COTS: Ep. 8 -- Moments (Z(M)/L; TEEN) 3/24/07 [WIP]

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Angel Kisses 70
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COTS: Ep. 8 -- Moments (Z(M)/L; TEEN) 3/24/07 [WIP]

Post by Angel Kisses 70 » Sat Sep 23, 2006 11:04 pm

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Lovely Banner by mrsjbehr. You rock girl!


CHILDREN OF THE STARS
Episode #1: The Pilot


AUTHOR: Melissa (aka Angel Kisses 70)
RATING: TEEN
CATEGORY: AU with Aliens; Zan(Max)/Liz; CC

DISCLAIMER: I don’t own Roswell or its characters. That honor belongs to Melinda Metz, Jason Katims and the rest of the legal eagles at the networks that produced and aired the show. I do this only for my own amusement and that of other Roswell fans. I get no money, from this, only feedback. Also, if you read a line that sounds like it's from the show, that's because it is. It's not mine. I didn't write it. I will be using direct lines from the show quite often in this series.


SUMMARY: What if Liz, Maria, Alex and Kyle were the aliens instead of the Pod Squad. They’re still human, but instead of the Antarians crashing on Earth, what if the humans crashed down on Antar? What would the show be like then? Here's my version of Roswell which (hopefully) balances the sci-fi and the romance better than the TV show did.

AUTHOR'S NOTE: Our podsters go by their Antarian names in this fic since they are from Antar. Their personalities will be like they are on the show.

To the mods: I'm reposting the first 9 episodes (chapters) of this fic here, since I have started to rewrite it and the original posting has long been deleted from the board.


* * * * * * * *


ACT I


Liz Parker gazed at the stars above her. It felt odd to see them just hanging there and not streaking by as she’d seen during the entire eighteen years of her life. And, to be sitting on real grass, instead of the computer-generated stuff from the holo-room, was amazing. Unable to keep it all straight, she pulled out her palm-sized, voice-activated computer log.

"Earth time: 2208, September 23rd. Personal log, entry number one. I’m Captain Elizabeth Parker and five days ago, I died. After that, things got really weird....”

* * * * * * * *

Five days earlier....

“One stabilizer for the auxiliary engine on Level Two, and one isolinear chip for the main frame in Engineering. Is there anything else you need me to do, Sir?” Liz asked, standing at attention.

Captain Jeff Parker looked at his daughter and smiled. “At ease, Lieutenant. Work detail is officially over. Why don’t you go and hook up with Maria and try and stay out of trouble, okay? I really don’t want to see your name in Chief Valenti’s security report for the second day in a row.”

“Yes, Sir!” she replied, then relaxed and smiled sheepishly at her father. “You know Dad, that incident in the mess hall wasn’t really my fault. Kyle’s the one who started the food fight.”

“And you just had to be the one to finish it?”

“Well, you’ve always told me a Parker takes no threat lying down. We fight, or we die trying.”

Captain Parker rolled his eyes. “I think I taught you too well. Just behave yourself okay, or at least stay out of the Chief’s way.”

She nodded and left the auxiliary engine room.

“You are so bad girl,” Maria De Luca said, joining her out in the main passageway. “You know perfectly well that you started that food fight.”

“No way. That is so in your imagination,” she denied, continuing to head for the turbo lift.

“Hey, I was there! What was it that ticked you off? Oh yeah! Now I remember.... Something Kyle said about you learning to follow orders when he was your husband.”

“Kyle is full of himself,” she replied. “And he can dream on about marrying me, especially if he thinks I'm going to take orders from him.”

“But Liz--.”

Suddenly, a loud explosion violently rocked the ship.

“What the hell?” Liz asked, picking herself up off the floor.

“Code Red Emergency. All hands to stations. Code Red Emergency.”

“Where are you going chica?” Maria asked, watching Liz run in the opposite direction from where they’d been headed. “You know we’re supposed to go to the nearest pod chamber.”

“Maria, a Code Red means we’re in mortal danger, and I, for one, refuse to cower down inside a life pod, and wait for whatever just hit us, to kill me!” she yelled over her shoulder.

Maria watched Liz for a brief two seconds, then sighed and ran to catch up with her.

Stepping out of the lift and onto the bridge, Liz was met by total chaos. Glancing at the nearest stat screen, she cringed at the video of the huge crater where the main engines had been. This was not good, especially since she knew the auxiliary engines were still offline and being repaired.

Captain Parker was barking orders to his frantic bridge crew. “I want Level 3 sealed off now. Ensign, do we have auxiliary engines up and running yet?”

“No Sir.”

“Sir,” said a female tactical officer, “Whatever hit us, wasn’t a natural phenomenon. Something out there attacked us.”

“Where did it come from?”

“I don’t know, Sir, but without our engines, we’re being pulled in by the system’s sun’s gravitational force.”

Captain Parker looked away from the forward monitors and spotted his ashen faced, yet stoic looking daughter. “Get to the life pods. We’ve got to get you out of here before we get too close to the sun,” he yelled at her.

“No, I’m not leaving you!”

“That’s an order Lieutenant. It’s imperative that you and the other young ones get away. Our mission must be carried out. You are our last hope. Now go!”

“Sir--”

“Maria, get her out of here!”

“Sir, please. Come with me!”

Captain Parker walked over to his daughter and hugged her briefly. “I go down with my ship and the rest of her crew. You know that. Head the pods towards the third planet in the system. It’s a class M planet. You’re the Captain now, Elizabeth. May God go with you and your crew.”

She hugged her father. “I love you Daddy,” she whispered. Then releasing him, she followed Maria back into the lift. She stared for the last time at the handsome man who was her father, before the lift doors closed.

As she and Maria ran to the nearest pod chamber, they could feel the rumble and shaking as the ship was drawn closer into the sun’s gravity. Finding one pod remaining, they quickly entered and strapped themselves in.

“All clear, Captain.”

She looked at Maria, startled, before realizing that she was in charge now. “Fire thrusters.”

They were thrown back as the force of the escape thrust shot them forward and out into space.

“Avert all power to the engines. We’ve got to break from the sun’s pull,” Liz ordered.

“But the radiation--”

“Will be minimal if this works. Otherwise, it won’t matter. Just do it.”

Maria nodded, lowering their shields and re-routing power.

She felt the kick as they broke free. As they sped away towards the third planet, the ship was enveloped by a brilliant, flash of light that lit up the darkness of space. She knew that the mother ship had just been incinerated by the sun. “Rest with the angels, Daddy,” she whispered.

Suddenly, a blast rocked the little pod. “What was that?”

“We’ve been hit. I think something’s shooting at us!” Maria replied.

She checked the monitors. “I don’t see anything--” Again, another blast rocked them. “Put rear deflector shields at maximum. Since we can’t see what’s firing at us, we’ll have to out run it. Continue on course for the planet.”

“Captain, we won’t have enough power to land. We have a fuel leak in the left thruster.”

“Then get us close enough so that we can use the planet’s gravity to pull us in. Try to control the angle, otherwise we’ll burn up in the atmosphere before we smack into the surface.”

While Maria concentrated on the flight trajectory, Liz tried frantically to find their attacker. She watched her monitor with horror as the other life pods also came under attack by the unseen enemy. Opening up communications, she ordered the remaining pods to head to the third planet.

“We’re coming up on target,” Maria reported, sweat forming on her upper lip. “Hang on, it’s going to be a bumpy ride!”

As they streaked through the planet’s atmosphere, Liz tried to see where they were landing, but there was too much turbulence to focus on anything.

“Brace for impact!” Maria yelled. “5... 4... 3... 2... 1....”

As they slammed into the ground, Liz heard the tearing sound of metal screeching in her ears. She was thrown forward as their movement was suddenly stopped by something solid in their path. Slamming into the forward console, she gasped as she felt cold, hard steel pierce her lower abdomen. Just before passing out, one last thought flitted through her mind, “I’m going to die.”

* * * * * * * *

Liz came to and found herself staring into the most beautiful pair of amber brown eyes that she’d ever seen.

“Zan, what are you doing?”

She swallowed, tasting the blood in the back of her throat. “Are--are you an angel?” she whispered hoarsely as she realized the eyes were part of a very handsome man.

The man with the beautiful eyes looked at her with great concern. “It’s going to be okay.”

She closed her eyes, as the world kept going out of focus.

“Look at me,” the man whispered, placing a hand over her lower abdomen. “You have to look at me.”

She managed to drag her eyes open and focus briefly on those beautiful, soulful eyes. Suddenly, her body convulsed as a warm, tingling sensation built slowly inside of her. She felt as if light were being poured into her veins. It was so beautiful.

“Oh my God! Liz!”

She briefly registered the sound of Maria’s panicked voice, and the authoritative voice of another stranger ordering her friend to “get back.”

Then, just as suddenly as they’d started, the sensations stopped, and she realized that the pain was gone. She could breathe normally again!

The man bending over her stood up slowly, shaking. “You’re all right now. You’re all right.”

“Zan, they’re coming. We need to go, now!”

The man turned to nod at his friend, and then looked back at her. “You’ll be fine. Please don’t say anything to the others when they get here.”

She nodded, standing up. “Your name is Zan?” she asked in amazement.

He nodded.

“I’m Liz. Thank you.”

Zan smiled shyly at her. “You’re welcome, Liz.” And then he was gone.

She suddenly felt so alone, even with a hysterical Maria clinging to her and pointing to the figures coming over the ridge. “Don’t say anything about this to anyone. Do you understand Maria? That’s an order.”

Maria nodded, too frightened to speak as they were surrounded by ominous looking, military soldiers with very dangerous looking weapons.


* * * * * * * * *


ACT II


Liz sat alone in a white room that was devoid of all furnishings except for the metal chair on which she sat. She knew they were watching her. She could feel their eyes on her--cold, assessing and judging.

She didn’t know how long she’d been in the room, but it’d been quite awhile since Zan had healed her. She sighed as she thought of his soulful eyes that had looked at her as if she was the most precious thing he’d ever seen.

Suddenly, the door opened and a tall, forbidding-looking man entered. He was clothed in a long, flowing robe of blue and purple, and his skin was a pasty white, almost gray in color. When he stopped in front of her, she saw that his eyes were the color of obsidian.

“Why are you here?” the man asked.

“I don’t know,” she replied. “Your people brought me and my friend here--at gunpoint. We didn’t really have a choice.”

“Why did you land on our planet?” he asked, ignoring her sarcasm.

“Well, again, we didn’t have much choice, as we crashed. Our main ship was attacked and destroyed. What’s left of my crew escaped in the life pods. We landed here because your planet is hospitable to our biological requirements.”

“Who attacked you?”

“I don’t know. We couldn’t see them. I think they had some sort of cloaking device.”

“Who are you?”

She straightened and lifted her chin. “I am Captain Elizabeth Parker, former Lieutenant Commander aboard the U.S.S. Jamestown. When our captain went down with the ship, I immediately became the leader of my people.”

“What are you?”

“We’re humans from the planet Earth, the third planet in our solar system, located in the Milky Way galaxy. My people and I are from a colonization ship--one of the last of our kind. We were attempting to cross the galaxy in the hopes of finding an uninhabited or sparsely populated planet to make as our new home world, so that we can rebuild our society and culture.”

“Why did you leave this Earth?”

“We had no choice. Our planet was going to die when the Hapsburg-Reilly Comet slammed into it. For our race to survive, we had to get off world and go out into space. Our ship was one of hundreds. All went their separate ways to try and cover as much of the galaxy as possible.”

The man looked at her with absolutely no expression what-so-ever, as if everything she’d told him went in one ear and out the other. After a few seconds of silence, he turned and left the way he’d entered.

“Well, good-bye to you too,” she said out loud to the closing door.

Turning back to face forward, she stared at the mirrored wall directly across from her. She knew they were on the other side of that wall, standing there, watching her. If that was the game these beings wanted to play, so be it.

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

Alone, Zan gazed at her through the observation wall. He was entranced. He’d never seen anyone like her before. He could swear he could almost see a glow coming from her entire being.

She’d told the Examiner that her name was Elizabeth Parker, a very strange sounding name. But, when he’d healed her, she’d told him her name was Liz. He loved the way it rolled across his tongue when he said it aloud. “Liz.”

He watched her suddenly stand up and walk towards him. If he didn’t know better, he’d swear that she could see him as clearly as he could see her. She stopped short of the wall and raised her right hand, pressing it firmly against the glass wall. Fascinated, he reached out and pressed his own hand directly over hers so that the only thing separating them was the thickness of the glass.

“Your Highness?”

He quickly withdrew his hand and turned to face his best friend and future second, Rath, who was standing in the doorway. He was also his co-conspirator in his escape from the palace this morning, and the secret keeper of his accidental meeting with the humans.

“What is it Rath?”

“Your father....”

He nodded and mentally prepared himself for his father’s appearance. Standing tall, he bowed slightly as King Marek of Antar, Supreme Ruler of the Five Planetary Confederation swept into the observation room with his band of advisors.

“Zan,” Marek said somberly, “so nice of you to join us today. No secret escapes to gallivant around the countryside? No shirking of your royal duties as the Crown Prince and future leader of the Confederation?”

He remained respectfully silent.

Marek turned to the Chief Examiner that had been questioning Liz earlier. “Well, what can you tell me about these beings that have been landing all over our planet for the last few hours?”

The Chief Examiner cleared his throat and glanced at Liz, who still stood with her hand pressed against the wall. “Yes, well,” the man said, clearly flustered by the intense look in her eyes. “While these creatures do look similar to us, they are not like us. Their cellular structure is different. Also, their brain capacities are not utilized as fully as ours. Their race has not evolved to our level, and really aren’t much more intelligent than the Gandar beasts that roam the Azulite Forest in the southern hemisphere.”

Marek nodded thoughtfully. “What do you think, my son?”

Zan glanced at Liz, and then looked back at his father. “I think they are quite intelligent and mean us no harm. I believe her story. But, to be on the safe side, I suggest we keep them here for closer observation and allow them only limited access to the palace and our city. Only then, can we learn of their true intentions.”

Marek nodded. “So be it. We will allow Captain Parker and her friend to stay in the palace. Bring that male the agrarian escorted in from the southern province to stay with her also. The rest of her crew are to be kept away and corralled in a secured section of the city. If this is an invasion force, she won’t be able to ascertain how many men she has left.”

“And if she’s telling the truth and they’re peaceful?” he asked his father.

“Then we shall see....”

As his father and his advisors left the room, Zan took one last look at Liz before following them out. He already knew her intentions, because he’d seen everything about her when he’d healed her. And what he’d seen had made his soul sing.


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


ACT III


“I can’t believe this Zan,” his sister, Vilandra admonished as she paced across the floor of her bedroom. “You sneak out of the palace and the city to go traipsing around the countryside which has been strictly forbidden. Then, to top it off, you go and heal some unknown creature that just crashed on our planet! You could’ve been killed by your act of lunacy.”

“And you,” she hissed, pointing a finger at Rath, who lay sprawled across one of her chairs, “How could you let my misguided brother do this?”

“Hey, don’t turn this around on me,” Rath replied, glaring back at her. “I’m not the one who thinks it’s his sacred mission to help all living creatures who are hurt--even if they might bite his head off!”

Zan sighed and looked at his sister. “Nothing bad happened. Everything was okay.”

“For now,” she snorted. “But what if she’s a spy? We’re in the middle of major unrest within the Confederation. There are those that want to see the ruling family ousted and would have no qualms about assassinating the future ruler!”

“You sneak out of the palace all the time to meet perfect strangers,” he replied defensively. “Why should what I did be any different?”

“Because, I don’t go around healing any of them, especially ones who ‘crash’ practically on top of my head! Besides, I’m not the heir to the throne.”

“Lonnie,” he said, looking at her imploringly, “if you could’ve seen what I saw when I healed her--.”

Vilandra froze in mid-pace and looked at him in shock. “You connected with her?”

“Not by choice. It just sort of...happened. Don’t worry, it’ll be okay.”

“Don’t you realize that changes everything?” she hissed.

“No, it doesn’t.”

Rath stood up as he absorbed this unexpected and unsettling piece of information. “Zan, she’s right. By connecting with this stranger, you’ve put our entire future at risk.”

“No, I haven’t,’ he replied angrily.

“Yes, you have. When your father finds out--”

“But he’s not going to, because you’re not going to tell him,” he warned Rath. “And neither will you, Lonnie. We’ll just act normal, and no one will be the wiser.”

“Act normal?” she asked incredulously. “That’s your big plan? Don’t you realize that it’s only a matter of time before Father finds out? And when he does, let’s just say I don’t want to be in your boots.”

“I couldn’t just let her die,” he stated quietly.

“What if she says something to one of the Examiners or to Marek?” Rath asked.

“She won’t tell anyone.”

“Really? How can you be sure?”

“I just can! No more questions. This interrogation is over,” he snapped and stormed out of the bedroom.

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

When Liz walked into the guest suite that an armed guard had escorted her to, she was suddenly knocked back against the closed door by a body slamming into her and squeezing her tightly.

“Liz, oh my God! I am so glad to see you. I was so scared. They asked me all kinds of questions. They had me locked in a little, white room--.”

“Maria,” she said forcefully, grabbing her best friend by the arms, “What did you say to them?”

“That we’re humans who were passing through their system when we were attacked, and our ship was destroyed.”

“You didn’t tell them about...?”

Maria looked at her quizzically, and then nodded in understanding. “Oh you mean about the ‘thing’ at the crash site?”

She nodded.

“No, I didn’t. In fact, they didn’t even ask if anyone was hurt.”

“Good,” she sighed in relief, releasing her grip on Maria.

“So, what exactly happened out there? What did that guy do to you?”

“Nothing, Maria. He did nothing,” she replied tiredly. “Let’s get ready for bed. We’re supposed to meet the King tomorrow, and I need some sleep.”

Maria looked hurt. “Oh, okay....”

Liz took off the jacket of her uniform by pulling it over her head.

“Liz,” Maria asked softly, pointing, “what is that?”

She looked down where Maria pointed and gasped. The hem of the tank top she wore under her jacket had ridden up, exposing a silver handprint on her stomach. She quickly pulled it down. “Good-night, Ensign,” she replied in a tone that breached no arguments.

“Um, yeah, good-night Captain,” Maria said, watching Liz disappear into her bedroom and shut the door.

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

Once she’d changed into the sleeping gown that had been left for her, Liz decided to go out on the balcony off her bedroom and gaze up at the stars and the planet’s two moons.

“Liz!”

She looked around at the sound of her name.

“Down here.”

Looking down, she spotted Zan standing near the shadows. She sucked in her breath at the sight of him. He was clothed in some sort of loosing fitting white vest and pants, and in the glowing moonlight, he definitely looked like the angel she’d thought him to be after the crash.

“I have to talk to you. Can I come up?”

“Yes,” she replied, stepping back to watch him quickly scale the large tree next to her window. When he jumped onto her balcony, she was reminded of a graceful feline crouching before its prey.

Standing up, he drunk in the sight of her. The light from the two moons made her skin luminescent and her hair shimmer as it moved across her shoulders. She was dressed in the traditional Antarian sleeping attire; its billowing folds concealing most of her body from his gaze. But, on her, it was enticing, making him suddenly want to peel it from her body, to see what it would reveal underneath. Swallowing, he looked into her beautiful dark brown eyes. “I can’t imagine how you feel right now. I mean, with everything you’ve gone through in the last day.”

“I’m still trying to absorb it all,” she conceded, trying hard not stare at the large expanse of bare muscled chest that his vest revealed to her gaze. “Trying to get my bearings straight, you know. Overwhelmed doesn’t even begin to describe the half of it.”

He smiled at her.

“What?” she asked, wondering if she had something from dinner caught in her teeth.

“Sorry,” he replied, shaking himself out of his reverie. “I keep picturing you in that gown with the, um, big purple flowers on it.”

“What?”

“Forget it. It was a long time ago.”

“Oh my God! That’s right,” she whispered in amazement, “You’re talking about the dress I had when I was a little girl! But, I just met you. Did you like read my mind or something?”

“No, I don’t read minds. When I healed you, I made this, this connection with you. And I got a rush of images...an image of that dress, as you call it, flashed into my mind, and I knew how you felt about it.”

She stared at him in wonder, almost afraid to ask the next question. “H-how did I feel about it?”

He smiled softly as he remembered what he’d seen and felt. “It was your most prized possession. Your mother made it for you before she died. You wore it until it was too small to fit you anymore. You cried the day you realized that you’d never be able to wear it again. But, you kept it and slept with it under your pillow every night until your ship crashed.”

She nodded in shock.

“Just having it near made you feel as if your mother wasn’t truly and completely gone,” he whispered, taking a step towards her when he saw the look of sadness cross her face. “I’ve never tried this before, but maybe, I can make the connection go the other way. So you can see... you can know that...that I’m okay.”

She nodded again.

He reached out to touch her face, but hesitated. “I have to touch you. May I?”

“Yes,” she whispered breathlessly.

He placed his hands on either side of her head. “Now, just take deep breaths, and try to let your mind empty.”

She nodded slightly and stared deep into his beautifully expressive eyes. Suddenly, a rush of images flooded her mind.

She saw Zan as a young boy sitting on the lap of a beautiful blonde woman, playing something that looked like pat-a-cake with an adorable little, blonde girl. She saw him playing some sort of sports game with the young man from the crash site. She saw him staring at the stars, looking so very lost. Finally, she saw him discovering her broken and bleeding body among the wreckage of the pod.

She could feel everything he was feeling. She felt his overwhelming loneliness. And, she could see herself as he saw her. She gasped as she realized he thought she was the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen.

He pulled away from her, reluctantly dropping his hands from her face and back to his sides. “Did it work?”

She nodded silently, staring at him with wonder. Something deep inside her soul cried out and recognized him, and she chuckled mentally at the irony of the situation. Here she’d finally found her soul mate after crossing seven solar systems, only to find him on an alien planet, unable to do anything about it because of her sworn duty.

Tearing her gaze away from his face, she stared at the balcony door. “Um, I really need to get some rest now.”

Zan felt his stomach drop with disappointment.

“It’s just that I have a very important meeting tomorrow that will determine the future of my people.”

“I understand,” he mumbled.

“Can you come back tomorrow night? I have a lot of questions about you and your planet.”

He smiled happily. “Yes, I will.”

“Good,” she said returning his smile. “Good-night Zan.”

“Good-night Liz,” he said softly as he climbed over the balcony railing. And then, he was gone.

She sighed as she searched for any sign of him, but to no avail. “Maybe he is an angel,” she whispered at the two moons, before turning around and walking back into her bedroom.


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


ACT IV


When Liz walked out into the main room of the guest suite the next morning, she gave a cry of joy. “Alex! You’re alive! I’m so happy to see you!”

“Thanks,” Alex replied, giving her his famous goofy grin and a big bear hug. “It’s good to see you, Lieu--no, wait, it’s Captain now.”

She sobered immediately and looked over at Maria, who was standing off to the side looking extremely nervous. Then she looked back at Alex. “How long have you been here?”

He shrugged. “About thirty minutes. You were in the shower, so Maria and I caught up on all that’s happened to us in the past forty-eight hours.”

She glared at Maria. “You told him!”

“Told me what?” Alex lied badly.

“Alex...,” Liz warned.

“Well, you are my best friend, and Maria’s my best friend, so....”

“Maria, I asked you not to tell anyone! In fact, I believe I gave you a direct order.”

“Liz, I’m sorry, but I needed to talk to someone. And you were being so closed off. Who better than Alex?” Maria explained quickly.

“Because Zan asked me specifically not to tell anyone. You were there, so you’d already seen.”

“His name is Zan?” Maria asked with sudden interest. “Oooh. We’re on a first name basis now, are we?”

“Who’s Zan?” Alex asked.

“The hunky alien guy who healed Liz’s stomach wound after the crash yesterday,” Maria replied, waggling her eyebrows.

Liz threw up her hands in exasperation. “Okay enough with the eyebrows you two! It’s time for serious discussion here. Alex, what about the rest of the crew? How are the others?”

“I don’t know. I haven’t seen any others. My pod mate was killed in the first explosion on the Jamestown, so I was alone in the pod. I had a problem with the guidance system. I think I was hit by some stray fire from whatever it was that attacked us. I had to put down in some remote farmland. Some farmer brought me to what I think was the nearest law enforcement building. Then, they brought me here.”

She chewed her lower lip thoughtfully. “I guess I’ll just have to ask the King when I meet him in a little while. Maybe, he can give me some answers.”

“Well, what are we waiting for?” Maria asked, throwing her arms around her two best friends. “We’re as ready as we’ll ever be to meet this King--you know, since our dress uniforms incinerated with the Jamestown. These aliens didn’t do too badly on cleaning and preparing our uniforms.”

Liz assessed their appearance. Maria’s blonde hair was cut just below her ears in the regulation Ensign style that all female, non-officers were required to wear. Her blue, one-piece, body-hugging uniform was also standard issue for all non-critical ship’s personnel. Maria had been a cook in the Mess Hall. Alex’s short brown hair was carefully parted to the side and his face was clean-shaven. His two-piece, forest green uniform denoted his status as being in the Science and Technology branch of the ship’s personnel, as well as his status as an officer.

Her own shoulder length, dark brown hair was pulled up into a regulation chignon. Her two-piece uniform was red since she’d been a Lieutenant Commander on the ship. Now that she was Captain, she wasn’t supposed to wear red, but she liked it. It suited her. “Besides, where am I going to find a purple Captain’s uniform on this planet?” she thought.

“We’ll do,” she said, straightening and putting on her ‘Little General face’ that her father used to tease her about. “Come on crew. Let’s go see where fate takes us.”

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

After eating breakfast in a private dining room under the watchful eyes of a half dozen guards, Liz, Maria and Alex were escorted to the King’s Council Chamber.

“Your Majesty,” announced the stout doorman, “the visitors from the planet, Earth: Captain Elizabeth Parker, Chief Science Officer Alexander Whitman and Ensign Maria De Luca.

Liz glanced at Alex and raised an eyebrow at his self-promoted title. He grinned sheepishly at her and shrugged. She nodded and smiled her acknowledgment.

“His majesty, King Marek of Antar, Supreme Ruler of the Five Planetary Confederation, bids you entrance and welcome.”

As the little doorman scurried out of sight, Liz and her friends strode confidently into the council room. Alex and Maria flanked her on either side, walking a step behind to emphasize her status. Passing the various, seated council members and dignitaries in the room, she walked directly to the head of the table and bowed.

“Your Majesty,” she greeted solemnly. Maria and Alex followed suit.

“Captain Parker,” Marek greeted. “Good morning. I trust you and your crew slept well.”

“Yes, your Majesty. Thank you for your generous hospitality.”

“Now then, what can I do for you Captain?”

She looked Marek directly in the eye. “I need to know the status of my crew. I need to know how many survivors there are and how they’re doing. Also, I wish to see them in person.”

Marek looked at her thoughtfully. “Well Captain, you do get straight to the point. I do not know the latest number of survivors we have found, the last time I heard, it was around twenty-four. That’s including you and your two crew members here. They are being brought to the capital city of Gravis that lies around my palace. They are being treated for their injuries, fed and clothed. But, as for seeing them, I’m afraid I can’t permit it...at least for a few days.

“My people are getting ready to celebrate the Joining of the Moons. It is a very significant time since this event occurs only once every fifty years. We are also in the midst of Confederation talks and security is extremely tight. Once both of these events are over, hopefully, your remaining crew members will have been found and brought in, giving you an accurate count. Then you may address all of them at once, instead of as they straggle in.”

She looked at Marek with narrowed eyes, and then relaxed. “Fine. I will wait to see and talk to my crew. However, I request that they be told that I am alive and well, and that I’ll be there soon to address all of their questions.”

Marek nodded. “Now that we’ve got that out of the way, maybe you would like a tour of the palace and see the surrounding city from the safety of the palace walls.”

“That would be lovely, your Majesty,” she replied, flashing him her best smile.

“Your guide shall be my son. He’s a flighty youth, but what can you expect from an eighteen year old,” Marek said, shrugging.

“I don’t know your Majesty. You tell me. After all, I’m only eighteen, as is most of my crew.”

Marek narrowed his eyes at her sarcasm. “Yes. Well, an Antarian eighteen year-old is a little different from a human eighteen year-old, I’m sure.”

Marek turned his head and snapped his fingers. “Zan!”

She startled at the sound of the familiar name. “It can’t be...,” she thought. But it was.

Zan emerged from the door that led into the King’s private chamber. This morning he was dressed in a white vest that was trimmed in gold braid. He wore a pair of black, tight-fitting, leather-like pants and boots. His black hair that had fallen so adorably over his eyes last night when he was standing on her balcony was now slicked back from his face. As he approached her, she saw the guilt and pleading in his eyes.

“He didn’t want me to know that he’s the Crown Prince!” she thought in sudden realization. “Fine, if that’s the way he wants it....”

“Captain Parker, I would like you to meet my son, Crown Prince Zan, and future leader of the Confederation.”

She heard the low murmur that went through the assembled dignitaries at the last part of Marek’s statement. She bowed slightly. “Your Highness. It is an honor to meet you. I must say, you’re not what I expected.”

He flushed, and she swore his ears turned pink.

“Yes, well, I get that a lot. If you and your companions will come with me, we can start the tour, so my father and the other dignitaries can get back to their conference.”

She looked at his proffered arm, then up at his pleading eyes. “Very well,” she agreed, and stiffly placed her hand on his arm.

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

The tour hadn’t gone very well. Liz ignored Zan’s attempts to draw her out, and Alex and Maria’s endless questions gave her a headache. When Zan invited the three of them to dinner with him, his friend Rath, and his sister Vilandra that evening, she begged off. After reassuring Maria, that yes she would be fine once she had a nap, she managed to ensconce herself safely inside her bedroom.

Needing to relax and forget about the surprise she’d received, she stripped out of her clothes and filled the tub in the bathing area with hot water. Settling herself into the steaming liquid, she felt instantly at peace. She sighed, closing her eyes.

“Liz?”

She opened her eyes open and abruptly sat up. The water was cool, and she realized she’d fallen asleep in the tub.

“Liz?”

Looking over her shoulder, she saw Zan standing awkwardly in the doorway, trying to look anywhere but at her. Her stomach did a little flip and she smiled, but promptly hid it when she remembered why she was in the tub in the first place.

Grabbing a towel from the floor, she promptly covered herself. “Do you mind?”

He blushed. “Sorry, I’ll go wait on the balcony.”

“Please do,” she snapped, and proceeded to get out of the tub and dry off. Quickly donning her discarded tank top and panties from the floor, she grabbed a plush robe from the back of the door before heading out into the sleeping area.

Belting the robe tightly, she padded silently on bare feet to the open balcony door.

“I’m sorry Liz,” he said without turning around from his observation of the now night-filled sky. “I didn’t mean for you to find out this way.”

“Why didn’t you just tell me who you were to begin with? I would have understood.”

“It’s just that I’m not supposed to be outside the palace walls, let alone the city. We’re in a time of civil unrest here, and it isn’t very safe for members of the ruling family, if you know what I mean.”

“Father would have thrown a fit, huh?” she asked softly, walking up to stand beside him. “I know how that is. My father used to be the same way.”

He glanced down at this tiny woman who’d found the empty place inside his soul and filled it. He wanted to touch her so badly. But he couldn’t. “So, do you have any questions for me?”

“Oh yeah, I do. Okay. Here we go. What is the Five Planetary Confederation exactly?”

“It’s an alliance between the five inhabited planets in our system to help govern trade and produce goods for the betterment of all the inhabitants. The other planets are not like Antar. Neteru and Osir are basically desolate planets, whose only value in our system is the mineral resources they produce. Tollan and Votan don’t have the resources, but do have the means to produce serviceable goods from those resources. On Antar, we have both, so we are the governing planet, as we understand all sides of the equation. Each planet has their own Royal family that governs the people, and act as delegates to the Confederation conferences.”

“Which is what is going on right now?”

He nodded. “Lately, there has been a turn in the satisfaction of the status quo. Certain leaders on certain planets have begun to create pockets of civil unrest. If we cannot stop it, then we could have the makings of an interplanetary war on our hands.”

“Why aren’t you at these meetings?”

“Because, I don’t agree with my father’s position on this problem. And rather than have his son and heir disagree with him in public, he’s--”

“Relegated you to playing tour guide. Out of sight, you can’t stir up trouble,” she said, a mischievous look in her eyes.

He grinned. “Yeah, something like that.”

“All right.” She glanced up at the stars and the two moons hanging over their heads.

“What is this Joining of the Moons your father mentioned today at the meeting?”

“Oh that. It’s an old Antarian legend. Long before we had the capabilities to travel in space, there were two lovers--a great warrior named Antares and his beautiful mate, Echo. And like all great tragic love stories, they were soul mates who could not be together. There was a great war and one day, Echo was given the news that Antares had been killed in battle. The news so devastated her, that she miscarried their child--a son. Unable to go on, having lost both her mate and her babe, she threw herself off the cliffs into the Krystlyn Sea.”

“Oh how sad,” she whispered.

“Yes, it was. For on the day she threw herself into the sea, Antares returned home from war, wounded but far from dead. When he heard about his mate and child, he went mad with grief. He tore off his clothes and wandered naked through the wilderness. The gods of old witnessed Antares’ grief, and wished to reward him for battles well fought in their name. So they raised Echo from the Krystlyn Sea and placed her in the heavens so he could see her always. That's her,” he said, pointing to the smaller moon.

“When Antares saw the new moon, he wanted to join her, so he threw himself off a cliff in an attempt to reach her. Of course, he couldn’t fly, and he fell to his death. The gods were angry over their warrior’s suicide since they still had plans for him, but the god of Love took pity on the lovers, and set Antares in the sky as the larger moon.”

“That’s so beautiful. But where does the Joining come in?”

“If you wait a minute, Miss Impatient, I will tell you. To appease the other gods, the god of Love placed Antares in a different orbit from Echo. They would be able to see one another always, but not be able to touch. However, the god of Love tricked the other gods by placing Antares in such a way that once every fifty years, he would be allowed one night of love with his beautiful Echo. When the occurrence happened for the first time, fifty years later, instead of being angry, the other gods wept at the lovers’ beautiful joining. They declared the occurrence to be sacred, and that any Antarian who kisses their love for the first time on the night of the Joining, would be destined to be together forever.”

“So what exactly is the Joining in the scientific sense?”

“Quite the analytical mind, aren’t you?” he teased with a smile. “In the scientific sense, it’s really a double lunar eclipse. The larger moon, Antares, moves behind the smaller moon, Echo and they in turn are covered by the shadow of the planet, thus ensuring our mythical couple some privacy. Oh, did I mention that the planet’s name, Antar comes from Antares?”

She shook her head.

“Yes, the gods wanted the couple to have their son, who was named after his father, with them, so they placed him within the planet, so that his parents would always revolve around Antar.”

She sighed. "I don’t think I’ll be able to look at those moons in the same way again. When does the Joining occur?”

“Tomorrow night. Would you like to watch it with me? Maria and Alex can come too. Rath and Lonnie will be there also. It’ll be perfectly safe.”

“Okay.”

He smiled. “So, any more questions, O Curious One?”

She shook herself from the spell that his story had woven around her and mentally checked her list of questions. “Um, just one more. What exactly did you do to me at the crash site? I was definitely dying. How did you heal me? You even repaired the hole in my uniform!”

“Oh that...well, my people have the ability to manipulate molecular structures. I’m one of the few Antarians who are powerful enough to repair the extensive damage that was done to you. And I’m the only one, who can bring back the ones who are on the cusp of death.”

“I was dead?” she squeaked.

“Almost. Your heartbeat was so faint; I almost missed it when I dragged you out of the wreckage.”

“That’s why you didn’t want me to tell anyone. No one knows about this particular trait of your ability do they?”

He nodded slowly, wondering if she would think him a freak. He was not prepared for the response he received.

“It’s a beautiful gift. Why don’t you want anyone to know?”

“Because people would expect me to be omnipotent. And I can’t be. I’m just...me. I can’t fix everything. So I keep quiet, and fix what I can.”

“So when you healed me, you risked this knowledge getting out, didn’t you. It wasn’t just your Father’s rule.”

He nodded.

“Why? Why would you help a complete stranger, especially since you’d never seen a human before? Why?”

Staring at her, he slowly reached out and caressed her cheek. “It was you.”

She turned her face into his palm and smiled. “Zan.”

Looking at her, he wanted to kiss her. Just bend down and brush his lips softly across hers. She wanted him to. He could see it in her eyes. “I have to go.”

“What?” she asked, as he pulled his hand away from her.

“I’m sorry, Liz. I can’t.”

“Zan, wait. Where are you going?” she hissed as he jumped over the railing to the soft ground below and ran off into the shadows. “Zan!”


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


ACT V


“Okay, so he just like ran off?” Maria asked Liz at breakfast the next morning.

“Yeah,” she replied, “It was really weird. Maybe the questions got to personal?”

“I don’t think ‘what the heck did you do to me?’ is a terribly personal and embarrassing question. I think the boy just got cold feet.”

“It doesn’t matter anyway,” Alex said staring intently at the two women sitting across from him. “It’s not like there can ever be anything between you and Zan.”

“Why not?” Liz asked indignantly. “Is there something wrong with me that would make me so unattractive as a lover?”

Alex shook his head. “No, the problem is you already have an intended mate.”

She bristled. “Kyle is not my mate yet! I don’t even know if he’s alive! Besides, I didn’t want to be mated to him back on the Jamestown.”

“Liz, you know the rules,” Maria said softly.

“Screw the rules!”

“Elizabeth Parker, such language! Did you kiss Zan with that mouth?”

“No Maria, I didn’t. Look, we have no ship, and we could very well be stranded on this planet forever. How can we possibly be expected to be made to mate only with other humans?”

“Because that’s our mission, and you’re our captain. You set the example,” Alex said firmly, leaning forward in his chair. “We don’t know if the other colonization ships survived. For all we know, we three and the two dozen survivors staying in Gravis are the last of the human race. We have an obligation and duty to our species to try to help it survive, thrive and grow.”

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

“We’re meeting them for the festival tonight?” Vilandra asked at breakfast. “Wasn’t it enough that we had dinner with them last night?”

“Lonnie, they’re our guests, and Father wants me to keep an eye on them. I can’t do it alone. It’s too dangerous. I can’t be alone with Liz.”

“Why?” Rath asked, staring hard at his best friend. “Why can’t you be left alone with Captain Parker? What happened between you two? You’ve been practically throwing us together with that boring science guy and his wacky girlfriend like we’re some kind of buffer?”

He stared at the food on his plate. “I, um, reversed the connection.”

“Oh Zan, you didn’t!” Lonnie cried. “How could you do that? It was bad enough that you connected to her during the healing, but to deliberately do it?”

“I know. It’s just that she was curious about our people and what I did....”

“You have to stop this, now,” Vilandra ordered. "You know you’re not free to pursue this relationship. You have too many duties--”

“And too many responsibilities as the Crown Prince and future leader of the Confederation,” he mimicked. “I know, I know. I’ve heard that speech so many times from Father, that I hear it in my sleep. I will stop it. Tonight. After the festival.”

“You’d better Zan,” Rath warned softly, “Otherwise we’re all doomed.”

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

Liz had thought all day about what Alex had said, and she sighed. He was right. She had a duty that she’d sworn to uphold when she’d become an officer on the Jamestown.

Now as she walked behind Zan and the others through the palace gardens, she braced herself for what she was going to have to tell him. King Marek and the other planet dignitaries were seated in the royal observation box on top of the palace walls. So, it was just the six of them, wandering around and watching the two moons move closer together.

Spotting a beautifully exotic, white flower blooming in the moonlight, she bent down to smell it. It was amazing to smell a real flower after eighteen years of fake ones in the holo-room.

Suddenly, she froze as the sound of movement in the near-by hedges caught her attention. Pretending to be looking at the moons, she moved closer, and spotted a dark figure in the shadows of the middle hedgerow.

“Liz! What are you doing?” Zan called out as he approached her.

The glint of metal in the moonlight caused her to react instinctively. “Run Zan!”

Throwing herself at the assailant, she quickly dodged the murderous swing of the would-be assassin’s blade. Sweeping her leg around to knock her opponent’s legs out from underneath him, she felt the sting of an energy blast grazing her side.

“Hey, no fair fighting dirty,” she said, and stomped down hard on what she thought should be the tender area between the assassin’s legs. Unfortunately, it didn’t seem to faze him, as he grabbed her foot and threw her across the garden. She slammed into the trunk of a near-by tree. Dazed, she managed to focus her vision, just as the assassin raised his blade to remove her head from her shoulders.

She flinched as a blue-colored blast of energy slammed into the assassin’s back. The assassin screamed in agony, then crumpled to the ground, dead.

She looked in the direction of the blast to see Rath, his hand outstretched, standing next to Zan. Maria and Alex ran up to her.

“My God Liz, are you okay?” Maria asked frantically.

“Oh yeah. Just a bump on the noggin and a little singed around the edges. Nothing major.”

“What in God’s name possessed you to go after an assassin unarmed?” Alex demanded.

“He was going to kill Zan. I was trying to give him time to get away. What in the heck was that thing?”

“A Neteru mercenary,” Zan replied as he, Rath and Vilandra came over to inspect the body.

“Why didn’t he curl up in agony when I stomped him between the legs? That move always works.”

“Because they’re eunuchs,” Rath said. “I’ll take the body to the guards and see if I can figure out who this corpse was working for. Then, I’m going to have a word with the Chief Examiner about his security measures.”

Zan nodded. “Lonnie, take Alex and Maria back to the palace. We’ll watch the Joining from the balcony in your room.”

“But, what about you and Liz?” Vilandra asked, glancing anxiously between the two.

“We’ll be right behind you,” he said crouching down to check out the wound to Liz’s side. “I just need to patch Liz up a little bit before she moves, okay?”

“Fine. Whatever. Just remember what I said earlier.”

As the others walked off, Liz looked up into Zan’s concerned expression and winced.

“Ow!”

“Sorry. You got a bit of an energy burn. Sometimes Rath can be a little wild with his shots.”

“Rath did this to me? Remind me to pay him back when we get inside,” she gasped.

He placed his hand over the burn.

She watched in fascination as his hand began to glow. She could feel the warm, tingling sensation start to flow through her torso.

“There,” he said, “All better.”

Staring into his amber brown eyes, she touched the back of her head briefly. “What about this lump?”

“I think I can handle that too,” he whispered, as he kept his right hand on her ribs and used his left hand to heal her head.

This time she saw and felt the flash of his desire to kiss her. Tilting her head back and slightly to the side, she drew in a deep breath, causing her lips to part invitingly.

He stared at her and groaned. He couldn’t control it. They were safely hidden in the shadows of the tree. He had to kiss her. Lowering his head, he softly brushed his lips against hers.

To Liz, it felt like a butterfly’s caress--quick and gentle. Then it changed, as she felt his grip on her side and the back of her head tighten.

He had to taste her. Just a little more. She was so sweet. He reached out with the tip of his tongue and lightly licked her lips, coaxing her to open up to him and respond. She did so willingly, meeting his tongue thrust for thrust with her own.

High above them, directly over the tree they were under, Antares joined with his beautiful Echo just before they too were blanketed in the privacy of the planet’s shadow. And all across Antar, hundreds of Antarians kissed their true loves for the very first time.

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

Walking through the gardens towards the palace, Zan and Liz held hands in silence. As they stepped into the light from the palace windows, she pulled her hand away from him.

He turned to look at her. “Hey,” he whispered.

“Hey,” she said smiling slightly.

He reached out and pushed a stray piece of hair behind her ear. “You had a, uh, from the fight....”

“Hair thing, right. Thanks.”

“Sure.”

“Zan, it’s not going to work you know. We can’t let what happened tonight, happen again.”

“I know. I just don’t care.”

“But you should. You’re the future king of your planet, and I’m a homeless human who’s suddenly in charge of trying to keep her species from becoming extinct. You and I can never be.”

“I can’t help it. I want this to be something more. You fill up that lonely place inside my soul,” he said, looking at her with hopeful, puppy-dog eyes.

She smiled sadly at him. “I really wish this could be something more. But it can’t. We have different....”

“Destinies,” he whispered softly.

“Yeah.”

He sighed. “I guess I’ll be seeing you around.”

She nodded and started to walk away, but stopped to look at him once more. “Zan.... Thank you for saving my life.”

He smiled and reached out to briefly caress her cheek. “Thank you,” he whispered, then dropped his hand back to his side and watched her walk into the palace alone.

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

“It’s been five days since my ship crashed, my father died, I became the leader of my surviving crew, and I almost died. But then the really amazing thing happened. I met someone who was as lonely as I was, and he brought me back to life.”

Putting away her computer log, she glanced one last time at the two moons, Antares and Echo. The Joining was over. There would not be another for fifty years. “At least they can still see one another,” she thought, standing up. “Even if they can’t touch.” Turning to the tree that grew by her window, she climbed it, jumped to her balcony, and walked into her bedroom.



**FADE TO BLACK**
**end of EPISODE 101**


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


I know that some of you have read this before, but I also know that there are a lot of new faces on the board who have never read this. I hope you enjoyed it anyway.

I have 8 MORE episodes of this series already written. I will post one a week, every Saturday night, just like a weekly TV show.

Oh, and Petal, if you're reading this, would you be interested in doing a banner for the series? I would really like one for each episode, but I'm not sure if the mods will allow that.

Later Daze,
Mel
Last edited by Angel Kisses 70 on Sat Mar 24, 2007 11:01 pm, edited 17 times in total.

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Angel Kisses 70
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COTS: Episode 2 -- Duties

Post by Angel Kisses 70 » Sat Sep 30, 2006 9:17 pm

CHILDREN OF THE STARS:
Episode #2: Duties


RATING: This particular episode is TEEN.


AUTOR'S NOTE: I wanted to let you guys know that I'm shortening the title in my postings to COTS so that I can get everything I need to on the subject line.

And now for the thank yous for the lovely people who read this and left me feedback:

LairaBehr4 -- Thank you! I hope you got to finish the rest of Episode 1 and that you enjoyed it.
Ellie -- Thanks! Glad you're enjoying it!
Flamehair -- Thank you so much!
aussietrueblue -- Thank you and I will!
polar vixen -- I'm happy that you like it! Thanks!
mrsjbehr -- Thanks girl! Hope you can wait for the newest episode when it comes out in 7 weeks!
Natz -- Thank you! I feel the love! LOL
carter13 -- Thanks!
Bri+Jason2830 -- Glad you're enjoying it so far! Thanks!
vampyrax -- Aww, I'm blushing! :oops: Thank you!
ShatteredDreamer -- Thank you! Yes, my time is limited, but the great thing is these characters are actually talking to me again, so I am hard at work writing episode 10. Also, I have a lot of this series already outlined out, so I know where I am going with it and how it's all going to end. :twisted:

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


ACT I


Cocking her head to the side, Liz stared at her reflection in the bathroom mirror as if searching for something. Shaking her head in disappointment, she turned and walked into the bedroom. Glancing out the window at the clear azure sky, she yawned and swiped her personal computer log from the foot of the bed.

“Earth time: 2108, September 27th. Personal log entry number five. I’m Captain Elizabeth Parker, formerly Lieutenant Commander, of the colonization ship, U.S.S. Jamestown. I keep looking in the mirror to see if there’s a change in my outward appearance. Something... anything... that would confirm that I’m going to be able to lead what’s left of the crew to the new home we’ve been searching for. I feel so unsure of myself, but there’s no one I can talk to about these feelings...except Zan.

“What did Zan mean when he said, "I’ll be seeing you around?" Was it just something someone says to be polite when they’re giving someone the brush off, or was it a sincere wish to be my friend?

“What is he thinking right now? Is he also obsessing and spending his nights tossing and turning, wondering what’s going to happen between us? Can anything happen between us?”


* * * * * * * *

Zan swam naked in a mountain lake, the stars and the moons shining brightly overhead. He felt so peaceful; his normal feelings of extreme loneliness and heavy sense of duty, non-existent. “Can life be anymore perfect?” he asked the moon called Antares.

“Maybe...,” whispered a soft, feminine voice, followed by the sound of someone entering the water.

He stopped swimming to scan the water’s surface. There was no one there.

“I love moonlight swims. Very peaceful.”

He turned to face the person, who’d just whispered in his ear, and found himself looking into--.”

“Zan! Wake up!”

Zan bolted straight up in bed, his hand ready to fire a deadly blast of energy at the intruder. Panting lightly, with a wildness in his eyes, he looked around and realized Rath was standing at the foot of the bed, looking highly perturbed.

“Hey! Don’t shoot!”

“What is it Rath?” he asked, lowering his hand and yawning. “What time is it?”

“Time for you to be getting up. We have a would-be assassin to find.”

“I was just getting to a good part in my dream,” he grumbled, moving to sit on the edge of the bed. “Couldn’t this have waited?”

Rath rolled his eyes. “Yes, if you want to find your head removed from your shoulders the next time you take a moonlit stroll through the gardens.”

“Rath....” he growled.

“Zan, someone wants you dead! Yes, I managed to kill the assassin from the other night, but there will be others. We need to find out who’s behind this.”

“Rath, I know it’s your sworn duty to protect me. Believe me; I want to find out who hired the assassin just as much as you do. But, the Chief Examiner has confiscated the body by my father’s decree, so there’s no way we can get to it and search it for clues. I mean, that would be impossible, right?” he said, standing up and walking into his bathroom.
Rath casually stared at the bathroom door.

Zan stuck his head back out the door. “Right, Rath?”

Rath smiled mischievously.

* * * * * * * *

Maria leaned across the breakfast table, wildly waving her butter knife in the air as she spoke. “I mean, what do we really know about these Antarians? Nothing. How can we be sure they weren’t the ones who attacked the Jamestown? How do we know they’re not planning, as we speak, to come in here and shoot us down in the middle of our--what are these things again?”

Liz sat back in her chair, keeping a wary eye on Maria’s knife. “I guess we can’t. And those things,” she replied, pointing at Maria’s plate, “are called sweet cakes, otherwise known as pancakes where we come from.”

“And you know what else doesn’t, like, particularly please me? Their powers. How do we know they won’t snap their fingers and blow us way into oblivion? Especially Rath--that guy creeps me out.”

“I guess we don’t.”

Maria slammed her knife down onto the table. “Okay, you’re being way too calm and matter of fact about this. Liz, we’re dealing with--.”

“The unknown. I know all of this Maria, and as captain of our bedraggled little group, it’s my duty to already know it so I can figure out how best to serve my crew. But, what you fail to realize is, we’ve faced the unknown our entire lives. My God, Maria, the three of us
were born and raised on a spaceship. The only thing we’ve ever known for sure is our mission. This situation isn’t any different.”

“But we’re stranded on an unfamiliar planet with unfamiliar people.”

Liz leaned forward, her eyes serious. “Guess what? If we’re the generation that manages to accomplish our mission, we’ll be residing on an unfamiliar planet, possibly with unfamiliar people.”

“Point taken,” Maria said, sitting back in her chair. “It’s just...that I’m scared.”

“I know,” she replied softly. “Me too.”

* * * * * * * *

Liz stood in the hallway outside the door to Marek’s council chamber, fidgeting slightly with the hem of her jacket. Maria and Alex were whispering softly to one another, and glancing at the huge Antarians that stood guard to the chamber’s entrance. Suddenly, the door was thrown open, and the squat doorman from the other day scurried out.

“His Majesty will see you now,” the little man sniffed, before turning on his heel and scurrying back into the chamber.

Straightening her shoulders, she put on her best “Little General’s face.” Alex and Maria stood on either side of her. Taking a deep breath, she walked into the chamber.

The chamber was practically empty, much to her surprise. The only occupants in the room were Marek, the doorman, the Chief Examiner, whom she recognized from her interrogation, Rath...and Zan. Quickly, averting her eyes from the Crown Prince and ignoring the warm sensation in her chest, she walked up to Marek and bowed.

“Ah, Captain Parker,” Marek said, regally, “What can I do for you?”

“I’ve come to request that I have access to my people. The reasons you stated for the delay are now over. It’s imperative that I speak to my crew so I can decide what the best way to proceed with our mission is. Also, if it’s possible, I would like to retrieve any equipment and supplies that might be in our pods.”

“And just what is that mission, Captain?” the Examiner asked suspiciously.

“To prevent the extinction of my species and find a new planet to make our home--one preferably conducive to our physiology and uninhabited, or sparsely populated,” she replied, looking the Examiner in the eyes.

“How do you propose to find such a planet with no ship?” Marek asked.

“I was hoping to propose a trade with you, your Majesty. If my people agree to the idea, we would purchase a ship from you.”

“But you have nothing with which to pay for it.”

“We, my people and I, would purchase it with labor. We would work it off based on a pre-agreed number of hours and jobs. It really is a win-win situation. You get free labor, and we get a new ship to continue our mission.”

Marek looked at her thoughtfully. “What do you think Zan? Does the Captain’s proposal sound valid and beneficial to you?”

Zan stared at her. “What will you do for food and shelter, Captain? Surely, you don’t expect us to give you free room and board?”

She stared back at him, refusing to show any emotion. “That is why I want to go to the pods. Each was equipped with the goods we would need to survive. We will use those supplies and food goods. All we ask is that we have some land on which to set up camp.”

“And you will pay for the rent on this land by working it?”

She lifted her chin higher. “If necessary, yes.”

“I will allow you to see your people,” Marek said, raising his hand. “But, I will need to think on this proposal overnight. Zan will take you to your crew.”

“Thank you, Majesty,” she replied, bowing again. “You have been most kind and generous. Many blessings upon you and yours.”

Marek looked surprised at the last part, but quickly masked it before replying, “And back to you and yours, tenfold.”

* * * * * * * *

“How did you know that phrase?” Zan asked Liz as they made their way through the city streets.

“What phrase?” she asked distractedly, studying her surroundings.

“The phrase, “Many blessings upon you and yours.”, Rath interrupted. “It’s a traditional Antarian way of saying good-bye.”

Liz stopped walking and turned to face Rath. “Where I come from, it’s an old Irish saying. My grandmother used to say it all the time, as did my father. It’s been around since before Stonehenge, as my father used to say.”

“Stonehenge?”

Alex stepped forward. “A megalithic structure that was located in England, and thought to be built around 2100 BC. Some legends said it was originally built in Ireland and transported to England by the legendary Merlin, a powerful wizard in Arthurian legend. Some believed that it mapped the trajectory of the sun, moon and stars, some believed it was a place of worship for the Druids, and still others believed it was a dead portal of some kind left abandoned by aliens.”

Rath looked confused. “What is England?”

“The name of a country on Earth that’s long gone,” Liz said quietly. “Are we finished with the twenty questions? I really need to see my people.”

“That’s enough, Rath,” Zan said, pushing him aside. He turned to Liz. “It’s not much farther. Only two more streets.”

She nodded and started walking in the direction he had pointed; Alex and Maria close on her heels.

Zan looked at Rath. “What’s with you?”

Rath stared after the humans and shrugged. “Nothing. Let’s go before they get lost.”

* * * * * * * *

A young man, clothed in a black robe, watched the Crown Prince and his party enter the modest looking building across the street from his hiding place. They were going to visit the humans. Interesting. Turning slightly so passing strangers would not see what he was doing, he slipped a small communication device from the inside of his voluminous sleeve.

“Zan is with the humans. Shall I proceed?”

“No,” a voice crackled over the device. “I have a plan that will rid us of the human infestation and the Royal Family, once and for all. Report back to base.”

Slipping the device back into his sleeve, the young man quietly faded into the shadows.


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


ACT II

“Well, how did the meeting with Captain Parker’s people go?” Marek asked.

Zan glanced at the Chief Examiner, who hovered behind his father’s chair. “Does he have to be here?”

“Yes, because what you have to say could be important to the security of our people,” Marek responded. “Now, what did she say?”

Sighing, he looked his father in the eye. “Captain Parker said the same thing to her people that she said to us. She proposed the idea of a ship for labor trade, and they agreed. They seem eager to get on with their mission.”

“Interesting,” Marek said, stroking his beard. “What else?”

“She asked them how many were able to put down safely and if their pods were intact. It looks like they have about two dozen pods that were intact and maybe three that were salvageable for parts. They seemed anxious to get to them so they could gather their equipment and supplies from them before they were scavenged. I reassured them that we had men guarding them.”

Marek motioned for the Chief Examiner to step forward. “How many of her people survived?”

“The final count we have in the city is forty-seven. However, we do have a report from one of the outlying areas near the Azul Mountains of an intact pod that had been stripped of all supplies and equipment, and no sign of survivors or casualties.”

“So, we have one, possibly two humans running around unaccounted for?”

The Chief Examiner nodded. “Is it possible that they’re connected to the assassin in the gardens the other night?”

“What?” Zan cried out. “The humans have nothing to do with the assassination attempt. The assassin was a Neteru mercenary. That had something to do with the Confederation talks, I know it.”

“Your Highness,” the Chief Examiner said, “We must look at all possibilities. While their story sounds plausible, the fact that the humans appeared on our planet during the talks when members from the ruling families from the other four planets were present is too much of a coincidence.”

“What...you think they’re an invasion force?” he asked incredulously.

“They are looking for a new home world, your Highness.”

“With less than fifty people? Not likely. No, this attack definitely came from inside the Confederation.”

Marek looked at his son intently. “And which one of our neighbors would you like to accuse as traitors? Do you really want to start a war today?”

“The assassin was from Neteru, which has the most outspoken opponents to the Confederation. We start there. But, we still need to check out the other planets. It’s possible that the party responsible used a Neteru to throw us off the trail.”

“Yes, but while we search, it is still time for us to secure our position and maintain the Confederation. It’s time we form a permanent alliance that will be reinforced by blood,” Marek said, staring pointedly at Zan.

He paled. “You’re joking. You said I would have time--.”

“The talks last week did not go well and only aggravated the unrest. It is time for you to marry my son--to save the Confederation and Antar.”

“I don’t believe it. There’s still time to bring about a peaceful resolution--.”

“And that is by your marriage to Princess Avaria of Osir,” the Chief Examiner said silkily.

“Ava! You’re joking. She’s still too young.”

“She’s old enough to have entered her reproductive phase,” Marek replied. “She will produce for you many strong sons. Besides, Osir is the planet that has been the most vocal about their dissatisfaction with their voice in the Confederation. If the beloved daughter of King Sero is wedded to the son of the King of Antar, they will be satisfied and that will only leave Neteru as the dissenting voice.”

“Which we will be able to subdue because they will be in the minority?” he asked, shaking his head. “This is not the answer, Father. We have to work to gain trust and compromise.”

Marek slammed his fist down on the table next to him. “You will marry Avaria to save Antar and the Confederation. You will accept her without hesitation when she arrives next week. And, you will accept the betrothal with a smile when we announce it at the Masque in two weeks.”

He glared at his father. “And, just when do you plan for this farce of a marriage to take place?”

“One year from today,” Marek replied, and then sighed. “Do not be difficult. You will grow to love her. I did with your mother.”

“And where is Mother, your beloved Queen, anyway?” he snapped. “Banished these last eight years to the estate off the coast of the Krystlyn Sea just so you can have your mistress, Kathlin, here openly in Gravis. That line of reasoning won’t work. You have no idea what love is Father.” He turned on his heel and stormed out.

Marek watched his son’s angry retreat and sighed.

“Do you think he will co-operate your Majesty?” the Chief Examiner asked.

“Yes, he loves Antar and its people. But most of all, he’s his mother’s son.... He’ll recognize his duty and face it, whether he really wants to or not.”

* * * * * * * *

“Look, we need a little perspective here,” Maria said to Liz as they sat in the palace gardens. “There’s all this stuff happening, and it’s dangerous. Yesterday, that Chief Examiner person asked me all these weird questions. And now, we have Zan’s friend, Rath, poking around. Do you know I caught him going through my underwear drawer?”

“Maria, you only have one pair of underwear, and you’re wearing them,” she replied, closing her eyes trying to relax the tension she felt. The meeting with her people had been intense and emotionally draining as the realization of everyone they’d lost hit her fully.

“Well, if I had more than one pair, that’s the drawer where I’d keep them. The point is, their line of questioning about that dead assassin is starting to creep me out.”

She opened her eyes and stared at her friend. “Don’t be ridiculous. Zan knows we didn’t have anything to do with that.”

“Unfortunately, Zan ain’t the king, only the Crown Prince. If Marek decides we need to go, all he has to do is say we’re responsible for the assassination attempt and we’re like...dead!” Maria said, drawing a finger across her throat. “Liz, I don’t want to be dead!”

“Maria, you’re going to be very much alive. Look, here comes Alex,” she said pointing at their friend, who was chatting with a couple of female Antarian gardeners.

“What the hell is he doing?” Maria asked, squinting. “Oh my God, is he doing that double-jointed arm trick of his?”

She laughed. “Yes, and I don’t think they appreciated it.”

“What, so now I’m a freak?” Alex yelled after the quickly retreating women.

“Nice one, Alex,” Maria said, as he sat down on the ground beside them.

“Hey, that trick always makes the human women weak in the knees,’ Alex quipped. “Makes them wonder what else is double-jointed....”

Liz rolled her eyes. “Yeah, like your brain.”

“Ouch....”

Rath had heard enough of the humans’ conversation, and silently slipped away from his hiding place in the trees. It was time to find some answers.

* * * * * * * *

The Chief Examiner walked down the dark hall to his office, the conversation between the Prince and Marek still fresh in his mind. He needed to talk to his contact.

Taking a quick peek around his office to make sure he was alone, he smiled coldly. Sitting down at his desk, he slipped a small communication device from his sleeve. Placing the tiny earpiece over his ear, he turned on the device.

“Yes, I know it’s late, but you’re the one who sent the assassin into the palace. I’ve done everything you’ve asked.... Yes, Marek is beginning to get suspicious.... No, tomorrow is not acceptable.... Listen, Marek is starting to push for Zan’s marriage.... No, I will not--. Hello? Hello?”

He yanked the earpiece off and slipped the device back into his sleeve. Opening his top desk drawer, he removed a scrap of red cloth with a small, metallic emblem attached to it. He walked into the evidence room that adjoined his office and stared down at the body of the dead Neteru assassin that lay on the examination table. He quickly shoved the cloth into the Neteru’s pouch that lay on the table. Then, without a backward glance, he left the room.

Rath stepped from the supply closet and listened carefully. He heard the outer office door hiss shut. Satisfied that he was alone, he walked over to the examination table.

Spotting the pouch, he grabbed it and began searching through it. Pulling out the scrap of cloth and emblem, his eyes narrowed in recognition. Tucking the evidence into his belt, he laid the pouch back on the table and quietly slipped from the room and the main office.

* * * * * * * *

“Are you insane?” Vilandra hissed, staring at Rath, who stood casually against the mantel of her bedroom’s fireplace.

“Hey, no one saw me. I wasn’t caught,” he replied angrily. “Besides, be glad I did go. I found something.”

“What?” Zan asked from his seat on the edge of the bed.

Rath pulled the cloth and emblem from his belt. “Recognize this?”

Vilandra stood up from the chair she was sitting in, suddenly very interested. “Is that what I think it is?”

He nodded and tossed it to Zan.

Zan stared at the familiar silver emblem. He’d seen it several times over the last few days. “Where did you get this?” he whispered.

“From the assassin’s pouch.”

“Are you telling us that the humans are responsible for the assassination attempt?” Vilandra asked, wide-eyed.

“No. I don’t believe it,” Zan stated emphatically, his gaze never leaving the emblem that Liz wore on the collar of her uniform. “This doesn’t prove anything.”

“Yes, it does,” Rath said soberly. “It proves that they’re being set up.”

“What? By whom?” Vilandra asked.

“By the Chief Examiner for one,” Rath replied. “He’s in on it, but I’m not sure why....”

“How do you know this?” Zan asked.

“I had a chance to examine the Neteru before the Chief came into the room. When I re-examined the body, I found this. He planted it. I know it.”

“Maybe you missed it,” Vilandra asked.

He growled. “I know how to do my job Lonnie, and this was definitely not there before the Chief came into the room.”

“Dare I ask how you got in there?” she asked knowingly.

“Hey, I’ve always said that my talent for breaking and entering would come in handy in my line of work.”

Zan closed his fist around the emblem and concentrated. “This isn’t Liz’s. I get no impression of her from it. So if a human is involved, she probably has no knowledge of it. I need to talk to her.”

Rath put his hand on Zan’s arm. “You can’t tell her about this. This has to do with the security of the Royal family.”

“This has everything to do with Liz,” Zan snapped. “She has a right to know that someone is trying to frame her and her people.”

Rath and Vilandra watched him storm out of the bedroom.

“You know this will only push them closer together,” Vilandra said quietly.

“I know. But, what can we really do to stop it?”


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


ACT III


“Do you really think it’s wise to be meeting Zan? Wouldn’t that be like encouraging the guy?”

Liz paused from fixing her hair and stared at Maria in the bathroom mirror. “Ok Maria, you know what? You’re making this into something it’s not.”

Maria snorted. “The man left you a love note.”

“It is not a love note! All it said was “Meet me in south garden after dinner.” Tell me, how do you get love note from one sentence?”

“Gardens, after dinner.... It all equals dark and romantic.”

She continued pulling her hair back. “Maria, you’re imaging things. There is nothing romantic going on between me and Zan.”

“Liz, I don’t think you should meet. Ok? I mean, we don’t know what can happen. I mean, the guy touched you, and you saw into his soul. Who knows what will happen if he kisses you?”

Liz couldn’t stop the blush forming on her cheeks as she remembered the night of the Joining.

“Oh, my God! You kissed him!” Maria squealed, hopping up and down. “What was it like?”

“Once, Maria. I kissed him once, and afterwards I told him that we could never do it again. That we have different destinies. He agreed with me. He knows where I stand on the subject, and I know where he stands.”

“Okay, that’s good,” Maria stated with a frown, “But what I want to know is, what did it feel like?”

She smiled dreamily. “It felt like I didn’t know where I began and he ended. I felt filled, yet I wanted more. I found...home.”

Maria shook her head slowly. “Man, you got it bad, and that ain’t good.”

“Well, it doesn’t really matter,” she said matter-of-factly, walking out of the bathroom. “My duty is to the crew and finding us a new home world. And his duty is to his people and one day ruling a planetary Confederation. So there’s nothing for you or Alex to worry about. Now, let’s go eat dinner.”

Maria watched Liz, who was practically glowing, leave the bedroom. “Nothing to worry about?” she muttered, “Yeah, right.”

* * * * * * * *

Rath observed the guards standing around the pod that Zan had removed Liz from. They looked like grunts who wouldn’t know the enemy if they came up and slugged them. This could work to his advantage.

“Evening, men,” he said, mustering every amount of authority he could into his voice.

“Commander Rath, sir,” one of the men said, quickly standing to attention. “What brings you out here, sir?”

“I want to investigate this pod. This was Captain Parker’s correct?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Well, she has access to the Crown Prince Zan, and since it my duty to protect him, I want to check out this human’s background. See if she and her ‘friends’ are above board.”

“Well...we have orders not to let any one but the Chief Examiner and King Marek himself near this pod.”

“This won’t take long. I need to check the safety of the Prince’s life in these creatures presence. I’m sure you can understand. My job was given to me specifically by King Marek, himself. He won’t mind me looking around for Zan’s sake.”

“I’m sorry Commander, but we still can’t allow you near it. Come here with the King or the Chief Examiner and we’ll be happy to let you look to your satisfaction.”

He nodded in fake understanding. “I’ll do that... what’s your name?”

“Teron, sir.”

“I’ll do that, Teron. And, I will let King Marek know how expertly you followed his orders. Many blessings to you and yours.”

“And back to you and yours, tenfold.”

Rath swore softly under his breath. He was going to get a look at that pod, if he had to drag Marek himself from his bed to do it.

* * * * * * * *

“So, um, why exactly are we here in this somewhat dusty and oh-so claustrophobic area?” Liz asked, squinting to make out Zan’s handsome features in the dimly lit crawlspace.

“We need to be somewhere private,” he replied in a low whisper. He stopped at the edge of a ventilation grate and lay down on his stomach.

Stopping to lie down next to him, she looked at him in confusion. “Okay....”

“This crawlspace is linked to the ventilation system in the Chief Examiner’s office, which will allow us to see and hear everything he says and does.”

“Yeah?” she asked even more confused.

“He’s up to no good, and it concerns your people and mine. I think we should find out what he’s up to.”

“Okay.”

“He’s with my father in the council chamber right now, so we could be here a while.”

“Ok, but I’m still confused. What exactly is the Chief Examiner doing? Has he accused my people of something? I mean is the proverbial other shoe getting ready to drop?”

“Other shoe?” he asked glancing at her.

“Sorry, old Earth expression. What’s happened?”

“Rath found something on the body of the assassin from the other night,” he said, pulling the scrap of red cloth from his pants’ pocket, “This. It belongs to you, right?”

She gasped as he revealed a Lieutenant’s insignia and piece of uniform. “How did the assassin get a hold of this?”

“He didn’t. The Examiner planted it after the fact.”

Studying the insignia, she bit her lip. “This isn’t mine, personally. But I have a feeling I know who it did belong to.”

“Did?”

“There were only three people who wore this insignia and color, and who would have been authorized to use the life pods. “I’m one, the other was Alex’s pod mate, Teresa Juarez, who died before we even left the ship and Kyle Valenti, who isn’t among the survivors in Gravis. He must have crashed his pod.”

He saw the slight look of pain in her eyes. “Who was this Kyle?”

She smiled fondly. “He was a good guy. He could be kind of a jerk sometimes, and other times he was real sweet. He was supposed to be my life mate when we reached the new world.”

He felt his heart contract as he heard the words, life mate, fall from her lips. No, this man couldn’t be her life mate. She was his.

“Truthfully, I didn’t want to be mated to him. I didn’t love him,” she continued tearfully, unaware of the turmoil on Zan’s face. “At least, not in the romantic sense. We grew up together. His dad and mine were best friends. I thought of him as a brother, and I think he thought of me as a sister. At least, I hope he did....”

He covered her hand with his. He couldn’t stand to see her in pain, physical or emotional. “I’m so sorry, Liz.”

“Thanks,” she whispered, staring into his eyes.

He quickly averted his gaze to look down into the Examiner’s empty office. “So, um, what’s it like to live your whole life on a starship?”

“Kind of repressing, at least for me, since I was the captain’s daughter. Everyone on the ship knew who I was and expected certain things from me. And, I was such a people pleaser, that I gave them what they wanted.”

“What was that?”

“Little Miss Solider. I became the perfect crewman, than ensign, then Lieutenant and finally, Lieutenant Commander,” she said, staring into space, “And now, I have to be the perfect Captain. But, I don’t think I can do it, Zan. Sometimes, I wish I could just run away to where no one knows me. Then I can just be me, Liz Parker.”

He reached over and brushed a stray strand of hair from her face. “Sometimes, I wish I could just be Zan. Not a Crown Prince or leader of the Confederation, but just a man with the freedom to go into the mountains and swim in a quiet lake underneath the stars. A man who could choose the woman he wants to marry and love forever.”

She stared into his eyes and then at his mouth. She leaned in slightly, and he did the same. The door of the Chief Examiner’s office opening, shattered the spell, and they both pulled back.

They watched silently through the grate as the Examiner walked into his office. He was followed by a figure dressed in black robes. They couldn’t see the figure's face because of the deep hood it wore.

“I’ve questioned all of them,” the Examiner told the imposing figure, “And this is who I want to start with.”

“Captain Parker? Have you set up the evidence?”

“I managed to plant the emblem from her uniform on the assassin, but I haven’t been able to find anything incriminating in the pods’ computers. They are encrypted and can only be accessed by the Captain herself.”

The figure nodded. “Then I suggest you get her out to the crash site as soon as possible. By force if necessary.”

The Examiner nodded nervously. “Wh-when does he want me to do this? She’s always with her people.”

“Take her when she’s sleeping. He wants those files.”


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


ACT IV


Zan burst into Rath’s room with Liz close behind, only to discover it empty. “Let’s check Lonnie’s room,” he said.

She nodded and followed him across the hall.

Vilandra opened the door and smiled warmly, but when she spotted Liz, her smile faded.

“We need to come in, Lonnie,” he said. “Is Rath here?”

Glancing coldly at Liz, she nodded. “He just got back from the crash site.”

Zan walked into the room. “Something’s up.”

Rath looked up from his seat on the edge of the bed. “You’re telling me. The Chief Examiner has so many guards on Liz’s pod, that it’s impossible for me to get close enough to take a look.”

“A look for what?” Liz asked.

“I’m not sure. Evidence pointing to human involvement in the assassination attempt. Evidence of a conspiracy and set-up. Someone wants you and your people dead pretty badly.”

“I don’t know who. We haven’t made any enemies that I’m aware of. However, hundreds of ships went out across the galaxy, so who knows what kinds of beings the others ran into.”

There was a loud knock at the door.

“What is this? A space port?” Vilandra said in exasperation.

“Wait, don’t answer it, just yet,” Zan commanded. “Liz, you need to hide. Go into Lonnie’s bathroom. It could be the Chief or his men looking for you.”

She nodded and did as he requested.

Rath looked confused. “Why is the Chief after her? What’s happened?”

“Let’s just say whoever wants Liz, will stop at nothing to get her. Go ahead Lonnie.”

Vilandra calmly opened the door. The door swung open as Maria and Alex barged into the bedroom.

“Don’t people even bother to be invited in anymore?” Vilandra snapped.

“All right, where’s Liz?” Maria demanded. “We know she was with you tonight, Zan. But she hasn’t come back to the room, and that creepy Chief Examiner just came by to speak with her.”

“Liz is fine. She’s--”

“Okay, I want some answers, all right?” Alex demanded angrily as walked up to Zan to stand face to face. “Because first of all, that Chief Examiner guy is acting really strange, demanding Liz’s presence. Then there’s the assassin a few days ago, which has the guards around here even more on edge. And, let’s not forget the little bit of mumbo jumbo you pulled on her the day of the crash! So, I want the truth, and I want it now!”

“Alex, calm down,” Liz ordered, emerging from the bathroom. “I’m perfectly fine. Zan and I were trying to find out why the Chief Examiner is trying to frame me for the assassination attempt.” She pulled the insignia from her jacket pocket.

“Is that who’s I think it is?” Alex asked.

“Yes. It’s Kyle’s.”

“Oh Liz, I’m so sorry,” Maria said pulling her into a hug.

“Thanks, Maria, but we don’t have time for this. The Chief wants to take me out to the crash site tonight. He wants to break into the computer files on board, but can’t because they’re encrypted. Only my password will unlock the files.”

“So, what are we going to do, Zan?” Rath asked.

Zan stared at Liz, feeling his heart swell at her look of complete trust and faith. “We’re going to let him have her.”

* * * * * * * *

Zan growled as he watched the Chief Examiner shove Liz towards the crash site.

“Down boy,” Maria said, “Believe me when I say, if he pisses her off enough, he’ll be walking funny for the rest of his life. She can take care of herself. By the way, doesn't this guy have a real name?”

“No, he's only referred to as the Chief Examiner. It's a psychological trick to offset the criminals. Now, would you be quiet,” Rath hissed at Maria. “Are you always this loud and annoying?”

“Hey, I’m not the one growling....”

Rath rolled his eyes and turned back to observing the scene in front of them. “At least they landed near the trees. Makes for great cover,” he thought.

“Okay, Lonnie, can you make out what he’s saying?” Zan asked.

Vilandra stood off to the side, her eyes shut in concentration. “He’s telling her to open the files. That he knows she is not who she says she is. He’s calling her a murderous bitch.”

“Okay, no one calls my best friend or my captain that!” Alex said fiercely. “It’s time to kick some traitorous Antarian ass.”

“Oh calm down, Alex,” Vilandra ordered, opening her eyes and pinning him with her gaze. “If Liz can’t stand a little name calling, then she doesn’t deserve to be called Captain.”

“Lonnie, concentrate on the Examiner,” Zan hissed.

“Hey,” Maria whispered “Where’d all the guards go?”

They looked at the area surrounding the pod, and realized that the guards had indeed disappeared.

“Okay, why am I suddenly getting a bad feeling about this?” Alex murmured.

* * * * * * * *

“Do you really expect to get away with this? Why frame me for the assassination attempt? That makes no sense whatsoever. We aren’t even from your system or have any interest in the politics of this world,” Liz said to the Chief Examiner, as he shoved her toward the pod. She felt the sudden need for violence rise in the back of her mind, and realized that it wasn’t from her. “Zan?” she whispered.

“What about the Crown Prince?” the Examiner demanded.

“Zan will know that I’m not guilty. I was there. I tried to stop the assassin. I even got injured. He will testify to that.”

“Why would the Prince care what happens to you?”

“Maybe because he and I are friends,” she said, stumbling as they approached the guards.

“What could he possibly have in common with you?” he sneered.

“More than you can imagine,” she whispered.

“Chief Examiner, sir. How can I be of assistance?” the guard, Teron, asked.

“I’m bringing Captain Parker to her pod to retrieve some files that she needs from the computer’s memory banks.”

“Very good, Sir. Did Commander Rath not come with you?”

The Examiner stopped in his tracks, and turned to look at Teron. “Why would Rath want to come here?”

“He wanted to do a security check on the Captain, sir. Said it was for Prince Zan’s protection.”

“Oh, he did.... You and the others go check the perimeters and make sure that no one followed us.”

“Sir?”

“We don’t know for sure who the assassin was targeting. Let’s make sure he didn’t have any friends.”

“Yes, sir.”

As the guards disappeared into the tree line, the Chief Examiner turned his cold, obsidian gaze on Liz. “Now Captain, let’s see what’s in those files. My contact is very interested in whatever information you have.”

“You’re making a mistake. There’s nothing in these files except our history on Earth, and logs from the Jamestown,” she said, sitting down on the edge of the broken pod.

“I know who you really are you murderous bitch. Just open them!” he ordered, extending a hand towards her. “Or, I’m afraid you’re going to meet with a very unfortunate accident.”

She nodded and climbed into the wreckage of the pod, praying that the computer would work.


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


ACT V


“We have to get to her now! He’s sent the guards to search for us, and if she can’t get those files open, she’s dead,” Vilandra whispered urgently.

Zan nodded. “Rath, you take the left. Lonnie, go right. I’m going to meet him head on. Maria, Alex, you come at him from behind.”

“Got it,” Maria said, shoving Alex in the direction Zan indicated, as Rath and Vilandra moved off in their directions.

Silently, Zan approached the pod.

The Chief Examiner was so busy watching Liz, that he didn’t see Zan until he was practically on top of him. “Your Highness!” he said, uneasily, backing away from the pod.

“What do you think you’re doing?” Zan demanded, glancing quickly at Liz, who began to emerge from the wreckage. “You allow an assassin to enter the palace, you collaborate with people who want the Royal Family dead, and then, you try and frame a race of people who are fighting extinction. Where does it end with you?”

The Chief Examiner raised his chin. “You have no idea how far I’ve gone, or how far this goes. You can kill me, but this is far from over. He will send another, and another, until you and your family are dead, and the humans are extinct.”

“Who is this ‘he’? How does he have the ability to get the most trusted man to the king, to turn traitor?”

“He is the true King. The one who will lead the Confederation into a Golden Age,” the Chief Examiner proclaimed. “He’s--.”

Zan and Liz watched in horror as the Examiner was suddenly hit from behind with a blast of energy that instantly consumed the man’s flesh, disintegrating him into dust.

Mere seconds later, Teron and the rest of the guards emerged from the trees, followed by Rath, Vilandra, Alex and Maria.

“Who did that?” Zan demanded, pointing at the pile of dust that had once been his father’s second-in-command.

“We don’t know, your Highness. I think the shot came over from that quadrant. We’ll go check it out,” Teron replied.

Zan nodded.

“What happened?” Liz asked, as the guards headed off to investigate.

“Someone used a particle splitter on him.”

“A particle splitter?”

He looked at her and brushed the stray piece of hair from her dirt-smudged face. “Basically, broke him down into smaller, dust-sized particles. It’s a weapon of war the Confederation banned over a hundred years ago.”

“The question is, who fired it,” Rath said, “And how did they get a hold of one? They were supposed to have been destroyed after the Treaty of Neteru.”

“Neteru?” Alex asked. “That was what the assassin was right? I’d say you guys have a lead to follow.”

“You’re right, Alex,” Zan said. “But, it’s late. We need to get back. I need to tell Father what’s been going on.”

“What exactly are you going to tell him?” Vilandra asked, as Zan grabbed Liz’s hand and started towards the palace.

“The truth,” he replied.

“That ought to be interesting,” Maria whispered to Alex as they followed the others away from the wreckage.

* * * * * * * *

In the woods, Teron watched the Royals and the humans merge with the darkness. Glancing back in the direction where the other guards had gone on a wild goose chase, he smiled coldly. Closing his eyes, he was instantly enveloped by a bright light.

As the light faded, his familiar black robes billowed around him. Grabbing the particle splitter from inside a hollowed out tree where he’d stashed it, he walked off in the opposite direction and disappeared into the shadows.

