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 108

Postby Kathy W » Sun Mar 24, 2013 4:32 pm

^ It must have been very confusing--and frightening--for all of them to have fragments of memory come back. I know how frustrating puzzles are when you don't have all the pieces, and that's essentially what was happening to them. All the more reason for them not to have been left in the dark!






CHAPTER ONE HUNDRED EIGHT




April 26, 2000,

Harding residence





Although he would never have admitted it out loud, Jaddo had often secretly regretted taking Ava from Roswell. At the time, he'd been convinced that was the best way to make certain at least one of the too-early-emerged hybrids would remember their true identities, but as the years went by and that didn't happen, the inevitable downsides of the choice he'd made loomed larger. Ava craved a family like the one she'd once had and that he couldn't give her. Watching the other three hybrids only confirmed this; Zan and Vilandra enjoyed a stable, if human, home, and while Rath did not, he did have the other two as a steadying influence, which had come in handy for those times when his temper and impulsiveness got the better of him. Ava also suffered from a temper and impulsiveness, but the only one to rein her in was her surrogate Warder, arguably a poor choice as he suffered the same faults. In retrospect, it would have been better to have left Ava in Roswell and attempted to find her a suitable foster family. At least the Royal Four would have had each other, and the pesky problem of introductions would not now exist.

Voices sounded from the living room as Jaddo came closer. But it's not all bad, he thought, his eyes narrowing when he spied the speakers. Thank goodness Ava knew, at least on a very basic level, who and what she was; she knew she wasn't human, that she was destined for a higher purpose, and that she should not forge anything even remotely close to a permanent relationship with humans. It was deeply unfortunate that there had been no way to impart the folly of that last one to the other three, and Ava's instinctive grasp of the difference between her and those whose company she kept was the one good thing about that impulsive decision he'd made a decade ago.

"It won't happen again, Liz," Tess was saying.

"I wish I could believe that," the Parker girl said doubtfully.

"Can I get you anything?" Tess asked. "A water? A soda?"

"A cup of tea would be great."

"Sure."

Tess came around the corner into the kitchen and rolled her eyes when she saw him. "I know what you're going to say—"

"Tea?" Jaddo interrupted. "What kind of self-respecting human teenager drinks tea?"

Tess blinked. "Okay, that's not what I thought you were going to say."

"Let me guess," Jaddo said. "She's a 'friend' who 'just showed up'."

"Ah!" Tess nodded. "There we go—sarcasm! You had me worried there for a minute. And she's not a friend like Isabel. Although you hated her too."

"Yes, well, at least she was the right species," Jaddo retorted. "And even that kind of 'friend' is better than an enemy."

"Liz isn't an enemy," Tess protested. "Although she might disagree with that."

"She's not the only one," Jaddo said tartly. "Stop babbling and tell me what she's doing here."

"Long story short, she saw Max and me kissing last night," Tess sighed.

"So?"

"So...she's his girlfriend. She's upset."

"So?"

"So she came here to tell me she's upset," Tess said impatiently. "C'mon, I know you're not this thick."

"Who cares if she's upset?" Jaddo said. "She has nothing to do with any of you."

"Max cares," Tess answered. "She's his girlfriend, remember?"

"Human girlfriend," Jaddo corrected. "She doesn't count. She isn't going where the rest of you are going."

"Well, are we going there today?" Tess said crossly. "No? Then how about tomorrow? How about next week? Next month? Next year?"

"Your point?" Jaddo snapped.

"Is that unless we're going right now, she does count. Because she counts here and now, and here and now is where we are."

"Gobbledygook," Jaddo declared. "Max will get over this infatuation. He'll have to."

"Maybe," Tess allowed. "But he's not getting over it any time soon...where are you going?"

"To meet this stumbling block myself," Jaddo said. "Max is beginning to respond to you, and she's the reason he's fighting it. She's also the reason they're all exposed the way they are, the reason the Unit found them. I want to see what's so all-fired important about this particular female."

"No!" Tess exclaimed. "You'll just make things worse!"

"I certainly hope so," Jaddo said.

"Nasedo, please," Tess begged. "I'll get rid of her, I promise..."

But he ignored the rest, rounding the corner into the living room to find the object of Zan's affection rifling through one of the moving boxes. "What are you doing?" he demanded.

"Oh! Um, Mr. Harding," she stammered, standing up and backing away so quickly that she jostled one of the pieces of art he'd purchased for the new house. It fell to the floor with a resounding crash.

"I'm sorry, Mr. Harding," the female babbled, eyes round at her own clumsiness. " Um, you know, I was just admiring it. I didn't mean to..."

"Accidents happen," Jaddo said, privately noting that they happened more frequently around clumsy humans.

Footsteps pounded behind them. "What was that?" Tess demanded, gaping when she saw the mess. "Oh, my God, Dad!"

"Please, let me just help you clean this up," the female begged.

"We'll get it later," Jaddo declared.

The female shook her head. "No, really, I insist."

"We'll get it later!" Jaddo snapped, rankling at her tone. How dare she "insist" on anything? How dare she expose their Wards to danger? How dare she insert herself between a world and its saviors? Who in blazes did she think she was? "We'll get it later!" he repeated sharply, which silenced her impertinent insistence, or at least the audible variety; her eyes told another story. Having been about to hustle her out of the house, Jaddo abruptly switched tactics.

"We were getting ready to have dinner," he announced. "Why don't you join us?"

The female suddenly looked even more alarmed than she had previously. "Um..."

"Please," Jaddo said deliberately. "I insist."

He used her own vocabulary, but his tone was clear, and to her credit, she heard it. At least she wasn't completely stupid. "Yeah," she said reluctantly. "Dinner would be great. Let me just call my mom."

"Of course," Jaddo said. "Tessie, would you set another place at the table, please? Your friend will be joining us. And I don't believe we've been introduced. Would you do the honors?"

It was a good thing looks couldn't actually kill because the look Tess was giving him now would have done the job in record time. "Dad, this is Liz," she said frostily. "Liz, Dad."

"Is that short for Elizabeth?" Jaddo asked.

"Um...yeah," Liz said uncertainly, as if unsure of her own name. "Uh...I need to call my mom."

"Go right ahead," Jaddo said.

They waited while Liz made her call, making a decent but ultimately ineffectual effort to disguise what she was really doing. "Would you excuse us for a moment while we check on dinner?" Jaddo said when she was finished.

"Oh, sure, yeah," Liz said, still flustered. "Go right ahead."

"What are you doing?" Tess hissed when they reached the kitchen. "Are you trying to make things worse? Because they're bad enough already!"

"On the contrary, they're moving along swimmingly," Jaddo argued. "Max is beginning to respond to you, in spite of that...that vixen in there. And as for what I'm doing, I'm sizing up the competition, and if you know what's good for you, you'll do the same. Now get out there and entertain our 'guest'. Or would you rather I kept her company?"

Tess's eyes widened, and she bolted out of the kitchen. Jaddo pulled a package of chicken from the freezer and turned around to find Brivari behind him.

"Stay out of this, Brivari," Jaddo warned. "I didn't go after her; she came to me."

"She also didn't call her mother," Brivari noted.

Jaddo slapped the chicken on the counter and held his hand over it; it thawed rapidly, juices seeping through the wrapping. "I know."




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




Evans residence





"There we are!" Diane said, setting the plate of rolls on the table. "Bread is always the last thing out. Let's eat!"

Chairs scraped as Dee, Anthony, and Philip sat down. "Mom, why don't you take Izzie's place?" Philip suggested. "She's somewhere else tonight."

"What about Max?" Anthony asked. "Is he here?"

Philip frowned. "I told him we were eating. Max!" he called. "Dinner time!"

"Philip, stop shouting," Diane admonished. "Honestly, sometimes you're like my third child, shrieking when you could just get up and go talk to someone."

"I already talked to him," Philip said. "Dad, why don't you take your usual seat. I'm sure he'll be out in a minute."

"Where's Isabel?" Dee asked in what she hoped was a casual voice.

"She said she and her friends were getting together to do school work," Diane answered. "Why this has to happen over dinner, I'll never know."

So not Jaddo's house, Dee thought with relief. It was hard to imagine him tolerating most anyone, never mind a gaggle of high schoolers. Even though she knew he wouldn't dare hurt her, watching Isabel walk into his house had been like watching a mouse walk into a lion's maw, his personal feelings about "Vilandra" having been all too clear right from the time she'd found a spaceship crashed on her neighbor's ranch. It had taken every ounce of self control not to leap out of the car and hustle her granddaughter to safety, and she'd waited impatiently for the opportunity to quiz Isabel about it. It appeared Jaddo had behaved himself, or at least as much as could be expected.

"Mashed potatoes?" Diane said, passing a dish to Anthony. "Gracious, Philip, where is Max? The food will be cold. Max!" she bellowed. "Where are you?"

"Now who's shrieking?" Philip asked dryly.

"I was nowhere near as loud as you were," Diane objected.

"So it's a decibel thing?" Philip said.

"No, it's not a 'decibel thing'," Diane said crossly. "It's just simple courtesy...Max! There you are. Come sit; Grandma and Grandpa are joining us for dinner."

She patted the chair next to her and waited expectantly, but Max hovered in the kitchen doorway, unmoving, his eyes haunted. "I'm not hungry," he answered, barely audible.

"Not hungry?" Diane repeated. "But you didn't even have a snack after school! At least have some...where are you going?"

"My room. I'm not hungry," Max insisted. "I'll be fine."

Diane shook her head as his footsteps disappeared down the hall. "Honestly, I don't know what's gotten into him. I know he's a brooder, but these last couple of weeks have been ridiculous."

Seated across from each other, Dee and Anthony exchanged glances. They'd be lucky if "brooding" was the only thing these last couple of weeks had produced, laden as they'd been with the reappearance of the Special Unit and a wife Max didn't remember. These were the times she desperately wished she could level with her son and his wife, when a solid argument could be made that doing so would could only keep the kids safer. Diane had already proven her willingness to go to bat for her very different son, and despite their earlier misgivings about Philip's reaction to learning his children belonged to a different species, she knew he loved them and would be nothing short of terrifying should they be threatened. And I'm lonely, she admitted privately as everyone tucked into their dinners. With the Warders busy and her parents on ever more shaky ground, she had only Anthony to talk to. To have two more adults to help keep the secret, to keep their eyes open, to pool their resources and put their heads together, would be fantastic...

"Mom?"

"What?" Dee said, startled, having drifted into her thoughts. "Sorry, I missed whatever you said."

"Good heavens, you're just like Max," Diane chuckled. "I should have you go ferret out what's eating him."

Love to, Dee thought, having difficulty staying in her seat, something her husband had already noticed given the not now look he was throwing her. Leaving in the middle of dinner would only call further attention to what they didn't want to call attention to.

"I tried to talk to him," Diane went on, "but you know boys and their mothers. Especially when I think it's..." She glanced back toward the now empty hallway and lowered her voice to a whisper. "G-I-R-L-T-R-O-U-B-L-E."

"He's not there, Diane," Dee said dryly. "You don't need to spell."

"You think it's what?" Philip asked.

Diane paused, then turned to Dee. "Mom, could I ask you for a huge favor?"

"Of course, dear," Dee said, "but Philip never was much of a speller. There's nothing I can do about that."

"Very funny," Philip said darkly.

"Would you go talk to Max?" Diane asked, ignoring both of them.

Dee blinked. "Who? Me?"

"Of course, 'you'," Diane said. "I know both of the kids tell you things they'd never tell me, probably because they're afraid I'll freak out or burst into tears. Would you try?"

"What...you mean now?" Dee said, sidestepping Diane's spot-on assessment of at least part of her children's reluctance. "In the middle of dinner?"

"Oh!" Diane said, flushing. "Right. I'm sorry. By all means, finish your dinner. I just get carried away when one of my kids is upset—"

"No!" Dee interrupted, practically vaulting out of her chair. "I'll go now. Glad to."

"Is the food that bad?" Philip quipped.

"I meant I'm glad to help," Dee corrected. "The food is delicious and can be reheated. That's what microwaves are for."

Anthony suppressed a smile as Dee quickly excused herself, taking advantage of this unexpected gift and leaving Diane and Philip squabbling about table manners. Max was in his room, slumped over his desk with the air of one trying—and failing—to take his mind off things with homework.

"Not having much luck?" she called from the doorway.

Max looked up, gave her a wan smile. "What gave it away?"

"The empty sheet of paper. There are few things more frightening than an empty sheet of paper which needs to be filled."

"Mom sent you back here," Max said, a statement rather than a question.

"Bingo," Dee admitted, seeing little point in denying it. "She's worried about you. Anything I can help with?"

Max shook his head slowly. "I don't think anyone can help with this one."

"Rumor has it I'm not just 'anyone'," Dee said lightly. "Try me."

"Okay," Max said, sitting back in his chair. "Have you ever done something incredibly stupid and had no idea why?"

"Yes," Dee answered.

"And someone saw you? And you had to explain why you did it, and you couldn't?"

"Yes, yes, and yes. Keep trying."

Max fiddled with his pen. "I'm pretty sure whatever happened to you isn't what happened to me."

"Oh, I'm absolutely certain of that," Dee said. "None of us have identical experiences. But all of us, at some point or other, find ourselves doing things we can't explain or would have sworn we never would have done. I'm afraid that's part of being human."

She got a small smile out of that one, although Max no doubt considered the irony unintended. Maybe she was worried for nothing; maybe this was a purely human problem. And even though no problem was welcome, if one had to show up, it would be nice if at least a few weren't of the alien variety...

The phone rang, and Max crossed the room to answer it. "Hello?" he said, followed by a surprised, "Liz?"

Dee rose silently, meaning to slip out of the room. But his next words stopped her in her tracks.

"What are you doing at Tess's house?"

Dee's ears pricked. Tess's house? Why was Liz at Tess's house? Isabel and Tess were friendly, but it was highly unlikely the same could be said for Liz and Tess...

"Liz, what's going on?" Max demanded. "Is something wrong?" There was another pause. "Liz, stay put," he ordered. "I'll be right there. I won't let anything happen to you. I'll be right there!"

"Is there...anything I can do?" Dee ventured as Max slapped the phone down and grabbed his jacket.

"No. Gotta run, Grandma. Sorry."

Footsteps pounded down the hallway and raised voices called, followed by a slammed door and an engine starting. Dee watched the jeep careen backwards out of the driveway just as Diane arrived in the doorway.

"Mom! What happened? Where is Max going?"

"He...got a phone call," Dee answered. "Something upsetting, I gather."

"Oh, dear," Diane groaned. "Let me guess...Liz? Honestly, sometimes I wonder if we were right to let them keep seeing each other."

"They would have kept seeing each other whether you 'let them' or not," Dee said. "You can't protect them from everything, Diane, and you shouldn't."

"Doesn't stop me wanting to," Diane sighed. "Well...thanks for trying. I'll reheat your food. Too bad he ran out before you got a chance to learn anything."

Oh, but I did, Dee thought, fighting a rising urge to jump in the car and hightail it over to Jaddo's house. Luckily her phone rang before she made it back to the kitchen.

"Is he gone yet?" Brivari asked.

"Yes, but what in blazes is going on?" Dee demanded. "Why is Liz at Jaddo's house?"

"It would appear that Ava's efforts have had an effect," Brivari answered. "Zan is responding to her...and that has not escaped the Parker girl's notice."

"Responding...responding how?" Dee said. "What did he do?"

"They kissed," Brivari reported. "If Ava is to be believed, he initiated it, although I confess to some skepticism on that score."

Have you ever done something incredibly stupid and had no idea why?

And someone saw you?

And you had to explain why you did it, and you couldn't?


"No, she's right," Dee said heavily. "He did. And I'm guessing Liz saw them."

"And came to confront her rival," Brivari said, "whereupon she encountered another. Jaddo has asked her to dinner."

"Dinner?" Dee repeated in astonishment. "With him? The most socially inept creature of any species on this planet?"

"Harsh, but not entirely untrue," Brivari said dryly. "And I gather the Parker girl shares your assessment. She pretended to call her parents to tell them her whereabouts, but really called Zan."

"Who's riding to her rescue," Dee groaned. "Good Lord, what's Jaddo up to? What's he trying to accomplish by staging a 'dinner'?"

"He's sizing up an obstacle. Look, this was never going to work," Brivari went on when she started to protest further. "Sooner or later the Parker girl will have to learn that Zan isn't staying here; none of them are. I'm delighted my Ward is responding to his mate; that's as it should be, although I'm taking a more cautious view of how much use that will be to us in the immediate future. Jaddo, on the other hand, is over the moon. He's always believed Ava could awaken the rest of them, and he's hoping this will be his vindication."

Of course he does, Dee thought. Of course the Warders would see this as a welcome development; their mission, the whole point of their being here, was to resurrect their royal family and bring them home. And then what? she thought sadly, and not for the first time. When the time came for them to leave, Liz Parker wouldn't be the only one left behind.

"Please don't let Jaddo do anything...weird," Dee finished. "Do keep in mind that Liz is a large part of the reason Max is still alive."

"Which is precisely why she's still alive," Brivari said. "Jaddo talks a good game, but he still adheres to the rules. He won't hurt her, and I imagine the king will be along presently to hustle her away. This should be interesting."

Not the word I'd use, Dee thought sadly as she rang off. Max must be in a panic wondering why he was drawn to another girl he'd only just met. At this point, it could be argued that it would be a kindness to simply lay the cards on the table instead of leaving everyone hanging, wondering why the world had seemed to suddenly turn upside down.

"Mom?" Diane called. "Your food's warm."

"Just in the bathroom, dear," Dee called back, the urge to run over to Jaddo's stronger than ever now. Instead she ducked into the bathroom and placed one more call, to the one other person on the planet she could talk to, and the only one who might be able to offer some guidance.




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





"It's back here," Alex said as they all piled out of their cars. "The lock on one of the doors wasn't exactly what you'd call robust."

Max followed silently as Alex led the way through the parking lot of the abandoned warehouse where he'd apparently set up a receiving station for the camera they'd found in Michael's apartment. Maria, Liz, Alex, and Michael had ridden back in the Jetta, with only Isabel joining him in the jeep, sitting in shocked silence the entire way while he'd done a slow boil which now came to a head as Alex pushed open a dilapidated door for Liz and Maria, who slipped inside with their arms wrapped around each other.

"Michael, wait," Max said.

Michael stopped without turning around. "Here it comes," he sighed. "What?"

"You know very well 'what'," Max said. "That's why you rode back with Maria, because you knew this was coming. Why didn't you tell me you were going to use the camera?"

Ahead of them, Isabel stopped, and Alex joined her as Michael turned around. "Uh...Max?" Alex ventured, making a time-out symbol with this hands. "Using the camera was your idea, remember? Midnight visitations? Me in my skivvies?"

"We talked about how it could be done, but we never set a time to do it," Max said. "I had no idea what you guys were up to."

"Whoa, back up!" Alex said. "Michael said you...knew," he finished faintly as Michael looked away.

"And that you'd opted not to participate," Isabel said angrily. "Michael, you lied to us?"

"Max knew all about this," Michael said calmly. "Like Alex just said, it was his idea. He just didn't know we were doing it tonight."

"Right, you lied to us," Isabel said in disgust.

"I was trying to give Max a break," Michael argued.

"How is putting Liz's life in danger giving me a 'break'?" Max demanded.

"Okay, I'm really sorry you didn't know because I thought you did," Alex broke in, "but as for Liz, she agreed to go in there. No one twisted her arm."

"I don't care what she 'agreed' to; you shouldn't have let her go!" Max exclaimed.

"Like you didn't 'let' her go to the Indian reservation?" Michael said. "Liz'll go where she goes. You know that."

"And she wasn't supposed to stay for dinner," Isabel added. "She was just going to plant the camera and leave."

"If we've learned anything at all so far, we should have learned that nothing ever goes as planned," Max said. "Did you even have a plan for getting her out if something went wrong? Other than standing around by the side of the road, that is?"

"Hey, we went over there as soon as it went south," Michael argued. "And I'm the one who wanted to go in and get her out."

"Yeah, well, I'm the one who did," Max retorted.

"And you shouldn't have," Michael said. "Because you're the target, Maxwell. None of us can deny that now. Unless Isabel wants to launch into another impassioned defense of her cool new friend who has a father who works for the military and a box full of Max pictures."

Isabel shook her head savagely. "She tricked me. She tricked me just to get close to Max."

"And I suspected as much," Michael said. "Which is why I decided to go ahead with the plan and leave Max out of it. He's the one they're after, so he should be staying away from them."

"You didn't even believe me when I told you something was up with Tess," Max accused.

"I do now," Michael said soberly. "We all do."

A strained silence followed, punctuated only by the breeze whistling around the buildings. "Look, Liz said she managed to right the camera after it fell," Alex said. "It might be working. We should take a look."

The four of them trooped inside. Liz and Maria were huddled around a computer screen which looked strangely out of place in the deserted warehouse.

"It works," Maria said. "Come look."

They crowded around the monitor which displayed a ghostly black and white image of the Harding's living room. "I was afraid it broke," Liz said faintly, rubbing her arms as if she were cold.

"Nope, it's working perfectly," Alex said. "Nice save, Liz."

"Now what?" Isabel whispered.

Alex settled back in his chair. "Now...we wait."




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




New York City




Yvonne White set her purse on the table inside the door of her apartment, closed the door behind her, and headed straight for the fridge. She'd just eaten dinner with Stephen at the facility where he lived but, as nice a place as it was, the menu left something to be desired, which is how she found herself seated at the kitchen table eagerly scooping mint chocolate chip right out of the container with a spoon. She'd put on some weight these past few years and probably shouldn't be scarfing down ice cream, but then that was one of the perks of living this long; you hadn't much time left anyway, so you might as well enjoy the time you had. She was reminded of this every single day when she visited her husband, his vacant eyes passing over her as though he had no idea who she was...because he didn't. If Stephen were still himself, no doubt he'd wish he'd eaten more ice cream when he could have.

Yvonne set the carton down and ran a hand over the kitchen table, suddenly wistful. They'd had nothing when they'd first reached New York, on the run from Pierce and his experiments with her as chief guinea pig. This table was one of the first things they'd bought, at a flea market on the lower east side. Sometimes she'd bring Stephen home to eat, pushing his wheelchair up to the table, hoping the familiar surroundings would nudge a memory. They never did, but it was still nice to have him there occasionally, pretending that life was normal again. But life wasn't normal, and bringing him here was exhausting, so most nights she ate alone as she did tonight, remembering a husband who no longer remembered her and wondering if she'd been wise to retire when she had. Granted, she would have had to seriously reduce her schedule, but maybe this would be easier if she had something else, something to take her mind off things, to be useful in some other walk of life...

The blinking light on the answering machine caught her attention. Had that been blinking when she'd come in? These days it could mean anything from telemarketing to catastrophe, and she'd been guilty of ignoring it at times when she just wasn't in the mood to face more bad news. Like now, as she finished her ice cream before listening to it; virtually anything was better when faced with a tummy full of ice cream.

Five minutes later, after listening to the message four times, she scurried to the phone to purchase an airline ticket and notify Stephen's care facility that she'd be gone for a few days. After all these years, it appeared she was still useful after all...and it still wasn't over.



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


Next week is Easter, so I'll post Chapter 109 on Sunday, April 7. :)
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 109

Postby Kathy W » Sun Apr 07, 2013 3:12 pm

keepsmiling7 wrote:It's good to see the "Yvonne" story expanded. It is a shame the TV show didn't address that opportunity.


Thank goodness for fanfic! Although, in fairness, I doubt many viewers were very interested in the fate of the nurse at the base.

emerald 123 wrote: I love how you have the group dynamics down.


Thank you! Michael's easy to channel. He and I are...*ahem*...a lot alike in some ways. :wink:


Thank you both so much for reading, and for your feedback!






CHAPTER ONE HUNDRED NINE



April 27, 2000, 6:30 a.m.

Harding residence






The hairdryer turned off as Jaddo leaned against his bedroom window, sipping a cup of coffee. New places to live never bothered him the way they bothered Tess, but he had to admit that he was having trouble adjusting to this latest house, the largest they'd ever had. Everything seemed so far away, every sound fainter than usual. He could usually tell how close Tess was to being ready for school by little sounds like the clinking of a wand in a tube of mascara or the swish of a brush's bristles through hair. In this larger space he had to rely on larger sounds like hairdryers and water turning on and off to help him gauge who was where and what they were doing. Is this what it was like to live in one of Brivari's mansions, so far away from everything that it was hard to hear a toilet flush? He found the extra space annoying and distracting, but there was nothing for it. When the king came back to himself, as he was likely to do any day now, it would not do for his mate to be living in a hovel. For all that Brivari disapproved of the way he'd taken Ava when she'd emerged, the real test would come when Zan discovered his wife's fate. The king would likely not be pleased to learn he'd gone against his Warder's wishes, so he would need to show she'd been well cared for in order to justify his behavior.

The bedroom door across the hall opened, and Tess emerged, pausing when she saw him. "What, just coffee?" she said sardonically. "No breakfast party for friends, enemies, maybe my entire school class?"

"Very funny," Jaddo said.

"You disappeared after Liz left last night," Tess said.

"I had other things to do besides entertaining meddlesome humans."

"Oh, really? So why didn't you feel that way when you insisted she stay for dinner?"

"I wasn't entertaining her," Jaddo said. "I was evaluating her. There's a difference."

" 'Evaluating' what?" Tess demanded. "Do you really think Max would love an idiot? Would I even want a man who'd love an idiot?"

"What any of you 'want', is immaterial, and I wouldn't go so far as to call her an 'idiot'," Jaddo said. "It's not her fault she's only human."

"Yeah, well, do me a favor and don't 'evaluate' anyone else," Tess said crossly. "I'm in enough trouble already because Liz saw Max kiss me. I don't need you making it worse."

"Oh, you're in more trouble than you realize," Jaddo murmured, gazing out the window. "They're on to you."

" 'On to me'?" Tess echoed. "Since when do you use slang? And even if they are, wasn't that the point?"

"I should rephrase that," Jaddo amended. "They're suspicious of you. They probably think you're FBI."

Tess stared at him for a moment in open-mouthed astonishment before she burst out laughing. "What...me? FBI? Since when does the FBI use teenagers?"

"I doubt they've gotten that far," Jaddo said dryly. "Look, why do you think Max showed up last night?"

"You heard him," Tess said. "He was feeling guilty because he kissed me."

"Wrong. He showed up because Liz called him. Nice trick, but she didn't cover it well. You didn't really think she was calling her mother, did you?"

The expression on Tess's face made it very clear that, yes, she had thought exactly that. Honestly, sometimes he wondered if all the years he'd spent training this one had been wasted if she couldn't see through such a simple subterfuge. "So," Jaddo went on, obviously needing to draw the dotted lines, "you think she's mad at Max, but if so, then why did she call him? I'll tell you why: She called him because they're suspicious of you. That entire song and dance routine last night was probably a pretense to get a look at us."

"Great," Tess muttered. "If that's what they were thinking before, what must they think now, after your charming performance?"

"My performance? Correct me if I'm wrong, but aren't you the one who sends the king mindwarps that leave him gaping in public places?"

"Yes, but...look, I can't figure you out," Tess sputtered, flushing furiously. "First you get mad at me for doing that, but then you're over the moon because he's starting to remember, but he's starting to remember because I did that, you know, the thing which made you mad? So make up your mind, would you? Either be mad or be happy. You can't be both."

"Of course I can," Jaddo answered. "I still think it was a foolish and deeply offensive way to get your point across. That it produced a desirable result is more of a happy accident than anything else, and it also produced an undesirable result, that being that they're now suspicious of you. You're going to need to pick up the pace and get them to where they need to be before their suspicions overwhelm them. Because even though you're not Unit, the Unit is close, and we can't risk you being the reason they do something stupid which plays right into its hands."

"Okay, now you're just being paranoid," Tess argued. "I mean paranoid for you. You're always paranoid."

"See that car down there?" Jaddo said, pointing out the window. "They're watching you. Have been since last night."

Tess stood very still for a moment before joining him at the window. "Max?" she whispered.

"Michael," Jaddo corrected. "And a human."

"Michael?" Tess said, puzzled. "Why would he be spying on me?"

"Because it's his job. The point is, we can't leave them feeling threatened. That's when they screw up, and now is a very bad time to screw up."

"And if that happens... it'll be my fault," Tess said quietly. "Noted."

You said it, not me, Jaddo sighed. He never knew what to think of these hybrids. One minute they behaved appropriately, and the next he'd like to smack them. Take Ava, for example, who'd managed to reawaken at least Zan's memories by a completely unacceptable method. Or Rath, who was quite properly responding to a perceived threat to his king, but had chosen to do so in the company of a human...

Jaddo's ears pricked as sounds on the floor below told him Tess was getting ready to leave...and there was suddenly movement in Rath's car, which was started in short order and followed Tess's car out of the tract. He watched it go, puzzled as to how Rath could have known Tess was on her way out before she'd left the house, pondering that for several minutes before the answer finally came to him.

Do you really think Max would love an idiot?

That little vixen, Jaddo thought darkly as he hurried downstairs, peeved at having fallen for it so completely. Presented as a visit from an aggrieved lover, it had been nothing more than a subterfuge for an entirely different purpose, and he scanned both the living and dining rooms before his eyes fell on the formerly broken statue, now repaired. She'd been quite interested in cleaning that up, pushy even...

It was well hidden, even from him, a tiny thing in a decorative ashtray full of pebbles. He disabled it from across the room to give anyone using it the impression that it had simply failed, then lifted it from its hiding place, frowning. A video camera, tiny, powerful from a human perspective, and definitely not standard issue.

"Morning," Brivari's voice said when he answered his phone. "And who are we entertaining today? The Queen?"

"I'm always entertaining the queen," Jaddo answered. "I live with her, remember?"

"Dee wasn't happy with your little dinner party," Brivari warned. "You're going to get an earful next time you see her."

"Don't I always? And besides, it wasn't just a 'dinner party'," Jaddo answered. "It was an excuse to plant a surveillance device."

Laughter floated over the phone. " 'Surveillance device'? Seriously? What, did they kluge something together from toasters and telephones? Or get someone else to, rather, as neither Zan nor Rath are especially handy in the gadget department—"

"Brivari, shut up and listen to me," Jaddo commanded. "This is no toy. This is high tech by human standards. Very high tech. As in government issue."

There was a long pause. "As in Unit issue," Brivari said finally.

"Exactly," Jaddo said grimly. "We were waiting for Pierce to make his move? He just made it."




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




West Roswell High School






"Let's see, who hasn't contributed yet today...Miss Evans. Miss Evans?"

Isabel's head jerked up, having been resting on both hands, face lowered toward her textbook which lay open on the desk in front of her as though she'd been reading it when she'd really nodded off. For a moment she stared in shock at the expectant faces of her classmates, every single one of which was turned her way, then at their history teacher's equally expectant face, all accompanied by a charged hush as everyone waited for...what? Had the teacher just asked her a question? That would explain his raised eyebrows, the small smiles on some of her classmates' faces as they anticipated a meltdown, the frown on her brother's as he anticipated the same...

"Vietnam," she blurted after doing a speed read of both the blackboard and her open textbook.

The teacher blinked. "Uh...yes," he answered, sounding surprised. "The Vietnam war was the catalyst for the most recent debate about selective service. Now, who can tell me..."

Isabel let out a long slow breath, not hearing the rest as her classmates also deflated, having hoped for fireworks and a break in the monotony. Only Max still looked troubled, knowing full well why she'd fallen asleep in class. Staying up all night could do that to you, not to mention finding out that your new best friend was nothing of the sort. The odd part was that Max had slept like a baby last night. Well, of course he had—he'd been vindicated. For her it was another story. In the space of 24 hours, she'd gone from angry at the way her new friend was being treated, to flabbergasted at having entertained an FBI informer in her very own bedroom, to shell-shocked at having been that close to one of her own kind without knowing. And that wasn't even touching on the guilt, the culpability that she and she alone bore for allowing Tess into their lives. How could she possibly have done that? How could she have been so close to another alien and had no idea?

The bell rang. Relieved, Isabel gathered up her books and headed for her locker, opening the door and leaning against it like she might fall over because she felt as if she might. No wonder sleep deprivation was used as torture. Although not sleeping might be a good thing if it meant she didn't have dreams like the one she'd had last night, standing in the desert with Michael and all those weird symbols on the ground...

"You okay?"

Isabel jerked upward. "No, Max, I am not 'okay'. I am many, many things right now, but 'okay' is definitely not one of them."

"We'll get through this," Max said gently. "We've been through worse."

"Worse?" Isabel echoed. "Really? Worse than being hunted and deceived by one of our own?"

"I know this looks bad—"

"Yes, Max, because it is bad," Isabel broke in. "It looks bad because it is bad. Although I guess not for you. For you, this means you were right, that Tess was after you, that you can't be held responsible for kissing her. For you, this is a Get-Out-Of-Jail-Free card. No more doghouse for you."

"Iz—"

"But think of what it means for me," Isabel rushed on, ignoring him. "I let her in. I let her close to me. I fell for it hook, line, and sinker. Why didn't I see it coming? Why didn't I know? The way she put sugar in her food, all those questions about that symbol we drew in the sand...how could I have been so stupid?"

"There's no way you could have—"

"And to think I enjoyed being with her because she wasn't part of any of our problems," Isabel ploughed on. "And now I find out she's the problem? It was bad enough when we thought she was working for the FBI, but having her be an alien...at the least the FBI thing is understandable, you know, the whole humans versus aliens thing. But one of us? Lying to us, deceiving us, weasling her way into our lives...that's worse. It's like...it's like a sacrilege. Like a betrayal."

"You shouldn't blame—"

"I mean, why would one of our own kind do that? Why not just walk up to us and spit it out? Why all the cloak and dagger? Why come back for us at all? We've been here for years and..." Isabel stopped, yet another horrifying thought occurring to her. "Oh, God," she said faintly. "What if we're criminals? What if we escaped from jail, or something, and they're coming to round us up? What if—"

"Isabel," Max broke in firmly. "We're not criminals. Why would we be children wandering in the desert if we were criminals? That doesn't make any sense. Look, we could 'what if' all day and all night and never get any closer to the answer," he went on. "I've run through all the same lists, and I can't make sense of it either. All we know now is that she's definitely an alien, and she's not making her move yet."

"I'd call using me to get to you 'making a move'," Isabel said sourly.

Max shook his head. "Liz said she acted totally innocent this morning, remember? She doesn't realize we're onto her, and whatever she's up to, she hasn't hurt any of us...yet."

"She hurt me," Isabel retorted. "She violated me!"

Max raised an eyebrow. " 'Violated'?"

"Yes!" Isabel wailed. "We did each others' hair, and nails, and make-up—"

"So you're saying that hair and nails is worse than kissing?"

Isabel blinked. "No. Yes!" she amended in exasperation. "You didn't want to kiss her. You didn't spend all day planning to kiss her, and thinking about kissing her, and looking forward to kissing her—"

"Okay," Max said soothingly. "I get it. She deceived both of us, and we're both mad. But this isn't helping. Falling to pieces won't fix anything. We need to do something about it, not just flail around getting angry. Like I said earlier, we're going to keep following her and hope she gives something away before she figures out we know."

Isabel stared at him blankly, then looked past him to the sign which read "School Office". "Maybe we should do more than just follow her."

"What do you mean?" Max asked warily.

"I mean the best defense is a good offense. Isn't that what they say in sports?"

"I'm not sure either of us is qualified to say anything about sports," Max said doubtfully. "Or what that has to do with—"

"Whatever," Isabel said dismissively. She used the mirror on her locker door, smoothing her hair, fixing her lipstick, plastering a smile on her face. "Meet the new chairman of the 'Sunshine Committee'," she announced as Max raised an eyebrow. "Wish me luck!"





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




Roswell Sheriff's Station




"I've heard some stories about unscrupulous moving companies in town. Staking out your place for future robberies, that sort of thing. I'll tell you what...leave your information with my deputy outside. I promise I'll get to the bottom of this."

"Well, thank you, Sheriff," Ed Harding said. "I feel safe in your hands."

Roswell's newest resident left a happy customer, and Jim Valenti turned the tiny camera over and over in his hands before pulling out a pile of photos he'd developed himself in his basement darkroom. His father had always had a darkroom, finding it advantageous to have the option of developing his own photos away from prying eyes. He'd spend hours in there, especially after one of his famous jaunts to the woods, and Valenti vividly recalled his mother angrily throwing the door open, resulting in ruined film and the door being locked from the inside thereafter. His own version, settled in the remnants of a post-war basement powder room, hadn't seen much use until just lately when he'd begun to creep over to his father's way of seeing things. It only handled black-and-white photos, color film being such a pain to deal with, but he didn't need Kodachrome to tell him what he was looking at. He'd been following Max Evans since he'd learned of Malcolm Margolin's fate, and up until last night, Evans appeared to lead a remarkably boring life. When he'd followed him to the sparkling new Harding residence last night, his first thought was that Roswell High's newest student was throwing a house warming party until he watched Max go to the door alone while the rest waited tensely outside. The subsequent extraction of a visibly shaken Liz Parker and the relieved greetings she'd received bore more of a resemblance to a rescue than a celebration. He'd remained by the house for another hour to see if anything else developed, kicking himself when nothing had because he'd lost the kids and consoling himself by doing a thorough work-up on the Hardings. But...nothing. Ed Harding and his blonde daughter were as squeaky clean as they came. Max and company were the chief suspects for camera planters, but why in blazes would they plant a camera in the Harding's house? And how had they managed to get their hands on such a tiny camera in the first place?

"Stuart!" Valenti said when his ring was answered. "How's things?"

"Okay, I guess," came the wary reply. "Why?"

Valenti smiled faintly. "I've got something for you, a very, very small camera. I need to know where it came from. Think you could do that?"

There was a sharp intake of breath on the other end. "Be there in five."

"Use the back stairs," Valenti warned. "I'd rather not—"

Click

Valenti shook his head as he hung up. Stuart Clifford was a bona fide geek, a techno weenie college student whose skills had come in handy before. Sure, he could research this through official channels, but that involved tipping off a host of people whose attention he'd rather not attract, not the least of whom were his own deputies. Stuart was somewhat lacking in social skills, so it was unlikely he'd spill the beans, any beans, anywhere. Besides, most people couldn't understand a word Stuart said, himself included. The last time he'd used Stuart's services, he'd had to ask for a translation—

KnockKnock

Valenti blinked. "Come in?'

Wow, he thought when Stuart quietly slipped inside dressed in his usual geek chic, a less weird combination of button-down shirt, aviator glasses, and Nikes instead of pocket protectors, horn rims, and Keds. The kid always got here fast, making him wonder if he didn't sleep in the dumpster, but this was a new record even for him. "I was close by," Stuart said, answering his unspoken question. "What've you got?"

"Don't you ever have class?" Valenti wondered.

"I do most of my work at home; saves all kinds of time. What've you got?"

Valenti stared at him a moment before shrugging and holding out the camera, which produced a gasp of amazement. "Oh. My. God," Stuart intoned, wide-eyed. "Where in the Sam Hill did you get that?"

"Watching Davy Crocket again?" Valenti asked.

"Davy Crocket predates the expression," Stuart answered with a perfectly straight face. "Samuel Hill was a surveyor who lived in the nineteenth century and used so much profanity that his name became a euphemism for 'hell'. At least that's one possible origin. There are many more, although that one gets my vote."

"Which makes it most likely in my book," Valenti agreed. "And I can't tell you where I got this. What can you tell me about it?"

Stuart's mouth opened in a large, round "O". "Of course you can't," he agreed in a conspiratorial whisper. "Just let me look at it..." He held his breath as he took the tiny camera, holding it up to the light as though hefting the Eucharist at Mass. "Oh, you little beauty," he crooned softly. "Come to Daddy!"

"Stuart?" Valenti prompted.

Stuart flushed. "Right. To work." He gingerly handed the camera back to Valenti and pulled his laptop out of the messenger bag which he wore like it was a part of his body. Within minutes, he'd plugged into the internet jack and he was off, fingers flying over the keys, eyes flicking up every so often to assess his "little beauty". Valenti waited patiently, having seen this play out many times. He had no idea what illicit sites this guy hacked into, and he didn't want to ask, especially not this time and especially because this was taking longer than usual...

"Got it," Stuart announced about ten minutes later, an eternity for him.

"That took a while," Valenti remarked.

"This is no ordinary equipment," Stuart said defensively. "You wouldn't believe where I had to go to find out about it."

"I might," Valenti muttered. "And?"

"And it's special issue. Special government issue. Either CIA or—"

"FBI," Valenti finished.

Stuart's eyes widened. "Yeah. According to my sources, only the top spooks get to use this. It's virtually state-of-the-art, very expensive, very limited issue."

"Uh huh. So...how does one go about using something like this? I mean, I know you have to plant it, but how do you see what it sees?'

"You need a receiver," Stuart explained, "and it would have to be within range."

"What kind of range are we talking? Five miles? Ten?"

"Try one, tops," Stuart said. "A half mile or less to get a really good picture."

Valenti felt the blood drain from his face. "So you're telling me that whoever plants this has to be within a mile of it in order for it to work?"

"At least," Stuart answered. "Should be closer."

Valenti's mouth set in a thin line. "I see." He held out a hand. "Thanks, Stuart. I'll take it from here."

"Is there anything else I can look up for you?" Stuart asked hopefully. "Maybe its frame rate, or—"

"No. Thanks. That'll be all. Stuart?" Valenti added when Stuart didn't move. "May I have the camera, please?"

"Huh? Oh...sure," Stuart said, reluctantly handing over the tiny camera. "So when do I get to listen to the scanners? This weekend?"

"Okay," Valenti said distractedly.

"When? Saturday or Sunday?"

"Whatever," Valenti said impatiently. "I'll call you."

"Saturday's better than Sunday because I have...never mind," Stuart said hastily when Valenti shot him the evil eye. "Later, sheriff."

Valenti sank back in his chair as the kid scurried out of the office, his footsteps pounding down the back stairs like he was being chased. Here the kid had just given him valuable, if terrifying, information, and then he went and treated him like crap. Listening to the police scanner was the incredibly cheap fee for Stuart's services and well worth it, so why had he just barked at him? Because I'm scared, he admitted. The FBI was back in town, and this time he was willing to bet it wasn't a leggy blonde with a conscience. No, this time the owner of that camera had likely executed said blonde and purportedly had a hit list which contained both his name and Kyle's. This time the stakes were higher.

"School's out," Valenti muttered, glancing at the clock. "Time to have another chat, Mr. Evans, and this time, perhaps I need to get a little more pointed."




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




Proctor residence




"Did you do it?" Dee demanded.

Jaddo mounted the front porch steps wearing his characteristic smoldering expression which Dee ignored, as did Brivari, grave, but calm, as he sat to her left. How he could sit at a time like this escaped her. She'd been pacing the porch for at least a half hour now.

"Yes, I did it," Jaddo said, "and thanked the good sheriff for make me feel all safe and snuggly. Now, would someone mind telling me why we're dragging Valenti into this? And why did both of you insist I come here to discuss it?"

"We'll get to that," Brivari said.

"Then let's get to it inside," Jaddo said. "If I have to come all the way over here, I can at least get a cup of coffee."

"Did you kill Dr. Margolin?" Dee said, stepping between Jaddo and the front door.

Jaddo stared at her. "Who?"

"Malcolm Margolin," Brivari explained. "The doctor who supervised Topolsky's care, and whom I impersonated to secure Valenti's help in separating her from the hybrids."

"That's a novel way of putting it," Dee muttered.

"Thank you," Brivari answered with a perfectly straight face.

"Kill him?" Jaddo repeated. "Why would I kill him? Isn't he on the East coast, or something?"

"Bethesda, Maryland," Brivari confirmed.

"So you're asking if I flew to the other side of the country to execute him?" Jaddo said in astonishment. "Because there's nothing important going on here, so I have all the time in the world to hop a plane and go after someone who has no idea he was impersonated. Honestly, have both of you taken leave of your senses?"

"Told you," Brivari murmured.

"I wanted to hear it from him," Dee said.

"Would someone please tell me what the hell is going on?" Jaddo demanded.

"Dr. Margolin is dead," Brivari explained.

"Believe it or not, I figured that out," Jaddo said impatiently. "I'll send flowers. So?"

"So he died right after he started asking questions about a visit he supposedly made to Roswell," Dee said, "a visit he claimed he never made."

"So what made you think of me?" Jaddo said peevishly. "He's the one who impersonated him."

"I told her as much," Brivari allowed, "but the interesting part is that Margolin learned of his alleged visit from one Roswell sheriff, who was calling to follow up on an FBI agent of his acquaintance."

"So Valenti knows he was had," Jaddo said. "And he'll never let go of it, so you killed him. Margolin, I mean."

Brivari shook his head. "I never touched him. Been a bit busy myself."

Jaddo's eyes narrowed. "Pierce."

"That's what we're thinking," Brivari nodded. "Margolin was apparently asking about more than his Roswell visit. Something about Topolsky's 'brothers' returning her to Bethesda when she didn't have any siblings."

"And like you said, Valenti will never let go of it," Dee added. "So if he's going to be involved anyway, we need him on our side. That's why you had to tell him about the camera. He'll figure out where it came from."

"What makes you think he'll wind up on our side?" Jaddo asked. "His father certainly wasn't."

"He was more on your side than you ever realized," Dee said. "He mostly didn't like being lied to or anyone interfering with his town...like the FBI."

"His son has no love for the Bureau either, and we're planning on using that to our advantage," Brivari added. "It will help if Valenti is on their tail too."

"Will it?" Jaddo said doubtfully. "We could wind up with one more enemy to fight."

"Valenti is not your enemy," Dee insisted. "I honestly believe his father would have helped me if he could have when Nicholas captured Courtney and her father. He was worried he'd lead the FBI right to her, and I couldn't argue with that. And his son was calling Margolin because he was genuinely concerned about Kathleen Topolsky, so that further argues--"

"Wait," Jaddo interrupted. "How do you know all this?"

"Because I told her," another voice said.

Dee bit her lip as Yvonne White appeared in the front doorway, elderly, leaning heavily on her cane, but eyes as bright as ever. "Did we wake you?" Dee fretted. "I deliberately came out to the porch because—"

But Yvonne waved her silent with a dismissive hand. "Don't fuss. I'm not that bad off."

Jaddo's eyes had widened. "Lieutenant?" he whispered. "What are you doing here?"

"I didn't ask her to come," Dee said hastily as Yvonne maneuvered through the front door and Brivari rose to give her his seat. "I just called her, and—"

"And I decided to come," Yvonne finished, lowering herself slowly into the proffered chair. "Dee tells me they're remembering. I've waited for this moment almost as long as you have. And when I heard about Margolin, I made a few phone calls. I have contacts within the psychiatric community, so I was able to confirm a few things without arousing suspicion."

"Lieutenant," Jaddo said intently, "please don't take this the wrong way, but you can't be here now. Pierce had a son who—"

"I know," Yvonne said. "They told me. And as dismayed as I am at the notion that someone like Pierce would actually reproduce, the fact remains that it was the father who pursued me, not the son. So I wouldn't worry on that score. He has no idea who I am."




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




"Danny!" Brian shouted, pounding down the hall of the safe house where the Unit had set up headquarters, "you won't believe what I...why are you wearing that?"

Pierce flung out both arms and gave him a dazzling smile. "Like it? It's the newest in deputy chic."

"Um...why are you dressed like a sheriff's deputy?" Brian asked.

"For phase two of Operation Roswell," Pierce said.

"I'm afraid to ask," Brian said doubtfully.

"Then don't," Pierce said cheerfully. "What was it I wouldn't believe?"

"This," Brian said, brandishing a flight manifest. "Remember that list of names we were watching? One of the top contenders just boarded a flight to Roswell."

Pierce let out a low whistle as he scanned the manifest. "There you are, darlin'," he said softly. "Gotcha!"


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




I'll post Chapter 110 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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Joined: Thu Oct 31, 2002 5:06 am

Chapter 110

Postby Kathy W » Sun Apr 14, 2013 4:53 pm

CHAPTER ONE HUNDRED TEN




April 27, 2000, 3:45 p.m.

Evans residence





Tess stopped on the sidewalk in the front of Isabel's house, fretting. If what she feared was true, what was she going to say? When she'd met the Others in her dreams, they'd recognized her immediately and had a joyful reunion; when reality failed to match that dream, she'd failed to come up with an alternate script, a step-by-step, line-by-line road map for how to say, "Hi! I'm your long lost relative!" Unfortunate, that, because if what she was going to say was still up in the air, the fact that it needed saying wasn't. God how she hated it when Nasedo was right.

That he was had become clear the moment she'd hit her driveway this morning and spied Michael and Maria trying—and failing—to duck down. Not only did she hate it when Nasedo was right, she also hated the fact that she would have completely missed their clumsy efforts at surveillance if he hadn't tipped her off. She was getting sloppy, and at the worst possible time. If the Unit really was here, now headed by a nemesis who scared even Nasedo, then the last thing any of them should be doing is wallowing in sentiment. Which meant Nasedo was right again—her primary mission was to prepare them so they could join forces and defend themselves when the time came. That made twice he'd been right, and she was in a suitably foul mood when she'd arrived at school with Michael and Maria close behind, convinced she couldn't see them. She'd ducked into the bathroom for a moment to clear her head only to be joined by Liz, upon which she'd lost her temper and demanded to know why everyone was following her. Liz's subsequent why-whatever-do-you-mean-of-course-no-one's-following-you-I-just-had-too-much-coffee-for-breakfast-and-really-really-need-to-pee, followed by a hasty stumble into a stall, was predictably lame, but sufficed as an attitude adjustment. Better to let them think she wasn't onto them, so she'd lingered until Liz came out what seemed like hours later—that must've been one hell of a cup of coffee—and apologized for her outburst, noting she hadn't slept well because she hadn't.

But whatever was bugging them, that didn't solve it. They'd had a meeting outside partway through the morning, and she'd spied Isabel in the school office sneaking behind a secretary's desk to use her computer. Isabel had been conspicuously distant in the classes they shared, Max and Liz had watched her while trying to look like they weren't, and Maria had eyed her like she was afraid she'd eat her. She'd kept completely to herself in the hopes that would mollify them, but the last straw had come at the end of the day when Isabel had failed to materialize at their designated meeting place to make after school plans. Goodness gracious—all this over a kiss? But whatever the cause, it was clear that simply backing off wasn't enough. Sterner stuff was called for, which is why she found herself at Isabel's front door. She meant to have a frank talk with Isabel, who was the best bet for giving her the benefit of the doubt.

"I'm here to see Isabel, please," Tess told the middle-aged woman who answered the door.

"I'm sorry, she isn't home from school yet," the woman answered. "I'm Mrs. Evans. And you are..."

"Tess," Tess answered, holding out a hand. "I'm a...friend of Isabel's, a new friend. I just moved here."

The huge smile that spread across Mrs. Evans' face could have lit the moon. "Well, then, welcome! Why don't you come in? I'm sure Izzie will be home soon, and in the meantime I can show you some Roswell hospitality."

Hospitality. That would be nice, especially after a day filled with suspicion and hostility. "Thank you," Tess said. "I'd love that."

"Would you like something to drink?" Mrs. Evans asked, holding the door open for her.

"Yes, please. Root beer, with a little extra sugar."

"Oh, isn't that funny?" Mrs. Evans chuckled. "That's exactly how Izzie likes it. And here I thought she was just strange."

"What about Max?" Tess asked. "Does he like it that way too?"

Mrs. Evans paused, one hand on the open refrigerator door. "Now that you mention it...yes. He does. Huh," she went on, looking puzzled. "Funny how I never noticed that before. I guess he's just a little quieter about it, but then he's quieter about everything. Have you met Izzie's brother?"

"Once or twice," Tess allowed, inspecting the photos on the wall as she always did when she came over here, those echoes of stability which she could never tear her eyes away from.

"I do like pictures," Mrs. Evans confessed, joining her before a portrait of Max and Isabel. "I love watching the kids grow up. My husband is always teasing me that I spend more time recording something than actually living it, probably because I make him do all the recording."

"You have a beautiful home, Mrs. Evans," Tess said. "My dad and I move around so much...I was telling Isabel that I couldn't imagine what it was like to live in one place for as long as she has. She told me she's been here her whole life?"

"That she has," Diane nodded. "Some people love to move around, but I'm not one of them. What about you? Do you like it?"

"I...guess I never thought about it," Tess answered. "It's just my life. I don't get a choice."

"Of course you don't," Diane said soothingly. "Say, would you like to look at more pictures? I have oodles of albums."

Tess nodded eagerly. "I'd like that very much."

Fifteen minutes later, Tess had to agree that Mrs. Evans wasn't kidding, having produced a stack of at least a dozen albums which only covered a few years. But what interesting years they were, when Max and Isabel had been very young, probably shortly after they'd come out of the pods. Tess scoured the photos carefully, looking for clues that they knew anything at all about their origins.

"And this was one of our many visits to the park," Mrs. Evans was saying. "The kids loved going to the park because they liked to feed the...and here's the Fourth of July," she went on, flipping past the park pictures. "Fireworks always bothered Max; that's why he has his hands over his ears."

So what's wrong with the park pictures? Tess though, sneaking a peak at the photos Diane had whizzed by as though suddenly remembering something she'd rather not share. They were all unremarkable, just little kids throwing bread to birds, mostly. It was the pictures on the facing page which caught Tess's attention.

"What's that?" she asked, pointing.

"Oh, Izzie loved to draw," Mrs. Evans said. "That was one of her favorites, but I have no idea what it's supposed to be. Looks like four kidney beans to me."

Tess's heart began to pound. She'd already seen the photograph of the symbol in the sand at the beach, proof that some sort of memory lurked deep within the others, but this...this was tugging at her too, tugging a memory she didn't know she had. Us, she thought suddenly. Those four "kidney beans" were the four of them. How ironic that one of the three left on their own with no guardian remembered something she didn't."

"I used to love to draw too," Tess said, "and my dad keeps saying I drew weird things. Do you have any other pictures of her drawings? I'd love to see them."

"Well, let's see," Mrs. Evans said, leafing through the albums. Nothing seemed to make her happier than looking at photos, which is probably why she had so many to look at. "Here's one," she noted, turning the album around and pointing. "And another. Oh, and Max drew this one when he was really little. We thought maybe he had some real talent, but it turned out to be something of a one hit wonder. Isn't it good?"

I'll say, Tess thought, gazing at the crayoned drawing of the Earth. Interesting how a little boy had drawn that. Did that mean they'd seen that on the way here? But how could they have if they'd been in pods? Did they not go into the pods until they got here? All questions for Nasedo which probably wouldn't be answered, but no matter. An inspection of all the drawings Mrs. Evans was able to locate pointed the way: The image which came up over and over was the set of four. That was where she should start. That was where to begin.




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




April 28, 2000, 12:30 a.m.

Proctor residence





Anthony stirred, rolled over. "You're still up?"

"Of course I'm still up," Dee said, her book perched on her knees. "Did you really expect me to sleep?"

Anthony propped himself up on one elbow. "So, what, you're not going to sleep from now on, ever?"

"Very funny," Dee said darkly.

"Look, no one blames you," Anthony sighed. "At least no one who matters. Jaddo doesn't count. He blames everybody."

"I honestly had no idea Yvonne was going to jump in a plane and come out here," Dee said. "I just wanted to talk to her about what was happening between Max and Tess."

"I don't think she 'jumps' much of anywhere these days," Anthony chuckled. "Bad joke," he amended when Dee frowned at him. "I know you didn't ask her to come out here. It was her decision, so stop beating yourself up."

Dee closed her book. "Do you think Jaddo's right? That she's in danger because of Pierce's son?"

"I think we're all in danger because of Pierce's son," Anthony answered. "He never knew his father, but that doesn't mean he wouldn't know what part Yvonne played in this, or wouldn't use it if he found out. Heck, he could ferret out that Cavitt kidnapped your mother, and come after her. Or you. If we're playing 'what if', we could do it all night."

"That's my line," Dee said dryly. "But it's not just that, it's the whole camera bit. They planted a camera on our grandchildren? And then those grandchildren planted it in Jaddo's house?"

"Because they're not stupid," Anthony said. "And Tess hasn't exactly been treading lightly. Remember, these are the people who figured out Topolsky wasn't a guidance counselor with even less information."

"And we thought she was bad," Dee said sadly. "Topolsky was a fairy godmother compared to what's coming."

"But not here yet," Anthony yawned. "Brivari said the base still looked empty. They're still just watching."

"So what?" Dee fretted. "That could change any minute, any second, and all the Warders and humans in the world wouldn't be able to react fast enough—what are you doing?" she finished in astonishment as Anthony settled back on his pillow and closed his eyes.

"What does it look like I'm doing? I'm going back to sleep. I'm tired."

"Oh, right, just go back to sleep," Dee said crossly. "Act like nothing's wrong, like we can just sleep like babies."

"You need to go see your father," Anthony remarked.

"My father? What's he got to do with this?"

"He always seemed to be able to calm you down. Unlike your mother, who always seemed to wind you up."

"What in blazes does that have to do with anything?" Dee demanded.

"I just don't see the point in staying awake all night when the kids have two of the most powerful beings on the planet watching over them," Anthony said. "If they need us too, they'll need us rested and ready, not exhausted and panicked."

"Men," Dee said in exasperation. "This is why they sleep through crying babies and we don't, because—"

A phone rang, not the old-fashioned land line downstairs, but a modern chirp. "My cell?" Dee said in alarm, fumbling on the nightstand. "Can't be good news at this hour."

"Who is it?" Anthony asked, wide awake again as she checked the Caller ID. "Brivari?"

Dee read the screen, shook her head, answered it. "Isabel?"

"Hi, Grandma," came Isabel's shaky voice. "I didn't wake you, did I?"

"No, no, I was still up," Dee said as Anthony made what's-going-on motions to her. Honestly, men wanted to sleep through crises, then they wanted instant updates when something happened. "Is anything wrong?"

"Just couldn't sleep," Isabel said. "I...I had a bad dream."

"About what, dear?"

"Michael. I mean...not Michael, exactly, just...stuff," Isabel finished, flustered. "Just...something I wasn't expecting." She paused. "Grandma, you were there when they...when they found us, weren't you? The night they found Max and me and Michael?"

"We found you and Max," Dee corrected. "Michael turned up a few days later."

"Right, right," Isabel said. "But wasn't there a problem with Michael? I mean, I don't remember, but Mom used to go on and on about some kind of problem with him at the orphanage."

I'll bet she did, Dee thought darkly. "Michael wasn't too keen on the orphanage," she answered. "You were the only one who could get him to go along with things."

"Me?" Isabel said, startled. "Go along with what things?"

"Well...anything," Dee admitted. "Everything. The admissions procedures. The whole schedule, like meal times and bed times. The rules. Michael wasn't much of one for rules even back then. But he'd do just about anything if you coaxed him into it."

"But...what about Max? He helped, right?"

"Not really," Dee said, privately noting that Max and Michael had tussled even back then. "Max didn't have as much luck. It was you Michael responded to. But what brings this up past midnight? What kind of a dream was this?"

"Just a dream," Isabel said miserably. "Thanks, Grandma. Sorry I bothered you."

"Oh, no bother, dear, I just—"

Click.

Dee stared at the phone for several long seconds before hanging up. "Well, that was...odd," she told her waiting husband.

"Trouble?"

It was Yvonne, standing in the doorway, her long hair unpinned and streaming around her shoulders, and for just a moment, Dee was reminded of a younger version of the same woman, then a nurse, who'd stood in that very doorway years ago. "Sorry," she amended when Dee looked startled. "I'm primed to the sound of a telephone, any telephone. Always wakes me up."

"Of course it does," Dee answered as Yvonne leaned on a cane which had definitely not been a fixture of the 1950's version. "Isabel called. Said she had a bad dream about Michael, and asked all sorts of questions about when we found him."

"Wonder what brought that on?" Anthony murmured.

"Weren't Isabel and Michael engaged in their previous lives?" Yvonne asked.

Dee and Anthony exchanged glances. "Oh, my goodness," Dee said faintly. "I completely forgot about that."

"Bet Jaddo hasn't," Anthony remarked. "As I recall, he was somewhat against that union."

"As I recall, that's somewhat of an understatement," Yvonne said dryly. "But it all makes sense. Max is reacting to the woman who used to be his wife. Isabel is reacting to the man who was to be her husband. Wouldn't be surprised if the same thing is happening to Michael."

"Good luck dragging that out of him," Anthony murmured.

"And here they've been raised as practically brother and sister," Dee said in dismay. "Talk about awkward."

"Could have been worse," Anthony remarked. "What if Max and Isabel had been raised in separate families and fallen in love?"

"Even more awkward," Yvonne said, "so let's be glad that didn't happen.

"Weren't you the one who didn't want to play 'what if'?" Dee groaned.

Anthony shrugged. "Changed my mind."

"Fantastic," Dee said tartly. "Let's hope this one works."

"If I change it often enough, one of them's bound to," Anthony said without missing a beat. "Which means you definitely should have gotten a good one by now."

Dee grabbed her pillow and thwacked her husband, only to have him grab it out of her hands and thwack her back. She'd just snatched his when they heard peals of laughter.

"Oh, my," Yvonne chuckled. "I remember when Stephen and I used to do that. Only with us, it was usually food fights. Pillow fights are less messy." She paused as they stared at her, stricken. "I didn't mean to be a wet blanket," she said gently. "Sometimes I spend so much time taking care of Stephen that I forget I'm not the one who had the stroke. That's why I just up and came out here. I needed to feel alive again, to feel useful again."

"I'm still sorry I dragged you into this," Dee said, dropping the pillow. "I just wanted some advice, what with everyone 'flashing' and all."

"Funny how that has an entirely different connotation for us." Anthony said. "Most humans who 'flash' would get arrested."

"Oh, let him joke," Yvonne said when Dee glared at her husband. "We need some way to let off steam, especially since it'll probably get worse before it gets better. Remembering won't be easy. For any of them."

"I wish they would just remember or not remember," Dee sighed. "Just stay who they are now or go back to who they were. It's the in between bit that'll kill them, like Isabel and Michael finding out they were engaged when they feel like siblings."

Yvonne shook her head. "I'm afraid that ship has sailed. I haven't mentioned this to either of the Warders because I know they still hope they'll all just 'wake up', but even if they all suddenly have a 'eureka!' moment, I doubt they'll simply go back to being who they were. They've spent too long as other people. They'll have to integrate whatever memories they retrieve into who they are now, and the end result will be different. Maybe a lot different."




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




Harding residence





"Schoolwork?"

Tess jumped a foot, having been lost in a poorly drawn sketch of the drawing she'd seen in Diane Evans' photo album earlier today. "Don't sneak up on me like that," she said crossly. "I don't like it."

"I'm sure," Nasedo agreed. "Bet you'd like it even less if it was the Unit sneaking up on you."

"In my own kitchen? If they were that close, I'd like to think you'd be doing something other than needling me."

Nasedo gave her a level stare. "So how was school today? How were the Others?"

"You win," Tess sighed, eager to get this over with. "They were twitchier than a bunch of long-tailed cats in a room full of rocking chairs. Followed me around all day, watched me like a hawk, Isabel blew me off—"

"Boo hoo," Nasedo deadpanned.

"—and then she shook like a leaf when I caught up with her after school. Happy?"

"Hardly," Nasedo answered. "This was the theme of last night's little get-together. Not star-crossed lovers torn asunder, but undercover surveillance."

Tess stared at the photograph he'd pushed across the table. "What...is that?"

" 'That' is a video camera. The type planted by the Unit, discovered in Michael's apartment, and relocated here last night."

"What...here?" Tess said in astonishment. "When?"

"When do you think? That's why that female was all upset about the broken statue. Didn't think she had it in her," Nasedo added darkly, "but I knew something was up when Michael knew you were on your way out this morning before you'd actually left."

Tess's mind whirled as she looked at the picture. If the camera had been in the vicinity of the statue...

"They saw me," she said faintly.

"I know," Nasedo said impatiently. "Like I said, they knew you were leaving this morning before you did."

Not what I meant, Tess thought. She'd fixed the broken statue last night, right there in the living room, in the wee small when she couldn't sleep. My, but that must have caused a stir in Max-land. But if they'd seen her fix the statue, then they knew she wasn't Unit, that she was one of them. Why all the suspicion?

"So where's the camera now?" Tess asked, keeping this latest "oops" to herself. "Why are you showing me a photograph of it?"

"I destroyed it," Nasedo answered. "The larger issue is..." He stopped, looking at her drawing. "Who did this?" he demanded suddenly.

"Uh...I did," Tess said uncertainly. "Or actually, Isabel did, a long time ago. I went over to her house," she explained when he looked at her questioningly, "after school, after they'd been so weird all day. She wasn't home yet, but her mom was there, and she got out a bunch of photo albums. Turns out Isabel liked to draw, and this was in several of her drawings."

"And you recognize it?" Nasedo said hopefully.

"Yes. Well...not really," Tess admitted. "It looks...vaguely familiar. It obviously meant something to her right after she came out of the pod. I tried to jog her memory with it, but she was all creeped out, and I think I just freaked her out more."

"Yes, well, 'freaking her out' isn't hard even on a good day," Nasedo muttered as Tess swallowed yet another question about why he hated Isabel so much because she knew he wouldn't answer it. "I'm more interested in what you think it means."

"There are four of us," Tess shrugged, "so I'm guessing it refers to the four of us."

" 'Guessing'? Just 'guessing'?"

"Yes," Tess sighed, "just guessing. I don't remember it, if that's what you're asking. I've been sitting here all night trying to remember, but the only symbol I've ever seen from home is that swirly one. No maps for me. Guess they do know more than I do, even if they don't realize it."

She fell silent as he stared at the hastily scratched drawing, no doubt disappointed. For someone who went out of his way to tell her as little as possible, he was oddly intense about wanting her to remember and disappointed when she didn't. If he wanted her to remember so badly, why didn't he tell her more?

"Let's rectify that," Nasedo said suddenly. "Come with me."

"Rectify what?"

"Them knowing more than you do," Nasedo answered, "or, more precisely, having seen more symbols than you have." He paused by the front door when she didn't more. "Well? Do you want to see this, or don't you?"

Tess scrambled to her feet and followed, not even bothering to grab her purse; when Nasedo got it into his head to tell you something, it was wise to move fast, before he changed his mind. He sped out of the driveway almost before she had her car door closed, gliding through streets largely empty of traffic at this hour. If she recalled correctly, the map was in a cave somewhere, so she fully expected to be driving for some time and was surprised when he pulled into a parking lot.

"This is the library," she said, confused.

"Very good. A+ for you."

"No, I mean what are we doing at the library? I thought you were taking me to see the map."

"No need," Nasedo said, climbing out. "The map points here."

"To the library?"

"Yes, to the library. Are you coming?"

She did. Locked doors and security systems were no match for Nasedo, and he moved confidently through the dimly lit, empty aisles as though he'd done this before. Tess scurried behind him, shivering a little at the eerily empty tables, the oddly glowing fish tank—what, did fish get scared of the dark?—and the brilliantly lit "Exit" signs as Nasedo pushed two of those rolling ladders libraries use to reach high shelves next to each other.

"Up we go," he ordered.

She climbed, side by side with him. At the top he moved aside several books and pointed to a bare section of wall. "It's there."

"Where?"

"On the wall. What do you see?"

Books, Tess thought, and a grumpy guardian. She reached out and touched the wall. Nothing happened. She rooted around behind books, up and down the wall. Nothing there.

"So what am I supposed to find?" she asked.

Nasedo remained silent, offering no further instructions, no sarcasm, no anything as Tess groaned inwardly. She hated it when he did this, when he clammed up and refused to answer questions because whatever the question, he expected her to already know the answer. Okay, she thought wearily. They were looking for symbols. He'd said "it" was on the wall. There was nothing obviously on the wall save for an ugly paint color, several cobwebs, and dirt, so it was unlikely he was referring to anything she could see. Must be something she couldn't see. Holding out her hand, she directed power at the wall and thought of things hidden...

...only to jump when a glowing handprint flared to life on the wall. The pod chamber, she thought. This was just like the pod chamber, and she moved her hand toward the handprint, expecting to hear the rumble of a door opening...only to almost lose her balance when her hand kept going, right into the wall, Nasedo grabbing her just before she lost her footing on the ladder.

"What the...!" she gasped, submerged to the armpit. "I thought these opened doors!"

"It's a handprint lock," Nasedo said, sounding put out. "Doors are only one of the many things it can lock. This one locks a hiding space. Stop falling, and take out what's in there."

Thanks for the sympathy, Tess thought darkly, moving her hand around inside the wall while hanging on for dear life with the other. It felt like the inside of a box, with a top, sides...wait. What was that?

A moment later she pulled out a hard, shiny object. The wall closed upon removing her hand, and when she touched it again, it was just a wall.

"Bring it down here," Nasedo ordered.

Tess climbed down the ladder, moved closer to a light. It's a book, she thought with mounting excitement, a spiral bound book made out of what looked and felt like metal, but was much lighter. What did it say? Was this where she finally got answers? Eagerly, she flipped it open.

"Well?" Nasedo demanded. "Can you read it?"

No, she thought sadly, the first rush of joy at the prospect of learning more rushing out of her like air out of a balloon. Symbols swam in front of her like hieroglyphics, joined by, inexplicably, etchings of what appeared to be human faces. She saw the symbol Isabel had drawn, the swirly one she already knew, a couple more from Max's flash, but none of it meant anything. It was all cryptic, meaningless...alien.

"No," she said dully. "I can't."

Nasedo seemed to deflate like she just had. "Oh," he said, obviously disappointed. "Doesn't any of it look familiar?"

"Not the kind of familiar you're looking for," she answered.

He nodded curtly. "I see. Put it back, then."

"Wait!" Tess protested. "What is this? What's it for? You said the map pointed here. Why? Were they supposed to find this? Obviously I wasn't, because it was hidden here."

"I hid it here when I left Roswell," Nasedo answered, "when we left Roswell after you came out of the pod. The library was new then, new enough that it was likely to stand for many decades. Besides, it was fitting, don't you think? A book in a library?'' He paused, smiling at his own joke, or what passed for one. "You didn't need it because you were with me. I hid it in case I never returned, so they would know what to do."

What to do. Tess stared hungrily at the odd book in her hand, willing the writing inside to look familiar, so desperate for what it contained that she would have swallowed it whole if that would have helped. "So this tells us who we are," she whispered.

"Who you are. Where you come from. Why you're here. How to get back. What to do when you get there." Nasedo paused. "I've always told you that you're here for a reason, that you had something important to do, and you've always asked me what that was. Well, there's the answer. You hold your destiny in your hands."

"And I can't read it," she whispered.

Nasedo looked away. "Put it back. Maybe it'll come to you later."

"Can't I keep it? Maybe if I look at it for a while—"

"That's much too important to carry around like a dime store novel," Nasedo snapped. "Do you have any idea what would happen if that fell into the wrong hands? Put it back. Now."

Tess climbed the ladder without further comment, having heard that tone of voice before. He's disappointed in me, she thought as the book disappeared into the wall. That made two of them because she was equally disappointed in herself, it being incredibly frustrating to find the answers to her questions and not be able to understand them. But she considered two things as she climbed down and followed him outside, one comforting, one not. First, she knew where the book was now and could come back and get it. And second, no human could read that book, which meant the "wrong hands" Nasedo referred to must be alien.

Apparently humans weren't the only enemies they had on this planet.


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


I'll post Chapter 111 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 111

Postby Kathy W » Sun Apr 21, 2013 4:23 pm

^ Thank you! I do love back story. It lets me enjoy a favorite story all over again. :mrgreen:



CHAPTER ONE HUNDRED ELEVEN



May 11, 2000, 10:30 a.m.

West Roswell High School




"Manifest Destiny," intoned the teacher, doing the typical up-and-down-the-aisle meander beloved by teachers everywhere. "Many Americans in the 19th century believed that America would eventually expand from the Atlantic to the Pacific and fill the North American continent, taking Mexico and Canada into the Union. Those who held this belief felt that spreading the benefits of democracy to the rest of the world was truly our destiny."

Bored out of her skull, Tess snapped to attention at the word "destiny", a concept very much on her mind these days. Mr. Sommers continued his slow plod, the soft, rhythmic padding of his rubber-soled shoes acting like white noise to a room full of tired teenagers. Correction; make that twenty tired teenagers and four twitchy aliens. By some stroke of luck, this was the only class all four of them had together, although Michael's attendance was sketchy at best. He was here today, though, all bristle and menace, not bothering to hide the fact that he was watching her, unlike Max and Isabel who were doing just the opposite. Good for you, Tess thought. Given the choice, she always preferred the forthright approach, even if it did get messy more often than not.

"It was never official government policy," Sommers went on, "but many lawmakers agreed with the journalist John O'Sullivan, credited with one of the most influential uses of the phrase, if not actually coining it, when he wrote in 1845, 'And that claim is by the right of our manifest destiny to overspread and to possess the whole of the continent which Providence has given us for the development of the great experiment of liberty and federated self-government entrusted to us.' He believed Manifest Destiny to be a 'moral ideal' or a 'higher law' which superceded other considerations, such as Britain's claim to the land which is now Oregon. Sullivan argued that since Britain would not use the land to further democracy, their claims to the territory were null and void. He felt America had a higher calling, not only a right but a responsibility to reform what were seen as more primitive governments. This, in a nutshell, was Manifest Destiny."

Not only a right, but a responsibility. The concept of responsibility was also much on Tess's mind, although not in a way the teacher intended as he droned on, Michael glared, Max and Isabel tried not to look at her, and the rest of her classmates' eyes glazed over. She'd returned to the library before the crack of dawn this morning, having waited an interminable amount of time for Nasedo to make himself scarce last night after inexplicably spending hours on the phone. She couldn't imagine who he'd be talking to for that length of time, and she really didn't care; she just wanted him to leave so she could high-tail it back to the library before it opened and before she lost her nerve, having waited this long to retrieve the book out of fear—what if studying it more didn't help? What if she was never able to read it? Having finally screwed up her courage, she'd had exactly half an hour to study it before a librarian's car had pulled into the parking lot, thirty glorious minutes in the early morning sunshine with the only tangible thing from her world. Her hand had shaken as she'd reached into the hidden space, holding her breath...was it still there? Had he removed it? It would be just like Nasedo to dangle something like that in front of her, then yank it away...

But it was there. The metallic substance it was made of gleamed in the light and still looked heavier than it was. She'd flipped eagerly through the pages, some thick, some tissue paper thin, hoping against hope that the passage of time would have lit a fuse, tripped a switch, sparked a memory...but no such luck. Whatever language the book was written in remained maddeningly opaque. All the hopes she'd had went right out the window as the symbols swam in front of her, vaguely familiar, but not in any useful way. Well, maybe one; perhaps Max would recognize some of the symbols as those on the map Nasedo kept referencing...and that got her thinking. Maybe you had to do this in a certain order? If the map led to the library and the book, did one have to see the map first before the book made sense? Would Max be able to read this?

The idea that one of the Others would be able to read something from home that she couldn't was upsetting, so upsetting that she'd set the book down in a huff. Why did that bother her? Hadn't she spent her life longing to meet them? Weren't they all supposed to be one big happy family? Because I should be able to read it, she thought. Because she'd been the one who'd grown up with a guardian, knowing what she was, what they all were. Because she'd spent her life running from their enemies while they'd lived lives she could only dream of. Because she'd been told ever since she could remember that they all had a terribly important job to do. Because living with Nasedo had to have some advantages, and that list was depressingly short. The notion that they would know something she didn't was...backwards. Upside down. Wrong. Downright insulting. She'd been seconds from cutting her book session short when she'd looked down and discovered what page the chucked book had fallen open to...and nearly stopped breathing. She'd seen this briefly before and puzzled over it. But then the whole encounter had been so brief, so puzzling, that she'd never returned to the question of why there were drawings of what had appeared to be human faces in a book from her world. Studying them now, she confirmed that not only were they human, they were...her. Or two of them were, at least. The rest were Max, Michael, and Isabel, in two sets of drawings, one of them as children and one of them as...well, pretty much the way they looked now.

The lights dimmed. Sommers was showing slides, a good excuse for most of the class to slip into outright slumber and for her to study the owners of the other three faces who had no idea that someone somewhere had known exactly what they would look like. That was the realization which had brought her to her knees: They knew. Whoever had sent them here, whatever the reason for the trip, they had known exactly what they were going to look like long before any of them had breathed so much as a molecule of Earth's air. The Roswell crash had occurred in 1947, and one of her first memories was realizing that crash was her crash, the way she'd arrived, in a ball of flame and a hail of gunfire from the U.S. military. But she hadn't come out of the pod until 1989, so how could someone have known what she would look like? Because they made us, she'd realized with a start. Someone had made her, made all of them, and gone to the trouble of recording what they'd look like and what they were supposed to do. There was no mistaking that this missive was for them, no way to ignore it or convince yourself it was all just a dream; seeing your own face staring back at you put paid to that. The umpteen times Nasedo had told her that they were all here for a reason, that they had an important task ahead of them, had just been confirmed in spades. Why else would anyone go to the trouble of creating four people and leaving them written instructions?

And then, in the midst of all that confusion, came a sense of peace more profound than anything she'd ever experienced. For all the years she'd spent longing for a purpose, yearning to meet the Others, finally doing so and being disappointed with the result...none of that mattered. They were all the same; there was no denying that now. They belonged together; that was now indisputable, as the drawings spoke volumes even if the words escaped them. They not only had a purpose, they had a carefully thought out and meticulously planned purpose; they may not be able to read the instructions, but one day they would, and the mere fact of their existence settled the matter in the meantime. What's more, she and Max were a pair; they were clearly paired in the book, as were Michael and Isabel. All of it, every yearning of her heart, had been confirmed. This was they way it was supposed to be. This was their "manifest destiny", their birthright and their obligation. Whatever task had been set before them superceded any other. She felt relieved, as if a huge weight had been lifted from her shoulders because she was no longer in this alone, having unexpectedly acquired allies who called to them from across the years, from another planet, even, saying this is who you are. This is what you must do.

And not a moment too soon, Tess mused as the lights flipped on and two pairs of eyes jerked away from her. She'd missed the slide show, and so had the Others, it seemed, especially Michael, whose eyes burned into hers for a split second longer before returning to the front of the room. She had never approached him directly, and it suddenly occurred to her that she had that backwards. Isabel spooked easily, and Max was all wrapped up in a human girlfriend, but Michael...Michael was cut from a different cloth. Michael was more like her; temperamental, suspicious, with no allegiance to human guardians. His response might be different. She should at least try to approach him before drawing them all to the library. She'd considered merely presenting the book, which should be evidence enough in itself, but decided against that; its extra-terrestrial hiding place would only drive home the point that this wasn't just her idea. She needed to find a way to get them all there, which shouldn't be difficult given that they were still following her virtually everywhere...

"Manifest Destiny' is now mainly thought of as just an era in our history," Mr. Sommers was saying. "Some call it the beginning of American Imperialism. Although it's worth noting that, in the end, America did indeed expand from coast to coast and beyond with the addition of Hawaii and Alaska, and the American Revolution spurred an advance of democracy around the globe which the American government continues to support today. Some would say the Manifest Destiny adherents were right after all—in the end, you can't escape your destiny."




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




Guerin residence





Finally, Michael thought, tossing his keys on the kitchen table. It seemed all he did these days was work, whether at school, at the Crashdown, or right here, doing laundry or grocery shopping and paying bills, all while trying to find time to eat and sleep. Having fun, any kind of fun, fell way down the list, but the mission he was currently on didn't qualify as either fun or work; no, this was absolute necessity. This moved to the very top of that annoying list, and he'd just cleared the kitchen table with a sweep when he remembered his new daily ritual. Impatient to begin but unwilling to without checking, he began a thorough sweep of his apartment.

Ten minutes later, he was satisfied; no cameras, no microphones, no uninvited technology of any kind. Good news, that, but one was only as safe as the last sweep. He'd always maintained that they couldn't trust anyone, that no place was safe, but somewhere along the line he'd fallen into the dangerous habit of thinking that his apartment was safe. Whether it was Hank's absence, or the fact that he was now beholden to no one but himself, or the apartment's obvious usefulness as a private place for all of them to talk when dilemmas such as crazy guidance counselors cropped up, he'd come to think of it as a kind of snow globe, a cocoon from the outside world. Finding the camera had shattered that illusion and rattled him badly. Someone had not only been in here, they'd been in here for a good long while, as it would've taken some time to choose a good hiding spot and install the camera even in this tiny place. Given the little time he actually spent here, that wouldn't have been hard, which explained why Max's and Isabel's frantic searches of their own bedrooms had turned up nothing; there was too much traffic in and out of the Evans house to make it a convenient target. He'd pursued the whole plant-the-camera-in-Tess's house bit partly because he knew Max couldn't handle it and partly because he was furious at whomever had made the bad decision to spy on him, only to be flabbergasted when Tess turned out to be not FBI, but something else entirely.

Michael spread the drawing of the cave map on the kitchen table, smoothing out the wrinkles. Nasedo. At long last, the alien equivalent of The Riddler had shown his face. Max blamed him for Nasedo's presence, claiming the message on the library's front lawn had drawn him here, an ironic accusation because that had been exactly the point in the first place. When he'd seen those flying pieces of broken statue, he'd wanted to fly out of that warehouse and bang on Tess's front door; the only reason he hadn't was a list of weird things he couldn't explain. First there was the presence of armed soldiers the first day he'd looked at the house. What the hell was the US Army doing at Nasedo's house? Had he taken a job in the military as cover, or was he a turncoat? Nasedo's turning up as a girl had thrown him for a loop too, and not just any girl, but a girl hanging on Isabel's arm, slobbering over Max...and ignoring him. Hell, Tess had barely looked at him since she'd arrived unless you counted that lingering return stare she'd given him this morning in History. But he was the one who'd figured out the map, who'd bothered to respond; why was Nasedo painting Isabel's nails and having virtual make-out sessions with Max? And why employ any subterfuge at all? Hadn't they passed the tests, proven themselves worthy? Apparently not, and he unfolded a map of Roswell and laid it beneath the cave map. The latest hint dropped by the famous hint giver was the symbol Nasedo had left for Isabel and that she'd identified on the cave map before Max went all holier than thou. If he could see which part of town the new symbol represented, he could follow the trail. He should be doing this with Max, but neither Max nor Isabel really wanted to see where this led. Neither do you, he accused himself silently, closing his eyes briefly against the memory. He could still feel the sand beneath them as they sank into it, feel her skin against his, smell her perfume...

Stop it! he scolded himself, pushing away the dream which had been simultaneously so real and so wrong. Isabel was like a sister to him; he'd never felt so much as the faintest stirring of anything else toward her, and their shared dream had lent a whole new meaning to the concept of "awkward". It would have been bad enough to dream that all by himself, but to know that she'd seen the same thing was too embarrassing for words. He'd awakened feeling like he needed to wash his mouth out with soap and spent the day fighting the urge to apologize, like he'd molested her in real life. She must have been feeling something similar, which would explain why both of them had scrambled sideways, to Maria for him, Alex for her. Most of the guys in school would have given their left ball to have Isabel, so it had been oddly satisfying to watch the geeky Alex walk off with the prize, much to the consternation of every jock in sight. Good for you, dude, Michael had thought. If Alex kept Isabel's mind occupied elsewhere, so much the better; now if he could just find something to occupy his own. Pushing away the question of what he'd do if he and Isabel were supposed to be a couple, he returned his attention to the maps. "C'mon, c'mon," he muttered, leaning over the table. "Where the hell are you?"

A face appeared at the window.

Michael held his breath as he stared at the two eyes, the wreath of blonde hair. Finally, he thought. Finally, Nasedo had come to him. Exploding with questions, he knelt before the window just as Tess huffed a cloud of breath on the glass and drew four neat dots within it.

"What does that mean?" Michael demanded. "Where is it?"

"You already know," Tess answered, her voice muffled by the glass. "You've been there before."

Damn it! Michael exclaimed. More hints? More riddles? Honestly, why didn't this guy—girl—just spit it out? He was just about to light into her when the world disappeared, replaced by a nighttime canopy of stars. There was sand underfoot and sticking to him, to some slimy substance that covered his entire body, and the wire from the fence scratched as he ducked under it, sending the sign swaying...

With a start, Michael came to. He was still by the window, but Tess was gone; according to his watch, only a few seconds had elapsed. What the hell had that been? He'd been out in the desert, not exactly helpful when you lived in a town surrounded by desert. There'd been a fence, not much help either, and a sign...

Michael's eyes widened. A second later he had his nose in the Roswell map, scanning the area around it. Burnt Well Ranch, he read. