the rest of us."
She ruffled his hair and smiled. She knew just how he felt about her. 'He's such a dear.' But Tess dropping out of sight made her nervous too.
Elsie's Stop 'N' Place:
Liz paced her room. She hadn't called after all; there was still too much she didn't know. 'I have to make sure he's one of them first.' She thought. 'What if he's one of those aliens that are hunting Max? I'd be leading Max right into a trap.' She had no doubt that if she called Max, they would find a way to trace where the call came from. They had all the resources of Valenti on their side. 'No. I have to be sure first. Sure it's safe.' But how?
Back at the Evans House:
The phone rang and Maria grabbed it. "Evans residence." She said in her best formal voice. Isabel started to crack up and Maria waved her off, trying to keep a straight face. "May I help you? Oh kool! Can you bring her over? Yeah, right now. I don't care; tell her you're kidnapping her. Just get her over here. Right."
To the rest of the gang, "Kyle. Tess just showed up."
There was a general letting out of breaths. Tess, at least, wasn't missing.
Alex snatched his third piece of pizza. "So, does this mean we finally get to find out what this is all about?"
"Yeah. If you guys don't mind. You promised to tell us everything you found out." Maria got a suspicious look on her face, and turned to Michael. "If I find out you know where she is and didn't tell me…"
Michael put both hands up between himself and Maria and appealed to Max. "Hey protect me. She's going to use her death ray eyes on me." Then he reached out and snagged Maria into his lap. She didn't put up much of a fight, but she did need reassuring that they didn't know more than she did. Where Liz was concerned, Maria wasn't reasonable.
Max looked at Maria and Alex very seriously. "We know how close you both are to Liz. If we knew where she was, we would have told you. You know that don't you?" At their nods, he continued. "I told you that Liz wouldn't come back, or let us know where she was, until we could figure out how to keep Tess here. Well, what we want to do will not be easy on you. On any of us. But we think the best way to tell what happened is to show exactly what Liz knows and how she felt. We intend to connect all of us and share the memory of our connection with Liz."
Maria had her mouth open. "Can you do that? I mean great! But will we, you know, have to all go to sleep or something? Oh! Will we get to see that dream place?"
"Will it hurt?" Alex asked. "I mean I think that's relevant." He said defensibly, when Isabel looked at him.
"Why Tess?" Maria demanded. "She doesn't miss Liz. Doesn't even like her. Why do we have to include her?"
Michael gave a disgusted snort. "Tess is the only one that really has to see and feel this connection. So if you and Alex don't want to do this…"
"Michael! If you think for one minute you can keep us out of this…"
"Children! Children!" Isabel called. "Let's just wait for Tess and Kyle and see if this works. With all of us working together, we could get Tess off her 'Max only' track and start her looking around for other options."
"You don't have to sleep. This isn't dream walking. It's connecting, like Liz and I…"
Max looked at the floor and swallowed. "You aren't going to like this. I don't like going through it again. Izzy doesn't. But we owe it to Liz to try this, and we owe it to you to share it."
Maria looked at Max and swallowed. For once she didn't have a word to say.
There was thoughtful silence as everyone waited.
When they did arrive, Kyle looked at the serious faces and almost left again. Max herded them in and Tess tossed her hair back and looked around defiantly. "So, what's with all the heavy drama?"
Elsie's Stop 'N' Place, Room six:
Jarod tried to concentrate on his notes, see if he could glean anything more out of the Internet info and news clips he had gathered. Luke was pacing the floor and muttering to himself. Jarod found himself reading the same page over and over.
"Luke," He said kindly, "Why don't you make a choice. You can settle down and wait for morning, or you can go to Liz's room and ask her about what you saw."
This perfectly reasonable advice was met with less than perfect acceptance. "How can I go up to a strange girl and say, 'So, can you tell me where I might find the girl inside your head?' And of course she won't ask me how I know what's inside her head. Or what my interest might be. And of course I can just answer, 'Oh, she is the girl I'm destined to spend the rest of my life with. By the way do you know her name?' Yeah that will be great!"
Jarod shrugged and popped a Pez into his mouth. With his hands poised over his keyboard, he said, "If I were you, I'd think up a convincing cover story and swear her to secrecy." At Luke's look of exasperation, he continued. "Remember the place I told you about? The one I escaped from? They had a big interest in ESP. All kinds. And they were as determined to keep a hold on those with special talents, as they were to keep me. I escaped. Maybe you did too. From someone who wants to use your gifts." He smiled at the silence behind him. Now the kid was thinking. 'And now I can get back to work.'
Luke started pacing again, then sat down and began working out what he would say to Liz. She held the clue to his future and he must, he would, find a way to get that clue.
In Liz's room, she stopped pacing and sat down. The gang had gotten little information on their enemies, but one of them was that they didn't share the same appetites. Liz smiled to herself. A real Liz smile. 'Just you wait until I serve you breakfast!'
Roswell, the Evans front room:
8:30PM: Michael and Alex finished moving the furniture to clear as large an area as possible. Tess was still fuming, but had finally agreed to join in. "This is ridiculous! You think that by all connecting, we can find some kind of breakthrough in human/alien relationships?"
Maria snorted. "You are the only one that doesn't have a 'human' side in any relationship!" Then Michael had to step between her and Tess before they got into another shouting exercise. He looked over at Max with a 'lets get on with it' kind of expression, and Max called everyone's attention to himself.
"All right, we lay down in a circle, heads together and hold hands. Izzy, you get on my left. Alex, next to her, then Tess, Kyle, Michael, Maria and back to me."
Alex quipped. "Sort of H,A,H,A, huh? You know human, alien…." Isabel groaned and Maria threw a pillow off the couch at him. "Thanks Maria, anybody else need a pillow?"
They got situated in their circle, and held hands. Kyle looked over at Michael when he took his hand. "Nothing personal Mikey boy, but if Max's parents come home I'm dropping your hand. I feel weird enough as it is."
Tess, on his other side, was holding his hand so tight, that he realized for the first time, that she was scared. She was laying stiff as a board and staring straight up. "Hey, you're among friends." He whispered. "Yeah right." She answered.
"Just a minute!" Maria said, and jumped up and grabbed her bottle of Cedar oil. This she brought back with her, sniffing deeply, and settled back down again. "Okay, ready."
Max took a deep breath and began to talk them down into a quiet receptive mood. Slowly he sent around a trickle of connection, feeling each one as they were brought into the circle. As he strengthened it, there came flashes from one member or another; favorite toys, best times, worst fears… There would be few precious secrets among this group by the end of all this.
Michael and Isabel re-enforced Max's memory of the connection with Liz. The intensity of the feelings, all of them. Liz's fierce determination to save the group by leaving, her tearing love for Max, and the depth of how he returned that love. The memory of the flashes, from Future Max, the horror, the despair, made all of them shudder clear down to their souls. When the whole memory was over, even Tess was caught up in the deeply emotional climax. Then came the meeting between Max and Liz and the hope and promise that were left when she thrust him out of her dream.
Max kept the connection a couple of moments longer, to let everyone share their feelings. It was important to breach the differences between Tess and the others. To make transparent, the barriers that would come up between them, when all returned to the privacy of their own thoughts.
Maria was openly sobbing. That Michael, her Michael, could die like that, that Liz and Max had something so beautiful, and that Michael felt a true feeling of love towards herself… These were so overpowering that Maria was beyond caring if everyone saw her as a wuss. And the quiet desperation that had been Tess's life, was so unlike the defiant self-possessed front she put on, that Maria felt an instant big sister-ish need to make her feel at home. Tess had never really had one.
Alex had a renewed respect for what it meant to be Max, Is, Michael and Tess. There were some real bad a**'s out there and his friends were part of the main defense. That Max's future self was willing to give up so much and ask Liz to… That took guts, more guts than he could ever have. But when he remembered Izzy's torn and blasted body, such rage filled him, that he could have gotten up and charged the enemy alone. He felt everyone's reaction to the Liz connection. Even Tess accepted the inevitable, and not resentfully. Maybe a little sadness, but there was something else…
Kyle was stunned. He finally understood this weird group. Better, maybe than he wanted to. How could he resent Max when he felt the weight of responsibility that haunted all his decisions? How could he ever look at Michael as a lazy trouble maker, when he could see the effort he put in everything. The fierce pride he had in Max's friendship and the determination never to be the weak link. The friendship that Maria and Alex had with the group and that it was not all because of personal relationships. That there had never been in him the means to love Liz the way Max did. The way she deserved to be loved.
The humans weren't the only ones experiencing revelations. Tess felt the lifelong yearning for family that was at the core of most of Michaels reactions to life. Afraid to connect with others and needing to desperately. This struck a cord within Tess who had never had a loving relationship with anyone. She had envied Max and Isabel their family. Now she saw the deep fear of rejection by their parents if they should ever find out about them, with the deep yearning for acceptance as they were. She could feel the inner connections all around her. Michael and Maria and Alex and Isabel and Max and Liz and Maria and… Something strange that she didn't even know she had. Somewhere down inside of her was a connection to a boy that she had never met. Except once upon a dream. For the first time she had a real feeling of what destined love was. Max and Liz had it. She and Max didn't. But there was that other….
Michael, Isabel and Max basked in the feelings of acceptance and understanding that wove back and forth among the group. They could feel Tess accepting and being accepted, becoming part of the team. And Kyle, he had a growing feeling of protectiveness for Tess and all of them as the connections broke down barriers, and cemented understanding.
There was a bond of family growing: stronger than any that could be made from accident of birth. Tess would stay.
Now they could find Liz and bring her home.
Elsie's Stop 'N' Place:
7:30 AM: Luke woke up and shuffled over to the table where Jarod was working over his computer. "Good morning. You been up all night?" He asked.
"Good morning! No I've only been up about an hour." Jarod smiled at the sleepy outrage of Luke. That anyone could get up at 6:30! "I thought I'd wait for you. We can go down for breakfast together." He leaned closer to Luke and confided, "I thought you might like a little moral support."
Luke grinned at his new friend. "I can see you are going to be a great asset. When do you start to work at your new job? I won't be making you late, will I?"
Jarod explained that he was set up to start in a week. "Then why get here so early?"
"Because with a job here, I can have an excuse to poke around where visitors aren't allowed to. And, since I don't start till next week, I have a lot of poking around time." Jarod folded up his computer and neatened up a stack of news clippings and print-outs. "I have a mystery to solve, a starting place and a week to do unmonitored snooping." He leaned back and crossed his arms, smiling. "What more could a man ask for?"
Luke had been trying to keep from asking Jarod what his 'job' was, but with the mention of a mystery, it became impossible not to.
Jarod spread out the news clippings. These were from five different towns and the articles were all variations on the 'Home town man missing from vacation.' theme. He began to tick off some statistics. "All were in northern Arizona around the time of their disappearance, all had the opportunity to visit the Grand Canyon, all were traveling alone, each had a modest amount of money that was taken out of his ATM account, and each withdrawal was recorded within 80 miles of a central point. And no bodies were ever found."
Jarod asked Luke if he wanted to hear the rest, and Luke nodded eagerly. He continued his explanation. "Since none of the missing men were well connected enough for a big investigation, the closest thing to an investigation was when the first one never returned to his room in a Flagstaff Hotel." Jarod looked up at his audience and noted the look of concentration on his face. "Now. Each of these men turned up missing at approximately two month intervals. Look here." He showed Luke a couple printouts from the park service inner files. "This is a report on the search efforts for a man visiting the center, four months prior to the first of the last five. He and a friend checked into the center and bought permits to hike down to the bottom and camp on the other side of the river. His friend was found dead, on the third day of the search, with no visible reason for his death. The first man was never found at all." He pulled out another report. "This is a report on a man who skipped out on a mule pack trip. At the bottom. He was seen to be talking to a young man outside of the bottom Lodge, and then never took the bunk assigned to him for the night. It was assumed that he had come up by himself, somehow. His room, up at the center, was empty. He had apparently packed his things, and left. All without talking to anyone or being seen. Even though his car was still in the parking lot, there was no search and no missing persons report ever made. That was two months later." He dropped the notes back on the table and waited for Luke's reaction.
Luke was sitting down, staring at the floor. His brow drawn together in concentration. "Then it's almost a hundred percent probable that all the men disappeared in the canyon. At the bottom of the canyon." He was quiet for a moment then asked. "With all this evidence, why hasn't there been a major investigation into all these disappearances? It's not likely that all the men stopped eighty miles away at an ATM before coming to the Canyon, so it's even more probable that someone used the bank cards after their disappearance. That makes murder an even higher probability." Luke looked up to see Jarod nodding in approval.
"You see it because all the evidence is gathered together. No one else has ever pulled all the pieces into one file. I'm going to get to the 'bottom' of this and find out who is causing the disappearances." Jarod looked down and to the side, thinking of people left at home, people who would never know what happened to their loved ones if he didn't. Then he looked at his wristwatch. "Hey, the coffee shop opened ten minutes ago."
Luke jumped up and ran for the bathroom. "I'll be out in a jiff!" Five minutes later, scrubbed and dressed, Luke was dragging his feet getting to the coffee shop. "What if this doesn't work? What if she is scared of me or something? Some people don't like to be around people with 'gifts'. It's not much of an improvement on being a you-know-what."
Inside, Liz was getting impatient for Luke to show up. She would know, when he had his breakfast, if his appetite ran in the same direction as Max, Michael and Isabel's. 'Oh if he's a late riser, I'll go nuts waiting!' It was with a considerable sigh of relief that she saw Jarod and Luke enter and take the table they had used the night before.
She was almost at the table before they got all the way seated. She gave them her best all out Liz smile. "Good morning! Here are your menus. Can I get anything for you to drink? Coffee, orange juice?"
Jarod smiled up at her. "Do you have any chili?" At her nod, he said, "Then I would like a bowl of chili and another one of those Grand Canyon Banana Splits."
"For breakfast?" Both Luke and Liz exclaimed at the same time. Jarod smiled from one to the other. "It was good. I'd like to try another one." He leaned toward Liz. "This time I'll tackle it from the north rim!" Luke ordered a more normal breakfast, orange juice with ham and eggs.
Liz walked away confused and disappointed. If Jarod could order one of those monsters for breakfast, then maybe it was he that had used the jalapenos last night. Liz put in the order and tried to think fast.
Luke was in the same age area as her friends and a possibility. Jarod was too old to be, but definitely not a cold fish like Nasedo. So either Luke was one of Max's kind, or they were both something else. A little shiver of fear ran down her spine. 'I'll just find out one way or the other right now!'
She grabbed a glass of juice and emptied a good portion of Tabasco into it. Then took it and some coffee to the table. "Here you are Luke. Are you sure you don't want some coffee Jarod? Maybe some milk?" She kept an eye on Luke as he took a generous swig of juice. She had seen the look of pure pleasure Michael gave every time he had the same thing.
The look on Luke's face, when he tasted it, was so surprising that Liz sat down right at the table. There was surprise, pleasure and then fear on his face.
"So it's true." She grabbed his hand before he could bolt up and out the door. "Please. We need to talk." She couldn't stand the fearful look on his face. She talked fast and low enough that no-one else could hear. "I have friends, very close friends, that like the same 'brand' of orange juice. They also like jam or sugar on their hamburgers, and hot peppers in their ice cream. If…if you saw the same thing I did last night, then you know who I'm talking about." Now she held her breath and waited. Would he trust her?
Luke looked at her closely. Looked into her eyes and tried to fathom the truth from them. If she was telling the truth… A deep yearning and hope began to swell up inside him. If she was telling the truth, then he wasn't alone anymore.
West Roswell High:
8:00 AM: Max and Isabel waited impatiently in the parking lot. Everyone had promised to meet them there before school. Max paced, and Isabel just sat in his Jeep picking at her nail polish. She hadn't been able to reach Liz last night and Max didn't like it. The connection had convinced Tess of her importance to the group and she had been surprisingly easy about the whole Max/Liz thing. Max wasn't sure how true that impression was, but he was sure that Tess wasn't going to go off and leave them now. Now all he wanted was to go after Liz and bring her home.
Michael arrived with Alex in tow, and Kyle was right behind with Tess. They parked beside the Jeep and jumped out. Alex went right for Isabel. Michael took his time sauntering over to Max, and Tess looked preoccupied as she and Kyle joined them.
"Where's Maria?" Michael asked. A screeching of tires behind them announced Maria's arrival as she turned into the parking lot on two wheels. "I am sooo sorry I'm late!" She called as she jumped out and hurried to the group. "Did you like, talk to Liz again last night? Is she coming home? What did she say?" She looked from Max to Michael to Isabel. "Oh God, nothing has happened has it?"
Michael grabbed her around her waist and hugged her to him. "Calm down for Pete's sake. Everything's fine." Maria relaxed into his side, feeling like nothing could be wrong as long as Michael was with her. But she looked suspiciously at Max. "Is that 'everything's-fine-we-talked-to-Liz?' or 'everything's-fine-so-Maria-won't-freak-out, fine?"
Alex grinned and opened his mouth, but Maria turned on him. "Don't start Alex. I want to know what's up with Liz… no matter how it came out, you know what I meant." Alex shut his mouth and looked at Max. They all did.
Max looked down and shifted his feet. Then looked up through his eyebrows. "I'm going after Liz." He held up his hand before there could be any questions. "Isabel couldn't dreamwalk Liz last night. That doesn't mean anything bad, but it has made me decide to go. I can feel that she's off in that direction somewhere. I plan on driving in that direction and following the feeling until I find her."
"Uh, has anyone noticed that it's Monday? You know, school?" Alex asked. "I mean, how are you going to get your parents to agree to let you take off for… how ever long it takes, where ever it takes… or whatever?" 'Great!' He thought, 'Now I'm starting to sound like Maria.'
"Oh my mom is going to be sooo pissed." Maria said. When Max looked at her like she was crazy, she added. "You do not think I am going to let you go off after Liz without me, do you?"
"I'm game." Michael said. Max looked about to protest. "She goes, I go."
Isabel got out of the car and faced Max. "I decided to go too, Max." She said. "I think I can dream walk her while we drive and maybe I can convince her it's okay." She talked fast, as if to convince herself more than Max.
Now Tess spoke up. "I'm the one that needs to go with Max. I can convince her that I'm cool with the whole 'in love forever' thing that she and Max have."
Now Alex stood there shuffling his feet. If they were all going, (translate that Isabel was going)… "You guys are not leaving me to hold the bag. Everyone's parents will be down on me like Tabasco on fries. I'm going too!"
Max held up his hands. "Wait a minute." Everyone was talking about which cars were going, who would ride with who, and how long it would take to pack. No one was listening to Max. "HOLD IT!" He yelled. "Just hold it." He said softer, as everyone shut up and looked at him.
"I'm going. You are all staying. Is, you can dreamwalk me every night and keep trying Liz too. You will be my go-between for everyone." He looked around at all his friends. "We don't need a town full of freaked out parents. This way things stay more or less normal around here. Tell Valenti the truth so he won't try too hard to find me. I'll call every chance I get." Max moved around to get into the Jeep.
"My car or yours?" Maria asked Michael. "Better make it yours." She added as an afterthought. Michael would be doing most of the driving, and him driving her car, gave her the shivers. She dived for his car while tossing her keys to Kyle. "Take mine home for me will you? Tell Mom I'll call!"
She shook her head after she climbed in. Michael looked over at her. "What?"
"In this thing I might not live to have my mom kill me!."
Liz went to get their order and give Luke time to assimilate what had just happened. Luke sat there with a stunned and hopeful look on his face while Jarod sat back and observed him. There was a tender almost painful look in Jarod's eyes; he had helped so many lost people find themselves, find connections, find family. Would there ever be a day when he would find his own connections?
He cleared his throat lightly and Luke looked up at him. "Do you think she really knows …someone like you?"
Luke nodded, the faraway look fading out of his eyes. A smile lit his face, the first real down to his core smile that Jarod had seen on him. "She knows. She saw when I saw; I didn't know that could happen. Jarod I have to know more! There is so much I want to ask her!" Luke sat talking to Jarod about his hopes, the animation in his face an open honest book that Liz was reading from behind the kitchen door.
She took a deep breath and let it out again. If she had had any doubts at all, this scene had squashed them. There was no way this kid was any more than he seemed. (At least not to her, she amended.) 'So Max, it looks like I have found another of your people. As much as this will mean to you, I don't doubt for a moment that it means so much more to this boy.' She had no idea how very much it would mean to her.
Max sat there in the parking lot both hands on the wheel and his eyes watching Maria and Michael in the side view mirror. It didn't matter what he thought of, he knew they wouldn't back down. They were coming and that was that. He turned around and looked directly at them. Maria twiddled her fingers at him and gave him a big 'give it your best shot you're stuck with us' smile. He just shook his head and gave them a come-on wave.
They were out of Michaels car like a shot. Michael tossed his keys to Alex. "Give it a ride home, will ya?"
"Okay, so whose house do we go to first?" Maria asked, looking from one to the other. "You know to pack? Oh and what do you wear on a Liz finding trip?"
The others just stood there and watched them take off. "Well that leaves half of us holding the bag." Alex said. " At least I won't be the only one getting the third degree. Should we go to class or just go somewhere and figure out what story we can concoct to explain all this?"
Isabel didn't even look at him; she just headed for her car. "If he thinks I'm waiting here, he doesn't know me as well as he thinks he does! We meet at Alex's in twenty minutes!"
9:00 AM: Liz came down stairs from her room dressed in jeans, a long sleeve shirt and hiking boots. Luke met her out front with two backpacks. Jarod had gone on to the canyon to start snooping around and Luke and Liz had decided to take in the canyon as well.
Luke still wasn't convinced that they should go. "Jarod wouldn't want us to go down there while he's investigating. It could be dangerous."
"Nonsense. He's looking for a guy that preys on well to do men traveling alone. That is sooo unlike us, that we don't have to worry about it. Now come on. You can't not see this place. It's like one of the wonders of the world." Liz donned her backpack and pushed back her hair. "My mom and dad brought me here a few years ago. It is so unreal. You'll love it!"
She had had this brainstorm while trying to figure out how to keep Luke from going nuts while they waited. Not for Jarod, for night time. Liz didn't want to tell Luke too much about Max and the gang until she talked to them. Last night she had tossed and turned but hadn't slept much, thinking about Luke. Tonight she was going to be tired enough to get a good night's sleep. She wanted to give Isabel all the chances she needed to dreamwalk her.
Elsie pulled up with her car. "Come on kids. Ready for the non tourist treatment?" She had arranged for a friend of her's to take them down to the bottom. He had one of the helicopter tours and had agreed to give them a good look around before setting them down on the other side of the river. It would be an experience they would never forget.
West Roswell High Parking lot:
Isabel Got out a U.S. map and Alex dug a compass out of his pants. They spread the map out on a car that was parked exactly where Max had parked his jeep earlier. Alex looked nervously around, "I keep getting the feeling that someone is going to come out and demand to know why we aren't in class."
"You worry about the strangest things. Now, that is the way Max pointed when he said Liz is that way. Stand here and point the compass at that tall branch on that tree over there." Isabel knew it would be hard trailing Max unless they had a good idea of where he would end up.
Alex took his reading and lined the map up north/south. "O-kay, give me the ruler. We set it from Roswell… " He said ignoring Isabel's eye roll. "And line it up in this direction…"
"Look intrepid explorer, could you cut out the verbal guided tour and just do it!?" She said looking over his shoulder.
"There, there's our line of attack!" Alex displayed the red line on the map. "Now could we get out of here before someone comes out?"
First they had to argue over where, on that line, Liz could be. It went south of Albuquerque, north of Flagstaff (just south of the Grand Canyon), through Lake Mead, and Las Vegas. Then it didn't go near anyplace until it passed Fresno and ended up in Monterey Bay, near Salinas.
Neither one of them thought she would be as close as Albuquerque, or as far as Fresno. But Isabel was sure she had headed for Las Vegas, and Alex was just as sure that she wouldn't go that far.
She studied the map a minute more. "Well, wherever she is, it's a sure bet, she's somewhere along Route 40. If she did go to Vegas, we can cut up the 93 from there. We'll head north on 285 until we hit the 40. Max is bound to end up on it sooner or later. Now let's get out of here before he gets any farther ahead of us!"
Actually, at that moment he was just turning onto Hwy 380, and heading west. Max already had his things in the jeep, and Michael took all of two minutes to gather his stuff and throw it into a bag, but Maria…
Alex sat back in contentment and let Isabel drive. He hadn't counted on being alone with her. But Kyle had called and told him that he and Tess got caught sneaking out of the house by the Sheriff and would be explaining for some time.
Izzy was amazing! When her mom caught her packing, she just told her! It didn't matter that she was shaking in her shoes, "Max thinks he has a lead on where Liz Parker might be. He's going after her and so am I, Alex, Maria, and Michael." When her mom told her she wasn't going anywhere, Iz just picked up her bag and gave her mom a kiss on the cheek. "I'll call you later. Don't worry, we'll be alright." And just like that, they were out the door, into the car and gone.
Alex knew if he had been caught, that Izzy would be driving alone right now.
By the time Max got below Albuquerque, he realized that Liz felt more north west than west. They stopped off the road and looked at a map, then decided to head north to Route 40.
Due to the fact that Isabel thought Max was ahead of her, she and Alex reached Albuquerque ahead of Max and company. They passed through and kept a sharp eye out on the road ahead for Max's jeep.
12:00 Noon: Jarod had checked in at the Center and introduced himself around. Most of the available rangers were off conducting tours or doing sweeps above or on the canyon floor. Those at hand were helpful and accepting of Jarod's enthusiastic persona. After asking a few pertinent questions, Jarod got the go-ahead to explore the canyon floor. He was packed with camping gear to stay a night or two if need be and was given a lift by one of the helicopter sweep riders. His first stop would be the lower camp where the first man had disappeared.
Liz and Luke were already across the river and hiking toward the north rim. The helicopter pilot had given them a map where he had marked the spot he set them down on , the lower camp (nearest help), the best sparsely occupied camping spots, and some sites of early Indian hieroglyphics. At the last, he gave them a list of the times he would be available to pick them up, and a C.B. radio. "Don't use it unless you have to. This is my band, and this one is the emergency ranger band. Good luck kids. Be careful now, don't make Elsie and me regret helping you get down here. I know I'd regret it because Elsie would skin me alive!" With that, he had taken off, with a wave and a smile.
Luke was all for taking off for the Indian signs, but Liz wanted to find a good camping spot first. "It might get dark before we get back to the camping grounds, you don't want to try and set up in the dark, do you?"
"All the more reason to explore first. Ever try to find your own camp in the dark? We can set up anywhere when we are ready!" At Liz's reluctance, he added. "Besides we have watches and can start back in plenty of time" Luke won.
There were men stationed at the ranch house, that Jarod needed to talk to. One especially, had been working there for twelve years. He, before any of the others, should have a feel for the unusual, and Jarod wanted to feel him out on his theories.
"You say your name is Jarod? Well Jarod, I think you might have something there, because I've been trying to convince someone that there are some pretty strange things going on down here. Damned if I ain't." Hank was his name, and he was as far from looking like the spit and polish rangers above as you could get. Part of that was 'color' as he called it. And part was his own preference in clothes and talk. Jarod took an instant liking to him.
Hank laid out a map and started talking. "There have been minor thefts from here to here. Nothing big or valuable, just little things, but no one has ever found out who was doin' the taking. Also, they have been stretched out over a long period of time. If it was some camper, he would be gone in a few days and that would be that. These have gone on for about a year and a half, somethin' this week somethin' the next and so on."
"What kinds of things have gone missing?" Jarod asked, looking at the pattern of small x's spread over a good piece of area.
"Oh, a little food, a scarf, a blouse, some pants, a frying pan, a roll of fishing line. Stuff like that." Hank scratched under his beard and looked at Jarod sideways. "You would almost think a couple had set up permanent residence down here."
"Yep. Some of the stuff was something a lady might take a liking to, and some was what a gent might want."
Jarod looked at the ranger and didn't bother to ask if he had looked around for the errant couple. Hank definitely looked like the kind that would gnaw on it on his own time if need be. "What have you found?"
Hank pointed to an area across the river on the far side of the camping grounds. "Well, I've found foot prints all over the place, which you'd expect, but not when they go up to a rock face and just disappear. There are two places, here and here where they go up to a shear face of cliff and stop, or start. Can't figure out if I'm supposed to think they can walk up cliffs, or through 'em!"
At least Jarod had his starting place, he took another map and transferred the x's from Hank's to his. "Thank you Hank, I think I'll have a look around and see if I can spot any cliff walking birds." He hefted his pack, popped a Pez into his mouth, took a deep breath of the fresh canyon air, and set out. This was going to be one case he would never forget!
3:00PM: Isabel stretched and just 'accidentally' ran her hand down the back of Alex's neck. He turned and smiled at her and was just about to say something when his stomach growled so loud that Isabel had to laugh. "Oh dear, we'll have to get some food into you soon." She thought it was much nicer letting him drive while she sat back and enjoyed the scenery. Him that is.
For his part, Alex was enjoying the drive. It wasn't often that he got to have Izzy to himself. He felt grand driving beside the most beautiful girl in the world. Now if they could just stop and eat, he wouldn't get interrupted by his stomach when he was about to say something endearing and clever.
Isabel pointed to the right. "That looks like a restaurant row type of place. What do you feel like? Italian? Mexican?"
"I'ma theenk I'ma wanna some spaget." Alex quipped. "How about you?"
"Spaget it is!" Isabel laughed. "Lead on Alexi!"
They enjoyed a quiet 'linner' as Alex called it. A lunch-dinner. Isabel tried to enjoy it without worrying over how far ahead Max might be, or where. Alex was doing his best to keep her laughing and she was lapping it up. 'You know, I could do a lot worse than Alex.' She thought.
"So." She said as she chased the last of her spaghetti around the plate. "I think we should stay here in Flagstaff until we know for sure which way to go."
"Uh, that would mean staying at a… motel?"
"Alex, I'm not contemplating sleeping in the car for the next couple of days. Yes. A motel." Isabel shook her head in amusement. Alex was such a dear. But a little old fashioned. She'd have to work on that.
Max pulled into a motel and parked. Maria woke up and looked up at Michael. 'He's so cute when he's asleep. Like a little boy.' She thought. 'I wish he would hold me like this when he's awake.' Michael opened his eyes at that moment and looked into her eyes. For an instant, just for an instant, she saw the tenderness she always looked for. Then he yawned and stretched and used that as an excuse to take his arm from around her. "So. Where are we? Have we found Liz or what?"
Max smiled at him in the rear view mirror. "Or what." He answered. "I think we should try to get a hold of Isabel and see if she has heard anything. And maybe get something to eat."
Maria looked around. "A motel? This is not a restaurant. No one said anything about a motel Max."
Michael gave her an irritated smile. "So. What. You were expecting to camp out in the car maybe?" Then he wiggled his eyebrows at her. "Afraid to be alone with us two hunks?"
"Michael, your head is altogether tooo big if you'd think I can't handle being in a motel with you. Ahem… So Max, what's with the motel?" Maria hoped she wasn't blushing too hard.
Max got out of the jeep and leaned in on the window. "I'm getting us a room. We can freshen up and then find a place to eat." He looked Maria right in the eye. "You're okay with this. Right?"
Maria pushed her bangs aside and nodded her head. "Yeah sure, whatever."
Isabel drove down the street looking at motels. "Hey how about that one?" Alex suggested.
"Water beds and adult T.V.? I think not! God, this is so sleezy, looking for a motel. At least we should find one that won't have a leering manager, or cameras in the bedroom." Isabel decided they had gotten into the wrong part of town, and took a 'U' turn. There had been a donut shop just a block back, and she headed for it.
Sure as sun means daylight, there was a cop car sitting in the parking lot. Isabel pulled up beside it and gave her best brilliant smile. The cop looked over then really looked. He straightened up and smiled back. "May I help you?"
In no time at all they were headed toward the better side of town and looking for the motel the cop had recommended. "Wait! We should go to this one!" Alex cried as they passed a Lazy Eight motel.
"And why should we pick that one instead of the one that cute little cop told us about?" Isabel asked sweetly.
"Oh no reason." Alex said casually as Isabel drove another block down the street. "I just thought that since Max's jeep was parked in the parking lot…"
"What!" Isabel swung the car around and headed back. She passed an irritated look at Alex. "You might have said so sooner."
When Max Michael and Maria came back from eating, they found Isabel and Alex perched on the front hood of the Jeep.
4:30PM: The sunset in the canyon was breathtaking. Jarod took time to enjoy it from his perch in a tree. His only regret was in having no one to share it with. He let the deepening shades of red fill his vision as he counted his regrets. So many people he had met, studied, helped but never a person who could know 'him'. Never a someone who wouldn't be a danger to his freedom or 'in' danger from his pursuers. It was at times like this that he found a small comfort in calling Sydney, but Jarod had left his phone and scrambler in the room, back at Elsie's. Jarod sighed and brought his eyes back down to the area he was watching.
He had found a place halfway between the cliffs and the camping grounds, and made himself a secure waiting spot. The afternoon had been spent talking to campers and one of the sweep riders that traveled up and down the hiking/camping areas. There had been no thievery for a couple of days, but Jarod had found fresh tracks along the cliff face, and located one of the spots where Hank had indicated tracks disappearing into the cliff.
Since much of the pilfering had happened at night, Jarod had come equipped with night seeing goggles, and a compass to site on. If the unknown came out tonight, he just might be able to follow him, and find out where he/they were hiding.
Elsewhere in the Canyon:
Liz and Luke were looking for the camp grounds. They had wandered far along the cliff and were unsure of how far back they must come. It was getting dark and Liz wanted to hurry. Luke wanted to camp at the next likely looking spot.
"Look Luke, it may be fun just stopping anywhere, but they have camping grounds for a reason. There is water and places to use the restroom. There are rangers to keep an eye on things and safety in numbers." Liz was uncomfortable being alone out where no one knew where they were. 'It's not as if Max were with me.' She thought. 'Then I wouldn't mind 'where' I was.' She sighed and wished.
"I'm sorry Liz, I'm so used to being alone. I always think of ways to avoid people, not find them, and I hadn't even considered camping near others." Luke had forgotten that Liz might not have his lonely ways. "I should have started us back an hour ago. But don't worry, I can see really good in the dark, almost better that in bright daylight. I'll get you back safe. I swear I will."
Liz had forgotten too. Forgotten that Luke was one of Max's kind. All of them could see like bats in the dark. She began to relax a little. Even if he wasn't Max, he would watch out for her. 'How long… how long before Max finds a way to make it right. How long before I can hold him?' She thought as she stumbled along in the deepening shadows.
Luke had been content with getting some stories about the gang, even without learning anything that would tell him where they were or how to find them. He liked what he was learning about them. Max's strength, Michaels fierce loyalty to his friends, Isabel and her efforts to blend in with the community. Alex, Maria, Kyle and Liz , their friendship with them, and…Tess. She was what he most wanted to hear stories of, and the one that Liz knew least of.
Flagstaff, Lazy Eight Motel:
The room Max had rented was rather full. Isabel had gotten the room next door, but for now everyone was gathered here.
"Alright Max, so Liz is close. How close?" Isabel asked.
"Yeah, do you think she is here in Flagstaff, or what?" Alex perched on the edge of the bed beside her. "Do you think we could find her tonight?"
Max smiled, at his sister and his friends, and shook his head. "You guys." He said. This was what he had felt in the circle. That one for all and all for one feeling. And this time it was for him and Liz.
Maria volunteered the info, before Isabel blew a gasket. "Max thinks she is north of here in the Canyon. Though 'what' she could be doing there is beyond me. Anyway, if she is still there tomorrow morning, we're going in after her. Oh I can't 'believe' you guys got here ahead of us! How did you do it? I mean did you like feel Max and Michael, or what?"
Isabel exclaimed, "In the 'canyon!" At the same time Alex said, "Maria you need to take a breath between sentences or you will asphyxiate yourself."
"Yeah, I feel Liz." Max answered. "She's close to or in the canyon, as near as I can tell. Except for campers, they won't let anyone in after dark. So we have to wait till morning. Now, will you tell us how you managed to get here ahead of us? I'd really like to know."
Alex volunteered the how, with numerous interruptions from Isabel. He thought his Izzy was rather clever and wanted them all to know it. He also told them that Kyle and Tess would have been there too, and how they got caught. "I think we should call them, they'll want to know how we made out."
"Yeah, I got to call Mom." Maria said. "She is so pissed right now that even I can feel it!"
"And me." Added Alex. "And me. Us." Said Isabel. She looked at Max, who had the grace to look embarrassed. "I'll call." He mumbled. "I don't know what I'm going to say, but I'll be the one who gets to experience the yelling and crying." Max looked up at Isabel. "I owe you that."
"You bet you do!" She answered with a smile.
Michael hugged Maria close. "Well, I guess we all stay here tonight."
Maria took his hand and undid his arm from around her waist. "Michael Guerin, 'you', Max and Alex, are staying here tonight. Isabel and I are taking the next room. Boy's room, girl's room. Get the picture?"
Somewhere in the Grand Canyon:
6:00 PM: Luke had found a stream and talked Liz into camping there. "We have water, for drinking and washing, and handy bushes for a restroom Liz. I really don't think we should keep going in the dark."
Liz sat down and rubbed her shin. Just because Luke could see in the dark, didn't save her from stubbed toes or barked shins. She agreed.
"If it will make you feel any better," Luke offered. "I brought a cell phone along. We can call Elsie and let her know where we are camped, and that we will be back tomorrow."
Liz perked up at that. "That's really great. Where did you get that? Do you really think the signal will get out of this canyon?"
"Sure. There's a receiver up on the rim, just so people can call out if they need to." Luke dug the phone out of his pack. "This is Jarod's. He left it behind so I brought it along. You know, in case."
They called Elsie and found out that Jarod didn't expect to be back either. She was grateful for the call. "I do worry a lot, I know, but I'm glad you two youngsters are having a good time. I'll see you tomorrow then, goodnight."
Liz began unrolling her bedroll. "I hope Jarod doesn't mind us using his phone. How are you at starting fires?"
"I'm a born woodsman." He assured her. "Don't worry about the phone. Jarod won't mind. After all, it's not like we're running up a big bill. We are acting responsible with it. What possible harm could it do?" Luke returned as he started gathering wood.
Ms. Parker stalked out of Broots' office with Broots and Sydney in tow. Broots had picked up Jarod's phone call signal. For once, it wasn't scrambled. And although the call was too brief to listen in on, it was plenty long enough to pin-point the location, within a reasonable margin.
Sydney was protesting . "Surely you don't believe Jarod would be forgetful enough to leave off his scrambler. There has to be another explanation."
"Like what?" Ms. Parker snapped over her shoulder.
"Like maybe it was stolen." Broots offered. "Or maybe he's sick and someone else made the call for him!"
"That's a nice thought." Ms. Parker purred. "Regardless of 'why', we are going 'where' the call came from."
Ms. Parker and crew were on their way to the Grand Canyon.
8:00PM: Julius sat watching the two campers. He couldn't believe his good fortune. What were the odds that two people, the right sex and size, would show up outside the camping grounds just when he needed them?
Liz rummaged in her backpack for a roll of essential paper. "I'm, Mmm…going to use those bushes. So if you are off to get more wood, don't go in this direction. Okay?"
Luke grinned at her. "Don't worry. Now, if you were going to take a bath…"
"Remind me never to take one when camping with you." She grinned back.
She grabbed a stick and started feeling her way to the designated bathroom. The stick was to beat the ground and bushes ahead of her so no slithery critters could give her a surprise. When she started back, there was someone bent over her sleeping bag. And it wasn't Luke.
"Hey! Hey you!" She yelled as she ran towards him, and then she saw the still form of Luke spread out on the other side of the intruder. A sharp rush of fear and adrenalin almost stopped her in her tracks. "Luke!"
The intruder turned to face her and the feral glitter in his eyes gave truth to his words. "It's too bad you had to come back so soon. Now I'll have to get rid of both of you."
Liz screamed and turned to run, but something, like an electric shock, slammed into her, and darkness came up and hit her before she hit the ground.
Flagstaff, Lazy Eight motel:
Isabel and Maria were stretched out on their beds, putting on nail polish and giggling about the looks on Michael's and Alex's faces. "Poor baby." Maria said about Michael. "He was sooo looking forward to spending the night with me. Not that anything could happen. You know, with Max there."
Isabel laughed again. "I actually think Alex was relieved. Imagine, being 'alone'…with me… in a motel room!" She shook her head. "I almost think that I was the disappointed one. And don't you 'ever' tell him I said that!"
Someone banged on their door. "Come in! The door's not locked." Maria yelled, and looked at Isabel with a 'yours or mine?' look. But it was Max that came barging in the door.
"Its Liz. She's in trouble. We are going there now!"
"Not without us!" Isabel and Maria both yelled as they catapulted off the bed and scrambled for their shoes. "Wait for me!" Maria yelped as she dove back into the room, grabbed some stuff and stuffed it into her bag. "Here I come!"
As soon as they all piled in, the questions started. Max explained that he had gotten a surge of fear from Liz. Then nothing.
"What about now?" Maria asked. She was squeezing Michaels hand so tight that he thought the circulation was going to be cut off. Max glanced at her in the rear view and shook his head.
He turned to Isabel. "Do you think you can…"
Isabel cut across his question. "Not a chance in this jalopy. If you want to pull over for a moment, I can try."
Max debated with himself briefly, then pulled to a stop. They all sat watching Isabel as she tried to relax and put herself into the proper mental state. She slipped easily into the dream plane and hummed for Liz's dream orb. She knew all her friend's orbs well enough to sense right off that Liz's was not there. But she tried a little longer for Max's sake. For all of them really.
When she came out of the dream plane, she looked around at the others and shook her head. "She's not dreaming. So she is either unconscious or…"
"No! I still feel her there! She's alive, just in trouble." Max threw the Jeep in gear and took off.
The trip to the canyon was not without it's own perils. They all took Max's Jeep, and the tight squeeze was all that kept one of them from being bounced out on their head. With the park closed except for registered campers, Max didn't have a prayer of getting into the park on one of the main roads. He made his own. A couple of fences were simply wiped out by Michael as they came to them. But getting down to the bottom was going to be a different story.
The yell reverberated through the woods. Jarod was down the tree and working his way towards the sound almost before its echo faded. He thought he heard a female voice yell 'Luke', right before it. If Liz and Luke were down here…
He heard a grunt and something knocking against a tree just ahead of him. Jarod ducked down and wormed his way forward. There was a man with his back towards him, working on something on the ground. As he shifted, Jarod saw the unconscious body of a girl. Liz!
With a yell of rage, Jarod jumped up and power dived into the man. They went down in a tangle of arms, and legs. Jarod was first to recover his orientation and took a quick look around for Luke. A pair of tied feet just in sight, on the other side of a tree, seemed to indicate that Luke had met with similar treatment. Jarod's first intent was to grab onto the man before he could escape.
Imagine his surprise, when the man turned on him, and he found himself looking into the enraged eyes of a teenager, not much older than seventeen. He locked onto his hand and the kid grinned at him. A grin without mirth. Whatever Jarod was going to say was lost in darkness.
Grand Canyon, southern rim just east of the visitors center:
8:45:Max was the first out of the Jeep. He stood looking down and out over the vast black depths of the canyon. The others bunched up with him. Maria and Isabel, being a little nervous at being so close to the edge, took the opportunity to cling to Michael and Alex.
Michael shook his head. "Even if we found a trail, and ran all the way down, it would take us over an hour. Can't you pick up 'anything' Max?"
Max stood tense with the strain of trying to do just that. Isabel offered to help. "What if I hold your hand? Maybe you could use some of my energy."
"Hey, yeah! We can all hold hands. We'll be your battery like." Alex offered.
Michael shrugged, "Hey it can't hurt to try." Maria hugged him tighter, gratefully.
Max held out his hands and Isabel took hold on one side, then as an after thought, put Alex between her and Max. Michael did the same with Maria. "H,A,H,A again." Alex muttered with a nervous laugh.
Max didn't have to consciously try to link them this time. The connection was immediate and strong. There was no doubts or second thoughts in this group. They were all united in wanting to help Liz. Max reached out mentally searching for Liz. He could feel the direction she was in but could not reach 'her'. The others felt the effort he was putting out and concentrated in adding their own 'whatever' to his.
Max felt frustration building up in him, along with the incredible power that was feeding into the connection. He felt so helpless. There, right there was where Liz had to be. Oh if only they could be down 'there' right now!
Suddenly the world reeled and a wave of weakness swept over him.
"Oh my God!" Maria fell to her knees, holding her head as dizziness hit, and looked around. "How did we get here! How did I get here?" She looked up at Max. "How did we do that?"
Isabel and Alex held each other up, until Alex's dizziness and Isabel's weakness faded. Alex looked around. "This is a trip! Why…how…What are we doing here?" He finally finished. Pale faced, Isabel wanted to know just that, and more.
Michael knelt down and wrapped one arm around Maria, hiding his own weak knees. Not willing for anyone to see how it had effected him also. He looked up at Max, shrugged and grinned. "I don't know what we did either, you were driving."
Max was just as stunned at what they had done. He knew just exactly where they were. He had been concentrating on it when they transferred. But as for 'how'… He shook himself and started in Liz's direction. She was close, and he meant to find her. Now.
|posted on 16-Sep-2001 8:57:28 PM|
Roswell, Kyle's house:
When Kyle walked through the door, Tess almost tackled him. "Where have you been? I've been waiting...'forever'.
"Excuse me?" Kyle stood with his hands out, and a 'what were you expecting' look on his face. "I've been dragged around to every house in Roswell, explaining to excited parents why their 'children' are missing. All you had to do was sit here and watch T.V.."
Tess wasn't listening. She was pacing and ranting about something, Kyle couldn't quite catch. He walked over and gathered her up in his arms and took her to the couch. "Alright what's up? Did they call? Is there anything wrong?" Thoughts of accidents and more explaining went through his head.
Tess put her face in her hands and vigorously shook her head. "I don't know what is wrong. Someone was hurt, then he was okay, then…I don't 'know'."
"Max was hurt?" She shook her head. "Michael? Alex?" She shook her head. "Then I don't understand what we are talking about here. Who was hurt?"
"That's just it! I don't know!" She yelled and burst into tears. Kyle just patted her back and shook his head. 'Go figure'.
Grand Canyon floor:
Julius dumped Jarod next to Luke and stumbled back outside. He closed a thin veneer of wall and slumped against the side of the cliff. Closing it all the way the first time had been a mistake he was just realizing. The wall, from the natural cave to the outside, was a foot and a half thick. That was a lot of work for his mental muscles to do and undo more than once in a while. 'Well,' He thought, ' it isn't doing me any good to stick around here. I've got one more delivery to make.'
Luke was the first to regain consciousness. Only at first, he wasn't sure if he was truly awake. There is darkness and there is Darkness. This had the capitol 'D'.
He went to put his hand up to his eyes, and became aware that he was tied. "Oh bother." Luke sighed. It took him a couple of minutes of painful concentration to weaken the strands that held him enough to break them. He had used his powers so little, both before, and especially after his brother had been taken, that it required not a little effort.
Oh, his head! His hands, now free, went first to the bump on the back of his head. It felt like it was the size of a goose egg. Where was he and what had happened?
Liz! Where was Liz! Maybe she was here too! Oh if he could only see!
He thought of his lighter. The only problem with that was, there 'was' no lighter, because it was in his pants. Where ever 'they' were. Someone had stripped his clothes off, leaving only his shorts.
He would have to make light the hard way. Luke concentrated on making a light, holding out his hand and making a glowing ball appear in it. 'Oh you lovely thing' He thought with a relieved sigh, sure for the first time that he wasn't blind.
The ball was not all he saw though. Right in front of him, in a jumble on the floor lay Jarod. There was no sign of Liz.
Jarod was so deeply unconscious that, at first, Luke thought he might be dead. Luke undid his bindings and gently straightened him out on the floor. Though he looked to be unhurt, it became obvious that there was something seriously wrong.
Luke sat on his knees by Jarod's head and nervously rubbed his hands together, the light once again out. He had healed someone only once, his brother, and he had never connected with anyone else to the depth necessary to heal them. But Jarod was his friend. He fumbled for his head in the dark and placed one hand on the side of his face and one on his chest.
Concentrating was easier in the dark. The only thing he 'saw' was inside Jarod's head. The connection let him feel Jarod's body as his own. A quick inspection showed the body to be strong and healthy. It was in the head that the damage was located. He tried to ignore the pictures that ran in a continuous series while he found and relieved the clotting around a broken vessel. It almost looked as if it had been squeezed until it ruptured. It was deep within the memory storage part of the brain. It couldn't have happened by a blow to the head. Before Luke backed out, he steadied the heart beat and made the breathing more regular. With a sigh, he pulled out of the connection.
He sat back and gathered his own thoughts. The things he had seen from Jarod's past…how could anyone 'do' that to someone! Even though it was unintentional, Luke felt a bit guilty about seeing so deeply into Jarod's most private memory. He'd have to tell him…'later' he decided, and softly called Jarod's name.
8:45: Julius came back to the cliff with Liz draped over his shoulder, and dropped her on the ground. He didn't have to worry about hurting her. She would die long before the cave ran out of air. Half of her nervous system must have been fried.
He hadn't known he could blast like that. Might come in handy in a tight spot. His whole life, since his mom died had been spent on self preservation. His and his sister's. Any defense he could learn was okay by him. He had learned to reach inside a person's head and squeeze a blood vessel until they fell unconscious. He had also learned how to enter someone's head and get information without giving any information himself. Very handy for getting ATM codes.
His sister had gone along with his theft only on the assurance that no one was killed. He could tell her truthfully that everyone he stole from was alive when he last saw them. It wouldn't do for her to see just exactly what he 'had' done!
The first few times, he had left someone in the cave to die, he had felt a twinge of guilt. Now it was almost mechanical. Only he had never had to carry their bodies, nor had he ever taken on more than one at a time. He really felt the drain.
'Okay, I can do this' He thought, then took a deep breath, and opened the wall.
Everything that happened after, happened too quick to do more than react.
As the wall opened, Julius spotted Luke, untied, and helping Jarod up. Luke looked up at the suddenly open wall in surprise, and started to jump up toward Julius. Julius raised his hand to blast Luke unconscious and Luke ducked and shot a ball of power at Julius. In his panicked surprise, Julius closed the wall all the way, only to collapse on the ground immediately after.
As the shock wore off, two realizations hit him at the same time. The first was that the boy inside was like him. He never thought there would be others out there like him. There had always been only him and his sister. The second was that he had used too much of his power too soon. It would be days before he could open the cave again. And by that time, the other would be dead.
What had he done! Julius spread his arms against the wall and cried. "I'm sorry, I'm so sorry."
Julius might have stayed and tried to do something, anything if he hadn't heard voices behind him. They weren't that far away and here he was standing over a half naked, half dead girl. He had no time to hide her, and no way would he have the energy to carry her even a few steps. Before he had more than turned away from the wall, there was a shout and someone was pushing their way through the bushes, right toward him. He shot off through the darkness as best he could and headed for the safety of his own cave.
Max followed his unerring sense of Liz straight to her. "Liz! She's this way!" Once through the bushes, he could see her body laying on the ground a couple feet from the cliff. "Liz!" He half ran, half stumbled towards her, his heart in his throat.
Michael, Maria, Isabel and Alex, all came bursting through the bushes after him. When Maria saw Liz, she went into overdrive, and was beside Max and Liz almost before the others had more than started towards them. Max was holding Liz's head, frantically trying to connect to her.
"Oh my God, Max is she alive?" Maria demanded. She dropped down and held on to one of her hands, daring to breath again when she could feel she was still alive. "Oh Liz! Max?"
When Alex got there, he averted his eyes a little. "Is she gonna be okay?"
Max glanced up finding Isabel with his eyes. "Help me! I can't get in." Isabel fell to her knees at Liz's head, and placed one hand on Liz and one on Max's shoulder. Immediately they were into her.
"What 'happened' to her?" Isabel asked, appalled at what they were finding in Liz. "There is so much damage!"
"You can help her. Right?" Maria looked up at Michael standing over her. "They can fix her. Right Michael?" Michael knelt down beside her and put an arm around her shoulders. He said nothing but the tight look on his face made her heart jump.
Not knowing anything to do, and feeling helpless and unneeded, Alex asked, "Uh…did anyone notice that she isn't dressed?" He took off his jacket and stood with it in his hands. Maria wasn't paying any attention to Alex, but was looking back and forth from Max's face to Isabel's, to Liz's. Tears streaming down her face.
Michael looked around, took the coat from Alex and gently covered Liz. He took Maria's hand in his and reached out to touch Max. With his eyes he gathered Alex into the connection, and he stepped forward touching Maria's shoulder. They all fed energy into Max with silent determination that Liz would be alright.
9:30: Atop the southern rim, at the visitor's center, Ms. Parker paced, infuriated and impatient. Sydney had tried to make her consider waiting until morning. Broots, seeing the tongue lashing Sydney got, kept a firm grip on his own tongue.
A patient ranger had explained that 'all' telephone transmissions to the outside from the canyon floor would come through the rim tower. From the 'whole length' of the visible canyon floor. And, of course, 'no one could go down there at night'.
A call from Ms Parker to the Centre, had resulted in a call to the ranger's office that had sent him scurrying to find a 'copter that could take them down.
Every goat trail and possible way up out of the canyon was being covered by agents, and more were arriving on the north rim.
Ms Parker glared down into the inky depths. "I intend on staying down there until Jarod is found. And this time he will be found!" She grated. Broots and Sydney just watched and worried.
Soon enough, the helicopter arrived. (Of course it was 'way' not soon enough for Ms. Parker.) And a reluctant Sydney and Broots were herded on board. The helicopter landed then in a central area, and took off to ferry more of her men down.
"Huhmm…" Broots cleared his throat and looked around apprehensively at the dark river and nearby woods. "So…uh…where do we start looking? And what if we get lost?"
Ms. Parker shot him a withering look, that was mostly lost in the darkness, and pointed. "North rim, South rim. See if you can remember which one we came from Broots." She took a big breath and looked around head up, eyes slit. 'You're loosing it' She said to herself. 'When you stoop to explaining things to morons.'
"If you don't find Jarod, you won't 'need' to find your way out." She purred. "Now get your act together and… start… looking."
When Julius got far enough out of sight and sound of the group, he slowed down and walked making a detour to Liz and Luke's camp. Their clothes, packs and bedrolls were already bundled to go. He picked up the dual load, and carried it back to his own cave. His heart was much heavier than the load he carried.
When he reached the cave, he pulled a wood plug out of the cliff, and called into the hole. A short while later, the thin veneer of wall opened and Julius was home. Living in a cave, both him and his sister had, of necessity, learned to deal with rock. Like his 'liberating' goods and money from vacationers. It was part of the way of life for non persons.
His sister backed her wheelchair out of his way as he brought his bundle in. "Oh my! Where did you get so much stuff?" She followed him and looked on in wonder as he opened the bundle and showed her Liz's clothes. She caught her breath when he showed her the boots. Like new! And they fit!
Julius was a little quieter than usual while he unpacked his new clothes and the bed rolls. His thoughts kept returning to the other cave, and there was a lot to think about.
When he had connected with Jarod, he saw flashes of news clippings of missing men. Men he had 'helped' disappear. The man was a ranger, and a hunter. Why was the other with 'him'? Did 'they' know he was different? Had 'they' sent the other here to catch him? The sorrow he felt at trapping the other was replaced by a deep anger. Someone of his own kind would dare to hunt Julius and his sister down? His own kind? 'Well if that is what they want, then that's how it will be! I have a new weapon now. I'll kill anyone who tries to take us. I will!'
Julius shook his head. Trying to calm his anger. He had to think of his sister, keep her from knowing, and keep her safe. Why was 'she' so quiet?
He turned to see her just sitting there absently running her hand over the wool lining in the jacket. "Where are the people these belonged to?" She asked quietly.
"Do, (pronounced dough) …" He hesitated, feeling himself go pale. He usually had a story waiting, but this time, he had been a little… distracted. "Look Do, what can I say, there are going to be some really pissed off people when they wake up."
Doris looked him right in the eyes and pointed to the sleeping bags. "I suppose they took off all their clothes to sleep, and then forgot they had sleeping bags?"
She reached out and grabbed Julius's hand.
Jarod and Luke looked around their small cave, and studied the place where there had been an opening. Luke supplied the light, and Jarod tried to estimate how thick the rock there was, from memory of the brief sighting of the opened portal.
"Well I believe I have found out what happened to those missing men. Of course I hadn't meant to become one of them." He commented dryly. "And something else we found also. I would say we've found someone else with your…shall we say, 'special' talents."
"He can't be one of my people. If he was, he wouldn't hurt people, or leave them to die!" Luke returned hotly. "He's not like me!… He just can't be." He finished miserably.
"It 'would' seem he meant for us to stay." Jarod finished his inspection and sat back down. "He was quite surprised to see you. I don't think he was expecting it. Can't you sense when you touch another like you?"
"He wouldn't have sensed it once I was unconscious, and he didn't do 'this' with his hand. He did it with a stick… A log by the feel of it." He amended.
Jarod looked Luke's head over carefully, "Can't you heal yourself, like you did me?"
"I guess I could. I just haven't had the time yet." Luke gingerly felt the bump from the outside with his hand, and then concentrated from the inside. Easing torn tissues and blood vessels back into an undamaged state, took little time, and he gave a sigh of relief when the throbbing stopped. "That's better, now if I still had your phone, I'd be down right cheery."
Luke explained how he had brought the phone with him, and the one call they had made. "Just to Elsie, and no farther. It's alright isn't it?" Jarod told him it was okay, but he was thinking that there might be a whole lot more danger waiting outside, than what they had inside.
Jarod scratched his chin and looked up at Luke. "Let's see, you know how to heal, connect with someone, make light, and dream intuitively. Is there any chance you could copy that trick with the rock?"
Luke plopped down next to Jarod. "I don't see how he could do that…did that. I mean… rock is so solid! You can't just make it disappear or re-appear."
"Do you know 'how' you heal someone or make that light?" Jarod asked.
Luke looked at his hand with the light floating above it and scratched his head. "Well, I kind of think it. No… I see what I want in my head and then I concentrate on making it 'be' what I saw." Luke shrugged his shoulders. "I guess I never thought about it before. But that's as close as I can explain it."
"So couldn't you 'see' a hole in the rock and think it into being?"
Luke got up and went to the area of the opening and put his hand on the rock. "I don't see how he did 'what' he did, but I could try it a piece at a time." He concentrated hard the rock wall, and made a small piece flake off and fall to the floor. He turned a triumphant face to Jarod. "See?"
Jarod had a plan to help Luke. If it worked, they would eventually get out, alive. If it didn't… "That's very good, how long do you suppose it will take to make a hole big enough for air to get in?" Luke looked back at the wall and deflated again. "Too long."
"So…" Jarod looked down , his eyes wandering as he collected his thoughts. "When you connect with someone, it can be a visual look at whatever they are thinking of at the time. Am I right?" Luke, thinking of his connection with Liz, nodded.
"Alright, then listen and learn. Class is in session." Jarod got up and walked to the rock face. "This 'solid' rock is really mostly empty space. Look." Jarod took Luke's hand and visualized the rock, what he knew the molecules of the rock to look like. He went deeper in detail showing an atom, as a tiny ball, then as a nucleus with electrons whizzing around, and all that lovely space in between.
"Is that what everything is really made of?" Luke was fascinated.
Jarod grinned at his amazement, and nodded. "Now picture a clump of rock as big as your hand. Think of squeezing it until some of the space in each atom is squeezed down."
Luke closed his eyes, and a large chunk of rock became a pebble that fell to the floor. "I did it! Jarod I did it!"
Luke might have gotten carried away and tried to compact the whole wall, except he could feel the energy he needed to do just the one chunk of rock. He and Jarod agreed that it would be best to make a small air passage first, and think about making it bigger, later.
10:00: "Shouldn't she be awake by now?" Isabel had a strangle hold on Alex's hand. "We healed her Max, why isn't she awake?"
"Maybe we shouldn't have moved her so soon." Alex added. "We could have brought the water to 'her'"
Michael gave a laugh. "Yeah, in our hands I suppose."
Liz came to slowly. She seemed to be dreaming. She was being held in Max's lap and Maria was gently washing her face in cool water. Liz sighed and relaxed into Max's arms. If this was a dream, she was in no hurry to wake up.
"Liz, oh my Lizzy." Max murmured into her hair.
She looked up at Max's face and saw tears running down his face. Maria was crying, too. She looked around and Isabel had tears in her eyes. Alex was there, and Michael, (the only two without tears). Alex had a goofy grin on his face, and Michael was smiling at her. "She's baaack." Alex quipped. "Hey" Was Michael's comment.
Liz looked down at Max's hand, holding her close, and gently wrapped her hand around his. She noticed that she seemed to be wearing a jacket for a blouse and a sweater for a skirt. "Wow, when I dream, I sure dream crazy." She looked around again happily, then closed her eyes. She was so tired.
"Oh God, she's really okay. I mean she is really, really okay. Right?" Maria sobbed.
Max smiled up at her through his tears of relief. "Yeah. She's really, really okay. Just sleeping." Max refused to let go of her. He got up, with Michael's help and sat down next to a tree and leaned back, cuddling Liz close. Maria wrung out her scarf in the stream they had brought Liz to and sat down beside Max and held one of Liz's hands. In a short time, Max, and Maria had joined Liz.
"What now?" Alex asked. He stood with one arm wrapped around Isabel's waist, looking down at the sleeping trio.
Michael lay down on a piece of grassy turf and stretched out, hands behind his head. "We wait."
"I think he has the right idea." Alex yawned. He pulled Isabel over to the tree and sat down against it on the other side. Isabel cuddled under his arm, not expecting to fall asleep herself. Michael was the last to doze off.
11:30: Ms. Parker dropped and crushed her fourth cigarette butt, and turned back to Broots, who was hovering over a piece of equipment. They had already traced down five calls made in the canyon. All from campers checking in with friends or family. By now, every camper within the grounds was accounted for. Now Broots was concentrating only on signals from outside a prescribed area. He tried to keep a sharp eye out, despite numerous yawns, and watery eyes.
"Sleep on your own time. After we have Jarod." Ms. Parker snapped. "Anything?"
"I got a signal, sort of. It was on and then it was…gone." Broots kept fiddling with knobs, trying to bring back the signal.
"Uh…okay, okay…I can give you a direction and a range. It was…east of the camping grounds and close to the north wall. Or it was about halfway up one of the trails on the southern wall." He shrugged one shoulder and apologized. "It could have been a bounce. So…"
Ms. Parker picked up a hand radio and ordered everyone south of the river to move over on the north side. Then ordered the men guarding the south face trails to start checking down the face. Now it was time to wait again. She lit up another cigarette.
Julius jogged east, up the canyon for a while. He had to get away from the cave. He carried Jarod's phone with him, the main reason for getting away. Doris had been first devastated then tearing mad at Julius when she read the truth of how they were living. Living off the deaths of so many others. The phone had been there and she had grabbed it, trying to call out. Doris wanted him to give himself up. 'Huh! Like we're normal people!' He thought as he tramped along.
His thought that the call could be traced, was cause enough for him to remove the phone from the area. Add to that the possibility that his sister might actually turn him in, well…
When he felt he had gone far enough, he opened the phone and dialed a number that would keep repeating a recorded weather message. Now he would jog farther east, giving them a moving target to track. Later he could burry it and jog back home. He grinned to himself. Someone is going to be stuck with a whopping phone bill, and no one to pay it.
12:30 AM: Luke yawned and sat leaning back against the wall, recharging his energy. Most of it had been spent in his earliest efforts to compact the rock. After a few tries, he had gotten the hang of it and used less energy. But the accumulative efforts of the day were catching up to him big time. "Boy, I could do with a giant hamburger, a monster plate of fries, and a triple thick shake!" Then he grinned at Jarod. "And for you, one of those Grand Canyon Banana Splits!"
He yawned again and stretched. "Think there would be any harm in taking a little nap?"
Jarod had paced out the small cave and estimated the amount of air available, and the time it would take to use it. His sense of time was pretty good, but he preferred to have a hefty safety margin in his figuring.
"I figure, if we wanted to take…say a three hour nap, we would stay asleep considerably longer than that." He said in a sort of casual matter-of-fact way.
Luke paled and got to his feet. All thoughts of sleeping gone. "Why didn't you tell me we were on such a tight schedule?"
He returned to the wall and began tunneling again. His adrenalin rush gave him a temporary power advantage and each section was twice as long as the others. Say a finger's length, and about the same diameter. Two more times and fresh sweet air breezed through to his face. He turned and sank down under the air hole, all adrenalin spent. "Now I think I'll take that nap."
And he did!
"It's on again and it's moving!" Broots yelled.
Ms. Parker was at his side in a heart beat. "Location?"
"East of where we figured and headed farther east. It's moving pretty good, he must be running." Broots was plotting speed and direction and trying to figure out where he might be headed.
Ms. Parker looked at the moving trace. "He has a jeep or something. No one runs in this kind of dark." She grabbed the radio. "I want all units east. Now. Stop anything moving. A jeep, a motorcycle, a mountain goat!" She listened for a moment then answered; "When you reach New York, you can stop."
Julius noticed something on the north face, and stopped jogging for a minute. There was a light playing along one of the trails. It was moving down from the top. He moved farther out towards the river, and could see two more spots where light was moving down trails he knew. Someone wanted him bad. Badly enough to risk men's necks on steep trails at night.
His first thought was to run back to the cave, but he had come pretty far. Maybe too far. He turned back towards the west and saw glimmers of light showing through the trees. He couldn't go back that way.
He looked up the north face. There were plenty of ways up, and they wouldn't think of him going up there. Julius raced to a less well known path and started up. He didn't try to be quiet. He just climbed as fast as he could.
Above him, a face peeked out around a boulder. The owner grinned silently. It looked like Ms. Parkers quarry was going to climb right into his lap. He didn't report, he didn't even breathe. 'My promotion is in the bag.'
When Julius reached the path just below him, the agent jumped out from behind his rock and leveled his gun at him. I'm sure the agent thought Julius would just put his hands and come quietly. What he didn't expect was the blast Julius threw at him. He dived back behind the rock and the blast set it tumbling. The agent watched in open mouth amazement as half that part of the cliff went down.
When the dust settled, the agent cautiously searched the trail down to where it ended in the jumble of rock and brush. There was no sign of the quarry.
Max felt a warm hand on his cheek and opened his eyes, to look into the two most beautiful eyes in the world.
Liz wiped a tear from her cheek and Max leaned down for a long tender kiss. "Oh Max, I don't know how you found me, and I don't care. Just don't ever leave me again!"
Max smiled down at his main reason for living; he had to clear his throat twice before answering. "Hey, who left who?" He didn't want to take his eyes off of her face, didn't want to let go of her. It had been close. So close.
The rumble of collapsing rock, traveled through the canyon. Waking slumberers and alerting rangers and Centre personnel of an unusual happening. In two caves, there was a momentary nervousness. After all…
"The signal has stopped. I mean, I don't mean it 'stopped' stopped, I mean it's not moving any more." Broots kept fiddling with his equipment, "But something happened to the reception. It's kind of weak."
"Uh, Broots?" Someone was talking very low into their radio. Broots could barely hear it, so he turned up the gain. "I, uh have a situation I would rather not tell Ms. Parker about just yet." The voice murmured.
Ms. Parker leaned over Broots and purred into his ear. "Just keep on listening. Let's hear what he doesn't want Ms. Parker to hear."
Broots swallowed and answered back. "Go ahead." At Ms. Parker's dig to his back. He added; "and uh who is this? And where?"
The man gave his name and location and told Broots what had happened. "He had some kind of weapon or he threw dynamite, and I just didn't see it. There is no sign of him anywhere. I looked. I don't want 'her' to know I had him and lost him, so if you could just tell her that he was spotted, and give my location, I'd appreciate it. I'm going to get back on top as fast as I can. Thanks man."
"No…thank 'you' for that illuminating report. Now get your a** down there and start digging." Ms. Parker drawled into the mike.
"Ms. Parker?" Answered the agent timidly.
'Oh shit.' "Yes Ma'am, I'll get right on it! Out."
Soon Broots was calling every available man to the area of the slide. Then calling for equipment and more men. The phone signal was coming from the bottom of the cliff. From under the slide.
With everyone awakened by the slide, Liz was soon surrounded by people who were all trying to hug her at once, and asking questions, without giving her the time to answer them. She wanted some answers herself. Like how they found her and… where was Luke?
"Who's Luke?" Max asked. "If he's the one that did this to you, he better keep on going, wherever he is."
"No! No, he's the one I was going to ask you about if Isabel dreamwalked me again tonight. Before I could tell him about who you were and where. I mean… I already told him a 'lot' about you guys. He's so excited about finding you. Now he'll have a place to go and Jarod won't have to worry about him. Oh Jarod's the one that got Luke away after they killed his brother. The Centre I mean. I think he's connected to Tess. Luke I mean, not Jarod." Liz looked from Max to Isabel to Michael as she talked.
Finally Michael shook his head. "If that's supposed to make sense then 'I'm' Luke."
"Who is he and why did you tell him about us?" Isabel asked, shaken that Liz would do such a thing.
"Liz." Max held up his hand. "Just a minute guys. Liz what happened? And who is Luke?"
Liz looked around. "I thought I told you. He's one of you. He connected with me and he's been dreaming of Tess. We got a flash when I fell down stairs, and there you and Tess were, sitting on the park bench. In both of us."
Maria got out her cedar oil and passed it around.
It took a while for all the happenings to be told, but it left all the gang ready to meet this Luke fellow.
Isabel wanted to get immediate confirmation that he was who he said he was.
Michael was ready to take the guy out if he turned out to be a threat.
Maria thought it was all terribly romantic, 'Finding your soul mate in a dream', she called it.
Alex was mildly wondering if more aliens were going to pop out of the woodwork. It was okay by him, as long as Isabel stayed firmly in 'his' woodwork. He didn't want any serious competition.
Max and Liz saw Luke as a possible answer to their 'Tess' problem… Future Max's problem.
The gang gathered back at the cliff. "This is where we found you. If we backtrack the footprints then maybe we can find out what happened to Luke." Max said.
"Liz!" Everyone stopped looking around and turned to the cliff. It was shear enough that there was nowhere for someone to hide.
Maria whispered. "Did you hear someone call Liz?"
"Liz! Over here, in the cliff!"
Liz slowly walked over to the rock wall, trailed by all the others. It was only then that she saw the hole in the seamless cliff face. "Hello!" Said the voice.
2:00 Am: "Jarod? Jarod is that you? How did you get in there?"
"I'm relieved to see you are unhurt. The last glance I had of you, you were out cold. I hope those are your 'friends'. The ones you told Luke about? If so, then perhaps they wouldn't mind helping out. The key word being 'out'." Jarod had seen enough through the hole, to see that she was more than relaxed around these kids. Despite the obvious fact that she had been treated the same as Luke, I.e. undressed. "Interesting skirt." He added.
Liz grinned and blushed, "Well my friends knew I was in trouble when they tracked me down, but they weren't prepared for such unusual circumstances." Then she ran her hand down the sweater. "Compliments of Michael's Boutique."
Jarod's curiosity was up, big time. They must be very special indeed if they were able to track her all the way here. Heaven help them if the Centre ever found out there were so many of them!
Michael stepped forward and peeked in, over Liz's head. "Did Luke put you in there?" He reached out and felt the smooth sides of the hole. "Pretty nifty trick."
"Liz! Who do you have with you? Is it them?" Another voice called out.
"Luke! Are you okay?" Liz called out. "Max, it's Luke! We have to get them out of there!"
Short introductions and explanations were passed back and forth while Michael examined the rock. "It's not exactly a fusing, like with a lock. It feels, I don't know… denser."
Luke explained what he had tried to do. And Jarod helped Luke explain his explanation. Maria interrupted with a comment. "Excuse me, but wouldn't it be better to just get them, like…out before you talk them to death? Michael, 'do' something!"
There stood Maria looking up at him for all the world as if she expected him to rip the mountain open on the spot. Michael looked uncomfortable for a moment then smiled at her. "Sure, no sweat."
He put his hand through the hole, "Grab on Luke. And show me how!"
Isabel gasped, Max yelled 'Michael', and they both surged forward and grabbed onto Michael. They wanted to be able to add their assistance in case the helping hand turned out to be deadly.
Since Michael instigated the connection, he went straight for the information he most needed… who, or what, Luke really was.
Isabel and Max shared the explosion of images and feelings that came from Luke. The loneliness, the fear, then hope and the incredible surge of joy when he knew he was really not alone.
Isabel sobbed at the intensity of the longing he had, to be accepted, (I think that had to do with Izzy's own longing to be accepted by her mom and dad.). Max just cleared his throat and said, "Let's do it."
Then Luke showed Michael what, exactly, he was trying to do, and how. Max and Isabel kept their energies in the connection and with a barely felt effort, the whole wall of the opening disappeared, as the rock compacted towards all sides.
Liz, and Maria hugged each other and Alex cheered. "Way to go Michael!"
Jarod and Luke walked out of the opened cave and breathed deeply of the free air. Jarod, especially, was glad to be free of yet another suffocating experience. The Centre had given him enough to last a lifetime.
Liz and Luke laughed at each other. Luke being 'dressed' in Jarod's jacket. "Uniform of the day." He quipped as Liz hugged him.
At the peculiar look on Max's face, he stepped back and turned towards him. "Max, I…what I really want is…want to know is…"
Max saved him the trouble of asking and shook his hand. Isabel, hugged him, and Michael said, "Don't sweat it."
Alex decided he liked Luke. If Liz liked him, he was okay. He stepped up and held out his hand. "I'm Alex, but you can call me Alex." Maria just gave Luke a quick peck on the cheek. "Welcome to the gang, kid."
Luke, feeling he was going to loose it, turned to Jarod and hugged 'him'. Jarod could feel him shaking and gave him an opportunity to gather himself together. He looked over his head at the others. "I think it's time we try to find our host. Any takers?"
Liz said, "Yeah, but first, we need to do something about 'the uniform of the day' situation. I want my clothes."
Jarod looked around, getting his bearings, and asked Luke for help examining the trail leading east, along the cliff. "First we get back to your camp, and see if there is anything left of your things, then we find and trap that little weasel."
On the way, they found Jarod's observation tree. His night glasses had been on him when he was captured, but the rest of his stuff was still there. He retrieved his pack and the map he had made from Hank's. "The trail definitely leads toward one of the places where footprints stop at the wall. I wonder why I'm no longer surprised."
From his tree post, Jarod used the only flashlight, while Maria, Liz and Alex depended on the others to guide them through the dark.
There was nothing left at the camp site except the burned out fire.
"Well," Offered Jarod, "At least we don't have to follow a trail now. The map will lead us right to the second cave."
Doris sat crying in her wheelchair. Crying with anger, crying in shame.
She paused, anxiously looking up for a moment when she heard and felt the land slide. It gave her a terrible feeling of forewarning, that her life was about to change. Then her thoughts went back to Julius. How could she be so blind all this time? She looked around at all their things. "All lies" She cried, "All lies." None of it was hers.
"This is ridiculous!" She said out loud. "You sit here crying and feeling sorry for yourself, when there are two men dead or dying out there!" She wanted to 'do' something. She had to get out of there. Try helping, get help, anything but sit and wait.
Well she sure wasn't going to wait for Julius to come back and keep her from going. She took off the new boots, and put her own worn Keds back on. Then gathered the clothes, even the girl's, into a bag, and opened the cave. She didn't want to think of the girl she had seen from her brother's mind. That she could be still alive, was something Doris didn't dare hope for. "God help her." What she could do, she would.
The Roswell gang stopped in surprise at a strange sound coming from the trail ahead. There was the squeaking of a wheel in need of oiling, an occasional grunt as of effort, and mutters mixed with sobs. They faded back into the bushes and watched as Doris came down the trail, fighting the wheels of her chair through the soft sandy dirt.
"You stinking weakling." She sobbed. "Don't you even have what it takes to save someone's life? Push!"
Liz and Max looked at each other questioningly, then led the others out of the bushes. Doris took one look at Liz, Luke, and Jarod, recognized them, and fainted dead away.
3:30 A.M. : When Doris awoke, it was in her own bed. The girl she had recognized was sitting next to her, dressed in the clothes she had been returning. "Am I dreaming?"
"Max, she's awake." Liz called softly, and Max, Isabel, Maria and Alex gathered around her.
Doris looked from Liz to the others, around the room and back to Liz again. "The…the other two. The man and the boy…they were really there? They are alright?"
Liz nodded and smiled. "They and a friend are out looking for the boy that attacked us. You know him…don't you?" Liz reached out and took the girls hand.
She just meant to reassure her, but flash after flash started coming. Liz reached out like a drowning person, and grabbed Max with her free hand. "Iz." He whispered, and Isabel took Doris' other hand.
Two young children sitting under a house. The house looked to be up on stilts, three or four feet above ground. The area all around was bare earth, cracked deep with dryness. The children seemed to be playing with stones and dirt clods. The girl would make a small castle out of the clods and the boy, grinning would knock it down.
The girl held her hands over a dirt castle and it became solid enough to pick up. She ran into the house to share it with her mother.
Her father coming after her with a whip, her and her brother. "Abomination!" He was yelling.
She and her brother at about thirteen, her father laying in a pool of blood. Her mother weeping and dragging them away.
Looking through trash cans in some city.
Stealing clothes out of a back yard line.
Her mother laying, pale and coughing. Begging them to stay together to stay away from other people. Solemnly burying her under a pile of trash. And running again.
Seeing the canyon. The feel of awe and beauty. The first feel of some kind of release, almost vacation-like.
Falling down one of the trails in the canyon. The feelings of hopelessness and helplessness. They couldn't go to other people. She couldn't walk, could barely move. Finding a small hole in the wall cave and learning how to make it bigger. How to hide it and themselves.
"Another one!?" Maria exclaimed. Alex just sighed. "That makes three new ones since we got here. I'm renaming this place 'Pod Canyon'."
A couple minutes later, Isabel was rocking a sobbing Doris in her arms and crooning to her like she was a child. Max was holding Liz and thinking for the millionth time how very lucky he and Isabel had been Even Michael, for all his foster home troubles, had had it easier than Doris and Julius.
When Doris had calmed down a bit, Max bent over her and took her hand in his. "Doris I want you to look at me. Isabel, care to be my nurse?"
Doris picked up an inkling of what he intended. Her eyes opened wide with hope and wonder. "You… can really do that?" She breathed.
Max gave a small shrug. "It's an old accident. I sensed the possibility when you connected with all of us. Want to give it a try?" Not trusting her voice, Doris just nodded, and gave herself over to Max and Isabel.
"Is it too much to ask that you follow orders?" Mr. Lyle shouted. Her amused smirk infuriated him beyond the bounds of self control. "You were 'ordered' to find Jarod, and report his where-abouts immediately!"
Ms Parker lit up another cigarette and blew a puff of smoke in Lyles direction, then tipped her head in the direction of the slide. "Well technically, we haven't actually 'found' him . Yet. Now have we?"
This set Lyle off again, until Ms. Parker quietly offered to let him write the report himself. "I'm sure I wouldn't want you to feel left out." She purred.
Lyle was immediately suspicious. "Alright Parker, what do you know that you aren't telling?"
Luke, Jarod and Michael lay in the bushes about a hundred yards from the slide. The whole area was a madhouse of activity. And Julius' tracks led right to it.
Jarod was studying the people and their activities, and wishing for some good surveillance equipment. With the right stuff, he could hear every word said over there.
There was a tent going up a few yards from the main digging work. Ms Parker was seated on a folding chair, leg crossed, arms crossed, and a cigarette gently smoking in one hand. In front of her, pacing back and forth, and obviously upset, was Mr. Lyle.
Jarod grinned at realizing that Broots and Sydney had absented themselves from ground zero. Anywhere that Lyle and Parker were was bound to be a battle zone, and this certainly looked like one.
Michael was amazed at the whole mess. He whispered to the others, "Who do they think is buried under there…the president?" Then a thought sent a chill up his spine. "You don't think they know its one of …us…do you?"
Jarod, shook his head and grinned at Michael. "Nope. They think it's me!" Michael took another look at the whole picture, and was impressed. His opinion of Jarod went up another notch. If he could stir up this much excitement… Luke stared at the people who spent their every day hunting his friend. And now him. "I don't like it here."
Taking in the obvious fact that no one was looking for tracks leading from the other edge of the slide, Jarod suggested they go back. It was time for him to leave the canyon, and his mind was already working.
When they returned to the cave, everyone was still gathered around the bed. The whole mood seemed light, almost gay. Even the 'crippled' girl was laughing.
Jarod had already talked to Michael and Luke on the way back, so Luke went first to look for his and Liz's backpacks and find as much of their stuff as possible. Michael closed the door down to a small window and stayed on watch. While Jarod went forward to talk to the others.
He leaned over Doris first. "Hey, how are you?" He asked gently.
Doris looked up at him with a brilliant smile. "I haven't felt this good in waaay too long. Thank you for caring."
Jarod smiled back, embarrassed. "It must be the doctor in me." Then he turned to the others and cleared his throat. "I have no news, and bad news." He announced. "We couldn't follow the trail all the way because there was a slide and the area is full of people, so we don't 'know' how far it leads, or even 'if' it leads beyond the slide. The bad news is who those people are." He explained about the Centre "They may be looking for me, but they would be just as happy to get their hands on Luke. Or any of you." He apologized for putting all of them in danger.
"That's not fair." Liz objected, "You aren't telling them that my phone call probably brought them here. I'm so sorry." She added, shaking her head.
Jarod smiled at her and put his hand on her shoulder. "You didn't know." He turned to Doris. "I'm sure I can get hold of a mule or horse to carry you, if you want to come. I'll carry you until we can get one." Then back to the others, seeking out Max with his eyes. "We really have to leave. Now."
Max looked around gathering the others with his eyes, taking in Michael on watch and Luke's gathering efforts. Then he looked at Doris, raised his eyebrows and smiled.
"You bet I'm coming with you. I wouldn't miss it for anything!" She exclaimed.
Liz took her hand, "What about your brother? Can you leave him, without knowing…?
Jarod looked from Liz to Doris. "Your brother? I'm… I think you should know…"
Doris saw the pain in his eyes and swallowed. "Tell me." She whispered."
Jarod told her, as gently as he could, that he thought her brother might be at the bottom of the slide. "I'm pretty sure that's where my phone is. And it must still be transmitting or Ms Parker wouldn't have half of Center there, digging. I promise you, I'll come back, as soon as it's safe, if they don't find a b… any one under the slide. If your brother is here, I'll find him."
Doris met the pain in his eyes with a sad smile. "It's alright, He left me a really long time ago. I just didn't know it." She swung herself up off the bed and skipped jauntily to a table, grabbing a pen and pad. "Just let me pen a quick note and we'll go." She said casually, then turned to grin at Jarod's surprise. "Guess you won't have to worry about a horse for now!"
Maria and Alex had gone to stand with Michael. Alex asked in a hushed voice. "So…what did you find out there. I mean are they close?"
Maria put her arm around Michael and tried to look out the hole. "Do you have to be sooo tall? What did they look like?"
"How many are there?" Alex added.
Michael looked from Alex to Maria and smirked. "Not too close, suits, a lot, and I can't help it if you are 'such' a shrimp!" Michael closed the hole and they all returned to the group.
Doris was standing next to Isabel and they all got a really good look at her for the first time. She was as tall as Isabel, but there the likeness stopped. She had waist length jet black hair, and big dark eyes, set in a pale delicate face. Liz leaned in close to her and said, "You are going to have 'aalll' the guys in Roswell following you around like puppies."
"Hey Izzy, looks like you are going to have to share your throne. There's a new beauty in town!" Michael quipped. Then hid behind Maria as Isabel took a grinning swing at him.
Doris just blushed and tugged Liz's hand. "Do they really date… you know, outsiders?" She whispered. Then she realized she was talking to an 'outsider' and blushed for a different reason.
Liz squeezed her hand and smiled. "Well there's Maria, Alex and me, but we don't count because we 'know'. But, yeah, Isabel dated boys from school but never let them get really…you know… close. Not like her and Alex. And the only others of 'us' that know about 'you', are Kyle and his dad, the sheriff. And of course Jarod."
"The SHERIFF?" Doris' reaction was one of shock. "I think Roswell must be a 'very' special place. Don't you have to worry about 'anyone'?"
Michael rolled his eyes and groaned. "If you only knew!"
Alex smiled painfully and added. "I think you are going to need a 'lot' of catching up on the breathless adventures we have been privy to."
Max cleared his throat and drew their attention. "I think we should talk later, and get out of here now."
Jarod sighed in relief. He was more than ready. Once the diggers got down far enough to see that he wasn't under there, it would be next to impossible to get out. At least not alone.
Mr. Lyle took one of his men aside and talked to him. "I want to know 'everything' that happened from the time they got here. I want to know what they know, and I want it ten minutes ago."
Ms Parker looked around for Sydney and Broots, spotting them on the other side of the slide. Broots was sitting on a rock, and Sydney was standing next to him, hands in pockets. Broots noticed her look and offered a timid wave of his hand. Sydney just smiled. Neither one seemed inclined to rejoin her. "Cowards" She said silently and was clearly understood by both. Broots ducked his head and stared at his shoe, and Sydney just smiled.
"Petersen!" She barked sharply. A man detached himself from two rangers he had been conferring with and came at a trot. "How much longer are we going to sit here and watch your people play with rocks?"
Back in the cave: Max looked around and held out his hands. "Everybody ready?"
Alex, getting at what he meant to do, said, "I think I'm going to be sick."
Maria got a death grip on Michaels hand and nodded. Michael looked down at her and smiled. "A little circulation? Please?" She shook her head. "Uh uhh Spaceboy, I'm not going to fall off in-between. Where that hand goes, I go."
Liz held on to Max on one side and Luke on the other. Max asked, "Scared?"
She shook her head then nodded, "Maybe a little."
With the extra people, Max decided to make it a circle, and told the others what to do.
Isabel looked up at Jarod, curious about his reactions to all this. He smiled and squeezed her hand lightly. "I'm putting it on faith that I will get there in one piece. I don't think Max would risk any of us."
She nodded. "Yep. Good old reliable Max. No worries."
Luke and Doris were tremendously excited. And stood shifting form one foot to the other. Max connected first to Liz and got a clear image of where they would go, then brought the others in. The connection was slower, but not by much. Luke and Doris found out too late that loss of privacy was part of the connection. They gave up their momentary surprised resistance and threw themselves into the group effort.
The cave winked out and they found themselves standing in the little clearing behind Elsie's Stop 'n' Place. Max held the circle together for a minute more, letting them all savor the connection. Sharing, comforting, encouraging each other. With a sigh, he let it break.
Liz looked around and shook her head slowly. "Wow! That's great!"
"You don't know the half of it!" Crowed Maria, "How come we aren't flat out this time?" The other second time travelers, Max, Iz, Alex and Michael were just as surprised. Not only 'weren't' they flat out, they all felt totally rejuvenated!
"Say, Max old buddy. Do you think we could do this when final exams come around? I could cram all night and feel great in the morning!" Isabel punched Alex in the arm. "Okay okay, just asking!"
Liz put her arm around Max's waist and leaned into him. "I was sooo wishing you could be here with me, Max. I missed you so much!"
Jarod looked around at the group. They had different backgrounds, different origins, different personalities, and until a few hours ago, some of them hadn't even met. Yet there had been a feeling of closeness, of family in the connection. Jarod had felt for a brief moment like he belonged, and knew he had no right to. It made him sad to be looking in from the outside after such an experience. But he wouldn't undo it for all the world.
Doris came up to him and gave him a hug. They were the only two who didn't have current or pending partners, and she sensed his left out feeling. "Jarod, after an experience like that, I feel practically married! I'm proud to have you part of me!"
Odd as that statement was, they all understood just what she meant. They 'were' all now a part of each other. Jarod hugged her shyly with one arm, looking first at her, then at the others. "Thank you Doris, I'm proud to be a part of you too. Of all of you." 'And now I'd like to get all of you away from here and somewhere safer.' He thought.
Out loud, he said it would be light soon and it might be a good idea to get inside. "It might tax our room to the fullest, but I think it would be better if we stayed together for a bit longer and talked things over." No argument there, not one of them wanted to separate right then.
The canyon floor, at the slide:
An especially large boulder gave way and a large jumble of stones rolled off the pile. Under Ms. Parkers whiplash tongue, the men went to with great vigor and the rest of the smaller rocks were cleared away in record time. At the bottom the phone was found but no body.
"Broots!" It wasn't exactly a yell but when Ms. Parker called, it had best be treated as one. Seconds later every man in the canyon was spread out, searching farther east along the canyon. Those on the rim were dispersed to the surrounding areas. Every car was to be checked for ownership. Every hotel, shack, and mobile home was to be checked out. "I will have him found!"
Sydney just smiled, though without Ms. Parker seeing him. Why did she always think she would catch the uncatchable?
Elsie's, Room 6:
Liz and Max perched on the dresser, Iz and Michael took the table chairs, with Maria and Alex sitting cross-legged on the floor. And Jarod, Luke and Doris occupied the bed. Still almost in their circle.
Plans were made to retrieve the Jeep. Considering the man hunt going on, it seemed best to let the girls do the retrieving. Liz said she would ask Elsie to drive her and Isabel out there as soon as the road opened. "We can take my and Luke's backpack. We'll just look like a couple of girls coming back from a hike."