* * * * * * * *

After Zan had told his father the details of the Chief Examiner’s betrayal, Marek apologized to Liz, gave her permission for her people to gather their supplies from the pods, and agreed to the labor trade for a new ship.

As Liz and Zan walked out of the chamber room, he pulled her away from the others to talk to her. “Maybe, when things settle down a bit, you and I could get some lunch or something?” he asked shyly.

She smiled. “Lunch?”

“Yeah, if you want?”

“So, like in the city? Or, just in the Royal dining room?”

“The dining room--just the two of us.”

“Okay, great. It’s a date--no! It’s not a date...it’s a lunch!” she said, fumbling with the correct definition for what she’d just agreed to.

“Lunch...right,” he replied smiling.

She glanced over to where Maria and Alex were waiting impatiently. “I better get going. My people and I have a lot of work to do. Duty calls you know.”

“Yeah, I’ve got a lot of duties of my own,” he said soberly, glancing at Rath and Vilandra.

“Bye, Zan,” she whispered, then turned and walked away.

As he watched her retreat with her friends, Zan felt his heart contract. “Bye.”

* * * * * * * *

Liz sighed as she lay back on her bed and turned on her computer log.

“Ever since I met Zan, Rath and Vilandra, I’ve been thinking a lot about duty.
“Everyone has a duty to something. Whether it’s to a mission, a planet, a people or a certain belief. And everyone has to decide if that duty is worth the price of any pain it may cause in order to obtain the joy at the end.

“Because sometimes, a person’s duty can isolate them from everyone and everything. And sometimes, duty can make a person feel like they’re a part of something larger than life.

“And now, I, Captain Elizabeth Parker, understand where my duty lies and that I must carry on, despite the personal pain, so that I might experience the joy afterwards.”


Snapping her personal computer log closed, she laid it on the night table, turned out the lights and went to sleep, a small smile on her face.

* * * * * * * *

Outside in Gravis...

A lone, battered figure struggled to the palace gates. The guards there looked at him curiously.

“I’m here to see Captain Elizabeth Parker,” the man rasped to the guards, falling to his knees.

“And you are?” the guard asked.

“Lieutenant Commander Kyle Valenti. Her life mate.”


**FADE TO BLACK**
**END of EPISODE 102**
Last edited by Angel Kisses 70 on Tue Oct 31, 2006 12:44 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Angel Kisses 70
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COTS: Episode 3 -- Monsters

Post by Angel Kisses 70 » Sat Oct 07, 2006 11:04 pm

CHILDREN OF THE STARS:
Episode #3: Monsters


RATING: This particular episode is TEEN.


AUTHOR'S NOTE: A BIG thank you to all of you guys for the lovely feedback. It really makes my day and keeps the muse writing.

pandas 2001
Ellie
punkrock dreamer
Flamehair
carter 13
mrsjbehr
Asabetha
vampyrax
roswell3053
LizzyBug
Shattered Dreamer

and
kittens -- Actually, splitting up the ships is not that odd of an idea. What if something disasterous happened to the fleet, like what happened to the Jamestown? The entire human race would be wiped out in one blow. Also, one planet couldn't handle a sudden influx of millions of people. It would upset the delicate balance of the ecosystem. Today there are 6 billion people on Earth, so there would have to be thousands on each of these ships and hundreds of thousands of ships. As for the humans staying on Antar, you'll just have to wait and see what happens there. :wink:

Finally, for those of wondering about Zan's reaction, well here it comes....


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


ACT I


“Earth time: 2108, October 2nd. Personal log entry number fifteen of Captain Elizabeth Parker, formerly of the U.S.S. Jamestown.

“Lately, I’ve been thinking about monsters--the Bogeyman, Dracula, Frankenstein, and Aliens--the kind from old movies that burst out of people’s abdominal cavities and devour you. But none of them compare to the most evil monster of them all...the green-eyed one.”


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

Five days earlier....

“Kyle! Oh my God!” Liz yelled, rushing into his open arms. “We thought you were dead!”

Kyle Valenti enveloped Liz in a bear hug. “C’mon, you didn’t think you could get rid of me that easily did you? I’m tougher than that, remember?”

Maria jumped up and down around them, clapping her hands and motioning for her turn to hug Kyle.

Releasing Liz, he hugged Maria, and then Alex. “God, I’m so happy to see you guys. My pod ended up in a mountainous area. I had to hike several days before I found someone who could tell me where to go, and if there were others like me.”

“How’d you know we were here?” Liz asked.

“Are you kidding? You guys are like famous. Something about foiling an assassination attempt against the Crown Prince? Did you guys really do that?”

“Yep, though most of it was our fearless Captain’s doing,” Alex replied, squeezing a blushing Liz by the shoulders.

Kyle stepped up to Liz, and caressed her cheek. “Wow,” he whispered. “But then, I always knew you were special.”

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

From the balcony overhead, Zan stared intensely at the reunion between the four friends, but especially at the interaction between Liz and Kyle. When he saw Kyle touch her, he tensed, growling softly.

“I swear Zan, you’re like a Gandar beast after his bitch in heat,” Vilandra remarked slyly, glancing down at the scene unfolding below. “Unfortunately, this bitch doesn’t belong to you.”

“Don’t refer to Liz like that. It’s rude,” he replied, glaring at his sister’s smirk. “Besides, she and I are just friends. We know that we can’t be anything more.”

“Keep telling yourself that, little brother, because I don’t think your future bride will want to share.”

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

The next morning, while walking through Gravis back towards the palace, Maria did a double take. “Now, what is she doing here?” she thought, watching a familiar face duck into an alley off the busy walkway. Briefly debating the hazards of curiosity, she decided to follow.

She approached the dark-cloaked figure crouching at the other end of the alleyway and tapped her on the shoulder.

Vilandra spun around in surprise. Recognizing Maria, she rolled her eyes. “Of course,” she sneered.

Maria arched an eyebrow. “Going home, or sneaking out?” she asked, staring pointedly at Vilandra’s attire.

“It’s none of your business, human,” Vilandra snapped.

“You’re right. It is none of my business,” she replied, frowning. “However, if you plan on going that way, you’re going to get caught.” She pointed in the direction Vilandra had been looking. “About a half dozen of the palace guards are standing just around that corner. But hey, it’s none of my business, so I’ll just be going.”

“Wait. Why are you telling me this?”

She shrugged. “I don’t know, maybe because you helped save Liz’s life as well as the rest of us. After all, if the Chief Examiner had gotten his way, we’d all be swinging from the rafters, or headless, or whatever it is you people do to execute traitors.”

“We disembowel them slowly while they’re conscious, and then leave them in the forests for the Gandar beasts to eat.”

Maria took a step back and swallowed. “Um, okay. That’s so not an image I wanted in my head....”

Vilandra laughed. “I’m kidding.”

“Oh yeah, I knew that,” she said, relieved.

Vilandra nodded. “Sure you did. Look I need to be going. You never saw me, okay?”

“Sure, but--”

“Look, I’ll owe you one,” Vilandra said pulling her hood back over her head.

Maria pointed behind Vilandra. “I would, but....”

Vilandra turned around to find three, armed, palace guards standing right in front of her.

“Your Highness.”

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

“Okay, so you ran into Vilandra trying to sneak out of the city, but she was stopped by guards. Was she in big trouble?” Liz asked while she and Maria ate a late lunch in their quarters.

Maria shrugged. “My guess...probably. ‘Cause when we got back to the palace, they escorted her directly to Marek’s council chamber.”

“How about you? I’m not going to receive a summons to see Marek later, am I?”

“Nah, the guards practically ignored me. They were focused entirely on little Miss Ice Princess. In fact, if she hadn’t been playing with my head, she probably wouldn’t have gotten caught.”

“Wait, why was she playing with your head?”

“Actually, I think she was trying to joke with me....”

Liz grabbed her arm. “What exactly did she do?”

“Oh, I made some comment about executing traitors, and she popped off about slow disembowelment and being eaten by Gandar beasts.”

“Do I need to talk to Zan and have him talk to her?”

Maria shook her head. “Nah, it was no biggie. I think I’m on to Princess’ game. She’s all attitude. Nothing I can’t handle. After all, who better to throw it back at her than me, right?”

“Maria, we can’t afford to make Marek angry. We need his goodwill to get off this planet.”

“Hey, I’ll be good. Don’t sweat it, Captain. Look, I gotta go meet Alex. We’re going into Gravis to do some shopping and check out the nightlife. You want to come?”

Liz shook her head. “No thanks. I’ve got work to do. Also, I want to go check on Kyle. He was pretty exhausted after everything he’s been through.”

“Okay. Your loss. Bye,” Maria said and bounded out the door. When she reached the palace gates, Alex was waiting for her.

“What took you so long?” he asked.

“Sorry. Liz was ragging on my case about earlier.”

“You didn’t tell her about what we’re doing, did you?”

She put her arm around her best friend and smiled. “Relax, Alex. I told her that we’re checking out what kind of nightlife these Antarians have. She won’t expect us back for hours. We’ll have plenty of time to snoop around.”

“So, where do we start?” Alex asked as they walked through the gates and into the city.

“Where else? The bars.”

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

“Why don’t you start by telling me what’s been going on around here,” Kyle said, smiling softly at Liz.

She sat down on the edge of his bed, and laughed nervously. “Well, not a lot really. I was, um, pretty busy trying to get Marek to agree to my proposal of trading labor for a new ship. And, of course there was that whole, whacked-out Chief Examiner trying to kill me, thing. But other than that, not much to tell.”

“Liz, we’ve been friends for too long. I know when you’re hiding something from me,” he said, reaching out to hold her hand in his. “Now, spill.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about Kyle,” she replied, looking down at their clasped hands.

“Okay, let’s start with this Crown Prince Zan. Tell me what did he do to you exactly?”

Startled, she looked up at him. “What did Maria tell you?”

He shrugged. “Just bits and pieces. She was very vague. But she did mention that you were hurt in the crash, and that he fixed you.”

“Kyle, the Antarians have the power to change molecular structures. I had a small stomach wound, and Zan healed it by using that power. It was no big deal. It’s just that, we can’t let Marek know that Zan was at the crash site, because he and his sister aren’t supposed to be outside the palace right now.”

“The assassination attempt, right?”

“Yeah, that, and the fact that things are kind of tense right now, what with the unrest in the Planetary Confederation.”

“I see,” he said quietly, watching her face. “What happened that night...of the assassination attempt, I mean?”

“I just got a little banged up is all, but Zan fixed it. Again, no big deal.”

“Why did you put yourself between the Crown Prince and the assassin?”

She stared off into space. “Because, he was going to kill Zan. I owed him for the day at the crash. It was instinct I suppose.”

“Yeah...instinct,” he murmured, releasing her hand. “Listen Liz, I’m getting tired and....”

Standing quickly, she flushed. “Oh yeah, what am I thinking, sitting here babbling on, when you’ve been through quite an ordeal yourself. I should be going anyway. Got plans to go over. You know what they say, Captain’s work is never done. Will I see you at dinner later, or breakfast tomorrow?”

“Breakfast. You know how much I love to see you all rumpled in the morning,” he replied softly, staring into her eyes.

“Um, yeah,” she replied, averting her eyes. “Sleep well, Kyle.”

He watched her go. Once the door of his room slid shut, he slammed a fist down onto the bed and swore. He’d seen the way she seemed to glow when she’d talked about the Crown Prince, and the familiar use of his name. “What kind of name is Zan, anyway?” he thought with disgust. “Well, whatever, this Zan means to you, Liz, you’re mine, and I’m not letting you go. Not without a fight.”


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


ACT II

“Thank you for the report, Ensign Jackson,” Liz said, escorting the young man who looked no more than fourteen years old to the door of her suite. “Tell the crew that I will send them their job assignments over their computers later tonight, and that I'll see them in the morning. That will be all.”

Ensign Jackson saluted and left.

As soon as the door hissed shut, she sagged against it. She felt so tired. She wasn’t sure if she could actually lead her people, but she was going to die trying if she had to.

“Hey.”

She turned, startled by a warm, familiar voice. She felt her stomach flutter as she discovered Zan standing in her bedroom doorway. “How-how did you get in here?”

He blushed and walked out into the main room. “Um, I kind of used the usual route. You really shouldn’t leave your balcony doors open like that, especially at night. You never know who might walk in on you.”

“Like a wayward Prince, who I just saw at dinner not more than half an hour ago?” she teased, raising an eyebrow.

“Something like that,” he said, smiling slightly.

Noticing his guarded expression and tense body language, she stepped towards him. “Zan, is everything okay?”

“Yeah, everything’s fine. I just wanted to say hi. I didn’t really get a chance to talk to you at dinner, and it’s been a couple of days since we’ve said more than hello and good-bye to one another. I just wanted to make sure you were okay.”

“Yeah, I’m fine,” she replied smiling brightly.

He nodded. “How’s your friend? Kyle, right?”

“Yeah, Kyle. He’s um, good. A little banged up and exhausted, but he’ll be fine.”

“That’s...great. I was...surprised when Father told me that your, um, life mate had appeared at the palace gates.”

She looked away from him, to study the plush carpeting. “Yes, well....”

“Are you mated to him?” he asked.

“Technically, yes and no. It’s complicated.”

“Then explain it to me,” he said, crossing his arms, hiding the expanse of muscled flesh his vest left exposed. “Because, I’d really like to know.”

She sighed and sat down on the edge of the chaise lounge. “When we get to our new home, Kyle and I will begin the mating process. Our genetics are compatible with one another, which will produce strong offspring that will help the human race to thrive and grow.”

“You’re a breeding pair like livestock?” he asked incredulously, sitting down next to her on the lounge.

“No, all the young people from our ship are genetically matched to their mates. Maria and Alex are another example. It’s all a very carefully controlled, scientific process. However, if we don’t find our new home world in three years, Earth time, we'll go ahead and begin the process to start the next generation.

“You see, on board the ship, we can only reproduce so many children, so as not to overtax the food supplies. We’re allowed only a period of four years to reproduce. After that, there will be no more children until the next cycle comes around, twenty-one years later.”

“What about love?”

“What about it? Sometimes it happens. Other times it doesn’t. When you’re in our situation, you can’t let emotions rule you.”

“You told me that you love Kyle like a brother, and you’re still going to follow this path?

She smiled sadly at him. “You do what you have to in order to survive. Our grandparents knew this when they left Earth a hundred years ago, and agreed to it. This is our mission Zan. This is our duty.”

“What if you fall in love with someone other than your intended?” he asked leaning towards her.

She stared into his beautiful, pleading eyes. God, she wanted to lean over and kiss him. Just allow herself this one moment...but she couldn’t. “Don’t ask this of me, Zan. I can be your friend, but nothing more.”

He reached out to touch her cheek. “You deserve so much more than what you’re settling for. You deserve a mate whom you love as passionately as he does you.”

She closed her eyes, loving the feel of his touch, but also trying to fight back the tears. “I think you need to leave now, Zan.”

Nodding, he pulled away and stood up.

“You can use the door,” she reminded him gently as he started to head towards her bedroom and its balcony.

“Oh, yeah.” He smiled sheepishly. “Good night, Liz.”

“Good night Zan.”

Neither one of them noticed Vilandra watching them as he left Liz’s quarters and walked away.

Hidden in the shadows, Vilandra trembled with anger.

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

Maria watched the drunken display of two very scary-looking males from the safety of her seat. This was the fifth bar they’d visited in less than two hours, and she was beginning to get frustrated. “Alex, this is getting us nowhere.”

He sighed. “Look, I never said this was going to be easy. This is a huge city. And let’s face it, we are strangers here. Not only that, but whoever the mysterious HE, that the Examiner mentioned, is, he's going to know how to hide, especially if he's powerful enough to make the King’s second turn traitor.”

“Well, what do we do now?”

“I guess we hit the next bar.”

“Or, you could go back to your quarters in the palace and let a professional handle this.”

They both looked up to find a very angry-looking Rath standing in front of their table. At least, they thought it was Rath.

“What did you do to your hair, dude? And those clothes...,” Maria asked, waving her hand in front of her nose, as the stench finally hit her.

“I’m undercover. But, I won’t be able to meet my contact if you two are hanging around here,” he hissed. “Now, scram!”

“What contact?” she demanded. “Is this about who Chief Traitor was working for?”

He growled. “Alex, would you please take her out of here.”

Alex crossed his arms. “Only if you promise to fill us in on what your informant tells you.”

“Fine, whatever. Now scram!”

“Come on Maria. We’ll wait out in the alley for him.”

“No, go back to the palace. It’ll be safer.”

Just before she allowed Alex to drag her off, Maria turned and stuck a finger in Rath’s chest. “You'd better come and tell us what you learn, Mr. Broody Boy, or I will personally hunt you down.”

Rath raised an eyebrow at her and smirked. “Oh really? And what will you do to me when you find me?”

“Let’s just say when I get done with you, the word, boy, will no longer be an anatomically correct way to describe you.” Flashing him a smug smile, she turned and followed Alex out of the bar.

Frowning, Rath ignored the feeling in the pit of his stomach as he watched the way her hips swayed as she walked away from him.

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

Liz flipped on her personal computer and began dictating her orders to the crew into it. “In order to avoid confusion during the move, I have created a color-coded system so that everyone will have a clear understanding of what their job is. If there are any questions, please feel free to send them to me, because the important thing is to make sure everyone is on the same page. That way, nothing will get out of control tomorrow.”

Turning off her computer, she looked up as Maria came dancing into their suite. “Well, it looks like somebody had a good time tonight.”

“Oh yeah,” Maria said, hiccuping.

“Maria, how much did you have to drink?”

“Oh, probably half a dozen of Antar’s special brew. Not that many. See, I can still speak without slurring. Just got a good buzz.”

“Uh huh,” she said smiling. “So where’s Alex?”

“Oh, he decided to go ahead and turn in. It’s kind of nice that Kyle’s here now, so we can have the room all to ourselves again.” Maria looked over Liz’s shoulder at the charts spread out on the table. “Ooh. Pretty colors.”

Liz chuckled. “Thanks Maria. Maybe you should turn in now yourself so you’ll be ready for tomorrow.”

Maria started to head towards her bedroom door, when the chimes to the suite's door rang. “Oh, I’ll get it,” she said, turning quickly and stumbling over her feet. “Come in!”

“Maria! You don’t even know who’s at the door,” Liz hissed, as the door opened to reveal Vilandra.

“It’s just the Snow Queen. No biggie.”

Vilandra raised an eyebrow at Maria’s comment.

Liz smiled apologetically at Zan’s sister. “Okay, Maria, it’s definitely your bedtime. Nite nite, Ensign.”

“Oh pooh, you’re no fun, Lizzie,” Maria pouted. “Princess La-La can take a joke, can’t you Princess?”

“Yes,” Vilandra said seriously, “when they’re funny.”

Maria frowned. “Well, I think the temperature in here just dropped twenty degrees. I’m outie. Nite Lizzie.”

“I'm so sorry about Maria,” Liz said nervously as Maria’s bedroom door slid shut. “It's just---”

“It’s okay. I get it. She and Alex went into Gravis and spent a little time sampling our local nightlife. Her hangover tomorrow will be punishment enough,” Vilandra replied somberly.

“Um okay...,” she said awkwardly. “So?”

“So what?”

“Why are you here?”

“Oh that,” Vilandra replied, walking over to the nearest chaise and sitting herself on the edge. “I just wanted to see how your friend Kyle was doing.”

“Great. He’s a little dehydrated and exhausted, but he’ll be a hundred percent by tomorrow morning.”

“You guys are supposed to be married right?”

“Eventually, yes we will be. Why do you ask?”

“Nothing. Just curious. He’s kind of cute.”

“Oh..., well you’re more than welcome to talk with him. I don’t mind.”

“Really? Great. Cause you know, I don’t want to step on your toes, or anything.”

She shook her head. “It’s fine. Kyle’s a great guy. Anything else I can help you with?”

Vilandra studied her nails, and then stared pointedly at her. “Actually, I was wondering, when were you planning on seeing Zan again?”

“Um, tomorrow night at dinner, probably,” she stammered, paling slightly. What in the hell did Vilandra know about her and Zan? Was she planning on telling Kyle?

“Are you all right, Captain Parker?”

She glanced down nervously at her papers. “Yeah, I’m fine. Just a little tired.”

Vilandra leaned forward. “You know, if you ever need help to ‘talk’ with my brother, I’d be happy to help you. Any time, any place. If you get my meaning....”

“Yes, well thank you, but no thanks. Zan and I are just friends and I really don’t foresee myself ever needing that kind of help,” she replied, standing up. “Now if you’ll excuse me. It’s very late, and I really must get to bed. I have a long, busy day tomorrow.”

Vilandra stood and walked over to the door. “Good night. Oh, and Captain Parker?” she said, pausing to look at her as the door slid open.

“Yes?”

“Pleasant dreams.”


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


ACT III

Rath sat at the farthest table from the front door as he could get. He was counting on the dim lighting to help his disguise. He couldn’t allow his contact to think he was connected to the Royal Family in anyway.

Running his fingers through his now, dark blond hair, he tensed as he felt someone approach him from behind.

“The moons shine bright tonight,” said a mysteriously cloaked figure as it approached his table.

“Only so those of us who walk at night may see,” he replied to the designated code phrase.

The figure sat down.

In the dim light, Rath struggled to make out its facial features, but they were too well shadowed by its dark hood.

“So,” the figure said after motioning the waitress away, “why have you contacted me?”

“A mutual ‘friend’ said you might be able to help me.”

“Perhaps. What is your problem?”

“My farm. Marek has decreed my land to be confiscated for a new Resource Plant for the betterment of the southern provinces.”

“And what do you want me to do?”

“I know there’s an underground movement to dethrone Marek and his mewling brat, the Crown Prince,” he whispered. “I want to be a part of it. I’m tired of having the King coming in and taking whatever he wants. And, I know there are others that feel the same.”

“This is true, but the way you’re talking, it would be considered treason. You could be executed for that.”

He shook his head. “I don’t care. I have eight children to feed and clothe. My farm is the only thing that allows me to do that. Marek wants to leave me and mine to beg in the streets of Gravis.”

“Didn’t Marek offer you compensation for your land?”

“Only a fraction of what the land is worth. And as for relocating, have you ever tried to farm rocks? Cause that’s where he wants to send me and my family.”

The figure nodded slowly.

He resisted the urge to squirm as his companion remained silent; seeming to contemplate the story he'd just been given.

“Fine, I will help you. There will be a meeting one week from today down by the Krystlyn Tributary in the abandoned Distribution Center. Be there when Antares reaches his apex and Echo is in decline. If you are late, you will not be allowed entrance and killed on sight. Is that understood?”

Rath swallowed nervously. “Yeah, I understand. I’ll be there.”

Nodding his head, the figure stood up, its black voluminous robe swirling around its form. Turning, the hooded figure walked toward the alley entrance of the bar and exited.

Waiting a few moments, Rath jumped up and followed. Stepping into the alley, he spotted the tail end of his contact’s black robe disappearing around the corner. Hurrying to catch up, he skidded to a halt at the end of the alleyway.

The street in front of the bar was empty. The only sign of life was the drunken Osirian miner sitting against the bar's sign post.

“Damn,” he muttered, borrowing the expletive that he’d learned from the humans. Shoving his hands in his pockets, he trudged down the street in the opposite direction of the palace to take the long way home.

He didn’t notice the Osirian miner stagger to his feet and watch him as he turned the corner.

Smiling, the miner suddenly morphed into the black-robed figure and melted into the shadows of the night.

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

Zan stood on his balcony and stared up at the two moons. He wondered if Liz was looking at them also.

“Looking for something?” Vilandra whispered, as she walked up behind them.

He kept staring at the star-filled sky. “What if there really is someone out there for each of us. A soul mate waiting for their other half to return, you know? Like Echo and Antares. Do you ever wonder if there’s something more to all of this?”

She sighed. “Every day.”

“What if you found your soul mate, Lonnie?" he asked, finally turning his head to look at his sister. "Would you risk everything for him? What would you do?"

“I think I'd be a little scared,” she murmured softly, staring at the moons. Shaking herself out of the introspective mood, she looked at him with narrowed eyes. “What is this really about Zan? Are you trying to tell me that Captain Parker is your soul mate? Because you
know you can't do anything about it. You have to marry Avaria in order to preserve the Confederation.”

“I’m always doing what’s expected of me and being the dutiful Crown Prince, you know? Always following the will of the King. Never getting a chance to express my opinions and make my own decisions about my life. I’m stuck, Lonnie. I'm not sure I want to be stuck anymore.”

“What's making you think like this? The fact that Avaria will be here in less than a week or that Kyle Valenti has suddenly reappeared in Captain Parker’s life?”

“I'm not sure. Both maybe.”

“Zan, you took a big risk when you healed Captain Parker that day and connected with her. You took an even bigger risk when you allowed her to connect with you. In a year’s time, you’ll be expected to bond with Avaria, but you won’t be able to because you’re already connected...to a human! I have a very bad feeling about where all of this is headed.”

He sighed. “You’re just going to have to trust me, Lonnie.”

“I do, Zan. You’re my brother,” she replied, resting her hand on his arm. “It’s just Captain Parker that I don’t trust. I’ve seen the way she looks at you. I’m not so sure if she will follow her duty. But I am going to find out for myself just what her intentions are.”

“Lonnie, what are you going to do?” he asked, pulling back to stare at her warily.

“I'm going to pay Captain Parker a little visit.”

“What kind of visit?”

“You know. The usual.”

“You can't go around walking into people's dreams, especially the humans, who know nothing of your abilities. It’s wrong.”

She sighed and rolled her eyes. “Look, it's just to check things out. You know? For my own peace of mind.”

“Lonnie,” he said, a warning tone in his voice, as she walked towards the balcony doors.

Reaching the threshold, she paused to look over her shoulder. “It’ll just be a short visit, Zan. I promise. Good night.”

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

Vilandra lay down on her bed and closed her eyes. Before she drifted off to sleep, she thought of Liz until her picture formed in her mind’s eye.


Liz and Maria were in the palace gardens performing some sort of strange movements that flowed into one another gracefully. Vilandra remembered that Liz had called it Tai Chi, and that it helped her to relax.

“Some people are just rude,” Maria said, as she moved her arms over her head and stepped to the side.

“Maria, just ignore her,” Liz replied, as she brought her hands around to her front and her feet together. “I think she says the things that she does because she’s frightened.”

“The Ice Princess? I don’t think so,” Maria snorted. “I think Vilandra gets a perverse pleasure in putting people down and putting on airs.”

Liz shook her head. “Well, I’m willing to give her the benefit of the doubt.”

Maria shrugged. “Whatever. Hey, here comes your Prince Charming.”

Liz looked off to her right and saw Zan, dressed in the white outfit he wore during his nightly visits to her, walking towards them.

“Try not to jump his bones Liz,” Maria whispered, “You belong to Kyle, remember?”
Maria faded away and Kyle appeared off to Liz’s left, standing under one of the big shade trees.

When Liz turned to look at Zan again, she was surprised to see Vilandra standing next to her. “What are you doing here?”

“I just thought we should talk a little more. I thought I'd visit you in your dreams,” Vilandra replied, and glanced over at Zan.

Liz looked confused. “What do you mean visit me?”

“I'm not really a part of your dream. I just wanted to see what you were thinking.” Vilandra stared at Zan as he approached, a beautiful smile on his face. Narrowing her eyes, she pictured Avaria walking beside him and Zan staring lovingly down at her. Pleased with her results, Vilandra smiled smugly. “Hmm, interesting.”

Liz looked at Zan and gasped when she saw a petite blonde walking hand in hand with him. “Who is that?”

“That who?” Vilandra lied smoothly.

Liz watched in horror as Zan stopped walking and turned to caress the blonde’s cheek. Then he bent down and kissed her. When he pulled away, he was smiling. “I love you, my Queen. You have made me the happiest man in the Confederation,” he whispered, moving his hand to rest on the woman’s very pregnant abdomen.

Liz gasped, and tears filled her eyes. “No,” she whispered sadly.

“Why does this scene upset you?” Vilandra asked, observing Liz’s reaction. “I thought you and Zan were just friends?”

“I saw...the day he healed me...I....”

“Zan can’t love you. He’s destined for someone else. To save our people. Just like you are destined to save your own.”

Liz glanced down and saw that her own belly was heavy with child. When she looked up, Kyle was standing before her, smiling warmly and reaching out to touch her stomach.
“I hope we have a daughter as beautiful as her mother,” Kyle said, smiling as the baby kicked against his hand.

Liz began to sob. “No, I don’t want this! I can’t love you. I don’t belong to you. Zan!”

Zan was busy holding his infant son in one arm and hugging the blonde to his side with the other. His expression was one of complete happiness.

“Zan, please!”

“You can’t fight it, Captain Parker,” Vilandra whispered. “Kyle is your destiny. Just like Avaria is Zan’s.”



Liz woke up, and jerked out of bed, ending up in a tangled heap of limbs and blankets on the floor. Choking back her tears, she quickly placed her hand on her abdomen, and breathed a sigh of relief when she discovered its familiar flatness.

“It was just a dream,” she whispered, untangling herself from the blankets and crawling back into bed. As she lay down and tried to go back to sleep, the little voice inside her head kept whispering, “Who’s Avaria?”


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


ACT IV


Zan stood on the southern palace wall and watched as the humans below him moved the last of their equipment and supplies. They’d been going at it for the last two days, and he’d been watching every minute of it. He could see everything from his vantage point, especially Liz, who stood in the middle of all the organized chaos, directing the action.

He sighed sadly, as the thought of Liz no longer living in the palace entered his mind. He hadn’t been able to talk with her. If he didn’t know better, he would think she was avoiding him. The last two nights, her balcony doors had been firmly shut and her light was off. He’d assumed then that she was just exhausted by the move and setting up the new camp. But now, he wasn’t so sure.

“Captain Parker is very efficient, isn’t she?” Marek said, coming up to stand next to his son.

He tore his gaze from Liz to glance nervously at his father.

“I didn’t think she would be able to accomplish her task in the time frame she said they would,” Marek murmured, “But she continues to surprise me. Amazing to think that a woman--and a beautiful one at that--could lead so efficiently.”

“Why does that surprise you? Mother has always been capable of it. Or, have you forgotten that in the years you’ve had her sequestered away by the Krystlyn Sea?”

“Your mother and I have issues that go beyond anything you or your sister can understand.”

“Why don’t you try us, Father? After all, Lonnie and I aren’t children anymore.”

Marek stared down at Liz as she pointed something out to Kyle. “She will make him a good wife.”

“Who?” Zan asked, confused by the sudden change in the conversation’s topic.

“Captain Parker. Too bad she’s human. Antar needs more women like her. She would definitely strengthen the Royal bloodline.”

“And where did that thought come from?”

Marek looked intently into his eyes. “I’m not blind, my son. I’ve seen the way you look at her. You want her. Badly.”

“Excuse me?” he choked, surprised at his father’s revelation.

“True, you can’t marry her, but if you want to make her your mistress, I will not stop you. She would be a valuable asset to you, what with her beauty and clever mind. However, I suggest you act quickly, before her life mate, Lieutenant Commander Valenti, claims her.”

He stared in astonishment at his father. “And what of Avaria?”

“What of her? You will still marry her, and produce the required heir, but once that is done, you can turn to whomever you want, including the lovely Captain Parker.”

“Captain Parker would never be any man’s mistress,” he growled angrily. “She deserves to have a husband, who is free to love only her and no one else.”

Marek raised an eyebrow. “I’m glad you understand that, my son, because now you know that you can never have her. So, as of this moment, you will stop moping around here like a spoiled child, and act like the man I know you can be. Your future lies with Avaria and our people. And hers,” he said, motioning to Liz, “is with her people.” Casting one last glance at Liz, Marek walked away.

Zan gripped the edge of the wall, his knuckles white. His anger boiled inside of him, until with a curse of frustration, the stone under his hands blew apart.

Cradling his stinging hands to his chest, Zan stormed off, not realizing that Liz, who’d felt him watching her all morning, had finally glanced up, just in time to witness his angry loss of control.

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

Kyle walked hurriedly through the palace towards Liz and Maria’s suite. Liz wanted him to retrieve some papers that she’d said she needed. When he’d asked her why she didn’t get them herself, she’d snapped that she was too busy trying to get the last of the transports loaded. Knowing a hasty retreat when one was needed, he hadn’t said anything else and headed off on the errand.

As he turned the corner to enter the hall in front of Liz’s room, he ran into someone. “Oh God, excuse me! Are you all right....your Highness?” he said, swallowing audibly as he realized just who he’d crashed into.

Vilandra tossed her long, blonde hair over her shoulders and stared down at him imperiously. Her look reminded him of a mother about to scold a wayward child, which is why he was so surprised when she suddenly smiled at him.

“Well, if it isn’t the man I’ve been trying to talk to for the last two days. I was beginning to think you were playing hard to get,” she said, flirting shamelessly.

“We-well...I had work with the move, and all....”

“You know what they say about all work and no play, don’t you Lieutenant Valenti...or may I call you Kyle?” she purred, letting her hand slide down his arm.

He nodded and swallowed again. “Um...it makes Jack a dull boy?”

“Very good, Kyle,” she said smiling brighter. “And it looks like you could use a little playtime in your life, what with Captain Parker working you ragged these last couple of days.”

“Yeah, well, it is my job.”

“Of course it is. But what about afterwards? What do you do to relax and unwind? Hmm, Kyle?”

“I don’t think that’s any of your business,” he said suddenly angry. “So why don’t you cut the crap and tell me what you really want.”

Vilandra narrowed her eyes, then smiled. “Oh, but you’re a clever man.”

When he refused to respond to her compliment she continued on in exasperation. “Fine. I have a proposition for you that would be beneficial for the both of us.”

He blushed. “Look,” he stammered, “e-even though you’re like...the sexiest woman I have ever seen, I can’t do anything with you--.”

“I’m not trying to seduce you, you idiot,” she teased laughingly, “I’m talking about Captain Parker, Zan and their relationship.”

He narrowed his eyes. “What about their relationship? Liz says they’re just friends.”

“For now, but the way my brother looks at her, I know he’ll eventually wear her down.”

“Wear her down for what?”

“To be his lover of course. Have you ever seen them together?”

He shook his head.

“The vibrations that flow between those two could make a person spontaneously combust! And Zan can be very persuasive when he wants to be. At least that’s what Avaria told me.”

“Who’s Avaria?”

“Hmmm?” she asked. “Oh, Zan’s betrothed. Didn’t Liz tell you? Or maybe she doesn’t know....”

“Damn it!” he replied angrily, “I knew it! I knew he was up to something. Liz is always so trusting and willing to believe in everyone.”

“Of course,” she whispered, “if someone were to propose to Captain Parker, say her intended life mate, then she would be protected from Zan’s advances.”

“Propose? Now? But we’re not supposed to mate for another three years,” he said nervously.

“Think of it as providing morale for your people. They will see the two of you as a sign of hope that your species will continue on and not die out.”

“Well...I suppose since you put it that way,” he said, absorbing the idea and liking it.

“Good,” she replied, putting her arm through his. “Why don’t you come with me, and I’ll tell you everything you need to do to get her to say yes.”

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

“My loyal subjects, I thank you for attending this feast tonight. As you all know, this dinner has been for our new friends and the alliance we have forged with them. So without further ado, I ask that everyone raise a glass to them in their honor,” Marek said, standing at the head of the banquet table. The Antarians seated at the table raised their glasses to the four humans sitting off to Marek’s left.

Liz smiled up at Marek. “Thank you, your Majesty. My people and I are much honored. We’re also extremely thankful for the hospitality that you and your people have shown us, and also for the alliance we’ve forged for the good of all our people.”

Marek nodded his approval of her speech. “Captain Parker, your presence in the palace has been refreshing. You have proven yourself to be loyal, brave and kind. You shall be sadly missed.”

She glanced at Zan, who sat across from her and directly to his father’s right. She blushed slightly at the tender emotions shining in his beautiful brown eyes. She quickly averted her gaze back to Marek. “Thank you for the kind words, your Majesty. I shall miss you too, but as you know, I have a mission that must be completed.”

“Ah yes, your mission,” Marek said, sitting back down, “I think there is someone present here tonight who wishes to help you obtain your goal even faster.”

She looked puzzled as he gestured to her left. When she looked, she was shocked to discover Kyle had gotten up from his seat next to her to address the diners.

“Liz, you and I have known each other since we were babies in our cradles. We grew up to share our joyful moments, as well as our tearful moments,” he said, pausing take her hand. “I know we’re not supposed to be mated until we reach our new home world, but after living through the demise of the Jamestown and the scary possibility that I might not ever see you again, I can’t wait any longer.

“I want to get on with our life together and give our people the hope that we, as a race, are not doomed to extinction. I want to marry you, Liz, now, when the camp is fully established, and we have settled into a semi-normal existence. Please say you want that too....”

She sat there for a brief moment, stunned. As Kyle’s heartfelt words reached her brain, she began to panic. She glanced at Zan, and felt her heart constrict at the pleading hope in his eyes. Then, her dream from the previous night flashed through her mind.

The Vilandra from the dream had said that Zan was destined to be with Avaria in order to save his people, just like her destiny was with Kyle. She and Zan could never be.

Turning her gaze back to Kyle, she forced a smile on her face and stood up. “Yes, Kyle. I will marry you once we’re settled into our life here. I would be honored to be your wife.”

Kyle grinned happily and leaned in to kiss her. When his lips met hers, she couldn’t help but wish that they were Zan’s instead. When they separated, she suddenly found herself surrounded by happy well-wishers, both human and Antarian. Using her ability to mask her true emotions in a time of crisis, she mechanically acknowledged their congratulations with a happiness she didn’t feel.

As the dinner guests left the hall to attend the night’s entertainment, she spotted Zan standing off to the side, staring out the window at the moonlit gardens. Murmuring to Kyle that she would join him in the theatre room in a few moments, she forced a smile onto her face, and walked over to Zan. “Hey there stranger. You’re awfully quiet. Aren’t you going to congratulate me?”

Zan looked at her, and the pain and sadness in his eyes, caused her smile to falter and her heart to constrict. “Why?” he whispered.

“Cause it’s what friends do,” she said, trying to force happiness into her voice.

“Would a true friend wish you happiness with a man you don’t love?” he whispered, angrily. “Is that what a true friend would want for you?”

She stiffened and stopped smiling. “If that’s what his friend truly wanted, then yes, a true friend would.”

“Well then, I guess I’m not a true friend. You deserve more,” he snapped, staring into her eyes.

She frowned. “Look Zan, I know this is all very sudden, but I’ve told you from the beginning that what I truly want doesn’t matter. It all comes down to my mission and my duty. And, if you can’t fully accept that fact, then you have no place in my life—past, present or future.”

Scowling, he turned and walked away from her.

As she watched him leave, she realized that she was alone in the dining hall.

Turning back toward the window, she pressed her forehead against the cool glass and let the tears silently fall. “I’m sorry, Zan,” she whispered, looking up to stare at Antares. “Hurting you is the last thing, I ever wanted to do. But it was necessary, for both our people’s futures.”


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


ACT V


Vilandra walked through the thick gray and purple mist. “Zan?” she called out. “Mother? Father? Rath? Where is everybody?”

From the thickest part of the mist, a shadowy feminine figure began to emerge.

“Mother?” she asked, straining to make out the mysterious woman. Suddenly, she gasped. The woman could be her identical twin!

“Hello Vilandra,” the woman said.

“Who are you?” she asked nervously.

“I’m you,” the woman replied.

“What?”

“How well do you think you know yourself?” the woman asked smoothly.

She raised an eyebrow at the doppelganger’s challenge. “Very well.”

“Really,” the woman said. “I think you may need to dig a little deeper. You might be surprised by what you discover. You tell yourself that everything you’ve done these last few days is for Zan’s protection and for the good of the Confederation.”

“Yeah, so?” she said, shrugging, “You do what you have to in order to protect the greater good.”

“That's quite an attitude for someone who puts her family first, craves the stability and security of true love and is usually very compassionate towards her fellow being.”

“Well, sometimes we hurt the ones we love in order to protect them.”

The woman shook her head sadly. “Who are you really protecting, Vilandra? Think about it. It’s perfectly normal to feel jealousy. But you need to ask yourself, are you allowing it to control your actions? Because if you are, it can grow into a very powerful, and very deadly monster that will destroy you and everyone you love.”



Vilandra jerked upright in bed. Snapping on the light, she jumped out of bed to stare at her reflection in her mirror. “No,” she whispered to the haggard and scared figure that stared back her. “I did the right thing. I’m sure of it...I think....”

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

Zan watched Liz from his balcony the next morning as she, Maria, Alex and Kyle walked through the palace gates for the last time. He watched her smile at something that Kyle said to her, and his heart constricted. He wanted to be the one to make her smile.

“So, she really accepted his proposal?”

He nodded. “She did.”

Rath stared at the sadness on his best friend’s face. “You don’t seem too happy for her.”

“She doesn’t love him, Rath. She deserves to marry a man whom she loves fully and passionately. Not to a man who’s more like a brother.”

“Kind of like me and Lonnie, huh?”

He looked at his best friend. “At least Father has left the two of you a way out. If Vilandra finds her true love and he meets with Father’s approval, then your betrothal is off. Liz doesn’t have that option.”

“Sorry,” Rath said. “Bad example. It’s just that I wanted to see how you were doing after the shock at dinner last night. You ran off so quickly, and I couldn’t find you....”

“I needed some time to think. Do you know she told me that there is no place for me in her life if I can’t accept her decision?”

“I’m sorry Zan. I know she means a lot to you, but what about Avaria?”

“What about her?”

“You’re supposed to be marrying her in order to save the Confederation.”

“I know. And, I’ll do what is expected of me, just like always. But I’ll never love her,” he said, sadness clearly evident in his voice.

“I’m not sure if Avaria will be happy with that arrangement. What do you think she’ll do when she discovers that you’ve already connected to someone else? It could blow the whole peace deal.”

He stared at Rath; his eyes almost black in there intensity. “She’s not going to find out, because I’m not going to tell her, and neither are you.”

“I won’t, but what about Lonnie?”

“Lonnie won’t say anything. She’s my sister, and she loves me. She’d never do anything to hurt me intentionally.”

Rath shifted uncomfortably. “So, um, what are you going to do when it comes time for the actual bonding ceremony? She’s going to know then.”

“I don’t know,” he said, turning his gaze back to the gate where Liz had exited. “But, I have a year to come up with something. And a lot can happen in a year.”

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

Rath leaned against the mantel in Vilandra’s room, and watched as she plaited her hair in front of her mirror. “What are you so afraid of, Lonnie?”

She stopped her primping to gaze at his reflection, her dark brown eyes, wide and innocent. “Nothing.”

“You know what I think?” he asked, coming to stand behind her and placing his hands on her shoulders. “I think you’re jealous and feeling threatened. Am I right?”

She ignored him and continued plaiting.

He sighed. “I'm here to tell you, that Liz is not going to take Zan away from you. You know that, don't you?”

She snorted, and he grabbed her wrists to stop her movements. “Oh please, Rath,” she said in exasperation, “Me, jealous of Captain Parker?”

“Then tell me why do you feel so threatened? Why did the guards find you outside that bar in Gravis the other day? Were you meeting someone?”

“No, I just needed to clear my head.”

“The guards found you trying to hide behind the dumpster in the back alley. If I’m going to clear my head, I try to pick a spot that smells a little less rancid.”

“Hey, it was quiet,” she snapped, jerking her hands free.

“We both know why I’m here. So why don’t we cut the crap, as the humans say? Okay?” he said. “Liz and Zan are just friends. In fact, did you know at dinner last night, the one you so conveniently decided to skip, Liz agreed to marry Kyle? They’re officially engaged.”

She stared down at her hands.

“But you knew that already, didn’t you?”

She nodded ever so slightly.

“What did you do Lonnie?”

“I may have helped put the idea into the Lieutenant Commander’s head, a little bit. Gave him just a little push in the direction he was already heading,” she admitted guiltily, her eyes beginning to water.

“That’s what I thought. Why Lonnie?” he asked gently. “Why would you deliberately do something that might destroy Zan’s happiness? Don’t you realize how lonely and scared he’s been since your mother was banished?”

“No more scared and lonely than I’ve been,” she whispered, wiping a tear from her cheek.

He folded Vilandra into his embrace and kissed the top of her head. “Shh, I know sweetie. I know. But since, Liz arrived; Zan’s become the person I remember from our childhood. You can’t deny it. We’ve both seen the way he smiles, laughs and jokes with us at night.

“Liz is the one who brought back that spark. Yes, she makes him happy, but she’s also given him back to us, Lonnie. Why can’t you see that?”

She pulled away from him. “You’re right, Rath. Captain Parker does make him happy, but she’ll take him away from us in the end. You just wait. He’ll give up everything to be with her. I can see it when he looks at her, when he touches her.”

“You can’t know that for sure, Lonnie. Have you asked Liz about this? Because, it seems to me, that she’s bound and determined to carry out her mission, and it doesn’t include Zan. She told him that last night, point blank, just after she agreed to Valenti’s proposal.”

She gasped. “How dare she hurt him like that!” she demanded angrily.

He shook his head. “Lonnie, you’re the one who pushed her into making this decision.”

“Me?”

“By encouraging Valenti. And, when you told her about Avaria. Don’t,” he said, holding up a hand to stop her denial. “I know about you and your dream walking all too well, and the mischief you cause.”

She looked down, shame-faced.

“Don’t worry, your secret’s safe. I won’t tell Zan what you did, and I’m pretty sure, Liz won’t either.”

She looked at him hopefully.

“However, I think it’s time for you to think about making your peace with Liz before your jealousy and fears destroy Zan and the rest of us permanently?”

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

Liz walked through the camp, studying the inventory lists in her hands. She stopped suddenly when Vilandra stepped out from behind a large tree that shaded part of the campsite, and directly into her path.

“God, you scared me.”

“Sorry,” Vilandra said sheepishly.

“Aren’t you supposed to be in the palace?”

“Yeah, but I needed to talk to you. It’s important,” Vilandra replied, almost begging.

“What’s so important that you would risk getting caught by the guards again?”

Vilandra stared down at the ground. “Are you going to take Zan away from me?” she murmured.

She looked at the tall, blonde princess with surprise. “I’m not sure if I understand....”

“He loves you. He would give up everything to be with you. Don’t you see that?”

She blushed. “I-I don’t think so.... But, even if he does, it won’t make a difference. I’m going to marry Kyle, and Zan...Zan will marry someone else.”

“I’m sorry,” Vilandra whispered softly, tears in her eyes.

“For what?”

“For hating you. For hurting you with those dreams of Avaria.”

“That was you,” she said in amazement.

“It’s just that Zan is all I have. My father merely tolerates me or ignores me. And my mother, who I’m not allowed to see, is basically held prisoner on her estate off the Krystlyn Sea. Even Rath doesn’t want me, not as a wife anyway. Everyone I love seems to leave or want nothing to do with me,” Vilandra sobbed.

Liz felt her heart break for Zan’s lonely sister, as she watched Vilandra try to stop her tears. “Zan loves you, Vilandra. He’ll always love you.”

Vilandra sniffed and shook her head. “But, the things I’ve done.... If he ever found out...he’d hate me too.”

She shook her head. “Not from me he won’t. Besides, even if he did find out somehow, he still wouldn’t stop loving you. Yeah, he might be mad, but you’re his sister. I saw how much you mean to him the day he healed me. Your place in his life and his heart is permanent.”

Vilandra stared at her, and then glanced up at the sky. “It looks like it’s going to rain. Do you think we could go inside your tent and continue talking?”

“Sure. Follow me,” she replied, and then paused when Vilandra didn’t move. “Vilandra?”

“Thank you, Liz.”

“For what?”

“For giving me back my brother--the Zan I knew as a child. And, for being his friend. He’s been lonely for so long. You’re good for him.”

“Your welcome,” Liz said softly, and together, they walked to her tent.

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

“The future has always been so clear for me--a straight path towards my sworn duty and mission. I never thought there’d be forks in the path, representing the decisions we make or the actions we take, in the belief that we do so for the good of others.

“Vilandra showed me today that sometimes we take the familiar path because we’re scared of the monsters that might lie in wait for us on the one less traveled. She also showed me that sometimes, those monsters are really only the ones that reside in our imaginations and that the path can be nicer than the familiar one.

“So, now I’ve come to the next fork in my path. Do I take the familiar path and marry Kyle as I’ve promised and as my mission demands? Or, do I take the other one which may lead to Zan and pray that the monsters scattered along it are all in my head?”


Placing her computer log on the bedside table, Liz turned off the lights. Rolling over on her side, she drifted off to sleep listening to the gentle sound of the rain hitting the roof of her tent.



**FADE TO BLACK**
**END OF EPISODE 103**
**************************


Okay, I'm going into hiding now until next week....

Try not to be too mad! :twisted: :lol:
Last edited by Angel Kisses 70 on Tue Oct 31, 2006 12:43 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Angel Kisses 70
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Children of the Stars Ep. 4 -- Into the Unknown

Post by Angel Kisses 70 » Tue Oct 31, 2006 12:34 pm

CHILDREN OF THE STARS
Episode #4: Into the Unknown


RATING: TEEN

AUTHOR’S NOTE: Again guys, thanks for all the prayers. They really are helping.

As for my feedbackers, a big thank you too. I don't have time to list them all, but you know who you are. And for every one who reads this (hello lurkers! :D ) a big ol' BOO! for a happy and safe Halloween! :lol:



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



ACT I


Liz plopped down, stomach first, onto her meager, twin-sized bed, not caring that the long, white silk dress she wore was being crushed into hundreds of unsightly wrinkles. Grabbing her palm-sized computer from her bedside table, she rolled over onto her back and began to speak.

“It's October 19th, Earth time, and this is Captain Elizabeth Parker. This is what I'm thinking.... Can my life ever be normal again?

“A small part of me wants to follow our mission, and uphold the duties I swore to when I became an officer. And another part of me, wants things to go back to the way they were before we crashed, to a life that I could predict...where I knew how my life was going to be. And then there’s the big part of me that wants to go somewhere else, to make a leap of faith, and go...into the unknown.”



******


“This is crazy,” Maria grumbled, attempting to pin a straight hem in Liz’s wedding dress.

Liz sighed, trying not to squirm. “It’s a wedding, Maria. Planning one is always supposed to be crazy.”

“Why? Where is it written that weddings have to be a big, over-planned, over-budgeted celebration?

“That's a good question.”

“Uh, Alex,” Maria said, pointing across the room, “If you don’t bring me the rest of those pins, like I've asked you to three times before, and I have to get them myself, causing me to undo all my hard work, I will use them to make you look like a porcupine.”

“Jeez, Maria,” Alex said getting up from his seat on Liz’s bed, “no need to get testy. You’d think you were the one getting married in seven days, not Liz.”

Liz gasped. “Oh, my God, I forgot to tell you. King Marek is planning on attending the wedding with Princess Vilandra.”

Maria rolled her eyes and opened the bag of pins Alex handed her. “Great...I’ve been going through Snow Queen withdrawals. What’s it been, a week since she insulted me last?”

“I know she's like the bane of your existence, Maria, but too bad. You’re just going to have to play nice. And that’s an order.”

“I think Vilandra is wonderful,” Alex piped up, flopping back down onto Liz’s bed.

“Oh, great....another Ice Princess convert!” Maria mumbled around the pins in her mouth.

“Thank you, Alex for the wonderful show of support for your future wife! It’s bad enough that Liz has fallen under her spell, but you too?”

Alex stuck his tongue out at Maria.

“Okay, you two, enough,” Liz said in exasperation. “Maria, are you almost done down there. This thing is starting to chafe. I think the arm holes are too tight.”

“Yes, Miss Ants-in-My-Pants, I'm finished. Let’s get you unzipped. Alex?”

“What?”

“Scram, unless, you want to see your captain in her underwear?”

“No thanks,” he said and made a mad dash for the door.

While Maria carefully placed the wedding dress on its hanger, Liz changed back into her uniform pants and a tank top. As she was pulling her hair back into its regulation chignon, there was a knock at the door, and Alex, eyes squeezed shut, stuck his head back inside the tent.

“Um, Liz...there’s someone here to see you.”

“Alex, you can open your eyes now. I’m decent.”

He opened his eyes and smiled. “Are you receiving company right now? Or, are you and Maria still going over wedding plans?”

“No, we’re done,” Maria said, covering the dress with a sheet to transport it back to her tent.

“Sure, Alex. Who is it?” Liz asked.

Alex stepped back, and Zan entered the tent.

Her eyes widened in surprise. They’d not spoken since the night she’d accepted Kyle’s proposal.

“Well,” Maria said, glancing back and forth between her best friend and the Antarian prince, “I’ll just be going now. Don’t mind me Liz. And, I promise to have your wedding dress hemmed and ready to try on again, this evening.”

She sent Maria a warning glance, but Maria just ignored her and hurried out of the tent with Alex in tow.

“Um, hi. We were just fitting me for my dress...,” she mumbled.

“Apparently,” Zan said, his expression fixed and devoid of emotion.

“So, are you here to speak to me on behalf of your father, or....”

“No.”

“Oh.”

He stepped towards her and took her hands in his. “I want you to have dinner with me tonight. Alone.”

“Excuse me?” she squeaked in surprise.

“I want you to have dinner with me. Just the two of us. No, family or friends hanging around to interfere. We need to talk.”

She nodded mutely.

“Great," he replied, smiling. "I’ll see you at moonrise.”

“Where?”

“I’ll mark you a trail to follow. You won’t be able to miss it.”

And with that, he was gone, leaving her standing in her tent, staring at the door, face flushed and heart beating rapidly.


******


Outside, Kyle watched Zan leave Liz’s tent and frowned. The smile on the Crown Prince’s face made him suspicious. “What in the hell are you up to now, your Highness?” he thought.



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


ACT II


“So you just went right up to her and asked her to dinner?” Rath said incredulously. “What about Avaria?”

"What about her?" Zan said, shrugging. “She’s been delayed by her responsibilities on Osir. The mine collapse in the northern province will keep her there for at least another week, which gives me plenty of time to talk to Liz.”

“What about Valenti?”

“He isn't a factor in this dinner.”

“I beg to differ. Have you seen the looks he's been giving you when you’re not looking? He’s on to you. He knows you’re sniffing around his territory.”

“If Liz is really his, then he has nothing to worry about. But he knows, as well as I do, that she doesn’t feel the same way about him as she does about me.”

“And how does she feel about you Zan?" Rath asked, concern etching his face. "And does it really matter? You both have very separate destinies.”

“It matters, because I love her.”

“What do you mean you love her? You can’t love her.”

“Rath, listen to me," he said emphatically, staring into Rath eyes. "I do love her. I’ve known it since that moment I saw her lying in the tangled metal of the crash. Something deep inside my soul recognized her. She’s my other half, and I for one, am not going to let her just walk away from this.”

“Not going to let her? What are you going to do, Zan? Keep her prisoner until she admits her feelings for you? Or, until she agrees not to marry Valenti?”

“No, she already knows. But after tonight, she won't be able ignore her feelings for me any longer.”


******


“Hey,” Maria said, as she walked into Liz's darkened tent.”

“Hey.”

“So, what did Prince Charming want this morning?" Maria sat down on the bed next to Liz. "Cause judging by the mood you're in, it couldn't have been good."

She stared up at the roof. “He wanted me to have dinner with him tonight.”

"Dinner?" Maria squeaked, panic setting in. “You said no, right? Right?”

“Good-bye, Maria.”

“Oh Liz, you said yes. What about Kyle? What about the wedding?”

“Good-bye Ensign,” she said more firmly.

“Fine, I can take a hint, but I want details tomorrow, got it?”

"Only if you let me borrow your new dress that you got in Gravis the other day," she said.

"Fine. Just be careful, okay?"

She nodded, and Maria left.

Sighing, she got up and began to gather her bathing supplies to go and take a shower.
As she was getting ready to leave for the showers, Kyle walked in. “Knock, knock?”

“What do you need Kyle?”

“Hey, is that anyway to greet your soon-to-be husband?" he teased. He frowned with concern. "Are you feeling okay?”

She sighed. “Yeah, just tired.”

“Oh. Well, are you too tired to have dinner with me this evening? Thought we might go into Gravis and check out the nightlife there. Alex says it’s great.”

She shook her head, and squelched down the guilt she suddenly felt. “I don’t think so Kyle. I plan on just taking a shower and turning in early. Maybe tomorrow night?” she said, trying not to choke on the lie.

“Okay," he replied quickly, giving her a quick kiss on the cheek before leaving. "It’s a date. Sweet dreams.”


******


“Okay, Broody Boy. Give it to me, and I mean now.”

Rath stopped the pull-ups he'd been doing in the training yard of the palace, to stare incredulously at Maria. “Pardon me?”

“What did you find out at that meeting last week? Did you discover anything else about this mysterious He? Are you going to see your contact again? You promised to tell me everything. Now, I want some answers.” she said, crossing her arms and raising an eyebrow in determination.

“This is not the time to talk about it,” he hissed angrily, glancing around the sparsely populated yard.

“Why? Cause people can see us? Not going to work this time. You’re not undercover, and I want some answers."

“Fine. My contact is definitely a link to whoever is trying to kill your people and the Royal family. Are you satisfied now?”

“No. What happened at the meeting?”

“It was no big deal. It was just a bunch of the local mischief makers and petty criminals trying to impress each other. They discussed blowing up a building along the docks to get their point across.”

“Blowing up a building? That’s not major?” she cried out.

“Will you shush?” he hissed. “The building they’re targeting is abandoned and scheduled for demolition anyway. They’re actually going to do Marek a favor.”

She started to chuckle. “No. That can’t be right.”

“It is. I was there for the entire meeting.”

“No, Mr. I'm-A-Professional, that’s not what I meant. What I’m saying is, someone like this ‘he’ person, would not have idiots as his main line of assassins. No there’s definitely more layers to this. I think either you’re being tested for loyalty, or they’re on to you.

He frowned at her. “I don’t see how my cover was blown. My own mother wouldn’t have recognized me.”

“That’s because the way you smelled the night Alex and I saw you in Gravis, didn't exactly encourage a person to want to take a closer look. But, if they did they would've recognized you right off. We did, remember?" she said thoughtfully. "No, I think you’re being played.”

“Played?”

“Yeah, duped. Snookered. Having the wool pulled over your eyes. The next time you go to one of these meetings, I want to come too. You need someone to watch your back.”

He shook his head. “I don’t think so.”

“Hey, I know how to take care of myself in a fight. Besides, if something does happen, you’re going to need someone to run screaming for help. And I, just happen to be perfect in that capacity.” she said grinning.

He rolled his eyes and sighed. “Fine. When I know the time of the next one, you can come along.”

She jumped up and down on the balls of her feet, and clapped her hands.

“Of course, if you’re going to act like that, you can forget it DeLuca,” he threatened, grabbing her by the arms to halt her bouncing.

She stuck her tongue out at him, and walked away back towards the palace gates.

He just stared after her, his eyes once again drawn to the sway of her hips.


******


“Whatcha doing?” Vilandra asked, coming up behind Alex, who was busying searching the ground of the forest along the edges of the humans' camp.

Alex jumped. “Don’t do that! I swear you have feet like a cat!”

“What’s a cat?” she asked quizzically.

“Kind of like a Gandar beast, only smaller and tame. People on our planet used to keep them as pets.”

“Oh. So, what are doing?”

He looked down at the specimen jars of plant life he'd been collecting. “Taking samples. I thought some of your native vegetation might be helpful to us on our journey when we finally leave. On the Jamestown we had a hydroponics lab and green house that grew the herbs, fruits and vegetables my people need to survive. Unfortunately, most of them were lost when the Jamestown was destroyed, but I’ve been noticing that some of the plant life here is very similar to ours. So I thought--”

“Alex. You’re babbling,” she said smiling. “Do I make you nervous?”

He swallowed anxiously. “Um, no...no, not at all, your Highness.”

“You can call me Lonnie.”

“Oh yes, um, very well...Lonnie. I-why are you here? Aren't you supposed to be in the palace?”

She shrugged. "I'm not supposed to be caught outside the palace, there's a difference. I needed to talk to Liz, but she seems to have disappeared. So I was headed back, when I spotted you. I have to admit I was curious."

"Oh."

“Chief Whitman,” the young Ensign said, running towards them. “We’ve got three crew members down with fevers and complaining of chills. They collapsed inside the mess.”

He grabbed his Med kit from his pack and rushed towards the Mess.

Vilandra followed him close on his heels. “I didn’t know you were a healer.”

“Healer? Oh, you mean a doctor. I’m not, but I’m the only one we’ve got who comes the closest. Where do you think you’re going?” he asked, pausing outside the Mess tent.

“To see if I can help. Zan isn’t the only one who can heal people in a crisis. If it’s not too major, I can give you a hand. That is if you want me too....”

“Sure, no problem. You’re company is always enchanting and delightful, Lonnie.”

She smiled and followed him into the tent.


******


Zan was right. She had no problem following the path he laid out for her. The moonlight illuminated the white flower petals so that they glowed as if enchanted.

As she wound her way through the maze that sat in the center of the rear garden, she glanced back. She was surprised to see the petals she’d just walked over dim and fade away. Obviously, there was no going back, or she’d be hopelessly lost.

“Forward march, Parker. This is no time to chicken out. You can do this. It’s just a dinner,” she mumbled to herself as she continued following the trail.

“Yeah right,” the little voice inside her head, which sounded an awful lot like Maria, replied. “Dinner for two in a secluded area with no hope of interruption.”

Suddenly, she discovered she’s reached the end. She was in the center and Zan was standing in front of her, smiling that devastatingly sexy smile that made her feel weak in the knees.

“Zan,” she whispered.

He reached out to push her long hair behind her ear, so that he could see her face better. “You look beautiful,” he said softly. “Thank you for coming tonight.”

She glanced down at her dress, then back at him. “It’s Maria’s.”

“I didn’t mean the dress, Liz. Though it is lovely. Maria has excellent taste,” he clarified, glancing at the pale pink silk sheath that hugged her curves. “No, I meant you, personally. The way your skin and eyes glow in the moonlight...the way your hair shimmers.”

“Oh, um, thank you,” she stammered, blushing. “Um, I thought you said we’re going to have dinner and talk?”

He nodded and then turned, sweeping his hand in a grand gesture to reveal the picnic set up behind him. “Right this way, my lady.”

Her eyes widened in amazement at the luxurious spread before her. “Zan, there’s enough food here to feed a family of eight! How’d you do all of this?”

“Simple. I’m a prince with magic powers,” he whispered in her ear. He reached out and with a flick of his wrist, the dozen candles that were set up around the area sparked to life.

She shivered at the feel of his breath so near her bare neck. “Well, um, then I say let’s not let all of your hard work go to waste.” She kicked off her sandals, stepped onto the soft, silky blanket and sat down.

He sat down across from her and began to rummage around inside the large picnic basket. While he was occupied with fixing her a plate, she used the moment to study him.

Tonight, he was wearing a black leather vest and pants that seemed to emphasize his dark hair, his eyes, his well-toned body and tanned skin. She watched as a gentle breeze played with his bangs causing them to cover his eyes. Her fingers itched to reach over and brush them back off his forehead so she could look into his soul-filled eyes.

“What is that?” she whispered, as the sounds of stringed instruments and a flute filled the air.

“What’s what?”

“That music. It’s very beautiful. Almost haunting....”

He smiled and pointed to the small, glowing silver disk. “That is from the first movement of ‘Echo and Antares.’ It’s one of my favorites,” he replied.

“Uh-oh..., um, is that for me?” she asked, pointing to the plate of food in his hand.

“Only if you let me feed you,” he teased. When he saw her blush, he grinned. “I’m kidding. Here.”

As they ate, they talked about her growing up on a starship and living in space. They also discussed his childhood and the different planets in his star system. They laughed and joked, and she could feel all of the tension that had been gathering for the last few weeks drain away.

Suddenly, he reached over and stroked the side of her mouth with his thumb.

She jerked back, suddenly wary.

“Relax. You had a small smear of berry sauce on the corner of your mouth.”

“Sorry,” she murmured, looking away. “I just thought...well I’ve been having such a good time....”

“You thought I was coming on to you?” he asked softly.

She nodded; her eyes still down cast.

“If I was planning to do that I would have gone with my first instinct.”

“What was that?” she asked looking back up to discover he’d moved to sit directly beside her.

“This,” he replied, reaching out to cup the back of her head and pulling her to him.

His lips covered hers in an instant, and she was lost. She moaned softly as she felt the tip of his tongue reach out and flicker lightly across her lips to the corner of her mouth, where only moments before the sauce had been. She gasped at the erotic shivers it sent through her, causing her mouth to open slightly.

That was all the invitation, Zan needed. Groaning, he plundered her mouth with his, drinking in her sweet ambrosia. He’d wanted to do this again for so long. He could literally feel the humming inside his veins.

Liz whimpered. She couldn’t get enough. It was like she’d been dying of thirst before, but now.... She ran her fingers through his ebony hair and relished in the silky, softness of it. She felt her insides melting and her body molding itself to fit perfectly with his. His lips burned a trail of wet heat along her jaw and down to her neck, and she moaned when she felt him nip at the pulse at the base of it. God, she needed to be closer.

Zan felt her hands leave his hair to come around and caress the bare skin of his chest. The feel of her hot, little hands touching him was going to send him over the edge. He let his own hands wander to caress the sides of her breasts.

Liz gasped at the sensation of his thumbs rubbing rhythmically over her clothes-covered nipples and making her ache to have him touch her skin to skin. She’d never felt this way before…had never imagined that this was possible between a man and a woman. Kyle’s few awkward kisses had never made her feel like this.

The thought of Kyle was like a dousing of cold water to her burning desire. She immediately jerked away and stumbled to her feet. “Don’t,” she gasped. “No more.”

He looked at her confused. She’d wanted him to kiss her. He’d felt it deep in his bones. “What’s the matter?” he asked, as he stood to go to her again.

She raised her hands to halt his movements. “No! We can’t do this. I’m getting married to Kyle in seven days! We agreed. We have separate destinies.”

“Liz,” he said softly, trying to soothe her as he would a wild animal. “Liz, sweetheart. It’s okay. I love you.”

She felt her heart leap at those three words. She quickly squelched it. “You can’t love me,” she cried desperately. “You have to marry Avaria.”

He stiffened at the mention of his intended’s name. “Where did you hear that name?”

“Around...but, it doesn’t matter. I know Zan. I know you aren’t free to love me, anymore than I’m free to love you.”

He froze. “You love me?”

Her eyes widened at what she’d just said. “No, no. I just said that as an example. What I mean is I’m not free to be with anyone else but Kyle. I’ve made a promise.”

“So did I,” he replied softly. “But I’m willing to break it and throw it all away...for you.”

Her eyes filled with tears. “I’m sorry...but I can’t...I won’t. So just stop this.”

When he reached for her, she turned and ran, entering the surrounding maze the way she’d entered.

He started to run after her when he spotted her sandals, lying forgotten on the ground. Picking them up, he could hear her sobs drifting through the hedges. Waving his hand towards the way she’d left, he made the flower petals reappear so that she could find her way out.

When he couldn’t hear her cries anymore, he made the petals disappear again and slumped to his knees. Staring at the tiny pair of sandals in his hands, he thought about their owner--a petite, dark-haired, dark-eyed human who completely owned his heart.

Looking back at the direction she'd gone, his eyes narrowed with determination. "You do love me, Liz," he whispered. "Deny it all you want, but I know the truth. We belong to one another. I'm not giving up on you."



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



ACT III


“What have you got?” Alex asked as he entered the Mess tent, Vilandra right behind him.

“Lieutenant Commander Valenti complained of chills and fever while eating, then collapsed. He’s had one seizure since I sent Ensign Barret to fetch you,” replied the female Lieutenant.

Alex took a hand-held medical monitor from his bag and scanned Kyle. He swore softly.

“What is it?”

“Well, he had the seizure because his temperature is too high. We have to get it down.”

Vilandra placed her hand on Kyle’s chest and concentrated. When she sat back, Alex checked Kyle again.

“That’s better. But at 103 degrees, that’s still not good.”

“I’m sorry Alex,” she sighed. “I thought I could be more help.”

“It’s okay,” he reassured her, and turned his attention to the lieutenant. “Take off his jacket and his undershirt. We’re going to need to rub him down with cool water.... Good Lord, what is that?”

Vilandra gasped at the purplish splotches that covered Kyle’s chest. She quickly picked up his hand and turned it palm-side up, revealing angry purple welts. “Oh gods,” she whispered.

“What is it, Lonnie? Have you seen this before?”

She nodded. “It’s referred to by our healers as the Azul flu. It attacks a person’s blood and nervous system. The welts and the splotches are where the circulation is beginning to stop and tissue is beginning to break down. He must have picked it up in the mountains where he crashed.”

“Is there a cure or medicine we can use?”

“Alex, the locals call this the Sweating Death. There is no cure, and once it presents, it’s highly contagious. We’re going to have to quarantine the camp.”


******


As Liz neared the camp, she’d managed to calm down. How could she have been so foolish as to agree to have dinner with him? Now, she knew with absolute certainty that she couldn’t marry Kyle. It wouldn’t be fair to him. He deserved to have a wife who loved him and wasn’t wishing he were someone else.

“Halt.”

She looked up startled and found herself staring face to chest with one of the huge Antarian royal guards. “I’m sorry? What are you doing here? I'm Captain Parker and this is where I live with my crew.”

“I’m sorry Captain Parker, but you can’t enter the campsite. There’s been an outbreak of Azul flu, which is highly contagious and very deadly. No one is allowed to enter or leave the camp.

“But I need to see if my people are all right.”

The guard refused to move.

“Fine. I want to speak to Chief Alex Whitman. He’s our resident medical personnel. Can someone go get him for me?”

“I’m afraid not Captain.”

“Ok, this is getting ridiculous--.” Liz spotted Vilandra exiting the Med tent and heading towards the tents where the crew slept. “Lonnie!”

Vilandra looked around at the sound of her name. Seeing Liz standing in front of a Royal guard, she motioned silently for Liz to meet behind the crew's tents.

Liz nodded and looked back at the guard. “Well, if you won’t let me in, I’m gonna go....”

The guard remained motionless, and Liz walked away from the camp. When she was sure she was out of the guard’s eyesight, she doubled back to the back perimeter of the campsite.

“Liz,” Vilandra hissed, and motioned for her to come over by the trees.

Avoiding the guards, she managed to get close enough for her and Vilandra to hear each other without shouting.

Vilandra held up her hands. “Don’t come any closer. I’ve been exposed to the flu.”

“What happened?”

“Alex and I think Kyle contracted the Azul flu when he landed in the Azul mountains and had to hike through them. He’s pretty bad Liz.”

“Is there a cure? Some way for us to treat this?”

Vilandra shook her head. “Not one that I’m aware of. Liz, you need to know that the mountain Antarians refer to this as the Sweating Death because a majority of the time it’s fatal.”

Liz paled. “You don’t have any medicines to fight this at all?”

“Only our healers. But they won’t come here to help since this is a human encampment. Alex is trying to find away to help them with the medicines you have.”

“How many are down with this?”

“Nine, so far.”

“How long does it take for this to run its course?”

“Two days. They will either get better, or they will die.”

She frowned. “I’m not letting this happen. We’ve lost too many already. I’m not about to lose any more. I’m going to get Zan.”

“Liz, you can’t,” Vilandra hissed at Liz’s retreating back. “You’ll expose his secret.”

She paused and then turned around. “He saved me once from the brink of death. It can’t hurt to ask.”


******


In the darkness of the forest, a black-robed shadow watched Liz’s retreat back towards the palace. “Interesting,” the figure murmured. “Prince Zan has the power to bring back the dying. This may change everything....”


******


Liz scaled the tree that grew near Zan’s balcony. Leaping from the tree to the balcony, she landed with a soft thud. She tried the doors, but they were locked. “Zan,” she said softly, knocking on the doors. “Zan? It’s me.” She jumped back when the doors flew open.

He was wearing nothing but a pair of silk sleeping pants that rode low on his hips, and that sexy smile. She swallowed nervously as the little voice inside her head made the observation that it she were to reach out and pull on the drawstring of his pants....

“Stop it!” she whispered.

He frowned in confusion. “Stop what?

“Nothing. Um, I need to talk to you. It’s extremely important.”

He stepped forward to touch her. “You know I wondered if you’d come back to get your shoes.”

She took a step back, avoiding his touch. “This has nothing to do with my footwear, Zan. I need your help. Something’s happened at the campsite. There’s been an outbreak of some sort, something called the Azul flu.”

“The Sweating Death?”

She nodded. “Nine of my crew has already come down with it, and Marek seems to have already quarantined the camp. There are guards all over the place, and they won’t let me in to check on them and help.”

“There’s nothing you can do. The Azul-flu is fatal most of the time unless you have a healer to help combat the symptoms.”

“That’s why I’m here,” she replied, her eyes wide, pleading and tear-filled. “I need you to come back to the camp with me, and help my people. I can’t lose any one else, Zan. I just can’t.”

He enveloped her in his arms and held her as she sobbed. He felt her pain wash through him. She was so scared. She felt alone, even with Maria, Alex and Kyle by her side. She only felt safe when she was with him. He smiled softly, and pulled away.

“Of course I’ll help you. Let me just change into some clothes and we’ll head over there, okay?” he said, and walked back into his room.

She nodded, wiping away her tears. “I’m sorry, for crying all over you. It’s just...”

“They’re all you have left in the universe. I understand. It’s one of the things I love about you so much--your love and concern for your people.”

She blushed and tried to ignore the guilt she felt. “Thank you,” she mumbled.

“Okay, I’m ready. Let’s go,” Zan said, re-emerging from his room.


******


Alex checked the medical monitor again and frowned. Kyle’s vitals were getting worse. And despite the cold water baths and Vilandra’s assistance, his temperature was starting to spike again. They were losing him.

“Hey,” Kyle whispered hoarsely. “What’s going on?”

Alex looked down at one of his three best friends in the world and smiled bravely. “It seems you’ve picked up a bug called the Azul flu during your trek through the mountains a while back. Was the wedding not giving you enough attention?”

Kyle grinned softly. “Believe me, the way I feel, I would rather be anonymous right now.”

“Well, we’re trying to work on getting you all better, real quick.”

“We?”

“Me and Lonnie. She’s the one who recognized what it was you had. It was a good thing she was here when you collapsed.”

“Princess?” he whispered.

“Yep. Could hardly believe it myself. But you should see her scrubs...very cute.” Alex waggled his eyebrows. “Now, get some rest. You need to conserve your strength.”

Kyle nodded and closed his eyes.

Alex was with another patient across the room when Liz burst into the tent with Zan in tow.

“Liz! Zan! How did you...? Never mind. I am so glad to see you. This is getting scary. We’ve had five more people come down with this thing. Do you think you can help?” he asked.

“I can try,” Zan replied. “Where do you want me to start?”

“With Kyle. He’s the worst case. He’s beginning to decline.”

He nodded and walked over to Kyle’s bed.

As he bent down beside the bed, Kyle’s eyes flew open, and Zan halted at the myriad of emotions in their blue-gray depths. “I-I’m here to help you,” he reassured softly.

“Are you Zan?” Kyle asked coldly. “I know that something happened between you and Liz the day of the crash. You helped her, and I appreciate that.

“However, since then, you've been all over her. I see it. Our friends see it. Hell, the entire crew sees it.” Kyle coughed slightly and then stared intently into Zan’s eyes. “I love her, Zan. More than life itself. Leave her alone.”

Zan looked back at him and nodded. “I can see that. But, I love her too....enough to try and help save you--the barrier in her path to me.”

Kyle shook his head. “No, you’re not touching me. What better way to get rid of me then to “help” me along. I’ll take my chances with this flu.”

Zan looked over at Liz, who was standing with Alex trying to distract the other patients so they wouldn’t see what he was going to do. Then he looked back at Kyle. “She asked me to do this. I refuse to break her heart by letting you die.”

“No!” he shouted.

Everyone turned to look at them, and suddenly, Kyle’s eyes rolled into the back of his head and he began to convulse.

“Oh God!” Liz cried, and rushed to his bedside. “Zan, do something!”

Placing his hands, one on Kyle’s head and the other over his heart, he closed his eyes and began to concentrate. Beads of sweat formed on his brow. After a minute, he sagged back.
He looked at Liz with sorrow-filled eyes. “I’m sorry. I can’t. He won’t let me in. There’s nothing I can do.”



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



ACT IV


Alex studied the blood samples under the scope. No matter what he tried, he wasn’t making any progress. If he didn’t find something soon, Kyle would die.

“Hey. How’s Kyle?”

He looked up and smiled sadly at Vilandra’s hopeful expression. “Not so good. The seizures are coming closer together for longer periods of time.”

“Did Liz manage to find Zan?”

“He was here earlier, but Kyle wouldn’t let him heal him. So, I just keep staring at these slides hoping to find something that will give me a clue as to how to fight this thing.”

“Alex? Are you sweating?”

He glanced up at her, grim-faced. He held up his right palm to reveal the faint, purple welts that had begun to form.

“Alex!”

“Don’t tell Liz or Maria. I know there has to be some way for us to fight this without using Zan’s powers. What do the Antarians who live in the mountains do when they come down with this?”

“They use their village’s healer. I know they use some Jyngar Root to counteract the fever, just like you used your medicine.”

“If only we had some sort of inoculation to stem the flow...,” he muttered, staring into the scope again.

Suddenly, he looked at her. “Lonnie, go get Maria. She’s supposed to be helping out in the Mess tent with lunch and bring her back.”

“Okay?” she replied. “Where are you going?”

“To get Zan. I think I just came up with a solution to our problem.”


******


Zan stood outside the Mess tent and sighed in frustration. Kyle’s refusal had hurt, especially when he’d basically accused him of planning to murder him.

“What’s the matter?”

He looked up to see Rath standing along the camp's perimeter at the forest's edge. “You do know there’s a quarantine on the camp?” he asked, walking over to where Rath was standing.

Rath shrugged. “So? My best friend’s a healer. I think I’m pretty much safe. So what’s with the sad face? Liz cut you off at the knees last night?”

“You realize that you can be really annoying, right?”

“I got something else that's gonna cheer you up. Marek knows you’re here.”

He rolled his eyes. “What’s he going to do? I’m an adult.”

“Yeah, but you’re also the heir. He believes you’re putting your life in danger. In fact, he sent me to drag you home.”

“I’d like to see you try,” he challenged.

Rath put out his hand. “Go home.”

“No.”

Rath shrugged. “Oh well, I tried. So, what’s happening with the humans?”

“It’s not good. At least a dozen have come down with it. At this rate, they’re all going to catch it.”

“I’m sorry. I know how fond you are of these people.”

“I’d do anything to help. They’re Liz’s crew. It’s just frustrating when you can help and they refuse it.”

“Kyle, huh?”

He nodded. “If he dies, Rath, Liz will never forgive herself.”

“Well then, let's hope that he doesn’t die.”

“Zan!”

They both turned to see Alex running towards them.

“Alex? Are you okay?” he asked with concern at Alex's pallor.

Alex shook his head and showed him his hands “No. I’ve got it too. I need your help. Can you come back to my lab?”

He nodded. “What’s this all about?”

“I’ll tell you, when we get there.”

“Mind if I tag along?” Rath asked.

Alex shook his head. “Not at all.”


******


Liz sat at the table and stared at the food in front of her. She didn’t feel like eating. Even her favorite, the vanilla pudding didn’t appeal to her. She knew what it was--guilt. She felt guilty about Kyle. She was the reason he was refusing Zan’s help. “Why can’t I love him? What’s wrong with me?” she thought dejectedly.

“Hey Liz, how's Kyle doing?” Maria asked, sitting down on the bench beside her.

She shrugged. “He's stable...all we can do is wait and see.”

“Come here.”

She laid down on the bench and put her head in Maria’s lap.

Maria began to twirl the end of Liz’s hair through her fingers--a calming ritual that she’d been doing for Liz since they were kids. It helped both of them to think. “So what are you doing here?”

“I was in the Med tent with him all night. Alex just wanted me to take a break. He told me he’d page me if anything changes,” Liz said, staring at the tent wall.

“You know, you should be getting some sleep.” Maria glanced at the untouched tray of food. “Have you eaten anything yet today?”

She shook her head. “Maria, I'm getting this really weird vibe from Kyle.”

“What kind of vibe?”

“It's like he's pulling away or something...,” she said, sitting up suddenly. “He’s refusing to let Zan heal him. I think it’s because of me.”

“Hey, you can’t blame yourself for Kyle’s actions. If he wants to be petty and immature--”

“But he’s going to die, Maria! He’s not getting any better. The seizures are longer and more often.”

“Okay, but that still isn’t your fault. Kyle’s a grown man, who makes his own choices. If he wants to get in a measuring contest with Zan right now, there’s nothing we can do. We just have to let this run its course.”

“This isn’t the way it was supposed to end...,” she whispered sadly.

“Maria!”

They looked up towards the door of the Mess, and waved at Vilandra.

“Maria, Alex needs you in the Med lab. Right now,” Vilandra said, breathlessly.

Maria frowned, “I’m kind of busy--”

“No Maria, it’s okay. You go and see what Alex needs,” Liz said. “I’ll be fine. I’ll meet you here for dinner later.”

“No way,” Maria replied, “I’ll bring you dinner in your tent, okay?”

She smiled gratefully. “Thanks Maria. You’re the best.”

“I know. That’s what I keep trying to tell everybody around here, but for some reason, they don’t want to believe me.” Maria looked back at Vilandra. “Lonnie, do me a favor. Make sure that Liz goes back to her tent, after she eats something, and gets some rest.”

Vilandra nodded.


******


“Okay, I’m here. What is this about?” Maria asked breezing into the tent Alex was using as his lab. She stopped when she saw Zan and Rath standing next to Alex.

Alex looked up from his task of drawing blood out of his arm. “I need a guinea pig, and you’re the only one who can help me.”

“Okay....”

“Zan,” Alex said, looking at the Crown Prince. “Once I have a sample of my blood, I need you to do your mojo and heal me. I have a hypothesis about how to stop this epidemic.”

Zan nodded.

“Alex! You’re sick? My God, you should be in bed,” Maria shrieked.

“Relax DeLuca, this won’t take long.” Alex placed some of his blood on a glass slide and placed it under the scope. Standing up he looked at Zan and Rath “If you look at my blood, you’ll see the foreign bodies are attacking my cells. My hypothesis is that when Zan heals me, he’ll create a message for my cells to attack the foreign bodies, which will result in my getting better.”

They looked in the scope.

“And if he doesn’t?” Maria asked skeptically.

“I’ll still be healed, but my idea will be shot. I’ll just have to try again.”

“So you need me here, why?”

“You’ll see. Okay, Zan. I’m ready.”

“Okay, just relax, Alex. Look into my eyes and take a deep breath,” Zan said, laying a hand over Alex’s heart.

Suddenly, Zan was in and seeing everything through Alex’s eyes.


Playing with a very young Maria, Liz and Kyle.

Getting his commission on the ship during graduation ceremonies.

Seeing Maria and Liz again after the crash.

Meeting Vilandra for the first time. Marveling at her statuesque beauty.

Going into Gravis with Maria and getting drunk.

Talking with Vilandra in the Med tent.



Alex gasped as the connection broke.

Zan stumbled backwards, into Rath.

Alex held onto Maria.

“What happened?” Maria asked frantically. “Did it work?”

Alex regained his composure. He quickly drew some more blood, placed it on the slide and peered at under the scope. He grinned. “It worked!”

Maria peered at the slide. “So?”

“Don’t you see? My blood contains the inoculate--the antibodies we need to fight off the virus. In a nutshell, if I can grow enough of the antibodies, we can keep the rest of the crew from getting sick.”

“Oh. So how do I fit in?”

Alex grinned. “When I get the inoculation ready, you’re going to be the first recipient.”
“What about the ones who are already sick?”

“It should help them get better, but Zan is going to have to heal the more severe cases.”


******


Three hours later, Maria emerged from the Med lab, and scanned the camp. She was going to need some help. That’s when she spotted Vilandra coming out of Liz’s tent.

“Lonnie, I need to talk to you.”

“What about? Did Zan heal Alex?”

“Yes, he’s fine. In fact, Alex discovered a way to stop the spread of the epidemic. I need to go around and make sure to inject everyone in the camp who’s not sick, with the hypo spray.”

“Okay, so what do you need me for?”

“I’m going to hate myself for this but I need to ask you for a favor that will leave me forever indebted to you. Can you help me administer these inoculations?

“You're kidding, right?”

“Please.”

“To put this as succinctly as possible, I'm not really a healer-type of person.”

“Wait. A quarter of the crew is down with this Sweating Death, as you call it, and Liz is pre-occupied with Kyle. I’m in charge of running this operation, but I can cover more ground faster if there are two of us. I want to give Liz one less thing to worry about. Please Lonnie. Look, it's not for me, it's for Liz.”

“Well, since you put it that way....”


******


Late that evening, Liz sat despondently outside the Med tent. Alex said that the inoculations were working. No one else in the camp had contracted the disease. Zan had healed the ones who were already sick, draining his powers completely until he’d passed out. The only one left with the Azul-flu was Kyle....

“He could still come out of it,” Maria said, sitting down next to her best friend.

Her eyes welled up with tears and shook her head. “Alex doesn't think so. I saw it in his eyes when I talked to him a few minutes ago. I can't believe this. I mean, I just talked to Kyle yesterday, you know? He was fine.”

“I know.”

“I can't believe I lied to him so I could go meet Zan. Kyle wanted to go out and spend time with me that night, but no, I lied to him. My own fiancée. What kind of person does that make me? What was I thinking?”

“You were confused. You were trying to make sure that your feelings for Zan wouldn’t interfere with your marriage to Kyle. You were being analytical Liz Parker.”

“No. I was being selfish. I wanted to see Zan, because I love him Maria,” she whispered, revealing her guilty secret. “I love him.... Oh God, Maria. I love Zan, and I still agreed to marry Kyle!”

Maria hugged her. “Shh, it’s okay. You’re still a good person. Do you think Kyle didn’t know you had feelings for Zan? He’s not stupid you know? But he wanted to marry you anyway. He loved you that much. He had faith that you’d stick to your promise.”

She sniffed and pulled away, wiping her tears away with the back of her hand.

Maria sighed. “Look, I have to go re-check the others, and make sure that they haven’t had any adverse effects from the inoculation. But, if you need me to stay....?”

“No, I’ll be fine, but thank you.”

Maria hugged her again. “No thanks are necessary. That’s what best friends are for. Ok? Ok. I love you.”

She smiled in gratitude. “You know, you make me nuts sometimes, but I love you, too.”


******


In the shadows outside of camp, the black robed figure watched. He withdrew his communicator.

“It didn’t work.”

“What?” demanded the voice angrily.

“The humans found a way to stop it, even with the mutation. Their numbers are still too large.”

“Return. It’s time to discuss our next course of action.”

“As you wish, my Master.”

As the figure faded into the shadows of the forest, Rath stepped out from behind a tree.



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



ACT V


Zan stumbled out of Alex’s tent where he’d been resting, and headed toward the Mess tent. He needed food to help his energy recovery. Sleep had helped a little. But what he really needed was time. Time that Kyle didn’t have.

He was avoiding Liz. He couldn’t look her in the eyes. Kyle was going to die because of him...because he had dared to love her. How could he face her with that knowledge?

As he came to the door of the makeshift dining hall, Vilandra walked out, bedraggled and wearing what looked like human medical scrubs. Her hair was in disarray and there were sweaty dirt smudges on her right cheek. As he got closer, he caught a whiff of antiseptic.

“No way!” he said incredulous, as he realized exactly what she’d been doing in the human’s campsite during the quarantine.

She glared at him and smoothed down her hair. “Shut up. Temporary situation.”

“Not your appearance Lonnie,” he said, shaking his head. “Your clothes. Why are you...? You helped tend to the humans, didn’t you?”

“So?” she replied defensively. “What about you? Depressed? Feeling sorry for yourself? Or maybe guilty?”

“All of the above.”

She sighed. “Listen Zan, Kyle is fading fast. Liz could probably use someone to talk to....”

“She's got Maria. She's got Alex.”

“Who does she come to when she has a major crisis or decision to make? Who did she want to talk to when she heard about the outbreak? You.”

“You're the one who's always telling me I have to stay away from her. What are you saying, Lonnie?”

“I'm saying that if something like this happened to you or Rath, I wouldn't want to be kept away from the person I really needed most. Liz is a good person. She doesn’t deserve to go through this alone. If you’re feeling guilty, how do you think she feels?”

He looked at her thoughtfully.

She rolled her eyes at the expression of indecision that crossed his face and started to walk away. She called over her shoulder, “Anyway, I’m headed back over to Alex’s lab. In case you need me.”


******


“How's she doing?” Rath asked, watching Liz walk back to the Med tent, a drink in her hand.

“She'll be okay,” Maria replied. “Eventually.”

“Listen, I need to talk to you. In private.”

“Okay,” she said, and followed him out of the campsite and to the edge of the trees.

“Look, I know you have other things on your mind right now, but I just wanted to let you know that I saw the black-robed guy again.”

“What? Where? When?”

“Will you shush? Do you want to alert the entire camp to our conversation?”

She shook her head. “Go on. Spill it, Broody Boy,” she whispered.

“I was patrolling the perimeter when I saw a strange shadow move along the edge of the woods. I decided to check it out, since the area is still quarantined. That’s when I spotted him.”

“Him? You know it’s a him for sure now?”

“Well, no..., but his voice sounds masculine.”

She rolled her eyes. “Okay, so then what.”

“I managed to get close enough to hear him talk on his communicator. He said that 'it didn’t work.’”

“What didn’t work? His communicator?”

He scowled. “No, the epidemic. The flu that’s been sweeping through your people for the last two days. He said that you guys had found a ‘solution,’ even with the mutation.”

“So?”

“So? So, that means Kyle was more than likely deliberately infected! Don’t you get it?”

“Whoever tried to frame Liz for the assassination attempt, is still trying to wipe us out,” she whispered, realization dawning.

“Give the lady a prize. You’re all still in danger. In fact, the guy was told to return to discuss the next course of action. You aren’t going to be safe out here.”

She frowned. “Excuse me, but my fellow humans and I are more than capable of defending ourselves.”

“Oh, like how you defended yourselves when the Jamestown was destroyed?”

She glared daggers at him. “Okay, that’s it! I’m tired of you saying that we are completely stupid--”

“That’s not what I said--”

“No, that’s what you’re implying. I’ll have you know, oh Great One, that our ancestors have managed to survive a planet-destroying comet, a hundred years in space and numerous run-ins with other unsavory characters. We are not about to crumble and weep at the mere thought that someone wants us extinct. You and whoever else, need to learn that humans do not roll over and die. We fight for our existence everyday. We celebrate it, and we damn well stop whoever tries to take that life away from us.”

“Look, I’m just trying to explain something to you, and you’re freaking out.”

“I’m freaking out? I’m freaking out? Hell yes, I’m freaking out! How would you feel if the roles were reversed?

“All I’m suggesting is that your people may be safer in the palace, instead of out here in the open.”

“Like Liz was safe when that assassin tried to kill Zan the night of the Joining? Yeah, that makes me feel much better.”

“Maria, will you stop it?”

“You have to tell Liz about this. Now!”

“What?”

“Tell Liz. And Zan. They need to know about this so they can figure out what to do next.”


******


“Alex? Hey. I brought you something to drink,” Liz said, holding out a glass.

“Thanks,” he whispered.

“Why don't you go outside and get some air? I’d like to be alone with Kyle for a few minutes, if you don’t mind.”

“You sure?” he asked softly.

She nodded. “Yeah, I'll be fine, ok?”

Sitting down next to Kyle’s bed, she grasped his hot, clammy hand in hers as if she could will him to get better and live. “Kyle... Kyle?”

“Hey,” Zan said softly.

She looked up in concern. “What are you doing here?”

“I came to see Kyle.”

“Oh.... Can you help him now?”

He shook his head sadly. “I can't stop this. The others drained me completely. I won’t regain my energy in time to save him. I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay, Zan,” she whispered. “You tried once. I know it wasn’t your fault that you couldn’t save him. I don’t blame you.”

He looked at her, tears shimmering in his eyes. “Liz...um, I had an idea on my way over here. Lonnie might be able to help you,” he said, motioning his sister forward from the doorway. “You know what's going to happen.... She can’t stop it, but she may be able to help you say goodbye.”

Liz nodded.

Vilandra laid her hands on Kyle, and closed her eyes.

“Liz.”

Liz turned to see Kyle standing behind her. Glancing back at the bed, his pale and sweat-soaked body still lay there, unmoving. She looked back. “Kyle?”

“Yep, it’s me. Well, at least a part of me. Hello Zan.”

He startled at Kyle’s greeting. “Kyle, I’m sorry. I wanted to help you, but now it’s just--.”

Kyle held up a hand. “I know. And I understand.” He turned to Liz. “It’s all so clear to me now.”

She blinked back tears. “Kyle, I am so sorry I couldn’t love you in the way you wanted me to. But, I do love you. Don’t ever believe otherwise. Like Maria and Alex, you’re my family. You mean so much to me, and somehow you always manage to make me believe I can do anything. I--I just don't know what I'm going to do without you.”

He smiled softly, and reached out to caress her cheek. “You're going to do just fine leading the crew. You’re the strongest person I’ve ever known.

She felt the slight whisper of a breeze against her cheek, and closed her eyes briefly.

“I want to tell you something,” he continued. “I was too jealous to see and understand what this force is between you and Zan, but I do now. I understand... everything. Promise that you’ll do one thing for me Liz? Follow your heart, wherever it takes you. Trust it. Will you do that?”

She nodded slowly, tears streaming down her face as she watched his image begin to shimmer. “I will Kyle. I promise.”

He looked at Zan. “Take care of her. If you hurt her, I’ll come back and haunt you,” he said, smiling.

Zan nodded, placing his hand on Liz’s shoulder, as they watched Kyle’s image fade away.

The steady whine of Kyle’s medical monitor flat-lining filled the tent.


******


”The tough thing about following your heart is what people forget to mention, that sometimes your heart takes you to places you shouldn't be, places that are as scary as they are exciting and as dangerous as they are alluring, and sometimes your heart takes you to places that can never lead to a happy ending.”

Zan walked Liz back to her tent. He paused to study the emotions that were playing across her face.

She looked at her tent and then back at him. “Zan, thank you for....”

“Shhh. It's ok.” he whispered, stroking her arm.

“Good night,” she said, opening the door of her tent.

“Good night.”

”And that's not even the difficult part. The difficult part is when you follow your heart, you leave normal, and you go into the unknown.”

Suddenly, she turned around and threw herself into Zan’s arms, burying her face into his chest, pressing her cheek against his warm, smooth flesh.

He wrapped his arms around her and just held her, existing in the glowing presence that was his Liz--from her vanilla-scented hair to her soft, ivory skin.

As they stood there, they found comfort in the moment and the security of just being with each other. Neither one daring to wonder what the future might bring.

”And once you do, you can never go back.“



**FADE TO BLACK**
**END of Episode 104**

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

Okay, I'm going to run and hide now from all of the Kyle lovers out there. I know, I should have warned about character death, but then you'd have figured it out too soon.

Just keep reading the future episodes. I promise, it ALL works out in the end and you WILL love me again. :wink: :twisted:

See you on the flip side,

Mel

P.S. Episode 5 will be up on Saturday as per usual. Unless something changes, I'm going back to my regular schedule of posting. EVOLUTION of Fridays and COTS on Saturdays.

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COTS -- Ep. 5 Missing Z(M)/L 11/3/06

Post by Angel Kisses 70 » Fri Nov 03, 2006 11:36 pm

CHILDREN OF THE STARS
Episode #5: Missing


RATING: This episode is TEEN.

AUTHOR’S NOTE: Jeez you guys are a bloodthirsty lot! :lol: I was surprised at the number of people who were glad to see Kyle go! Thought for sure I'd be dodging hate mail.... :wink:

Thanks for the loverly feedback guys and the well wishes for the boys! I left an update about them in my Author's Note on the EVOLUTION thread if you all want an update!

Now, on with the show....



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



ACT I

“It's funny how the world changes sometimes, how the people you’ve known your entire life can suddenly seem darker, more sinister, unfriendly even.”

Liz walked through camp, her head high. She could feel the eyes of her crew watching her. Their curiosity about her and Zan evident in all of their faces.

“How their silence isn't so quiet anymore. How the eyes you've looked into all your life, now look at you like they never really knew you. How walking through the camp is no longer routine, but a victory.”

She stopped in front of Alex’s lab. Glancing over her shoulder, she saw the angry and hurt faces of her crew. She knew they’d seen her and Zan hugging after Kyle’s death last night. She could feel their disapproval, but she didn’t care. They didn’t understand, and she didn’t feel like explaining it to them.

“And then I begin to wonder... maybe it's not the crew that's changed. Maybe it's just me.”

She walked inside and looked around. It was eerily quiet in the darkened tent. She knew that Alex wanted to perform an autopsy on Kyle, especially after they’d learned from Maria what Rath had overheard.

Slowly approaching the sheet-covered table where Kyle’s body lay, she felt her anger growing at the thought that someone had deliberately infected Kyle in order to wipe out her crew. They were being hunted, and she damn well wanted to know why and by whom.
Staring down at the table, she gripped the top of the sheet, took a deep breath and pulled it back.

“What the--?” she said, staring down at the bundles of clothing that lay piled up on the exam table. She quickly looked around, but didn’t see any place else where Kyle’s body could be. He was gone.

“And then, something happens, and I begin to wonder all over again.”


******


Liz burst into Maria’s tent, breathing hard.

Maria sat up on her bed. “What's wrong?”

“Kyle’s body...it’s missing!”

“What?”

“You heard me,” she said, pacing. “I went to go see him...you know, cause Alex said he’d finished the autopsy. But, when I drew back the sheet, his body was gone.”

Maria began to get dressed. “Maybe Alex moved it?”

“No, he didn’t. He was the one who told me to go to the lab and see the evidence for myself.”

“What evidence?”

“The evidence that proves Kyle was deliberately infected.”

Maria paused to stare at Liz, a hint of fear in her eyes. “So it’s true? Rath was right? Wasn’t he?”

She nodded. “Kyle was murdered.”


******


Rath jerked awake, his body shaking. The dream he’d had was so real. It was as if the gods were trying to tell him something.

Throwing back his covers, he slipped silently from the bed to rummage through his desk. Finding a sheet of parchment and using his powers, he quickly began to sketch his vision with his finger.


******


Zan woke to the sound of insistent pounding on his door. Stumbling out of bed, he got up to answer it. Glancing towards the balcony doors, he could see the stars still shining brightly. “Whoever this is, it had better be good...,” he mumbled sleepily

“Hey, what's going on?” Rath asked excitedly.

He watched his best friend walk into his room without so much as a by-your-leave, and rolled his eyes. “Well since you asked, sleep. Please tell me this is important, Rath.”

“It is. I dreamt it, Zan. I’ve seen it more clearly than I ever have!”

“What?”

“This,” Rath replied, thrusting a piece of parchment at him. “It's what I’ve been dreaming about ever since the humans appeared. This is my vision.”

“You’re having visions? Since when? And why haven’t you told me about them?”

Rath shook his head. “That’s not important right now. Just look. Isn’t it amazing?”

He stared at the picture on the parchment and frowned in confusion. “You saw a bunch of large stones in a circle?”

“No, I saw this, Zan. This,” Rath said, tapping anxiously at the picture.

“And what is “this”?”

Rath sighed. “I don't know yet. But I saw it. I’ve never been able to see it so clearly until tonight. I had to tell somebody.”

He sighed and handed Rath back the sketch. “While I appreciate that I'm the one you chose to wake in the middle of the night to tell me about these stones, do you think we can talk about this in the morning?”

Rath shrugged. “Yeah, ok. In the morning.” He looked at the chaise out in the sitting area. “Would you mind if I crash here? I want to study this some more, that way if I remember anything else, I can tell you?”

He yawned and shook his head. “Go ahead. Be my guest.”

“Great. Night Zan.”

“Night Rath.”



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



ACT II

Alex, Maria and Liz stared at the semi-empty exam table.

Maria peered at the clothing. “Hey, these are our uniforms that are supposed to be at the laundry getting cleaned!”

Liz looked over Alex’s shoulder at the computer he was working at. “Anything?”

Alex shook his head. “It’s been wiped. And very well, I might add. I can’t even make a partial reconstruction of my medical reports.”

“Who would want to steal a body?” Maria asked, going into her Nancy Drew mode. “Who do we have as prime suspects?”

“No one,” Liz sighed.

“Oh but you’re wrong, Liz. I mean, we're on a planet where someone is trying to kill us. Where someone in a black robe is spying on us. You can't just ignore things like this.”

“Look, I told you I didn’t see anything unusual on my way over here....”

“Hey, who knows what kind of powers these Antarians have. Maybe they can turn invisible,” Maria replied.

Liz rolled her eyes. “Alex?”

“Hmmm?”

“What exactly did your reports on Kyle say?”

“Well, I analyzed Kyle’s blood with that of an Antarian who’d died from Azul-flu. Lonnie got me a sample from the files of the Palace Historian.”

“Palace Historian?” Maria snorted. “Why would a historian have a blood sample?”

“I don’t know, Maria. Maybe they keep records on outbreaks and stuff. Ask Lonnie,” Alex said annoyed at the interruption.

Liz put up her hands. “Maria, please, don’t interrupt. Alex, please continue.”

“Anyway...as I was saying, I compared the two samples. At first I thought maybe it was because the subjects were two different races. However, when I isolated the virus, I found that the one in Kyle’s blood was a mutated form of the original. It was extremely subtle, almost as if it had been deliberately engineered to infect only humans, and not Antarians.”

“Which explains why none of the Antarians contracted the disease,” Liz stated.

“Exactly. In its natural, or original nature, the Azul-flu, shouldn’t have infected us. Our blood is different from the Antarians, even though we look similar on the outside.”

“How so?” Liz asked.

“Antarian blood has some sort of element in it that the virus lives on. It’s a quirk that isn’t present in our blood. My guess is that it’s a by product of the Antarians powers.”

“See!” Maria said excitedly, “It has to be the black-robe guy. Who else wants us dead?”

Liz sighed. “Damn. Okay. Alex, keep working on those files. Maria, see if you can find any clues in the laundry area. Maybe the perpetrator left behind some fingerprints or something.”

“And what are you going to do?” Maria asked.

“Figure out how to tell Zan about this.”

“My advice...after a good stiff drink,” Alex said.

Liz rolled her eyes. “Yeah well, I think I’ll just wait until after breakfast, which if my watch is correct, is in about four hours.”


******


“Well?” Maria asked as she entered the lab after breakfast. She peered intently over Alex’s shoulder. “Any progress, O Great One of the Sciences?”

“Maria De Luca, ladies and gentlemen,” Alex said sarcastically, pausing briefly to give her a dirty look, before returning his attention to the computer screen. “Where's Parker?”

“Um, I think she went to inform Zan about our little problem.”

“I take it she didn’t follow my advice about the stiff drink?”

“No.”

“Well, then...what did you find out at the laundry?”

She sighed. “Not a damn thing. Except for the missing uniforms, there was nary a speck of dirt or dust in sight.”

“Annoying, ain’t it?”

“Yes. I swear, Nancy Drew never had it this hard.”

He chuckled. “Yeah, well, Nancy never had to deal with Antarians and their super powers either.”

“So, how’s it going on your end of the investigation?”

“Don’t ask.”

“Okay...are we feeling a little testy this morning?”

“Well, considering I only got about an hour of sleep last night, and somebody screwed with my computer... yes, I’m a little put out.”

“Well, did you keep a backup of your files?”

“Yes, but the backup is gone too. Do you think I would be up all night trying to resurrect my computer if my backup was available?”

“Sorry,” she said softly. “Just trying to help.”

“Well don’t, okay?” He looked up from his computer screen and saw the hurt expression on her face. “I’m sorry, Maria. I’m just frustrated. I didn’t mean to take it out on you. I guess I need a break. Look, I’m going to the Mess and get some breakfast. You want anything?”

“No. I already ate,” she pouted.

“I really am sorry, Maria. Please say you’ll forgive me.”

She looked at him and smiled. “Stop with the puppy face! You know I can’t resist the puppy face.” She rolled her eyes. “Okay. Okay. I forgive you. Now go get something to eat before you waste away to nothing. I’ll stay here and keep an eye on things.”

“Thanks Maria,” he said, giving her a quick peck on the cheek. “You’re the best. I’ll be back in a few.”


******


As Alex left the Mess tent fifteen minutes later, he knocked over the garbage can that stood outside the front door. “Well, hell,” he swore under his breath, and bent over to pick up the mess. “What else can go wrong today?”

“You know, that’s considered littering and carries a stiff fine here on Antar.”

He froze and closed his eyes. “Oh please,” he begged silently, “Please let it be anyone but her.”

Opening his eyes, he looked up into the face of what he imagined an Antarian goddess looked like. “Oh, hi Lonnie. I didn’t know you were.... Um, I’m sorry about this--”

Vilandra laughed and bent down to help pick up the trash. “I was just teasing you Alex. Relax. Am I making you nervous again?”

He looked at her like a deer caught in the headlights of an oncoming car. “What? Me, nervous? Oh, no. I’m just a little sleep deprived is all. Other than that, I’m, great! Thanks. What are you doing here?”

“I came to see you, Alex. I wanted to see if you made any headway with that sample I “lent” you,” she whispered.

He finished picking up the last of the trash. “Oh, yeah. Well, come with me to the lab and I’ll fill you in.”

“Okay.”

As they walked, she noticed his expression. “Alex, has something happened?”

“You could say that,” he mumbled as he held the door open for her. “I’ll tell you inside.”

“Hey Alex. Right where you left me. Everything still where you left it,” Maria said, hopping off the stool in front of his computer as he entered the tent. “Hey Princess. Up kind of early aren’t you?”

“Maria, were you messing with my computer?”

She looked at him guiltily. “Um...maybe?”

“What did you do?” he groaned as he went over to check on the damage.

“Nothing. I swear. I was just looking to see if Solitaire was still on the thing. I figured the thief wouldn’t wipe that.”

“Thief? What thief?” Vilandra asked. “What was stolen?”

He glared at Maria and then looked at Vilandra. “Someone came in here last night and stole Kyle’s body.”

“Yeah, and then they wiped Alex’s computer of all its medical files. Whoever did this, made sure we couldn’t prove that Kyle was murdered,” Maria added hastily.

“Murdered?” Vilandra gasped. “Does Zan know about this?”

“Liz is telling him as we speak,” he said.


******


Zan and Rath had just finished breakfast when Liz showed up at Zan’s door.

“I’m sorry,” she said, spotting Rath sitting on the chaise behind Zan. “I didn’t know you were busy, I’ll just--”

Zan grabbed her hand and pulled her into the room. “Oh, no, we just finished eating breakfast. Right Rath?”

Rath grunted and continued studying his sketch.

“See. So, what’s up?”

“There's something that you should know because something’s happened.... It’s Kyle. His body is missing.”

“Missing?” Zan and Rath both asked at the same time, giving her their undivided attention.

She nodded. “Not only that, but all of Alex’s medical records on the computer were wiped. We don’t have any evidence to show your father that somebody deliberately infected Kyle in an attempt to kill us.”

“It sounds like our mysterious "He" has struck again,” Rath said, standing up and leaving his sketch forgotten on the chaise. “I’ll go see what I can dig up from my contact. He might let something slip.”

“Rath, wait,” she said. “We can’t be certain it’s this person’s doing--”

“And who else could it be? Know anyone else around here who wants you and your crew dead? My guess is this "He" is covering his butt, because there was something in Kyle’s blood that would lead us to him.”

Zan nodded in agreement with Rath. “Let Rath check out his contact. It might help. Plus, it’s the only lead you’ve got right now. Correct?”

“Okay, but let me know the minute you find out something,” she conceded. “The rest of my crew doesn’t know that Kyle’s missing and I don’t want to alarm them. We have a couple of days before the funeral to find him.”

“Can do. I’ll talk to you later about the sketch Zan,” Rath said, and left.

She looked around nervously. She hadn’t been alone with Zan since the night Kyle died. “So, um, what sketch?” she asked.

Zan shrugged and stepped closer to her. “Nothing, just a dream he had. It’s not important.”

“Oh,” she whispered, staring at his mouth as it curved into a smile.

“What’s the matter Liz? You seem a little jumpy this morning.”

“Oh, well, you know with the disappearance and all, I’m feeling a little rattled.”

“Maybe a kiss might calm you down,” he whispered.

Her eyes widened as he wrapped an arm around her waist and pulled her flush against his rock hard body. She closed her eyes and sighed as he brushed his lips against hers. Yes, this was definitely what she needed. But she wasn’t too sure about its intend effect to calm her down. In fact, it felt like the opposite as she the tingling in the pit of her stomach began to spread through her veins.

She quickly pulled away. “I-I’m sorry, but I really can’t stay. I promised Maria and Alex to hurry back and help them with the investigation.”

“Okay,” he said, “but will I see you later?”

She nodded. “How about you join me for dinner in my tent?”

“Okay, and Liz....we’ll find him.”


******


Liz stood outside Zan’s chambers and thought about what Rath had said. Could the mysterious “He” really have something to do with Kyle’s disappearance? If he could sneak into the camps, why hadn’t he just killed them all while they slept? Something wasn’t right, but she couldn’t put her finger on it.

“Liz?”

She looked up to see Vilandra emerging from her room. “Lonnie. I was, um, just lost in thought there for a minute. I’ve got to get back to camp.”

Vilandra looked hurt. “You’re not rushing off on my account, I hope.”

“Oh, no, not at all,” she quickly reassured. “It’s just that...well...Kyle’s body is missing.”

“Missing? Are you sure?”

“Positive.”

“Well, do you want me to help look for it?”

“Oh, no. That’s okay. Don’t worry. I’ve already talked to Zan and Rath. It’ll turn up. I hope....”

“I know I'm not the first person you'd turn to in a moment like this, but I want you to know that I’m here for you if you need a friend.”

She smiled. “Thanks Lonnie.

“Do you have any idea who took it?”

“Maria and Alex have some theories about the black-robed watcher in the woods, but other than that...no.”

“Well...at least that’s a start. Are you going to be okay? I know you and Kyle were close.”

“Yeah, I’ll be fine. Thank you. Look, I need to be getting back to camp and see if Alex found anything new. I’ll talk to you later, okay?”

“Okay. Good luck.”

Once Liz was out of sight, Vilandra glanced at Zan’s door and then stepped back into her room. Closing her eyes, she was suddenly engulfed in a bright, golden light. As the light faded, a young woman in a black robe now leaned against the door.

She pulled a communicator from her sleeve.

“Control,” the voice on the other end said, answering the hail.

“7-3-2-9-0,” she whispered.

“What have you got?”

“Something has happened. Tell the others to prepare for the ceremony. I will be there shortly.”

“Yes, Chryseis. We will await your arrival.”

Turning off the communicator and placing it back in her sleeve, Chryseis peeked out the door. Seeing that the hallway was empty, she pulled her hood over her short, spiky, white hair and hurried out of Vilandra’s room, disappearing into the shadows.



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



ACT III


Rath was frustrated. His contact had been no help whatsoever when he’d mentioned the disappearance of Kyle’s body. He’d made the remark that the body was inconsequential.

Now, he had no idea where the body might be. Walking into his room, he eyed the sparse surroundings. Besides the bed, he really had very few possessions and that was the way he liked it. Made it easier to pick up and move if need be. The warrior in him knew that a hasty retreat was sometimes the best defense.

Plopping down on to the edge of his bed, he stared at one of the sketches of his vision that he’d drawn. “What in the name of the gods does it all mean?” he thought. Grunting in frustration, he laid down to catch a quick nap, as the lack of sleep last night was finally catching up to him.


“Remember...,” whispered a disembodied voice. It floated around him like a breeze.

Rath looked around and found himself standing in the center of his vision. The stones rose ominously above him, and as he looked up into the sky, he noticed that the sky was a strange color of blue. It was too bright.

Suddenly, the soft strains of music could be heard. Some sort of wind instrument...and maybe a string instrument? Was that laughter?

Turning around, his eyes widened in surprise. Standing there before him was Liz Parker, her long, brown hair flowing freely in the breeze and crowned by a wreath of white flowers. Her eyes sparkled with happiness. She was dressed in a sleeveless, white gown, the likes of which Rath had never seen before.

“Remember...,” she whispered and blew him a kiss before she faded from sight...her tinkling laughter floating on the breeze.”



Rath sat straight up in bed. He quickly scanned his room, only to discover that he was alone. “What was she doing in my vision?”


******


Zan stood in the Great Hall of Knowledge and wondered where to begin. He knew the Palace Historian would have a fit if he so much as put one book out of place.

“Can I help you with something?”

He startled and turned to find the little, wizened historian he’d just been thinking about. “Um, yes. I’m looking for a book on Antarian mythology, preferably one with pictures.”

“Mythology?” the historian croaked, looking him up and down. “Why would the Crown Prince want a musty old book on mythology?”

“I’m looking for costume ideas for the Masque next week,” he replied sheepishly. “I’m hoping my escort will say yes if the costumes are perfect.”

“Ah, a girl has turned the young prince’s head. I wonder who it could be?” the old man chuckled. “Right this way.”

He followed the little man to the upper level and towards the back of the room. He was surprised how well the ancient-looking historian was spry enough to scramble up the tall ladders to inspect the titles on the spines of the leather-bound books.

“Ah ha!” the man wheezed, and pulled a large volume from the top shelf. He began coughing as a rather large cloud of dust billowed around his head.

He thought for sure that the historian was going to fall, but was surprised when the man slid gracefully down the ladder instead and handed him the book.

“I think this, Antarian Mythos, will suit your purposes nicely,” the little man said, cackling gleefully.

He raised an eyebrow at the man’s antics. “Yes... um, well, thank you. I--.”

“The pictures in it aren’t very big, but the descriptions of the characters are riveting. You’ll literally see them in your mind’s eye. Should give you plenty of ideas for costumes.”

He opened the book and skimmed through the table of contents. When he spotted the myth he was looking for, he nodded in satisfaction. “Yes. This is perfect,” he replied, smiling.

The little historian started to hobble off and then stopped. “Take a good look at that. Let me know what you think. I know you want answers, Zan.”

“Excuse me?” he asked, confused by the historian’s cryptic statement.

“Zan? Are you in here?” Liz’s voice called up from the floor below.

He turned at the sound, then back to the historian.

“Go ahead,” the little man cackled. “We both know she's more interesting than I am.”

He nodded, and quickly descended the stairs to the ground floor. “Hi,” he said, slightly out of breath. “I thought you were on your way back to camp?”

“I was, but then, I had a thought. Can you get away from here for a little while,” she whispered.

“Sure. What's going on?”

“I want you to come back to camp with me and take a look around. I thought maybe, you know, with your powers and all, you might catch something we missed?”

“Okay. You go ahead and leave by the palace gates and I’ll use my usual escape route, and we’ll meet on the west side of the wall, okay?”

She nodded. “Thanks Zan.”

“No problem. I’d do anything for you, you know that right?”

She blushed. “I’ll see you at the west wall.”


******


The little historian watched hidden among the stacks and cases of the upper floor. When their voices had faded from hearing range and he was sure that he was alone, the little man began to glow with a golden light.

Chryseis shook the dust from her hair and robe. Glancing back at where the Prince and the human female had been standing, she smiled warmly before slipping into the long, forgotten passageway behind the last bookcase.


******


“What is that?” Vilandra asked as she walked up behind Rath in the exercise yard.

Rath grunted and kept drawing on the piece of parchment.

“Do you really think you should be doing that here?”

“Doing what?”

“Drawing. Won’t that hurt your manly image among the troops?” she teased, smiling when he finally looked up at her with an annoyed expression.

“It's getting clearer.”

She looked at him confused. “What’s getting clearer? What are you talking about?”

“Haven’t you talked to Zan today?”

“No. I was out at the camp visiting Alex. Did you know Kyle’s body has disappeared?”

“Yes. Liz came by at the crack of dawn to inform Zan. I think he’s out there now, “investigating”, when he really should be here trying to help me figure out what this means?” he grumbled, rattling the parchment he had in his hands.

“Uh-oh, sounds like someone’s jealous,” she replied, staring at his sketch. “What is that?”

“That’s my vision.”

“You’re getting visions? Since when?”

“Since the day of the crash.”

“Why didn’t you tell me about them?” she pouted.

“Because I couldn’t remember them until last night. Now, I can’t seem to get them out of my head. Every time I close my eyes, there they are...these stones. I just wish I knew what it meant.”

She studied the drawing. “That you have rocks in your head?”

“Ha, ha. Be serious.”

“Okay. My guess...I have an idea. Do you want me to dream walk you tonight and see if I can’t see something that you might have missed?”

He thought about her offer for a minute. “Give me one more night, and if I’m still as confused in the morning, I’ll take you up on your offer.”

She smiled. “Deal. Now, do you really think you should be drawing out here?”

“Lonnie....”


******


“Alex didn’t have to leave on my account,” Zan said as he and Liz looked around the lab. “Have I offended him in some way?”

“No, Zan. Alex is just wiped. He’s been up all night and needs some rest. I told him to go take a break.”

“Oh,” he said softly. Then realization hit. “Ohhhh....”

“What?” she asked, wary of his wolfish grin.

“If you wanted to be alone with me, all you had to do was say so,” he teased, advancing slowly on her.

She backed away from him and raised her hands. “Okay you, just wait one minute. We are here to investigate a crime. Not get frisky with one another.”

“Who says we can’t do both?” he whispered, slowly stalking her like a giant cat.

She backed up into the edge of the exam table. “Because it’s just not proper.”

“I’ve never been one for propriety,” he growled, trapping her between his arms and the table, causing her to visibly shiver.

But instead of kissing her on the lips as she expected, he began to kiss her lightly on the side of her neck, nibbling his way up to her ear. She felt her knees give out when she felt his tongue slowly lick her earlobe before drawing it into his mouth to lightly suck on it.
He smiled to himself at the sound of her whimper and grabbed her by the waist when she sagged against him. As he moved to reacquaint himself with her mouth, he lifted her up and set her on the table. Placing one of his hands on the cool metal surface for balance, he used his other hand to stroke her hip.


Kyle’s body lay on the exam table.

The black-robed watcher motioned to some other robe-clad figures to lift the body and carry it out the back of the tent through the hole that had been created.

The watcher stuffed clothes under the sheet. Moving its hand over the top of the sheet, the watcher made it look like a body was underneath.



Zan and Liz broke apart, each panting lightly.

“What in the hell was that?” she demanded breathlessly.

He backed away from her stunned and stared at the table on which she sat. “He was here. The watcher. I saw him.”

“You saw him?”

“I got a flash from the table, Liz. When things get intense, heightened, sometimes we feel things...see things. He was definitely here.”



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



ACT IV


“Okay, so we know that the watcher was in here for sure,” Maria said glancing around the lab. “That just creeps me out. What could you possibly do with a corpse?”

Liz looked at Maria and sighed. “Look, Zan saw the watcher and a bunch of other robe types take Kyle’s body out of here. What we need to figure out now is where they would take him.”

“Maybe we could follow the smell. It’s been pretty warm today. He’s going to start getting aromatic soon, if you get my meaning,” Maria said, sitting down on the stool in front of Alex’s computer.

“Smell?” Zan asked, “What smell?”

Maria chuckled.

Liz glared at her. “Um, Zan. Human bodies begin to decompose rapidly if they aren’t kept cool. As the body begins to break down, they start to smell, um, rotten.”

Zan looked at her even more confused.

“They stink,” Maria volunteered. “Worse than the droppings of a Gandar beast.”

“That’s disgusting,” Zan replied, making a face.

“Yes well, that’s human physiology. Don’t your dead Antarians decompose?” Maria asked.

Zan shook his head. “No, our bodies disintegrate into dust once our essence has left the vessel.”

“Must make for an easy funeral,” Maria quipped.

“Enough with the dead jokes Maria! This is Kyle we’re talking about,” Liz said, getting highly upset.

Maria looked contrite. “You’re right Lizzy. I’m so sorry. Forgive me?”

“Yes,” she replied and looked at Zan. “Do you think you might be able to get a flash and figure out where they took him?”

“It doesn’t work that way. I can’t see where they came from or where they went. Only what they did at that time in that particular place.”

“Well, maybe you should go see what Rath found out from his contact.”

“Okay,” he said, then bent forward to whisper in Liz’s ear, “I’ll be back for dinner.”

Liz shivered as she watched Zan walk out of the lab door.

“Whoo! Did the temperature in this room just climb ten degrees?” Maria teased, fanning herself.

Liz turned and stuck her tongue out at Maria before exiting the lab herself.

“Well, that wasn’t very captain-like!” Maria yelled after her. The only reply she received was the bang of the wooden door hitting the frame.

******


Zan met Rath and Lonnie in his chambers so he could get ready for dinner while discussing the disappearance.

“It looks like Rath was right,” he said, as he looked through the closet for something to wear. “The black robe watcher was in the lab. He took the body.”

“Are you sure?” Rath asked, “Because my contact said the body wasn’t important.”

Zan poked his head out of the closet. “I got a flash when I was in the lab with Liz.”

“Maybe Maria was right. Maybe your contact is onto you, Rath,” Vilandra said.

Rath shook his head. “No, I don’t think so.”

“Either way, this isn’t good, you know,” she said, frowning.

“You’re not planning on wearing that are you?”

Zan looked down at the black pants and vest he’d just put on. “Why? What’s wrong with them?”

“You’re going to an intimate dinner, not a formal banquet.”

“But Liz likes me in black.”

She sighed. “Fine, but why don’t you wear the linen instead of the leather? It’ll be cooler.”

“Will you two stop talking about clothes? We have a renegade Antarian or whatever out there stealing human corpses!” Rath stated angrily. “Can we at least decide on what to do next?”

“I want you to contact your informant again. He may know something and not even realize it,” Zan ordered. “Lonnie, thanks for the fashion advice, but now, I’m going to go and have dinner with a beautiful lady.”

“What about my vision?” Rath asked indignantly.

“What about it? What do you want me to say? I’ve never seen anything like it before. Maybe Lonnie can help you dream walk it.”

“I’ve already offered,” she replied.

“Well then, you’re all set Rath,” Zan said, scooping up his book, Antarian Mythos . “Now, if you’ll excuse me. I’ll see you in the morning. Don’t wait up.”

“You know, he’s really beginning to get on my head,” Rath growled.

“He’s in love,” Vilandra said, trying to soothe his mood. “Just ignore him. Let’s go get some dinner and then maybe we can take a swim in the pond.”


******


Somewhere on Antar....

“This human, Liz Parker, is the most compelling sign I’ve ever encountered since I entered the Order.”

“How can we be sure that she is the Key?”

Chryseis stared at the acolytes standing in a circle around the sacred altar in the center of the chamber. They were chanting in low voices in an ancient language thought long dead on Antar. It was the language of the gods.

She pointed to Kyle Valenti’s body lying on the sacred altar. “This one will confirm it. He is the proof that Liz Parker and her people are the ones foretold who will bring us into the Golden Age.”

The acolyte bowed to his mistress. “When shall we begin?”

She listened to the chanting. “When they are done purifying the body tomorrow night, they will then begin to pray for one full day and night. After that, we shall begin.”


******


Liz glanced around her tent. Everything was in its proper place. A small eating table had been set with a white linen cloth, two place settings and two lighted tapers, which besides the small lamp on her desk were the only things shedding light in the room.

She smiled. “Very intimate. I think Zan will like this.

“Hey, I’m here,” Zan said softly, poking his head inside the door. “Am I....wow. I like.”

Smiling, she walked over to him and brushed a quick kiss across his lips. “Thanks. Can you see okay? I mean, if it’s too dark in here I can turn on some more lights.”

“No, it’s perfect. Just like you,” he replied, his gaze quickly scanning her appearance. She was wearing her hair loose, so that it fell in soft waves around her face and past her shoulders. He loved it when it was down. It allowed him to run his fingers through it and enjoy its silkiness.

She blushed. “Thank you, but I’m far from perfect.”

“Well you’re perfect for me. Is that better?” he teased.

“Yes.” She smiled. “Now, I hope you like Italian.”

“What’s Italian?”

She laughed. “Sorry, I forget. Let me just say it’s a favorite type of food from my world. In this case, it’s pasta and a red wine sauce with a small green salad and garlic bread on the side.”

“I’m sure I’ll love it.”

There was a knock at the door.

“That would be the food. Maria was supposed to bring it over from the Mess before you got here...,” she explained and went to answer the door.

“Voila!” Maria exclaimed as she rolled the small cart into the tent. “Enjoy your dinner you two. Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do.”

“Maria!” Liz hissed, her cheeks burning. “Say good night.”

“What? No tip?”

“Maria....”

Maria smiled impishly at Zan. “She’s so much fun to tease. Good night, Your Highness. And you, I’ll talk to in the morning. Night, chica.”

“Sorry about that,” Liz mumbled, shutting the door. “Maria can be a little obvious sometimes.”

He laughed. “I like her. She’s refreshingly honest.”

“Yeah, well, you try being her captain once,” she said, moving the cart over to the table. “Well, let’s sit down and eat, shall we?”

“This is good,” he said a little while later, as he took another bite of spaghetti. “What’s in it?”

“Tomatoes, herbs, a little water, red wine and some garlic. It’s an old family recipe from Maria’s great-grandmother. It’s definitely one of my favorites. I’m glad Alex let Maria raid the hydroponics lab for the ingredients.”

They continued to chat about each other and their friends throughout the rest of dinner.

“So, anyway, there Lonnie was, still stuck in the tree, bellowing her head off for someone to come and get her and Rath down,” he said, laughing.

She wiped the tears of laughter from her eyes and tried to catch her breath. “How old were they?”

“Four. Father had to send a couple of guards up there after them. And when they got down, he had all of the lower branches from the trees around Lonnie’s window removed, effectively cutting off her escape route. Until she discovered my trees still had theirs.”

“So how embarrassed was Rath?” she asked, imaging a little, spiky-haired boy caught in a tree because the seat of his pants were snagged on a branch.”

“Lonnie refused to speak to him for a week, and let’s just say he still turns red whenever I mention tree climbing.”

She took a sip of water, before standing up to clear off the table.

He covered her hand with one of his, stopping her movements. “Liz...can I ask you something?”

She swallowed nervously at the seriousness in his voice. “Um, yeah. Sure.”

“There’s this Masque next week...a costume ball of sorts, in celebration of my father’s twentieth year as King. And I was wondering if you would be my escort.”

“Well...I’m not sure,” she said sitting back down. “I don’t have a costume....”

“No problem,” he said hastily, pulling the mythology book from its spot under his chair where he’d stashed it when they’d sat down. “I’ve got an idea for some costumes.... See, right here.”

She looked at the pictures he pointed too in the book. “Who are they?"

“Antares and Echo. I thought they were appropriate costumes for us since we kissed on the night of the Joining and all.”

“Will we be wearing masks?”

“Yes, until midnight, then we remove them. We finish the Masque without them for the rest of the night.”

She shook her head. “I’m sorry Zan. But I can’t be your escort.”

“Why not?” he asked, disappoint on his face.

“Because we can’t be seen together by your father. You’re going to marry Avaria, by his own command. What will your people think when they see you consorting with a human in public?”

“We’re seen in public when we’re here in camp.”

“Being seen by my crew is one thing. They don’t having any bearing on your future as the ruler of Antar and the Confederation. Eventually, we’ll leave and you’ll be left to face the consequences of following your heart. I just can’t do that to you.”

“But--”

She shook her head. “No, Zan. I’m not going to change my mind. You’ll just have to escort someone else.”



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



ACT V


Rath and Vilandra were surprised to find Zan sitting alone in the palace gardens.

“Hey, I thought you were having dinner with Liz tonight?” Rath asked.

“I was. I left.”

“Okay, that doesn’t bode well. What happened?” Vilandra asked.

“Liz said no to attending the Masque with me.”

“Why?” Rath asked. “I thought you guys were joined at the hip.”

Zan laughed harshly. “She said we can see one another, just not in “public.” Meaning, not in front of the Antarians and Father. She doesn’t want to cause an uproar when Avaria finally gets here.”

“I’m sorry Zan, but maybe she’s right,” Vilandra said softly, placing a hand on his shoulder.

“No, she isn’t. She’s being stubborn. Why can’t she see that no matter what Father says, I’m going to figure a way to get out of marrying Avaria? I only want her.”

“Just give her some time,” Rath said. “She’ll come around, eventually.”


******


Liz stared at the computer screen in front of her until her eyes burned. She really hated the tedious, daily reports she had to look over as Captain. “I guess this is just the price I have to pay in order to have the rest of it,” she thought, as she heard a knock on her door.

“Come in,” she said.

Rath entered her tent and looked around, taking in the sparse furnishings, before settling his gaze on her.

“Oh, um, hi. Maria’s not here, if that’s who you’re looking for.”

He shook his head.

“Um, and I don’t know where Zan is either,” she replied, shifting uncomfortably under his intense stare.

“I know. He’s at the palace, probably moping in his room by now.”

“Oh...why?”

“I think you know why, Liz.”

She sighed. “Look Rath, you and I both know that Zan and I can’t be together in public, even though I love him. He has a responsibility to this planet and the Confederation. He’s engaged to be married for Pete’s sake!”

“Not yet, he isn’t. No official announcement has been made. And, I haven’t seen Avaria showing up around here. In fact, I have no idea when she’s supposed to get here.”

“What do you want?”

“I want you to know that when Zan is with you he’s the happiest I have ever seen him. It’s like he wasn’t really living in this life until you came along.”

“Lonnie told me basically the same thing. So? That still doesn’t change the fact that Marek expects him to marry Avaria to secure peace in the Confederation.”

“Zan doesn’t believe it will work.”

“Excuse me?”

“Zan thinks his father is wrong. That peace can’t be secured just because two people get married.”

“But the Osirian and Neteru demands--?”

“There are underlying factors to every conflict that are much deeper than what we see on the surface, Liz. Zan wants to examine those problems and work towards a satisfactory solution. Not put a dressing on the problem and hope it heals itself.”

She sighed. “I’m sorry. But I just can’t take that risk. The future of your planet--”

“Is not going to be affected by you attending the Masque with Zan. You have to learn to live in the present and make the most of the time you have now. The future will take care of itself.”

“How can you be so sure?” she whispered.

“Did you know that I’ve been having visions, or dreams as you call them, since the day of the crash?”

She looked at him startled and shook her head.

“They’ve been getting stronger and clearer everyday. At first I didn’t understand them. And I still don’t for the most part. But the one thing I’ve figured out is that they involve you.”

“Me?” she squeaked.

He nodded. “You’re always at the center. You’re the anchor. I see a place that I’ve never seen before in my entire life and at the end, there’s an image of you.

“Someone’s trying to tell me something. Telling me that you play a much bigger role in all of this than anyone can realize.”

“But I’m just a human who was just passing through the neighborhood and had to make an unscheduled stop.”

“Are you? How do you know the crash wasn’t destiny that brought you here? Cause when I see you with Zan, there’s a vibe that flows between the two of you that can’t be explained. It’s something no one on this planet has ever seen before.”

“Does Zan know that you’re here?”

“No...and you know what would be really great? If you didn't tell him.”

She thought for a minute. “What have you seen Rath?”

“This.” He handed her a rolled up piece of parchment.

She carefully unrolled the parchment and studied the drawing. Her expression remained emotionless.

“Do you recognize it?” he asked, hopefully.

“It’s no place I’ve ever been before.” She handed the drawing back.

“No. You keep it. I have plenty.”

“I’m sorry I couldn’t be more help.”

“That’s okay. I should go now and let you sleep. But, think about what I said. All you and Zan have right now is the present. Make the most of it.”

She nodded slightly. “I-I’ll think about it.”

He turned to leave than stopped. “Thank you Liz.”

“For what?”

“For giving me back my best friend,” he said softly and then he was gone, leaving her standing in the center of her tent, clutching the parchment in her hands.


******


Liz walked through the palace gardens, heading for Zan’s balcony. She stopped when she spotted movement in the shadows out of the corner of her eye. Glancing over, she realized that he was sitting under their tree, his back to her. Well, she couldn’t really say “their” tree, but it was the one under which they’d first kissed.

Cautiously, she approached him. “Hi.”

He didn’t turn around. “Hi.”

“I seem to be finding myself wandering around your garden here a lot lately,” she said lightly.

“Maybe you'd be interested in joining the Horticultural Society...it includes the guided tour and a box lunch,” he said, still not looking at her.

She sighed. He wasn’t going to make this easy. “Zan, I changed my mind.”

He peeked at her from underneath his dark bangs. “About what?”

“I do want to attend the Masque with you. And afterwards, well, we’ll just have to face whatever comes our way, and see how it goes, okay?”

“What made you change your mind?”

“A friend...a good friend...made me see that all we have is the present, and that the future will take care of itself. So let’s enjoy the time we have together now. Can we do that? Are you willing to try?”

He stared into her eyes. “What about Avaria?”

She sighed. “That’s the future, Zan. She’s not here in the present moment. All there is right now, is us.”

He nodded and smiled. “Okay. I would be honored to have you as my escort to the Masque.”

“Great! Well, um, I guess that’s all I wanted to say. I need to be getting back to camp. Still have tons of reports to go through.”

“Liz?”

“Yeah?”

“Can I kiss you?”

She blushed and nodded.

Placing the tip of his finger under her chin, he raised her face slightly and gently brushed his lips across hers.

Opening her eyes when he pulled away, she shivered at the desire she saw shining in his amber brown eyes.

“Good night, Liz,” he whispered.

She nodded and hurried away, trying to calm the sparks flowing through her veins.

Zan smiled, watching her until she was out of sight. He looked up at the moon, Antares. “Did Echo drive you as crazy when you were pursuing her?” he asked aloud, then laughed and walked back to the palace.


******


Zan, Rath and Vilandra sat next to the small, crystal blue pond on the palace grounds. The early morning sun beat down upon them, making the temperature around them already stifling.

“Did they find Kyle’s body?” Vilandra asked.

Zan shook his head. “No, and we have only two more days before she has to tell her crew. Rath are you going to try and contact your guy again?”

“Yeah, I’m supposed to meet him in a couple of hours.”

“Good,” he replied and opened his book.

Vilandra glanced at the book Zan held. “I can't believe you're still reading that,” she said, pointing at Antarian Mythos .

He grinned sheepishly. “Guilty pleasure.”

She motioned her head at Rath, who was laying on his back and staring up at the pale pink clouds.

“Rath, you ok?” Zan asked with concern.

“Yeah,” he replied, rolling over on his side to look at them. “I just wish I had a few more answers. The circle, you know? I mean what's the point of having a vision if it doesn’t mean anything?”

He grinned. “Patience, Broody Boy.”

“You're in an awfully good mood,” Vilandra observed. “Does this mean that Liz...?”

“Said yes to being my escort to the Masque,” he answered, his smile getting bigger.

“What about Avaria?” Rath asked. “Is she ever planning on showing up? As a future bride of the Crown Prince, she doesn’t seem very eager to get here.”

He shrugged. “I have no idea when she’s going to show up, if ever. But, Liz said she wanted the time we could have together now, and that we’d worry about the future when it arrived. She said a good friend reminded her to live in the present, and that the future will take care of itself.” Setting his book down, he stretched. “I’m going for a swim. Anyone else care to join me?”

“Sure,” Rath said.

Vilandra shook her head and picked up Zan’s book. “I think I’ll just stay here, nibble on my breakfast and see what’s so fascinating about Antarian Mythos .”

“Suit yourself,” Zan replied, “Just don’t lose my place, okay?”

Vilandra flipped through the pages. “Gods, Zan. How can you read this stuff?” she mumbled and threw the book onto the blanket. It landed with a soft thud and opened to a page near the back.

She stared at the open page. “Zan! Rath!”

They turned around and ran back.

“What’s the problem?” Zan asked.

“This,” she replied, holding up the book to show them a picture of large stones standing in a circle. “Rath, it’s your vision.”


******


Liz studied Rath’s drawing as she drank her morning cup of coffee inside her tent.

“I've been thinking about some things, about life before Zan saved me, about how I used to pray for something to happen, something to just break the routine, you know, of space travel and ship duties...something that would make us feel bigger, that would make me feel bigger, too.”

She walked over to her desk and sat down in front of her computer. Punching in a few keywords, she watched as what she was searching for appeared on the screen.

“And ever since I got my wish and Zan patched a hole two inches below my ribs, I realized one thing...that the bigger your world gets, the bigger your problems get, too.”

She stared at the flickering image of Stonehenge and then at Rath’s sketch. They were identical.


TO BE CONTINUED.......


**FADE TO BLACK**
**END of EPISODE 105**

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Angel Kisses 70
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Post by Angel Kisses 70 » Tue Nov 14, 2006 8:55 am

:::pops in and looks around::: Hmm, late with the update? Let me fix that....


CHILDREN OF THE STARS
Episode #6: The Key


RATING: TEEN

AUTHOR”S NOTE: Thanks for all of the lovely feedback. It really does make me and my muse smile. And of course, a happy muse means more story! :lol:

Erin, yeah I do need a banner for this story. mrsjbehr is supposed to try making me one (she did the most excellent banner for my story EVOLUTION.) However, I think she has to wait until school lets out for winter break before she gets a chance to work on it.

And now, on with the show....


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



ACT I


Zan, Rath, Vilandra, Alex and Maria stood in the lab and watched Liz as she paced back and forth.

“Okay Liz, we’re all here. What’s the big deal?” Alex asked, leaning up against one of the tables.

She stopped pacing and looked at them, chewing her bottom lip. “This,” she said, and thrust Rath’s sketch forward so they could see.

“Is that what I think it is?” Alex asked.

She nodded.

“What? What is it?” Rath asked impatiently.

“It’s Stonehenge. I believe I’ve mentioned it before in conversation,” Alex replied, bending forward to take a closer look. “Except, this particular rendering looks like what scientists on Earth theorized what it looked like before it was abandoned and began to deteriorate.”

Rath looked at Liz accusingly. “You told me that you’d never seen this before.”

She shook her head. “No, I said it was no place I’d ever been to before. I wanted to look it up on my computer to make sure it was what I thought it was.”

“Why would Rath be having visions of something that no longer exists? And on another planet light years away?” Vilandra asked.

“I don’t know,” she replied. “And I have no idea how I’m connected to it, if at all.”

“Lonnie found a picture of it in an Antarian mythology book. According to legend, this ring was where great harmonic power dwelled. And that whoever could harness the power, controlled the stars,” Zan said thoughtfully. “You did come here on a spaceship. In a way that’s controlling the stars.”

“Doesn’t make sense,” Alex said. “You guys travel on spaceships as well.”

“Well, I don’t understand the connection. Maybe it’s just Rath’s subconscious playing tricks on him,” Vilandra said in exasperation.

“Then why Stonehenge? A megalithic structure that existed on Earth years ago,” Maria asked. “I think Rath is right to want to find answers. If, some how, we’re tied together by something from our planets’ respective histories, it could be the reason why Mr. Black Robe is trying to kill us.”

Everyone stared at Maria.

“What?” she asked, “I do have an intelligent thought every now and again you know.”

“No, that’s not it Maria,” Zan said, “You’re very intelligent. In fact, you just gave me an idea.”

“I did?”

“She did?” Rath asked skeptically.

Zan nodded. “I need to go see a man about a book.”


******


Zan and Liz stood together in the Great Hall of Knowledge before the wizened Palace Historian.

“You told me to take a good look at this book,” Zan said, pointing to Antarian Mythos . “And to let you know what I think. You knew I would have questions when I saw the picture. Didn’t you?”

The little man nodded. “Everybody has their secrets. There isn't a being alive today who's what they appear to be. Exposing these secrets is the job of the historian. Even the most normal of us has extraordinary qualities just waiting to be uncovered. How scary it would be if someone discovered yours before you did.”

They stared at the historian even more confused by his cryptic statement.

“Ask questions of one another. It is your job as historians, to find out as much as you can about each other by asking specific questions,” the historian whispered.

“What kind of questions?” Zan asked.

“Personal questions. Who knows...you just might uncover a secret or two about yourselves.”

“But that doesn’t answer my question about the picture in the book,” Zan protested.

The old man bobbed his head. “Yes, it does. Because it is through the questions that you will find the Key.”

“No, I'm sorry. This is unacceptable,” Liz said in exasperation. “This talking in circles isn’t helping.”

“I beg your pardon?” the man asked in confusion.

“How can we find a key with answers to questions we don’t even know?”

“Well, that is your answer. Find the questions, to discover the answers that will reveal the Key,” the man cackled, pointing at the picture in the book of the megalithic circle.

She looked at Zan and sighed. “Could this possibly get any worse?”

“All right,” Zan said, getting the old man’s attention, “let's get started on some of these questions. Get to know each other a little, shall we?”

The historian laughed and scurried up the ladder to scan the spines of the many volumes in the bookcase in front of them.

“I don’t believe this,” she whispered, glancing at the man as he pulled book after book from the shelves. “He’s acting so weird.”

“It'll be fine,” Zan quietly reassured her as the historian scurried back down the ladder, a triumphant smile on his face.

“Eureka! Your Highness, the answers to your questions, and the questions to your answers are all contained in this book.”

They stared at the slim volume of musty, yellow pages and black leather. In faded gold letters across the cover, the words, Arcana & Apocrypha sprawled gracefully.

“Why can’t you just tell us what we need to know?” she asked.

The man looked at her in surprise. “But I have! Everything is in this book and in here,” he said, pointing at her head.

“Rath is right? Liz has something to do with this picture?” Zan asked.

“Yes! Very good! You understand the game!”

She grabbed the book from the historian and began to thumb through the pages.

“Is this circle of stones the key?” Zan asked.

“No. The Key is not stationary. The cyclolith is but the lock.”

“A lock to what?”

“The stars. Time. Power. Knowledge. Everything and nothing.”

“My head is beginning to hurt,” Liz whimpered.

“Is this why someone wants the humans dead? Because this cyclolith, as you call it, existed on their planet?”

“Yes and no.”

She looked up from the book. “Does a cyclolith like this one exist on Antar?”

The man nodded eagerly. “See,” he said to Zan, “The Key is very close.”

“Where is the cyclolith?” he asked.

“As it says in the legends: where the power of the land, the sky and the water coexist.”

She threw up her hands. “I give up! He’s talking in circles again.”

“Yes, circles! Very good. The Key is close.”

Zan thought for a minute and then looked at her. “The Krystlyn Mountains. They’re located near a major fault line, and they’re infamous on Antar for their powerful winds and spectacular view of the Krystlyn Sea. Mount Corona is supposed to be the fabled home of the gods in Antarian mythology. That has to be it.”

“Thank you for all of your help,” Zan said to the Palace Historian, “We need to get back to our friends.”


******


“They have the book?”

Chryseis watched as Zan and Liz left the palace, before turning from the one of the windows of the Great Hall to respond into her communicator. “Yes. I have done all I can. The rest is up to them. They must discover their destiny for themselves.”

“Do you think they will figure it out?”

“Oh, yes. And what they do with the knowledge should prove quite interesting,” she murmured. “I am returning anon for the prayer ceremony.”

“Yes Mistress. We shall be waiting.”

Putting her communicator away, she slipped into the hidden passageway moments before the real Palace Historian hobbled into the room.



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



ACT II


“This cyclolith is the thing from my dreams? And it really exists here on Antar?” Rath asked excitedly, interrupting Zan’s report back at Alex’s lab.

“According to this,” Vilandra said, reading from the new book that Zan and Liz had brought back with them, “The ring can only be seen by those who are gifted with the sight of the fey? What does that mean?”

“Fey? Why does that sound familiar?” Liz murmured.

“Your Grandma Maureen’s stories!” Maria said excitedly. “The fey were the little people of Ireland: fairies, pixies and leprechauns.”

Alex snorted. “They are also completely not true.”

“What in the name of the gods is a leprechaun?” Rath asked.

“A little man who likes to wear green, play tricks on people and have a good time. If you catch one, he has to give you his pot of gold,” Maria answered.

“Well, that’s just...mean,” Vilandra said and then looked at Zan. “Can we get back to the part about the reference in an obviously Antarian book about little people from another planet, please?”

Rath frowned. “Look, this is my vision, ok? If I want to ask a question that might help me find some answers, I’m going to ask it.”

“Enough, you two. We don’t have time to argue about this,” Zan commanded. “We need to find a map of Mount Corona.”

“There’s one in here,” Vilandra said, holding up the book.

“Let me see,” Rath said, snatching the book away.

“Do you know how old that book is?” Zan asked Rath. “We need a current map, Rath. Then we can make our plans.”

“We don’t have time. I know Mount Corona is where this cyclolith is. I’m going there.”

Vilandra rolled her eyes . “Have you completely lost it?”

Rath glared at her and the others. “No, Lonnie. I’ve found it. And you guys are too busy worrying about if the map is current or not. A map’s a map. How much can a mountain change in a few hundred years?”

Alex raised his hand. “Actually--.”

“I wasn’t asking you,” Rath growled and looked at Zan. “I want to go to Mount Corona. Give me permission to take one of the transports.”

“Let’s just wait until we can find out more about this place.”

“Zan, I’m connected to this thing, all right? I mean, I see it when I close my eyes. I dream about it when I go to sleep. And it's not letting me wait, no matter what you guys say,” Rath snapped before storming out of the lab.

Zan sighed and looked at the others. “Don't worry. He'll cool off in a bit. He can't get far without a transport.


******


Maria walked out of the lab, and started to head towards the Mess tent, when she spotted Rath lurking near the edge of the camp, around one of the smaller transports that moved the workers back and forth to their various jobs.

“Hey. What ya doing?” she asked, walking up behind him.

“None of your business,” he growled. “Now go away.”

“Liz and the others are still trying to figure out where this cyclolith thing is exactly.”

He glared at her. “I'm busy. Go away.”

“Busy? What’s so important about lurking around the edge of our campsite?” she asked. Suddenly, her eyes widened. “Did you spot Black Robe?”

“Get lost, all right? I've gotta....”

“What? You've gotta what?”

“Do you have clearance to drive a transport?”

“Yeah. Why?” she asked suspiciously.

“Well I need a ride and you’re going to give me one.”

“What? Where?”

He looked at her with a knowing look.

“Oh.... Oh! No way! I would be dead meat with Liz. Why don’t you get one from the Royal garage or whatever you guys call it here?”

“Cause, I need special clearance to even get one out of the yard. Just give me a ride and....”

“And what Space Boy?”

“I'll answer all of your questions about Black Robe,” he mumbled in desperation.

She grinned. “Ok.”


******


“I’m outside the human’s camp. Rath and one of the human females just left in a transport headed south...in a hurry,” the black-robed figure said into his communicator. “You don’t think they found it do you?”

“Maybe. Follow them. We can’t let them reach their destination. I’ll send backup,” a voice replied. “Send me jump point coordinates when you have a fixed location.”

“Yes sir.”


******


“You can't just make up answers,” Maria angrily accused Rath as she navigated the transport down the busy roadway away from Gravis.

Rath looked at her innocently. “Who said I'm making 'em up?”

“You do not sit around in those secret meetings and hold belching contests.”

“Keeps me in touch with my masculine side.”

“Fine,” she replied, removing her hand from the ignition panel, effectively shutting off the transport. “You know what? I’m not moving this thing another inch, until you start telling me the truth.”

“Maria...,” he wheedled and grabbed her hand. “Please?”

“No,” she said, jerking her hand away, unaware that his hand was glowing slightly, and stepped out of the transport. “You can not bat those big brown eyes of yours at me, and expect me to just roll over and submit. I’m not Liz.”

He arched an eyebrow at her. “Not a very nice thing to say about your captain. But, if that’s the way you feel, I guess I’ll just drive myself to Mount Corona.” He placed his hand on the ignition panel and the transport began to hum.

“Hey! You can’t-- How did you--?” she asked in surprise. “You’re stealing my transport.”

“Technically, it’s not your transport. It belongs to Marek. And technically, I'm borrowing it.”

She quickly jumped back inside.

“Get out,” he growled.

She crossed her arms stubbornly. “You're telling me to get out? This is on loan from your King to my captain. And if anything happens to this, my life, as I know it, will be over. So, wherever this transport goes, I go.”

He scowled and then shrugged his shoulders. “Fine. You had your chance.”

“You are such dead meat, when Liz gets a hold of you!”

He just rolled his eyes and concentrated on navigating the transport over the terrain.

Glancing at him out of the corner of her eye to make sure he wasn't paying attention to her, she discreetly turned on her wrist communicator to a one-way transmit.


******


“What’s that noise?” Vilandra asked, looking up from her position next to Alex, who was sitting at his computer searching Antar’s aerial files.

Liz looked down at her communicator, noticed the green light, and tapped the com panel. “Captain Parker.”

“You know it feels strange to be in a transport alone with you,” Maria’s voice crackled from the communicator’s tiny speaker.

“Maria? Is that you?” she asked, capturing everyone’s attention. “In a transport alone with who?”

“Why didn’t you just use that jump point thing you guys have to get there?” Maria’s voice asked.

“Because,” Rath’s voice answered, “There are no jump points to jump to on Mount Corona. It’s uninhabited. Do you always talk this much?”

“Was that Rath?” she asked into the communicator.

“Liz says I talk a lot when I'm anxious.”

“You're anxious about being in a transport alone with Rath?” she asked in confusion

“So, you do plan to bring this thing back in one piece, right? After all, Liz will get in big trouble with Marek if you damage the transport.”

“You’re in one of our transports?” she asked. “And you guys are headed to Mount Corona?”

“What are you--?” Rath’s voice asked. “Great.”

Then everything went silent and the green light disappeared from Liz’s communicator.
“Maria? Maria, what--?”

Zan rushed out of the tent.

“Zan!” Vilandra called out after him.

A few seconds later, he came back. “He’s grabbed one of the transports. They’re on their way to Mount Corona. He’s gone to find the cyclolith.”


******


“Prince Zan, Princess Vilandra, Captain Parker and Chief Whitman just left the human camp in one of the transports.”

Marek looked at the man who’d taken over as the Chief Examiner, and nodded. “Thank you. That is all.”

The Chief Examiner looked at his king with confusion. “Should I not have them detained? After all, they have left the palace.”

“No. Leave them be. Just send one man after them to keep an eye on them. That way if they run into trouble, I can send help.”

“Yes, your Majesty.”

Once the Chief Examiner had left his personal chamber, Marek sighed angrily. He stared at the portrait of his wife that hung over the mantel of the fireplace. “Damn you, Dedra,” he murmured, frowning. “And damn Aynia for extracting that promise from me. I thought the Key was just a myth...the ramblings of the insane and the fanatical."

Sighing, he slumped his shoulders in resigned defeat. "If the Time of Reckoning has finally come, may the gods have mercy upon us for what is about to befall us all.”



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



ACT III


“Like it was such a hardship stopping back there so I could go to the bathroom,” Maria griped as they left the tiny town on the edge of the Northern Province. “Are we crossing the border?”

“Um, yeah,” Rath replied sarcastically. “The Krystlyn Mountains are in the Southern Province. Don’t sweat it. It's only 3 more hours.”

“You are going to be in so much trouble.”

“For going to the mountains?”

“Crossing provincial lines with a stolen transport. There are rules and regulations we have to follow, you know. And my wrist communicator that you so thoughtfully tossed out the door an hour ago back there? Vandalism of personal property. God, I just...I knew you had criminal tendencies. You even navigate erratically.”

“What's exactly wrong with my navigating?”

“Nothing...if we were in a race. I mean how are we going to find this thing in the dark? Can’t you slow down a bit?”

“No.”

She growled in frustration. “Why is it so damn important for you to get to Mount Corona and find this cyclolith that you couldn't wait for the others to help?”

“You wouldn't understand. You don't understand anything about me.”

“Listen, I already know more about you than I want to, okay?”

Before he could reply, a large energy blast suddenly exploded off to their left.

“Are you happy now?” he yelled, trying frantically to keep the bulky transport on the road. “You distracted me, and now we’ve got trouble! Damn it!”

She glared at him. “This is not my fault! If you’d waited for the others like Zan wanted you to do, and not raced off all willy-nilly, we wouldn’t be in this mess!” she yelled back, grabbing a small laser weapon, one of the few her people still had, from underneath the seat.

“Can you see who it is?” he asked, finally getting the vehicle under control.

She looked out the back window, catching a glance of something when the next energy blast was fired. “Black robes mean anything to you? Step on it, Space Boy. We’re in deep doo-doo.”

“Huh?”

“Get this thing to move faster!” she yelled.

Suddenly, a direct hit rocked the transport, and it began to spin out of control. When the vehicle slammed into a tree, they were thrown free just before it burst into flames.

Maria groaned and opened her eyes to see two black-robed figures silhouetted by the fire from the burning transport, particle disrupters in their hands. She moved to fire her weapon, but realized that she’d lost it during the wreck. “Great,” she thought with a disgusted sigh, “I’m going to die a virgin.”

As the two ominous beings raised their weapons, they were engulfed in a blast of bright blue energy.

She covered her ears at the sound-deafening shrieks the two beings emitted before dropping to the ground by her feet. She nudged one of them with the toe of her boot to make sure they were dead, before crawling over to one of them and pulling back its hood.

She gasped at what she saw. It looked like a male human, except its skin was a sickly, grayish white, like the being hadn’t seen the sun in years. Its black-colored eyes stared blankly at her. It was bleeding burgundy-colored blood from its eyes, nose, mouth and ears. “Ewww!” she said, scrambling away.

“Get up!” Rath yelled, charging at her from the roadway. “I’ve managed to take out two more, but there’s at least one, maybe two left.”

Grabbing one of the dead being’s disrupters, she scrambled to her feet just as another black-robed being dropped out of the tree next to them.

Rath raised his hand, killing it with a quick blast of bright blue energy. Breathing hard, he listened to the sounds of the dark woods, trying to gather enough energy to fend off another attack.

“These are the people you have belching contests with?” she asked glancing at the dead bodies, before spotting movement behind Rath’s left shoulder. “Behind you!”

Rath spun around and fired. However, his energy was so low from the previous five kills that all he managed to do was knock the being off its feet.

“Is that the best you can do Rath?” the black-robed figure sneered, getting up and pointing his particle disrupter at Rath’s chest.

“Just thought I’d play with you a bit before I kill you,” he replied trying to bluff his way out of the deadly situation. “I’d like to know who you’re working for, why you’re trying to kill us...you know, the important stuff.”

The figure tossed off its hood to reveal another ashy white-skinned male with black eyes. “You wish. You’re out of energy and I have a particle disrupter.”

“Oh boo-hoo,” Maria said and fired the disrupter she’d acquired off the first being.

The man screamed and turned to dust.

She looked at Rath. “You owe me big,” she said and walked off towards the burning transport.


******


“Yes, keep me informed,” Marek said to the video screen before him. “I do not want them to know they’re being followed.”

“Yes, your Majesty,” the guard on the screen said. “I will be discreet.”

“Hey.”

Marek startled and quickly shut off the screen. He turned to look at his beautiful mistress, Kathlin, standing in the doorway to his chambers. Her fiery red hair was pulled back from her face and hung loosely down her back. Her emerald eyes were vibrant and thickly-lashed, complementing her pale skin beautifully “When did you get back?”

“Oh, just a short while ago,” she replied, settling herself into his lap and allowing her gauzy, green robe to fall open provocatively. “Have the children left the palace again?”

He shifted, hardening as he gazed at her long, shapely legs. Then he realized what she’d just asked him. He flashed a look of warning. “Kathlin....”

She held up her hands to halt his reply. “I’m not butting in. I'm just concerned about your children. Anything you want to talk about?”

His gaze softened, and he sighed. “I know you are. Yes, Zan and Vilandra have left the palace...again.”

“What about the danger of another assassin?”

“I have a guard following them. I can send more if something happens.”

She stared thoughtfully at Marek’s expression. “But there’s something else, isn’t there? What is it?”

He looked over at Dedra’s portrait and shook his head. “It’s nothing. Something someone said to me long ago. A promise I made. It’s just nonsense. It has to be...,” he murmured.

She followed his gaze to the portrait of the Queen and narrowed her eyes. “So, do you have any idea where Zan and Vilandra are headed? Are they going to their mother’s?”

“Possibly.... I’m not sure.”

“Well, Zan does have an engagement to Avaria approaching soon. He’s probably gone to get some motherly advice on how to handle his future bride.”

Looking away from the painting of his wife, he nodded and watched Kathlin as she stood up to head towards the door. “I thought you just got back?”

“I did, but I’m setting up a special surprise for you in my suite. Join me for dinner. I’m looking forward to giving it to you.”

He grinned at the erotic images that filled his head, and nodded. “And, I look forward to receiving it.”


******


Liz turned in her seat at the front of the transport to look back at Vilandra. It was odd to see the blonde, fair-skinned princess as a brunette with caramel-colored skin. Zan had also altered his looks with his powers, changing his hair color to a light brown with golden highlights and his skin to a shade slightly darker than Vilandra’s was now. They’d decided to disguise themselves so as not to draw attention to whom they actually were. However, Liz thought the royal siblings still made a striking pair that anyone would be hard pressed
not to notice.

Sighing softly, she glanced quickly over at the small shop where Zan and Alex had gone to purchase food, while she and Vilandra had been relegated to stay with the vehicle. She glanced at her wrist communicator. It had only been a few minutes, but she was feeling anxious about Rath and Maria. She looked back at Vilandra. “Lonnie?”

“What?” Vilandra snapped, opening her eyes to stare at Liz.

Her eyes widened at the princess’ tone. “Sorry, didn’t mean to bother you.”

Vilandra shook her head and sighed. “No, I’m sorry. I’m just frustrated. I’m trying to dream walk Rath, but I he’s not sleeping.”

“Can you dream walk him when he’s awake?”

“Yes, but not if he’s consciously blocking me, which he is.”

“Does the dream walking hurt you?” she asked, curious.

“No. Sometimes if I do it for too long or too often, it’ll give me a bit of a headache, but that’s about it.”

“Oh.”

“You and Zan seem to be getting closer lately,” Vilandra said.

She looked nervously at Vilandra. “Um, yeah. He’s asked me to be his escort to the Masque...but you probably already know that.”

“Yes. He told me this morning.”

“Lonnie...you do understand that I'm...I'm not trying to take him away from you. I mean...I could never do that.”

“Didn’t we already have this conversation?” Vilandra asked smiling. “I understand about you and Zan. And I’ve come to accept it. My days of interfering are over. In fact, I hope you two have a good time.”

“Thank you,” she replied, returning a smile.

“Zan and Alex are coming back,” Vilandra said, looking over at the shop. “I hope the food is hot. It’s starting to get chilly out.”

As Zan and Alex got into the transport, they quickly handed out the food.

“Hey, what’s the rush?” Vilandra asked, as Zan started the transport and quickly sped away from the shop.

“We were being followed by one of Father’s guards.”

“What? How?” Vilandra demanded.

“Don’t worry Lonnie. Zan took care of him. The guy’s going to wake up with a slight headache in a few hours, but we’ll be long gone by then,” Alex reassured, and began to eat his Antarian version of a sandwich.

Liz glanced worriedly at Zan. “Are you sure he was the only one?”

Zan nodded. “I overheard him talking to my father. It’ll be okay. We’ll find Rath and Maria soon. Before Father or anyone else does.”


******


Maria stared anxiously at the burning transport and then yelled over her shoulder at Rath. “Hurry, do something!”

Rath walked slowly up next to her. “Don't tempt me.”

“Come on. If Liz sees this, we are so dead. Wiggle your nose, blink your eyes, do the super powers thing. Come on.”

“I can't.”

“Why not? If there's ever a time to have super powers, now is the time.”

“They're not super powers.”

“I don't care what you call 'em! Just use them so we can get out of here!”

He shook his head. “I used up too much energy. I need to rest.”

“Figures,” she mumbled.

“What? This is not my fault,” he snapped, pointing at the burning vehicle.

“That’s debatable.”

“Fine, you want to blame me, go ahead. But I’m not standing around here. I’m going to go rest under one of the trees.”

“Wait a minute,” she said, following him as he began to walk back towards the trees. “You kidnap me, demolish our ride, almost get me killed by assassins, and now you expect me to spend the night out here in the dark...with you?”

“Not exactly my fantasy evening either,” he mumbled, stopping underneath a large tree a good distance off the road. “Besides, you have that particle disrupter to keep you safe,” he said, patting the top of the weapon she held in hand.

“Don't touch that! It’s sensitive!” she snapped, jerking the weapon away from him. Her abrupt action caused the weapon to discharge, hitting the tree they were standing under.
“Well, that's nice,” Rath growled sarcastically, as their shelter for the night disintegrated.

“What? What? How was I supposed to know the safety wasn’t on?” she yelled as he started to walk away from her. “Hey! Where are you going?”

“See that hut? I want to get some sleep,” he replied pointing at an abandoned, ramshackle building that’d been revealed when the tree disintegrated.

She shook her head in disgust. “No, Rath,” she said and then hurried after him when he ignored her and kept walking. “Wait!”


******


The image on the video screen flickered briefly and then sharpened to reveal a black-robed figure, its facial features hidden in the shadows of its voluminous hood.

“They’ve left the palace. Seems they’ve taken one of the transports and are headed towards the Southern Province...without an armed escort. Two of the humans are with them: Captain Parker and Chief Whitman.”

The hooded figure on the video screen nodded. “They must be going after Rath and the human female who left earlier today. I’ve already sent a team of assassins after them. It looks as if they’ll have a few more targets. This day is turning out better than I’d anticipated.”

“Marek knows something. I’m sure of it. The fact that he’s willing to risk the Crown Prince’s safety by allowing him to travel to the Southern Province unescorted. He kept glancing at Dedra’s portrait.”

“Interesting.... I want more answers. I need to know what Marek knows. I have to know if the brats have found the cyclolith.”

“I’m already on it. A little Hallucin in Marek’s wine at dinner tonight, and he’ll tell me whatever I wish to know.”

“Excellent, Kathlin, you are my most trusted servant.”

Kathlin smiled and bowed her head to the figure on the video screen. “Thank you, my Lord. It is my greatest honor to serve you in anyway I can....”



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



ACT IV


Maria peered into the abandoned hut from behind Rath’s shoulder. “Um, do you think you could shed a little light on the situation?”

Rath glanced at her and then opened his hand, creating an extremely weak light sphere. “Better?”

She shuddered. “No. This place makes my tent look like the Royal Palace,” she muttered, noticing the caved-in roof, the dirt floor and the smell of rotting wood and some unnamed animal carcass.

“Yeah well, at least it's warm.”

“I don't even want to think about what I could catch in here,” she said, stepping lightly over a jagged piece of broken ceiling beam.

“You know, if you stop being such a princess about things--.”

“Princess? Oh, no. I think I've been a pretty good sport up until now. I'm cold. I'm hungry. And, I'm in some God-forsaken, hell hole that’s not fit for a rat to live in, with a guy I can barely stand, and I...and I just--I really wish I were back at camp right now.”

“Look, why don't you stay here? I’ll go out and see if I can’t find some berries or something for us to eat, and collect some wood so I can start a fire.”

“And stay here in ‘paradise’ all by myself?” she said, snorting. “No way, kemo sabe, where you go, I go. So lead the way.”


******


“It's getting so late. Maybe we should contact your father,” Liz suggested as they continued down the road.

“No,” Zan replied, a look of determination on his face.

“He could send more help to find them.”

“I hate to say this, but maybe she's right, Zan,” Vilandra piped up from the back seat. “I mean, I don’t like the idea of Rath trying to find this place without us either, but what if they’re in serious trouble? You and I don’t have enough energy to take down a bunch of lunatics in black robes.”

“No. Nobody can know about this.”

“Zan, I'm really worried about Maria,” Liz whispered.

“And I'm worried about Rath. But all you seem to care about is what the cyclolith might mean, right?”

“I didn't say that.”

“You didn't have to!” Vilandra snapped.

“Lonnie, Rath is so close to something. This may not have anything to do with Liz, but it may have everything to do with the answers that Rath’s been searching for his entire life.”

Vilandra sighed in resigned acceptance. “Fine. We do it your way. I’m tired, so I’m going to nap for awhile. Maybe, if I’m lucky, I’ll be able to dream walk Rath and find out where he and Maria are,” she said, yawning as she settled back in her seat next to a sleeping Alex. “Wake me if you find something.”

He nodded and focused back on the road.

Liz turned back to observing her side of the road and silently prayed that Maria was okay.


******


They sat in front of the fire, trying to keep warm and cook their dinner at the same time.

Maria refused to let Rath see that she was cold. “So, do you get hungry just like the rest of us?”

“Yeah. Of course I get hungry.”

“What, uh...what other biological urges do you feel?”

He looked at her sideways. “Not if you're the last woman on Antar.”

“Ditto. So, what’s your favorite dessert?”

“Favorite dessert? What’s with all the questions?”

“It’s something to pass the time until we can get on the road again. Just answer them and play along.”

“Fine, chilled Tachi Cream.”

“What the heck is Tachi Cream? Is that for real?”

“It’s a frozen, whipped cream flavored with Tachi nuts. You’d like it. Next question?”

“Okay, what’s your favorite TV show?”

“TV?”

“Play, drama, opera…whatever you guys watch for entertainment around here.”

The Fall of the Tuatha De Danann. It’s a play.”

“Okay...favorite book?”

Amergin’s Poem.”

She snorted in disbelief. “Poetry? You don’t read poetry.”

“I am the wind that blows upon the sea; I am the ocean wave; I am the murmur of the surges; I am seven battalions; I am a strong bull; I am an eagle on the rock; I am the ray of sun; I am the most beautiful of herbs; I am a courageous wild boar; I am a salmon in the water; I am a lake upon a plain; I am a cunning artist; I am a gigantic, sword-wielding champion; I can shift my shape like a god.”

She stared at him dumbfounded.

“I knew you wouldn’t understand. Next question,” he growled.

“All right, I’ve seen your artistic capabilities. If you’re so talented, why have you chosen a career as a warrior and bodyguard to the Crown Prince?”

“I don't answer personal questions, ok?”

“All right, fine. What are you afraid of?”

“I hate this. This is stupid.”

“Okay, how about just one personal question? You know, since I saved your life and all with those assassins out there.”

“I seem to recall I saved your life.”

She rolled her eyes. “Whatever.... Anyway, why is it so important for you to find out the meaning of your vision?”

“One less mystery in my life.”

“What about your life could possibly be mysterious?” she asked.

“I don’t know where I come from.”

“I thought you were Antarian?”

“I am, but I have no idea where my family is, why they abandoned me or what my past was before I came to live in the palace,” he murmured, looking at her. “What you don’t believe me?”

“No, that’s the strange thing, but I do believe you,” she whispered, staring at the haunted look in his eyes. “How old were you?”

“I was two years-old when I came to live with the Royal Family.”

“What do you remember about your previous life?”

“Bits and pieces. In dreams mostly. In fact, I’m not sure what’s real and what isn’t anymore,” he whispered, his eyes glistening. “When I was a little older, I used to listen to Queen Dedra, that’s Zan and Lonnie’s mother, sing to them...telling them how much she loved them as she tucked them in at night,” he said, choking slightly on his emotions.

“And, I would lie in my bed in the adjoining room and make up stories in my head about my mother...who she was and what she was doing. They all ended exactly the same way: she would walk through the palace gates all golden and beautiful, cause that’s how I see her in my dreams, and she would tell me where she’d been and then take me off to some magical, perfect place where we would live even better than King Marek and his family. Because, you know...I thought to myself...I must be special. Otherwise, why would the Royal Family be willing to take in someone like me?”

She laid her hand on his arm to comfort him.

He looked at her in surprise and then stood up abruptly. “I...I'm, uh, I'm getting kind of tired.”

She sighed at his sudden aloofness. “Yeah, it's been a long day.”

“Yeah,” he said and glanced at the narrow pallet that lay along one of the side walls. “I don't suppose we could share?”

She grinned cheekily. “Not if you were the last man on Antar.”


******


When they’d reached the next town, Zan realized that he’d taken the wrong road, and he’d had to double back. However, that had been over two hours ago, and there was still no sign of Rath, Maria or the transport.

“Liz, I'm sorry,” he said softly, glancing at Liz, who was nervously chewing her bottom lip and watching the road.

She looked at him, distractedly. “Yeah, well, anyone can take a wrong turn. We’ll get back on track and find them...somehow.”

“I don't mean about the wrong turn. I mean about everything: Rath running off with Maria, someone taking Kyle’s body and for whoever is trying to kill you. My people are not all the same.”

“Yeah, I've known that for a really long time. I'm sorry, too, Zan. You know, for Kyle and how my stupid problems could possibly get you guys into trouble.”

“First of all, nothing about you is stupid. And secondly, it feels like my life didn't even start until I saw you lying in the wreckage that day and I connected with you.”

“Yeah, I know what you mean,” she said smiling softly.

He saw her rub her arms against the coolness of the night, and he suddenly felt a strong pull deep inside of him to kiss her. Glancing in the back to make sure that Alex and his sister were still asleep, he quickly pulled the transport over and turned it off.

“Why are we stopping?” Liz asked in confusion. “Did you spot something?”

He shook his head, reached across the seat and kissed her, covering her soft lips with his own. When he pulled away, he smiled at the heat that was reflected in her dark brown eyes. “Just wanted to keep you warm.”

“Please!” Vilandra snorted from the back, and sat forward to glare at her brother. “If you guys want a little privacy, Alex and I can walk.”

Liz blushed and shook her head. “That won’t be necessary. We were discussing Rath and Maria.”

“Really? Is that what they’re calling it now?” Alex asked grinning broadly at Zan’s nervousness.

Zan felt his ears beginning to burn and cleared his throat. “I was just apologizing to Liz for taking that wrong turn. Um, trying to reassure her that we’ll find Rath and Maria soon.”

“It might be too late,” Vilandra said, staring out the windshield and pointing. “In more ways than one.”

They all stared at the smoldering wreckage of a small transport that lay off to the side of the road, directly in front of their vehicle’s headlights.



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



ACT V


“Oh my God, Maria!” Liz gasped, jumping out of their vehicle and running towards the smoking wreckage before the others could stop her.

As they came up behind her, she turned to Zan, tears shimmering in her eyes. “It’s the transport Rath took.”

He pulled her into his embrace and tried to soothe her.

Vilandra and Alex surveyed the wreckage for any sign of Rath or Maria. As they walked around to the other side, Alex tripped over something, and stumbled.

“Um, Lonnie. I think I’ve found a body,” he murmured gazing down at the black-robed corpse.

Lonnie created a light sphere in her hand to get a better look and yelled over her shoulder, “Zan! Liz!”

“What is it, Lonnie?” Zan asked, coming around to the other side of the mangled transport with Liz.

“Looks like they ran into some old friends,” Lonnie said, kicking the dead body with her boot.

Zan peered at the corpse. “Neteru.”

“How can you tell?” Alex asked.

“The pale skin. They spend a majority of their lives underground in the mines.”

“Also, the eyes,” Vilandra added. “See how they’re larger than ours, and how black they appear?”

Alex nodded.

“It’s because they’re almost all pupil, so they can see better in the darkness of the mines.”

“Aren’t Osirians miners too?” Liz asked.

Zan nodded. “Yes, but a lot of their work is strip mining. Their skin isn’t as pale, and their eyes are similar to ours.”

“Looks like they were well-armed,” Vilandra observed, picking up a particle disrupter. Suddenly, she fell to her knees.

“Lonnie!” Alex said in concern.

Zan bent down to look at his sister. “What did you see?”

“There were six of them. Rath killed this one. Got the jump on him. Two others were supposed to take care of the female human.”

“Oh Maria,” Liz whispered.

Alex shook his head. “They aren’t dead, Liz. You know Maria. She can get herself out of any impossible situation with barely a hair out of place.”

She nodded.

“And Rath is too good of a warrior,” Zan added. “They have to be around here somewhere. Let’s check out the area.”

They found the other four bodies before they found the hut, half an hour later.

“Maybe we should knock,” Liz suggested quietly, as they stood in front of the ramshackle hovel.

Vilandra rolled her eyes and used her powers to make the door fly open. “Go right ahead.”


******


Maria, who’d been sleeping soundly, woke with a start at the sound of the door slamming open, only to find herself snuggled up against Rath, who’d been sleeping on the bare floor beside her. “Ahh!” she yelled, struggling to extricate herself from Rath’s embrace, waking him up in the process.

“Maria?” Liz asked, watching her best friend and Rath trying to separate themselves and stand up.

“What are you guys doing here?” she asked, trying to distract them, and free a lock of her hair from the intricate metal band on Rath’s wrist at the same time.

Liz raised an eyebrow. “Um...well, we thought you guys were in trouble, but...I guess we were wrong?”

“Oh, no, you don't think that we were--I mean, that is, like so not happening! I mean...come on, would you tell them?” she stammered looking at Rath.

He grinned at her. “Come on, honey, we don't have to lie.”

She gasped in disbelief and began to hit him on the arm.

Vilandra smirked. “I believe you. The day Rath calls anybody honey, it's all over.”

“So, I guess you're here to be supportive, as usual?” Rath growled at Zan.

“No. I'm here to kick your butt,” Zan replied. “Rath, what were you thinking?”

“I was thinking I couldn't wait around for you to make a decision. I want to know what it is I’m seeing and if it really exists.”

“And what about Kyle’s body? Were you planning on leaving Liz hanging out to dry?”

“No! I was trying to follow a lead on exactly who is trying to kill Liz and her people!”

“It’s true,” Maria piped up. “We were attacked by some more of those Neteru mercenaries. I think Rath’s vision must be a clue about where to find Kyle and this mysterious, Black Robe.”

Zan looked at Liz, Alex and Maria, contemplating. “It’s getting too dangerous for you guys. Rath, Lonnie and I will go onto Mount Corona and see what we can find.”

Liz glared at him. “No! Maria, Alex and I are targets too. If we don't know everything, how are we supposed to protect ourselves? No, we’re going. This is the only lead we have to where Kyle’s body might be.”

“Liz--”

“No Zan, we’re coming with you and that’s final.”

He sighed in defeat. “Fine.”

She smiled. “Then what are we waiting around here for?”


******


They arrived at Mount Corona as the early morning sky was beginning to lighten. They were able to use the transport until about halfway, before a heavy purple-gray mist forced them to hike the rest of the way up. As they crested a ridge, the light from the sunrise suddenly broke through the mist, revealing the bluestone structure of the cyclolith rising up before them.

“It's just like you drew it, Rath,” Lonnie whispered, as they walked into the circle, staring at the large upright stones.

“I told you it was something,” Rath murmured, walking towards the center of the ring. Suddenly he stopped and cocked his head. “Do you hear that?”

“Here what?” Zan asked, inspecting one of the ancient stones.

“The music,” Liz whispered, stepping into the center of the ring with Rath. “I hear music.”

The others joined them in the center.

“I hear it too!” Maria exclaimed excitedly.

“But where’s it coming from?” Alex asked.

“There's something here...,” Rath said, staring off into space.

“A room...,” Liz replied, closing her eyes and straining to hear the music.”

Zan looked at them with surprise. “Where?”

“I don't know. It's hidden,” Liz murmured.

“Rath,” Maria whispered in awe, “Look.”

Everyone looked to where she pointed. The rising sun had crested the tallest stone, causing a bright shaft of light to illuminate a path from the center of the circle towards an unnoticed avenue.

“Come on,” Rath said, grabbing Maria’s hand. “Let’s see where it leads.”

As they walked along the path, Liz studied the ground. “Someone has definitely been here recently. The tracks are still fresh.”

“Hey, there’s a cave!” Alex exclaimed. “That’s where the music is coming from.”

“Shh, Alex, do you want whoever’s in there to hear you?” Vilandra hissed.

“Sorry.”

“Everyone be quiet, and tread carefully. We don’t want to give ourselves away,” Zan whispered, holding tighter to Liz’s hand.

Slowly the six of them, crept into the dark entrance of the cave. Using the music as a guide, they fumbled through the darkness, until they suddenly turned a sharp corner and found themselves at the entrance of a brightly lit, large, stone chamber.

“Jackpot, Zan,” Rath whispered, as they observed at least a dozen black-robed figures standing in a circle, playing some sort of instruments.

Suddenly, an opening appeared in the circle, and Liz gasped loudly. “Oh, my God!”

The others stood dumbfounded by the sight of Kyle’s body draped with a gauzy, white cloth, lying on the stone table in the center of the circle.

“I see you have finally remembered Rath,” said a feminine voice from behind them.

The group turned to find themselves face-to-face with a young, white-haired woman dressed in a black robe.

Chryseis smiled, her gaze resting on Liz. “And I see you’ve brought the Key.”



TO BE CONTINUED....


**FADE TO BLACK**
**END OF EPISODE 106**
***************************
Last edited by Angel Kisses 70 on Tue Nov 14, 2006 12:58 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Angel Kisses 70
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Post by Angel Kisses 70 » Fri Nov 17, 2006 11:08 pm

CHILDREN OF THE STARS
Episode #7: Chryseis


AUTHOR: Melissa (aka Angel Kisses 70)
RATING: TEEN
CATEGORY: Z(M)/L (main focus), and all the rest....

AUTHOR'S NOTE: For tequathisy because she updated Homecoming Queen, a fic you should all read if you haven't.

And for those of you following along about my nephews, they are 5 weeks old now and Brady is growing like a weed, but Will is struggling. We found out on Sunday, that Will has a staph infection in his nose and throat. He has secretions in his lungs, and can't be given steroids while on the antibiotic for the infection. So ya all pray for him and send good vibes his way. He really, really needs them.


And now that I've gotten everyone all depressed, here's the first part of the update....


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


ACT I


“All logic is gone. Here were my plans for the last couple of days: complete general duties as captain, finish up some routine paperwork, and prepare myself for my fiancé’s funeral.”

“Everyone be quiet, and tread carefully. We don’t want to give ourselves away,” Zan whispered, holding tighter to Liz’s hand.

Slowly the six of them, crept into the dark entrance of the cave. Using the music as a guide, they fumbled through the darkness, until they suddenly turned a sharp corner and found themselves at the entrance of a brightly lit, large, stone chamber.

“Jackpot Zan,” Rath whispered, as they observed at least a dozen black-robed figures standing in a circle, playing some sort of instruments.

Suddenly, an opening appeared in the circle, and Liz gasped loudly. “Oh, my God!”

The others stood dumbfounded by the sight of Kyle’s body draped with a gauzy, white cloth, lying on the stone table in the center of the circle.

“Instead, someone stole Kyle’s body, I’ve discovered a link between us and the Antarians, had a confusing discussion with the rather odd, Palace Historian about a key, chased after my best friend and Rath, who ‘borrowed’ one of our transports, hiked up a mountain and found a structure that existed on Earth over a hundred years ago, and went hiking in a pitch black cave. And now....”

“I see you have finally remembered Rath,” said a feminine voice from behind them.

The group turned to find themselves face-to-face with a young, white-haired woman dressed in a black robe.

Chryseis smiled, her gaze resting on Liz. “And I see you have brought the Key.”

“...we’re surrounded by black-robed people who might be trying to kill us. Welcome to my world.”


*******


Rath raised his hand and fired a blast of energy at the woman. They all watched in disbelief as she raised her hand, caught the blast and absorbed it into her own body without any repercussions. Rath stood there, stunned, as a vision suddenly flashed through his mind.


“Rath, promise me that you will behave and do what Marek says. You have a very important job to do. Protect the Key. You will know it when you see it,” said the beautiful lady with flowing white hair. Her eyes were violet in color and a look of sadness flitted briefly across her face.

“I promise,” replied the younger version of himself as he hugged the beautiful lady. “Do not cry, Mama. I will be the bravest warrior ever.”



“Mama?” Rath whispered, his eyes filling with tears as he stared at the woman before them--a woman who was an exact duplicate of the one from his vision.

Chryseis smiled sadly. “No, Rath. I am not Aynia.”

“Look lady, we don’t know who you are, but we don’t want any trouble. We just want our friend’s body over there. Give it back and we’ll be on our way,” Alex piped up, stepping forward slightly.

Chryseis shook her head. “Not yet. The ritual is not complete. There are things you all must know before your friend returns.”

Liz felt Maria nudge her arm. She looked over and was shocked to see that Vilandra was walking, as if in a trance, toward a symbol on one of the cave’s walls. “Zan,” she whispered, squeezing his hand. “Look.”

Zan saw his sister and the marking. He briefly thought that it looked familiar, but his concern for Vilandra overrode the pull of the symbol. “Lonnie!” he hissed.

Vilandra snapped out of her reverie, and quickly rejoined the group.

Chryseis nodded to some one behind them. Instantly, several black-robed guards stepped forward, surrounding them.

“See that our guests are comfortable,” Chryseis commanded, before turning her attention back to Rath and Liz. “I will be in to talk to you two, and the others, shortly.”


*******


After the guards left them alone in their cell, they immediately spread out to see if there was away out.

“It’s no use, Zan,” Rath said. “The walls are part of the cave and the solid stone contains too much Cambium.”

“Cambium?” Liz asked.

“A metal that occurs naturally on our world, Osir and Neteru. It’s so dense that our power to change molecular structure won’t work on it,” Zan replied. “We use it in buildings we wish to keep secure, like the palace.”

“In other words, we’re stuck,” Rath growled and stalked off to the opposite end of the room.

Maria looked at the others helplessly and then followed after him.

“What?” Rath snapped as she sat down beside him.

“It's surprising the things you can learn about a person. All this time that I've known you, I've thought of you as just this guy, you know? Just a weird guy who happens to be best friends with the Crown Prince of a planet I happened to crash land on,” she said softly. “Of course, you’re still weird, but...what I didn't realize was that there's this whole other side to you.”

“Like what?”

She studied him briefly before replying, “Well, that underneath your, um, poorly bathed exterior, there's, like, this whole...deeply wounded, vulnerable guy.”

“Listen, in terms of what happened last night between us, that was just a side effect of being on the road, all right? We talked, but that's all over,” he said defensively, before getting up and walking away from her to go stand by the door.

“Of course,” she replied before realizing what he’d just said. “Wait. You think something happened between us?”” she yelled after him, gaining everyone else’s attention, but his.


*******


“Um, I think I better go talk to Maria,” Liz whispered to Zan, as she watched her best friend start one of her infamous pouts after Rath ignored her rather loud question. “Maybe you ought to talk to....” She motioned her head towards Rath.

Zan nodded, and watched her walk away. As he started to make his way over to Rath, he noticed Vilandra sitting off to the side with Alex, drawing something on the dirt floor. Curious, he decided Rath could wait a few minutes.

“What is that?” he asked, when he realized that she’d drawn the symbol from the cave wall.

Vilandra looked up. “Do you remember the summer we spent at the beach along the Krystlyn Sea with Mother and Father?”

He nodded. “Sure. We were seven. You got sunstroke, Rath got the pox and I sprained my ankle climbing on the reefs looking for shells.”

“Before that. You and I were on the beach by ourselves, because Rath was in trouble with Father again, and we were building something in the sand. Do you remember that?”

“Vaguely.”

“It was this,” she said pointing to the symbol. “Think. Do you remember where we first saw it?”

“I don’t,” he replied. “What’s this all about?”

She sighed in frustration. “Connect with me.”

“What?”

“Look me in the eyes and connect with me.”

“But, I don't remember,” he protested.

She grabbed his hands and stared intently into his eyes. “Connect.”

Giving in, he stared back and pushed his mind into Vilandra’s.


“There you are!” Dedra said, walking towards where they were playing on the white sands of the beach. The Krystlyn Sea lay behind them. “My sweetlings ready for some breakfast?”

Zan looked up at his beautiful, blonde mother and smiled brightly. “Mama, look what Lonnie and I built!”

Dedra looked down at their sand sculpture and paled. “Where did you see this?”

“In Zan’s dream, Mama,” Lonnie said, carefully smoothing the wet sand with her small hands.”

“When Zan?” Dedra asked, crouching down between them.

“Last night. I dreamed I was standing in the middle of a big, stone circle. Lonnie was there and so was a beautiful white-haired lady. She had this on her leg.”

“Where Zan? Was it here?” Dedra asked, pointing to her inner thigh.

He nodded. “She was very nice. She told us to remember it. That one day we would see it again.”

“What’s wrong Mama?” Lonnie asked, upset by the haunted expression on her mother’s face.

Dedra quickly smiled and shook her head. “Nothing, my sweetlings. Come, Cook has prepared us a wonderful breakfast, and she would not like it, if we let it get cold.”

Zan and Lonnie brushed the sand from their hands, then they each grabbed one of their mother’s hands, and walked back to the house.



Zan blinked and stared at his sister in amazement. “She was in our dream,” he whispered.

“Mama recognized this symbol,” Vilandra murmured, “And, it was after that trip, that Father sent her away.”



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



ACT II


“The thing about Rath is that he's weird, but surprisingly interesting,” Maria whispered to her best friend, a short while later.

Liz raised an eyebrow. “He's interesting?”

Maria blushed. “Not interesting for me, obviously.”

“Oh, yes, obviously,” she smirked.

“I mean, it can never be. There are a number of obstacles: his hair, his personality-.”

“The fact that you’re already promised to someone else?”

Maria narrowed her hazel eyes. “Didn’t stop you and Zan.”

She chose to ignore Maria’s last remark. “So, what happened in the hut?”

“I told you, Liz, nothing happened.”

“Are you sure?”

“Nothing physical, although it wasn't very verbal, either,” Maria said, scratching her head. “What Rath and I share, well, it's non-verbal. Rath is the type of person my mom used to refer to as a vibrator.”

“A vibrator?”

“You know what I mean. Someone who communicates by, you know, sending vibes out into the atmosphere.”

She raised a skeptical eyebrow. “What kind of vibes was he sending you?”

Before Maria could answer the question, the heavy metal door of their room opened, and Chryseis entered the room, alone.

“Oh look, our crazed kidnapper, here to explain her diabolical plan before she kills us all,” Maria murmured, standing up.

Liz stared at their captor, swallowed nervously and stood up too. She relaxed slightly when Zan appeared at her side and grasped her hand.

Chryseis stood in the center of the room and stared thoughtfully at Liz. “It is time.”

“Time for what?” Zan demanded, stepping protectively in front of Liz.

“For the Key to be tested.”


*******


“The situation is under control, my Lord.” Kathlin said, to the hooded figure on the video screen.

The figure growled. “Losing six men? You call that under control?”

“No, my Lord, I do not.”

“Where are they?”

“I'm sorry?”

“The brats. Where are they?”

“I don’t know, my Lord. Marek believes they have found the Key and that the Time of Reckoning is at hand. Something to do with Rath and a promise he made to someone called Aynia.”

“Aynia? Are you sure?”

“Yes, my Lord. She made him promise to raise and watch over Rath until the time that the Key appeared. Who is she, my Lord?”

“Someone long dead. But Rath...I wonder....”

“Wonder what, my Lord?”

“Nothing. Did you manage to extract everything from Marek’s mind?”

“Yes, my Lord. I have told you everything he knows, or thinks he knows.”

“Then it is time to be rid of him. Increase the Hallucin you’ve been giving him over the years. Put it in his food and his drink.”

“Would it not be quicker and cleaner to just shoot him and be done with it? Hallucin madness is not a pretty way to go,” she said without emotion.

“No, he has to die at his own hand. I cannot have his death traced back to me. And when Marek is too incapacitated to rule, then his incompetent whelp, Zan, will be forced to take over, making my plans much easier.”

“Zan will not be as easy to ‘distract’ as Marek was.”

“Leave that to me. I have the perfect distraction.”


*******


Maria paced around the cell. It had been at least an hour since Liz had been taken from the room along with Zan, who’d insisted that he accompany her. “This is taking too long. They're in trouble.”

“Patience,” Rath replied. He was sitting on the floor of the room with his eyes closed, and his back against the cave wall.

She stopped her pacing to glare at him. “We should get out of here. Who knows what kind of test she’s putting them through? For all we know it could be torture!”

“You got a key?”

“What are we supposed to do?” she asked as she began pacing again.

“We wait.”

“You know…now I know why Lonnie chose to sit at the other end of the room with Alex. You’re obviously the last person to be around in a crisis.”

“Look, we were told to sit here and wait. That's what I'm doing. I'm not the one freaking out. You're freaking out.”

“I am not freaking out,” she snapped.

He opened his eyes. “You keep going back and forth between one end of the room to the other. You’re wearing a trench. Now, quit it. It's driving me insane!”

She stopped pacing and stood in front of him. “I just...I wish you would say something.”

“Say what? What do you want me to say?”

She shrugged, and wrung her hands nervously. “I don't know what. Just say something, you know, to make me feel calm, to make me feel like it's gonna be all right.”

“Maybe it's not gonna be all right,” he replied, staring intently at her.

“Thanks, that helps a ton,” she said angrily.

He sighed. “What do you want me to do?”

“I don't know.”

“Then, shut up!” he snapped.

She gasped in outrage and then clenched her fists, shaking with fury. “I...I hate you!”

“Feelings mutual!” he yelled back, jumping to his feet.

“You know, all I ask of you is just to try and make me feel better, you know, be a guy or whatever. Forget it. I have obviously tried to bark up the wrong tree.”

Suddenly, he grabbed her and crushed his mouth down on top of hers. Her eyes widened in surprise, then fluttered close, as she began to respond in kind to his kiss. Just as the sparks of passion were ready to overwhelm her, he pulled away and ran his hands nervously through his hair.

“That was to calm you down,” he said harshly, his breathing slightly labored.

She felt a sting of hurt at the tone of his voice, but forced herself to ignore it. “Thanks,” she snapped back, then turned on her heel and stalked off to the opposite end of the room to sit with an astonished Vilandra and Alex, leaving Rath to stand alone with his thoughts.


*******


Surrounded by three guards, Zan and Liz followed the woman down a darkened tunnel and into a room larger than the one they’d left, but smaller than the main chamber where Kyle’s body was. When they were inside, the woman motioned for the guards to leave, before turning her full attention to them.

“I am Chryseis, High Priestess of the Order of the Oracles and Guardian of the Gateway. We await the coming of the Key and her protectors foretold by the High Priestess, Aynia, over a millennia ago.”

“Aynia?” Liz asked. “That’s the second time you’ve mentioned her. Who was she?”

“The greatest of the Oracles. It was she who helped place Zan’s family on Antar’s throne.”

“So why do you think I’m this Key you’re looking for?” Liz asked, lifting her chin to meet Chryseis’ gaze straight on.

“Because, you are from the planet known as Earth.”

“But why her specifically? There are at least forty-nine other humans that also landed on Antar,” Zan asked.

“She is the one your soul recognized,” Chryseis said.

“What? But how--?”

“I have been watching you for your entire life Zan. You were such a serious child, always watching the stars as if waiting for something. Tell me, do you still watch the stars now that she is here?”

He looked at Liz and shook his head.

Liz blushed slightly then focused her gaze back to Chryseis. “How can you be so sure that I’m the Key?”

“This,” she replied, pointing to the marking on the wall behind her.

Liz stared at the marking’s strange swirl pattern that was almost primitive in its quality. It was the same one that had caught Vilandra’s attention earlier. As she studied it, she realized that it was familiar to her. She stepped closer.

“You recognize it, do you not?” Chryseis asked, watching her intently.

She nodded.

“From where?” Zan asked.

Turning slightly, Liz lifted the hem of her jacket and undershirt and lowered the waistband of her pants slightly, to expose the smooth skin of her upper right hip. There, resting on her hipbone was a small purple birthmark, its shape the unmistakable swirl symbol from the wall.

Chryseis smiled. “Aynia’s mark symbolizing eternity. Only the Key bears this mark. You have passed the test.”



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



ACT III


“Oh Lizzie, thank God!” Maria exclaimed, throwing her arms around Liz when she walked back into their room.

Liz hugged Maria back. “It’s okay Maria. Zan and I are safe. Chryseis explained everything.”

“Who’s Chryseis?” Maria asked, pulling away in confusion.

“I am,” Chryseis replied, stepping into the room, followed closely by Zan.

“Then why does she want us dead?” Rath demanded glaring at the white-haired woman clothed in black robes.

Chryseis looked at Rath with confusion, and shook her head. “I do not want you dead. In fact, if you are who I believe you to be, death has no power over any of you.”

“Maybe,” Liz said softly, yet firmly, interrupting Rath’s next outburst, “You should start from the beginning.”

She nodded. “I am Chryseis, High Priestess of the Order of the Oracles and Guardian of the Gateway. We await the coming of the Key and her protectors foretold by the High Priestess, Aynia, over a millennia ago.”

“That’s impossible, Rath snorted, “You said Aynia was my mother. I’m only eighteen.”

“Aynia had the power to control the Gateway, or as you know it, the cyclolith. Time and space did not bind her to one physical existence. You know what I am saying is true Rath. You had a vision when you first saw me.”

Everyone looked at Rath.

He nodded slowly. “You look like her....”

Chryseis smiled. “Yes, I do. We were twins.”

“But that would make you older than Methuselah!” Alex exclaimed.

“Not quite. My original time has long passed, but my physical age is not much older than sixty years.”

“But you look so young,” Maria said in amazement.

“Being a shape shifter has its advantages.”

“A shape shifter? I thought they were a myth,” Vilandra said.

Chryseis shook her head. “Everyone in the Order is a shape shifter. Once powerful allies to the Kings of Antar, during Aynia’s time, we were hunted down and executed, accused of being betrayers.”

“Were you?” Rath asked.

“No, we were the betrayed. Because of our ability to shift, our accuser was able to convince the people that none of us could be trusted and needed to be eliminated. We fled here to Mount Corona and through the Gateway.”

“Where did you go?” Vilandra asked.

“To Earth.”


*******


Kathlin chewed nervously on her lower lip as she watched Marek drink his wine. Would he be able to detect the Hallucin?

“You’re just being paranoid,” she reprimanded herself silently. “He’s never noticed it before.”

Marek paused in his drinking and looked at his glass.

She froze. Was the increased dosage detectable? Had she used too much?

Marek looked at her. “This is delicious Kathlin. You do have fine taste in wine. Where did you get this?”

She chuckled with relief. “On my last trip to Votan, my love. I must make sure and keep the best vintages on hand so that my Royal lover doesn’t lose interest in me.”

Marek’s amber eyes darkened and he smiled sensuously at her. “Never my dear,” he growled, getting up from his seat and advancing towards her like a hungry Gandar beast.

She shivered in anticipation, purring when he grabbed her around the waist and buried his face into the crook of her neck. She sighed with pleasure. “Gods, but I love my job,” she thought as Marek scooped her up and carried her towards her bedchamber.


*******


Maria snorted in disbelief. “You’re claiming that Antarians lived on Earth a thousand years ago? I don’t think so.”

“I am not Antarian,” Chryseis said. “I am a descendant of the Ancients, one of the oldest known races among the stars. It is they who built the Gateways.”

“Gateways? As in, more than one?” Alex asked.

“Yes. Wherever the Ancients stayed, they built a Gateway. It was their preferred method of traveling.”

“Thus the power to control the stars,” Liz said. “They could travel thousands of light years in the blink of an eye if they had a Gateway.”

“But how did they get to planets that didn’t have a Gateway?” Vilandra asked.

“Same way Alex, Maria and I did...by starship.”

Chryseis nodded. “We are a peaceful people...explorers. We wanted to help other races achieve the enlightenment and evolution that we, ourselves, have obtained.”

“Why aren’t you in our history books?” Maria asked.

Chryseis smiled. “We are. I believe you refer to them as myths and legends.”

“But those took place thousands of years ago, not a thousand as you claim.”

“The Gateway does not just travel through space, but through time as well. So that our enemies could not find us, we went back through time. Unless they knew specifically where in time we had gone, they would never be able to find us.”

“Because the possibilities are endless...,” Alex murmured, nodding. “Brilliant idea.”

“We thought so. Humans were finally coming into an Age of Reason. They were ripe for change. We thought we could help them reach enlightenment. We spread out across the planet, to your deserts, your jungles, your forests and your ice lands.”

“But instead, they saw you as gods,” Liz said.

“Unfortunately, yes. We are not perfect beings, and some began to believe that they were indeed gods, and tried to enslave the humans,” Chryseis said, with a sad sigh. “Those who violated our beliefs were exiled from Earth. Unfortunately, one man escaped and fled from banishment through the Gateway and back here to our enemies. He betrayed us. And once again, we were forced to flee for our lives.”

“If you’re so powerful, why didn’t you just kill your enemies?” Rath asked with a sneer.

“Because we abhor violence. We refuse to kill any living being. We are teachers, healers, and seers, not warriors.”

“So where did you run to this time?” Maria asked.

“Here to Antar, a thousand years into the future.”


*******


“So, you fled to the future,” the man murmured, pushing the hood of his black robe away from his face to stare at the portrait in front of him.

The woman in the portrait was breathtaking. Her white hair flowed around her like a mantle, making her seem to glow with the power she possessed. But it was her eyes that fascinated him the most. Their deep violet color held the mysteries of the universe in them. And he wanted those mysteries.

“My Lord.”

He turned away from the painted enchantress, his silver-colored eyes glowing slightly, to the tall, black-robed man now standing beside him.

The tall man stepped back slightly in fear.

“Is Zan’s ‘distraction’ ready?” he asked, smiling coldly at the tall man’s fear.

The man swallowed nervously and nodded. “Yes, my Lord.”

“Excellent. You will go to Antar as well. If you fail, you die. Understood?”

“I will not fail.”

“I want the Key.”

The tall man looked nervously up at the woman in the portrait. “And Rath?”

“Once I have the Key, Aynia’s brat will cease to exist.”


*******


Maria looked from Rath to Chryseis and narrowed her eyes in suspicion. “Okay, if what you say isn’t a bunch of hooey and you’re related to Rath, than prove it.”

Zan shook his head. “She already has.”

“When?” Alex asked in confusion.

“When Rath threw that blast of energy at her. She was able to absorb it into her body without it harming her. Only a blood relative can do that,” Zan explained.

“Everyone has their own unique signature or marker if you will, inherent in their life source. It is from this life source we draw the energy to perform the skills you have witnessed since you arrived on Antar,” Chryseis said, looking intently at the humans. “However, members of the same family will share certain aspects of their parents’ signature within their own unique signature.”

“Like DNA and genes in the human body,” Alex said, his face lighting up with understanding. “Children have their own unique genetic signature, but it’s built from genetic material they receive from both parents.”

Chryseis nodded. “Yes, that is it exactly. Because of that, blood relatives, as far back as third cousins, can share their energy with one another in order to boost the others power. Or they can absorb the energy into their own, as I did earlier. It is a very useful defense mechanism, especially when a child’s power first comes in. They can get a little wild until they learn to control it.”

“That means you’re related to us too,” Vilandra whispered.

Chryseis nodded.

Alex and Maria looked at one another in confusion.

“We always assumed, since, well…. Is Rath our brother?” Vilandra asked. “Father brought him home--.”

“Rath is not Marek’s son. Your mother, Dedra, is my daughter, which would make you second cousins.”

“But that isn’t possible. Our Grandmother died several years ago when we were children.”

Chryseis sighed, an expression of sadness and regret on her face. “I did not raise your mother. She did not learn of my existence and the true nature of her birth until the day she gave birth to you and your brother.”

“Why?”

“In order to protect her role in the Destiny. By masking her true heritage, she remained safe from the enemy that threatens to destroy our world.”

“Destiny?” Rath snorted. “What Destiny makes two mothers abandon their children to strangers?”

“The kind that says if not fulfilled will signify the end of our world and life as we know it.”



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

I'll be back with the rest of the episode tomorrow. This is all I had time to polish up today.

See ya on the flip side!

Mel :)

P.S. erinkatie, I dub thee my official stalker for EVOLUTION. Just so you know, I spent several hours working on it today, so I'm hoping to have a big ol' update by the end of the weekend. Just depends on what real life decides to throw at me.
Last edited by Angel Kisses 70 on Sat Nov 18, 2006 9:12 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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COTS: Chryseis Act 4 and 5 11/19/06

Post by Angel Kisses 70 » Sat Nov 18, 2006 9:27 pm

Okay, okay, okay...here it is. Sheesh! You can put the search dogs away! I am here with the rest of the episode! :lol:

Oh, and by the way, the loverly new banner is by mrsjbehr, who did my banner for EVOLUTION. (Which someone nominated by the way for best banner for this round of awards. She so deserves it! Yay Petal!)


Image

CHILDREN OF THE STARS
Episode #7: Chryseis


AUTHOR: Melissa (aka Angel Kisses 70)
RATING: TEEN
CATEGORY: Z(M)/L (main focus), and all the rest....


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



ACT IV


“And you think Liz is the Key to stopping the world from ending?” Rath sneered.

“No, she is not. She is the Key that will open the Gateway again. When Aynia left Antar for the last time she sealed the Gateway so that no one but the Key can activate it.” Chryseis replied. “Liz bears Aynia’s mark, signifying that she is the Key.”

“How is that possible?” Maria asked. “We’re humans, not Antarians or your race of Ancients. We don’t have any powers.”

“That you know of,” Chryseis said mysteriously. “One moment, please.”

The six teens looked at one another in confusion as Chryseis exited the room, leaving the door wide open.

“I say we get out of here now, Zan,” Rath hissed. “I’ll grab Kyle’s body and Vilandra will create a distraction.”

Zan shook his head. “No. We stay here. There’s more to this. I promise Rath, you’ll understand everything soon.”

“You already know?” Alex demanded, stepping forward angrily.

Liz nodded. “Yes. She explained it to both of us already. I trust her.”

“Yeah, but Liz,” Maria said in a low whisper, “she and her Order wear black robes. You know, like the ones who tried to kill us earlier....”

“It wasn’t her, or anyone in the Order. She thinks it may be the enemy that Aynia was so afraid of,” Zan replied.

“Who is this enemy?” Vilandra asked. “We could defend ourselves a lot better if we knew who our enemy was.”

“She doesn’t know. Aynia refused to tell her, claiming that if Chryseis knew who the betrayer was, then she or someone in the Order might try and stop him before the appointed time, thus endangering this future,” Liz said softly.

“Fine, I’ll cooperate for now. But, if I start to think things are getting weird, I’m out of here,” Rath grumbled angrily.

“Rath,” Liz said, gently laying her hand on his arm, “Don’t you want to know more about your mother and your baby sister?”

“Baby sister? I didn’t have a baby sister. I was an only child.”

“No Rath, you weren’t,” Liz insisted. “Chryseis said that just before Aynia came back to Antar to leave you with Marek, she gave birth to a daughter that she left on Earth with foster parents. She did it to keep her safe from the man who was trying to hunt your people down. She was trying to make sure that at least one of her children survived.”

“I don’t believe it.”

“It is true,” Chryseis said, reappearing in the doorway. “Your sister’s name was Shana. And she lived a long and fruitful life, safe from harm.”

“How do you know this?” Rath demanded. “You said Aynia closed the Gateway.”

“Because Rath, Liz is her direct descendant.”


*******


“What is it?” Kathlin snapped at the servant girl hovering in the doorway. “Didn’t I tell you not to disturb me while the King is here?”

“Yes ma’am. It’s just that you have a message from Votan,” the girl said nervously.

She glanced quickly at Marek. Satisfied that he was sound asleep, she quickly got up and threw on her black silk robe. “I’ll take it in my study.”

“Yes ma’am,” the girl said and scurried away.

In her study, she flipped open the video screen.

“I hope I'm not interrupting anything,” the black-hooded figure said suggestively.

Glancing down at her scant attire, she smiled tolerantly. “Of course not, your timing is impeccable as always. What can I do for you, my Lord?”

“I just needed your assistance on a small matter.”

“Certainly. What is it?”

“My distraction for Prince Zan will be arriving on Antar in a few days, along with a guardian. Keep an eye on them and make sure they don’t screw up.”

“As you wish. Anything else, my Lord?”

“No, no,” the man said, pausing slightly before continuing. “I am curious. Does Marek satisfy you as well as I do?”

She arched an eyebrow. “Jealous, my Lord?”

“No, I was just wondering if maybe you were becoming too agreeable with the job as the king’s mistress.”

“No, my Lord. I am yours, now and always. Marek is just a job. The sooner I can return to you, the sooner I will be happy.”

“Well, it was just a thought. I know how you relish your public role as the mistress of a King.”

“To be convincing is my job, my Lord.”

“Yes, you do take your work seriously.... Enjoy.”

When the video screen went blank, she smiled. “Oh, I plan to,” she thought, and headed back towards her bedchamber.


*******


“I don’t believe it,” Rath said.

“It’s true,” Zan said. “I’ve seen the mark.”

“What mark?” Maria asked, getting even more upset.

“That one,” Zan said, pointing at Vilandra’s crude drawing in the dirt floor. “Every first born female in Aynia’s family has the mark on them. Aynia did, Shana did--”

“My Grandma Maureen did, my mother did, and I do,” Liz continued.

Maria’s eyes widened in remembrance. “The funky birthmark on your hip!”

Liz nodded.

“So you’re like Rath’s niece a thousand times removed,” Alex asked.

“A little more technical than that, but yes,” Liz said, smiling.

“So you’re like part alien?” Maria asked.

“Very minutely, but yeah.”

“Fascinating,” Alex said.

“Yes, it is,” Chryseis agreed. “But, right now, we are out of time for anymore questions. Follow me.”

The moons were full, and night had fallen again. The six teens followed Chryseis back up the path, back towards the Gateway. As they reached the outer edge, Chryseis stopped, letting them see that Kyle’s body was now resting on the stone table in the center of the inner ring. They looked at her for an explanation.

Reaching into the sleeve of her robe, Chryseis withdrew something. Holding out her hand so that everyone could see, she opened her fist to reveal eight, round, dark-colored stones. “These are the Destiny Stones. Aynia gave them to me to give to the Key and those destined to help her. They carry energy inside them,” she explained, handing one to each of the teens.

“What kind of energy?” Liz asked, studying her stone when Chryseis handed it to her. The color and feel of it reminded her of the glass paperweight her Grandma Maureen used to have on her desk.

“Aynia’s life force.”

“Life for--?” Rath began to ask when suddenly, Liz’s stone began to glow brightly with a white light.

Maria squeaked in surprise as her stone began to glow with a white light too and then change to a fiery orange color. Alex whistled softly in amazement as his stone glowed white then changed to a soft blue.

Zan, Vilandra and Rath watched in amazement as their stones also began to glow with a white light before changing to purple, indigo and red, respectively.

“Why are they doing this?” Liz asked in amazement.

“Because the stones recognize you and your friends. You each contain an energy marker that the stone recognizes as being Aynia’s.”

“But we aren’t related directly to Aynia,” Vilandra said.

“But you are the grandchildren of her identical twin sister,” Alex said, “Which makes you genetically compatible. However, how are Maria and I supposed to be related?”

“I do not know exactly, but somewhere in your family line you have an ancestor who was related to Aynia, probably through one of Shana’s other children. Even though only the first born female carries the mark, all of her descendants carry the energy marker,” Chryseis replied.

“Mistress, it is time to begin.”

Chryseis looked at the young man who was her aide and smiled.

“Thank you, Tynan.”

Tynan bowed and walked back to the circle of Oracles standing inside the outer ring.

“Come, it is time to reawaken your friend,” she said, turning her attention back to the teens before walking towards the inner ring and Kyle’s body.

“How are you planning on reawakening a dead person?” Maria asked as they followed.

“I am not,” she replied. “The six of you are.”

As they approached, they noticed a large circle drawn on the ground around the table. Lines were drawn leading from the edge of the circle to the center where Kyle lay on the stone table.

“Everyone, take your place in the circle. There is a line for each of you,” Chryseis commanded.

Once everyone was in place, Chryseis placed one of the two remaining stones on Kyle’s forehead, before turning to address them. “Aynia told me that the stones, filled with her life energy, would enable you to cheat death. Hold the stones in the palm of your hands and your energy will activate them just as before. This time however, you must concentrate on Kyle.”

“So let's get going,” Vilandra said impatiently.

Chryseis raised her hand. “A warning first: the energy can pull you in. It is a force that can change both your body and your mind unless you navigate it properly. Now, clear your mind...and drink from the bowl as it is passed. Do not change the way you feel about your friend, and you will come out on the right side."

“What is it?” Zan asked, looking warily at the bowl’s contents.

“Water. Something in common with all beings. By drinking from the same bowl, you begin the connection.”

Once the bowl had been passed, Chryseis stepped out of the inner ring and watched with anticipation.


Kyle opened his eyes to find himself surrounded by a bright, white light. Curious, he stood up to inspect his surroundings, and was surprised to see his friends, as well as Rath, Vilandra and Zan.

“Liz?” he asked.

“Yes Kyle, it’s me,” she said, smiling. “We’re here to bring you back.”

“Am I dead?”

“Yes and no. Kyle there is so much to tell you, but the short of it is you’re needed back on Antar with us. You have a very important role in our group, and you’re our friend. We’ve missed you terribly.”

“Yeah, I need you to help me keep these two in line,” Alex joked, pointing at Liz and Maria.

“And I need someone to be my guinea pig when I come up with a new recipe in the Mess,” Maria said, smiling.

He glanced at the three Antarians and pointed. “What about them?”

“I’m afraid we’re stuck with them,” Maria quipped.

“Stuck?” Rath snorted. “More like we’re stuck with you.”

“Watch it, Broody Boy....”

“Enough, you two!” Zan commanded, “Focus.”

Rath looked sheepish and nodded towards Liz. “We do need you. She’s been frantic to find you for the last few days when you disappeared.”

“I disappeared?” he asked.

“Long story,” Vilandra said, interrupting Rath, “To tell another time. Right now, we need you back. Without you, we’re not whole.”

Zan walked up to him. “Liz loves you. It broke her heart when you died. Come back for her. Help me take care of her.”

He grinned. “My promise to come back and haunt you, scared you didn’t it?”

Zan grinned back.

Kyle turned to Liz. “I will,” he said, reaching his hand out to her. “I’ll come back for you.”



Liz gasped as the stone on Kyle’s forehead began to glow with a white light that spread over his entire body. As the light began to recede back toward the stone, it changed to a beautiful emerald green.

Kyle sat up, pulling the gauzy fabric off him. The stone fell into his lap. He picked it up and stared at it with curiosity.

“Kyle? Are you okay?” she asked.

He looked at her. “I went someplace, Liz, and I saw things....”

“But you came back,” she said, smiling. “You came back, for good this time.”

He looked at the others and their smiling faces, including Zan. He nodded in wonder. “Yeah, I came back.”



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



ACT V


Liz, Alex and Maria all hovered around Kyle when they returned to the cave. They tried to fill him in on everything he’d missed while being dead. As Kyle listened to their story, he stared at Zan, Rath and Vilandra.

“And that’s how we were able to bring you back,” Liz said, smiling.

Kyle looked at her in confusion and then at Chryseis, who’d been standing silently on the other side of the room observing the teens. “So Liz is this Key to the Gateway? How come it didn’t activate when she was standing in it earlier?”

“Yeah, how come?” Maria asked.

“Because she needs the orbs.”

“Orbs?” Zan asked in confusion. “You said she was the Key and could activate the Gateway. You never mentioned orbs.”

Chryseis sighed. “Everyone, please sit down and I will try to explain.” Once everybody had found their respective seats around the main room, she began to speak.

“To open this Gateway, the Key needs the two Gateway Orbs that are specifically keyed to it: one is made from the same type of stone as the Gateway itself, and the other is made from the same material used in the Destiny Stones, which you now possess.”

“What do they do?” Liz asked.

“One draws on the life force energy from the Key, and the other, amplifies it. When held by the Key inside the ring, the portal will open. Once opened, it remains open and can be accessed by anyone until the Key chooses to close it.”

“You said Aynia was able to seal it and make it unusable. How?” Vilandra asked.

“Aynia discovered after we had been betrayed that if she took one of the orbs through the Gateway with her, it would cause the portal to become unstable and collapse in on itself, rendering it unavailable to everyone here and everywhere else.”

“To re-open the portal, she would need both orbs, but with no way to retrieve the other orb from here, she exiled herself on Earth,” Liz said.

Chryseis nodded. “Yes, but she would have used Earth’s portal to go someplace else. She would not have stayed on Earth and put Shana in danger.”

“Stonehenge was a dead portal. She must have used one of its orbs to close it off as well. So where did she go?” Alex asked.

“That I do not know. It could be any place or any time.”

“What happened to the other orb?” Zan asked.

“It was stolen one night, not long after Aynia left Rath with the Royal family. We believe it was Marius, the one who betrayed us to our enemies.”

“So how is Liz supposed to open this Gateway, if she doesn’t have the orbs?”

“But she does have one of them. Aynia would have left it with Shana, who should have passed it down to her first born daughter.”

Liz shook her head. “I don’t think so.... What does it look like?”

“It would look like one of the Destiny Stones only much larger.”

Liz paled. “Grandma Maureen’s paperweight....”

“So you do have it.”

“No. It disappeared from Grandma’s bedroom one day. We never found it. If it was still on the ship, it’s gone...destroyed with the Jamestown.”

“So Liz can’t open the Gateway,” Rath said with disgust. “My mother abandoned me for nothing because some stupid human couldn’t keep it safe!”

“Hey!” Maria said angrily, “Grandma Maureen was not stupid! She was sweet, and kind, and....”

“Baked fabulous sugar cookies,” Alex added in defense.

Liz looked at Rath, her brown eyes shimmering. “I’m sorry Rath.”

“No,” Chryseis said forcefully. “There may still be away. If you could find the other orb, there may be a chance. Aynia took the one that stored her energy with her. That is the one that she left with Shana. If we can find the amplifier orb, we may still be able to open the Gateway.”

“How?” Zan asked, glaring at Rath for making Liz upset.

“I am not sure exactly. I have an idea, but I need to do some research through the tomes that my ancestors left behind.”


*******


Marek watched his mistress through a haze. He thought briefly that he was unusually drunk for only having had one drink so far, but he quickly pushed the thought aside when Kathlin, beautiful in her nakedness, got up from their bed, and walked seductively over to the table where his best wines were kept. “I've never taken you for a drinker,” he mumbled.

Kathlin glanced over her shoulder at Marek as she poured herself a glass of fine Antarian wine. “Why is that, your Majesty?”

“You seem like the healthy type. Exercising, eating only the best foods....”

“So, you have been paying attention for all of these years. Observe anything else unusual?” she purred with a seductive smile.

“Besides the fact that you go off for days at a time alone, without telling me where you’re going....”

She frowned slightly. “Now darling, you know I go to Votan to visit my son. If I don’t go every so often, he’ll forget me.”

“I wouldn't worry too much about him forgetting about you. In my opinion, you’re impossible to forget, especially your more comely attributes.”

She raised an eyebrow in amusement. “Oh, really? Such as?”

“Well,” he said getting up from the bed and walking towards her, “there’s your lovely, soft, smooth skin. Silky to the touch.”

She closed her eyes as she concentrated on his hand caressing her upper arm. “Anything else?” she whispered.

He ran his fingers through her hair. “Your glorious mane of fire and spun gold.”

She reached out and brushed his dark hair from his forehead, to stare into his amber-brown eyes. She sighed. “I think the things you remember, aren’t the same things my son remembers, darling.”

“Funny how everybody remembers different things about the same person...,” he whispered before he began to place gentle kisses along her collarbone.

Kathlin closed her eyes in order to delight in the sensations he was causing inside of her. Marek was an excellent lover. No wonder Dedra had loved him so.

Suddenly, she felt a momentary twinge of guilt, but forcefully pushed it aside and pulled away. “I think we need to take this to a place where we can explore my unforgettable traits more easily.”

He grinned at her wickedly. “Why, whatever could you be thinking, Lady Kathlin?”

“I think you know,” she whispered huskily, setting her glass back on the table.

He scooped her up into his arms and began to walk back towards the bed. “I think I may....”


*******


“Wait!” Kyle demanded. “What I don’t understand is why Rath is younger than Zan’s mother if you both jumped a thousand years in the future at the same time?”

“When we originally arrived, it was actually thirty-six years ago. I was pregnant with Dedra and recently widowed. My mate had been killed during the fight to escape from Earth through the Gateway. Rath, you were a just a wee thing, almost two.

“Aynia helped me deliver Dedra a few days after we arrived. It was after the delivery that Aynia had her vision. Our enemies would destroy us, unless I gave up my daughter. It was imperative that she grow up and have children. These children would help save our world and many others.” Chryseis’ violet eyes shimmered with unshed tears at her memories.

“So I gave Dedra to a couple high in the Antarian court that was childless and loyal to Marek’s family. When I returned here, Aynia and Rath were gone. So, for the next eighteen years, I watched Dedra grow up and protected her when I could. She captured King Marek’s heart, as he did hers. They were married and by the end of the year, you two were born,” she said, looking at Zan and Vilandra.

“How did she find out about you?” Vilandra asked.

“I came to her. She was furious when I explained why I had done what I had. She accused Marek of knowing all about it since it was his ancestor that Aynia had helped place on the throne of Antar, a thousand years before. I reassured her that Marek knew nothing of this, and that I would not contact her or my grandchildren again.”

“But you did,” Zan said. “You came to us in our dreams.”

Chryseis shook her head. “That was Aynia. She did that. You had to know the symbol in order to recognize the Key.”

“But Mother knew about the mark on her inner thigh.”

“Dedra met Aynia the day Marek brought Rath to the palace, sixteen years ago. When Aynia and Rath had disappeared, they had actually gone through the Gateway and jumped ahead twenty years in the future. She explained to them both what was going on and the danger involved. She made them promise to raise Rath.”

“So our parents know the whole story?” Vilandra asked.

“No. Only the why you are so important and what will be coming once the Key is found.”

“What is coming?” Zan asked.

Chryseis looked at him grim-faced. “The Time of Reckoning.”


*******


“The Time of Reckoning has begun. Prepare yourself. Zan will be tested greatly to see if he is worthy of the power which the Key possesses. If he passes, he will be the greatest king that Antar or the Confederation has ever seen.

“If he fails, the power will be lost and the world as you now know it will end. Beware of the shadowed one, for he is not who he appears to be.”



Marek sat up in bed, sweating. Kathlin slept soundly beside him. He darted his gaze around the room. He could have sworn he’d heard Aynia’s voice as if she were standing beside him. He slowly shook his head to clear the fog of sleep from his brain and focus. His mouth tasted dry. He needed a drink.

Getting up quietly, so as not to disturb his mistress, he walked over to the sideboard and poured himself a glass of wine. As he reviewed the dream, he shuddered. The Time of Reckoning had begun.

“I hope you are ready, my son,” he thought to himself as he stared out the window at the two moons. “For I will not be here much longer to help you....”


*******


“The Time of Reckoning?” Alex asked, “Why don’t I like the sound of that?”

Chryseis smiled in amusement. She definitely liked that one. He would be a good match for her serious granddaughter. “The Time of Reckoning is a period of great upheaval and chaos. It will test all of you greatly. You must be stronger than the trials that are coming, or all will be lost. As for specifics, I cannot tell you, for I do not know. Just be prepared.”

She turned to look at Liz. “You remind me of Aynia. She was kind, brave, and loving. She was willing to sacrifice everything if it meant it would save the people she loved most in this world.”

“What do you think happened to her?” Liz asked glancing quickly at Rath’s closed off expression.

“I do not know for sure, but I believe now that she is dead.”

“Why?” Rath demanded angrily.

“When Aynia created the Destiny Stones, she used up a great deal of her life force, leaving her just enough to return to Earth through the Gateway. After that, I never saw her again. She would have been physically drained by the jump. And if she is responsible for closing Earth’s Gateway as we have surmised here today, I do not think she would have survived the jump.” Chryseis laid a gentle hand on Rath’s shoulder. “Come with me. I have one last thing to show you.”


*******


“Did she draw this?” Rath asked, using his powers to cast a globe of light to study the symbols on one of the stones in the cyclolith’s outer ring.

“Yes. Aynia left them for you and the others,” Chryseis replied.

“They seem familiar, like I know what it means, but I can't remember,” he growled in frustration. “Is it some sort of language?”

“Yes.”

“What does it say?”

Chryseis shook her head. “I do not know. Aynia said the Key would know.”

Everyone looked at Liz.

She shook her head. “I have no idea. I’ve never seen anything like it before.”

Zan touched the symbols. “So this has some type of meaning. It's some kind of message.”

“Maybe it's some type of warning,” Maria offered.

“I do not know,” Chryseis said, then paused briefly, closing her eyes for a moment. “It is time for you to leave. Tell no one of what you have learned or found today.”

“Will we talk with you again?” Liz asked softly.

“Someday,” Chryseis replied, smiling mysteriously. “I have told you everything I can. The rest is up to you. There may be others, who can give you more answers, but I do not know who they are.”

Zan clasped Liz’s hand in his and began to lead the group away from the Gateway.

“Rath,” Chryseis said, grabbing him by the arm.

He stopped and looked at her suspiciously. “What?”

“Aynia loved you very much. She did what she had to in order to save you. Do not be angry with her anymore. The day she left you behind, was the day something inside of her broke. If she could have changed things, she would have.”

“Then why didn’t she?” he asked angrily.

“Because even she, the most powerful of the Oracles, could not escape her Destiny,” Chryseis murmured sadly, caressing Rath’s cheek. “Be happy and love well. It is all she ever wanted for you. It is what she was trying to give you.”

With that, she stepped away from Rath, smiling warmly. Her body began to glow brightly and then dimmed.

As their eyes readjusted to the darkness, Chryseis was gone.

Zan looked with sympathy at his best friend.

Rath looked back with resignation and nodded.

“Let’s go,” Zan told the others.

They walked away slowly down the mountain. None of them looked back. If they had, they would have seen the symbols on the stone glowing with a faint, white light.



**FADE TO BLACK**
**END of EPISODE 107**

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

Okay, have I totally lost you all now? Do you know who is related to who in this fic?

If I've goofed anywhere just let me know, though I don't think I have this time. I have a whole family tree outline sitting in front of me to help keep me straight. :)

As always, thank you for the lovely feedback. It really does put a smile on my face.

Later daze,

Mel 8)

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CHILDREN OF THE STARS: Epsidoe 8 -- Moments Act 1 & 2

Post by Angel Kisses 70 » Tue Nov 28, 2006 11:43 am

CHILDREN OF THE STARS #8: Moments

RATING:
TEEN


AUTHOR's NOTE: This is a drive-by posting. Sorry, it's only two acts. I was amazed at the feedback about how Rath was told about his mother. Chryseis took Zan and Liz off separately so that she could confirm that Liz was the Key. Zan's reaction to Liz is the clincher. There is more to the story of these two that has yet to be revealed.... :twisted:

As for Rath, Chryseis is sad at having to tell Rath that his mother is gone. She does feel for him, but it is hard for the Shifters to show their emotions. Think of them kind of like Vulcans. They feel things, but just don't express those feelings. Strange that no one asked about who Rath's father is? :twisted:

Oh, and nibbles2, this is the Heatwave episode!

Thanks everyone for the great feedback! Enjoy!



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


ACT I


Day before the Royal Masque
Early evening at the humans’ camp



“Moments. It's amazing how just one can change things so radically. When you look back on the times of your life, you can always pinpoint the exact moment your life changed direction. This is one of those moments.”

Liz stood at the front of the Mess tent before her gathered crew, swallowed nervously, then put on her “Little General’s” face. It was now, or never. They were either going to buy her explanation about Kyle’s sudden return from the grave, or they weren’t.

“Thank you for coming,” she said calmly. “I know a lot of you have been wondering where Chief Whitman, Ensign De Luca and myself have been for the last few days, especially since Lieutenant Commander Valenti’s funeral was so close. It appears that rumors of Commander Valenti’s death have been greatly exaggerated.”

Appearing at the door of the Mess, Kyle was met by gasps of amazement and murmurs of disbelief.

Liz raised her hands to quiet her crew. “I know this comes as a great shock to you. It does for me too, but I assure you, it is Kyle, and he’s perfectly healthy. It seems that the Azul flu had a slightly different effect on human physiology, and instead of dying, as we’d believed, he’d actually slipped into a stasis of sorts, where his breathing and heartbeat were so slow, that they were undetectable by our medical equipment.”

Standing behind Kyle, Maria leaned over to Alex. “They’re buying it,” she whispered covertly.

Alex nodded, and kept staring at the faces of the crew.

“When Chief Whitman discovered the fact later during his final examination,” Liz continued with the explanation they’d agreed upon, “he immediately contacted me and Crown Prince Zan. From there, we transported Commander Valenti from the camp to a remote area in the Azul Mountains, to see a healer who could help bring him out of the stasis he was in. And, as you can see, it was successful.”

Smiling at Kyle, she said, “As of this moment, I re-instate Kyle Valenti as a member of our crew with the full rankings and privileges as First Officer. Welcome back, Kyle.”

The crew clapped and cheered, surrounding Kyle to offer their congratulations.


*******


At the Royal Palace....


Rath plopped down onto the chaise in Zan’s suite and growled in frustration. Vilandra raised an eyebrow at him.

“Missing a certain blonde human?” she teased.

He glared at her. “I have other things on my mind besides the opposite sex, unlike our esteemed Crown Prince.”

Ignoring the remark, Zan kept reading his book.

“Like who is this enemy that’s closing in on us,” Rath continued, “And unless we do something about it....”

Zan shook his head. “What do you want me to do Rath? We don’t even know where to start looking. Chryseis didn’t even know.”

“Maybe....”

“What? You think she lied to us?” Vilandra asked. “Why?”

Rath sighed. “No, I think she’s told us everything she knows so far. But there’s more to all of this. I know it. I just can’t see it. It’s like...it’s locked up inside my head.”

“You think you know who our enemy is?” Zan asked.

Rath nodded. “I just can’t access it. I keep trying, but it’s like I’m hitting a wall. It won’t budge.”

“What I want to know is what this whole destiny thing is?” Vilandra demanded. “What will happen if we fail? What did Chryseis mean it would ‘signify the end of our world and life as we know it’?”

Zan shrugged. “Still trying to puzzle that one out. However, I think the answer may be in here,” he replied, holding up the book, Arcana and Apocrypha.

“Do you understand any of that?” Vilandra asked.

“No, not yet. Pretty dry and cryptic end-of-the-world rhetoric.”

“So we’re not going to solve any crises today,” Vilandra stated, “Then why don’t you guys help me figure out what to wear to the Masque tomorrow night.”

“How can you possibly think about something like that?” Rath growled.

“How can you not? Father expects us to be there, and I for one, want to make a grand entrance. Now, who do you think I should go as?”

“Boddacea, the warrior queen,” Zan teased, “Fits you perfectly.”

“Yeah, and scare the pants off poor Alex,” Rath snorted.

“I beg your pardon?” Vilandra said, insulted.

“Come on Lonnie, do you think we didn’t notice all the time you two of have been spending together?” Rath asked.

“We’re friends. That’s all,” she replied, narrowing her eyes. “Besides...you were the one all tangled up with the blonde in the hut.”

“Enough you two,” Zan said, standing up. “Rath, you’re escorting Lonnie tomorrow night, and Alex will be escorting Maria.”

Vilandra looked slyly at Zan. “And who will be escorting Liz, now that Kyle’s back?”

Zan glared at his sister and then stalked off into his bedroom without replying.

Rath looked at Vilandra. “Are you ever going to learn to think before you speak?”


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


Human camp....


Once the crew, had left the Mess tent, Liz sighed with relief and sat down on the nearest bench. Maria and Alex sat down on either side of her and gave her a hug.

“You did good, chica,” Maria said. “They totally bought it.”

“Yeah, I have to admit, I was skeptical at first, but you pulled it off Liz. I’m impressed,” Kyle said, watching the last of the crew walk away from the tent to finish their jobs for the day. He turned and sighed. “However, we may have another problem on our hands.”

Liz looked at him in confusion. “What problem?”

“Our impending nuptials,” he said, sighing. “Seems quite a few of them are expecting us to still get married.”

“Oops,” Maria replied, and chewed on her lower lip thoughtfully.

“We’ll just tell them that due to everything that’s gone on with you, that we decided to call off the wedding,” Liz said, “in order for us to re-evaluate our lives and make sure it’s what we both want.”

Alex whistled softly. “That’s going to anger a lot of the traditionalists in the crew who believe in the genetic matching aspect, especially when they see you with Zan.”

“If I don’t show I have a problem with it, than the crew shouldn’t either,” Kyle replied.

“Do you?” Liz asked, staring up at him. “Have a problem with me being with Zan?”

He shook his head. “No. I realized the day I ‘died’ that you and Zan complete one another. I felt it inside my soul.”

She looked at him in amazement. “You could feel that?”

He nodded. “I’ve looked at you a thousand times, and said I love you, but it just doesn’t feel the same. You know?”

“Yeah, I know. You’ve been one of my best friends since we were in diapers. You’re like the brother I never had, and I’ve come to you with every problem I’ve ever had.”

“Until now,” he said softly. He held up his hand to stop her apology. “Don’t. I’m to blame for my hurt feelings. I was too wrapped up in following the mission that I forgot about your feelings. When I realized that what we are wasn’t the same as you and Zan, I was happy for you. You’ve found something very rare. You and he are meant to be.”

“What about you?” Liz asked.

He shrugged. “I don’t know. But my other half is out there...somewhere. And when I find her, I’ll know it. Just be happy, and don’t let anything keep you from him.”


*******


Somewhere on Antar....


The jump point glowed brightly and then dimmed to reveal a tall, middle-aged man with pale skin and gray eyes. Next to him, a tiny figure stood fully cloaked by a black robe. The man hovered protectively near the figure, and glared at the two guards before him.

“Where’s your mistress?” he growled.

“She’s awaiting your arrival back at the palace,” the younger guard stated nervously. “She’s instructed us to bring you and your charge to her.”

The man sneered. “I am not important enough to greet in person?”

The other guard shook his head. “No, no. Security is tight for the Masque, and she couldn’t slip out without raising suspicions. She humbly extends her apologies.”

The man stared at the two guards and then nodded. “Take us to her. My charge is weary from the journey.”

They followed the guards out to their waiting vehicle--a delivery transport.

“This way we can get you into the palace without alarm,” the guard quickly reassured the glaring giant.

The man helped his charge into the cramped hold. “We will not have to suffer these indignities much longer,” he murmured as they pulled away from the jump point.

The figure nodded, but remained silent.



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



ACT II


Morning of the Masque....



“Moments. There are many in one’s life. Moments of happiness, moments of sadness, moments of passion and moments of realization.”

Liz walked towards the Mess tent for breakfast. She hadn’t slept very well. Thoughts of her conversation with Kyle last night kept running through her head.


“You should come with us to the Masque tomorrow night,” she’d said. “As my First Officer, you’ll be approved for the guest list.”

“I don’t know, Liz.... What will I have to wear?”

“A costume of your choice and a mask, of course.”

“It’s not really my kind of thing....”

She’d grinned. “Come on, it’ll be great. Who knows, you just may meet the girl of your dreams there.”

“Okay,” he’d finally agreed. “You gonna be my escort?”

“Um...I kind of already have an escort.”

He’d nodded in understanding. “Zan...right. I knew that. Sorry. Old habits die hard.”


She sighed. The sensible part of her knew Kyle was fine with her and Zan, but still, the emotional side knew he was hurt, no matter how much he said otherwise. “Maybe, he will find the girl of his dreams tonight,” she hoped silently.

As she neared the Mess tent, a strange noise caught her attention. She stopped, cocked her head and listened. It was coming from behind the Mess tent. She decided to investigate.

“For some people, passion seems to be the moment of choice around here.”

She stopped in her tracks. There, back by the food storage shed, stood Rath and Maria, neither one aware that they’d been spotted.

“Not that they’d notice,” she thought, noting that the kiss they were engaged in was pretty all-consuming. When Rath’s hands moved down Maria’s waist to her ass in order to pull her closer to him, she ducked back around the corner.

”But for me, a moment of realization seems to be my lot. My life isn't expanding...I’m stuck.”

She peeked around the corner one more time.

“Oh, my God...oh, my God,” Maria whispered to Rath between kisses, “I'm dying here.... This is so uncharacteristic.”

Straightening her shoulders, Liz walked casually back the way she’d come.

Suddenly, Zan was standing in front of her.

“Zan! What are you doing here?” she asked, glancing back at the Mess tent.

“I was hoping to talk to you before the party tonight.”

“Um, okay. But, Maria and I are supposed to be up to the palace later. It couldn’t wait until then?”

“No.”

“Okay,” she replied, confused by his anxiousness. “Why don’t we discuss this in my quarters?”

He nodded and followed her into her tent. Once inside, he glanced around the room nervously.

She put her hands on her hips. “Okay, spill.”

“What about Kyle?”

“What about him?”

“Well, now that he’s back, I thought he might want to pick up where you two left off. You know, the whole engagement thing....”

“Oh, that...,” she said with a smile.

“Yes that! You two were supposed to be getting married, your duty to your crew and all that,” he said, running his hand through his dark hair.

“We’re not getting married--Kyle and I. We both realized that it'd be a mistake. He knows and understands about my feelings for you. And he gave us his blessing.”

“He did? Kyle? Muscular looking guy, with brown hair and a jealous streak?”

She chuckled. “Yes.”

“Huh.... So I guess that means you’re still attending the Masque with me then?”

“Yes, unless you've changed your mind.”

He stepped up to her and pulled her close. “Never.” He kissed her.

She sighed at the familiar sensations that began to spark along her skin. She wondered briefly if Maria felt the same thing when she kissed Rath. "If so, the human men don’t stand a chance against the Antarian men when the human women find out," she thought.

He pulled away and smiled. “I’ll see you at sunset. I’m going to give Lonnie your costume, so it’ll be ready to put on when you get there this afternoon.”

“Zan, wait,” she said as he turned to go. “Um...have you noticed anything strange about Rath lately?”

“What do you mean?”

“Maybe just the way he acts around Maria. You know, have you observed any differences in his behavior at all?”

“Are you saying there's something going on between Rath and Maria?”

“No, no. I'm not,” she quickly denied. “I'm not saying that. I’m just curious. Would it be bad if there were?”

He smiled. “No. I think Maria is just what Rath needs. She’ll keep him on his toes.”

“Okay. See you tonight.”

She watched him leave and then walked over to the mirror that hung by her clothes, and studied her reflection. She smiled.

“Zan and I have been taking things moment by moment and I’m tired of it. I’m ready to move forward. I’m ready for my moment of passion.”


*******


Afternoon of the Masque
At the Royal Palace....



“Well? What do you think?” Vilandra asked holding up Liz’s costume.

Liz stared at the ivory dress in silent amazement.

Maria bounced up and down with excitement. “It’s gorgeous Liz! Only you could pick a guy who has great taste and is a prince to boot. You’re going to be the prettiest woman at the ball, present company excluded of course.”

Liz gently fingered the silky material of her costume, enjoying the cool, smoothness of it against her fingers. She studied the intricate beadwork on the bodice and smiled at the way the crystal beads shimmered in the light. She looked up at Vilandra. “This must've cost a fortune.”

Vilandra laughed. “Actually, no. Sometimes being able to manipulate molecular structure comes in handy. How do you think I stay so fashionable?”

Liz smiled.

“Okay, I get the bath first!” Maria yelled as she sprinted off towards the bathroom. “See you guys in an hour!”

Liz looked at Vilandra and shook her head. “Sorry, Maria gets a little overexcited about things sometimes, and she’s been chatting about this Masque, non-stop, all morning. I’m glad she was able to come also.”

“Yes well, if she didn’t, Rath would be simply impossible to put up with. He’d just hang around me and scare away all the other men,” Vilandra replied, hanging Liz’s costume back up on its hook, “And I do not need that if I ever hope to find my soul mate. The gods know that I do not want to end up with Rath as my husband.”

Liz looked at her with surprise. “You and Rath...?”

“I know...eww, right?” She looked at Liz and stopped smiling. “Zan didn’t tell you?”

Liz shook her head.

“Which means Rath hasn’t told Maria...right?”

Liz nodded.

“Oh...well it’s not official. Father says if we both find other people to marry that are suitable, he will dissolve our betrothal. Believe me, neither Rath or I want to marry each other. We think of each other more as brother and sister.”

“What about Maria?”

“I like her. I think she’s good for Rath. And, I think Rath likes her more than he lets on.”


*******


“Hey, Rath,” Zan said as he entered the stables.

“Zan.” Rath continued brushing down his mount.

Zan leaned against the door of an empty stall. “Decide on your costume yet?”

“Isabel is making me dress as Alator...the war god to her warrior queen,” he replied, rolling his eyes. “Just kill me now.”

Zan laughed. “Sorry, you’re on your own with that one. I know better than to try and countermand my sister when she wants things a certain way. But I feel for you.”

“Whatever. Just because your woman let you choose your own costume doesn’t mean you get to gloat.”

“Speaking of women, I want to ask you something,” Zan said, suddenly serious.

“Sure.”

“You and Maria. There isn't...I mean, nothing's been going on between you two...has there?”


*******


“So, um, what about your soul mate?” Liz asked as she painted clear polish onto her short fingernails. “What are you looking for? Anything in particular?”

“What? Are you researching me?” Vilandra asked, as she rubbed lotion into hands and feet.

Liz shook her head. “No. I just...I don't know, I was just kind of curious. I mean after all you are Zan’s sister.”

Vilandra paused and studied the brunette girl that held her brother’s heart. “Have you ever been afraid...I mean, to let someone in? To let someone see who you really are?”

Liz nodded.

“Well, as a princess of a planet, multiply that by about a million. I have to be so careful, to make sure that he will love me, for me, and not for what I represent. I want him to look at me and see me, not the pretty wrapping on the outside,” she said. “I want him to look at me, the way my father used to look at my mother, when I was little...like she was the most precious thing on Antar. I want him to feel about me the way I know Zan feels about you. I want my other half.”

“Then never stop looking, Lonnie,” Liz said, smiling softly. “Because I believe that someday you’ll find him.”

Vilandra smiled and glanced at Liz’s bottle of polish. She reached over and touched an index finger to Liz’s costume, then turned back to Liz. “Give me your hand.”

Liz gave her the hand she’d just finished putting polish on.

Vilandra lightly touched each nail, changing the polish from clear to an opalescent pearl color.

Liz smiled. “Thanks.”


*******


“I just figured, go for it, you know? I don't know what I was thinking,” Rath said, shutting the stable door.

“Well, you’d better start thinking," Zan said. "You can't let things spin out of control. Maria’s a girl who feels things very intensely. She isn’t casual in her emotions--”

“I feel more for her than as something casual.”

“How much more?”

“I don't know, Zan. It feels so wrong, but it feels so good.”

“You do realize she’s promised to Alex.”

“Yeah so? I’m supposed to marry Lonnie, but you don’t see me jumping at that particular noose. Alex is all wrong for Maria anyway. She needs someone who feeds the fire inside of her.”

“And you will? You’re ready to do that?” Zan asked skeptically

Rath scowled and walked away.


*******


Maria bounced out of the bathroom. “All yours, Lizzie. Great polish.”

“Lonnie did it,” Liz replied and slipped away to finish getting ready.

“So, what's going on with your friend Alex?” Vilandra asked, watching Maria pull her costume from its clothes bag.

“He's good,” she replied distractedly, chewing her lower lip as she adjusted the wings of her costume back into shape.

“Has he said anything about...me?”

Maria paused in her ministrations and looked over at Vilandra. Her eyes widened and she grinned. “You like Alex!” she squealed.

Vilandra looked aghast. “I do not! He’s a friend. That’s all.”

Maria shook her head. “No, you ‘like-like’ him. I can tell. You’re blushing.”

“I am not!” she protested, covering her pink cheeks with her hands. “It’s just getting a bit warm in here. I’m going to go adjust the temperature.”

Maria chuckled to herself as Vilandra hurried off into the living area. Glancing at her costume, she decided to put it on. Just as she'd started to pull the dark green bodice down over her body, Vilandra came back into the bedroom.

“What are you doing?” Vilandra asked as Maria finished pulling the costume into place.

“Putting my costume on. I figured I’d do my hair and makeup afterwards so it wouldn’t ruin. Don’t worry, the wings I’m putting on just before I head out the door.”

“What exactly are you supposed to be again?”

“Tinkerbelle. She’s a pixie. Sprinkles fairy dust. Makes you fly.”

Vilandra stared at Maria blankly.

Maria sighed. “Never mind. Let’s just say she’s a magic being from Earth literature and leave it at that.”

Vilandra watched as Maria adjusted the tight costume, making sure everything was in its correct placement.

Maria glanced over at Vilandra. “What? My butt hanging out too much?”

“No, you have a, um, mark there,” she replied with a knowing smile and pointed at the purple bruise at the base of Maria’s neck.

Maria blushed. “Oh great, Broody Boy,” she mumbled, “how am I supposed to cover that up?”

“Here. Let me.” Vilandra offered and placed her hand on the mark. Her hand glowed briefly and when she removed it, the mark was gone.

“Thanks.”

“No big deal,” she shrugged.

Maria studied Vilandra’s blonde curls. “Do you think you could do something about my hair?”


*******


Zan stood in the hall outside Vilandra’s suite. He quickly checked his costume again to make sure everything was perfect.

Rath stood next to him, fidgeting with the collar of the jerkin he was wearing. “This thing itches,” he mumbled.

“Yeah, well at least you aren’t wearing tights,” Alex growled, smashing his dark green cap back on his head. “I can’t believe I let Maria talk me into going as Peter Pan. Kyle will never let me hear the end of it.”

“You look fine,” Zan said, smiling. “Lonnie will think you look very elegant.”

Alex brightened. “You think so?”

Rath growled. “Yeah, green is one of her favorite colors. That and red.”

“Oh, I like her in red,” Alex said dreamily.

Rath raised an eyebrow and looked at Zan.

Zan shrugged his shoulders and shook his head.

“Zan,” a soft, feminine voice behind them whispered.

The three men turned at once and froze.

As Zan stared at the figure before them, he felt the bottom fall out of his world.



TO BE CONTINUED......


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

Oh yes, I DID leave it there, because I am evil! :twisted: :lol:

I'll be back with more this weekend.

And for those of you reading EVOLUTION, I'm still working on it. It's coming in fits and spurts. Unfortunately, what I am writing is not linear. I am writing all over the place in that story. So no chapter 3 yet. When I get the scenes I need written, I'll get it posted.

See ya on the flip side!

Mel 8)

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