Birthright *Series* (CC, TEEN, S1 COMPLETE), Epilogue, 2/2

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Kathy W
Obsessed Roswellian
Posts: 685
Joined: Thu Oct 31, 2002 5:06 am

Chapter 128

Postby Kathy W » Sun Oct 27, 2013 4:58 pm

Hello to everyone reading!



keepsmiling7 wrote:LOL....."polish the silver".......does anyone still do that??


Not if I can help it. :wink:

Soph. skip day......??


Did you have Senior Skip Day where you live? Sometimes it's called Senior Ditch Day. All the seniors skip school and meet up somewhere like a park, a skating rink, etc. Here we have Sophomore Skip Day, but it wasn't much of a skip day for our crew.

emerald123 wrote:Before I got to the end of chapter, based on what Brivari was thinking, I thought that perhaps you were changing something from the way it happened in the series.


I try hard not to do that. When I do, I either announce it (i.e. the way the shapeshifters shift--no thunder and lightning) or I've screwed up. Which happens. :mrgreen:







CHAPTER ONE HUNDRED TWENTY-EIGHT



May 14, 2000, 3 p.m.

Valenti residence





"Here we are," Maria said wearily as she pulled into the Valenti's driveway. "Home, sweet home. Kyle?" she added as Kyle bolted out of the back seat. "Kyle, wait!"

"Let him go," Alex said. "I know exactly how he feels." He climbed out, stretched. "You know what I need? I need a beer."

"A what?" Maria said in disbelief. "Since when do you drink?"

"Since alien hunters tried to kill us all. Think the sheriff's got a cold one somewhere?"

"I don't know you," Maria muttered as they followed Kyle into the house, Alex heading for the kitchen. "Then again, I suppose today could drive anyone to drink. So could Space Boy."

"Yeah, it looked like you two were getting pretty intense," Alex noted. "What was all that about?"

"About me being 'safe'," Maria said savagely. "Seriously? Do you think I'd be here now if I was worried about being 'safe'?"

"Let's drown our sorrows," Alex said, opening the fridge. "Eureka! Budweiser! Want one?"

Maria wrinkled her nose. "No. Not the whole can, anyway."

"So we share," Alex nodded, opening a cupboard door. "Where do you suppose the glasses are?"

"What are you doing?"

Kyle was in the kitchen doorway, bristling with indignation which could be felt across the room. "Uh...getting a beer," Alex answered. "Want one?"

"No, I don't 'want one'!" Kyle retorted. "What I want is an explanation!"

Alex blinked. "Oh. Well, I...don't usually drink, but—"

"Not for the beer, nitwit," Kyle interrupted. "What the hell is going on here? Where's that guy Max locked in the closet? Why was that deputy lying to me? How did I wind up on the floor of the UFO center? Why don't I remember how I got there?"

Alex glanced at Maria, whose eyes were round. "Uh...Kyle?" she said. "Didn't your Dad explain all this?"

"No!" Kyle exclaimed. "Where'd you get that idea?"

"Well, he asked for a moment alone with you—"

"Where he told me to get my ass home and stay here," Kyle broke in. "No explanations, no nothing. So I guess you get the honors."

"Wow," Alex said faintly. "I'm so honored."

"Same here," Maria sighed. "So go ahead. Tell him."

"Who...me?" Alex said, flabbergasted. "Why me?"

"Because you're the straight 'A' student," Maria said. "So's Liz, and she told us, so I'm just sticking with tradition."

"Maria, the concept of 'tradition' doesn't apply to this subject," Alex argued. "We're not talking about the Easter Bunny."

"Okay, but you'll still do a better job," Maria argued. "I'm just a 'C' student."

"So shouldn't the 'C' students talk to each other?" Alex asked.

"Watch it, buddy," Kyle protested. "I'm just a jock, not a dumb jock."

"I didn't say...I didn't mean...wait a minute," Alex said in exasperation. "Should we even be doing this? I mean, it's not our secret to tell."

"What secret?" Kyle demanded.

"Alex, in case you hadn't noticed, it's not a secret any more," Maria said. "The cat's kind of out of the bag."

"Not if he doesn't know about it," Alex noted.

"Stop talking about me like I'm not here!" Kyle snapped. "What's this big secret?"

Alex looked helplessly from Kyle to Maria, who made various "go ahead" gestures. "Okay, let's...let's start with what you remember."

"What I remember?" Kyle echoed. "What I remember? What comes after that—'how does it make me feel'? Are you saying I need a shrink?"

"No, I'm saying I do," Alex sighed.

"I'm guessing we all will," Maria muttered.

"Look, I'm just trying to see what gaps need filling," Alex explained when Kyle looked ready to explode. "I didn't see everything you saw, remember?"

Kyle gave a snort of disgust and started pacing the kitchen. "I remember being held hostage by some guy in a suit with a gun. I remember Max Evans busting through the sliding door, knocking him senseless, and locking him in a closet. Only he's not there now."

"Glass is," Maria commented, glancing into the living room. "Looks like Armageddon in there."

"Not helping," Alex said reproachfully.

"I remember looking for my Dad, and his deputies telling me he was missing—sort of—but then I saw his car outside the UFO center," Kyle continued. "That deputy who was tied up took the gun and told me Evans had my father. And then...and then I woke up on the floor of the UFO center with my father crying and Evans hovering over me like some creeper. That's it. Your turn."

Maria and Kyle stared at Alex expectantly, who cleared his throat. "Okay. Well...um...okay, for starters, Max Evans isn't...from around here."

"So what?" Kyle said.

" 'Not from around here'?" Maria said in disbelief. "Really? That's all you've got?"

"Hey, that's how Liz told me," Alex protested.

"Told you what?" Kyle demanded.

"Seriously?" Maria said. "Because that's not how she told me."

"Guess she changed tactics," Alex said.

"Told you what?" Kyle practically shouted.

"Kyle, Max Evans is an alien," Maria announced.

Kyle blinked. "A...what?"

"That's how she told you?" Alex said. "Sheesh. Subtle."

"An alien," Maria explained patiently, ignoring him. "You know, like from outer space? Or like 'not from around here', as Alex so enigmatically put it?"

"Liz put it," Alex corrected. "And since when do 'C' students use words like 'enigmatically'?"

"Hush," Maria ordered. "He's processing."

Kyle stood stock still, silent and thunderstruck for several more seconds before he abruptly turned an alarming shade of purple. "Jesus!" he sputtered. "What kind of an idiot do you take me for? All I want is a simple straight answer, and you go and come up with something like that! You!" he said angrily, stabbing a finger at Alex. "Brainbox! Just because you get better grades than I do, what makes you think you can get a groaner like that past me? Aliens in Roswell? Real aliens? In Roswell?"

"The irony isn't lost on us," Alex allowed.

"Kyle, it's true," Maria insisted. "That 'deputy' who took your gun wasn't a deputy, he was an alien hunter, and he was after—"

"No!" Kyle interrupted, wagging a finger at her. "I want a straight answer! Now!"

"I gave you a straight answer!" Maria exclaimed.

"Cut him some slack," Alex advised. "I didn't believe it either."

"For the last time, stop talking about me like I'm not here!" Kyle thundered.

"You didn't believe Liz?" Maria said in astonishment.

"Not right away," Alex said. "What, you did?"

"Of course I did," Maria answered. "Of course, I also ran screaming into the street."

"So that's why she changed tactics," Alex said thoughtfully. "Awkward."

"Very," Maria agreed.

"Would you both just shut up and tell me the truth!" Kyle exploded.

"Denial and screaming," Maria sighed. "Time to try something else. Kyle," she went on briskly, "you were shot. Do you remember that?"

Kyle's eyes widened. "Wow. First one whopper, then another. I think I'd remember being shot."

"So you don't remember?" Maria clarified.

"I don't have time for this," Kyle declared, stalking away. "I'm gonna get my own answers."

"Kyle. Kyle? Kyle!" Maria barked when he ignored her. "Where'd that hole in your shirt come from?"

Kyle stopped, looked down at his chest. "I...don't know," he confessed. "But I'd still remember being shot."

"You were shot," Maria insisted. "Just like Liz was last fall. That's why you woke up on the floor. And Max healed you, just like he healed Liz last fall. That's why he was leaning over you."

Silence. No one moved, no one spoke, or even seemed to be breathing. Kyle raised a hand to the hole in his shirt, started to say something, stopped, started again, stopped again. Then his eyes widened, he tore his shirt off...and stared at his chest in horror.

"Yikes," Alex whispered as a screech of terror filled the house.

"I didn't know what else to do," Maria protested. "I...wait. Is that the phone?"

It was. Maria grabbed a handset from the kitchen counter and stepped into the other room. "Hello?" she said, a finger in one ear.

"Maria? This is Sheriff Valenti," Valenti's voice said. "Could you put Kyle on, please?"

"Just a sec," Maria answered. "It's the sheriff," she reported to Alex in a whisper. "He wants to talk to Kyle."

Alex looked over to where Kyle was frantically trying to scratch the gleaming silver handprint off his chest. "Um...you might want to tell him this isn't a good time."




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




"Do you see her?" Max asked.

No answer. Max glanced around at the three other people in the van. "I said, does anyone see her? Anyone?"

"No, Max, we don't see her," Isabel said wearily. "Given that there's nothing but desert around for miles and this is the only road, I'm betting you'd see her at the same time we would."

"I should never have let her go," Max fretted, pressing the accelerator a little harder. "She's out there all alone."

"She's out there in your jeep," Michael corrected. "It's not like she's on foot. She'll be fine."

"Did she look 'fine' to you when she ran away?" Max demanded.

"Of course not," Isabel said dully. "None of us are 'fine'. Why should she be?"

"We should have caught up to her by now," Max said.

"Maybe the jeep goes faster than FBI vans," Michael said. "Have you thought about where we're going to ditch this?"

"No, Michael, I haven't thought about where we're going to ditch this," Max retorted. "All I'm thinking about now is finding Liz."

"And that would be the problem," Michael sighed. "Always thinking about the wrong thing."

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"What it means, brother dear, is that we just heard the biggest announcement of our lives," Isabel said tartly. "So forgive us if we're not all wrapped around an axle because your capable, self-sufficient girlfriend took off in your fully fueled, well-maintained jeep. As far as I'm concerned, she got the better deal. I'd give anything to be her right now."

There was a pause before Michael's voice came from the back seat. "You really mean that?"

Isabel's face fell. "I didn't...I meant..." She closed her eyes, leaned her head back against the head rest. "Part of me, yeah," she admitted. "Life just got way more complicated, and it was already complicated enough."

"Because we have to go back and save a planet?" Michael suggested.

"Among other things," Isabel said. "Like having enemies that followed us here."

"Well, if we 'perished in a conflict that enslaves our planet', it makes sense that we have enemies," Michael said.

"It might make sense, but it doesn't make me feel better," Isabel said.

"So this isn't about us being engaged?"

Isabel threw an anguished look into the back seat. "Michael, you're my brother. I'm sorry, you're just not—"

"I know," Michael broke in. "I get it."

"What we were doesn't dictate what we are now," Max argued. "You heard her—we were...duplicated. Recreated. We're different now."

"I'm still wrestling with the whole idea of 'were'," Isabel muttered.

"Whatever," Michael said. "None of that changes the fact that we have a planet to save. That's why Liz left. She heard it. She knows we have a job to do."

"Seriously?" Isabel said skeptically. "Liz left because our mother called Tess his 'bride'."

Tess kept her eyes on the road outside her window as every pair of eyes swung toward her, including Max's in the rear view mirror. She'd contributed precisely nothing to this conversation because she knew this all looked very different to her. For them, this was a shock; for her, it was confirmation of what she'd been told for as long as she could remember. For them, this was a 'complication'; for her, it made life much less complicated. What had thrown their lives into turmoil had settled hers; none of them would sleep tonight, while she would sleep like a baby, her path laid out at last. It had been a long wait.

"So how much did you already know about this?" Michael asked her.

Tess shook her head. "I told you that when we went looking for Liz. Ever since I was little, Nasedo told me we all had a great purpose, but he never told me what. I never heard the details until now. I heard more from that recording than I ever have from Nasedo."

"Still doesn't make any sense," Michael said. "Why would he say you had a 'great purpose', but not say what it was?"

"And I also told you that Nasedo didn't like to tell me anything," Tess said patiently. "Most of the arguments we've had over the years were because of that. He wanted me to remember by myself. He said it was better that way."

"And you were supposed to do the same thing with us," Max said. "Not tell us anything."

"Until you remembered by yourselves," Tess amended. "Which you did."

"So he never told you anything else?" Michael pressed. "Nothing?"

Not much, Tess thought, privately noting she'd left out a few details which would have only enraged them. But her hesitation had caught their attention, meaning at least some of those details were now on the table.

"I told you that I grew up knowing there were others like me—"

"That's right," Isabel said. "We were 'the Others'."

"--and Nasedo told me we'd be reunited some day," Tess continued. "I asked him once who we all were, if we were like, random people or something else, and he said...he said we were 'family'."

"Then that fits!" Michael exclaimed. "At least the part where Max and Isabel are family, and you and I married into it."

"Yay," Isabel said dully.

"We're family anyway because we're family now," Max said.

"I meant our past lives," Michael said. "Anything else?" he asked Tess.

"Yeah," Tess said. "He told me Max used to be my husband."

The tension in the car climbed abruptly. "What?" Michael said when Max and Isabel looked thunderstruck. "We just heard that, so that fits too."

"So you came to Roswell thinking Max used to be your husband," Isabel said slowly.

"No, I came knowing Max used to be my husband," Tess corrected.

"But I'm not now," Max said, his hands gripping the steering wheel harder.

"No," Tess agreed, "you're not. But you were. You keep saying we're different now, and maybe we are. But that doesn't change who we used to be."

"Did he say anything about Isabel and me?" Michael asked as Isabel looked away.

Tess shook her head. "No. Just that we were all family. But he did tell me something else, something that, at the time, I thought was ridiculous. I thought he was just yanking my chain."

"What?" Michael demanded. "What did he tell you?"

Tess looked from one face to another, all in various states of expectation and fear. "He said I was a...a queen. I thought he was just telling me something pretty that would shut me up, but...since we moved here, he's referred to Max as 'the king'."

"Wow," Michael said softly. "So not just a 'beloved leader', but a king."

Isabel looked at Max, wide-eyed. "But that means...I mean, if you're a king, then I'm..."

"A princess," Tess finished. "The king's sister would be a princess."

"So what am I?" Michael wondered. "What's does 'second in command' mean? Figures," he went on when Tess shook her head. "You're all the royal family, and I'm the only one without a job title."

"I'm sorry," Tess said. "That's all he told me."

"But how do we know that?" Michael demanded. "You didn't tell us this before, so why should we believe that's all there is now?"

"And how would that conversation have gone, exactly?" Tess demanded. "What I did tell you didn't go over very well, and still isn't. Do you really think I should have marched up to Max and said, 'Hi! You don't remember me, but you used to be my husband!' "

"Like you did in Chemistry class?"

Tess flushed; Max's voice was level, but there was no mistaking the anger there. "Look, I'm...I'm sorry about that. I...got carried away."

"You think?" Isabel murmured.

"But it wasn't all me," Tess protested. "Some of what you saw, what we saw, didn't come from me, so it must have come from you."

"See, that's the problem," Michael noted. "It's hard to figure out what's you and what's him. Too bad you muddied the water."

"It doesn't matter," Max insisted, "because whatever we were before, we're not that now. Whoever we were before, we're not that now. We're different people now."

"If we're so different, then why are we suddenly remembering things?" Isabel asked.

The van got very quiet. Tess said nothing, still smarting from having her gigantic faux pas prove a stumbling block once more. They'll never trust me now, she thought wearily. Even if they were inclined to, Chemistry class would come up again, and that would be the end of that. No wonder Nasedo had been so furious. That moment of fun had been very costly indeed.

"There's the jeep!" Max said.

The van swerved, then came to an abrupt halt. Everyone clambered out to find the jeep tucked neatly by the side of the road...but no Liz.

"She just left it here?" Isabel said.

"Keys are gone," Michael reported. "But she knows we don't need them."

"And that we'd be right behind her," Tess added.

"But where is she?" Max said frantically, scanning the desert horizon. "Where did she go?"

"Probably hitched a ride," Michael shrugged. "We're close enough to town that someone could have come along."

"And that someone could be the Special Unit!" Max said. "We have to find her!"

"Max, relax," Michael said. "Nasedo's Pierce now, remember? Even if the Unit picked her up, he'll let her go."

"Why?" Max demanded. "He kidnapped her before."

"Let's just go back to town and see if she's there," Michael said. "I'll bet she is."

"And if she isn't?" Max said.

"Then we'll find her," Tess said. "And I'll find out what you want to know. I know I'll see Nasedo, so I'll ask him whatever questions you want me to ask him. Maybe he'll tell me more after I tell him what we saw in the pod chamber." She moved closer, but Max backed away.

"We'll find her," Tess repeated. "I promise."




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



Valenti residence





"Right here, thanks," Liz said.

The car slowed to a halt at the curb. "Isn't this the sheriff's house?" the driver asked.

"Uh...yeah. Yeah, it is. His son and I go to school together," Liz explained when the driver's eyebrows rose.

"You sweet on the sheriff's son? Don't tell him you hitchhike."

Liz smiled faintly. "Thanks for the ride."

She climbed out, and the car sped away. No, she wasn't sweet on Kyle, never had been, really; he'd just been a fun guy to date. And she really wanted to go home, curl up in her room, and never come out, but she knew the minute her mother saw her, she'd know something was wrong, and the list of people she could talk to was depressingly short and minus her mom. Plus the keys in her pocket felt like lead, so the sooner she handed those off to an intermediary, the better.

"Liz!" Maria exclaimed when she answered the door. "Thank God you're here! You have to help me with Kyle."

Liz blinked. "What's wrong with Kyle? I thought he was fine."

"What's wrong?" Maria repeated, pulling her inside. "More like what isn't wrong. The sheriff didn't tell him anything, so Alex and I had to fill him in on things."

"Things?"

"Yeah, you know, like Max and the rest of them being aliens? And him being shot? And Max healing him?"

"Oh," Liz said faintly. " 'Things'."

"Exactly," Maria sighed. "And the guy's got a silver handprint he's been trying to scrub off for an hour now."

"It goes away on its own," Liz noted.

"I told him that, but do you think he listened?" Every time he looks at it, it just freaks him out, and he's looking at it pretty much constantly. And then...wait," Maria amended when she saw the look on Liz's face. "Why are you here? What happened? Did you find Nasedo? Did the healing stones work? Did—"

"Yeah," Liz broke in. "We found him, and the stones...brought him back, and he...he looks like Pierce now. Because he's going to take Pierce's place," she added when Maria blanched. "So now the Unit won't go after them any more."

"Freaky," Maria muttered. "But that's good. So...why don't you look happy?"

"Well...um...after he...Nasedo, that is, left...the rest of them tried to make the orbs work."

"You mean...'phone home'?"

"Yeah," Liz nodded. "Pretty much."

"And?" Maria said. "Did it work?"

"Oh, yeah," Liz whispered. "It worked."

Maria slowly lowered herself into a chair. "Okay. I'm sitting. Hit me."

Liz glanced around the empty kitchen. "Is Alex here?"

"He's with Kyle, trying to keep him from tearing his chest apart," Maria answered. "I think they're watching some sports thing or other."

"Alex must love that," Liz noted.

"I'm sure he hates it, but it works for Kyle. Stop stalling. What happened?"

Liz took a deep breath and tried to steady her voice, which was dangerously close to breaking. "Okay, well...this...woman...appeared. I mean, not really 'appeared', it was more like a projection, or a hologram, or—"

"I get it," Maria interrupted. "What did video babe say?"

"She said...she said they'd all lived before," Liz went on. "And that they died when there was some kind of war, and they somehow recreated them as humans."

"Get out!" Maria exclaimed.

"She said Max was her son, and the leader of their people. And Isabel was his sister, and Michael was his second-in command."

"I can see Max being the leader," Maria allowed. "But spaceboy as 'second-in-command'? What, they're like a military culture?"

Liz shook her head. "I don't know. But she also said their enemies followed them here—"

"That's bad," Maria muttered.

"—and they're supposed to go back and free everyone."

"How?" Maria asked. "Take the bus? And who are these 'enemies', exactly?"

"She didn't say," Liz answered. "She just said they'd know them by 'the evil within'."

"Oh, that's helpful," Maria said scornfully. "Sounds like this chick was short on details."

"I wish she'd been shorter on some of them," Liz said sadly.

Maria leaned forward in her chair. "What aren't you telling me?"

Liz opened her mouth, felt her throat constrict, stopped. Don't cry, she told herself fiercely. If she and Maria had been alone, she could do that, but the last thing she wanted was for Alex and Kyle to find her a big weepy mess. Especially Kyle, who was unlikely to be sympathetic after dying earlier today. Priorities, and all that.

"She said...she said that Tess was Max's...bride," Liz finished in a brittle voice.

Maria's eyes bulged. "Oh, Liz...really? Oh, God, I am so sorry."

"And she said that Michael and Isabel were 'betrothed'."

Maria sat back in her chair, completely flabbergasted. "Which we kind of already knew from the book," Liz continued. "I just...it's just different actually hearing it."

But Maria's head was swinging slowly from side to side. "No. I mean, just no. Isabel and Michael are more like brother and sister, and...Max loves you, Liz. Whatever they used to be, that's not the way things are now."

"That's what Max said," Liz answered. "But even if he does, it won't work, Maria. They're supposed to go back and save their planet."

"So go with him," Maria said stubbornly. "They came here. Why can't you go there?"

"I think I'd stick out like a sore thumb," Liz said. "When they were healing Nasedo, he kept...changing. Shape, I mean. He looked like the FBI agent he was when he was killed, and Ed Harding, and...and...like an alien. Kind of like the pictures. Big head, slanty eyes, long fingers."

"So that part of alien lore is right," Maria noted. "Good to know. But—"

"But that really doesn't matter, does it?" Liz rushed on, voicing the argument she'd been having with herself ever since she'd fled the pod chamber. "What really matters is that they're all really important. Max, Michael, Isabel, and...and Tess didn't just crash here by accident. They were sent here on purpose so they could come back and free their people. So we can't make this about me, or you, or any of us. It's bigger than that."

"What?" Maria exclaimed. "Liz, none of them even remember their planet! Why should they run back there and fix it when they don't even remember it? And even if they want to, that still doesn't mean they have to pair up the way they used to. Isabel and Michael are never going to be a couple, you know that. So why—"

"No, Maria...no," Liz said, backing away. "I had lots of time to go over this on the way back, and...this is the way it has to be. I can't make myself more important than an entire planet."

"My point is, you don't have to," Maria argued. "Go with Max, and save his planet. If he's such a 'beloved leader', they shouldn't have a problem with that."

Liz shook her head fiercely because Maria was making some scary kind of sense. "No, I...I need to look at the bigger picture here."

"Oh, for God's sake, would you stop being such a martyr?" Maria groaned. "Just stop and think for a minute—"

"No," Liz interrupted. "Here." She dropped the keys to the jeep on the table. "Give these to Max. Or give them to Michael, and he'll give them to Max. It's best if we make a clean break of it."

"I will do no such thing!" Maria said in exasperation. "Cripes, Liz, one little alien e-mail, and you just give up? Max is going to need you! He just had what must have been a huge shock, so how's he supposed to—"

But Liz held up hand. "Just take them. I'm going home. I'll walk. It'll help clear my head.

"Like it's been cleared already?" Maria demanded. "Liz!" she practically shouted as Liz fled through the kitchen door. "Liz!"




~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Misha's coming to visit me!!!!! ImageImage We'll be either partying or watching Roswell for the next 2 weekends, so I'll be back on Sunday, November 17.
BRIVARI: "In our language, the root of the word 'Covari' means 'hidden'. I'm always there, Your Highness, even if you don't see me."

User avatar
Kathy W
Obsessed Roswellian
Posts: 685
Joined: Thu Oct 31, 2002 5:06 am

Chapter 129

Postby Kathy W » Sun Nov 17, 2013 7:28 pm

She came! We watched! And watched! And marked up scripts! Always good to see a Roswell buddy. :mrgreen: Thanks for coming all that way, Misha! Next time we'll see if we can't get the snow to show up before you leave instead of after. Image





CHAPTER ONE HUNDRED TWENTY-NINE


May 14, 2000, 6 p.m.

Evans residence, Roswell






It was dinner time when the jeep pulled into the driveway, and Isabel drank in the sight of their house like a woman dying of thirst. From the worn mat by the front door to the overgrown bushes beneath the front window to her father's slightly rusting car in the driveway, it was all a sight for sore eyes. No Better Homes and Gardens house, this; no magazine would ever want a photo of it, or a tour, but no matter—to her, it was beautiful. If she really was a princess, this was her castle.

"God, it's beautiful," Isabel said. "There were times I never thought I'd see this place again."

"I was convinced I wouldn't," Max said.

Isabel's hand crept into his. "And you were wrong. Thank God."

"And Valenti," Max said. "And Nasedo. And you, and everyone else. Talk about a group effort."

"Max, are you...are you okay?" Isabel asked. "You haven't said a word about what happened in there—"

"I don't want to talk about it."

"But...did they hurt you? Because when I dreamwalked you the first time, I could have sworn--"

"It doesn't matter," Max interrupted. "It's over."

"Is it?" Isabel whispered. "Is it really?"

"Yes, really," Max answered. "Nasedo is Pierce now, and Pierce is six feet under. We made sure of that."

Isabel winced. "So we're burying bodies now. Not exactly how I envisioned us ending our sophomore year."

"Not just burying," Max said. "Valenti knows a thing or two about how bodies are identified, so he made certain we—"

"Don't," Isabel said firmly. "I'd rather not hear the details, if you don't mind."

"Suit yourself," Max shrugged.

"And I'm surprised you're so blasé about it," she added.

Max's head swung around. "After what he did to me? I had no problem doing that to him."

Isabel's eyebrows rose. "I thought you said it didn't matter?"

"It doesn't."

"Sure sounds like it does."

"Well, it doesn't," Max insisted. "I'm just saying he got what he deserved."

An uneasy silence ensued, with Isabel disturbed as Max stared straight ahead. Max had seemed so steady today despite what he'd been through, but every now and then there'd been a flash of something...brittle. Hard. Angry. Like now, as he insisted whatever he'd suffered at Pierce's hands didn't matter when it obviously did. A lot.

"It's good that Maria called," Isabel said, changing the subject. "At least we know that Liz is okay."

"Yeah," Max said dully.

"Just give her some time," Isabel advised. "She's in shock; we all are."

"Except Tess," Max said.

"Maybe," Isabel allowed. "But if I'd grown up with Nasedo telling me just tidbits, I'd be pretty pissed." She paused. "Do you believe her? About him not telling her much?"

Max hesitated for a moment, then nodded. "Yeah."

"You do? Why?"

"Because it fits. Look at what that...woman...said, or rather, what she didn't say. She called me a 'leader', but not a 'king'. She talked about a 'conflict', but didn't say what. She said we had enemies, but didn't give us any help recognizing them. It was all very general, just an outline, just...tidbits."

"You're right," Isabel agreed. "Part of me is pissed they didn't tell us more, and part of me is glad they didn't. Even what we got is almost too much to handle." She paused. "So...do we just go in? Like nothing's happened?"

"Sure we do," Max said. "Isn't that why we went through all that? So we can just go in like nothing's happened?"

He opened his car door, and Isabel followed. She smelled dinner even before they hit the kitchen, heard her mother humming as she prepared it, the rustle of her father's newspaper. Yes, she silently answered Max's question. This was why they'd just gone through all that, so they could go home to the people they loved and who loved them, and be normal again...or at least pretend to be for a little while longer. "Mom!" Isabel exclaimed when she saw her mother, folding her into a fierce hug. "I am so glad to see you!"

The ensuing silence lasted so long that she finally pulled away to find her mother looking helplessly at her father, who looked...amused. "What?" Isabel said sharply. "Is something wrong?"

"It's ironic you'd be asking me that," Diane answered. "Izzie, honey, I love you too, but I don't like getting phone calls from school telling me that you're skipping."

Isabel blinked and looked at Max, whose face was inscrutable. "Now, your father and I are on somewhat different pages here," Diane went on. "I've only ever heard of a senior skip day, not a sophomore skip day, and frankly I can't condone either, but—"

"Wait," Isabel said. "Sophomore skip day?"

"Well...that's what your grandmother thinks," Diane said. "And given how many of you cut classes last Friday, I just assumed...what, you mean that wasn't it?"

A surreptitious kick from Max brought Isabel back to her senses. "Sure it was," she said quickly. "I...I just thought you didn't know."

"Well, I didn't," Diane answered. "I had no idea there were multiple class skip days, and I'd like to go on record that I disapprove. Your father seems to think it's hilarious, and your grandmother thinks I'm overreacting, but I disagree. Please tell me there won't be any more until your senior year."

"There won't," Isabel promised.

"That's a relief," Diane sighed. "Go wash up for dinner. It's almost ready."

Their father shot them a wink as Isabel and Max headed down the hall to their rooms. "My God," Isabel murmured. "I'd completely forgotten about school."

"Yeah, well, we were a little busy," Max said. "Thank goodness for Grandma's rebellious streak. I'm going to get a shower."

I could use one too, Isabel thought, taking an experimental sniff and suddenly realizing how ripe she was. Max must be even worse after what he'd been through; it was a wonder they hadn't knocked their parents flat. "Max?" she said, knocking on the bathroom door. "Be quick, okay? I want to get a shower in myself before dinner." She paused. "Max? Did you hear me?"

A sudden wave of fear washed over Isabel, and she threw open the bathroom door to find Max staring at the tub, wide-eyed. "What's wrong?" she asked fearfully. "Are you all right?"

"I...it...it's cold," Max said faintly.

Mystified, Isabel went to the tub, turned on the shower. "Dad must have forgotten to drain the shower again. He always does that. So what?"

"I...nothing," Max said. "Go ahead. You go first."

"You probably need a shower more than I do," Isabel said. "Look, you've already drained it, so you won't get that cold blast again. Go ahead and—"

"No," Max interrupted, backing away. "I don't want to."

"Why not?" Isabel asked.

But he was gone, and when she followed him to his room, she found him curled on his bed in a fetal position, shivering like he was ice cold. She pulled a blanket over him and sat beside him, rubbing his back.

"God, Max," she whispered. "What did they do to you?"




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




Valenti residence




"Sheriff!" Maria exclaimed, opening the door even before he reached it. "Boy, are we glad to see you!"

"Nothing happened," Alex added when he saw the look on Valenti's face. "Nothing else, anyway. We're just glad to see you. And Kyle will be too."

Don't bet on it, Valenti thought, stepping inside. One of the many things he wasn't looking forward to was the inevitable heart-to-heart with his son. All those pious proclamations about not being able to discuss details of the job rang hollow when those "details" got you shot. "How is he?" Valenti asked.

Alex glanced toward the living room, from which wafted the faint sounds of some game or other. "He's watching some basketball. I was trying to distract him until you got home."

"Think you mean baseball," Valenti corrected. "Basketball is a winter sport."

"Whatever," Maria said. "It's got a ball, and he likes it. Look, we didn't realize you hadn't filled Kyle in on the details, so...we did. Sorry, but we kinda had to."

"That's okay," Valenti said, secretly grateful that the ice had already been broken. "There really wasn't time after...after..."

"We know," Alex said quickly. "So is everything...taken care of?"

"Yeah," Valenti nodded. "All cleaned up."

"That was quick," Maria noted.

"Digging goes faster when you've got aliens doing it for you," Valenti said. He paused. "God, I can't believe I just said that out loud."

"It gets easier," Maria assured him, patting his arm.

"Yeah, it takes a little getting used to," Alex agreed. "Or it did for me, anyway."

Valenti smiled faintly. "Good advice from two people who have a successful track record of lying to law enforcement."

"Good advice to the sheriff who now knows exactly why we did that," Alex said.

Valenti's smile faded. "Fair point. Well...thank you both for bringing him home and staying with him. I really appreciate it."

"Any time," Maria said. "We members of the 'Alien Club' have to stick together."

Valenti leaned heavily against the kitchen counter as Maria and Alex left. The Alien Club. He'd been comparing his father's trajectory with his own, but the comparison stopped here; this was a fork in the road. His father had insisted aliens were real, but he'd never known any, never worked with any, never saved any. This was completely new ground, much further than his father had ever gone...and the place his father had reached had left him a shell. Not a comforting thought.

He found Kyle on the couch, legs propped on the coffee table, one of those ridiculous throw pillows his ex-wife had insisted on having and he'd never had the sense to toss pressed against his chest. "Hey," Valenti said.

"Hey," Kyle answered tonelessly.

"Who's winning?"

"No idea."

Valenti perched on the far end of the couch as Kyle stared fixedly at the TV. "Alex thought it was basketball. I told him it had to be baseball."

Kyle blinked, as though seeing the game for the first time. "Oh. Yeah. Whatever."

This is bad, Valenti thought heavily. No snarky comments about nerds who couldn't tell one ball from another? No idea what the score was? No idea what he was even watching? How was he supposed to deal with this?

"What happened to you?"

Kyle was staring at him in astonishment, his eyes no longer far away. Valenti glanced down and suddenly realized he was filthy, covered with dirt, dust, and soot, among other things. "Ah," he said uncomfortably. "We were...uh...cleaning some things up."

" 'Cleaning'?" Kyle echoed skeptically. "Right. That's why you're so dirty. Because you were 'cleaning'. Jesus, Dad, you look like you've been digging a grave..." He stopped suddenly, his eyes widening. "It was the guy in the chair, wasn't it?"

"The one who wanted to kill us all," Valenti clarified. "That guy."

Kyle's head swung back to the TV. "I can't believe any of this."

"You and me both," Valenti agreed.

They sat in silence for a long time, watching a full inning with eyes that didn't see. "Why didn't you tell me?" Kyle said finally, never taking his eyes off the television.

"Tell you what?" Valenti said. "That I suspected one of your classmates was an alien? Not sure how that conversation would have gone."

"So you let me get shot and find out that way?"

"Kyle, I didn't 'let you' get shot," Valenti said. "You were supposed to stay here, out of harm's way."

"So this is my fault?"

"Well, it sure as hell—" Valenti stopped, having been about to say, it sure as hell isn't mine...but it was. He'd shot his own son trying to bring down Pierce. "It sure as hell isn't anyone's fault but the guy in that chair," he finished. "Without him, none of this would have happened. We just got caught in the middle."

Kyle's eyes dropped to the pillow he was pressing against his chest. "Is it still there?" Valenti asked.

Kyle nodded wordlessly. "Can I see it?" Valenti said.

For a moment it appeared the answer was "no". But then the pillow moved, and a hand pulled up the shirt even as the eyes stayed on the TV. "Wow," Valenti whispered as the garish handprint came into view. "Just like in the picture." He swallowed hard, shook his head. "Does it hurt?"

Kyle shook his head. "Does it feel like...anything?" Valenti pressed.

"No, Dad, it doesn't feel like anything," Kyle answered, eyes still on the TV. "It just shines like the sun and freaks me out every single time I look at it."

"It'll go away," Valenti said.

"So I hear. But it hasn't yet, so until it does, I'm going to stick with freaking out, if you don't mind."

The shirt lowered, the pillow went firmly back in place. "What about you?" Valenti asked. "Are you okay?"

"I don't have a hole in my chest, if that's what you mean. Just my shirt."

"Better your shirt than your chest," Valenti noted.

"Easy for you to say."

"I watched you die," Valenti said, bristling, "so, yes, it's 'easy for me to say'."

"Well, I don't remember dying," Kyle retorted. "All I remember is waking up on the floor with Max Evan's face in mine."

"Kyle, he saved your life—"

"So everyone tells me," Kyle interrupted. "But do you know what it's like to wake up with some dude's face in yours? And then find out he burned a handprint on you? It's freaky, that's what. So excuse me if I'm not dying of gratitude. No pun intended."

"Kyle—"

"And that's not even touching what happened earlier today," Kyle went on hotly. "That dude with the gun who held me hostage this morning? Evans busting in here and throwing him in the closet? Your deputies absolutely clueless about where you were? And then I saw your cruiser by the UFO Center, and it turned out that fake deputy was lying to you, and me, and..." He broke off, a catch in his voice which made him sound close to tears.

"Kyle, believe me when I say I am so sorry you got mixed up in all of this," Valenti said. "I never had any intention of you being dragged into this. Hell, I never had any intention of me being dragged into this because, just yesterday, I didn't even know how big 'this' actually was. It just snowballed, and we all got caught, you, me, Max Evans, Maria, Alex...all of them. We all just got dragged along for the ride, and it's nothing short of a miracle that we're all alive to tell of it. It could have worked out very differently." He paused, waiting for Kyle to say something, but Kyle remained silent, staring straight ahead. "I promise I will answer any questions you have," Valenti went on. "Anything. Anything at all. Anything you want to know, just ask. If I know, I'll tell you."

Kyle's eyes flickered sideways. "Anything?"

"Anything."

"No confidentiality, and all that?"

"None."

Kyle shrugged slightly. "Guess that doesn't apply with people from another planet."

"Actually, it does," Valenti said. "What makes it not apply is when you almost get killed trying to protect someone. And not just people from another planet; Pierce would have happily killed each and every one of us regardless of species. That includes you."

Kyle's hands clenched on the pillow. "Okay. But go clean up first. You're a mess."

Valenti glanced down. "Guess I am. I'll go grab a shower."

Fives minutes later he stood in the warm rain as dirt, dust, soot, and blood swirled down the drain, coming off his arms, his legs, beneath his fingernails. Especially his fingernails.

That's what happened when you doused a body with gasoline and set it on fire.




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




Harding residence





Finally, Tess thought wearily as she closed the front door behind her. Hard to believe that just a day ago she'd seen this empty house as menacing, what with Nasedo gone and the Unit on the prowl. Now, after multiple crises, she was looking forward to some time to herself, time to sift through what had happened and what she'd learned. She was actually looking forward to being alone.

Except she wasn't. An odd noise was coming from upstairs, and when she followed it, she encountered the astonishing sight of Nasedo rifling through piles of clothing while...humming?

"What do you think?" he asked, not turning around. "Stripes or solids?"

Tess blinked at the two suit coats held up for her inspection, one a stolid navy, the other a grey pinstripe. "What are you doing here?" she demanded.

"I live here," Nasedo answered.

"I mean, what are you doing here?" Tess clarified. "Since when are you into suits? And humming? You don't hum. Ever."

"So I'm in a good mood," Nasedo said. "I would think you'd be grateful since you're always whining about how surly I am. Now...stripes or solids?"

"Aren't you supposed to be out saving our butts, or something like that?"

"Already taken care of," Nasedo said. "Would you just pick a suit? Females are supposed to have better fashion sense. That's human females, but you're part human, so perhaps you'll do."

"Thanks a heap," Tess said darkly. "And how could it be 'taken care of'? You just came back to life only a few hours ago."

"I wasn't really dead," Nasedo said, "and it's amazing what can be accomplished once you've appropriated someone's identity. Now—"

"The stripes," Tess interrupted. "The navy makes you look fuddy duddy. What exactly did you do that makes you so certain we're okay now?"

"Oh, it's not for me," Nasedo said, his features sliding into another configuration entirely. "It's for him, and he was vain enough to be quite the dandy. How about now? Still the stripes?"

Tess felt her stomach churn at the sight of Pierce's features, younger and handsomer though they were. "Would you please ditch that face?" she said tersely, looking away. "It's making me sick."

When she looked again, he was back to Ed Harding. "My, my," he said dryly. "Sensitive, aren't we?"

"You still haven't told me why you think we're safe," Tess reminded him, ignoring the bait.

"Very well, then," Nasedo said with a sigh. "I've spent several productive hours reassigning agents, destroying any evidence of our presence at the base, and planting seeds which will bring Pierce down in due course. I estimate he has a week at best before he's exposed. Happy?"

"So why didn't you just do that before? Would have been a whole lot less dramatic than kidnapping Liz Parker."

"Because I wasn't Pierce," Nasedo said. "His disciples would have caught any attempt at sabotage and still might, which is why it'll take some time—I had to be subtle. But now it's coming directly from their boss, so they're not expecting it. And what is it with Liz Parker? How does a single, semi-smart, human female inspire such protective responses?"

Tess raised an eyebrow. " 'Semi-smart'? Wow. I'll have to tell her she received one of your rare, vague facsimiles of a compliment. And I'm not 'protective', I'm just confused. If you hadn't snatched her, Max wouldn't have been caught."

Nasedo's face clouded. "He wasn't supposed to follow her. That was a stupid thing to do."

"He's in love with her!" Tess exclaimed. "I keep telling you that, and it keeps going in one ear and out the other!"

"Yes, he's 'in love' with her," Nasedo said sarcastically, "which means 'love' almost got him killed, and did get me killed. Well done!"

"Thought you said you weren't really dead?" Tess retorted. "Why didn't you just leave with Michael? If you had, you wouldn't have gotten shot."

"I saw an opportunity, and I took it," Nasedo said.

"And we all know how well that worked out," Tess muttered.

"Every opportunity doesn't 'work out'," Nasedo argued, "but some do, so you take them where you can get them. I knew they had the healing stones, and I knew you'd bring them up. I wasn't concerned."

"Well, I was!" Tess exclaimed. "I thought I was all alone with a bunch of people who don't think I'm one of them, and who—" She stopped, her voice dangerously close to quavering. "You have no idea what a crappy position you put me in by snatching Liz," she went on. "They blame me for that."

"Like you haven't put yourself in a crappy position all by your lonesome," Nasedo commented.

"So you just went and made it worse," Tess retorted. "Well done!"

Nasedo's expression darkened like it always did when she threw his own snark back at him. "She was collateral," he snapped, "an ace in the hole. Some bait to toss Pierce's way if need be. And as I mentioned to her, if she 'loves' him as much as she claims, she should be glad to fill that role. But why are we wasting time on this? You're all safe, she's alive, and Pierce is dead—checkmate. Tell me what I missed. Tell me," he went on eagerly, "how he died."

Tess could have sworn the temperature in the room dropped several degrees as Nasedo watched her avidly, impatient for an answer. "I remember you're a killer," Max had said when he'd thought she was Nasedo. She hadn't known that Nasedo killed, but seeing the look in his eyes now, she didn't doubt it. Granted this was Pierce they were talking about, but still...

"Michael killed him," she answered. "With his powers."

Nasedo sank down on the bed, thunderstruck. "Michael?" he whispered.

"Yes, Michael," Tess said. "He didn't mean to. Valenti helped us nab Pierce so we could find out where they'd taken you, and then he got free and tried to shoot us. And then Michael just kind of let loose, and..."

She stopped as Nasedo's face broke into a wide smile. "Michael killed him!" he crowed. "Outstanding! Oh, that is better than I could have hoped! I mean, I would have loved to have the honor of dispatching both of them, but this...this is better. I executed one, and he the other. It's fitting. It's not only fitting, it's practically poetic."

"What are you going on about?" Tess demanded. "Michael certainly didn't think it was 'poetic'. He thinks he's some kind of monster because he killed a monster."

Some of the wind went out of Nasedo's sails. "Nonsense," he said briskly. "It's his job to protect them. He was removing a threat. There's nothing monstrous about that. When he remembers more, he'll see that."

When he remembers more... Tess's eyes widened as two pieces of the puzzle suddenly clicked together—the message from the orbs in the pod chamber and something Nasedo had said after Liz had planted the Special Unit's camera in their house, and Michael and Maria had been waiting outside.

"Michael?" she'd said, puzzled. "Why would he be spying on me?"

"Because it's his job," Nasedo had answered.


"It's his job," Tess whispered. "Because he's the second-in-command."

"Where did you hear that?" Nasedo asked sharply.

"From the orbs," Tess answered. "In the pod chamber, after you left. Max is the leader, I'm his 'young bride', Isabel is his sister, and she was 'betrothed' to Max's second-in-command—Michael."

Nasedo grabbed her by the shoulders. "You activated them?" he demanded in disbelief. "Are you serious? You activated the orbs even after I warned you how dangerous that was? Who did you talk to? Tell me!"

"Nobody!" Tess exclaimed, shaking him off. "She talked to us. It was like...like a recording. It wasn't interactive."

" 'She'?" Nasedo said. "Who is 'she'? What did she look like?"

"She looked...human," Tess said. "And she claimed to be Max and Isabel's mother."

"Saying what?" Nasedo pressed. "What did she say?"

"That we'd 'lived before'. And that we...we died. In some kind of battle, or war, or whatever. And that we're supposed to go back and free them." Tess paused. "Is this the 'great purpose' you've always talked about?"

Nasedo regarded her levelly for a moment. "Yes," he said finally. "What else did she say?"

"That we'd been re-created as humans...something about our 'essence' or some silly word like that."

"Translations are always stilted. What else?"

"She said our enemies had followed us to Earth," Tess went on, "and that we'd know them 'by the evil within'. How's that for useless."

"Hmm," Nasedo murmured. "That might be too literal. What else?"

"Not much, really," Tess admitted. "Not enough."

"Precisely why I think this might be real," Nasedo said. "If the Queen Mother had left an automated message, it would have been deliberately vague because she wouldn't know what condition you all were in. Details would have been few."

"She didn't call Max a 'king'," Tess noted.

"Like that detail," Nasedo said.

Silence. Nasedo sat among his suits, watching her closely, while Tess grappled with the notion that the recording might not have been real, something she hadn't considered. "So," she said finally. "We all...died."

"You did," Nasedo said.

"And since it was some kind of war...I'm guessing it wasn't of natural causes."

"An understatement. You were all murdered."

Murdered. The word hung in the air, heavy, menacing. She'd long wondered about their lives on their planet, but she'd never considered the possibility that they'd lost them. "So...you...made us into humans," Tess ventured, the words sounding ridiculous.

"I didn't," Nasedo allowed, "but someone did."

"And...that's why we don't remember?"

"You were supposed to," Nasedo said, sounding tired. "The other three briefly did."

Click. Another piece of the puzzle dropped into place as Tess stiffened. "Their deaths," she whispered. "They remembered how they died."

"Among other things," Nasedo said.

"How did I die?"

The question burst out unbidden, blurted, half of her hoping he'd answer, the other half hoping he wouldn't. No wonder the rest of them had freaked out. They'd been little kids who'd suddenly remembered very adult things. Horrible things.

"If I answer that, you'll never sleep again," Nasedo said, "so I won't answer it. Suffice it to say you did. How are the rest of them taking this?"

"Uh...well...Michael and Isabel are in shock. They feel like brother and sister, and they just found out they were engaged."

She waited for the usual swipe at Isabel, but none came. "And Max wasn't exactly thrilled about us. But Liz got it. She said he had a destiny, and she couldn't interfere with it, and she left."

"Interesting," Nasedo allowed. "Perhaps I didn't give her enough credit."

"And who are these enemies?" Tess went on. "Did they really follow us? Do they know where we are?"

Nasedo gave her a level stare. "They did," he confirmed. "And they do now."





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





Washington, D.C.




"Any messages?" Vanessa Whitaker asked.

Her assistant shook her head. "No, ma'am. Were you expecting to hear from someone?"

Vanessa hesitated, then shook her head. "Just hoping, I guess. Good night, Rose."

"Good night, ma'am."

Vanessa shouldered her bag with a sigh and headed out, reaching the Capitol steps five minutes later even more perturbed than she'd been earlier. Where was Daniel? Contact with him had become erratic a couple of weeks ago, and this weekend he'd just disappeared. Pulling out her phone, she checked her voicemail one more time and found messages from one colleague, three lobbyists, two sycophants, a dog walker, and a dentist's office with a cancelled appointment. No Daniel. "Where the hell are you?" she muttered, tossing her phone into her Louis Vuitton bag. If something big was going down and she missed it, Nicholas would have her head. She was at the car when she heard it.

"That's quite the ringtone, ma'am," the chauffeur said, closing the door behind her.

Vanessa gave him a stiff smile as one hand crept into her bag. She hadn't heard that alarm in years, decades, really, not since all the arguments over whether an audible tone was advisable. It had been decided that the event which would precipitate it was important enough to risk human curiosity if it were overheard, important enough to justify notifying the entire Argilian contingent at one time, wherever they happened to be at the moment. And it had never, ever gone off because the Warders were much too smart for that. Their charges, however, were another matter entirely.