Maria waved her hands criss-cross in front of her. "That is sooo not going to happen. I mean can you imagine Isabel batting her eyes at a ranger, and convincing him that her idea of 'fun' was 'hiking'? Au contraire, 'I' shall be the one to go with Liz."
Michael crossed his arms and looked down at her. "You're not going."
"I'm what!" Maria jumped to her feet and turned to him; hands on hips, and ready for battle. "Michael Guerin, you are not my boss. What's important here is getting the jeep and getting out. Without , hopefully, arousing the suspicions of someone enough that they would follow us. I'm going. And that is that, Michael."
"If something happens, Isabel can get Liz out of it. Contact us or something. One of us needs to go. You're not going."
Maria had raised her voice and Michael had raised his to match it, so it was surprising when the low word that Jarod spoke stopped them both.
"No" They both turned to Jarod He sat still on the bed, his hands loosely clasped between his knees. "Maria is right. One of you should not go. If something happened and one of you did something…'different', they would know there were more of you out there like Luke. They'd follow you for as long as it takes… to get all of you."
Now there was a verbal free-for-all between Liz, Maria and Alex on one side and Isabel and Michael each on their own side. Jarod just listened and let them talk it out, while he watched Max.
For his own part, Max was thinking ahead, and deciding what they were going to do.
He slid off the dresser and walked into the middle of the argument circle. Quiet reigned. "Jarod. Do you 'need' your car?"
"I would rather get another one. I think it would be safer." Jarod answered.
Max continued. "Then here is what we will do. Only one person needs to get the Jeep. Liz, you will ask Elsie if she will run Alex out to it. Alex, when you get back, you will take Liz, and Maria back to the hotel in Flagstaff. Of all of us, you three are in no danger; just normal kids on a holiday. Jarod, since you are in danger most, you will come with the rest of us. And we'll transport right to the room I rented. I can pay for an extra day and Isabel can pay for another day for her room. Then we can eat and crash for a while. Jarod if you think Flagstaff is too close to get another car, you can ride with us to Albuquerque, and get one there." He grinned at Jarod. "Believe me, Roswell is way too small to make an anonymous car sale. We can all be home before too late tonight. Any questions?"
Isabel placed her hands palm to palm and bowed. "No oh fearless leader."
"Guys" Maria said.
Liz clasped her hands under her chin and fluttered her eyes. "Oh you're so forceful!" She quipped.
"Oh Guyyys." Maria repeated.
Michael looked amused but he did have a question. "What is Alex supposed to be doing out there? He's not exactly dressed for hiking."
"Bird watching." Alex answered immediately. "If Jarod will loan me his binoculars, I can make a fair imitation of one."
"If you guys are in the mood to make decisions, why don't you make one about 'them'?" Maria said louder, pointing out the window.
Everyone flew to the windows and looked out. There were two black cars disgorging several suited men.
They weren't vacationers.
Jarod flew for his backpack and stuffed his computer in it, along with anything else that could be connected with him.
Luke grabbed the only two things that had his name on it, and tossed his backpack on the bed. "I'll leave that here for window dressing. Bring it will you?" He asked Alex.
Liz ran for the phone, and called Elsie. "Elsie, hi, I'm back. Look, you didn't rent a room to Jarod and Luke. You rented it to Alex Whitman and his girlfriend, Maria. They are friends of mine that's why you didn't make them sign in. Got all that?"
Elsie was anything but slow on the uptake. "Why of course, dear. Why would I make friends of yours go through all that mess? And who is this Jarod and Luke you were talking about?"
Max gathered Doris, Isabel, Michael, Luke and Jarod. Here we go. Concentrate on where I'm sending us so we all get there. Ready?"
"Wait!" Liz yelped. "Your keys!"
Max flipped them to her and threw her an intense look that said everything. 'Be safe. Call me. Be careful. I love you.' Then turned back to the others. The connection was immediate. They gave nods all around, and winked out.
Maria collapsed onto the bed. "Oh man oh man oh man. That looks sooo creepy when you aren't the one doing it."
Liz opened the back window. "All clear out here. I'm going to climb into my own window. Catch you later." She stopped and put her head back in. "I'm in room 2, inside up the back stairs." It took her less than two minutes to zip along the back roof and into her own room.
Alex closed the window and turned to Maria. With his best imitation leer, he said. "So… how long have we been girlfriend/boyfriend? This could get interesting."
Maria walked up to him smiling, placed one hand on his shoulder and gently patted his cheek. "If you weren't such a good friend, I'd slap that leer off your face. Now lets try to look like we just got up!"
Less than five minutes later, two of the men came up the stairs with Elsie huffing and puffing after them. "I told you, you can't go intruding on my guests like this! Can't you wait for a less ungodly hour? I can ask them to come down for you."
The men paid no attention to her. Jarod seemed to have a knack for making friends. And only a personal check would do. They paused before the door, checking with the men below for the sign that the back was well covered.
"Who is it?" Called a muffled voice at their knock.
The two men looked at each other, easing their guns in their holsters. It had been a male voice. "Forgive the inconvenience, but would you please step to the door? We are searching for a fugitive."
Maria had just finished washing the make-up off her face, and mussing her hair. Alex who had just come from wetting down the shower and dampening some towels, crossed to the door with a towel to his wet hair, and called through. "Okay just give us a second, to finish dressing!"
He looked around the room and spotted the bed. "Maria!" He whispered, pointing to the bed.
The made bed.
In a flash, Maria opened the bed and jumped in, thrashing around and denting both the pillows. Then went into the bathroom and started combing her hair just as Alex opened the door.
Thanks to their recent outing, and being up most of the night, all the two men saw was a teenage boy, obviously just up and still looking sleepy.
Still, they asked to come in and look around. 'Friends', you know. They took in the bed, the shoes on the floor and the fact that there seemed to be no luggage, except one backpack.
Maria took that moment to step out of the bathroom with the comb at half mast. She yawned and gave them a big Maria smile. "I hope I'm not the fugitive you guys are looking for. I absolutely refuse to be arrested before breakfast." Elsie was hovering in the door. "Hey Elsie! Has Liz been down yet?"
Elsie smiled and waved. "No dear, but she will be down soon."
Maria turned back to the two men. "Well if you're going to look around, get it over with. I'd like to finish getting ready."
One of the men checked out the bathroom and waved to the men below. Then calmly climbed out of the window and started checking out the roof. All windows opening onto the roof led to empty rooms except one. At Liz's window, he was met with a shriek as Liz stood in the shower with a towel clutched to her. He backed his head out fast with a quick 'sorry'.
After a thorough search of the café, store, ect., the men piled back into their cars and took off. Alex and Maria sank down on the bed with a sigh.
"Boy I wish I could use this bed for about a year before we have to go." Maria sighed. "Present company excepted."
"I'm not going anywhere until I get some breakfast in me. Dinner was at least a year ago." Alex stated emphatically.
Maria tousled his hair. "After the performance we just gave, I think we deserve one of those Grand Canyon Splits Jarod was talking about."
"Sounds great to me! Even for breakfast. But I'd like a ham and egg chaser!"
"Well we can go in a little bit. I have to go somewhere first." Maria said as she headed back to the bathroom and started climbing out the window.
"Hey what's the deal?" Alex called after her.
Maria stuck her head back in. "Alex Whitman, I am not going down stairs without makeup on, and mine is in Flagstaff!"
Liz had just turned the shower on to shower for real, when a shadow fell over the window. She grabbed a towel again and got ready to scream. But it was the familiar head of Maria that popped in.
Liz relaxed. "Anyone else going to pop in?"
In a car just down the road:
The four men settled down for a wait. There was something that just didn't feel right about the two kids in the motel. The owner said they came in late last night, but there was no car there that could belong to them, and buses didn't run at night. While the other car continued on with the search, they stayed to watch the kids. They might just get lucky.
Backed up into the trees a short way behind them, another car sat silently watching. Mr. Lyle had watchers put on the watchers. If they found out anything, Ms. Parker wouldn't be the only one to know about it.
Liz got dressed again, after Maria left via the roof, and hurried down stairs. Max had called and was much reassured that she was alright. He urged them to get the Jeep and get to Flagstaff as soon as possible. What he didn't say in words came over loud and clear. He wouldn't rest easy until she was back beside him.
She let Alex and Maria into the still closed café, and Elsie came and sat down with them. "Now Liz dear. If you would be so kind, I'd like to know what's been going on."
Flagstaff, Lazy Eight Motel:
The rooms taken care of for another day, the group split up. Girl's room, boy's room. Isabel gave Doris the first shot at a shower. And Doris thankfully luxuriated in the steamy hot water. It had been a looong time since she had felt anything so wonderful.
Half-way through, she started to cry, and couldn't stop. Isabel felt, more than heard her pain, and found Doris sitting on the floor of the shower. Isabel fetched a sheet off the bed and went back to the bathroom. She walked into the shower clothes and all, wrapped the sheet around Doris and sat holding her. Once more she felt that her life had been sooo lucky.
Luke stretched out on the bed, staring at the ceiling. It had been a pretty incredible twenty four hours. Not the least part of which were the incredible things he had learned from the others during the connections. They had all not only seen into each other's memories and feelings, they had, in some way communicated their different powers into each other. Of course knowing how to do something wasn't the same as doing it, but there was a lot that each would like to practice on now. For Luke, his first thought was of Tess and the first thing he wanted to tackle was dreamwalking.
He looked over at the room clock, 6:19. 'Hope she's a late riser.'
Roswell, Kyle's house:
Tess had gone to sleep later than usual, about five. It had been weird, the feelings she had of danger and relief, from someone she hadn't even met before.
Her dreams were mere fragments at first, reflecting the confusion of her waking mind and emotions. Now she found herself back at the bench in the park.
She turned at a noise behind her, a soft cough, and the strange boy she had seen before was standing there. Her first impulse was to run to him and ask if he was alright. The second was much more acceptable. "So…I believe we have seen each other here before. Don't you think we should introduce ourselves?" 'Okay,' She told herself, 'So it's just a dream. But no need to make a fool of myself is there?'
The boy came up to her looking deep into her eyes. "I've wanted to meet you since the first time I saw you here." He lay one hand gently on each side of her face, and slowly leaned in and kissed her.
For a first kiss, there wasn't much of passion in it, but Tess could feel the longing and the tenderness in this boy. She felt strongly the connection they shared, and looked up at him in wonder. This is what she had always wanted. A part of her opened up and accepted joyously, that she had another half. A soul-mate.
Luke let his hands run gently down her arms to her hands, and took them gently. "Let's sit down and talk. My name is Luke. I already know your name. I got it from Liz Parker."
At eight o-clock, Tess woke up smiling. What a wonderful dream. What a wonderful morning! She jumped up and went in search of Kyle and Jim. Luke had convinced her that he was dreamwalking her and had filled her in on all the happenings of the last long day. They should be home tonight! She couldn't wait.
8:00 Am: South rim of the Canyon:
In the absence of Max, Liz had commandeered the command of the group. They had eaten a hardy breakfast (compliments of Elsie), packed, and Elsie had brought them 'all' to the Jeep. Liz felt they needed a better cover story than Alex's bird-watching.
"You guys got here yesterday, decided to take a look at the canyon, since I wasn't there, and ran out of gas. You hitched a ride with a Ranger, back to Elsie's. Now that I'm with you, I will join you on your vacation."
It was vague enough to allow room for small changes if need be and still not let anyone suspect it was a lie. Elsie had agreed to champion the story, in case the men came back. The large gas tank they brought to the jeep, was her idea. "Can't go half hog." She quipped. Alex thought it was more realistic than fancy. "We hadn't filled up since getting to Flagstaff, and I don't think Max did either. We could have run out of gas just getting back to Elsie's!"
There were hugs all around. Liz was really going to miss Elsie, and her motherly ways. Maria insisted Elsie take a bottle of her cedar oil, 'to remember her by' and 'after all, you never know when you will need it!'.
When Elsie left, they all took one more look at the canyon. All thoughts not on the canyon itself, but on everything that had happened since coming there.
Alex put one arm around each girl's waist and sighed contentedly. "All's well that ends well."
Maria gave him a hug. "Yeah, I don't think anything else could possible go wrong now. Let's get back to our better halves!"
An hour later, Alex made a turn away from Flagstaff and west towards California and Nevada. Maria hit the back of the seat. "Hey! You turned the wrong way! Didn't you?"
"That all depends on how you look at it." Alex replied. "Don't look now, but we are being followed."
|posted on 16-Sep-2001 9:00:58 PM|
9:00AM : Flagstaff, Lazy Eight Motel:
Isabel sat chipping the polish off her fingernails in irritation. The fingernail polishes that she and Maria had abandoned night before last had vanished. Probably into Maria's purse. Now she would just have to wait for her to get back.
Doris was laying on the other bed, looking through the fashion magazine that Isabel had brought with her. "You know, most of these styles are just too much, but there are a few that would look really good with a couple of little changes."
There was a knock at the door, but then Max opened it before she could even get off the bed. One look at his face, and Isabel covered her eyes. "Don't say it."
Max sat watching Michael pace back and forth like a caged animal. Michael hadn't liked the idea of letting Liz, Alex and Maria come along on their own, but there hadn't been much choice at the time. Now that Max's Liz sense told him that Liz was moving 'away' from Flagstaff instead of toward it, Michael was unable to quit moving. What he wanted to do was jump in the car and take off after them. But he didn't know for sure that Maria was with Liz. Elsie had left them all together, but that didn't mean they still were.
Max was stuck again with a sticky situation. He had sort of adopted Jarod, Luke and Doris into his group , and their safety had to figure into his plans. Nothing was more important to him than making contact with Liz and helping her, whatever the problem. Where she was, he needed to be.
But… there were six people and one car that could comfortably seat four and maybe cram five into. Neither he nor Isabel nor Michael would stand to be left behind. Jarod and Luke were sitting ducks if left behind. Because, from what he had heard of the Centre, they were nothing if not thorough. And those two were still too close in an obvious direction for Jarod's safety.
Point: It was still not known if the Centre had linked Luke's disappearance with Jarod yet.
Point: If Julius had been found alive, he may have given Doris away.
Point: They couldn't all go, and none of them could stay.
Thankfully, Max hadn't figured in the Jarod quotient. Jarod was not someone that had to be looked after. While Max, Isabel and Michael were stressing, Jarod had been pecking away at his computer. Now he approached Michael and drew him aside.
"Mr. Barrens, you are about to buy a car for the little lady." Jarod handed him a credit card and I.D. With Michael's picture on it and the name, T. Michael Barrens.
Michael looked from it to him and grinned. "Great. Until they run it through their computer. Then they call the cops."
The others gathered around them to see the I.D. and ask questions. Jarod explained. "This is all perfectly legal. You can use any name you choose to, as long as it isn't done to defraud someone. There 'is' a card account with that name on it and after you sign it, there will be a record of that signature in the computer files. The money is real enough. I just deposited it, retroactive to yesterday, so it will show up on the books. All you have to do, is sign the card, and the I.D. then I can finish laminating it and affix the official seal."
"You mean all I have to do is pick out a car, use the card for a down payment and drive out with it?"
Jarod shook his head. "No, you pay for the whole thing with the card. They will have payment in full and since it's a valid account, there will be no follow up. I do it all the time."
Jarod looked around at the others, then at Max. "I would buy it myself, but there will be people searching the car lots with my picture, and they would have the make, model, and license plate number before I got fifty miles away from there. I needed to get another car anyway, and now we all need a car."
Max looked at Michael. "Game?" Michael shrugged, grinned, and signed the cards.
Max offered to take Michael to the car lot, but it was decided that Isabel would take him. They had to stop off at a clothing store and get Michael some new duds. No one was going to believe a T. Michael Barrens in torn blue jeans, and T-shirt. "You will need me along to make sure you get the right clothes" She grinned. "Or you'll end up with more jeans."
They took off with a print out of the car lot inventory; the ones that Jarod had picked out, circled in red.
While they were gone, Luke and Doris linked with Max and tried to contact Liz.
Westward bound on highway 40:
An Arizona map was whipping in the wind while Liz tried to read it and keep from losing it at the same time. Maria, fearing to look back, kept asking Alex if there was any change in their escort.
"Maria, you just asked me that two minutes ago." Alex complained, glancing out his mirror for the umpteenth time. "They are still there. The only difference is they seem to have someone following 'them'. Or following them, following us."
"Look. If you don't want me turning around and looking every two minutes then just tell me. Okay?" Maria sniffed her cedar oil bottle for the umpteenth time.
Liz turned the map this way and that, and finally put it down. "Help me out here Alex, I found us on the map, but I don't know what I'm supposed to be looking for. 'Find a good spot', doesn't give me much to go on."
"Look, we're supposed to be on vacation. Right? So find us a place we can be headed for. Are there any tourist spots in this direction?"
Liz dove back into the map for a few moments. "Okay, there is a 'Grand Canyon Caverns'. It's marked with a big red square so it must be a good one. It's on a scenic route too."
"Great! Where do we turn off? There's bound to be a store where we can call the hotel and get some cameras and snacks." Alex started looking for roadside signs advertising the Caves.
"Uh we passed it a while ago. But we can turn a few miles up and double back. It's on a loop that runs north of the 40."
Alex slumped in his seat. "No good. If we were going there, we supposedly would know how to get there. Anything else?"
Liz was quiet for a few minutes and then shouted. "Max!"
Alex almost wrecked the car. It swerved all over the road before he pulled over to the side. "Good grief Liz, what's wrong?"
Liz was staring at the map. "We're all together. We're being followed." She nodded her head. "We'll call you soon. Max? Max!"
Lazy Eight Hotel:
It was two hours before Isabel and Michael turned into the parking lot, in her car. A well dressed Michael got out, looking snazzy in slacks, a sports shirt, and with a blazer slung over his shoulder. He reached back in, brought out a bag and followed Isabel up to the room.
Michael turned over a packet of papers to Jarod when he came in, but his eyes were on Max. "Any news?"
Doris announced with a big smile. "We connected with them! With Liz anyway, and then she called.
Max gave out with the news. "They are together, and safe so far. They were being followed, so Alex drove them away from us."
Isabel let out a relieved sigh. Michael grabbed the bag he brought with him and headed for the bathroom. "Great! Let me get out of these stupid clothes and we can go after them!"
Max cleared his throat. "We aren't going after them." He murmured.
"Aren't…" Isabel stopped and just looked at him. Michael stopped dead in his tracks and turned back to Max. "What in hell is that supposed to mean?"
"They are being followed, but remember, they are the safest of us all. They aren't anything but three kids on vacation. If we follow them we could make it worse."
"I'm going." Isabel started throwing things into her bag.
Michael resumed his trip to the bathroom. "I'll be ready in five."
Five minutes later, Max stood in front of the door facing two very determined people. Jarod, Doris and Luke were ready to go. Needed to go as quickly as possible. But Isabel and Michael wouldn't accept Max's decision.
Doris put her hand on Isabel's shoulder. "Look, if we all connected and let you talk to Alex and Maria, would you feel better? About them being safe, I mean." She turned to Michael, "Alex is real determined to bring them all safely home. It would be like telling them that you don't trust them. They can be as careful as you can and Alex is really a smart guy. Give them a chance, give him a chance."
"What if they need us!" Michael raged. "What if M…they get in trouble and I'm… we're not there to help them? "
Isabel's shoulders slumped. "She's right Michael. And so is Max. We can't help them right now. Not without making it worse."
Michael stood there staring down Max for a moment longer, looking like an explosion waiting to happen, before he too backed down. "Alright. If we can connect, I'll wait."
Hwy. 40 West, about thirty miles before Kingman: Alex was explaining to the girls what he thought and how to outwit the 'men in black'. "Look, all those fed types have all kinds of electronic gadgets. If we stop to eat and discuss the trip, they are bound to be listening in. That's why I don't want the windows up. They can train a scope on a window and pick up sounds."
"In a moving car, Alex? Give me a break." Maria said. "Like they have some sort of super thingy that will let them listen in on this Jeep."
"I don't know about the Jeep part, that's why I want to be careful. But the restaurant thing is a sure bet. I want to use it to put them off guard and maybe convince them that we really are just kids on vacation." His plan was simple. They were going to discuss Vegas and beyond while eating. Even argue over what they wanted to see first, where they would stay, ect. "Then they might fall back or give up and 'that' might give us the chance to give them the slip."
Liz pushed a piece of hair behind her ear, ignoring the rest of it that was flaying in the wind. "So… where is this pre-arranged discussion going to take place?"
"What is the next largish city we pass through? It should be one with a lot of streets and turnoffs."
"Mmmm… Kingman, looks like. About twenty miles, thirty tops. Is that where we do it?" Maria snickered and Liz made a moc swipe at her. "Keep your mind on our problem. Or is it on Michael?"
"I'll never tell. Thought maybe you were thinking about Max." Maria quipped.
"Girls. New list. What girls think about while fleeing the Centre. Boyfriends and jokes about boy/girl activities." Alex pulled into the first roadside café-come-gas station. "We'll tank up here."
Maria put her chin on the front seat back. "Us or the Jeep?"
"Both. Get out your arguments, We're on." Alex answered.
Ms. Parker's men sat across the parking lot from the diner, a directional mike directed at the near window. After a few minutes, one commented; "This is useless. These kids aren't connected to the Pretender. We're just wasting our time."
The driver looked over his shoulder. "We just report what we see and hear and let Ms. Parker decide if we're wasting our time."
Across the parking lot, Mr. Lyle's men were watching and listening to both the diner and the other car. "And could we go a little faster for a change? I'd like to get to Vegas before I get too old to enjoy it." "Could one of us go in there and order some take out? Listening to them chomp chomp chomp is giving my stomach ideas." "If I'm not driving fast enough for you, why don't you drive for a while?" "No thanks. I want to get there in one piece. If we drive any faster, I want you doing it." "Okay but make it quick and don't look in their direction. I don't want them spooked."
Ten minutes later, Alex, Liz and Maria walked out to the Jeep, confident that the job had been handled well. Maria did a little victory dance. "If that doesn't convince them we're nothing but kids out on a cruse, nothing will!" "Maria!" "What? Liz, we're not behind glass anywhere. Look around you. It's safe, okay?"
The occupants of both cars smiled.
The driver of Ms. Parker's car, got ready to pull out and follow. The hungry watcher leaned forward and plopped something on the seat. "Don't need to follow so close now. I sort of put a tracker on the jeep by accident as I was passing by. Let's hang back and let them hang themselves."
In the other car. "They are sure cooperative about doing our job for us. We'll hang back with them and see where this leads.
The truck driver wetted a washrag one handed and wiped his face. The cool water helped a little but he knew that at the next truck stop he would be forced to lay over and get some sleep. 'Just a few more miles, just a couple hours. I can stop in Flagstaff and sleep in a real bed.' He thought. 'Just let me get this order delivered.'
Though he prided himself on driving safely and not weaving on the road, he knew that he was playing Russian roulette with the clock. Every tick lowered his reflexes. Every toc gave another opportunity for something to happen that he wouldn't be able to handle. Shortly after 10:30, he lost the game.
Alex was still going his exasperating sixty miles an hour, and Maria was still arguing for going faster. "Look, you said they are out of site, now would be a great time to get away!"
Liz looked at Alex's face. "What's bothering you Alex? Come on give. We are all in this together."
Alex sighed and looked into the rear view window again. "I don't know. That's what's the matter. I know they are back there. I got a brief glimpse of them at the top of the last rise, they are still following us, but it doesn't make sense that they are so far back. I could speed up, make an unexpected turn, stop and hide and let them get ahead of us. I think they pulled something."
Maria turned around looking out the window, looked out and up for helicopters, and shrugged. "Like what?"
Alex looked at her through the rear view window. "Like planted a bug. I think they are tracking us. Anything we do will look guilty except doing what we are doing." He thought for a moment then said, "Hold on!" He slammed on the breaks, skidded to the side, and stopped.
Maria grabbed her bag and the front seat, yelling. "What do you think you're doing! Trying to get us killed?"
"I'm going to test the theory. If they pass and go on ahead, I'm right. There's a small road behind us. If I'm wrong they will either stop or turn off on that road and wait for us to go on."
"And 'what' are we supposed to be doing here? Won't they know the jig is up and just take us in or something?" Maria took another whiff of her oil and shook her head. "I don't like this more and more, Alex. This is 'not' doing what we are doing."
"Come on, I'm going to start changing a tire. Maria you turn around. Hang over the back and get nosey. Liz you get out and stand behind the jeep."
Both girls looked at him like he was crazy for a moment then a light went on in Liz's head. "The back of the jeep was out of our sight while we were inside."
"Give the girl a lollypop!" Alex quipped. "They may not like seeing you two all over the back of the jeep, but they won't question the rightness of it."
Maria put one hand on her hip. "And just what does that mean?"
Alex grinned up at her, as he started jacking up the back. "No man in the world has ever done a job with a woman around, without her telling him how to do it better."
In the lead car: "They have stopped up ahead. What do you want to do?" The driver thought for a moment. "I think we'll drive on by. They may have noticed us following them and want to see what we will do. We can pull off the road into cover and wait for them."
In the second car: "Target has stopped. Move in. We take them now. Mr. Lyle can decide what to do with them."
The second car zipped up to and past the first car. "Hey! They're going in for the kill. Ms. Parker will have our balls if we let them take them. " The car leaped ahead matching the other's speed.
Just over the rise on the opposing side, a small car pulled out from the shoulder. The driver was hot and tired and didn't look to see if any of the sparse traffic was present.
The truck driver was bearing down hard on the gas, boosting his double rig effortlessly up the incline. All of the sudden, there was a small car in front of him. He hadn't anticipated it's moving in front of him, and it was going a fraction of his speed. He swerved to the wide inner divider, overcompensating slightly and feeling the trailers shift and swerve behind him. As he blasted over the peak of the rise, he spotted the jeep, and fearing a whiplash, he swung back towards his own side. This time his reflexes were way off. The cab whipped back, but the trailers kept on going over the divider and onto the other side. He stood on his breaks.
It was the wrong choice.
At the fierce screech of breaks, Alex looked up and grabbing Liz, leaped to the side. "Jump Maria!" Maria had turned to look, and was now frozen in place, her scream unheard above the bedlam.
Almost in slow motion, the two trailers swung sideways on locked breaks, blowing up a storm of dirt and dust. The rearmost trailer missed the jeep by about eight feet, but the two cars speeding towards them were not so lucky.
The car with Mr. Lyle's men slammed into the rear trailer. Ms. Parkers driver swerved into the center divider and stopped broadside to the first trailer that almost lazily toppled over on top of it.
The rig's cab, disconnected, and rolled over twice before coming to rest upside down. The driver, banged up but not seriously hurt sighed deeply and passed out. At least now he would get his sleep.
Liz wanted to run and see if they could help, but Alex had other ideas. He grabbed her arm. "Look! Look! Now's our chance. We've got to find the tracker and fast!"
Maria nodded her head and set to. "I have a feeling that they weren't going to pass us but grab us. I sooo want out of here. The faster we find the thingamy, the faster we can do just that!"
There was a yelp of triumph and Liz held up a tiny black box. "Got it!" She started to throw it away but Alex grabbed it. "Not yet!"
Two miles down the road, they stopped to help a couple out of gas. When they went on, the bug was no longer with them. The couple was headed for Las Vegas.
Now Alex ate up the miles with the speed Maria had been urging for so long. At Kingman, they turned north and took the loop back towards Flagstaff that passed the Grand Canyon Caves. It was just 11:00. At their present speed they would be back at the motel no later than 12:30.
Lazy Eight motel: Once more the five aliens formed a circle. Jarod was invited but chose to watch this time. "I'm curious what the results will be when there are no humans in the link."
Max gathered the others with his eyes, offering a caution before they started. "The last time, Doris, Luke and I startled Liz and they almost had an accident. We want to let her feel me first and then try to connect. Next Michael with Maria and then Isabel with Alex. Okay?" All nodded and they held hands.
The feeling was immediate and electric. Levels above the Max, Doris, Luke link. They felt capable of almost anything. Cautiously, Max reached out , picturing Liz, and gently trying to filter into her awareness. It wasn't that it was hard to do, it was that it was so easy and almost immediate, that he had to hold back, to keep from blasting in. It was almost as if the connection was already there on a subconscious level.
"It is Max." Michael thought into the link. "It is an extension of the directional feel you have for her."
"Use the directional link first. Try letting her feel you that way and then let her hear you." Luke offered.
"Shh. I'm busy." Max softly gave Liz the feel of being held in his arms, a light caress of his fingers down the side of her face.
Liz sighed and relaxed. Thinking of Max always made her feel safe, connected. Then she realized that she 'was' connected. 'Max?' This time it was a whisper in her mind and not an alarming shout. Not a good idea at Alex's current speed. "Alex, " She said out loud, "Would you pull over for a minute? Max, Michael and Isabel are trying to contact us."
"Michael? Did you say Michael?" Maria was all ears. She squinched closed her eyes and concentrated. "Michael? Maria calling Michael."
With Max connected to Liz, the others concentrated on connecting the other four love birds. In no time at all there were three conversations going on at the same time. Amused, Doris and Luke slipped out of the connection and watched the other three enjoy their communing. Max, Michael and Isabel never even noticed.
It was an ecstatic three humans that resumed their drive to Flagstaff. Liz and Maria chattered back and forth about how it felt and how close they seemed. Alex just smiled.
Back at the Lazy Eight, Jarod, Luke and Doris took off. They would all connect again at Roswell. But for now, it was better to travel far and fast and not in a convoy.
Jarod asked Luke and Doris about the connection. Satisfying his curiosity, took his mind off of Julius, Ms. Parker, Mr. Lyle, and a whole bevy of concerns. He had once more eluded a concerted attempt at catching him, solved the mystery of the missing men, and found others like Luke that he could join. He still had the promise he had given Doris, to find out about her brother, but there was nothing he could do about it now. Jarod thought about the warm feeling of belonging he had felt in the two circles he had been part of. It would be part of his never ending search for more of Luke's people. If there were more of them out there, he would find them.
Michael, Isabel and Max, checked out of their rooms, loaded all their stuff into the car, and headed for Hwy. 40. They would meet the others in Williams.
Isabel's phone rang. An anxious Elsie was on the other end of the line. "A short time ago, two more big black cars went streaking by here like they were on their way to a fire. You don't think it has anything to do with Jarod do you?"
Isabel assured her that he was well away and thanked her for the tip. Then, white faced, she turned to the others. "We may have a problem."
Max's first thought was the same as hers…they would be looking for three kids in an open Jeep. 'God, Liz! How am I going to warn you!' He thought.
*What is it? Max? * *Liz! How….? * *I don't know. What's wrong? *
"Michael! Try to connect with Maria! Iz?" "I'm way ahead of you."
The warning was given amid exclamations of surprise and pleasure. The links seemed to be permanent this time. Maria was sooo psyched. Liz didn't want to let the link go. Afraid it would fade. Isabel and Alex kept a little intermittent conversation going, just to feel each other and assure themselves that it was real.
Once more, Alex pulled over to the side of the road. This time to change the look of the Jeep. They put the top up and Maria took the bright green scarf off that she had been wearing as a belt and tied it bandana style around her hair. Liz sat on the floor in the front, and Alex laid down on the back seat.
One girl, traveling alone in a covered jeep, going back towards Flagstaff might not attract the attention of whoever was speeding to the scene of the accident. They had no doubts that there would be no standing around once the others arrived. It was for sure that the pursuit would continue on towards Vegas. They wanted to leave it that way.
Maria kept her cool when, shortly after they had turned back onto hwy 40, the two cars went speeding past on the other side. Michael gave a cheer and a phantom kiss on her ear that made her laugh out loud. It felt good to be alive!
Holbrook: A quick stop at a convenience store, a quick look through a throwaway paper, and Jarod had a new phone. He took a few moments to program a new series of misleading connections into his computer and was ready for a call.
Ms. Parker answered with her usual charm. "What?"
"I understand from one of my sources that you came uncomfortably close to my little hole in the Walla. I went to a great deal of trouble to escape only to discover you never showed up. I'm hurt. You have another boy friend?" Jarod smirked at the sense of outrage he was picking up from her.
"Jarod…How sweet of you to call." She purred. "I don't suppose you are calling from near the Canyon, are you?"
"Isn't that backtracking a little far, even for you? That's five days ago. Old history. If you want to find me, you will have to get Los first…or is it Las? I forget." Jarod hung up, leaving Ms. Parker fuming and not buying it for a second.
Broots' phone rang, and he fumbled it open. There was only one person who would be calling. "Uh…yes? Ms. Parker?"
A few seconds later the second of the black cars turned around and headed back toward Flagstaff. The men in the lead car immediately called Mr. Lyle.
Ms. Parker lit another cigarette and took an almighty drag. Sydney asked her why she had called off the hunt.
She turned just her head towards him, crossing her arms. "Not that you need to know, but your baby boy called."
"My we were quick on that one weren't we? He's not here and he has another phone. That means somewhere near here he bought one or both, car and phone. I will have every car lot in a fifty mile radius checked. I will have the owner of every car and phone purchased in the last three days tracked down. Any that can't be verified might be Jarod. I will know the color, make, license, everything. I will track him down until I find him!" She took another satisfying puff. "Any more useless questions?"
Sydney, thinking of bus stations, trains, and airports, not to mention Jarod's thumb, just smiled and shook his head.
There were hugs and laughter all around when the whole group were reunited at Williams. Max held Liz in a fierce embrace and didn't want to let go. Michael and Maria bantered back and forth with no more than a brief if exuberant hug to mark the feelings each had for the other. Isabel, the coolest of the lot kept laughing and crying as the feelings she and Alex each had for the other, crystallized in silent commune.
There was plenty of under talk. It was a wonder to them all and a gift beyond asking. No more would there be fear and separation. With the hearts of each so open to each other, there would be no more misunderstandings, no unnecessary heartbreak. There was no problem, no emergency that couldn't be met with more strength and assurance. For the first time Max and Michael could breath easy for their little group.
As intense as the reunion was, they kept it brief for safety's sake. Alex jumped into Isabel's car, Michael and Max took the jeep with Liz and Maria, and they all took off, back down the highway towards home.
A little before 2:00, they stopped at Holbrook for lunch. Liz, Alex, Maria and Max called their parents and told them they'd be home by late evening.
The sheriff was not left out either. As he hung up the phone he sighed in relief. Those kids had gotten under his skin in a way he never thought was possible. They were good kids, not trouble makers, but looking after them had become a full time job. And one, he realized, he relished.
Tess and Kyle were told as soon as they got out of school. Tess wasn't sure she could wait for everyone to get back. Luke and her had talked a lot during the dreamwalking, but she couldn't wait to see him in person.
After lunch, the mini convoy took a turn south on the 180 and turned east at the 60. One more little jig south at Socorro and they were on the 380 and the last leg to Roswell. As they drove the final miles home, each was lost in their thoughts. So much had happened in so little time.
This was only Tuesday night and yet the four days Liz had been gone seemed like a year. She wouldn't have been surprised if everyone had looked older when she returned. The thoughts of what her parents were going to say or do, were enough to make her wish it would take even longer. Almost.
Max's Dad had been the one he talked to when he called, and was taken by surprise at the casual 'okay son, it will be good to get you back' reaction he had shown. He had expected to get his ears burned.
Maria and Alex had had to listen to tearful reprimands by their moms but both were glad enough to be going back that they took it in stride. Of course Alex still had to meet his dad. It made his mouth dry just thinking about it.
It was less than fourty eight hours since the others had left, yet in those hours they had gone to another state, transported in a group, (three times!), met two new humans that new about them and were willing to accept and help, rescued Liz, Jarod and Luke, met Doris, found out Tess and Luke were soul-mates, had the fright when Liz, Alex and Maria were followed, and gained unlimited mental contact with those they most loved, through use of the group connection. Wow! How do you top that!
It was only 5:45 when they entered Roswell. They had reported a later arrival time on purpose. As much as they wanted to go home, they had one more stop to make. The hotel they had given Jarod directions to.
The deep connections they had all had with Jarod, Doris and Luke had melded them into a family. It was a happy and satisfied family that reunited in a group hug, outside the hotel.
Luke was the only one who felt there was a missing piece. Tess. He wanted more than anything to hold her in his real arms. Tomorrow, parents willing, there would be a group meeting at the Crashdown, and Tess would get to meet Doris, Jarod and Luke. Luke didn't know if he could relax enough to dreamwalk Tess that night, but he was sure going to try.
Max, Michael and Maria all volunteered to go in with Liz when they dropped her off to the Crashdown. "No, thanks anyway, but I think I better handle this alone." She gulped and took a deep breath but walked head up with a parting wave as she opened the front door of the café. *I'm still with you. * Max thought to her in parting. * Thanks Max. It helps. Now let me get to the fireworks. I'll talk to you later?*
*You bet! * Liz felt a gentle caress down the side of her cheek and met her parents with a brilliant smile on her face.
Maria felt no such compunctions about meeting her mother alone. She was glad to have Michael's hand to hold on to when her mom opened the door. Amy was a little reserved in Michaels presence and that gave her a chance to calm down a little by the time Michael left. But the look she gave Maria as soon as the door closed spoke volumes. It was Michael's continued presence in her mind that gave Maria the courage to face up to her mother.
Maria stated her case after Amy slowed down and allowed her the chance to talk. "Mom, you taught me to be self reliant, to do what I felt was right, and stand by my friends. I did. Liz needed me and there was nooo way I was going to sit here while she was in trouble, and alone. I, on the other hand, 'wasn't' alone, we all went and we all helped. Now she's back safe and so are we all." When she finished, it wasn't for sure which one of them was more surprised. Maria for what she considered eloquence in the face of fire, or her mom for realizing that Maria had grown up.
*That's right girl, go get 'em! * Michael cheered in the background. Maria spoiled the effect of her speech somewhat by breaking out with a giggle. Then she hugged her mom. Satisfied that the worst of the fireworks were over.
*Iz? Are you still there? * *Right with you. * *What's it like over there? * *Rough, did we expect anything less? How about you? * *Hurricane weather. I'll talk to you later, but Iz? * * Hmmm? * *I'm glad you're there. * They parted with a mental hug.
At the Evans home, Isabel and her mother both cried while Isabel apologized for the way she left. As Max accepted a tearful hug from his mom, he exchanged looks with his dad. There was acceptance in that look. 'My boy is growing up.' He thought. Aloud he admonished his son to be more outgoing with his parents. "We're not ogres Max. If you have a problem or something you think you have to do, you will tell us next time, before going off into the sunset. Got it?" The words were a lot milder than the stern look that accompanied them. Max sighed. It would be so much easier if they only knew.
The meeting the next day at the Crashdown found some very confused kids trying to understand the mixed reactions of their parents. All had been met with various levels of 'oh my baby is back', 'you're nearly an adult now', and a lowered boom of 'if you ever do that again…'. All in all the reactions were not nearly as horrendous as they had expected.
Liz's hurdle had been the biggest. How do you explain why you had to run away from your loving parents and friends, when you could mention no aliens, no Future Max, no end of the world? At least her friends had had her as an excuse. What did she have?
Her mom couldn't understand why, if she was that upset, she couldn't come cry on her shoulder and talk it out. Her dad felt hurt that she didn't come to him and ask for advice or at least moral support. Liz didn't know how long it would be before she would be allowed to go anywhere, without first getting a big 'from the shoulder' talk from both of them.
Jarod, Luke and Doris arrived shortly after the gang had compared notes, and wanted to be filled in on the happenings. Luke looked around expectantly, disappointment showing on his face when he didn't see Tess.
Michael caught the look. "Don't worry lover boy, she will be here in a bit. Kyle is bringing her over."
Luke gave a brief dark scowl. "She lives at his house doesn't she?"
Liz leaned over and patted his hand. "Don't worry. If there was anything going on between them, you wouldn't be here. " Luke had yet to be filled in on the whole 'end of the world thing' that had sent Liz off in the first place. They were telling the tale as best they could when Tess and Kyle entered.
After that, there was nothing anyone else could say that Luke would hear. Tess came halfway across the floor and stopped. She, the most forward of them all, suddenly found herself feeling shy. Luke had no such trouble. He met her and took her in his arms. The kiss they shared drew whistles from the others.
Alex turned to Isabel. "Wow, you aren't going to let them top 'us' are you? We will have to do our homework." Isabel blushed and swatted at Alex, but underneath she promised a chance later…when there was less of an audience.
Each set of parents had allowed one day off school to recoup from the trip, but on the 'strong' recommendation that they go get their catch-up work from the school. And do it. It didn't, however, stop Liz, Michael and Maria from having to work at the Crashdown. They would each loose a day off until they made up for going A.W.O.L.
Meetings at the Crashdown were frequent and filled with an undercurrent of excitement. The connections had done more than give them access to each other's feelings and thoughts. It had in some way helped to transfer a part of the ability belonging to one alien, to the others. Each were finding out how much they had gained and kept paring off with each other in different combinations to discuss and explore their possibilities. And no, this time Tess wasn't left out.
Luke asked for a circle that first Wednesday night, and the combination with the six aliens was overpowering. This time they weren't trying to do anything or go anywhere, but they all felt like there would be nothing beneath their abilities. Here was a reaffirmation of what Future Max had been saying. The more of them there were, the stronger they were. Just Max, Isabel and Michael would never have been strong enough for what was to come.
Alex, Liz, and Maria, could feel the tremendous boost with Tess added, and Kyle was just blown away. "Wow! That's way different than the circle we had at Max's house!" He was intrigued at the difference he felt in his friends. They seemed steadier somehow, more self assured, Liz, Alex and Maria seemed to have changed too, though he couldn't put his finger on what it was.
Jarod came in as a deep solid personality, but there was that little bit of a lost feeling scurrying around the edges of his emotions. Kyle had wondered at his being included, but he felt the ties each of the others had made with him and added his deep felt assurance, to those of the others, that Jarod was a welcome member of the 'family'. Doris and Luke were eager to share themselves and their experiences with Kyle too. He began to wonder why he had ever felt a glimmer of envy for Max, Isabel, or Michael. Being 'not of this earth' seemed to have more problems than he would care to live with.
He was happiest to see and feel the connection between Tess and Luke. He didn't understand it, but he was glad for Tess. She had felt like a member of his family even before the melding of the circle. Now he could understand his 'sister' like few other brothers ever could.
Sydney's cell phone rang several times before he answered it. Somehow he knew who would be speaking on the other end of the line. "So how goes the search?"
"Jarod… as well as could be expected."
"Your expectations or Ms. Parkers?" Jarod asked.
"Mine of course Jarod. So. You called for something else, didn't you?" Sydney new Jarod better then anyone. Was probably the only one who, if left alone, could actually catch Jarod……If he wanted to. "That was quite a chase you led us on. Were you even in the canyon?"
"Let's just say I knew what was going on. My phone was taken. I just wondered if they found anyone when they found my phone."
Considering how agile the Centre was at following calls, Sydney knew Jarod must have a need to know. No games. "There was no-one under the slide, and a careful search of the Canyon didn't show up anyone who wasn't accounted for…….Does that help?"
"Thank you Sydney." Jarod hung up. He had almost told him. Maybe he would. Later, when he was far, far away from Roswell.
Jarod was not without his own share of input to the group. He had spent a night of industrious typing on his computer and had come up with backgrounds, school and medical records, and transfers for Luke and Doris. He just built on and modified their actual records so it would be easier for them to meld into Roswell without uncomfortable questions. Of course they had an added advantage. It would be the sheriff's prerogative to check up on their backgrounds, and he wouldn't.
Luke entered school on Friday, and Doris would show up on Monday. The whole group would get to spend the rest of high school together. Doris and Tess put their heads together about getting jobs and sharing an apartment, and Luke was invited to move in with Michael. In the mean time, Maria talked her mother into letting Doris stay with them. (And that wasn't easy!) Jarod declined an offer to bunk down at Michael's for the few days that he would be there, but he was a regular at the Crashdown with the rest of them.
Saturday dawned bright and warm, Liz woke up feeling as if someone had called her name. "Good morning sleepy head!" Her mom said as she poked her head into Liz's room. "Max called about three times."
"Thanks Mom." Liz stretched and climbed out of bed heading for the shower. 'It must have been her that called me.' She thought.
*Nope. It was me! * *Max! * There was a brief mental kiss, and Liz sighed contentedly. *Oh it's so good to have you with me. * *That was what I was thinking, having you with me. I thought you'd never wake up! * Liz answered in moc outrage, *It's only nine! I'll be ready by nine thirty. Okay? * *See you down stairs. Don't forget the food! *
Maria rolled over on her bed and looked on the floor. The sleeping bag that Michael had used for the early hours of the morning was rolled up and under the window. She smiled at the thought of how often he had sneaked into her window over the last year. Her mom had never caught on, but it had been close once or twice. *Hey space boy! You there? * * Where else would I be? You up for good this time, or are you going to sleep the whole day away? * * Unlike some people, I need more than two hours sleep! Why don't you come back over? Through the door this time. * She added as she jumped out of bed and headed for the bathroom.
*I'm almost there already, what do you….Whoa! * There was a brief dizzying sensation that rushed through Maria's head and she grabbed onto the bathroom door jam. *Wow! What was that!…. Michael? Michael! *
As Michael walked under a tree, a limb, cracked and hanging on by a thread of rotted bark, had given way and nearly landed on him. A quick unthinking reaction had sent the limb soaring halfway across the street. * It's okay. I just nearly got brained. * He took a second quick look around to make sure no one had been looking. * You felt that? * *Yeah, it almost knocked me off my feet. * * Hmm… I didn't know I had that effect on you. * *Michael! * She acted indignant, though she could feel his concern. * Seriously, I think we should tell the others about this. Be there in a sec. *
Mrs. Evans opened the door for Alex. "Good morning! Just in time for breakfast! Come on in. I'll call Isabel for you."
*Izzy? * * Morning! Where have you been? I've been up for hours! * Isabel called down stairs. "Mom? Was that Alex? Ask him to come on up will you? "
Alex passed Max, coming down, on his way up. "Hey!"
"Hey! Spending the day with Iz? " Max asked.
Alex smiled sheepishly, "Yeah, she wanted to go over to the mall."
Max winced. "Good luck! You are the only person I know of that can stand one of her shopping days. Catch you later at the Crashdown."
Alex leaned on Isabel's door jam and admired the scenery. Isabel knew he was looking as she gave herself a last careful once over in the mirror. She looked, as always, smashing and knew it, but thought she'd ask Alex's opinion. * Do you think this color's right for me? * She ran her hand over her sky blur blouse and the shade deepened and turned purple. * Or is this better, or this? * She asked as she changed it again into pink then red. A sudden feeling that something was wrong made her turn to Alex and found him sitting on the floor, white as a sheet. "Alex! What happened? What's wrong! "
It took several phone calls, before all but Liz and Max had been gathered together at Michael's.
Jarod was the last to arrive, and the first to ask what had happened. Maria and Michael explained the tree incident and Alex told of the triple whammy Isabel's fashion changes had given him. "This has to be a side effect of the mental merging you both have experienced. Tess, do you and Luke have a similar connection?"
Tess took Luke's hand and smiled. "We didn't need help connecting." She shrugged. "I guess it's an alien, alien thing. If Max and I had really been meant for each other, it would have been a natural part of our joining."
There was much talk and a few experiments. The general consensus was that they didn't know what was going on with this connection thing, but that it might be dangerous. Especially when Michael tried something requiring more effort and almost made Maria pass out.
Perhaps they would have to try and undo the mental connections of them all.
The highway flew by as Max and Liz enjoyed the feeling of being alone together for the first time since before she left. "I love this Max. It's been so long since we were alone."
Max flipped on one of her favorite songs, and put his arm around her. "This is how it was meant to be. This is how it will always be."
Just then a car coming the opposite way blew a tire and swerved across the road ahead, narrowly missing them as Max slammed on his breaks. The car flew off the road and turned over twice before coming to a stop.
One body was thrown clear of the car, and landed in a jumbled heap on the rocks. There was a small boy and a woman still in the car. Max and Liz raced to try and get them out before and in case there was a fire.
Both were unconscious, but whereas the boy just seemed to have a nasty bump on his head, the woman had suffered a broken leg and was bleeding badly from the head where she had connected with the windshield. They extricated them both as gently as possible, moving them as far as was prudent from the wreck.
"Oh Max! Can you help them? " Liz sat running her hand over the little boy's body checking as best she could for anything that felt broken.
Max held the woman's face in his hands for a moment and ran his hands down her body to the legs. "I can handle it. Go check on the other one." As Liz ran to the thrown man, Max concentrated on repairing the damage, first to her leg then more carefully to her head. No concussion, just a bleeding gash. He checked out the child as carefully as Liz had and found a small swelling starting in his head. A moment later, he was at Liz's side. She was crying.
"Oh God Max, he is so broken up! I can't believe he is still alive."
Max glanced back at the woman and child. "I'll have to work fast and we will have to get away soon as possible. She won't stay unconscious much longer. Go call the sheriff. I'll see what can be done."
Liz ran for the Jeep, tears still running down her face. It took her a moment or two to get the call through. "Max!" She called when she had finally reached the sheriff. Then realizing Max couldn't hear her…*Max! The Sheriff wants to know where we are! I wasn't paying attention. * *About five miles south of the Hermit's turn-off. Now let me concentrate. * She gave the directions and grabbed a blanket out of the back. *Max? * She could feel the exhaustion in his response as he paused to answer. *I'm almost done, just one more hurdle to make. But I'm afraid I might need you to help me back to the Jeep. * *I'm here for you Max, use some of my energy if you need to, but don't go too far. The sheriff is bringing an ambulance too. But I don't want you to have to be the one to use it! * Liz stayed in the link as Max bent to struggle with the tremendous internal damage of the dying man. At last he lay down next to him, so totally wiped out that he quit worrying about any of them waking up and finding him there.
After a couple of dizzying moments, he realized that Liz wasn't there yet. *Liz? * There was no answer. *Liz? Liz! * Exhaustion forgotten he staggered towards the Jeep, falling twice in getting there. His heart raced with more than effort when he spotted the still crumpled form of his love, face down in the roadside dirt. "Liz! What's wrong? " His frantic search found nothing wrong with her, except she wouldn't wake up. Pale, paler, palest, he pulled her into his lap. His tears falling on her face as a distant siren drew closer.
Sheriff Valenti skidded to a halt behind the Jeep, and was at Max's side in seconds. "What happened? Were you in the accident too? Where are the others?"
Max pointed in the general direction of the family. "They're okay, I healed them."
The sheriff had seen Max fight a wave of weakness once when he had healed Kyle, but he had never seen him as flat out as he was now. It was the first time he realized how much Max risked of himself, to save others.
Valenti looked at his watch, Roswell's one ambulance would be delayed, thank God, by as much as ten minutes, but the clock was ticking and Max had to get out of there. He looked at Liz and felt her pulse. "What's wrong with Liz? Was she hurt too? She sounded okay when she called."
Max tried to explain what happened, but he didn't understand it himself. "I can't find anything wrong with her!"
"Perhaps we should let the ambulance take her to the hospital. They could check her out there. But I'll be damned if we could explain what she is doing here in the first place." At Max's panicked look, he backed down on that idea. "Okay, but you two will have to be gone real soon. What about the family? Will they remember you?" Valenti was relieved to hear that there would be no danger of complications there. "Alright, let me get you two into the Jeep. I've got to get you out of sight. And fast."
It took no little effort for Max to climb into the back of the Jeep. Valenti laid Liz in his lap and with another quick look at his watch, gunned the Jeep. He took it down the road a ways and turned off into a bush lined gulch, that would hide it for the duration. "I'll make that call as soon as I get back. Just stay here and lay low." He ran up the twisting gulch to the area of the crash, made the call, and was kneeling by the woman when the ambulance, followed by the tow truck, pulled up.
There was a great deal of excitement when the silver handprints were found on all three of the crash victims. The two ambulance drivers were questioning the two adults closely and checking their vital signs. One scratched his head. "Well, I don't see that you need us at all. I can't find a thing wrong with you. But judging from the condition of the car and the blood on the rocks, I'd say you guys are a walking close encounter!" The other kept looking around and then back at the hand prints. "This place is creeping me out. Let's get them out of here and make our report. Though what I'm going to say, that will be believed, is another story."
Valenti saw the tow truck driver walking around in wider and wider circles from the wreck. "Just what are you doing?"
The truck driver grinned sheepishly and admitted that he was looking for signs. "You know like something landed here, and took off again." Valenti just shook his head and suggested the driver get cracking on hauling the wreck out of there. Too much more looking and he might spot the Jeep.
Michael was speeding down the highway following the directions Valenti had given him. An ambulance passed him going the other way, and when he arrived at the location, Valenti was playing traffic cop, waving him on. Out of sight of the driver, he gave Michael a stop order. Michael leaned out the window, saying loudly, "What happened officer? Can I help?"
"Thanks son, but we have it all under control." Lower he told Michael where Max and Liz were and not to get caught going there. Michael thanked him, again loudly, and drove off. There was a bend in the road about half a mile down. There he turned off the road and worked his way back until he found the Jeep.
Maria was crying and urging Alex to greater speed. "Can't you make this thing go any faster? Oh God Alex, if Liz doesn't pull out of this…." * Michael! Talk to me!* *Max is almost strong enough to drive back. We'll be there before you know it. Now calm down!* * But Liz! How is Liz? * Michael was slow to answer. * No change yet. Sorry. * Maria could feel the concern he had for Liz, it just made her feel worse.
Alex risked taking one hand off the steering wheel to pat Maria's hand. "Don't worry, she will be just fine. " Alex didn't argue the fact that Max and Liz would be coming back to Roswell almost immediately. When Maria wanted to go someplace, Alex didn't argue. Besides, she and Liz had been his closest friends since their sand box days. He wanted to be there as badly as she did.
Maria tried to concentrate on the road ahead through the blur of tears. "Just wait until I get my hands on that Michael Guerin!" That he had gone off to help without waiting for her was just inexcusable. "She's been my best friend for ever and ever. How could he go off without me!"
* I heard that. You were halfway across town, for God's sake! I was in a hurry.* Maria threw him a mental raspberry and fell silent.
*Are you there yet? How is she? * Isabel sounded as upset as Maria. *Almost, and don't know. It would have been better to wait for them there. * *But not easier. * She sent. He had to agree with that. Running all the way out there, when they were coming back soon, wasn't logical, but they were at least doing 'something'.
They sped past the tow truck that was just pulling away. And went down around the bend and backtracked like Michael had, not wanting to wait for the truck to get out of sight. Sheriff Valenti was there too. Max was still sitting in the back of the Jeep, holding Liz. He had his strength back, but didn't want to let go of her.
Maria stood wringing her hands and watching Liz's face. "Can't you 'do' something? What happened? Why won't she wake up?"
"Yeah Max, give. You still haven't said anything that makes sense." Michael put a comforting arm around Maria. "We know about the accident, but was Liz in it, or what?"
Max watched Liz's face, gently caressing her hair as he tried to explain. "I took care of the woman and little boy first, then went to help the man. Liz ran to the truck to call Jim. There was nothing wrong with her then, she was just fine. We were talking and she offered to help by lending me some of her strength. I had healed most of the easy stuff but I didn't have much strength after the other two. God, he was so torn up inside. It took everything I had left to straighten him out. I didn't even notice that she wasn't there at first. Not beside me, not in my mind. I just laid there. When I realized…. She was just laying there by the truck. I couldn't find anything wrong with her… I couldn't reach her. I…." Max's shoulders shook with silent sobs.
Michael's voice was barely above a whisper when he talked. "You were putting a lot of effort into the healing, and you were linked with Liz…."
Max finally looked up at his friends and found them as pale as Liz. "What is it? You know something. Tell me….Tell me!"
The three of them took turns, nearly talking over one another, as they explained the effects, on Alex and Maria, of being linked when the 'special' talents were being used. "All Michael did was try to move something, and I nearly blacked out. But something a lot harder…"
Max clutched Liz harder. "One of you drive. We're going back. Now!"
Isabel, Luke, Doris, Kyle, Tess, and Jarod were all waiting outside of Michael's when the small convoy arrived.
Jarod beat the others to the Jeep by a small margin, and lifted Liz from Max's lap. The doctor in him was already appraising her condition as they headed inside. Once he had her on the couch, he checked her eyes, the tension and color of her skin, her breathing and pulse.
Isabel had filled all of them in on what had happened, and the general consensus was to try to reach her by group effort before panicking and taking her to the hospital. Max turned to Jarod first. He trusted his judgment. They all did.
"Her skin is elastic and responsive, her pulse is a little slow, but strong and steady, and her eyes dilate normally."
Maria looked upset but hopeful. "What does that mean in English?"
"She is stable, and not in a coma. In short, except for being unconscious, I don't see anything that puts her in immediate danger." He looked from Liz to Max and the others. Relief and hope were mirrored in all their faces.
At that moment there was a knock at the back door. Michael went to answer it and came back with Valenti in tow. "How is she, any change?" At Max's slow head shake he sighed. "I really hope you won't have to take her to the hospital. It's a madhouse right now. Reporters are coming out of the woodwork. Anything even slightly out of the ordinary will be given a lot of attention." He ran his hand through his unruly hair. "Is there anything you can try first? Anything at all?"
Doris took Valenti's arm and looked up into his face. "Mr. Valenti, don't you worry." "Jim. Please." "Okay, Jim, we were just about to try something. It's sort of a group effort thing. Kyle knows, he's part of it too." Kyle nodded to his dad, and Valenti relaxed. The kids had a handle on it. He hoped.
The group started to form a circle around the couch where Liz lay. Max took her hand in one of his, and held Doris' in the other. The ring was complete but Max hesitated. He dropped Doris's hand and held out his other one to the Sheriff. "Would you like to join us Jim?"
The Sheriff looked around in surprise. Everyone was nodding, encouraging him to join the circle. It was the first time he had been invited to the inside of things, and he was touched by their trust. He walked up and took Max's hand, Doris took his other one, and the ring was once again complete.
And STRONG! The sensitivity was amazing! Everyone could feel the bonds between Michael and Maria, Isabel and Alex, and Tess and Luke had a bond with a difference, (the 'alien to alien thing', as Luke would put it). Max and Liz…. Well Max was glowingly there but Liz was a pale wraith, barely within their perception.
Max:* It feels like she has some sort of barrier up.*
Alex:* Like she's not quite connected.*
Valenti: *This is amazing! How am I feeling this? *
Doris: * It's the connection Jim. *
Jim: *You heard me? Sorry. WHAT KIND OF BARRIER? *
Kyle: *Kool it dad. You don't need to shout. *
Jarod: *Stop concentrating on Liz for a moment. Feel the other connections. Do you feel the difference in Maria and Alex? *
Every detail of feeling and nuance around and between them and their partners was scrutinized. Doris:* I see it! Here and here. Do you see it? * Those outside the partnerships 'could' see it more clearly now. Their connections were not complete. There was an interference, what 'was' it?
Luke: *It's like a bad electrical connection. *
Doris: *Like a short? *
Jarod: *More like they are out of sync. Two different vibrations, almost but not quite matched. * A little more feeling around their links, and it was realized that the connections made for the sake of communication were not complete enough. That was the interference that caused the reactions for Maria and Alex….and Liz.
Michael: * So when we use our powers, it makes the interference worse? * That was the general consensus. The stronger the power used, the stronger the reaction. * So we can fix it. Right? Just make the connection better? * Alex: *Let's try on me first. Guinea Pig is my middle name. * Isabel sent a wonderful proud feeling to him through the circle, and he blushed, grinning.
The group felt their way through the link and wove a sure connection between Alex and Isabel. When they were done, it was time for Isabel to use her powers again. *Okay sweetheart, give it your best shot! *
There was a communal sigh of relief when it worked. Alex could 'see' and feel what Isabel was doing but there was no side effect. Maria and Michael were next. Maria waved her fist with a 'Woo, woo, woo' of victory. Then everyone turned their attention on Liz.
Now that they knew what had caused it, it was easier to see the imbalance between her and Max. The interference had been so strong, that Liz's brain had automatically shut down the connection….to everything. Like a computer that detected tampering and shut itself off.
As the gang talked through the problem and tentatively felt along the shadowy essence that was Liz, Jim Valenti watched, and felt, in amazement. He had had no trouble understanding that these kids were different, but the depth of them blew him away. Kyle blew him away. He would never see his son in the same light again….or any of them.
The lives, thoughts, and feelings of each were there in a sort of constant undercurrent. Valenti was slightly embarrassed to see the deep feelings of respect for him that eddied back and forth. And he was dismayed at the depth of pain that many of them had had to live with at one time or another.
Their experiences and circle connections had melded them in a way he couldn't put his finger on, just that it was stronger than anything he had ever seen or heard of. Stronger than blood, stronger than marriage. It was humbling. It was exhilarating. And he felt part of it.
Max: *Okay everyone here it goes. Follow my link to Liz. Concentrate on seeing her as she was, hearing her, feeling her. We have to bring her back! * The concentration was intense. They melded even closer as they all felt their way down the ephemeral link from Max to Liz. Slowly, slowly they willed her back.
Suddenly she was there! Really there. Liz felt solid and was coming around. Before anything else could go wrong, the group rewove the connection between her and Max.
The group feeling after that was pure, one hundred percent, exultation!
***** We did it! *****
Everyone hugged everyone.
Liz opened her eyes to total chaos. "What happened?" *Max? *
Max folded her tenderly in his arms, his lips seeking hers.
A long tender kiss later…* You went somewhere inside your head, and wouldn't come out. We had the devils own time getting you back. * She could feel the slight shaking of his reaction to the whole thing. Liz laid a hand lightly on the side of his face and looked into his deep beautiful eyes, and sighed contentedly. * I'm back now, Max. And I'll never leave you again. * *Amen to that! *
The group, with the exception of Jim Valenti, stayed together for the rest of the afternoon, each reluctant to leave. Jim had to leave, but would have stayed if he could. The incredible feeling of the circle seemed to be with him as he took off out of the back alley. Like an unwinding string behind him, he still felt the others, the connection, the feeling of belonging.
Inside Michael's: Jarod, Kyle and Doris were sitting in a corner on the floor talking. Liz and Isabel had made a huge batch of popcorn, and every small group had bowls handy. Kyle was trying to put into words, the feeling of following the link from Max to Liz. "You know, we might just have to invent our own words for what we just experienced!" Though he was looking at Jarod at the time, when Doris reached for the popcorn, he automatically moved it in her direction.
The fact that he did this without seeing it, or her, was not lost on Jarod.
The next day at the Crashdown:
A man walked into the Crashdown looking for Michael. "I need to speak to him for a moment. It's about a car."
Maria abruptly announced, "I think I hear the French fries burning. I'll go check!" And disappeared into the kitchen.
Liz tried to think of a delaying action while she got her mind working straight. "Uh… I can see if he is available. Would you like something while you wait? A drink maybe or we have some really great pies…." And proceeded to name every kind they had. She was about to go into the complete menu, praising the virtues of each item, when Michael came scooting out of the back, and held his hand out to the man.
"Hi! You must be Charles. I'm Michael. Uh… can we go outside and talk?" Michael took off his apron, and handed it to Liz. "Cover for me for a while, will you? I won't be long." Liz and Maria watched open-mouthed as the two went outside.
Liz walked over to the window with Maria trailing, and looked out. Michael and the man were nowhere in site. "What is that all about? I thought I would faint when he said it was about a car! I thought the Centre had found us."
Maria tried to talk to Michael. "Drat! He's blocking me out!" *Michael Guerin you talk to me! *
After a couple of minutes, one of the customers in the back yelled at them. "Pardon me for intruding, but I think you have something burning back here!"
The girls yelped and ran for the kitchen. Maria beat Liz by a small margin but stopped dead in the door way. "Move! Go on!" Liz yelled.
She pushed her way around Maria and leaped for the griddle. The grease from the unattended hamburger patties had caught fire, and Liz reached for the long handled spatula and a hot pad. "I'll get the meat off, you find something to throw on the fire!"
Maria stood shaking her hands for a moment then grabbed a pot of broth and threw it on the griddle.
Of course the liquid splattered the fire. Some spread to the grease pot on the back of the stove and some…spattered on Liz.
Michael, half a block away, stopped in mid sentence, and without one word of explanation, turned and ran for the Crashdown. *Maria! Maria! *
Max and Isabel dropped their spoons at the table. Mumbled excuses and bolted for the front door. "Hey where do you think you're going like that?" Sounded as the front door slammed shut. *Liz! What is it? Liz! *
Tess, Luke, and Doris, followed by Alex and Jarod were on their way to the cave. Suddenly, both cars pulled to the side, popped a 'U' and were speeding back towards town.
Jim and Kyle were kicking back on the couch watching a pre-game show, at the time. It's not clear who made it out the door first, but both were in the car and speeding toward the Crashdown a few seconds later.
Michael, the first to arrive, skidded around the corner into the kitchen, to find a hysterical Maria, and a stunned Liz. "What happened?" He yelled! "I thought somebody got killed or something." He started to lower himself onto a kitchen stool to take a breath, then spied Liz's hair and singed shoulder and stood up again. "What the….?"
Liz abruptly sat down on the floor, cradling one hand in her lap; Maria was not far behind her. Michael stooped to check Liz out and smelled gas. Lots of gas. The burners were on but there was no fire.
When the rest arrived, the front and back doors were propped open, and Michael was waving menus at the kitchen window to get the last of the gas out. Maria had come to her senses enough to ask the few customers to please leave, and she and Liz were seated in one of the booths.
Max was the first to Liz. He didn't need to see the hand swathed in ice, the singed clothes or that the hair was burned off short on the right side of her head. Her pain had been screaming through their connection. Her face and ear were a fiery red, and already starting to blister. Jarod took one look at her blank look, and said, "Shock!" He turned to look at Maria and while he saw similar signs of shock, could see no apparent burns or other visible hurts.
Liz came out of it when she felt the soothing healing touch of Max. She closed her eyes and sighed in relief. Then she looked up at him and began to laugh. "Oh Max! You're still in your pajamas!"
After breathing a sigh of relief that everything was alright, Alex put an arm around Isabel. "I sort of like the casual look. 'Who would have ever thought you were the fuzzy slipper kind'." He murmured into her ear.
Michael slipped into the booth with Maria and put his arm around her. "Here. I brought you some of this." It was her cedar oil. She gratefully sniffed back her tears and inhaled the soothing aroma.
Now that it was obvious to everyone that the emergency was over, they all pulled up chairs and demanded an explanation.
Of all of them, only Jarod seemed a bit distracted. He was just then realizing what had happened. He wondered how long it would take for everyone else to catch on.
It was in somewhat of a jumble, but Liz and Maria got out the story. "And when we got to the kitchen, there was a fire on the griddle," "I absolutely freaked! I thought the place would burn down." "So I got the hamburgers off to the side…" "And I threw the soup pot at it. The fire I mean. Oh I sooo wish I hadn't done that!" "The fire jumped all over the place! On the wall, in the grease pot. I didn't really notice my hair on fire until Maria screamed!" "I just wanted it out! I waved my hand at it and it went out. All of it!" "Even the fires under the grill! But I didn't notice that. And then Michael came running in…he noticed." "Oh God I can't really believe I did what I did. I was still freaking over the fire. " "And the pain from the burns hit me like a ton of bricks and I sat down right on the floor. It wasn't until after Michael was running around turning off the gas and opening doors that I started to realize just what Maria had done!" " And I still can't believe it. It is sooo not me." They finally stopped and looked around at the stunned faces of the group.
Isabel was the first to speak. "Maria used a power! How is that possible?"
"It has to be the new connections!" Doris exclaimed.
"Or the circles." Luke offered.
Max looked around at the gang. "If it was the circles, wouldn't it effect everyone?"
"Say guys…" Liz finally asked. "How come all of you came? Surely you weren't 'all' at Max's. Were you?"
Now the group was stunned for a second time. Each realized, at last, that they had 'felt' the panic and pain… and knew who and where the source was. Not just Max and Michael, not just the aliens. The humans, 'all' the humans had felt the same thing!
A wave of exuberance started flowing through them, each feeding the next until everyone was grinning. Even Jim (no longer even remotely thought of as just 'Valenti') felt the communal excitement and grinned.
Kyle started to laugh, realizing a closeness he had never enjoyed with his father, and banged his dad on the back. "Way to go Dad!"
Doris watched Kyle and his dad with a tenderness she hadn't expected to feel. Kyle was one of the finest people she had ever met, and one she felt more and more drawn to. At that moment, Kyle turned his face towards hers and caught her look. He felt a flip in his stomach. One that he had been feeling more and more the last few days. 'What a woman! If I only had a chance with her…'
Jarod had such a feeling of belonging it almost choked him. The longing for his mother and father was as strong as ever, but the feeling of family, right here, was overwhelming. It brought tears to his eyes, even as it brought a grin to his lips.
Sensing the mood getting more sober and reflective, Alex lifted his soda high. "The twelve Musketeers!"
The rest chimed in with, "One for all and all for one!"
Michael was clinking glasses with Luke when he felt a punch in the arm. Maria was glaring at him suspiciously. "Alright Michael Guerin. Now what is this about a car?"
"Oh crap! The car!" Michael jumped up and ran from the Crashdown, only to return a moment later with a disgusted look on his face. "He's gone!"
Maria picked up her answer through their link. "You were going to buy a new car!"
Michael grinned and shrugged his shoulder. "You don't like that old heap of mine. I thought I ought to get something I could ride my best girl around in." Maria was speechless. Delighted, but speechless. If this closer connection had done anything at all, it had opened Michael up. He could say things like that, that he would never have said before.
Maria put her hands on her hips and leaned forward, "And just who are you calling your 'best' girl? You have other girls waiting around the corners, have you?" And she could tease, without hurting. *Love you! * *Me too. Always! *
Realizing that they couldn't keep the Crashdown closed much longer, there was a coordinated effort to put things to rights and get ready for the late Sunday morning bunch that would soon be arriving. The scorch marks were removed from the kitchen wall and floor, and Isabel set another pot of broth a boiling.
Liz changed her uniform and Maria cut her hair. "Oh it kills me to have to do this. Your poor hair! God Liz I'm sooo sorry. If I hadn't thrown that soup, you wouldn't have gotten burned."
"If you hadn't put me out, there wouldn't have been enough left of it to cut!" Liz turned and hugged Maria. "I still can't believe it! You used real powers! What does Michael think about it?"
"Oh he's as proud as if he invented me." Maria quipped. "And he sort of did."
Monday, at school, found their little lunch group enlarged to ten. They happily dragged two lunch tables together out on the quad, and discussed…what else?
"So…have you put out any more fires since yesterday?" Alex asked. "And how did you do it? I tried last night with a fire in my trash can, and almost set my room on fire before I gave up and poured water on it."
Max traded sandwiches with Isabel. "How on earth did a fire get started in your trash can in the first place?"
"I started it of course." *Alex! * *Well I wanted to try! * *Jealous? * *Nope, long as I have you I don't need powers. *
Michael passed the Tabasco sauce to Luke who put it in his cheese sandwich, and passed it on to Doris for her Cheez-Its. "What I want to know is if the rest of you are going to get powers too."
Kyle watched Michael dip his pickle in jelly and shuddered. "If I have to develop your taste buds to get them, I don't think I want them."
Max cocked an eyebrow at Maria, "Any sudden desire for orange juice with Tabasco?"
She pretended a huge disgusted shudder. "Thank goodness no! I'd give up eating first!"
Alex caught Isabel eyeing his shirt for the umpteenth time. "What?" *Gray just doesn't suit you. I think I prefer it blue. * She reached out and after looking around, brushed her hand along his sleeve. The color changed to a clear neutral blue, and she smiled. *Hey! Cut that out! I like that color!* Alex self-consciously smoothed down the front of his shirt, thinking about how he had liked the color just the way it was.
Now Isabel's face showed shock. Alex looked at her curiously, * Surprised that I have a different feel for fashion? * Isabel shook her head, pointing at his shirt.
Max and Maria both noticed her. Michael having a conversation stopped in mid sentence by Maria's change of attention, asked 'what's up?'.
"His shirt! He changed his shirt!" Since nobody else had seen anything, they all looked puzzled. Then Alex looked down and dropped his soda. "Holy cow!"
His shirt was gray. The same gray it was when he bought it!
Jarod and Jim stopped their conversation for a moment. Jarod cocked his head as if listening. "Not trouble, but it seems our crew have gotten excited over something."
Jim nodded his head in agreement. "I don't know about this connection thing. It may make my life a little easier, as far as those kids are concerned, but it sure takes some getting used to."
"Would you give it up if you could?"
Jim thought about the new feeling he had with his son…with all of them, and shook his head. "Not on your life. Which, by the way, is what we were discussing." Jim had been fascinated by a man who could be anything or anyone he chose. Also by the stories of the Centre, and what Jarod knew of the FBI. If it was possible that the Centre might form an interest in 'his' kids, then he wanted to learn all about it. He already had an Idea where that other film Jarod showed him came from. It had an uncanny resemblance to the rooms at the place Max had been taken. He disclosed the fact that Nasedo had replaced the head of the special unit, and was trying to shut it down from within.
"I still want to keep my feelers out for any more kids like 'ours'. How would you feel if you got a few more of them in Roswell?" Jim put his head on his arm, feigning despair, but Jarod could sense that new arrivals would find him as fiercely protective of them, as he was for the others. More and more he liked this man.
Liz sank back into the seat of Max's jeep and closed her eyes, her head still reeling from what was happening to her friends. Future Max had set events into motion that seemed to never end. There was not a single one of her friends that had not changed in the last week and a half. All of it to the good, but hard to come to terms with all-together.
"Jealous?" A soft voice asked.
"Hmm? Uh… no. No I was just trying to catch up with all that has been happening." She looked over at Max and smiled. "You have no idea how many pages all this is going to take up in my journal! Say, where are we going?"
Max put one arm around her shoulders and gave her a little hug. "I still owe you a drive. The last one was sort of more than we bargained for. You don't have to work for two whole hours. We can enjoy them together. Alone." He tried to give his best impression of evil eyebrow wiggling, but only managed to get Liz giggling.
Weren't they ever going to get a simple ride together without a catastrophe?
The shock ran through the Crashdown gang like a tidal wave! Maria, who had just started her shift, dropped the tray she was carrying, putting her hands to her head, and screamed. To say it caused 'something of a reaction' in the customers would be an understatement. Two of them dropped their sodas, and one half ran out the door before turning to see what had caused the scream.
The biggest reaction came from the back booth where the rest of the gang was sitting. Michael doubled up like he had been socked in the stomach, Isabel almost fainted, Tess yelled, and the others reacted to the shock in lesser ways, but they all felt it.
Max was dying.
A short ways out of town was a stone ridge, two to four feet high, that ran off and on for several miles. Max had pulled the jeep into a stand of Acacia trees, where it came near the road, and they sat using a low part of the ridge as a back rest. They were reluctant to go back earlier than they had to, but wanted to be close enough to town to get her to work on time. (Just in case they got preoccupied with something…not saying what.)
Sheriff Valenti had waved as he cruised past on his way out, and they returned it. Less than a minute later, a jack rabbit came bounding over the ridge, right over their heads. There was a shot. The rabbit kept on running…and Max fell over into Liz's lap.
The shock and terror she felt, as the blood spurted out of his throat, would have been enough to make anyone faint. Except for one thing. This was Max. And he needed her.
Liz was clamping down hard on the artery that had been severed, and sobbing, even as she frantically tried to think of a way to get help. Leaving him even long enough to grab her phone from the jeep would see his life's blood gone before she could get back to him.
The Sheriff's car swerved on the road as the shock hit him, then he turned the car and gunned the motor.
Liz yelled for him to call the Crashdown even before he got both feet on the ground. "Oh God Jim. What can I do? We have to stop the bleeding, but I don't know how! I need Michael or Isabel or 'someone' out here now!"
The sheriff had an idea from what he and Jarod had been talking about that day. About the awesome powers that the group had when they were united.
Michael picked up the phone at the first ring. "Jim? We are on our way."
"Wait! He won't live long enough for you to get here! You've got to join!" Jim talked fast trying to get the idea across. "Join up and connect with Liz. Now!" Michael realized that that was the only chance they had. They would have to help Liz become a healer. Fast.
Michael dropped the receiver and ran to the door calling back the gang that was already running for their cars, and herded them back into the Crashdown. Before the last got inside he had already grabbed Isabel's and Luke's hand. "Form a circle! Quick!"
The others quickly saw what he meant and grabbed each other's hands. Jarod, just arriving, came running into the Crashdown and joined in. Maria was frantic. "But Max always started the circle! How can we do it without Max!"
Jarod felt the upset in the circle and pumped soothing calmness into it. It was then that all realized that they were already connected! "Find Liz and Jim!" He urged.
Jim knelt down and laid one hand on Liz's shoulder and one on Max. "You have to concentrate Liz. Think of Michael, Maria and the circle. Think of the connection!"
Liz was too upset to think much less concentrate. "He's dying! Do something!"
Jim looked her in the eye, keeping himself calm. "I am. We all are. Connect Liz… if you love him…connect."
She started to say something like 'how could you even say such a thing!' Then abruptly she was in. The others were all there. *Michael! Help me! * She sobbed.
*Have any of you learned healing yet? We have to close the artery! *
* You have to do it Liz.* At her protest, Doris chimed in. * You can heal him Liz. You were with him when he healed the man and you can do it.* Isabel reached out a mental hand to sooth her. They all felt her fear. The fear of loosing Max. * We won't let you do it alone.* * We're here to give you our strength. But hurry! *
Liz looked at the one that gave her a reason for living, and calmed down. *Alright. What do I do? *
* Think of what he was doing when he healed the man. *
That was asking a lot, considering the last time she blacked out almost immediately, but she knew what they meant. He had been looking into the man. Seeing what needed healing before he began….. She looked at Max, trying to see the artery instead of his pale face….Suddenly she was in! The artery was ripped across one side. If she did this and this…
She started working, and felt faint for an instant. The others were there for her, pumping energy into her as she pumped life into Max. *It's going to work! It's working! * She almost lost concentration in her relief, but brought her self back into control.
The artery was repaired, and the skin above it was told to re-connect itself. The body was already furiously trying to increase blood production. It hadn't lost enough for the heart to falter, but it was going into shock. She hurried to fix that as Jarod recognized the problem and told her what needed to be regulated.
As fast as he talked, she recognized the body's reactions and corrected them. *That's right. Now here and here. * Suddenly she realized she was done. Max was breathing easy and starting to come to. A huge shout of joy and relief went up from the crowd as Max woke up… and Liz fainted dead away on top of him.
Max was still weak and a little dizzy from the blood he had lost. It was the sheriff that pulled Liz off him and reassured him that she was fine. The group connected with Max immediately and all was explained. He held her close until she woke up again, and kissed the tears from her eyes as she wept in relief and joy.
Liz had climbed up the ladder to her room, as soon as she returned, to change her blood soaked clothes for a uniform, while Isabel had taken Max home, making sounds over him like a mother hen. When Liz came down there was a spontaneous group hug. And a spontaneous group connection. Everyone just enjoyed feeling and communicating their feelings to each other. Max and Isabel even sent a hug through Liz and Alex.
She was so grateful for the help she had received. Just the thought of what would have happened if they 'hadn't' been there…. They in turn were amazed at the skill she had shown in healing Max. They had provided the strength but they could have done nothing to help him themselves. It had been her love that had provided the impetus to learn and heal.
When the group hug broke up, Doris and Kyle stayed together, arms around each other. Kyle looked deep into Doris' eyes smiling in happy confusion. He had picked up the warm tenderness she felt for him. She, in turn, had seen how much he wished he had a chance with her. Both were amazed and delighted that the other wanted them. The rest of the group smiled in understanding. They had picked up on this mutual attraction long before either of them had.
Liz and Tess were both especially happy for Kyle. Liz, because Kyle had been a good friend for so long, and Tess for the sister-like closeness she had come to feel for this big handsome boy. Doris was a good person, warm and caring; they both felt he couldn't be in better hands.
Jim was going off duty and asked Jarod home to dinner. Jarod welcomed the chance to have another talk with him. He would have to be going soon, and would miss his new friends and 'family'.
After dinner, they took coffee out to the front room and sat in front of the T.V. They talked of their 'kids' and the sheriff told Jarod some of the more harrowing adventures they had been in. Then Jarod shared some of his more harrowing escapes as a lead in to the subject he hated most. Leaving.
"But why can't you just stay here? You're so good with those false identities you make, and I guarantee that the local fuzz, me, won't try to break it." He added with a grin. Jim had come to really like and respect Jarod and would miss him. "It's funny but it's been, what, less than a week since I met you, and yet I feel that if you leave, I'll be losing a long time friend. Stay won't you?"
"Jim, there is nothing I would like more. But I've been too long in one place without careful pre-planning. If I stay it could bring the Centre down on this town. I have to get rid of the car and find another, change personalities, and I promised I would try and find out what happened to Julius for Doris." He sat staring at the carpet for a moment, thinking of the profound difference it had made in him to be connected to this group. He smiled up at Jim . "You won't be seeing the last of me, by any means. I'll come back whenever I think it's safe or if you send that you need me. And don't forget what we talked about earlier today. I can't find more lonely members of our family if I'm not out there looking."
"You haven't told the others yet."
"Tomorrow will be soon enough. It's been enough of a day as it is… Now. What were you going to show me about black-jack?" Of course Jarod forgot to mention that he had done a stint as a dealer at a casino black-jack table….
The next day, Jarod waited for Luke after school, and asked to talk to him alone. Tess hitched a ride with Kyle, saying she would see him later. It was hard to say goodbye to Luke. Jarod felt a particular fondness for the boy.
"I want you to know that wherever I go I will still be there for you if you need me. The Center did me a favor when it went after you. One that I'm sure they will regret."
Jarod told him of his decision to keep looking for others like him. A decision he had made when they were on the road together. "I have a connection at the Centre that will keep me informed of any others they might find out about. I'll make sure I get there first, but even if I don't, I think we can depend on your new friends… our new friends, to help us rescue them." He gave Luke a hug. "I'm going to drop back by now and again, so you won't be loosing me, just misplacing me for a while." He said with a grin, and a suspicious moisture in his eyes.
There was the same suspicious moisture in Luke's eyes too as he hugged Jarod back. "You know, while you are looking for your family, you still have one here. Always."
They were silent for a moment, then Luke asked. " You've never shown me any pictures of them. Don't you have any?" Jarod brought out the picture of his mother and showed it to Luke. "She looks familiar somehow. Like I've seen her before….Wait! I know! Here give me your hands." Puzzled, Jarod held out his hands and Luke took them in his. "Relax, concentrate like in a circle."
Jarod closed his eyes and opened his senses. What he received was so unexpected, so filled with sensory output, that Luke almost literally 'bowled him over'.
Flash after flash at first. Like a picture slide show, of his family. Then as Luke refined the connection, he fed Jarod's own memories back to him. The memories he had received when he was healing him in the cave.
Virtually everything that had happened in his young life, was printed in his deep memories. Luke brought them out to his conscious memory and imprinted them over and over. Retracing the pathways until Jarod could call them up at will and re-live them, moment by moment, if he wished. From playing with his father under the sprinklers in the back yard, to having dinner with his family, or watching his mother make cookies with faces on them. Each memory a precious jewel beyond value. By the time Luke had finished, both he and Jarod were in tears, and neither one ashamed of it.
Jarod's tears were from the joy and sorrow the memories gave him. Luke's were from experiencing the deep emotions and gratitude that came off of Jarod in unspoken waves. There 'were' no words to say what he felt about so precious a gift.
Luke left only one set of memories just under the skin, so to speak, of Jarod's conscious mind. Where he could dig them out if he wished, but they would not surface to spoil the other memories on their own. They were those of the day that Jarod was taken from his family. Even this was gratefully accepted by Jarod. He would glean what he could out of it in his own time. Right now, it was as if he had both families at the same time. The one he was seeking and the one he had found.
Once Jarod and Luke had their reactions under control, Jarod brought himself back to the business of leaving. There was one more thing he needed to do, and he asked Luke for his help.
Four hours later at around eight thirty, Jarod and Luke walked into the Crashdown where the inevitable gathering was in progress. Luke slipped into the seat next to Tess, giving her a hug.
Jarod asked Michael to come outside with him for a moment, Maria too if she wanted. "You are not getting out of here without me this time, Spaceboy!" She said as she stripped her alien antenna off and followed him out.
While they were out, Luke spilled the beans on what was going on. He and Jarod had gone to Portales, this side of the Texas border and traded his car in for an old looking pick-up truck, and a small car. "It's a real learning experience to watch Jarod deal with a used car salesman." Luke explained. "He got a truck with the sweetest sounding motor you ever heard and got it discounted down to half the asking price, because of 'body defects', he called them. Then he found a perfect little car, good body, good engine, rear wheel drive. And got the salesman to give them both for his car, throw in a new set of tires for each, and a full tank of gas, on the argument that most people wanted front wheel drive these days, and the dealer wouldn't be able to find a buyer in a small university town like that. Here's the kicker, he told me ahead of time, that he wouldn't 'have' a front wheel drive, because you have so much trouble servicing them yourself. He said "it wasn't a good idea to buy a car that put you in the merciless hands of a professional car butcher!".
Tess grinned at his enthusiasm, but was puzzled. "Why did he need two cars? Okay, a 'truck' and a 'car'?" She corrected before Alex could get his mouth opened.
The answer came in through the front door right then, grinning from ear to ear. Michael announced, "You'll never guess what just happened!"
The whole gang yelled 'congratulations!', and Michael got miffed because everyone already knew. Maria looked more sober though and announced that Jarod was leaving.
Alex was the first to protest. "No way! We just got you. We don't want to lose you already!" All the others chimed in with similar feelings. There were hugs all around, as Jarod said goodbye to each member of his new family. He had had many similar goodbyes in his life, but hard as this one was, he felt better knowing that he was still connected to each of them. He would be able to feel them wherever he went. And he 'would' be back!
A last stop at his motel, and Jarod disappeared, replaced by a country boy, complete with high bib overalls, boots and a battered baseball hat, ridin' down the 285 toward Texas.
Shortly after Jarod left, the subdued group split up. Michael, Luke and Tess went off to discuss plans for group lessons, in 'special' talents. Kyle and Doris wandered off, shortly after them, 'to talk about homework'. (If you believe that, I have a nice bridge you can buy…..cheap!) Isabel and Max went home next. Max was still not a hundred percent and Isabel was not letting him out of her grasp until he was. Max let himself be herded out, even while protesting that the best medicine for him was being with Liz. *Don't worry. I'm still with you! * She sent. *Till the end of the world! * He sent back.
Maria had stayed to talk with Liz and Alex about the recent events. Now the three sat at the counter of the closed Crashdown, reluctant to separate. It was the first time in a long while that the three close friends had been alone together.
It was two weeks ago that Future Max had come to Roswell.
A lifetime ago.
Now there were new friends, new connections, new abilities that would give them a lifetime of learning and sharing. Each felt older, more ready to take on the challenges that having friends from 'out of this world' brought. And they were loving every minute of it. "Even the scariest parts!" Vowed Maria.
Right then and there they all agreed, that the day Liz got shot was the luckiest day of their lives.
About three weeks later, Doris got a letter from Jarod.
"I'm sorry to have to tell you this, but it is certain now that Julius is dead."
"About two days after we left, a man came up missing. It's a sure bet that the man is dead. His car disappeared but was found a few days later. It had run afoul of a cattle truck and the driver of the car, was killed instantly. The picture of the driver was of Julius.
"A coroner, (that you know well), verified his identity, and managed to hide the results of his blood tests.
"I can't tell you how sorry I am. But I think this was for the best. Perhaps he had lived to far out of the right to ever come back. Love to you all…J "
Max also received a letter from Jarod, and it gave him much to think about.
"Max, I've been thinking about you and Isabel. I know how much it would mean to you if your parents knew and accepted what you are. If they could experience the circle like I have, they would have no trouble accepting you both with open arms. Still not sure about trying it? Try putting the connection through in a dream. Feel them out. If it goes down well, then you can have just a few of the gang over for a meeting. Say it's a sort of group prayer, and invite them in.
"It's worth a try. Ask Jim about how he feels about all of you and how much closer his understanding is of you all. Ask how this connection effected him and Kyle. If anything, this should make you and your parents closer than ever before!
"Hope to feel new additions to our family soon!!! J "
"Hello Jarod. It's been a while since you called. Is everything alright?"
"I just wanted you to know that I have a family now. As real as my real family, but the Centre can't take this one away."
"You've needed someone for a long time, Jarod. I'm happy for you. You seem to believe the Centre can't fine out who they are."
"Are you sure?"
Jarod smiled, thinking of the easy communication he shared. The feeling of belonging and how it came to be. "Sydney, you wouldn't believe what I believe!"
Behind a vent, high on the wall of Sydney's office, Angelo turned away. There was a grin on his face, but a tear rolled silently down his cheek. At least Jarod had someone.
"Well gang that is it…the whole kit and caboodle. The end. Whew! (Pause to wipe sweat from brow…) I can't tell you how much I enjoyed writing this, and I really appreciate the input I got from my fans. You all helped! I want to thank my daughter too. She was my critical adviser on all aspects of the story. If it didn't make sense to her, or if one of the gang seemed out of character, she showed me the error of my ways.
If you got even a little enjoyment from reading it, then it was worth it!
Love to you all….C"
|posted on 16-Sep-2001 9:08:38 PM|
|I have a sequel I'm still writing at this location! Please let me know what you think of my stories!!!!|
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