Gotcha, Vanessa thought with satisfaction. You little bastards.



~~~~~~~~


I'll post Chapter 130 next Sunday. :)
BRIVARI: "In our language, the root of the word 'Covari' means 'hidden'. I'm always there, Your Highness, even if you don't see me."

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Kathy W
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Chapter 130

Postby Kathy W » Sun Nov 24, 2013 5:55 pm

Thanks to everyone reading, and thanks for the feedback! ^^ I had fun with the Maria/Alex/Kyle trio. Two characters known for their snark plus one who's not shy about standing up to them made for an irresistible combination. :mrgreen:




CHAPTER ONE HUNDRED THIRTY



May 15, 2000, 10 a.m.

West Roswell High School





"So Manifest Destiny shaped the policies of our nation even thought it was never official policy," the teacher said. "Who can give me some other examples of unofficial policies which did the same? Mr. Grandin?"

Max's eyes shifted to the right, where "Mr. Grandin", a grand name for the slacker in the first row, blinked. "Geez," Grandin said, "take your pick. Aren't there more 'unofficial policies' than 'official ones'?"

"Such as?" Mr. Sommers said.

"Such as the 'unofficial policy' of going to war when another country might become communist," Grandin answered. "Like, you know, Vietnam?"

"That wasn't a 'policy'," Sommers objected.

"Tell that to the corpses," Grandin snorted. "I'd say that pretty much 'shaped our nation' by killing off thousands of dudes like me."

Murmurs echoed around the room, and Max smiled faintly as Sommers hastily changed the subject. It was always the quiet ones, the ones who looked like they weren't the least bit interested, who would nail you every time. Sometimes he wondered if they did that to lessen the likelihood of their being called on again, and he wondered that all over again as Grandin slipped back into his usual semi-somnolent state, one arguably shared by most of the students in the class with some notable exceptions. Kyle stared straight ahead as though in a trance. Michael kept glancing his way as though expecting him to explode. Liz's head was bent over her book, her latest attempt to look somewhere, anywhere, but at him. Maria watched Liz through a veil of worry. Isabel watched everyone the same way. Only Tess appeared calm, looking at no one but the teacher, betraying not the slightest sign of what they'd all just been through. And what about me? Max thought. Which camp was he in?

"Mr. Evans?"

Max snapped to attention. Mr. Sommers, indeed the entire class, was staring at him. When had that happened? "Uh...what was the question?" he stammered.

"The author of Manifest Destiny," Sommers said. "Who was it?"

Author, Max thought, frantically searching his memory. They'd talked about this just last Thursday, only four days ago, four days before he'd been captured, locked up, and tortured before escaping, assisting in the death of his tormentor, dousing his body with gasoline and burying the bones in the desert. Only four days. He really should be able to pull this up after only four days. Except that he couldn't.

"Mr. Evans, it appears your little 'sophomore skip day' has had a deleterious effect on your studying," Mr. Sommers said. "Perhaps that and your detention this afternoon will drive that point home."

"Sophomore skip day?" Grandin exclaimed. "Freakin' brilliant! How come nobody told me about it?"

Excited chatter erupted, Sommers struggled to quiet it, and the participants of the so-called "skip day" exchanged stricken glances. Their excuse for the classes cut last Friday which had been innocently offered by Grandma Dee and accepted by their parents had made it to the school brass, which had lost no time in making examples of all of them by assigning detention. But there was no skip day, of course, and by mentioning it, Sommers had virtually ensured there would be. An official one, that is.

"Settle down, everyone," Sommers ordered. "Can anyone answer the question which has stumped Mr. Evans?"

"The journalist, John O'Sullivan," Tess said crisply.

"Very good, Miss Harding," Sommers said. "At least someone was paying attention—"

"No," Max interrupted.

" 'No'?" Sommers echoed. " 'No' what?"

"No, O'Sullivan never authored anything," Max answered, "at least nothing but the articles he wrote. Manifest Destiny wasn't official policy, so it didn't have an author. Doesn't it have to be written to have an author?"

"I...concede you have a point," Mr. Sommers said grudgingly. "What I meant was, who was credited with coining the phrase."

"But that's not what you said," Max objected. "How am I supposed to answer a question you didn't ask?"

"Perhaps I should have phrased the question better," Sommers allowed. "Now—"

"No 'perhaps' about it," Max said flatly. "This doesn't have anything to do with the 'skip day'; it has to do with you not saying what you meant. Which is why I don't appreciate you using your own mistake to publicly humiliate me."

Sommers' eyebrows rose. The class gaped at him. Isabel's and Maria's eyes were round. Liz looked quickly away. Tess watched him with concern. Michael and Grandin were grinning. "Moving on," Sommers said with an edge to his voice which said quit while you're ahead. "The effects of Manifest Destiny..."

And he was off, leaving Max smoldering with resentment. What had just happened? He never interrupted teachers, never contradicted them, never got this angry when they said one thing and meant another. He was always meek, quiet, and obedient because being meek, quiet, and obedient made you less likely to be noticed. Maybe it was time to stop being so meek. Maybe he was one of the quiet ones Sommers would be well advised to beware...

Squeak.

Max's hands clenched on his book. He knew that sound. That was the sound of a man's dress shoe on a shiny tile floor.

Squeak.

Make that a white tile floor. Make that a wingtip, a shiny wingtip, a stylish shoe so new, so unbroken-in, that it squeaked every single time it hit that white floor...

Max's hand flew into the air. "Could I have a bathroom pass?" he blurted out.

Mr. Sommers stopped talking. "You could if you ask nicely," he said, annoyed.

"Please?" Max amended.

The class tittered, all but the refugees from sophomore skip day. "I was referring to the fact that you interrupted me, but that will do," Sommers allowed, fetching a pass from his desk. "Make it quick. Class is almost over."

Max escaped into the hallway and leaned against the wall, closing his eyes before sliding down to the floor. He'd broken into a cold sweat which he could feel running down his back, soaking the waistband of his jeans as he shook from something which had nothing to do with the classroom dust-up. I was fine, he thought despairingly, recalling how he'd awakened this morning with a steadiness and calm which belied recent events. He'd wondered about that, but decided not to dwell on it. Maybe the whole thing had gone by too quickly to leave much of a mark? Maybe it hadn't sunk in yet? Whatever, he'd felt perfectly normal as he'd eaten breakfast and gone to school, deeply grateful to be here and not elsewhere. All it had taken was one little squeak to bring that down.

"Max? Are you okay?"

It was Isabel, bristling with worry. "I got the other one," she explained, brandishing the class's second bathroom pass as she knelt beside him. "And you're not okay. What's wrong?"

" 'What's wrong'?" another voice said. "I think we all know what's wrong."

"How'd you get out here?" Isabel demanded as Tess joined them. "Sommers only has two passes."

"I told him I had my period," Tess answered. "Shuts a man down every time. That and crying."

"True," Isabel admitted. "And no, I don't know what's wrong. He was fine this morning."

"Which doesn't mean he'll be fine this afternoon," another voice said.

"Michael?" Isabel said, astonished. "How did you get out? Sommers never lets this many people go to the restroom at once!"

"I kinda doubt he used the period excuse," Tess noted.

"Projectile vomiting," Michael corrected. "Now he thinks we all ate something dodgy this weekend, and that it's poetic justice. So what happened, Maxwell? Did something remind you of Pierce?"

"Don't be ridiculous," Isabel said. "What could possibly remind him of Pierce in a history class?"

"Shoes," Max whispered.

Tess raised an eyebrow as Isabel stared at him. "Shoes? What about shoes?"

"They...squeaked," Max said. "Like Pierce's. On the tile."

"The room they had him locked up in was tile," Michael explained when both girls looked blank. "White tile. All of it—walls, ceiling, floor. And Pierce was wearing a suit and dress shoes."

"Creeper," Tess muttered.

"God, I didn't even notice Sommers' shoes squeaking," Isabel said. "Wait—what about last night, and the water? How does water remind you of Pierce?"

"What happened last night?" Michael asked.

Max shook his head. "Never mind. I feel better now."

"For the moment," Tess allowed.

"Such a vote of confidence," Isabel said irritably.

"We have to be prepared for this," Tess insisted. "Something like what happened to Max isn't just going to go away, not for him, not for any of us. We're all going to see things that remind us of what we went through, and we're all going to have to deal with that."

"It's over," Isabel argued. "We got through it, we're safe. That's it."

"No, that's not 'it'," Tess said. "Part of us knows it's over, but part of us doesn't. Part of us will be reliving it for a while yet."

"But—"

"She's right, Iz," Max interrupted. "We can't expect something like that to just go away."

"But shoes?" Isabel said despairingly. "I mean, we can't have you freaking out about things like shoes!"

"Why not? You do it all the time. Joke," Max added when only Michael chuckled. "It was a joke."

"What?" Michael demanded when Isabel glared at him. "It's good he can still joke, right?"

"It is," Tess agreed. "And Isabel's partly right. Nasedo said he'd sent agents away and removed all traces of us at the base. We're safe. We just need some time to let that sink in."

"You talked to Nasedo?" Michael demanded. "What did he say?"

The bell rang. Hordes of students instantly hit the hallway with a thrum which shook the building. "Not here," Tess whispered. "Let's go somewhere private."

"Later," Max said, pushing himself to his feet as their classmates piled out of Sommers' classroom. "There's somebody I need to talk to."




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




Kyle Valenti roused himself from his semi-catatonic state as the most convincing evidence yet that the world had turned upside down played out in front of him. No, it wasn't that four of his classmates were aliens, if his father was to be believed. Nor was it the nutcase who'd tried to gun his father down, or even the fact that he'd died yesterday and been brought back to life. No, what convinced him that there was indeed no going back was the sight of Max Evans picking a fight with a teacher. If quiet, withdrawn, deer-in-the-headlights Evans was openly questioning teachers, not to mention challenging them after they'd conceded, hell had truly frozen over.

A minute later it thawed when a shaky Evans pleaded for one of the class's two precious bathroom passes and fled the room, followed almost immediately by his sister. A minute after that, the new girl, the blonde bombshell who was supposedly a little green man...woman?...overcame Mr. Sommers' aversion to letting more than two students escape at one time by mentioning the one thing that scared the shit out of men even more than babies or Valentine's Day, both terrifying in their own right but not as much as the fact that, every month like clockwork, women...well...bled. Mention a woman's monthly period to any male of the species and said male was likely to back up so far they'd wind up on another continent, as Sommers did now, or would have if the map behind him counted as actual miles traveled. A couple of minutes later, a wretching Michael Guerin helpfully warned everyone around him that they'd better move before he ralphed on them.

"Must have been something we ate," Guerin mumbled as he was hastily excused sans pass.

"Serves you right," Sommers announced sanctimoniously, having made his feelings about "sophomore skip day" exceedingly clear. "I'll have a bucket handy at detention."

All four, Kyle thought as sighs of relief followed Guerin's exit. All four identified by his father as aliens had left the room, and he turned his attention to their partners in crime. Maria, his babysitter from yesterday, watched Liz with wide eyes as Liz watched the door with the air of a sprinter in the blocks; one squeak, and she'd bolt. So why didn't she? Why was Max out there while she was in here? Could she not think of another excuse to forgo a pass? No, he decided. If Liz wanted out, she'd find a way. She was still here because she'd chosen not to leave.

Sommers droned on as Kyle's hand rose to his chest, recalling yesterday's late night phone conversation with Liz when she'd tried to reassure him. It goes away, she'd promised. How long? he'd asked. Mine took two days, she'd answered as he'd hoped against hope that his would fade faster. But after a surprisingly sound sleep, exhaustion apparently trumping fear, he'd awakened to a handprint glowing like a remnant of the Tin Man. As if that weren't enough, the fact that his father had a full breakfast waiting for him and didn't bitch about him leaving his towel on the bathroom floor served as further proof that he'd died yesterday. He was wearing two shirts to hide the handprint, the bottom one tucked in. If he could just get through his next class, he might make it through the rest of the day.

The bell rang. Students surged for the door, and Kyle surged with them until he remembered that now was a bad time for surging. He needed to move slowly, to get there later, to lessen the chances of discovery, and every bone in his body was fighting him. His next class was gym class, and he could safely say that sports were the only thing which made school worthwhile, the only reason he made any attempt to tow the academic line. Gym class was the highlight of his day, the one thing he enjoyed, but today it was problematic: Gym involved changing into his gym clothes, and changing involved exposing his alien tattoo. The key would be to arrive late, long after his similarly eager friends had changed and dashed up to the gym, long after his usually eager self would have done the same. But despite his efforts to move slowly, he seemed to reach the locker room much too fast, and he pushed open the door, inhaling the wonderful aroma of sweaty socks and Ben Gay. He loved this place. There was nowhere else on campus where he felt more at ease, more safe, more himself.

Not today.

The locker room wasn't crowded, but Kyle moved warily toward his locker, noting that the crowd here was different than the one he was used to. All the diehards like himself had already raced upstairs, eager to begin; these were the slackers and dweebs, the ones who wanted to be anywhere but here, kind of like he was in history. One of the slackers looked at Kyle curiously as he went by, and why not? They had lockers right next to each other, but they'd never shared the same space.

"So how come nobody told us about 'sophomore skip day' ?" one of the slackers was saying.

"Looked like a personal skip day, if you ask me," someone else said. "That group hangs together."

"What about you, Valenti?" another slacker asked. "Weren't you dating Liz Parker?"

Moving slowly, hoping they'd leave, Kyle nodded. "Did for a while. Not any more. Aren't you guys supposed to go up?"

"Aren't you?" the slacker challenged.

"Yeah, what are even doing here, Valenti?" another one asked. "You're usually long gone by now."

Kyle's hand closed tighter on his locker as the atmosphere in the room changed. This was not good. Dweebs were easy for jocks to handle, but slackers were cut from different cloth. They didn't scare easy.

The lights went out.

There was a brief pause as the windowless locker room was plunged into total darkness, then a mad scramble which continued even as the lights came back on. "Let's get out of here," one of the slackers muttered. "Even gym class is better than this place in the dark." Kyle, who would have chosen the locker room over almost any other place light or dark, found himself mercifully alone and deeply grateful. He was contemplating a thank-you note to the power company for briefly losing its marbles when Max Evans rounded the corner.

"Hey," Max said awkwardly.

"What the hell are you doing here?" Kyle demanded.

"Looking for you."

"Why?"

Max shrugged. "Just wanted to make sure you were okay."

"Okay?" Kyle echoed incredulously. "Okay? Oh, sure, Evans, I'm great. Just great. Dad says a bunch of my classmates are...you know, and supposedly I died yesterday, and I've got a brand new tattoo on my chest that I wasn't looking forward to flashing at school, but other than that, I'm just peachy."

Max stuffed his hands in his pockets. "Yeah, you looked like you could use a little...privacy."

Kyle's eyes bulged. "What, did you...did you do that? Did you make the lights go out? What did you do?" he hissed when Evans didn't answer. "Some kind of hocus pocus? Alien juju?"

"No, I...flicked the switch."

"I don't care what you call it—"

"The light switch," Max clarified. "You know, the one by the door? I just turned it off, and turned it back on."

There was a pause while Kyle deflated. "Oh," he said, feeling supremely foolish. "That's all?"

"That's all," Max confirmed.

"So...no voodoo?"

Evans smiled faintly. "It's not a good idea to do anything like...that...in public."

"Everybody hurry up!" male voice bellowed. "Upstairs! Get a move on!"

Lockers slammed and voices muttered, followed by the squidgy sound of rubber soles on tile. "Go on and change," Max said. "I'll stand guard."

Kyle hesitated, then decided that it was okay if the guy who put it there saw it. He pulled his two shirts off, deliberately not looking down, reaching for his gym shirt as fast as he could, pulling it on quickly, before he gave in to the urge to check again.

"It's still there," Max said helpfully.

Kyle slammed his locker door. "Do you always eyeball guys in the locker room?"

"Only those whose lives I saved yesterday."

"Oh, so that's it," Kyle said hotly. "You're looking for gratitude? You want me to grovel? You want flowers and chocolates for putting me back together? I don't even remember it!"

"I do," Max said quietly. "And I'll bet your dad does too."

Kyle shoved his feet into his sneakers, yanking the laces so hard, they might break. "Look, I'm really sorry you got dragged into all this," Max went on. "I never wanted that."

"Yeah, well, I guess that's my fault, isn't it?" Kyle said sarcastically. "You told me to stay put, and I didn't. Always listen to the alien, that's the moral of this story."

Max eyed him levelly for a moment. "You look like you're done. I'll leave you to it."

"Wait," Kyle said as he started to walk away. "You said it wasn't smart to do...what you do...in public. So why'd you save Liz? That was pretty damned public."

"Yeah, I know," Max said. "Believe me, I've heard about it. Again and again. But I didn't want her to die. No matter what the cost." He paused. "Enjoy your class."

"Wait!" Kyle called again, hesitating when Evans stopped beside the locker room door. "Look, I...I didn't want her to die either. Liz, I mean. So I'm glad you did...whatever you did. Thanks for saving her life."

Max stared at him unblinking for several long seconds. "You're welcome," he said finally, disappearing on feet that didn't make a sound.

Crap, Kyle thought wearily as he climbed the stairs to the gym, the words he hadn't spoken hanging in the air.

Thanks for saving my life.




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




The bell rang just as Liz reached the girls' restroom, and she stepped back to allow the stampede of now-free teenagers to rush by. Finally, she thought after checking all the stalls carefully. She'd spent the entire day with teachers and friends staring at her, the former because they couldn't believe she'd cut classes, the latter because they couldn't believe she hadn't gone mad from cutting classes. Finally, she didn't have everyone's eyes on her. Finally, she was alone.

Or not. Liz sighed when she heard the bathroom door open, not the least bit surprised when she saw who it was. "Figured it was you," she said. "Most kids are so eager to get out of school that they'd hold it even if their back teeth were floating."

"And I'm usually one of those kids," Maria answered. "We have to go to detention, in case you've forgotten."

"How could I forget that?" Liz said ruefully. "We've got till 2:40. I'll be there in a minute."

Maria folded her arms across her chest. "You're stalling."

"No, I'm not," Liz protested. "I'm...I just needed to..." She dug in her purse and produced a compact.

"Powder your nose?" Maria said skeptically. "I know Liz Parker, and Liz Parker doesn't powder."

"Look, I just wanted five minutes where someone wasn't staring at me, or...or..."

"Or you had to grit your teeth and not stare at Max," Maria finished. "I don't get it. You saw him in history—first he goes all hardass on Sommers, then he looks like he's going to puke and runs out of the room, and you still haven't said word one to the guy all day. He's going to think you hate him."

"After what they did to him, I'm kinda surprised that's all he did," Liz said quietly.

"Wait—you said he didn't tell you the details."

"He didn't," Liz answered. "I...had a flash. When we were holed up in the junkyard."

Maria's eyes widened, and she hitched herself up on the edge of the sink. "And? What did you see"

"Enough," Liz whispered. "Enough to be surprised it took him that long to run out of the room."

"So why didn't you go after him?" Maria demanded. "Isabel left. Tess left. Michael left. Why didn't you? And don't tell me it was because all the passes were taken. That didn't stop Michael or Tess, and it wouldn't have stopped you either. Unless you wanted it to."

"He already had all of them out there," Liz said, tossing the compact back in her purse. "He didn't need me."

"Yes, he did need you," Maria argued. "Instead, he had Tess. He should have had you."

Liz's eyes dropped. "Maybe not."

"Do not get me started on this whole destiny thing," Maria ordered. "I don't care if he was married to Tess in his 'other' life—he isn't married to her now."

"But Maria, he's supposed to go back and save his planet," Liz argued. "I can't be part of that. I told you what they look like, and that's what they're going back to. That's what everyone else on their planet will look like. And I'd look like...like..."

"Like Max," Maria said patiently. "Like Isabel. Like Michael. None of them look alien, and they're not shapeshifters, so they're not going to. So what if you don't either?"

"It's not just that," Liz said. "When Tess and I were waiting to send that agent at the Crashdown away, she went into the convenience store and got some food."

"So?"

"So she offered me some," Liz went on. "And I couldn't believe she was thinking about food at a time like that, but it turned out she got some for Max too, and he needed it. See, I'm no good at this. It never even crossed my mind that he hadn't had anything to eat."

"Yeah, well, I suppose it's easier to nip in and grab some Twinkies when you're not the one being chased by a bunch of lunatics," Maria said impatiently. "Look, I'm not trying to downplay what she did with that whole 'not seeing what you're seeing' bit, creepy as it is. We wouldn't have gotten Max out without her. But she didn't help him escape down a river. She didn't spend the night huddled in a junkyard and hiding from the Unit. She isn't the one he said kept him going while he was in there. All the Cheetos in the world won't change that."

"Maybe," Liz said sadly, "but I can't help thinking that he needs someone like her. Someone who's been running from the Unit her whole life, who can recognize the agents on sight, who knows what they do and how they do it. He needs someone...experienced. And I'm not experienced. Not in this."

"Who cares?" Maria said. She reached out, took Liz's hands in her own. "He loves you, loves you. The rest of it is stuff you can learn."

"The only way you learn is by doing it," Liz said, "and either one of us could die while I'm doing the homework. Or starve. He needs a guide, Maria; they all do. And with Nasedo going off to be Pierce, Tess is the only one left who knows something about this."

"Fine, let her be the one who knows something about this," Maria said. "What does that have to do with you? Why can't you and Max be together while she's being the one who knows something about this?"

Liz was quiet for a moment. "Nasedo...said something on the way to the carnival. He said that Max and Tess were meant to be together. And that...whatever...we saw in the pod chamber said they were married. What if I'm breaking up a marriage? What if—"

She stopped as Maria put a finger to her lips. "Enough," Maria said firmly. "I don't care what the kidnapper said. I don't care what VCR mom said. That may be the way things were, but it's not the way they are now. Of course they want everything back the way it was, but we don't get everything we want, do we?"

Liz's eyes filled with tears. "No," she whispered. "We don't."

"Liz, wait!" Maria called when she pulled away. "That's not what I...I didn't...oh, hell," she sputtered as Liz took off. "Listen to what I mean, not what I say!"

But Liz was already halfway to the detention room, hastily wiping away tears as she went. She hit the doorway before Maria caught up with her.

"Miss Parker!" Mr. Sommers said with mock surprise. "I was just about to send out a search party. Would you happen to know where I could find...never mind," he finished when Maria appeared at her elbow. "Take a seat. I'm passing out the assignment."

Liz quickly slid into the most isolated desk she could find, having caught just a glimpse of the rest of the room. Max, Michael, Isabel, and Tess were seated together in a knot toward the back of the room and Alex was in the middle, with various other detainees sprinkled elsewhere. She could feel Max's wounded gaze on the back of her neck as Maria dithered over where to sit.

"Miss DeLuca?" Mr. Sommers prompted. "Any day now."

Choosing a camp, Maria slid into the seat next to her. Liz barely saw the packet of papers plopped on her desk as Mr. Sommers walked up and down the aisles, his shoes mercifully silent.

We don't get everything we want.

Truer words were never spoken.




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




Roswell Sheriff's Station




"Sir?" Hanson called. "Before you go, I've got those transfer papers you asked for."

Valenti paused by the station door to take the packet his deputy handed him. "I was wondering," Hanson ventured, "if this is the right thing to do. I mean, I know Deputy Fisher blew that whole thing this weekend out of proportion, but we already knew he was an over-achiever. Isn't sending him back to Santa Fe a bit much? I know he upset your boy and had us all tap dancing, but still...he meant well."

"So did Hitler," Valenti muttered.

"Sir?"

"Never mind," Valenti said. "He wasn't ready, Hanson, and I can't spare a deputy to babysit him. Let Santa Fe do that; we'll talk if and when he's housebroken. I'll be at home. Call me if you need anything."

Valenti clutched the transfer papers for a non-existent deputy as he headed for his car, reflecting that this was just the latest irony in a day overflowing with it. After a weekend like the one he'd had, he'd expect to be filing reports, bagging evidence, taking statements, securing crime scenes, and all the other procedures which ensued when law enforcement shut down criminal activity. Only this time that criminal activity was coming from their own government, and any overt attempt to shut it down would put them all in even more danger. So he'd returned to work today as if nothing had happened, jumping every time his phone rang, repeatedly resisting the urge to call his son and confirm he was still breathing, going over and over the story he'd told his staff to make sure it was airtight. The transfer for "Fisher" was part of that story even though the papers would never actually be mailed; wouldn't Santa Fe be surprised to get paperwork on someone who didn't even exist. But they had to at least be filled out and filed away so his staff would consider the matter closed, so all the "i's" were dotted and the "t's" crossed if this came back to bite him on the ass. After this the most pressing item on his agenda was calling Window and Door World for a new sliding glass door and Sail On Carpets to have the carpet replaced. Glass under bare feet was a bitch. Maybe they should go with a different color? Maybe that would help both he and Kyle put all this behind them? Mulling that over on the ride home, he pulled into his driveway ten minutes later, retrieved the mail, and went into the house, leafing through the stack until he reached the living room.

"You're home early."

Valenti blinked. A man sat on his couch, a bottle of wine and two glasses on the table in front of it. "Who the hell...wait," Valenti said, recognizing the features from this weekend's adventures. "You're the alien."

"Good afternoon, sheriff," the alien said. "We meet again, and under better circumstances." He gestured toward the wine. "Join me?"

"Technically I'm still on duty," Valenti said.

"Technically I don't exist," the alien said dryly. "Besides, you've spent the entire weekend 'on duty', and then some. Surely you've earned a respite. Unless I'm much mistaken, you could use a belt. God knows I could." He popped the cork, poured two glasses, held one out.

"Cheers?"




~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~



Happy Thanksgiving! Image (< The only Thanksgiving smiley I could find.) I'll be back on Sunday, December 8.
BRIVARI: "In our language, the root of the word 'Covari' means 'hidden'. I'm always there, Your Highness, even if you don't see me."

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Kathy W
Obsessed Roswellian
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Joined: Thu Oct 31, 2002 5:06 am

Chapter 131

Postby Kathy W » Sun Dec 08, 2013 6:01 pm

Thanks to everyone reading, and thanks for the feedback! ^^ Grandma Dee does indeed come in at just the right time. One (very) partial explanation for how the kids slipped past adults as often as they did!





CHAPTER ONE HUNDRED THIRTY-ONE




May 15, 2000, 2:45 p.m.

Valenti residence





If anyone had chanced to ask Jim Valenti if things could possibly get any stranger than they already were, his automatic response would have been, "Hell, no!", because seriously, how could they? Alien abductions where the aliens were the ones abducted? Batshit crazy FBI agents? His own son dying and being brought back to life? Burying a body in the dark of night? After all that, what could possibly be added to that list? Not so fast, Valenti thought ruefully as the answer to that second question parked in his living room with a bottle of wine, a glass of which hovered in the air for several long, awkward seconds before it was placed on the coffee table.

"Rough day?" the alien asked.

"Weird day," Valenti corrected. "And it just got weirder." He picked up the bottle, raised an eyebrow. "Wow. Pricey."

"I like a good vintage," the alien replied. "And it's not stolen, if that's what you're thinking. I've been here plenty long enough to pay my own way."

"Fifty years," Valenti agreed.

"Is that all?" the alien murmured. "Feels like a lot more."

The tone was simultaneously wistful, ironic, and weary, completely human...and completely disarming. Valenti lowered himself slowly onto the opposite end of the couch, never taking his eyes off his guest. "Figured I'd bump into you again, but I was expecting something a bit more...well...we weren't exactly hitting it off last time we talked."

"We were not," the alien agreed. "But all's well that ends well. My Ward survived, no small thanks to you. How's your son?"

"Alive," Valenti answered. "Thanks to Max. And no thanks to Pierce. Or me."

"Make no mistake, it was Pierce who caused that," the alien said, "every bit as much as if he'd pulled the trigger himself."

"That's what Dee said," Valenti noted.

"Then she's right again, as she often is. Sometimes annoyingly so." The alien sipped his wine as Valenti studied him for a moment. "You're staring, sheriff. That's considered rude even where I come from."

Valenti blinked. "Sorry, I...where do you come from, exactly? Sorry," he repeated hastily. "That...didn't come out the way I wanted."

"Relax," the alien advised. "I was just yanking your chain. Curiosity and manners seldom co-exist peacefully. I come from another planet, the name of which would mean nothing to you. I've stopped by to express my gratitude for your assistance these past few days and to answer the questions I know you must have. You've certainly earned some answers. The hard way."

Still reeling from the notion of not only having an alien in his living room but one toting a bottle of wine and teasing him, Valenti abruptly found the floor wide open...and himself at a loss for words. He'd just done this with Kyle and been greeted with a similar silence. Now he knew why.

"Why did you come here?" he asked finally, starting with the simple and the obvious. "What are you doing here?"

"Waiting," the alien sighed. "And waiting, and waiting, and waiting some more." He rolled his wine glass, the ruby liquid inside making a graceful arc as Valenti's sat untouched on the table. "We were supposed to land in the mountains. That's what we were aiming for. No one need ever have known."

"Did the carburetor seize up?" Valenti deadpanned.

The alien smiled faintly. "Something like that. Suffice it to say we crashed. But that you know."

"Safe to say everyone here does," Valenti allowed, "although not everyone believes it. But that still doesn't tell me why you came in the first place. I heard the kids saying something about a war, and that they...but I must have heard it wrong. It was pretty fantastic."

"That they died?"

"Uh...yeah. Something like that."

"I'd call it more of a 'coup' than a war," the alien said, "but whichever, the result was the same—the royal family was assassinated. We brought them here to recover until they could return and take back what was theirs."

" 'Royal'?"

"The king and his wife, his sister, and the commander of his military," the alien said.

Jesus, Valenti thought, suddenly needing that untouched glass of wine. Not just aliens, but alien royalty. "Max," he said softly as several pieces of the puzzle fell into place. "Max is the king, and...and Michael would be the commander. God, he almost makes sense now. And Isabel...?"

"The King's sister," the alien answered. "Tess was his wife."

"Bet that's not going over well with Liz Parker," Valenti commented. "But why did they show up as little kids?"

"They weren't supposed to," the alien said. "They were supposed to 'regrow', if you will, and emerge as adults with their memories intact."

"Handy," Valenti allowed. "So what happened?"

"We'd be here all night going over that," the alien said ruefully. "Suffice it to say that when our Wards emerged as children a decade ago, we were unprepared. We knew they were growing much too slowly, but we were still expecting them to emerge as adults, albeit later than planned. We never though they'd emerge as young children in need of rearing."

"So you went to Dee's son," Valenti said.

"So we went to Dee," the alien corrected. "Philip Evans has no idea his children aren't human."

Valenti let out a low whistle. "He doesn't know? But...she does. Diane, I mean. She practically beat me off with a stick."

"During the videotape incident," the alien nodded.

Valenti blinked. "You know about that?"

"Of course I know about that," the alien answered. "It's my job to know about that. And Diane Evans does not know her son isn't human. She suspects he's 'special', in the same sense as humans who claim to move objects with their minds or see the future. Or put out fires using unconventional means."

"The fire," Valenti murmured. "That makes sense now too." He paused. "How long have you been following me?"

"Honestly? Since 1959. You were quite the eager beaver back then, thrilled to be working at the station even if your mother didn't approve and your father was preoccupied. With us."

Valenti stiffened in his chair as the weight of several decades worth of surveillance suddenly descended upon him. These people had not only been here for years, they'd been observing him for years, watching his entire family. It was a profoundly unsettling thought. "So you've been watching me all this time?" he said with a nervous chuckle. "No wonder I never felt comfortable in the shower."

"Not the entire time," the alien answered. "When we realized this was going to take longer than we thought, we left the area. When they emerged as children, we found them homes and waited for them to mature."

"But not Tess," Valenti noted. "She didn't grow up in a human family."

"More's the pity," the alien said. "Even Warders have their disagreements. But you fell off our radar until a certain incident last fall."

"The shooting," Valenti nodded. "And the first time anyone realized handprints could heal."

"The handprint does nothing," the alien said. "It's merely a residue of the energy which does the healing."

"It didn't heal James Atherton."

A flicker of pain crossed the alien's face, pain laced with regret...and sadness. "No," he said quietly. "It did not. But that couldn't be helped. He was going to expose me."

"Like Pierce?"

"Not like Pierce," the alien corrected. "Not at all. James was my friend; intelligent, analytical, fearless. A little too fearless, it turned out."

" 'Intelligent'?" Valenti said skeptically. "I read some of his book. Not the word I'd use."

"That was all hogwash," the alien said dismissively. "He pandered to the UFO crowd to make the money he needed to pursue his true passion, that of finding real aliens."

"That was some pandering," Valenti said. "And it looks like he got what he wanted. Maybe more."

"He was so excited," the alien said, his eyes far away as though lost in memory. "Too excited. He said he wanted to set up an 'underground railroad' for us, but he also wanted validation for his find. I tried to dissuade him, but he was unable to resist. He arranged a meeting with several of his colleagues in the woods south of the Indian reservation for the purpose of telling them my secret."

"So you killed him," Valenti said.

"I did. As I would anyone who threatened those I have a responsibility to protect. But I didn't want to." The alien paused, gazing into his glass. "Duty can be a real bitch."

It can, Valenti agreed silently. A couple of days ago he would have been on a moral high horse about Atherton. A couple of days ago he would have bristled at this casual admission of guilt. But having just been willing to kill someone who'd threatened those he had a duty to protect, it would be hypocritical to do so now. "What about the rest of them, all those pictures Hubble had of handprints? Did they threaten to expose you too? Did Hubble's wife?"

"Yes...and no," the alien answered. "Despite our reputation in popular folklore, we are not indiscriminate killers, sheriff; we only kill those who threaten us. Some of those people saw something they would have been unable to keep to themselves. Understandable, perhaps, but small comfort if they'd brought the Unit down on our heads. Take Kathleen Topolsky, for example, who had supposedly seen the light but was still catnip to our Wards and the Unit, drawing both of them toward her simultaneously. I couldn't allow that. As you've learned these past few days, sometimes it really is us or them."

" 'Some' of them," Valenti said. "So 'some of them' didn't? Hubble claimed they were just in the wrong place at the wrong time."

"Sadly, I would have to agree," the alien said. "Sometimes all of us are in the wrong place at the wrong time. I wasn't responsible for Hubble's wife, but it would appear she fit that description."

"Guess Liz Parker was lucky then," Valenti mused. "She was in the right place at the right time...until she wasn't."

The alien finished his wine and poured himself another glass. "And that would be the next 'chat' I have scheduled today," he said heavily. "Wish me luck."

"You need luck and alcohol?" Valenti said. "Glad I'm not joining you for that one."

The alien nodded sadly. "As I mentioned before, even Warders disagree on tactics, sometimes violently. Believe me when I say the wine was more for me than you."





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




3:44 p.m.

West Roswell High School





"Ladies and gentlemen, your detention is almost over," Mr. Sommers announced. "In a minute I'll ask you to hand in your papers and gather up your things. This would also be a good time to reflect on the circumstances which put you here. Your detention was solely your own fault, and as such could have been avoided if you'd applied yourselves more diligently—

Click.

The clock struck 3:45. Like a wave, the class rose as one, drowning Sommers' sermon in the drumbeat of feet on a tile floor and the soft fwish of papers being deposited on his desk as bored adolescents rushed past. Leading the charge was Liz, having finished her assignment ages ago and been forced to sit in silence until time was up, private reading being forbidden during detention. She couldn't wait to get home, close her bedroom door, and shut out the world.

"Liz!"

And him, Liz added silently, ignoring her name, ignoring the frantic tone, ignoring everything until he caught up with her at the bottom of the steps outside school. "Liz, wait!" Max pleaded, catching her arm, spinning her around as she clutched the straps of her backpack like a drowning woman clings to a life raft. "Is this...is this what it's going to be like from now on? Are you planning on avoiding me for the rest of your life after everything we've been through?"

" 'Planning'?" Liz echoed, forgetting her resolve not to get pulled into this again. " 'Planning'? No, Max, I'm not 'planning' anything. Planning takes effort, and focus, and thought, and...and energy I just don't have right now. I couldn't 'plan' if I wanted to. I'm just trying to hang on and not go completely, stark-raving mad."

"Yeah," Max said soberly. "Me too."

Liz's heart clutched as she fought back a sudden urge to hug him fiercely. "Max, I'm really sorry," she said miserably. "I know you've been through hell, and I'm not trying to make this harder than it already is, I'm just...I just don't think we should be together right now."

"But right now is exactly when we need each other the most," Max argued. "We all went through hell. Shouldn't the people who went through hell together stick together?"

"But I don't belong with you," Liz said, "any of you. Nasedo was right. That message was for the four of you, not me."

"That message was from 50 years ago," Max protested. "Fifty years."

"But it was pretty clear," Liz said. "Here we just thought your ship crashed, and it turns out you were sent here on purpose, and you're supposed to go back and save your planet. They're counting on you."

"Who's 'they'?" Max demanded. "I don't even remember these people! And if they're 'counting on me', they also need to count on the people who keep me going. I wouldn't have survived in there without you, Liz. You're the only thing that kept me sane. If they want me to save them, whoever 'they' are, they're just going to have to live with that because without you, I wouldn't be here to save anyone."

Liz's eyes dropped to he pavement. "What about Tess?"

"What about her? I told you, this changes nothing—"

"And we both know that isn't true," Liz said. "We both know it changes everything. This is major, Max. We both heard it. We can't unhear it. We can't unknow it."

"I wish I hadn't brought you with me," Max said bitterly. "I wish you'd never heard that."

Liz's eyebrows rose. "So you would have kept it from me? You wouldn't have told me about...what? How much would you have kept to yourself?"

Max's eyes widened in alarm at the implications of that question, but he was spared having to answer by a shout. Alex was at the top of the steps, and moment later he was joined by Isabel, Michael, Tess, and Maria. "There you are," Alex said, trotting up beside them. "We were looking for you."

"We got caught in the stampede," Isabel explained. "You guys okay?"

"Just...talking," Max said awkwardly.

"Yeah," Liz said tonelessly. " 'Talking'."

"Okay, look," Isabel said, swiping a strand of hair out of her eyes. "We had a horrible experience, and then we learned some really shocking stuff...well, maybe not for you," she allowed, looking at Tess, "but certainly for the rest of us."

"You think finding out I died and was brought back to life isn't 'shocking'?" Tess said. "Because it is."

"My point is, we're all in shock for one reason or another," Isabel went on, "so none of us should do anything rash or make any hasty decisions."

"I completely agree," Alex said stoutly. "We all need to mull it over."

"And just chill," Maria added.

"Yeah, well, all of you 'mull' and 'chill' all you want," Michael said. "I couldn't be happier that we finally know the score. God knows we waited long enough."

"Even if that means you and Isabel are supposed to get married?" Liz asked.

"Maybe we were," Michael allowed. "But we aren't now. That doesn't change the rest of it."

"See?" Max said. "If anybody's going to set this in stone, it's Michael, and even he's not setting it in stone. This isn't gospel, Liz."

"But what about when you go back?" Liz argued. "What about—"

"Trouble?" a voice called.

It was Mr. Sommers, briefcase in one hand, car keys in the other, and a smirk on his face. "Is there trouble in paradise?" he asked, coming up beside them. "And so soon after your group idyll! Guess skip days aren't all they're cracked up to be. Remember that the next time you decide to pull a stunt like this."

A sudden wave of anger washed over Liz, and it took her a moment to realize it wasn't coming from her as Max stepped up to face Sommers. "It wasn't a 'stunt'," Max said in a dangerously calm voice.

"Oh, really?" Sommers said sarcastically. "What was it, then? A student in-service day? Personal enrichment? A spring Crash Festival? A group barf?"

Sheer hell, Liz corrected as faces paled around her at the comparison of their nightmare to some high school lark. Make that some faces: Isabel, Maria, and Alex looked visibly ill, Tess and Michael were strangely neutral, and Max...Max looked like he was about to explode.

"Cat got your tongue?" Sommers went on. "Funny how you all insist this wasn't what it was. I pushed for suspension, you know, for all of you. I'm of the opinion that a single detention isn't enough of a deterrent to trotting off on another adventure. But your father, Mr. Evans, is very persuasive—no surprise, really, given that he's a lawyer—and the principal went on and on about all your wonderful records, with the exception of Mr. Guerin, of course. Be that as it may, I still felt—"

"Would you like a demonstration?"

Sommers blinked. "Excuse me?"

"I said, would you like a demonstration?" Max repeated. "Of our...what did you call it? 'Adventure'. Would you like a demonstration of our 'adventure'? Because I'd love to give you one."

Liz's hands clutched around her backpack as Isabel's eyes widened, Michael's rolled, and Tess's narrowed. Maria and Alex had frozen to the spot. "Uh...Max?" Liz whispered. "We shouldn't—"

"Oh, I think we should," Max said. "Mr. Sommers has expressed such a keen interest in what we were doing that I think we owe it to him to satisfy his curiosity, don't you?"

His voice was soft, but there was no mistaking the menace in it. A chill seemed to settle over them, but Liz felt it differently, not cold, but...heat. There was power building, gathering, climbing, desperate to be unleashed. Sommers felt it too, and he took a step back. "Why, Mr. Evans, that sounds suspiciously like a...are you threatening me?"

"No," Liz said quickly, one hand on Max's arm. "He's not, he's just..."

"Just making an offer," Max finished. "You clearly want to know."

"So what?" Michael said in a bored tone. "It's none of his business."

"True," Max allowed. "But we can make it his business."

Sommers' nostrils flared at this outright expression of teenage contempt, but Liz barely noticed. She was looking at Max's hands, hanging at his sides, palms facing backwards...which was a good thing, because right now they were glowing, like they held a lightning bolt ready to be hurled. "Max, I think...I think we should go home," she babbled as the glow from Max's hands intensified. "I mean, we're late already, and...and...and my mom is gonna freak, and..."

Sommers' head abruptly jerked sideways, toward the school doors. "What?" he said, wide-eyed to no one they could see. "I was just talking to these students, and...no! No, I wasn't...I mean, I didn't...yes, sir," he finished, deflating. "Right away, sir."

Sommers gave them one last baleful glare before hurrying back inside. "Stop," Michael ordered when Max started to follow him. "Let it go, Maxwell. He's an idiot. He's not worth it."

"He's not an 'idiot', he just doesn't know," Alex countered.

"Exactly," Max said hotly. "He doesn't know a thing. He needled us all day because he thinks we were off partying! I'll show him 'partying'. He'll never want to party again after I give him a taste of the party we went to—"

"Max, please," Liz begged. "Just drop it. You're scaring me."

"Wait," Maria ordered. "What just happened? Didn't any of you notice he was talking to no one?"

There was a startled silence, and then everyone looked at Tess, who was wearing a small smile. "Our dear history teacher was suddenly called into his boss's office," she explained. "He'll be tied up for awhile."

"The principal had a whole line of parents waiting to see him," Isabel said.

Tess shrugged. "Maybe a long while."

"It looked like more than just calling him to his office," Maria said doubtfully.

"The principal may have noted that harassing students outside school is a very bad idea," Tess said. "Especially when one of those students has a parent who's a lawyer and who's already proven he's no pushover. What?" she went on when everyone stared at her. "Max is right; he's been on our case all day. He got his pound of flesh."

"And now I want mine," Max declared.

"No," Michael said firmly, catching him by the shoulder. "He's a dick, but so what? He'll tank outside the principal's office for an hour or two, then look like a fool because no one called him there. That's enough."

"That is not enough!" Max exclaimed. "What's wrong with you, Michael? You should be helping me!"

"What's wrong with me?" Michael said. "What's wrong with you. You heard your mother—"

"I heard someone who called herself my mother," Max corrected. "We have no idea if she is or not."

"Fine, but we heard what we're here for," Michael said, "which is way more important than stupid stuff like this. We're not staying here, Maxwell. None of this matters, so don't waste your time on it."

"I'm not going anywhere," Max declared, "and even if I do someday, I'm here now. He's yanking my chain now. He's..."

"C'mon, man," Michael muttered, taking Max by the arm. "Let's get out of here."

"I'll go with you," Tess offered.

Liz watched them go, stricken. "Well," Maria said dryly as Michael and Tess led Max away, "I guess we should just go home because we don't 'matter'."

"That's not what he meant," Isabel objected.

"Didn't he?" Maria said.

"This is so backwards," Alex said, shaking his head. "Usually it's Max pulling Michael off, not the other way around."

"Look, of course Michael would see this as great news," Isabel said. "Now he thinks his life has purpose. That's not what's bothering me. Did you see Max? He was almost out of control."

"And not for the first time," Alex added.

"We really don't know anything," Isabel went on. "We don't know if what we heard was true, or if it is, if it's still true. We've been here 50 years, for God's sake—it might be an old message from when we crashed."

"Yeah, the war could be over, for all you know," Maria said. "Or the planet could have exploded. Or—"

"Not helping," Alex interjected.

"My point is, we shouldn't change anything, not now," Isabel said, looking directly at Liz. "Could you please stop shutting him out? He's freaking out because you're shunning him, and he needs you now more than ever."

" 'Shunning'?" Liz said in disbelief. "Isabel, I'm getting out of his way! You heard that...recording, or whatever it was. Tess is his wife, and—"

"And supposedly Michael is my fiancee, but we all know he's not," Isabel interrupted. "You're not the only one who heard something you didn't like, Liz. I did too, but I'm not pouting in a corner. Max pushed Tess away, but she's not pouting in a corner."

"No, she's off with Max," Alex murmured.

"Not helping," Maria warned.

Liz blinked. "You think I'm 'pouting'? Isabel, I am not 'pouting'."

"I don't care what you call it," Isabel said. "Whatever you call it, whatever it is, it's killing him. He almost died this weekend. Nobody knows that better than you, so why would you want to kill him all over again? For God's sake, stop being so selfish and just throw him a bone! Please?"




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




Roswell International Airport





"And how will you be paying for this, sir?"

Jaddo reached into Pierce's wallet and withdrew his Bureau-issued credit card. "I won't be," he answered, setting his credit card and badge on the counter. "Uncle Sam will."

"Oh," the ticketing agent said, taken aback. "Of course, I...I'm not used to seeing federal agents fly first class. At least not...well..."

"Not us peons?" Jaddo finished, wearing Pierce's trademark smile. "I just look like a peon, sweetheart. But don't tell anyone I told you, or I'll have to kill you."

The agent blinked, smiled awkwardly, and busied herself with processing his plane ticket. She was right, of course—FBI agents didn't fly first class, at least not the rank and file. Yet another mistake Pierce would make, one more in the pile he intended to create before the powers that be noticed. By the time he was through with him, Pierce would have so many demerits that he'd be rolling in his grave, wherever that had wound up being.

"There you are," the ticketing agent said briskly, tucking a sheaf of papers inside a folder. "One first class seat from Roswell to Washington. I hope your business here was successful."

"Beyond my wildest dreams," Jaddo smiled. He leaned in closer, lowered his voice to a whisper. "I think this is the largest haul of aliens we've ever had."

The ticketing agent's eyes widened so quickly, it looked painful. "But you didn't hear that from me," he added as she shook her head vigorously. "I just wanted you to know you're much safer now than before I got here."

"Oh!" the ticketing agents whispered, flushing. "I had no idea...I mean, I didn't know all those stories were..."

"Real?" Jaddo finished. "They aren't. Well...not all of them, anyway." He brandished his tickets. "Thanks, love. Wish I could thank you personally, but—"

The agent's hand shot out, caught his coat sleeve. "You can," she whispered, glancing at a nearby clock. "I'm on break in five minutes, and I know a very...private...place we can go."

Interesting Jaddo thought, taking in the dilated pupils, rapid pulse, increased body temperature, and the marked change in tone, from professional brusque to something more closely resembling a purr. "Oh, sweetheart," Jaddo murmured, caressing the proffered hand. "I'd love to. But—"

The hand clutched tighter. "So what's stopping you?"

Fifteen minutes later, Jaddo emerged from a supply closet with new insights on the perks that came with taking the shape of a good-looking human. He and Brivari had always deliberately eschewed the handsome, the beautiful, the sexually attractive because they were...well...attractive. When one wished to remain hidden, attracting attention in any way was counterproductive, so plain faces, plain shapes suited their purpose best. Daniel Pierce Jr., it turned out, was considered anything but plain; in the past twelve hours alone he'd been propositioned by three people, one of them male. This was the first time he'd taken the bait, and it had been quite an education. He couldn't feel anything, of course, but she obviously could, and the dreamy look in her eyes had been instructive. Forget what they said—these humans liked violence, especially when it shoved them up against a wall. Forget what they claimed, these humans liked power, were drawn to it like moths to flames. No wonder brutes like Pierce grew ever more brutish, surrounded by sycophants and willing victims begging to be abused. It was a vicious cycle he'd be happy to break when he dragged Pierce into the mud, effectively killing him twice. God, did it get any better than this?

"You're a hard man to find."

Jaddo's eyes closed briefly as Brivari fell in step beside him outside the terminal. "Why? It's not like I've been hiding."

"Busy, busy," Brivari said. "Luring. Chasing. Dying. Fucking. Quite a feat that you managed those last two in that order."

"Says the one who screwed an actress for months," Jaddo noted.

"Says the one who never stopped deriding me for doing so. And I like to think we transcended mere 'screwing'. Audrey and I understood each other."

"Oh, of course you did," Jaddo said dryly. "I suffer from no such illusions. I don't even know that female's name, and all I needed to 'understand' was that the harder I thrust, the more she liked it. You never told me it was so violent."

"Because it isn't," Brivari said. "Unless you like it that way."

"Is there a point to this conversation?"

Brivari shrugged. "Just tying up some loose ends.

"So tie them. What does that have to do with me?"

"And seeing you off," Brivari added.

"I'm not in the mood for socializing," Jaddo said impatiently. "I've got errands to run, phone calls to make—"

"Then I'll tag along."

Jaddo regarded him suspiciously. "Why?"

"Maybe I'm being nostalgic now that you're leaving," Brivari answered. "Or maybe you're one of those 'loose ends' I need to tie up."






~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~



I'll post Chapter 132 next Sunday. :)
BRIVARI: "In our language, the root of the word 'Covari' means 'hidden'. I'm always there, Your Highness, even if you don't see me."

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Kathy W
Obsessed Roswellian
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Chapter 132

Postby Kathy W » Sun Dec 15, 2013 10:39 pm

Hello to everyone reading!

Misha wrote:I keep wondering how Valenti is going to keep it together without that bottle of wine... or something stronger. I get the feeling a meeting with Dee is in short order :D


Oh my, you are prescient! Either that, or I'm predictable. :lol:

And with all the snow that came after I left, I'm actually glad I was off in 23ªC Guatemala! 8)


It's -8C here now. :mrgreen: (Yes, minus.) And it's getting colder tomorrow. Wanna come back? (Kidding!)

keepsmiling7: Liz is kind of damned if she does and damned if she doesn't. If she stays, she's keeping him from his destiny; if she goes, she's breaking his heart. (And hers.) :cry:

emerald123: Valenti certainly had earned a Q&A. Frankly, Brivari owes him one hell of a lot more than a bottle of wine. :wink:

Thank you all so much for your feedback! I always appreciate the time you take to read and comment. {{{Hug}}}






CHAPTER ONE HUNDRED THIRTY-TWO



May 15, 2000, 4 p.m.

Harding residence





"And there's the last of it," Jaddo said, tossing the drycleaning bags over the back of the couch. "I've had all of Pierce's suits cleaned. He'd packed light, but not so light that I couldn't tell what a dandy he was. You should see the labels—Dolce and Gabbana, Gucci, you name it. I had no idea federal agents were so well paid."

"God knows his father was vain," Brivari noted, fingering the bags. "No surprise he was too. Tell me...why drycleaning?"

"I have to wear some of his old stuff in order to act the part," Jaddo said, setting a pair of freshly shined Ferragamos on the coffee table. "You don't expect me to wear something he wore without cleaning it, do you?"

"But why drycleaning? You could remove any dead skin cells or remnants of liaisons with flight attendants without resorting to prehistoric methods."

"Still on about that, are you?" Jaddo chuckled. "It was a 'ticketing agent', not a flight attendant, but whatever—Pierce gets propositioned so often, I'll probably be joining the Mile High Club in short order. Anyway, I'd argue that removing all trace of prehistoric monsters calls for prehistoric methods. Somehow I didn't feel comfortable wearing these unless they'd been tossed in a giant vat of perc."

"As if a vat of chemicals will wash him away," Brivari said. "If only it were that easy. Is that new luggage?"

"Tumi," Jaddo nodded. "Just like Pierce's. Only the best for our boy. Open this, would you?"

Brivari took the indicated carry-on bag as Jaddo assembled clothing, toiletries, and personal affects, some of it Pierce's, some of it new. Rath's Warder was in a fine mood, the best he'd seen in a very long time. Looking at him now, jovial and humming, one would never have guessed that they'd very nearly lost everything this weekend or that he'd been dead a mere 24 hours ago. Jaddo was always happiest when he had a target, and this was the first clear target he'd had in quite some time.

"You're in a good mood," Brivari observed as a stack of Calvin Klein underwear landed in a suitcase.

"Of course I am," Jaddo agreed. "Why shouldn't I be? I missed killing Pierce, but now I get a second chance. I can kill him all over again and demolish the Unit from within, and all without having to tolerate so much as a shred of adolescent angst. I'm stoked."

" 'Stoked'?"

"Exhilarated, excited, enthusiastic—"

"I know what 'stoked' means," Brivari interrupted. "I'm just surprised you did."

"It's surprising what you learn when you're considered attractive," Jaddo said. "I've spent most of my time on this planet as an ugly middle-aged male. I had no idea how much action I was missing."

"Didn't stop me," Brivari noted. "Guess I made up for it with my sparkling personality."

"Which I don't have," Jaddo shrugged. "So I just have to be younger."

"Mmm," Brivari murmured. "Like when you took Zan's shape?"

"Of course not," Jaddo said. "That was all business. Hold this."

"Armani," Brivari noted, inspecting the trench coat. "He certainly liked high living, didn't he?"

"He certainly did," Jaddo agreed, "which makes it fitting that he'd sink so low. He really is reduced to bones six feet under, right? Tess wasn't just telling me that to make me feel better?"

"I have a hard time imagining Ava overwhelmed with a desire to make you 'feel better'," Brivari said.

Jaddo pondered that for a moment before nodding. "You're right. Which is only fair. She'll be happier on her own. I'll check in on her from time to time, and I'm sure Dee will too. And Vilandra, of course."

"Gracious," Brivari said dryly. "I do believe that's the first time you've uttered her name without spitting since the crash."

Jaddo shrugged. "She made herself useful. We wouldn't have been able to reach the king without her. If she keeps this up, she just might redeem herself. Emphasis on the 'might'."

Not just jovial, but honest. "Before you go," Brivari began, "we should—"

"I know, I know," Jaddo broke in. "Taking someone else's shape for a length of time is dangerous. But you can't seriously expect me to pass this up, can you? Besides, the king ordered me—"

"It wasn't an 'order'," Brivari said. "You finished his thought before he had time to speak it."

"And you said it was a good idea. Because it was. It's a risk we have to take—"

"This isn't about you becoming Pierce," Brivari broke in. "This is about you being the cause of virtually everything that went wrong this weekend. You said you baited Pierce by showing him Zan, and then Zan actually showed up. But you never said why."

Jaddo sighed heavily. "No, I didn't. That was hardly the time to go into it, but it was only a matter of time before you found out. I gather you've been talking to Dee?"

"Have I?"

"Well, you must have, given that she barred me from her house if I didn't get him back. Now I know how you felt when her mother threw you out."

"Interesting," Brivari murmured. "But I haven't talked to Dee. I heard this from Valenti. The Parker girl enlisted his aid after Zan was captured. She's the reason he was there."

"Good for her," Jaddo said crossly. "Please don't tell me this is going to turn into another diatribe about that female. Why does everyone defend her? She's the single worst thing that ever happened to Zan, but she's constantly lauded as his savior."

"It would help enormously if you stopped putting him in situations where he needed saving," Brivari noted.

Jaddo stopped packing. "Me? What, you think I planned it that way? That wasn't supposed to happen! Zan wasn't supposed to be anywhere near me!"

"And he wouldn't have been if you hadn't given him reason to be," Brivari said. "Please don't tell me this is going to turn into another diatribe about the folly of 'true love' because that's not the point. The point is that you failed to predict Zan's inevitable reaction to learning that you'd taken her."

"So now I'm supposed to be a mind reader?" Jaddo said sourly. "You never were when you warded him, so how was I supposed to—"

"I know what you were doing," Brivari broke in. "She was collateral; I get that. I saw you in the compound. I know how hard it was for you to walk back in there. You wanted insurance."

Jaddo tossed a shirt into a suitcase, his eyes on the floor, his face set. "Under different circumstances, it might have worked," Brivari went on. "The fact that you couldn't read those circumstances is what almost got the king killed."

"Didn't I tell you this would happen?" Jaddo demanded. "Haven't I said all along that emotional attachments weaken people, make them do stupid things? Like—"

"Like abducting someone to whom our Wards have an emotional attachment?" Brivari said. "It doesn't matter what you think, Jaddo, or what I think, or how either of us feels about 'emotional attachments'. What matters is how our Wards feel, and like it or not, they have lots of emotional attachments. We have to work within that framework whether we agree with it or not. It's not a matter of opinion, it just is."

"The girl would likely have remained unharmed," Jaddo said impatiently. "Pierce would have seen me, I would have killed him, and that would have been that. But why are we arguing about this? It's over. I fixed it."

Brivari shook his head. "You didn't fix it. Humans fixed it. Specifically, Valenti fixed it. The Healer and Dee helped, but it was the sheriff who tipped the scales when you sent Zan and Rath out of that compound by themselves. You should have gone with them."

"And I was shot for my trouble," Jaddo retorted. "Doesn't that—"

"No," Brivari interrupted. "It doesn't. Two hybrids, one of them seriously compromised? No protection between them and the door? I could have guided them, but I was off after the Healer because I believed that you would have the sense to free them yourself instead of sending them off on their own through the lion's den."

"I had an opportunity," Jaddo argued. "Pierce was right there, trapped in Tess's mindwarp. I was going to be right behind them—"

"But you weren't," Brivari said. "You sent the king off with no protection, sent your own Ward off with no protection. You got yourself killed in the process, and very nearly killed them too. Your quest to kill Pierce nearly got everyone who mattered killed instead."

Jaddo slammed the suitcase shut. "Do you have any idea," he said bitterly, "what it cost me to walk back into that room? I almost couldn't do it. I almost..."

He stopped. His hands were shaking ever so slightly, and Brivari felt a pang of sympathy which he instantly pushed back. "I already told you I did," he said quietly. "I may be the only who does. But you shouldn't have done it in the first place. I warned you not to, and this is why; I knew what your reaction would be when you saw that place again. Those few seconds of hesitation were all that stood between you and disaster, and it would have been one hell of a disaster if Valenti hadn't been there. I would have been lucky to get Zan and Rath out on my own, but I certainly couldn't have managed you and the Healer as well, or maybe even myself."

"This is all conjecture," Jaddo objected. "We can talk about what might have happened all day and all night, but the point is what did happen."

"And how do you know what happened? You were dead," Brivari reminded him. "In a cold heap on the floor of your old cell; that's where I found you. Dead and useless for the party which followed, which once again only worked because humans made it work, and we can thank whatever deity you choose to name for that because I simply couldn't be everywhere at once." He paused. "Your lack of judgment, your inability to see past your own prejudice, almost killed the king. You have to leave."

Jaddo broke into a bitter laugh. " 'Leave'? Now that I've been tried and found guilty, that's your sentence? In case you haven't noticed, that's exactly what I'm doing—"

"I meant for good," Brivari said. "Not just until you make the Unit implode. Permanently. You're not safe to be around our Wards."

Jaddo's expression darkened dangerously. " 'Our' wards? So you do recognize that one of the wards in question is mine."

"Oh, I do," Brivari said softly, "and you almost got him killed too. You do recognize that, don't you?"

"You can't be serious!" Jaddo said in astonishment. "You know as well as I do that sometimes these things go south. Blaming me for every little hiccup—"

"So you would characterize the near death of the monarch as a 'hiccup'?"

"I was trying to kill Pierce, not the king!" Jaddo exclaimed. "It was Zan's decision to track down his lady love, or am I to blame for his hormones now?"

"Of course not," Brivari said. "But his decision was easily foreseeable, which is the whole point: You failed to foresee it. That's why you can't be here any more."

Jaddo's mouth set in a thin line. "You said—and I quote—'Take him down any way you can.' Am I misremembering that?"

"No," Brivari sighed. "But you can't really expect me to believe that what you heard was, 'Take him down any way you can even it means killing the king and your own Ward in the process'."

"I didn't..." Jaddo stopped in exasperation. "Never mind. This is all moot. You need me. They activated those communicators, so Nicholas will be here with bells on."

"Maybe," Brivari allowed. "Maybe not. They might assume it was one of us."

"I don't care what they assume, if the Skins come to Roswell, you need me," Jaddo argued. "Or are you prepared to face them alone? You didn't want to face a small subset of the Unit alone, so is it safe to assume a mob of Argilians requires my help?"

"If that happens, we'll talk," Brivari said. "But until then, you need to be elsewhere. Which is what you wanted, isn't it? Look at you, humming and packing and eager to be gone. You love this, Jaddo. You love the thought of going undercover, of ruining the Unit from within. It's what you do best, and you're good at it; what you're not good at it is divining the intentions of people who aren't exactly like you. So go do what you're good at. Serve the king that way. Ava is old enough to take care of herself, so that job is done. And when you've finished with the Unit, we'll find you something else to do...but not here. Never here."

"You have no authority to tell me what to do!" Jaddo said savagely.

Brivari sighed wearily. "Is this your version of 'you can't make me'? Perhaps not...but Zan can. If necessary, I'll reveal myself to Zan and advise him to make it official."

Jaddo's eyes widened. "Jesus! It must be a cold day somewhere if you'd take a risk like that!"

"If you're invoking a deity, it is a cold day somewhere," Brivari said dryly. "And I doubt it's much of a risk. You put someone he loves in danger, and in the process cost him a day's worth of torture. If he knows he has another guardian who disagrees with that strategy, what do you think he'll do?"

Jaddo stared at him for several long seconds before slowly shaking his head. "You're serious. You're actually serious. You'd actually do that? Are you crazy? Huff and puff all you want, Brivari, but you know as well as I do that neither of us can be here. Zan may know more than he did before, but he's still a child...and he can still compel us. You want a disaster? Try a repeat of him ordering you to show him how they died. Because we both know how well that worked out the last time."

"We do," Brivari agreed. "Which will tell you how very serious I am when I say I will reveal myself to him and seek his aid if you refuse to comply."

"But he could get you killed!" Jaddo objected. "I can't get them home by myself!"

"And now you see the position in which I found myself when I didn't know if you could be revived in time," Brivari said. "I can't get them home by myself either, and that's exactly what I was facing. That it worked out well this time means nothing; next time—and with you there's always a next time—it may not. We can't afford to lose anyone else, Jaddo, not hybrids, not Warders. In just a few years we'll be bringing them home, and it will take both of us to accomplish that. Make sure that happens by leaving now and not fighting me on this."

"And if Zan gives you an order which gets you or him killed, how does that help?" Jaddo demanded. "What you're threatening to do is every bit as risky as what you're accusing me of."

"Risky, yes," Brivari admitted, "but in a manner and at a time of my own choosing. If I wait for you to act up again, I'll never see it coming; I didn't this time. If I have to take that risk anyway, I'd rather have some control over it."

"All this over a female?" Jaddo said in astonishment. "All this over 'love'? Unbelievable!"

"What's 'unbelievable' is that you don't recognize the corollary," Brivari said. "You claim that Zan is stunted by emotion, but you're every bit as stunted by the lack of it." He tossed the trench coat on a nearby suitcase. "If I see you here again, I'll take that as your answer and go directly to the king. Bon voyage."

A minute later, Brivari leaned wearily against his car after leaving a flabbergasted and furious Warder inside. Ever since Jaddo had come to Roswell, he'd known deep down that this moment would come; he'd just been hoping it would come later. Jaddo would comply in the short term because he wanted to be Pierce, but long term...well, they'd have to see about that. In the meantime he would just be grateful there was something else luring Jaddo out of town, and further grateful that he'd managed to pull this off without losing his temper. Climbing inside the car, he pulled out his phone.

"It's me," he said when the call was answered. "I told Jaddo to leave town. He'll do it, at least for the short term. It's safe for you to come back."




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




Crashdown Cafe





"Hey, miss?"

Lost in thought, Liz barely heard the customer at the counter calling her. Her mind was elsewhere, several different elsewheres, actually. Speeding down the highway with a monster at her side. Curled up in a junkyard with a weak and shivering soulmate. Running down the road with a car chasing them, getting closer, closer...

"Miss?"

Staring at Pierce's bloody body on the floor. Gaping at Kyle's bloody body nearby. Listening, horrified, as a woman from another planet left her dreams in the dust...

"Miss!"

"What?" Liz snapped, turning around.

The customer blinked. "I want my pie," he said petulantly. "I ordered it at least 5 minutes ago."

"Five minutes?" Liz said, taking in the man's bulging belly, triple chins, and ample backside spilling port and starboard over the stool. "That's all? Looks like you could stand to wait a few more."

The man's expression darkened dangerously. "What did you say?"

"She said, 'Have a few more!'," a voice said gaily as Maria whisked past, throwing her an "I've got this" look. "Crashdown policy is that you get an extra dessert for every five minutes that the first one ordered is late."

"It is?" Liz muttered.

"Of course it is!" Maria chirped with a shut-the-hell-up glare. "So, would you like another piece of the same flavor or a different flavor, sir?"

The man's pudgy narrowed eyes swung from Liz to the indicated pies. "Same flavor," he answered, licking his lips.

"Two pieces of chocolate cream, comin' right up," Maria declared, slicing with the speed and skill of a ninja. "Enjoy!" she said brightly before linking arms with Liz and hauling her into the kitchen, leaving Pie Guy happily ignoring them in favor of the pile of fat and sugar plopped in front of him.

"Maria, what are you doing?" Liz demanded. "That guy needs more pie like we need more FBI agents."

"What am I doing?" Maria echoed. "What am I doing? I'm saving your butt, that's what I'm 'doing'! You've been spaced out and surly all afternoon. So far your dad hasn't noticed, but keep it up, and he will. You want to go into this weekend's festivities with him?"

"Of course not," Liz retorted. "I'm just not willing to waste time on idiots who whine about stupid things like pie."

Maria gave her a pitying look. "See, babe, it's all in the perspective. That idiot out there? He has no idea what happened to us this weekend. He's lucky that the biggest thing on his mind is stuffing his face, and we both know it. But he doesn't, and he's not going to because he's never been chased by a megalomaniac. Most people never are."

"Lucky us," Liz muttered.

"Word," Maria sighed. "But we can't blame him for not knowing what we never knew and wish we didn't know now."

"Watch me," Liz said darkly.

"Liz, you've got to stop doing a Max," Maria ordered. "You know, flying off the handle? Like Max did in school today?"

"I...I'm not doing that," Liz protested.

The look Maria gave her was simultaneously sympathetic and skeptical. "If you say so. But yeah, you are. This isn't about what Isabel said, is it? Because Alex and I agree she was totally out of line to call you selfish. After everything you did for Max, you are not selfish." She reached out a hand, touched Liz's cheek. "Why don't you chill here for a few minutes. I'll go check your tables, 'kay? And remember, you are not selfish."

Aren't I? Liz thought heavily as Maria disappeared through the swinging door. She hated to admit it, but Isabel had hit a nerve. Supposedly she was staying away from Max for Max's sake, but was that her real motivation? He hadn't wanted this and didn't want it now, and God knows she didn't either. Why was she abiding by something neither of them wanted? Who was she obeying, and why? No one, she decided miserably. She wasn't obeying, she was punishing. To have gone through what she'd gone through, what they'd gone through, only to be cast aside like a tool hurt like hell. The fact that Max hadn't been the one doing the casting made her behavior all the more illogical, all the more...selfish, she finished ruefully. Isabel had hit the nail on the head, which was precisely why she'd been fuming all afternoon, lashing out at anyone and everyone for no good reason. Taking a deep breath, she slipped out the kitchen door and in the opposite direction of Pie Guy, keeping her back to the counter. Maybe if she was lucky, he wouldn't notice.

"I wouldn't worry about him," a voice said. "He's too busy stuffing his face to bother with you."

Liz spun around. "Kyle?"

"That was my name last time I checked," Kyle agreed as he draped over a seat at the far end of the counter. 'Rough day?"

"Uh...yeah," she admitted. "Did...you just get here?"

"Been here awhile, actually," Kyle said. "Back in the corner, nursing a Coke that Agnes reluctantly brought me. But then I saw you go all food police on that guy's ass, and—"

"Oh, I...I shouldn't have done that," Liz said quickly.

"Sure you should have. Guy's as big as a house."

"Keep your voice down!" Liz admonished.

"Just sayin'," Kyle shrugged. "Seriously, if that dude had been driving the spaceship...well, let's just say the mystery of the '47 crash would have been solved. Can't land while you're reaching for another doughnut, know what I'm sayin'?"

"Shhh!" Liz shushed. "He'll hear you!"

"Unlikely," Kyle said, watching Pie Guy tuck into his second piece of pie. "But you know what? I don't care. Guess dying does that to you. Did it do that to you?"

"Kyle, we shouldn't be talking about...that...here," Liz whispered frantically.

"No? Hmm," Kyle mused. "Just thought we brought-back-from-the-dead types should stick together, seeing as there's only two of us...wait. Are there more?"

"Kyle, please," Liz begged. "Stop!"

"Just trying to be supportive," Kyle shrugged. "I wanted you to know your life could get better because..." He reached for the hem of his shirt and yanked it upward as her heart almost stopped. "TaaDaa!"

"Excuse me, but is there a reason you're flashing my daughter?"

Liz cracked an eyelid, having unconsciously closed her eyes at the thought of a glaring silver handprint lose in the diner. Her father stood beside her, bristling with indignation while Kyle seemed to have lost his bravado...and his handprint. "Uh...Mr. Parker," Kyle stammered, dropping his shirt hastily. "I was just...just..."

"Showing me his washboard abs," Liz finished.

Jeff raised an eyebrow. "That so? Last I checked, your abs were down there, not up around your armpits."

"Yeah...well...didn't want to miss any," Kyle said, flustered.

"Kindly keep in mind that this is an restaurant," Jeff said sternly. "Which means your shirt stays on, as in all the way on, six pack or no six pack. We wouldn't want to ruin anyone's appetite. Got it?"

"Got it, sir," Kyle nodded quickly.

"Honestly," Jeff groused. "You kids. Skipping school, flashing each other in public places...what's the matter with you? Don't you take anything seriously? Life isn't all fun and games, and sooner or later, you're going to figure that out."

Liz bit her lip as her father stalked off in a parental huff. The whole "sophomore skip day" and resulting detention hadn't gone over well with her parents, but at least the boom had been lowered on enough of them that no one of them had caught all the heat...

"Sooner," Kyle said.

"What?"

"Your dad said that sooner or later we'd figure out that life isn't all fun and games. I'm voting for sooner. You?"

Their eyes locked, and a moment later they'd both collapsed in laughter which went on long enough that it drew a worried stare from Maria and a disapproving glare from Pie Guy, who nevertheless returned to his pie. "Oh, God," Liz said as Kyle offered her his napkin to wipe tears from her eyes. "Wow. Um...yeah, I'd go for 'sooner' too. So...when did it go away?"

"Last period," Kyle answered. "I was so relieved I just wanted to jump up and dance. I wanted to grab every single person I saw and show them my bare chest. I wanted to climb up on the roof and yell it from the rooftops...but I couldn't do any of that, of course. Either no one would believe me, and I'd be locked up, or someone would, and Max would be locked up. Again. Can you believe I actually broke down and called my dad? How lame is that? Guess that's why I came in here—I wanted someone else to tell, and that's a depressingly short list." He paused, working his straw up and down in his glass. "So...this is your life. This is why you've been so weird since last fall, so secretive and strange. And that wander-through-the-woods-thing on that camping trip..."

"Was a real sighting," Liz finished. "One of their people left them a message."

Kyle's eyes widened. "Truth? Damn," he muttered when she nodded. "A real sighting in Roswell. Imagine that." He was quiet for a moment. "I don't mind telling you that this is really messing with my head, Liz. I feel like I'm...like I'm coming apart."

"What do you mean?"

"Like...like I'm on the edge. Saying and doing things I don't usually do, but not because I consciously decided to do them."

"Like laughing at my dad's joke?"

"Or blowing up when someone wants dessert," Kyle nodded as Liz winced. "Guess you're feeling that way too. Is that why you didn't follow Max out today in History? Because I know you wanted to. I could see it in your eyes."

The eyes in question dropped, looking anywhere but at Kyle. "Yeah, it's...uh..."

"Complicated?" Kyle suggested dryly. "What?" he continued when she gave him a swat. "You always say that."

"I always say that because it is," Liz said crossly. "Look me in the eye and tell me this isn't complicated. I dare you."

"Oooh, a dare!" Kyle said. "I like dares. Can I give you one?"

"Kyle—"

He held up a hand. "Say no more. Just a little humor to ease the tension. And keep me from going stark raving mad. Which is a good thing, you know. Not going stark raving mad."

"Just give it some time," Liz said gently. "You only just found out. When Maria found out—"

"She ran screaming into the street," Kyle finished. "Yeah, she told me. Guess I'm just not the demonstrative type. And besides, my voice doesn't go high enough unless I get hit in just the right place. Sorry," he added hastily when she raised an eyebrow. "More humor, my brand of it anyway. You know, I thought that once the...you know...disappeared, that all of this would go away, just like, poof! All better!"

"It doesn't work that way," Liz said sadly. "Once you know, you can't 'unknow'."

Kyle shook his head. "Tell me about it. I keep seeing that dead fake deputy. I keep seeing Max's face hovering over me. I keep seeing..." He stopped, running a hand through his hair. "But whatever I'm seeing, I'm willing to bet good money it's not as bad as what Max is seeing." He paused. "So...what set him off?"

"The shoes," Liz said.

"Shoes?"

"Mr. Sommers' shoes," she explained. "They squeaked. On the floor, I mean. The man who kidnapped him had shoes like that."

Kyle's hand tightened on his glass. "He came to me today. In gym class."

"He did? Why?"

"Said he wanted to know if I was okay," Kyle answered. "Managed to empty the locker room so I could change without flashing...you know. I thought he did some kind of alien hocus pocus, but it turned out all he did was flick the light switch. Way to look like a chump, Valenti." He finished his Coke. "Honestly, I was ready to strangle the guy when he showed up...but then I walked a day in his shoes. I'm guessing that if I were him, I'd want you out in that hallway with me. So maybe you should think about...'uncomplicating' things." He tossed some bills on the counter. "Make sure you don't give the tip to Agnes."

Liz swallowed hard as he left, ignoring the pointed "what's going on" looks Maria was throwing her way. It must be a cold day somewhere if Kyle Valenti was supporting Max. Maybe she should heed that. Slipping into the back, she dug her phone out of her locker.

"Max?" she said when she reached his voicemail. "I...I was just thinking that you and I...well, that maybe we could...talk," she finished haltingly. "I'll be on the balcony tonight if you want to."





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




Proctor residence




"Darn it!" Dee exclaimed as she peered into the oven.

"Something wrong?" Anthony asked, coming into the kitchen.

"The foil fell off the ham," Dee fussed, grabbing a pair of oven mitts. "It's probably all dried out. I should never have made ham; I never did figure out how to do it like Mama did."

"It'll be fine," Anthony said soothingly. "You invited him to dinner in your house, not a five-star restaurant. Can I help?"

"Just set the table like I asked you to," Dee said, glancing into the dining room. "Wait—is that the good silver? Use the good stuff," she ordered when he shook his head. "Our everyday stuff is so cheap, it's practically magnetic."

"I sincerely doubt he's going to show up with a magnet in his pocket, but whatever," Anthony said blandly, retreating to the bureau in the dining room which held the silver chest as Dee wrestled the ham onto a platter and Yvonne appeared.

"Is something wrong?" she asked.

"Everything," Dee said irritably.

"Nothing," Anthony corrected. "Except that the ham isn't perfectly moist and delicious, and I didn't put out the good silver."

"I hardly think it matters," Yvonne said mildly. "It's not like we're having the queen to tea."

"No," Dee said crossly, "it's a landmark meeting between—"

DingDong!

"He's here!" Dee said frantically, glancing from her armful of ham to the door. "And I'm not even ready!"

"Finish what you're doing," Anthony said soothingly. "I'll get the door."

"No...you take this," Dee said, setting the ham on the counter and handing over the oven mitts. "I invited him; if someone else answers, we might scare him off."

"Unlikely," Yvonne said doubtfully. "He doesn't scare easy."

"And thank God for that," Anthony added.

"Quiet, both of you," Dee ordered. "And be on your best behavior."

"When am I not on my best behavior?" Anthony asked innocently as Yvonne stifled a laugh.

Don't get me started, Dee thought darkly as she whisked off her apron and smoothed her hair. Goodness, but she was as nervous as a teenager on her first date, and every bit as unprepared. He could make or break them, so this had to go well...

"Sheriff!" Dee said when she opened the front door. "So glad you could make it. Won't you come in?"



~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


A very Merry Christmas to all! Image I'll be back on Sunday, January 5!
BRIVARI: "In our language, the root of the word 'Covari' means 'hidden'. I'm always there, Your Highness, even if you don't see me."

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Kathy W
Obsessed Roswellian
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Joined: Thu Oct 31, 2002 5:06 am

Chapter 133

Postby Kathy W » Sun Jan 05, 2014 6:05 pm

Hello, everyone! *Blinks in a post-Christmas haze* I hope you all had relaxing breaks, and that re-entry into real life wasn't too harsh. I appreciate you reading and posting over the holidays!




CHAPTER ONE HUNDRED THIRTY-THREE



May 15, 2000, 6:30 p.m.

Harding residence





The television blared as Tess sat at the kitchen table, her plate cleaned, her glass empty. In front of her sat a casserole dish of macaroni and cheese with a couple of scoops missing, a plate of rolls with two missing, and an empty salad bowl, while across from her was an untouched plate, an uneaten salad, and a full glass of water. Nasedo once again hadn't shown up for dinner, and she'd resorted to watching television to fill the silence, always more oppressive at meal time. Sometimes she read, but these days she found she liked the sound of other voices, even if they were coming from a box in the corner of the room.

The news ended. Tess used the remote to turn off the set, the heavy silence descending once again. It was weird being all alone. It was weird eating alone. It would be even weirder when that became the norm, when Nasedo left for Washington to play Pierce and she was here on her own. They were so frequently in conflict that she hadn't realized how much she needed him just to fill the role of another living, breathing entity under the same roof. Granted she had the Others now and no longer needed Nasedo as the one person with whom she didn't have to hide; the list of those "in the know" had expanded by three, six if you counted their human friends, seven if you counted the sheriff, but it was hardly the relief she'd always envisioned because it was clearly a sore spot with all of them. As much as she'd welcomed the recording in the pod chamber, part of her wished they'd never heard it because of the ill will it had created, and at the worst possible time, when the scary prospect of living alone loomed large. What would it be like to wake up alone, spend all day alone, eat alone, go to sleep alone, then wake up and do it all again tomorrow...alone? The silence in the house was creepy. Cooking was harder when you were the only one eating, and not nearly as much fun. It hardly seemed worth it to set the table when it was just her. Even though Nasedo couldn't taste anything and never complimented her efforts, he did sit down with her, and he did eat it. Turned out that watching someone consume food you'd cooked was satisfying in its own right, one more satisfaction she would no longer have. Tonight she'd tweaked the recipe for the macaroni and cheese, greatly improving the result. "It was good," she murmured wistfully, even though there was no one else there to try it. Should she put it away? Had Nasedo left already? It would be just like him to leave without saying goodbye...

The front door opened, and the silence evaporated in a stream of bumping, rustling, and general kvetching. "You're here!" Tess exclaimed, finding Nasedo amidst a sea of bags in the front hall. "You're still here! I thought...I thought you'd left already."

"Without a proper good-bye?" Nasedo said. "Of course not. Take this."

Tess took the bag he handed her, feeling slightly foolish; she had no idea what comprised a "proper good-bye", but something was better than nothing. "I made dinner," she said hopefully. "Would you like some?"

Nasedo shook his head. "Already ate. Careful with that; it's breakable."

"Maybe the salad then?" she said, setting the bag she was holding down carefully. "Or—"

"I said 'ate'. Past tense. Go put the food away. I'm leaving tonight, and we have a lot to do before I go."

Tonight. Tess returned to the kitchen with a leaden step. He drove her crazy, but the thought of being in this big house all by herself was not appealing. At least she knew when it was happening and that she needn't bother making dinner for two again. Maybe she should go through the cookbooks and halve all the recipes they used. Or pay closer attention to the frozen food aisle and all those microwave dinners...

"Tess! Get out here! Time's a wasting!"

Tess blinked. Figures of speech? Nasedo rarely used figures of speech, or idioms, or anything in the popular vernacular unless accompanied by a snort of disgust. Did he have something special planned? Is that what he'd meant by a "proper goodbye"? Maybe a cake, or a present, or something to ease her way into a solo existence? Maybe this past weekend had taught him something. Maybe her invaluable assistance in rescuing Max had made him appreciate her more. Shoving the food into the fridge, she eagerly joined him in the front hallway.

"We already went over where the circuit breakers and the water shut-offs are when we moved in," he said, pulling merchandise out of the sea of bags, mostly clothes from the looks of things; NewPierce was certainly going to be decked out. "But there are other things you should know that I haven't gone over with you because previously there's been no need. Follow me." He climbed the stairs at a good clip with her scrambling behind. "I'll be back every other week or so," he continued, "and you can reach me by phone any time. But in case you need something and I can't get back in time, you should know where all the important things are kept."

He vectored into his bedroom, and Tess paused on the threshold. She never, ever went into Nasedo's bedroom, not in any house they'd ever lived in. One of her earliest memories was of him sternly forbidding her to do so, and it was one she'd followed to the letter; despite the fact that he was gone a lot, she'd always felt like the Sword of Damocles hung over every doorway, ready to chop her head off if she crossed the line. Now she hesitated, uncertain as to whether he meant her to follow or if he was going to retrieve something and come out.

"Don't just stand there," Nasedo called, answering that question. "Get in here. I don't have all night."

Tess obeyed. It was a completely utilitarian bedroom save for the handprint he'd just revealed over the bed, his hand melting into the wall and returning with a locked metal box. "Sit down," he instructed. "You need to see this."

Wide-eyed, Tess sat down slowly on the edge of the bed, the metal box between them. What did it hold? Must be something very important if it was hidden in a place like the book in the library, and she held her breath as the lid rose...

Papers? she thought when she saw the contents. Was that it? "These are all the important documents which go with our current alias," Nasedo explained. "We each have a birth certificate, an immunization record, and a passport. You'll also find your school records, my military credentials, and your 'mother's' birth and death certificates. The deed for the house is here and the title for the car. All the insurance policies are in the fat envelopes: House, car, and health. You'll need to pay these bills when they come in, along with all the other household bills like phone, water, electric, and cable. We have several credit cards; make sure you rotate your use of them to keep the accounts active and pay them off promptly when the bill arrives. If you have a problem, there's a number on the back..."

Tess's mind wandered as he continued to go over the minutiae of human paperwork, a sea of 1-800 numbers, raised seals, and sundry other official this and that. She'd seen some of this stuff; birth certificates and immunization records had been required every time she'd registered for a new school, and the passports were in case they needed to flee this particular Earth country. But this was all human stuff, all related to their cover, their alias, their house; understandable, perhaps, as she'd now be in charge of that, but boring as hell, not to mention disappointing. Here she'd been hoping he was going to entrust her with something from their own world, like the book in the library, or an orb—try as she may, she simply couldn't think of the oval footballs as communicators even though she'd seen one communicate—or a healing stone. For all the Others hadn't known, they'd had tangible things from their world like the stones, the orb, and Isabel's necklace. She, on the other hand, had more knowledge but no stuff. She could really use some stuff right now, even one piece of stuff to hang onto as the only protector she'd ever known waltzed off into the sunset in designer suits.

"...go to the sheriff," Nasedo said.

Tess abruptly jerked back to the present. "What?"

"I said if you have any problems and you can't reach me, go to the sheriff. He knows how all this works, and he knows who you are."

"That's disturbing," Tess muttered.

"Tell me about it," Nasedo agreed. "But as we've formed the alliance, we may as well make use of it."

"And there's no way we could have saved Max without him," Tess added.

"So I've heard. Now, one more thing...and this is the most important of all."

Tess's shock that he'd actually allowed the sheriff credit where credit was due was forgotten when Nasedo reached into the hidden space once again and withdrew a second...box? It was hard to tell what it was, but it was large enough to hold a book, rectangular, albeit with rounded edges, and appeared to be made of the same gray stuff as the orbs, with a matching galaxy symbol on top. "What's this?" she asked.

Nasedo held the gray box in silence for a moment as though trying to decide what to do with it. "This contains things that you'll need if something happens to me," he answered. "It must be kept safe at all costs. If you need to run, this is the one thing you take with you."

"What's in it?" Tess asked eagerly.

"I just answered that, or as much as I'm going to. The important thing is that you only go for this if you haven't heard from me in a long time."

"How long is a 'long time'?"

"It's a long time. You'll know if and when that happens, which it probably won't."

"So...I shouldn't open it before that?" Tess said, disappointed.

"So you can't open it," Nasedo clarified. "It's locked, and that lock has a timer which I reset periodically. If enough time goes by without a reset, the lock disengages, and you'll be able to open it by sending power toward the symbol on top. The latch is encoded only to certain people. I'm one of them; you're another, and so are each of the Others. No human can open this, nor can anyone else from our world who hasn't been encoded even if the timer runs out. Including those enemies I warned all of you about before you activated those communicators."

Tess swallowed hard, the prospect of being all alone suddenly darker; if Nasedo was actually planning for enemies to show up, the odds of them actually doing so had suddenly increased. "Okay, so if you're gone for...a long time, I'll be able to open this. What do I do with what's inside?"

"Nothing. This closes the same way it opens. If the time should come that you can open it, close it immediately and bring it directly to the king."

Tess blinked. "The...you mean Max?"

"Of course I mean Max. Is there another king?"

"Well...no, but...shouldn't I do something with whatever's in there?"

"Yes, you should bring it to the king," Nasedo repeated. "Didn't I just say that?"

"But I should at least know what's in it," Tess protested. "What if Max just shoves it under his bed and forgets about it?"

"Why would he do that?" Nasedo said. "He knows who he is now. He knows why he's here, what's at stake. Everything has changed."

"Nothing has changed," Tess insisted. "I mean, yes they heard that message, but don't think for one second that means they believe it, or are happy about it even if they do."

"What makes any of you 'happy' is irrelevant," Nasedo said impatiently. "You all have a job to do, a very—"

"Important job, yes I know," Tess interrupted. "I've been hearing that as long as I can remember, but the rest of them have only just heard it. It'll be awhile before it sinks it, assuming it ever does."

"Fine, let it be 'a while'," Nasedo said. "The fact remains that Max is the king, and you are not. The contents of this box belongs with the king."

Tess felt her temper rising. "Even if that king is still mooning over Liz?"

But even the spectacle of Liz Parker couldn't budge Nasedo from his path. "She's irrelevant," Nasedo declared. "She always was, and now he knows why. She'll fall by the wayside eventually. He's beginning to remember, and now he knows his destiny, so he'll inevitably gravitate toward you. You just have to let him."

"Oh, really?" Tess said. "You didn't see him today. He was all upset because Liz was staying away from him, and he—"

"She was? Why?"

Tess hesitated. "She got it," she admitted grudgingly. "After she heard the recording in the pod chamber, she told him he had a destiny, and she couldn't stand in his way. Max seems to think otherwise."

"Well, good for her," Nasedo chuckled. "I won't pretend to be happy that the human figured it out before the king, but at least one of them did."

"But Max isn't giving up," Tess insisted. "I should definitely know what's in here, even if you just tell me. I know more than any of the rest of them, so—"

"Not any more."

Tess stared at him. "What?"

"I said not any more," Nasedo repeated. "You used to know more, but recent events have evened that score. At this point I'd say you're pretty much even. And Max is the king. The contents of this box belong to him and him alone, and he decides if and when to use them. Period."

Tess watched him put both boxes back into the hiding place in shock. You used to know more... Her one claim to legitimacy with the Others was that she knew more than they did. It was the only thing which had made her useful, the only reason they'd tolerated her. Without that she was just a useless appendage, a roadblock between Liz and Max. Without that, she was nothing.

"That's it, so I'll be on my way," Nasedo said, either ignorant of or ignoring her misery. "Behave yourself. Lay low. And lay off Max; no more flaming mindwarps."

"You were the one who told me to 'wake him up'," Tess retorted.

"Because they needed to be awake," Nasedo said. "I was right about that in spades. But you succeeded, and the initial threat has passed. He knows the score now, so back and off and let him come to you. He will, and all the faster if the Parker girl has seen the light."

"Wait," Tess called desperately as he walked away. "What about that 'proper goodbye' you mentioned?"

"We just did it," Nasedo said. "What were you expecting...a parade?"

Tess sank down on the bed in a room no longer threatening now that it would be unoccupied. Another thirty minutes passed before she the door closed downstairs and a deathly quiet descended on the house, and in that half hour she made a decision: Whatever was in that box was hers. She'd earned it, and if the day ever came when it opened for her, she'd be damned before she merely handed it over to anyone else without question.




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




Crashdown Cafe




Max stood in front of the ladder which led to Liz's balcony, his phone to his ear, listening to her voicemail one more time just to make sure he hadn't dreamed it. He hadn't, but a large part of him was still surprised when he poked his head over the edge and found her waiting for him. A large part of him had been afraid she wouldn't be there.

"Max," she said, smiling faintly. "Thanks for coming."

He climbed over the edge, hopeful that she was smiling even if the smile was small. They stood in awkward silence for a few seconds before she pointed him to nearby chair, followed by more awkward silence.

"So Kyle tells me you checked up on him," Liz said finally. "That was nice of you."

Max's heart sank; a conversation which started with Kyle wasn't exactly getting off on the right foot. "Yeah, I...I just wanted to make sure he was...you know...holding it together."

"I thought you were going to say, 'Make sure he was okay'," Liz said. " 'Holding it together' is a much better way of putting it."

"Yeah," Max agreed.

"It's gone," Liz went on. "The handprint, I mean. He told me after school."

"Good," Max said. "That's great."

More awkward silence. "Liz, I just wanted you to know that Isabel was totally out of line today," Max blurted out finally, unable to stand the silence any longer. "She, of all people, had no business calling you selfish, and—"

"Yes, she did. And she was right."

Max stared at Liz in disbelief, his head shaking from side to side. "No. No, she wasn't."

"Yes, she was," Liz said. "I am being selfish, at least a little. We all are. Tess wants you, Michael wants to go back wherever you came from, you and Isabel want everything to go back the way it was, and I...I heard the bit about Tess being your wife, and I...got mad. I'd just spent the weekend trying desperately to keep you alive, and it just seemed like suddenly someone said, 'Thanks, now get lost. Your services are no longer needed.' I know you didn't say that," she added quickly when he blanched. "It was just...the situation."

"It was Nasedo," Max corrected, "saying that you didn't belong there. But what does he know? He just showed up. He has no idea what we mean to each other, what we've done for each other, and he kidnapped you besides. Don't put any stock in anything he says."

"But it wasn't just him," Liz said, "and this isn't just about Tess. That message said you have a whole planet waiting for you to help them."

"Do we?" Max said. "We crashed 50 years ago. For all we know the whole planet's gone. And even if they aren't, they can't expect me to just drop everything and be Superman after 50 years."

Liz shook her head. "Sure, they can. You were their 'beloved leader'. For some reason," she added wistfully, "I have no trouble believing you were a 'beloved leader'."

"But I don't remember!" Max insisted. "I don't remember any of it!"

"Yet," Liz said gently. "Just like you didn't remember Tess, but now you do a little. See, I'm thinking the memories will come back, and then where does that leave us? And even if they don't, you just found out there's a whole world waiting for you. You can't just ignore that."

Watch me, Max thought furiously, his eyes on the ground, his hands clasped so tightly they were growing white. He'd escaped Pierce, but he still wasn't free. It was like someone had just flung an enormous, heavy noose around his neck and started pulling, pulling him away from everything he held dear, everything that kept him sane, kept him...human.

"So," Liz said slowly, "I've decided that we both need some space. The world just turned upside down, and we all learned some pretty big things, and we all need time to work through that. And I don't think you and I can work through that in the same place; you'll always be trying to make things go back the way they were, and I'll always be wanting to let you. So...I'm going away for the summer, to visit my mom's sister in Florida. And that way, we can each get our heads around what's happened, and—"

"But what if we need you?" Max blurted out. "What if those enemies Nasedo was talking about show up? What if..." He stopped, wincing. "Great," he said quietly. "Now I'm being selfish. If enemies show up, the best place for you is as far away from here as you can get."

Liz reached out, took his hand. "If they show up," she said in that careful tone she used when her voice was threatening to shake, "then I definitely need to be far away from here because if they show up, you don't need me...you need Tess. No, Max, I mean it," she insisted when he began to protest. "She knows more than any of you, and she has powers of her own, and...and if I'm here, you'll go to me, and I'm not the one who can help you the most."

"We needed both of you," Max argued, "and I needed you every bit as much as I needed her."

"Fighting humans," Liz allowed. "But how much help would I be fighting aliens? I'd just be in the way, and you'd be all worried about me, and...I think this is best," she finished briskly, releasing his hand. "And Michael agrees. Maria's not happy about it, but for once, I think he has a point."

" 'Michael' agrees?" Max echoed. "You've been talking to Michael?"

"No, I've been talking to Maria, who told me how Michael feels," Liz corrected. "He thinks we should all cool it, and—"

"He's always felt that way!" Max said angrily. "That has nothing to do with the Special Unit, or that message, or anything that just happened. That's just Michael."

"Well...maybe his feelings finally match the situation," Liz said. "School is out in a couple of weeks, and I'm leaving right after that. I'll be back before school starts."

"And then?" Max whispered.

"And then...we'll see," Liz answered.

Max bowed his head lest she see the look on his face. He thought the entire world had turned upside down with the arrival of the Special Unit, but that had been nothing compared to the fallout after their departure. He'd awakened today to a changed world, a world where the sheriff and his son knew who he was, where a girl he barely knew was supposedly his wife, where the population of a planet he had no memory of was supposedly relying on him for rescue, where the girl he loved thought he was better off without her. In some ways, this was every bit as bad as being locked in a cell.

"I'll wait for you."

Liz shifted slightly, and he risked a peek; she was looking away, probably for the same reason he was. "I will," he insisted. "I'll wait for you. As long as it takes."

She gave him a weak smile. "Well...then...I guess we'll just have to see how long it takes."




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




Proctor residence






"Can I pass you anything, Sheriff?"

" 'Jim', Valenti corrected. "And no, thank you, I'm stuffed. Everything's delicious, by the way."

Dee Evans smiled from the other end of the table. "It was my mother's recipe."

"She must have been quite the cook," Valenti said.

The room fell silent again as everyone smiled politely at one another and returned to their meals after this latest round of small talk, the last thing he'd expected when Dee had called him earlier today and invited him over for dinner. He was due a long conversation with her, but he'd planned on being home tonight with Kyle. That had changed this afternoon when Kyle had called, jubilant and relieved, to tell him that the handprint on his chest had disappeared. That bit of good news, plus the fact that Kyle planned on being out tonight, had found him accepting the dinner invitation. With his own house in order, maybe now he could get some answers.

Or not. Having expected to be dining with Dee, he'd been nonplussed to find her husband, Anthony, and a family friend present as well, an elderly woman with sharp eyes who walked with a cane and looked strangely familiar. Perhaps he and Dee would have a private conversation after dinner? Had she been unable to ditch the other two? Whatever the reason, it was getting difficult to hold it all in. He badly needed to talk about what had happened this weekend and had virtually no one to do that with, or no one human and of age, that is. Instead he found himself passing the mashed potatoes with strangers in a 1930's vintage house and lying about the ham, usually too dry and this no exception. The faster dinner was over, the better.

"You're awfully quiet, Jim."

Valenti's eyes snapped up to find the elderly woman regarding him steadily. "Sorry," he said, smiling awkwardly. "Guess I haven't much to talk about."

"Perhaps scrubbing the blood off the floor of the UFO center doesn't qualify as dinner table conversation," Anthony said.

"Perhaps not," the elderly woman allowed.

"Most of what happened this weekend doesn't qualify as dinner table conversation," Dee agreed. "But seeing as there's so few we can talk to, is there anything you'd like to ask? I did promise you a question and answer session."

Valenti looked from one expectant face to the next, flabbergasted. "What, you mean...you mean you know? You all know about..."

"About the aliens?" the elderly woman finished. "Yes, I can safely assure you we all know about them. Why? Did you think we didn't?"

"No wonder you've been so quiet," Anthony chuckled.

"Is that true?" Dee asked in astonishment. "Did you really think I was the only one who knew?"

"I...well...I guess I wasn't sure," Valenti confessed, feeling supremely stupid. "You never said anyone else was in on it. Heck, your own son isn't in on it."

"Fair point," Anthony allowed, "but I assure you I'm in on it. Have been since childhood."

"I grew up in this house," Dee explained, "and Anthony moved in a few doors down in the summer of '47."

"Some timing," Valenti observed.

"You have no idea," Anthony agreed.

"I'm sure I told you about Yvonne," Dee went on. "She's the former nurse from the base whom Pierce abducted right off the street just before they took Max."

Valenti's eyes widened as Dee indicated the elderly lady beside him, clearly his father's vintage and 80 if she was a day. This must be the one Pierce's father had tried to impregnate, although wild horses couldn't get him to bring that up now. "Ah...you mentioned that, but I didn't...I never thought...ma'am, are you okay?" he asked.

"Please, call me Yvonne," she smiled. "And I'm fine, thank you. I was treated far better than Max was."

Valenti's gaze shifted to Dee. "How is he?"

"Not sure," Dee admitted. "Obviously his parents have no idea how close they just came to losing their son, and yes, I also find that appalling and in need of correction. For the moment, he appears to be all right. For the moment."

"The real impact of all this might not hit immediately," Yvonne noted. "It may take awhile before the reaction sets in."

"Didn't with Kyle," Valenti admitted. "He was really rattled right away, but he's better now that the handprint disappeared."

"That's good news," Yvonne agreed. "And he has a right to be rattled. They all do, and so do we."

"If you don't mind my asking...how did you get out?" Valenti asked. "No offense, but it doesn't look like you could get out on your own."

"Of course not," Yvonne agreed. "I didn't even bother fighting them; I had to settle for annoying them. One of the guardians got me out."

"The other was supposed to get Max out," Dee added, "but that didn't work out the way it was supposed to. Which is why we're so grateful you were there, Jim. They couldn't have gotten him out without you."

"So they rescued you," Valenti said wonderingly. "They rescued a human." He paused. "He came to me today. The one I met, not Ed Harding."

Dee's eyes narrowed. "Please tell me he arrived on bended knee and with abject thanks."

"It was a bottle of wine, but that was the basic idea," Valenti said. "He never mentioned it was a double rescue. What did Pierce want you for?"

"Pierce has—had—a thing for his father," Yvonne explained, "and I represented a connection to him. I wish I could have done more to influence things from the inside, but I'm afraid I wasn't of much use."

"Of course you were," Dee objected as Valenti privately noted that most woman this age were in rocking chairs, not locked up by psychopaths wishing they could be of "use". "You convinced them to use only a half dose of the serum, which meant Max recovered more quickly."

"What serum?" Valenti asked.

"Pierce's father developed it back in '47," Yvonne explained. "It enabled him to hold them hostage by suppressing their powers. Prior to that we'd been keeping them sedated, which the brass didn't like, of course, because they wanted information...what?" she said when Valenti gaped at her.

"I...I just...I just realized I'm talking to a living, breathing participant in what the U.S. government says never happened," Valenti answered. "So it's all true...the crash, the cover-up, the hostages. Good God."

"Well, I don't know about 'all'," Yvonne noted. "Some pretty wild stories came out of that."

"Wilder than what actually happened?" Valenti asked.

"Touché," Anthony smiled.

"Perhaps 'inaccurate' would be a better word," Yvonne agreed. "And for the record, they're gray, not green."

"Good to know," Valenti said, his head spinning as he thought of all the UFO nuts who'd suddenly been vindicated. "Speaking of 'inaccurate', I looked you up on Google," he said to Dee, adding "it's an internet search engine," when she looked blank. "Kyle says it's better than Yahoo. Anyway, there was all kinds of stuff about Mac Brazel finding the ship, but only a few articles mentioned a 'Dee Proctor'...and several thought you were a boy."

"No surprise," Anthony chuckled. "Oh, don't look at me like that," he added when Dee swatted him. "You're a tomboy, and you know it. Always have been."

"Doesn't seem to have held her back," Yvonne observed with a smile which tugged at Valenti's memory.

"I know you," he said suddenly. "I remember you! You're one who signed off on my father's nursing home back in '89. But you said you were a doctor, not a nurse."

"I started as a nurse," Yvonne answered. "I became a doctor after I ran from Pierce. And yes, I signed for your father. It was the least I could do. It wasn't his fault that he, or any of us, wound up mixed up in all of this."

"So you knew my father?" Valenti said.

"Of course," Dee answered. "We all did. A very smart man, your dad. He was onto us from the very beginning, but we weren't sure which way he'd go if he learned the truth. He and my mother certainly went round and round. Still, I knew when the chips were down that he'd back us if it came to that. That's why I was willing to ask for his help in 1950, and I've always believed he was genuinely sorry he couldn't provide it because the FBI was in town."

"I remember that," Valenti nodded. "I was a kid, but I remember it like it was yesterday. That was one of the reasons they pissed me off so much when they showed up again..." He stopped, gazing at the people around him, people who knew his own father better than he did. "My father," he said slowly, "then me, and now Kyle. Your parents, you, and now Philip, even if he doesn't know it. This has affected three generations. It's like the fight gets handed down from one generation to the next." He paused.

"Does it ever stop?"




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




Seems like it doesn't, Dee thought sadly as the realization of the number of years devoted to this battle washed over the sheriff, visible on his face. Initially nonplussed as to why he'd been so quiet, she'd been relieved when she found out why and now found herself grateful for his reticence. There was so much to tell him, too much, really. Fifty years of history couldn't be compressed into one dinner, so she'd best stick to an outline when the time came. With Jaddo now in control of the Unit, they hopefully had plenty of time to catch up.

The doorbell rang. "I'll get it," Dee said. "Anthony, would you get the coffee? Jim looks like he could use some."

"Actually, do you have any more wine?" Valenti asked.

"Right—alcohol," Dee said. "Even better. Break out one of those bottles we've been saving. I'll be right back."

Laughter floated from the dining room as she made her way to the front door, and she could feel the tension easing. Thank goodness; it had been a very quiet, very odd dinner prior to this. She was in a pretty good mood when she opened the door, and so had a more muted reaction than she might have to the young girl she found on the front porch toting a case of something or other, her hood pulled over her head.

"Oh!" the girl said, startled. "I...I'm sorry. I must have the wrong house."

"Gracious, is my reputation that bad?" Dee chuckled. "But then you kids do tend to ring the doorbell during dinner for your school sales. Which is when people are home, I know, it's just...annoying."

"Uh...right," the girl answered. "Sorry. I'm going."

"No, wait," Dee said. "You're here. Make it quick, and I might be able to buy something. What is it this time? Candy? Wrapping paper? Candles?"

"Well...I..."

"Okay, then what's it for?" Dee said. "Sports? Theater? No, no one ever goes door to door collecting for that, more's the pity. Field trips? Scouts?"

The girl had become very still, staring at her with wide eyes and the unmistakable sheen of disbelief. Just as Dee was losing patience, she leaned in closer.

"Dee?" she whispered. "Is that you?"

Oh, for heaven's sake, Dee thought wearily. She wasn't one to stand on ceremony, but she would really appreciate it if children she wasn't familiar with would start with "Mrs. Evans", much as it reminded her of her mother-in-law. "I'm sorry," she said, her tone slightly frosty, "but do I know you?"

The girl pushed her hood back...and that long line of generations which had so impressed Valenti suddenly got longer.



~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


I'll post Chapter 134 next Sunday. :)
BRIVARI: "In our language, the root of the word 'Covari' means 'hidden'. I'm always there, Your Highness, even if you don't see me."

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Kathy W
Obsessed Roswellian
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Chapter 134

Postby Kathy W » Sun Jan 12, 2014 6:06 pm

Thanks to everyone reading and leaving feedback! The girl we settle in this chapter; the box we'll have to wait a while longer for. (Or you can try to drag it out of Misha, who figured it out. :mrgreen: )

keepsmiling7, my eldest's birthday is between Christmas and New Year's, so I'm familiar with the "celebration fatigue" that comes from multiple holidays on top of one another. And that's just Christmas and 1 birthday; I can't imagine 3 birthdays!






CHAPTER ONE HUNDRED THIRTY-FOUR




May 15, 2000, 11 p.m.

Proctor residence






"That went well, don't you think?" Anthony said cheerfully after Valenti's car had pulled out of the driveway. "Bit long perhaps, but no major mishaps. I love the way you played the 'I've got to go to bed' card. The sheriff probably thinks we oldsters nod off at 9 o'clock."

"I thought he'd heard enough for one night," Dee allowed. "And Yvonne showed no signs of flagging, so I decided to flag for her."

"You'd never know she'd just been kidnapped," Anthony agreed, "although I do think she was grateful when you pulled the plug on the evening. Valenti seemed quite taken with the fact that he was talking to a witness to all the shenanigans in '47. He really talked her ear off."

"We're all witnesses to the shenanigans in '47," Dee reminded him.

"I meant inside the base," Anthony noted. "At any rate, it was great to see those two hitting it off. I'm glad he got to meet her before she goes back to New York. And here you thought he might blow us in. Don't think he could do that without blowing himself in, so I thought we were safe, but now I know we are. Now, let's see," he went on, surveying the pile of dirty dishes left over from dinner. "What say we put them to soak and wash them tomorrow? Or toss them in the dishwasher and re-confirm that dishwashers don't clean as well as they say they do?"

"Love to," Dee said wearily. "But I'm afraid we have to move on to the second part of our evening." She walked to the kitchen door, which opened onto the side of the house. "Remember when the doorbell rang earlier?"

"You said it was kids fundraising," Anthony answered.

"Yeah, that's what I said. I lied." Dee opened the door. "You can come in now," she called to the night air. "He's gone."

"Who are you talking to?" Anthony asked curiously.

His answer stepped out of the shadows and into the house, her hood obscuring her features. "Um...isn't it a bit late for fundraising?" Anthony said doubtfully, looking the newcomer up and down.

"She's not fundraising," Dee answered. "And she didn't want to come in while Valenti was here. For obvious reasons."

Anthony's next, inevitable question died in his throat as the girl slowly pushed her hood back, releasing a wave of blonde hair and a disbelieving stare which Anthony returned. "Courtney?" he whispered. "Oh, my God, Courtney! We haven't seen you in ages! Where have you..."

But he'd taken a step toward her, and the alarm in her eyes as she backed away from him stopped both his feet and his mouth. "Wait...this is Courtney, isn't it?" Anthony said suspiciously. "Or is it someone else wearing her husk?"

"It's Courtney," Dee confirmed. "I checked."

"Then...why is she acting like she doesn't know us?"

"Because she doesn't," Dee said quietly. "Think about it, Anthony. She last saw us when we were in college and had a toddler. A lot's changed since then." She paused. "We've changed a lot since then."

Silence descended as Dee watched her husband put the pieces together. Courtney didn't look a day older than she had in 1959, not a single day; she still had the same lean, young body, the same smooth skin, the same soft hair. The odd part was that she herself had been the same until she'd gotten older and put on weight, popped out more freckles, and watched her usually oily hair go dry as straw. Her younger self now existed only in photographs, and even though Dee remembered that time, she couldn't remember what it was like to feel that young, that thin, that...invulnerable. That was it—when you were young, you felt invulnerable. When you got older, you learned otherwise.

"Oh, my goodness," Anthony said softly. "You don't recognize us, do you?"

"I'm sorry," Courtney said miserably, "but... if I didn't know it was you, I wouldn't. I didn't recognize Dee either, not until she started giving me the third degree. And then the fourth."

"See?" Anthony said dryly. "Nothing's changed. Same old mouth. Same old Dee."

Courtney stared at him a moment...and then suddenly smiled. "And same old you, giving her the business," she said with obvious relief. "That I recognize. And the house," she added wistfully, looking around the kitchen. "I was surprised when I heard you were living here. Are your parents..."

"Dead?" Dee finished. "No, Mama and Daddy are still alive. But when they moved out, we decided to take the house. It put us closer to the kids."

"Kids, plural?" Courtney said. "How many more kids did you have after Philip?"

Dee and Anthony exchanged glances. "Courtney, let me take your coat," Anthony suggested. "Do you still like coffee? What about some food? There's plenty left over from dinner."

"I'd love both," Courtney answered, shrugging off her jacket. "I'm starving. Airline food is pretty awful."

"No argument there," Dee agreed. "Your timing can't be a coincidence," she went on as they settled at the kitchen table, "but I'm afraid you've missed the festivities."

"I'm here because of the...'festivities'," Courtney said. "Brivari told me what happened. That was a close call. And it really upended things if Valenti's in on it now."

"It was, and it did," Dee agreed. "And Pierce was the only one who wound up dead, thank God. But why are you here now?"

"Brivari said Jaddo was leaving tonight," Courtney answered. "I wouldn't come back until he was gone."

"So Jaddo's in Dutch with both of you," Anthony said, setting a cup of coffee in front of her. "Why am I not surprised. Lots of sugar, no milk, right?"

"You remembered! But what about Jaddo being...what'd you call it?"

"He means 'in trouble'," Dee explained. "But when isn't he? So...how did Brivari find you?"

"He didn't 'find me'," Courtney said. "He's known where we were all along. When we left town after my father died in '59, we went to ground, but Brivari's kept in touch with us. For a long time he just called. But then in '89 he showed up in person. Just appeared out of the blue one day. Scared the daylights out of everyone. Everyone but me."

"Scared them?" Anthony said. "Why?"

"Everyone on Antar is afraid of Covari, and Royal Warders in particular," Dee reminded him.

"Oh, yes," Anthony murmured. "I do recall something about that. '89...that must have been about the hybrids."

"He said they were out," Courtney nodded, gulping her coffee, "and much too young, and that they didn't remember anything. A lot of us thought it was over then. My father had agreed to support restoring Zan to the throne at least initially, but a number of the Rebel faction still had their hearts set on Rath. Brivari felt we should just be grateful they were alive, even if Jaddo had run off with the queen."

" 'The queen'," Anthony chuckled. "Sorry, I just don't think of Tess as a 'queen'."

"He means Ava," Dee explained when Courtney looked confused. "They all have human names, and Ava's is 'Tess'. You were saying?"

"Brivari just asked us to keep our eyes open," Courtney went on. "He intended to wait until they were adults before making a move. But then he showed up again last January and said we needed to move before that."

"January," Dee murmured. "He disappeared the weekend Jaddo left that fake sighting in the woods. So that's where he was."

Courtney blinked. "Jaddo left a 'fake sighting'?"

"Oh, you have no idea what fun we've been having," Dee said darkly. "Valenti was sniffing around after the shooting that started all this, an FBI agent showed up disguised as a high school guidance counselor, Rath almost died when he encountered some kind of drug at the Indian reservation, then he was going to leave town without the rest of them...oh, never mind," she finished as Courtney's eyes bulged. "TMI. The point is, they're all alive and breathing. That's something of a minor miracle, especially given this latest episode. How are things in Rebel land?"

"Quiet," Courtney said. "Nicholas never found us. We were just keeping our heads down until we were needed. Our main contribution to the cause was to keep in touch with Antar. Contacting home is risky; we pulled off direct contact when we could manage it and intercepted Nicholas' messages to find out what was happening. Then we'd let Brivari know."

"So that's how he knew the war was still going on," Dee said.

"It's not only still going on, it's worse," Courtney said. "Much worse. When the Warders destroyed our ship and sent that message that the royal family had survived, it galvanized the 5 planets. A lot of people who thought they were stuck with Khivar realized they weren't, and resistance became more organized. His grip has been slipping ever since, and the more it slips, the more brutal he becomes."

"A true tyrant," Anthony said sadly.

"So it's more important than ever that the king get his act together and go home," Courtney said. She paused, fingering her coffee cup. "Brivari told me this all started when he 'healed' a human right in front of a crowd. No healing stones, or anything. Is it true he's in love with a human?"

"It is," Dee admitted. "It's a classmate of his. She was shot during an altercation at the diner where she works as a waitress, and he healed the wound. That was the tipping point. It made Valenti suspicious, and he called the FBI...and the rest is history."

"Good Lord," Courtney said faintly. "I don't know which is harder to believe—the king in love with a human, or the fact that he can do that, can just fix something like that all by himself. I mean, we knew they'd be more powerful than their Warders, but...we never expected this."

"I can safely say he didn't either," Dee noted. "The kids are usually very careful about anyone seeing them use their powers. That was an emotional reaction to an emergency that had some unfortunate consequences."

"But only some," Anthony added. "The girl lived. And so did the sheriff's son. Max healed him too, after he was shot during the Pierce debacle."

"So it wasn't just a fluke," Courtney said.

"Isn't that a good thing?" Anthony said. "Saving people's lives is a good thing, right?"

Courtney shook her head. "This isn't about saving people's lives; it's about power. And power is just power; it has no conscience, no obligations. If that power is used for something like saving lives, then yeah, it's good. But it can also be used for not so good things. That's the part that worries me."

"Max is a good person," Dee insisted. "So is Isabel, and so is Michael. I don't know Tess well enough to vouch for her."

"It's so weird hearing you talk about them like you know them," Courtney said. "Calling them human names. Calling them 'kids'."

"We do know them," Dee said, "or three of them, anyway. Max and Isabel are our grandchildren, and Michael may as well be."

" 'Grandchildren'," Courtney said incredulously, shaking her head. "Brivari told me Philip was raising the king and his sister. I assume you talked him into that?"

"He...doesn't know," Dee confessed. "That they're not human, I mean. It just didn't come up," she went on when Courtney's eyes widened. "They'd just had that breakdown where they all remembered who they were and then forgot, and..."

"And it didn't seem wise at the time," Anthony finished. "Although there's been plenty of discussion about whether it's still wise to keep him in the dark."

"But how could he not notice?" Courtney asked. "How could any child of yours possibly be that clueless?"

"The kids have been very, very careful until just recently," Dee answered. "And his wife sort of figured it out when Max saved her from a fire she started on the stove. She thinks he's one of those gifted humans with extra senses, or whatever. It was a reasonable explanation, so we just let her think that." She paused. "You never answered me when I asked why you were here. It's good to see you again, but I don't see why Brivari would call you in now that everything's settled. Unless...does this mean he wants your help in telling the kids what they need to know?"

"That would be a great idea," Anthony agreed.

"Maybe," Courtney allowed, "but no. And everything isn't settled. Not by a long shot." She paused. "The royals activated a communicator this past weekend."

"Crap," Dee muttered.

"A communicator?" Anthony said. "Who did they talk to?"

"No one—not exactly. They apparently accessed a message left by the queen mother," Courtney explained. "It told them who they were and why they were here in very general terms, but what's important is who it tipped off. We picked up the signal, so I'm sure Nicholas did too. It's only a matter of time before he comes looking."

"Double crap," Dee muttered.

"With Jaddo off playing Pierce, Brivari wanted another pair of eyes in town who knew what to look for," Courtney went on. "I volunteered. And I'm glad I did."

"Even though we're old and gray?" Anthony chuckled. "No, no, it's all right," he went on when Courtney looked alarmed. "Forty years is a long time in human terms, and you don't age the way we do. Or at least husks don't."

"Maybe not," Courtney said sadly, "but they do age." She pushed up a sleeve on her sweatshirt to reveal a dry, scaly patch of skin. "Husks are living things, so they have a lifespan. Mine is dying. They all are."

"Oh, dear," Anthony said sadly. "And the Warders destroyed the new ones when they destroyed your ship, right?"

Courtney nodded. "Nicholas and company figured out how to grow new ones. Took them awhile, but they managed. We weren't so lucky—most of the bioscientists weren't part of the rebel faction. The new husks should mature just in time, but we won't have access to them. They're closely guarded in Copper Summit."

"There must be a way," Dee protested.

Courtney shook her head. "It's not as simple as stuffing a dress in a bag. The husks aren't mature yet, so they're effectively on life support until they do. We can't just swipe them; we'd have to take the infrastructure which keeps them alive and allows them to grow. Even if there is a way, we can't do anything until they're mature."

"At which point they'll be locked up even tighter," Anthony noted.

"Worse," Courtney said. "Word is that Nicholas grew husks for each of the rebels, and he plans to use them to infiltrate our ranks. If you see me next year at this time...it might not be me."

"Wonderful," Dee sighed.

"In fact," Courtney went on in a brittle voice, "if you see me next year, it probably won't be me. Given the rate of decay on my husk, I don't think it'll last that long."

"But it looks fine," Anthony said.

"Because we've found some ways to keep them cosmetically acceptable," Courtney said. "but it's only a band-aid. Trust me, they're dying." She paused. "Which means I'm dying."

The kitchen grew very quiet. Dee and Anthony exchanged glances as Courtney reached out a hand to each of them. "I volunteered to come back here because I wanted to see you both before I go, and I wanted one last chance to make a difference. To nail Nicholas. To knock Khivar off the throne. To send the royals home with a mandate to put Antar back together, or I'll come back and haunt them. To make all of this worth it. My father, Malik, now me...I don't want it to have all been for nothing." She looked down at their hands, hers soft and smooth, theirs wrinkled with age. "I may not be used to people growing old the way humans do, but the irony is that both of you will probably outlive me and then some. Please tell me you won't let it all be for nothing."

Dee squeezed her hand tightly. "It won't be," she promised. "If it's the last thing we do, we'll make certain it wasn't all for nothing."




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





Washington, D.C.





"Hey, beautiful! How about another drink?"

"We've started our descent into Washington, sir," the flight attendant answered. "We're not supposed to serve drinks now."

"Then I promise I won't tell. No one needs to know but you and me."

The wink Jaddo sent her way produced a pair of raised eyebrows, although a glass of Scotch promptly appeared. "Your secret's safe with me, gorgeous," he whispered. "And the more I drink, the better you look."

The flight attendant bent over. "Let me explain how this works," she whispered, her lips tantalizingly close to his ear. "There's a pecking order on planes, meaning the newest attendants wind up in coach and the senior attendants get First Class. Which means I've been around the block a few times, buddy, and if you make one more pass at me, you'll be wearing that drink, plus a few more. Do we understand each other?"

"Perfectly," Jaddo assured her.

"Good boy," she purred.

MeOW! Jaddo chuckled, noting that the hit rate for Pierce's schmoozing remained astonishingly high. Too bad, really, because he liked the feisty ones, the ones who didn't fall right into your lap, the ones you had to work for. There was so very little to work for in First Class, where the seats were huge, the china real, the food superb, and the drinks free-flowing, not to mention a lack of wayward hybrids, adolescent angst, pissed off allies, and bitchy fellow Warders. Daniel Pierce was going down very, very soon, so he may as well enjoy the perks of the job while he still had it.

"Danny?"

Jaddo looked up. "Agent Samuels! How did you manage to get past the Berlin Wall? I thought they didn't let the little people up here."

"I snuck in while she wasn't looking," Samuels said, sliding into the seat next to him with a wary eye out for the flight attendant. "Aren't many people in First Class."

"Yes, it is refreshingly empty," Jaddo agreed.

"You usually aren't in First Class," Samuels noted.

"Your point?"

"Is that you're different, Danny. Everyone's worried about you. Disappearing the way you did, then sending everyone to that gas station in Hondo, then refusing to tell us what happened? What's up with that?"

"I told you what happened," Jaddo answered. "I thought I had them, but I was wrong."

"That's just it; you may have had them if we'd been there to help," Samuels argued. "Sending us away at such a critical juncture didn't make sense, and you never made it make sense."

"So I miscalculated," Jaddo shrugged. "I had a better chance of pulling it off alone. A bunch of us would have given the game away."

"The 'bunch of us' were doing pretty well before," Samuels said peevishly. "We did capture an alien."

"And then lost it," Jaddo reminded him. "A few caught it, a bunch lost it. That was the theory; care to argue with it?"

"Okay, so what about the rest of it?" Samuels demanded. "You're acting weird. First Class tickets? Calling me 'Samuels' in private? You've never called me that, not even at Quantico."

"I just had exactly what I wanted, and then you lost it!" Jaddo snapped. "I've earned 'weird'."

"Okay, so we made some mistakes," Samuels allowed. "We'll do better next time. There'll be a next time," he insisted when Jaddo snorted. "The other good thing that came out of this besides us learning some valuable information about how to capture and hold them was that nothing seems to have leaked. I haven't heard a peep."

You will, Jaddo thought. He'd already quietly knocked over the first dominoes, and they should begin falling tomorrow or the next day at the latest. Or he certainly hoped so; if not, he'd have to hasten the process because he couldn't enter any Unit-controlled buildings without having to get past one of those infernal scanners—the sooner he got fired, the better. But beyond that, Samuels had a point. It was always risky to take another's shape long-term, and this was why; little inconsistencies could pile up over time and give you away. Theoretically there wouldn't be enough time for that to happen, which is why he'd been living the high life, but it wouldn't do to get too cocky.

"Look, Brian, I know you tried," Jaddo said, making a stab at sounding conciliatory. "But you can hardly blame me for going off the rails at least a little bit. We weren't just close, we had them...and then we didn't. It's maddening."

"I know, but I said we'll do better next time," Samuels promised. "We're still learning how to operate under the radar. Think of this as a test run, and as test runs go, it was an incredibly successful test run. We'll plug the gaps, and go back stronger than ever."

"Of course we will. Now run along back to your seat. We're landing."

Friendship, Jaddo thought sourly as the plane dipped toward Regan International. Like love, such an overrated thing. He may only have been Pierce for a couple of days, but he'd seen enough of the Pierce/Samuels dynamic to know that Samuels craved Pierce's approval because he considered them friends. Sounds like they had been before Pierce ascended to the throne, but that was the thing about thrones—those seated on them frequently developed a blind spot for the friends who'd put them there. If Samuels hadn't figured that out yet, he was certainly about to.

Fifteen minutes later, as the plane was taxiing to the terminal, Jaddo's phone pinged. Happy trails, Brivari's message read. Do try not to get yourself killed this time.

"Hilarious," Jaddo muttered as he gathered his luggage, threw a parting smirk at the stony-faced flight attendant, and meandered off the plane as the long row of coach passengers watched enviously. He'd just hit the terminal when his phone rang.

"Agent Pierce," an unfamiliar voice drawled. "Director Freeh. Did you enjoy your vacation in Roswell?"

Excellent, Jaddo thought with satisfaction. The dominoes had fallen, and Freeh was responding with commendable speed. "Director!" Jaddo said cheerfully. "I do like a bit of sun. You?"

"Oh, so do I," Freeh assured him. "Although when I get away from work, I don't like to take it with me. I heard you had several agents joining you."

"Guess they all like a bit of sun," Jaddo remarked.

"An abandoned military base is a strange place for a 'bit of sun'," Freeh observed.

"I'm afraid I don't follow you, sir," Jaddo said.

"Of course you don't. You're relieved of duty, agent. You're to turn in your badge and your weapon until further notice. I'll send someone around."

Jaddo smiled as the line went dead. He and Brivari had purged all the records of Zan's presence at the compound, easy to do as they'd been kept on site lest the Shadow Unit be discovered. But the base itself had obviously been redecorated since Agent Summers' tenure, and had obviously seen recent use; that would be all Freeh needed to nail Pierce to the wall, and if it wasn't, he'd be sure to furnish whatever was necessary. In dribs and drabs, of course. The longer it took for the Unit to die, the longer it would stay dead, and the longer he'd get to watch it writhe in its death throes. Fantastic opportunities such as this were few and far between.

"Something wrong?" Agent Samuels asked, coming up behind him, the coach passengers having apparently been allowed to disembark.

"Not a thing," Jaddo said cheerfully.

"There's Vanessa," Samuels said.

"Who?"

"Vanessa," Samuels repeated. "Your girlfriend? Usually picks you up from the airport? Sheesh," he added when Jaddo stared at him. "You better drop the 'weird' before she gets a whiff of this, or our conversation will look like child's play. I swear that woman was a dominatrix in another life. Uh...catch you later," he added quickly, as though realizing that last remark was over the line. "We'll all scatter for a day or two to redirect any suspicion we may have missed, so I'll call you day after tomorrow or so."

You'll call me before that, Jaddo thought, scanning the crowd as Samuels scuttled off. Vanessa... What were the odds that Pierce's girlfriend bore the same name as Nicholas' main squeeze? Was it possible...

"Daniel! Over here!"

It was. The attractive female waving enthusiastically had a familiar face, although not so familiar that it would be recognized in Roswell; husks couldn't be transformed the way shapeshifters transformed. Outstanding. Simply outstanding.

"Brian told me you'd be on this flight," Vanessa said, planting a kiss on his cheek, winding an arm around his. "I'm glad to see you." She ran a finger down his arm. "Are you glad to see me?"

"You have no idea," Jaddo assured her.

"Then lets get you home. I'm sure you could use a...change of clothes," she added suggestively.

"I'm betting you could too," Jaddo noted.

She smiled, all teeth, no heart. "Absolutely. And then you can tell me all about your trip."

Something in her tone answered the unspoken question hovering in the air, not to mention the fact that they hadn't seen hide nor hair of Nicholas in years. "Oh, sweetheart," Jaddo said regretfully. "You know perfectly well my work is classified."

"Oh, for God's sake, Daniel!" Vanessa hissed, all pretense of the loving, randy partner evaporating. "Classified, shmasssified! I keep telling you I could help you, and it's time for you to start listening. There are rumors..." She leaned in closer. "...that something's going down high up in the Bureau. Something big."

"Wow," Jaddo said blandly. "One minute you're all about ripping my clothes off, and the next you're hissing like a snake. Makes me think you're just sleeping with me for information. Makes me think you might be a spy."

Her startled expression told him Pierce hadn't gotten this far. Well, of course not; Pierce had such a high opinion of himself, it would never occur to him that someone could pull that off. "What are you talking about?" Vanessa sputtered. "I'm a United States Congresswoman! Who would I be spying for?"

Jaddo leaned in close. "Guess I'll just have to find out," he whispered. "Maybe I'll start by ripping your clothes off and doing a very thorough...background check."

She blinked at him for a moment before landing a hard swat on his arm. "Jesus!" she exclaimed. "You had me going there for a minute! I thought you were accusing me of treason, or something."

"I know you did," Jaddo said affably. "Now...about the ripping your clothes off part..."

Her expression grew coy. "You know, I don't believe we've ever done it in the back seat of a taxi."

"Well, you know what they say," Jaddo smiled, slipping her arm through his. "There's a first time for everything."





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





Harding residence





The microwave beeped. Tess pulled the bag of popcorn from the oven, reached into a cupboard for a bowl, then another for a wine glass. Five minutes later she was seated in front of the TV with a large bowl of popcorn, a glass of Coke, and a movie in the VCR. This was her first night all by herself, and she was determined to not have it be a downer. Movie night all by yourself wasn't as much fun as with a crowd, but the Others were in no mood for socializing at the moment. She had a couple of weeks before school let out and a long summer with nothing specific to do loomed, so she intended to use her last few days of school to set some precedents. To that end she'd drawn up a schedule for things like cleaning the house, doing the laundry, paying the bills, and grocery shopping just to give some structure to her life, and she'd slot in the rest around that. Tonight that meant movie night.

DingDong!

Annoyed, Tess set the remote down. The schedule must be working if she didn't like it being interrupted, and she hurried to the door, anxious to get rid of the politician or salesman or whatever before her popcorn got cold...but that wasn't who she found standing on her front step.

"Isabel!" Tess said.

"Hi," Isabel said shyly, a paper bag under one arm. "Am I...interrupting anything?"

"No! Come on in."

Isabel stepped inside warily, as though expecting something to jump out at her. "Nasedo's gone," Tess said, answering her unspoken question. "He left for Washington earlier this evening."

"Oh," Isabel said, visibly relieved. "I...that's good! That is good, right?"

"Well...yeah," Tess answered. "It's good that we don't have to worry about the Unit any more."

"And...now you have the house to yourself," Isabel added.

"Yeah," Tess agreed. "But that's...weird. I mean, Nasedo was never 'company' in any sense of the word, but...oh, never mind," she finished briskly. "I'll get used to it. It'll just take a little while. So...did you need something?"

"Not really," Isabel answered. 'I...I just..." She stopped, looking lost for words. "I was just sitting with my family earlier today, and thinking how grateful I was to have that support system...and then I realized yours was leaving. And I tried to imagine what it would be like to be all alone in my house with no one to talk to, and..." She stopped again, her eyes somewhere over Tess's shoulder. "I just wanted to say that I'm glad you're not an FBI agent or a murderous alien. And that I'm sorry we were pretty crappy to you sometimes. I mean, you didn't exactly do yourself any favors sending my brother into spasms and making sugar cube sculptures, but...well...frankly, I'm not sure things would have gone much better even if you'd just spit it out from the beginning...I'm sorry," she finished self-consciously. "I'm rambling."

"It's okay," Tess said quickly. "That all didn't go quite the way I wanted it to either. There are lots of things I wish I'd done differently."

"Same here," Isabel agreed. "Same here. So...I thought you might like some company, seeing as you're alone. And I know I would, because it occurred to me that it would be cool to have another girl I could talk to about these things. Max and Michael spit at each other, but they're really two peas in a pod, and Liz and Maria are two peas in another pod, and much as I love my mom and dad, I'm...kind of all alone. So I grabbed a bottle of sparkling grape juice, and..." She stopped, gazing into the living room. "Do you have company?" she asked, looking at the wine glass and the popcorn. "Did I just barge in on something? And is that wine? Because—"

"No!" Tess said hastily. "No company, just me. And that's Coke; Max warned me not to touch alcohol. I was just about to watch a movie."

"Which movie?"

"Galaxy Quest."

Isabel blinked. "You mean the one about the actors playing aliens who meet real aliens?

"Yeah," Tess said sheepishly. "Seemed to fit. Wanna join me?"

"Love to," Isabel smiled.

Half an hour later, they were halfway through the snacks and thoroughly enjoying the latest voyage of the NSEA Protector. Maybe this summer wouldn't be so bad after all. Heck, it could even be the best summer yet.

And if not, there was always that mysterious box upstairs.



~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Next weekend is my son's last before he returns to New Zealand, so I'll be back on January 26. We only have 1 more chapter and an epilogue before Season 1 comes to an end. :)
BRIVARI: "In our language, the root of the word 'Covari' means 'hidden'. I'm always there, Your Highness, even if you don't see me."

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Kathy W
Obsessed Roswellian
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Joined: Thu Oct 31, 2002 5:06 am

Chapter 135

Postby Kathy W » Sun Jan 26, 2014 5:10 pm

Hello to everyone reading!

keepsmiling7: It is completely unfair that Courtney got to live that long looking that young. :P

Roswelllostcause wrote:Just spent the last month catching up on this whole series. I'm really enjoying it.


Thank you! I know that's a lot of reading, and I really appreciate it.


We're almost done with Season 1!








CHAPTER ONE HUNDRED THIRTY-FIVE



May 16, 2000, 3:30 p.m.

Crashdown Cafe





The huge sign above the Crashdown flashed in the afternoon sunshine, gaudy even in daylight as Courtney stared at it in dismay. Dee had warned her that "Parker's" was no more, but this? This was downright tacky...and downright successful, judging by the stream of people going in and out. Pulling her eyes away from the glare, she gazed down the street, little changed since '59 if you ignored the modern cars, and for just a moment, she was back when she'd first arrived on this planet, young, brash, and bullying past Nicholas for a post in Roswell where she'd found completely unexpected friends in humans and, incredibly, a Covari. Terrible things had happened in 1959; she'd lost her father, the rebel faction had lost hybrids entrusted to their care, and they'd had to flee when Nicholas discovered he had traitors in his midst. So why did she remember that time so fondly? Why was she wistful for the summer when she'd lost almost everything?

A group of teenagers brushed past, boisterous and laughing as they made their way into the cafe. Courtney reached into her purse and pulled out a photograph she carried everywhere with her, dog-eared and faded with age. It was the one picture she had of Dee, Anthony, Philip, and Malik, that last giving the lie to the notion that Covari were mere automatons. She'd lost a lot that summer, but she'd also learned a lot; if humans, Argilians, and Covari could band together and form an alliance, truly anything was possible. If you could tangle with Royal Warders and emerge with not only your life, but their respect, the sky was the limit. If you could maneuver Nicholas into a position which deprived him of what he wanted and left him on the outs with Khivar, then there was hope that the mess back home could be fixed, that their war-torn planet could be healed with a wiser king and more just rule. All that had become clear in '59, amid the chaos and loss. It had sustained her through the long years in hiding, their futile attempts to create new husks, and the realization that their end was coming. The main thing now was to make certain their presence hadn't been in vain.

Slipping the photo back into her purse, Courtney was just about to go into the cafe when she saw the sheaf of skin hanging from her thumb. Damn it. She glanced around, found no one close, peeled it off, and dropped it into her purse. It wouldn't be wise to simply drop it in the street or even a trash can; Nicholas or his soldiers could show up at any moment, and even though no human would know what that piece of skin was, another Argilian would. It was ironic, really, that she'd fallen apart at the sight of Dee and Anthony when she was the one falling apart. She looked every bit as young as she had 40 years ago, but only because husks didn't age the same way as human bodies—they didn't look older, they simply fell apart. She would likely be dead before the year was out, but Dee and Anthony, both heavier, wrinklier, and spottier, with much less hair and yellower teeth, would live on. There was an irony there, but also a lesson, should she choose to look for it...

Later. Courtney grasped the Crashdown's door handle and pulled it open before she lost her nerve. She and Dee had agreed that getting a job here would be the best course of action, enabling her to keep an eye on the hybrids and an ear to the ground for any newcomers to town. That meant returning to waiting tables, a job she hadn't held in decades, and it also meant convincing the Crashdown's owner to hire her. Dee, as usual, had a plan for that, and Courtney was mentally going over the backstory as she crossed the threshold. Oh, God, she groaned, looking around. If alien kitsch reigned outside, it did so even more inside. The murals alone were a hoot, but the deely boppers and alien head aprons sent it over the top. Way over the top.

"One?" chirped a blonde wearing said apron, briskly grabbing a menu.

"Thanks, but I'm not here to eat," Courtney answered. "I'm here to apply for a job."

"Seriously?" the blonde chuckled. "Sure you have the right place? Don't mind me," she sighed when Courtney raised an eyebrow. "I'm just a little jaded of late, plus I've had way too many people today ask me if aliens are real."

"What do you say?" Courtney asked.

The waitress smiled sweetly. "That if I tell them, I'd have to kill them. Follow me. I'll take you to the owner."

Maria, Courtney thought, reading the waitress's name tag. Maria was one of the ones "in the know", according to Dee. No wonder she got tired of people asking her if aliens were real. Same here.

"Mr. Parker?" Maria said, addressing a thin, middle-aged man with a pencil in his teeth and his eyes on a spreadsheet. "Got another potential victim for you."

"So geth her wath see wans to eeth," Mr. Parker said without looking up.

"No, no, she wants to work here," Maria clarified.

"Oh!" Mr. Parker said, plucking the pencil from his teeth. "That kind of victim. You didn't specify."

"I'm not hungry, thanks," Courtney said. "I speak 'pencil'," she added when they both blinked at her.

"She speaks 'pencil!" Mr. Parker said approvingly. "Great! Any experience?"

"Waiting tables in a place about this size in Seattle," Courtney nodded.

"Cool," Mr. Parker declared. "Let me get you an application. Maria? Someone's calling you."

"I've always wanted to see this place," Courtney said wistfully as Maria returned to the floor. "My grandmother used to work here."

Bingo, Courtney thought as Mr. Parker stopped fishing for the application, problematic because it required references she didn't have. "Really?"

"Yep. Her name was Courtney too, Courtney Harris. I'm Courtney Banks, by the way," she added, extending her hand.

"Jeff Parker," Jeff said, pumping her hand enthusiastically. "Do you know when your grandmother worked here, exactly?"

"The summer of l959," Courtney answered. "It was 'Parker's' back then. She said it had just expanded to a diner from a bar. She had this pin that she said she wore, a round one..."

"The buttons!" Jeff exclaimed. "That was the only 'alien stuff' my grandfather used, and believe me, I heard about it when I remodeled. I know it's tacky..." He leaned in closer..."but trust me, it works. People eat this stuff up."

"Literally," Courtney agreed.

"Funny," Jeff chuckled. "Say, I have some old photos back here. What say we try to find a picture of your grandmother?"

She followed him to a makeshift and messy office where a row of photo albums filled a shelf. "1950's, late '50's," he murmured, plucking an album from the line. "You said summer, right? So I'd be looking for people in shorts..." He paused, flipping through the seasons. "Okay, so here's summer...there are lots of pictures because of the expansion and some movie they were shooting, so I'll bet she's in here somewhere..." He stopped, his eyes widening. "Oh, my. You're a dead ringer for her!"

"Really?" Courtney said with mock surprise. "Let me see!"

Jeff swung the album around. There she was, different hairstyle, old-fashioned uniform, the famous button, but pretty much the same...and there was Dee at twenty-something, looking just like she remembered her, like she didn't look now. "Wow," Courtney whispered, a lump in her throat. "I...I never saw any pictures of her that young. Everyone told me I looked like her, but..."

"I'd say they were right," Jeff agreed. "Oh, there she is again. And again. And again!" he said happily, flipping the pages. "Wow! This is so cool to meet a relative of someone who worked here way back when."

"Yeah," Courtney agreed. "Can I...do you mind if I look through this? She died less than a year ago, so I'm still a little..." She stopped, one hand to her mouth in a not completely invented display of emotion.

"Oh, I'm so sorry," Jeff said quickly. "I know exactly how you feel; my mother died last year, and sometimes I'm okay with it, and other times...well...you know. Here, you have a seat and look to your heart's content. Would you like something to drink? Maybe some coffee, or a soda?"

"Just a glass of water," Courtney said weakly. "Thank you."

He left. Courtney's hands shook as she turned page after page, the summer of '59 rushing back at her with every flip. There was Brivari in the guise of a movie clapper loader, a surefire entry in the contest for oddest calling for a Royal Warder. There was that actress he'd supposedly fallen for, the one with helmet hair and way too much make-up, and her stuck-up male co-star. There was that friend of Brivari's, that weird guy with the disguise...what was his name? Anderton? Atherton? Something like that. And there was Malik, at the counter and in that back booth he preferred, always representative of everything Covari supposedly weren't and could never be. There was Anthony, so young and with so much hair. There was Philip, barely 2, barely walking and talking. He'd be middle-aged now, but somehow she didn't think seeing him would be as much of a shock as seeing his parents; children were supposed to grow up, after all, and she'd never known him as a young adult.

"Knock-knock."

"Oh...thanks," Courtney said when she spied Maria in the doorway with a glass of water and a skeptical expression. "I didn't think he was going to bother you with that."

"Well, he did," Maria sighed, sinking into a nearby chair. "But, hey, it's an excuse to rest the tootsies. So...I thought you were applying for a job?"

"I am."

"Mmmhmm," Maria murmured. "Just FYI, job applicants usually don't rate a beverage, a toy, and a cushy seat in the office."

"You think photo albums are toys?" Courtney said.

Maria's eyes narrowed ever so slightly. "I'm thinking I'm curious as to why all the star treatment."

"My grandmother used to work here," Courtney explained. "Mr. Parker found some pictures of her."

"Ah!" Maria said knowingly. "That explains it. He does tend to go all misty-eyed about Crashdown history."

"Oh?" Courtney said, having heard the same thing from Dee, who'd suggested that plus the fact that he recently lost his mother might be a good way to distract him from the problematic application process.

"Yup. Gets positively sentimental—"

Maria stopped as Mr. Parker appeared in the doorway with a Crashdown uniform draped over his arm. "You know, I was thinking," he said a little sheepishly, "that it would be great to have a descendent of a former employee work here. So...how's about we speed things along a little? You said you worked tables before in..."

"Seattle," Courtney finished.

"Right. So I'm thinking you put this on and go on out there, and we'll see how you do. And how you like it."

"Great!" Courtney said.

"Wait," Maria commanded. "You're just going to throw her out there with no training?"

"She's got experience," Mr. Parker said, handing over the uniform. "And she speaks pencil."

"But she doesn't know the drill," Maria argued. "She doesn't know the menu. She wouldn't know an Alien Invasion from a Moons of Jupiter."

"Pancakes," Courtney said. "Tall stack, short stack, respectively. I did my homework," she added when they both stared at her. "I looked at a menu."

"She did her homework," Mr. Parker said proudly, crooking a thumb Courtney's way. "She looked at a menu. Initiative! I love it!"

"So she knows a couple of things," Maria said. "Big deal. Let's see just how far that goes. Alien Encounter?"

"A shake," Courtney said.

"Rings of Saturn?"

"Onion rings."

"Green Martian?"

"Mint shake."

"What, did you memorize the menu?" Maria demanded.

"Well...yeah," Courtney admitted. "You kind of have to. No time to read it. At least not where I worked last."

"Not here either," Jeff agreed as Maria scowled. "So when would you like to do your test run?"

"Now's good," Courtney said.

"The dinner rush'll be starting soon," Maria protested.

"So I can help," Courtney said. "Unless you'd like to take a break. Would you like my water? I can handle your tables for you."

The smoldering glare she received as answer spoke volumes. "Guess not," Courtney shrugged. "Shall we?"

"Excellent," Mr. Parker beamed. "You're going to fit in here just fine."




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




Washington, D.C.




"Out of my way," Vanessa Whitaker commanded, thundering past the doorman in Pierce's building. She spent an interminable five minutes pacing in front of the elevator, stabbing at the button as though she were trying to kill it and looking longingly at the door to the stairwell. If he weren't 12 floors up, she wouldn't be standing here waiting for a car on a rope, and she'd get to kill him that much faster...

Finally it came. The ride seemed a lot longer than usual, but murderous rages did tend to make time go in slow motion. Her fellow riders watched her nervously as she tapped her foot impatiently, shrinking past as she blew past when they reached the 12th floor, banging on Daniel's door so loudly they could probably hear her in the elevator as it continued its upward journey.

"Daniel? Vanessa. Open up!"

No answer. "Daniel, I know you're in there," Vanessa fumed. "Open this door, or I swear to God, I'll break it down!"

What followed was a very long wait, long enough that it looked like she'd have to make good on her promise, followed by a welcome click. "What took you so long?" she demanded of the raised eyebrow which appeared as the door cracked open.

Daniel shrugged, still wearing his favorite robe and slippers, not to mention a sardonic smile. "Maybe I wanted to watch you break it down," he suggested. "Or just see if you mean what you say. What's got your knickers in a knot?"

"Why didn't you tell me you'd been suspended?" Vanessa demanded.

"My, but news travels fast," Daniel remarked. "I didn't tell you because it's none of your business. And because I didn't know until Freeh's goons showed up to collect my badge and gun."

"Bullshit," Vanessa declared. "He suspended you last night via Ma Bell, and you never said a word."

"Correct me if I'm wrong, but not a single cellphone carrier operates via 'Ma Bell'. Not sure any landlines do either...weren't they bought out by AT&T?"

"Stop dodging," Vanessa ordered. "Why didn't you tell me?"

"Didn't I already answer that?" Daniel said with maddening calm. "And no, the phone call was not decisive. Freeh's threatened to suspend me a million times without actually doing it, so I certainly wasn't going to believe him until it actually happened."

"Oh, for God's sake, Daniel, I'm a congresswoman!" Vanessa exclaimed.

"Really?" he deadpanned. "Didn't know that. Just like I didn't know you were religious. When did that happen? And to which god are you referring?"

"Don't play games with me," Vanessa warned. "Whatever you did, whatever you screwed up, they're talking about congressional hearings. Which means I'm going to be sitting in judgment over you."

"Right where you usually are," Daniel chuckled. "And where you spent most of last night. At least the 'over' part." He ran a hand down her arm, leaned in close to her ear. "What say we resume our...earlier activities? I preferred those to arguing.

"Don't you dare come on to me!" Vanessa exclaimed, slapping his hand away. "I keep telling you I can help you, and you keep pushing me away! Now that you're in real trouble, do you really think you can afford to keep doing that? And don't bother with the 'classified' trope. Every single thing you think is 'classified' will be unclassified if this hits the Hill."

"Well...not everything," Daniel allowed. "Freeh will only let loose as much as he needs to bury me. Trust me, he'll keep most of the details to himself; Freeh doesn't want his beloved Bureau dragged through the mud. What makes you think the Hill has any interest in this?"

"Because word is you barged into a military base," Vanessa said, "an abandoned base in Roswell—"

"Bequeathed to the Bureau long, long ago. Which means it's no longer a military base, it's a Bureau base. Next?"

"Semantics," Vanessa insisted. "You were chasing somebody. Did you find them?"

"Where did you hear that?" Daniel asked sharply.

"Doesn't matter. Tell me, was this worth it? Did you..." She leaned in closer, fixed him with a hard stare. "Did you find them?"

Daniel eyed her for a moment as though sizing her up, or sizing up what to tell her. "Yes," he said finally. "And then we lost them."

Shit, Vanessa though, deflating. "As to whether it was 'worth it', I'd say it was," he went on. "We learned a lot. And risks have to be taken. No pain, no gain."

"Jesus Christ Almighty," Vanessa groaned. "You don't need platitudes now, you need friends in high places!"

"Like who?"

"Like me!" Vanessa exclaimed in exasperation. "Who did you think? Do you not have any idea how much trouble you're in? Do you not—"

She stopped as his eyes hardened in a way she hadn't seen before. "Trust me, my dear," he said in a voice she'd never heard. "I know exactly how much trouble I'm in, and despite your fears to the contrary, exactly what I'm doing. And not doing, as in not spilling classified information to just any pretty face who barges into my home and throws a tantrum. We're done here."

"Daniel—"

"I said, we're done."

"What...you mean...us?" Vanessa sputtered. "As in us, us?"

His expression softened, and he grasped her chin in his hand. "Heavens, no. Why would I give up that? Especially as it now appears I have more time on my hands. You just need to have a little faith, sweetheart."

"Since when do you call me 'sweetheart'?" Vanessa demanded.

"Since you started carrying on like a harridan," Daniel chuckled, holding out a hand toward the bedroom. "Care to join me?"

Closing her eyes briefly, Vanessa summoned the shreds of her patience. "In a minute. I need to make a phone call."

"Call away," he smiled. "I'll be waiting."

Vanessa resisted the urge to roll her eyes when Daniel's robe slipped open as he backed toward the bedroom, waiting until he'd disappeared inside wearing little more than a smirk before pulling out her phone. Sex was the last thing on her mind at the moment, but human males never seemed to tire of it, and there was always the possibility that she might be able to beat some sense into him. Literally.

"It's me," she said when her ring was answered. "It's official; Freeh's suspending him over something at the old base outside Roswell. And he admitted chasing someone, someone he says they found, but lost. Sounds like they scared them away."

"Of course they did," Nicholas's deeply disgusted voice drawled. "Amateurs. They should all be shot. Now what?"

"Now? Now he wants to screw me. Again."

"So go fuck him, sweetheart," Nicholas said cheerfully. "Poor guy's had a rough day. Just don't enjoy it. I'll never forgive you if you enjoy it."

"Thanks a heap," Vanessa muttered. "His tastes have changed. He was downright aggressive last night."

"So get aggressive back," Nicholas said. "God knows I've given you enough practice. And when I said 'now what', I wasn't referring to whether your lover likes his sex rough. Once again: Now what?"

"There's a call out for congressional hearings," Vanessa sighed. "Daniel thinks that won't happen because Freeh won't let it."

"Because he doesn't want his Bureau's dirty laundry aired in public," Nicholas said. "Perfectly understandable, and tough shit. Push for those hearings. We want that laundry swinging in the breeze."

"So you want me to publicly go on the offensive against the man you just told me to fuck for information?"

"You bet!" Nicholas said. "They learned some things on their little outing, and without those hearings, whatever they learned will be locked up tight within the Bureau. Hearings leak like a sieve. That's the best way to find out what Danny boy knows."

"You know, you could always drag yourself up here and pull it out of his head," Vanessa suggested.

"I could," Nicholas agreed. "And then what? I'd have to kill him, and he's too valuable right now, not to mention his death would start them all wondering if he wasn't onto something. Which he was, of course, but we don't want the apes knowing that."

"You're that certain this is all about the hybrids?" Vanessa said skeptically.

"Sure I am," Nicholas answered. "That signal was no coincidence, and it came right from where Danny boy was squatting. They're out there. And they can't hide from us forever."




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




Crashdown Cafe





"The Men in Black burger comes with Saturn Rings, not fries," Maria said.

"It also comes with Thousand Island Dressing," Courtney remarked, lifting the bun. "This has mayo." She shoved the plate back through the pass-through. "I think you've got a Ghostbusters burger here, not a Men in Black."

A hand reached out of nowhere. " 'Ghostbusters'?" the cook's disembodied voice said as the plate disappeared.

"Yeah, you know, the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man? Which is white, like the mayo? No? Forget it," Courtney said, as the hand returned with the de-mayoed burger. "Not exactly aliens anyway because those were beings from hell, or another dimension, or something like that."

"There's a difference?" Maria muttered. "Remember, Saturn Rings, not—"

"Fries. Got it," Courtney said.

"And ketchup. You got any—"

"Two bottles in my pocket. Chill," Courtney advised. "It's been a couple of hours, and I haven't brought the roof down."

"Yet," Maria warned. "Don't get cocky. You're still new here."

Actually, I'm not, Courtney thought, delivering yet another armload of food to yet another table. Funny how it all came back; forty years may have passed, but the essentials were still the same. Granted, the decor was radically different, the uniforms hilarious, the people fatter, the kids less well behaved, and the prices higher, but none of that changed the standard variables in the diner equation: Hungry people, greasy food, and sore feet. The ease with which she'd slid back into the role of a Parker's—sorry, Crashdown—waitress had surprised even her and definitely surprised Maria, who was taking something of a burn to the fact that she was doing so well. Apparently waiting tables was a secret art open only to the initiated. Too bad she couldn't tell Maria she'd already been initiated, and then some.

"How's it going?" Mr. Parker asked, appearing from the back as Courtney loaded up more plates.

"Great!" Courtney answered.

"Okay, I guess," Maria said skeptically.

Mr. Parker raised an eyebrow. "Something wrong?"

"Nothing I know of," Courtney shrugged as Maria scowled. "S'cuse me; I don't want these to get cold."

Mr. Parker stepped back to let her through and so did Maria, though with considerably less enthusiasm. She left them engaged in a vigorous conversation that she'd love to overhear, one joined by a young, dark-haired girl who appeared from the back. She'd served two more tables before Mr. Parker left, Maria stalked off in a huff, and the dark-haired girl intercepted Courtney on her way back behind the counter.

"Hi," the girl said, extending a hand. "I'm Liz Parker. My dad owns the Crashdown."

"Courtney," Courtney said, taking the hand of the domino which had sent all the others tumbling.

"Look, um...I know Maria's in a bit of a mood," Liz said. "But Dad says you're doing great, and...well, Maria's had a rough time of it lately, and...well...just try not to take anything she says personally. She's just tweaked because my dad didn't do the usual things like check your references, and stuff like that. Guess she's a little on the suspicious side."

"Suspicious of what?" Courtney said. "Do you get a lot of ax murderers working here?"

"No," Liz smiled. "It's just...stuff. Nothing personal. She's..." She stopped, gazing past Courtney. "Sorry, I've...I've gotta go. Welcome to the Crashdown. I'm sure we'll see each other again some time."

Courtney, who'd been privately noting that the term "stuff" was something of an understatement for the near assassination of Antar's king, watched curiously as Liz quite literally fled, the door to the back swinging wildly in her wake. Turning around, she found out why.

"Hey," a newly arrived dark-haired teenager said to Maria. "Have you seen Liz?"

"Nope," Maria lied.

"You sure? She came home after school."

"Yes, Max, I'm sure," Maria said blandly. "Believe it or not, I'd know Liz if I saw her. And what do you mean, 'she came home after school'? Stalking, much?"

Courtney busied herself behind the counter just within earshot as the confrontation continued. "I'm not 'stalking'," Max protested, "I'm just..."

"Stalking," Maria finished.

"Looking to talk to her," Max corrected. "Big difference."

"She already talked to you. There's nothing more to say."

"Says who? What, are you her personal secretary now?"

"Says Liz," Maria declared. "And now that you mention it, yeah—I sorta am."

"So you won't tell me the truth no matter what," Max said in disgust. "Hey," he called to Courtney. "Have you seen Liz Parker, the owner's daughter?"

"She just went in the back," Courtney answered, ignoring Maria, who was making frantic shushing motions.

"Can't you keep your big mouth shut?" Maria hissed as Antar's king disappeared into the back.

"Why?" Courtney said. "Is it a great big secret?"

"She doesn't want to see him!" Maria exclaimed.

"Then she can tell him that herself," another voice said.

Maria whirled around. Two blondes had just taken up residence on stools nearby, and there was no mistaking who they were. "Please tell me," Maria said in a dangerous voice, "that you aren't planning on calling her 'selfish' again. And what is she doing here?"

"What I'm planning is my business, and all I said was she could tell him herself," Vilandra retorted. "Last I checked, Liz is a big girl who's perfectly capable of taking care of herself. And Tess is not only my friend, she's one of us. You're being rude and obnoxious, but what else is new?"

Courtney watched with interest as Maria smoldered, Vilandra stared her down, and Ava's eyes dropped. "Whatever," Maria snapped, glaring at all of them before blasting into the back like one of the Furies.

"You're new here, aren't you? Don't mind her," Vilandra advised when Courtney nodded. "She's—"

" 'In a mood'," Courtney finished. "So I heard. I've been 'not minding her' for the past couple of hours. Can I get you guys anything?"

"Coke," Vilandra said.

"Cherry Coke," Ava said. "Please."

"I'll have some more coffee," a man further down the counter called.

Two Cokes later, Courtney grabbed the coffee pot, refilled the man's cup...and almost dropped the pot. "Can't you find some other way of announcing yourself?" she said peevishly as his eyes faded from pure black to human.

"Perhaps a name tag?" Brivari suggested. "I'm sure Nicholas would appreciate that when he gets here. Although it kind of negates the point of being a shapeshifter."

"No, just...pick another color," Courtney said, ignoring his sarcasm. "Both of you always do the black eyes bit. It's freaky."

"I see. So if my eyes were to go, say, brilliant purple, that wouldn't be 'freaky'?"

"I don't believe this," Courtney groaned. "I'm back behind the counter at Parker's with you appearing out of nowhere."

"Because that's what Royal Warders do," Brivari said mildly. "A brief change of eye color has always sufficed to identify myself, and black is the color least likely to draw attention or be taken seriously if a human were to notice."

"Fine," Courtney sighed. "Black it is, but don't complain to me if you wind up wearing hot coffee."

"I don't burn easily," Brivari noted.

"Ain't that helpful," Courtney muttered. "So...did Jaddo make it to Washington?"

"He did. Pierce has been suspended, his badge and gun confiscated."

"That was fast," Courtney remarked.

"No one stirs up trouble faster than Jaddo," Brivari agreed dryly. "What have I missed here?"

"Well let's see," Courtney said, eyeing the girls at the other end of the counter. "Zan is mooning over his girlfriend, Vilandra's using big words, and the queen is in the doghouse. What's up with that?"

"Long story," Brivari said. "Did I detect some tension between you and 'Maria'?"

"Yeah, she makes up her mind pretty fast," Courtney said. "And she's made up hers that she doesn't like me."

"You could try being less efficient," Brivari suggested.

"Less efficient? What, you think she'd hate me less if I missed orders and dropped plates?"

"No, I think she's going to 'hate you' either way," Brivari answered. "Fulfilling her low expectations would justify that dislike and make her feel comfortably superior to you. Those who are secure in their superiority do not feel threatened, and are thus less likely to cause problems."

Courtney blinked. "Wow. You really are a conniving bastard."

"All part of the job," Brivari shrugged. "Now...how much has Dee told you?"

"I got the Cliff's Notes version," Courtney answered. "Photos, basic relationships, basic timeline of events. There wasn't time for more last night. But she does know how to work Jeff Parker; he pretty much hired me on the spot. And what a spot—this is hybrid central. I've seen all of them but Rath."

"I think Dee knows how to work everyone," Brivari said. "There are times I dearly wish I could take her back home with me; I have a feeling she'd clean up the planet in a hurry. You can't stay there, you know. Two of the hybrids are her grandchildren, and they frequent her house. They can't find you there."

Courtney, who was chuckling inwardly at the thought of Dee locking horns with anyone and everyone on Antar, stopped short. "Can't stay there? I just got into town last night! Give me a minute."

"No need." Brivari pushed a key and a slip of paper across the counter. "I took the liberty of acquiring you a house."

"A house? I can't pay for a house on a waitress's salary."

"Of course not," Brivari said. "But I can. Garbage collection is on Thursday, and I've arranged for the lawn to be mowed. Bills for electricity and water will be sent to me. Consider it a gift from the crown." He finished his coffee. "Oh, and you already have. Met Rath, that is. He works here."

Brivari tucked a few bills beneath his coffee cup and left as Courtney stared at him. Rath worked here? Doing what? What possible occupation could Antar's version of General MacArthur have in a place like this?

"Order up!" a voice called from the kitchen. "Get a move on, people! I didn't cook it just to see it get cold!"

Snapping back to the present, Courtney found several orders on the pass-through; Maria was apparently still sulking. She'd loaded up with several plates when she saw something white peaking out of a Men in Black burger. "Shit!" she exclaimed under her breath, setting the plates down and stalking into the kitchen with the offending burger.

"Men in Black comes with Thousand Island dressing, not mayo," she snapped to the cook, whose back was to her. "Didn't we already have this conversation?"

He turned. "We did. Sorry. Give it here."

Frozen to the spot, it took Courtney a moment to hand the plate to Zan's second. "Uh...sorry about that," she said awkwardly. "I didn't mean to sound so bitchy."

"You weren't," Rath said. "Just factual. Men in Black does come with Thousand Island, and we did have this conversation. Something about Ghostbusters? Although I hated that Stay Puft dude. My favorite was Slimer." He scraped the mayo off as she stood there, tongue-tied. "So...you're the new girl who managed to piss off Maria."

"It wasn't hard," Courtney remarked, kicking herself when his eyebrows rose. Maria was apparently Rath's human girlfriend, so dissing her probably wasn't the best strategy. She was still reeling from the notion that Antar's best hope was flipping burgers in a greasy spoon, and she wasn't thinking straight.

But Rath was smiling faintly despite the raised eyebrows. "It isn't, he agreed, "but that's gotta be a record, for everyone but me, that is. What'd you do?"

"Well, let's see," Courtney said, counting on her fingers. "I was hired the same day I applied, memorized the menu, and haven't dropped anything. And I told someone named Max that I'd seen someone named Liz. And it looks like she's still pissed, so I'd better take her orders out before customers get mad."

"Why? Her orders are her problem."

"If people don't get their food and complain, she'll make it my...problem," Courtney finished heavily, realizing she'd just done it again. Jesus, how many times could she stick her foot in her mouth in one conversation?

But Rath was still smiling, openly this time. "You're a quick study. Let me throw'em under the lamps for a sec."

A slow smile spread across Courtney's face. This was not the desperate, doe-eyed Zan talking, and whatever relationship Rath had with Maria was clearly very different from the one Max had with Liz. "Done," Rath declared moments later, "plus one de-mayoed Men in Black. I'll be sure and tell Maria you bailed her out."

"Don't bother," Courtney said. "I've got more important things to do then fret over some girl's tantrum."

"Yeah? Me too." Rath handed her the last plate. "Happy fighting, Stay Puft."

"Same to you...Slimer."

They exchanged smiles as she left the kitchen, and she was still smiling after delivering the plates with sides of apologies. Zan's second was smart, witty, plain spoken, and had his priorities straight.

Maybe Antar actually had a chance after all.




~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


I'll post the Epilogue to Season 1 next Sunday. :)
BRIVARI: "In our language, the root of the word 'Covari' means 'hidden'. I'm always there, Your Highness, even if you don't see me."

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Kathy W
Obsessed Roswellian
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Epilogue

Postby Kathy W » Sun Feb 02, 2014 4:29 pm

keepsmiling7 wrote:It will be fireworks when Courtney sets her sights for the King's second.


There certainly will be! To paraphrase emerald 123, if Maria thinks it's bad now, just wait. :mrgreen:

Roswelllostcause wrote:Loved that Jeff got excited about the idea of the "granddaughter" of a former employee would be working there.


Can you tell I love history and continuity? :P Maybe Dee or Anthony could have filled in as her "former employers" if it turned out Jeff went looking for references.

emerald123 wrote:I was surprised that Jeff accepted Courtney, so easily though.


Maria's point exactly. Then again, Jeff probably thinks he can just shed her if she doesn't work out. He doesn't realize his cafe is Alien Central!


And so we come to the end of Season 1. I've split this book into three sections, one for each season, because the thread would just get too darned long and the chapter numbers too alarming. :wink: I deeply appreciate any and all who took the time to read and comment, and hope to see you back for Season 2!




EPILOGUE


June 6, 2000, 11:45 p.m.

Davis residence, Los Angeles, California





The bottle of Tylenol fell to the floor, landing with a clatter which made Brody Davis wince. Why were medicine cabinet shelves so Lilliputian? Had medicine bottles, like people, been skinnier in the past? Even the pills looked bigger when he wrestled the childproof cap off, maybe even big enough to handle his massive headache, the kind that made you want to close your eyes and forget the world existed. Thank God it was almost time to crash. He was just one more task away from blessed oblivion.

Padding back to his computer with the bitter taste of acetaminophen on his tongue, Brody pulled up his e-mail and went into rapid sort mode. First to go were all the penis enlargement promises; tempting, those, but unfortunately off topic at the moment. Then there were pleas for money from an alleged relative in Senegal and his alma mater, lots of 20% off coupons from various businesses, and yet another "we'd love to see you back!" notice from the New York Times, that short term subscription he'd tried years ago still bearing fruit. That left an awkward missive from his former business partners and a terse announcement from his ex-wife. The former was understandable; he still had friends at Hy-Tech, friends who had only reluctantly voted to buy him out and made sure it was an offer he couldn't refuse. It was hard to blame them given the giddy press his stories had received and the string of numbers in his bank account, both of which accounted for the message from Sharon; his marriage had failed because of the former, and she wanted more money because of the latter. Cute how she called it "child support"; if he thought it would really go to Sydney, he'd pay it and gladly, but it was just an excuse for Sharon to get her hands on money she felt was rightfully hers. How frustrating to watch your husband rake in the dough only to have him start talking about his abductions and make everyone think he was a lunatic. How tragic to have helped him get to that point only to watch him use his newfound bully pulpit to piss off his partners and wind up drummed out of his own company...or so she thought. The real tragedy was having to explain to his 5 year-old daughter why her daddy was no longer there, why phone calls and drawings had replaced his daily participation in her life. All the money in the world couldn't fix that. He'd hit the jackpot only to lose what was most important to him. But he'd talk to his lawyer; maybe there was a way to vector funds directly to Sydney, like paying for school tuition or summer camp. He was just about to close his e-mail when the page refreshed.

Survey results.

Brody's finger tapped on the mouse for a moment before he opened the desk drawer. The weird pentagonal thing that was supposedly an alien artifact but which he'd thought was probably just a movie prop sat silently, innocently, like it hadn't gone nuts a few weeks ago, blinking away in a dizzying fashion which had been anything but random and especially unnerving as he'd never been able to figure out how to take it apart, never mind where the light bulbs were. Faced with the possibility that he had a genuine alien artifact on his hands, he'd taken the plunge and hired some experts to look into anything which might have happened on the day it sang and danced. It was odd, but he didn't exactly remember having hired these people. He remembered considering it, but he didn't remember writing the e-mail which gave them their marching orders even though the time stamp confirmed he'd been home and on the computer. Finding their response in his in-basket had been a surprise, but he'd let it go, firmly convinced his money was well spent not because he expected anything to come of it, but because he knew that satisfying his curiosity would help him sleep at night, something of a sore point these days. Eager to check one more thing off his list, he opened the e-mail.

Roswell?

Brody scanned the e-mail, his pulse quickening. High energy microwave signal...Roswell, New Mexico...May 14...unknown origin. Didn't appear to be military-based, CIA-based, KGB-based, or anything else-based. Nothing else close to the date listed had been found. This looked real, but...Roswell? Seriously? Home of alien kitsch, Area 59 devotees, and generally recognized kooks? Being a bona fide alien abductee himself, he found the kooks especially annoying, and he'd nursed a closet suspicion that bona fide aliens felt the same about Roswell. God knows if he were an alien, he'd avoid the place like the plague. But most folklore was based on truth, if only a sliver, so perhaps that's what was happening here.

Looking longingly toward his bed, Brody hesitated; if he started digging this hole, he may never get to bed, and he had to; he was so very tired these days, exhausted out of all proportion to the hours he spent asleep. It was a puzzle because he seemed to sleep well save for the odd dream or two, but no matter how long he slept, he never seemed to awaken having felt like he'd slept that long. Still, what would ten minutes hurt? Heck, it might even help if the reason he wasn't sleeping well was because he was all worked up over this.

Ten minutes later, he'd completed a whirlwind tour of aliens Roswell style, complete with a yearly Crash Festival, an alien-themed diner which looked positively nauseating, and a UFO center which looked worse. Amateurs, Brody thought disdainfully, reading the goofy-looking owner's breathless account of a recent "sighting" in the area. So very many amateurs, and they gave all real abductees a bad name. He was just about to shut everything down when he saw a partial sentence in minuscule print at the bottom of a page.

If you're really serious...

Puzzled, Brody rolled his mouse over it. Hyperlinks usually highlighted, but this didn't. He clicked on it anyway...

...and suddenly wound up on a very different page.

Fascinated now, Brody forgot he was tired, forgot he had an 8 a.m. phone call with his real estate agent tomorrow, forgot everything but what was in front of him. The owner of the Roswell UFO Center, it turned out, was no slouch in the research department, and he'd taken the precaution of hiding an unhighlighted link in a corner of his website which the uninitiated were unlikely to find. If "Milton" was to be believed, he had an impressive array of equipment and an even more impressive library dating back decades which could answer a lot more questions than what happened on May 14th. Seized by a sudden urge to get answers, Brody was halfway through an e-mail to good ol' Milt when reality intruded, and he pushed away from the desk. What the hell was he doing? Is this what happened when you had more money than brains? This was not a proposal to make while exhausted. He saved the draft, turned off the computer, and crawled into bed. The last thing he did before closing his eyes was look at the clock.

It was 12:19 a.m.



::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::



Larak opened his eyes.

It was dark, as it always was now, hosts being more receptive when asleep. For a moment, he remained completely still. Re-entry was always tenuous; sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't. It appeared to be working this time, and after a couple of minutes of slow, deep breathing, he turned his head to look at the clock.

It was 12:37 a.m.

Slowly, he sat up. He could feel the weariness in the host's body, the unfortunate fallout from having pushed it hard over the past several days, harder than he should, harder than he ever had. But there wasn't a moment to lose; the five planets were in an uproar, a good one this time. After a long, dark night, hope had finally flared, and it had fallen to him to pinpoint its source. He had the most experience with inhabiting a host body and, by sheer luck, a host who was extremely receptive, so receptive that they'd taken the unprecedented step of repairing this body when it had fallen prey to a common human ailment which would have been fatal. Risky, that, but such compatibility was rare, rare enough that they mustn't waste it, and the effort had not been in vain. With a little help from his unknown visitor, his human host was not only healthy, but wealthy. But even healthy humans needed their sleep, and this one hadn't been getting much lately as Larak had returned nightly, searching desperately for answers before his host became too compromised to function.

Rising to his feet, Larak switched on a light and headed for the device humans called a "computer" without so much as a tug from his host. Some hosts fought re-entry, aware of the intrusion on some level, at least. Opposition had dropped sharply when they'd switched to entering hosts while they slept, but it could still happen; the host might be dreaming, or moving from a heavier to a lighter sleep cycle, enabling them to resist much the way one brushed away insects in one's sleep. One of the benefits of having a host this tired was that he fell deeply asleep very quickly, making re-entry smoother; the downside was that an exhausted host required him to remain on guard as he waited the interminable amount of time for the computer to "boot", as the host called it, fighting the body's natural urge to sleep; let that happen, and he might be evicted. Even worse, the host would realize something was amiss because he'd wake up somewhere other than the bed where he'd fallen asleep. Another advantage of entering sleeping hosts was that they could be returned to the place they last remembered being, with any memory of their bodies being borrowed explained away as dreams, drastically curtailing the abduction stories which permeated human society. Only a tiny percentage of those stories were true, but they'd gained such a hold on the human imagination that it was felt best to avoid feeding the frenzy, if possible.

The computer finally finished booting, and Larak went straight to the host's e-mail account. He normally used these sessions for reconnaissance only, being careful to leave as few traces of his existence as possible and especially careful not to initiate any actions his host would not remember doing. Recent events had forced him to break that protocol, however, taking action on his host's behalf and initiating communications which would move things along. He'd had to alter the time stamps on some of those communications to cover his tracks, and so far his host seemed to have written off his lack of memory to fatigue, but that wouldn't go on forever. He really needed to let this body recover, so he was glad to see an e-mail entitled, "Survey Results"...and stunned when he opened it.

Roswell.

With a deep sigh more akin to a sob, Larak fought back a surprising rush of emotion. When the Royal Four had fallen and been spirited away to a possible resurrection, a message had been left for them on Antar, a message even their Warders were not told of; no need really, as only their Wards could access it. That message had not been touched, and he'd expected it to remain that way for far longer given the hybrids' reported slow rate of growth. But a couple of weeks ago, a technician had burst into his office with startling news—the message had been accessed and played in its entirety. Fearing sabotage by Khivar's forces, the contents of the message had been deliberately vague in case they intercepted it, and that had been his first thought when he'd learned of this. But further analysis had revealed that the signal which accessed the message had come from an Antarian communicator which had duly recorded the genetic footprints of not one, but all four members of the Royal Four.

Larak pulled open the desk drawer where his host kept the "alien artifact" he knew was a trithium generator, produced by Khivar's soldiers on Earth which were led by his own second, Athenor, who went by the human name of Nicholas. The trithium generator had intercepted the signal which had accessed the message, conveniently piquing his host's curiosity. Unable to pinpoint the exact location of the signal over such a vast distance and still too wary to celebrate, he'd encouraged his host to locate its source, and the results had just confirmed his wildest hopes. Years ago, the surviving Royal Warders had entrusted him with the location of their prime set of hybrids in case both of them perished before the Royal Four were able to re-take the throne and additional assistance was needed to bring them home. That location was Roswell, the same place which was, if these results were to be believed, the source of the mysterious signal. The last he'd heard, the hybrids were years away from emerging, so the news that they had not only emerged, but were alive and well and aware enough to use a communicator had sent a shockwave through the five planets.

The bad news, of course, was that Khivar was aware of this as well. The Royal Warders had destroyed the vast majority of trithium generators, but a few remained, and those few had intercepted the signal just like his host's had, with no vast distance preventing the discovery of the signal's origins. If Nicholas wasn't in Roswell now, he soon would be, just as Khivar had thundered across the five planets as word had spread that Zan lived, the sheer size of the celebration, the outpouring of joy at this news driving home the point that his days were numbered. Normally he'd be concerned that Khivar would lay waste to everything so that Zan would have nothing to rule when he returned, except for one thing—every member of the Royal Four was accounted for, meaning Khivar's beloved Vilandra had also been reborn. She was now the only thing stopping him from destroying everything in his path, the only thing blocking the ferocity of a usurper on his way out the door. They were one princess away from destruction.

Mulling over how to proceed, Larak spied the "1" beside the drafts folder and opened it; what he found sent a slow smile spreading across his face. His host, it seemed had had a brilliant idea. What a wonderful way to put that money he'd made to good use and deliver his unknown passenger straight to where he needed to be to seek out the Royal Four and their Warders, who surely must be close by. He was midway through changing the time stamps on the message to make it look as though his host had sent it while awake when he stopped, suddenly wistful.

Zan. The king may be the hope of five planets, but he was also a friend, one who had been much missed these many years. All the fighting, subterfuge, and uncertainty tended to obscure that, along with the memory of a peaceful time when few needed to lock their doors or fear for their lives. What was Zan like now? Would he even remember his old friend? Would he remember anything? Hybrids didn't always. Sometimes the process went awry, as it had this time, when they'd taken so long to emerge...

Pushing those thoughts aside, Larak sent the offer to buy the Roswell UFO Museum into the ether and returned his host to bed for some much needed sleep. He would awake on another world with confirmation of the best news they'd had in ages, news which Khivar's propaganda machine had worked hard to portray as a false hope. Privately concerned it was so, Larak had stirred the pot anyway, seizing any advantage over the tyrant because even false hope produced valuable momentum. But their hope was real, and it was with genuine impatience that he closed his eyes, eager to return with a message he could not wait to deliver.

The king lived.




End of Season One


Link to Birthright, Season Two:

http://roswellfanatics.net/viewtopic.php?f=4&t=155155



~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~



Season Two begins on Sunday, March 2. :)
Last edited by Kathy W on Tue Mar 04, 2014 10:45 pm, edited 1 time in total.
BRIVARI: "In our language, the root of the word 'Covari' means 'hidden'. I'm always there, Your Highness, even if you don't see me."


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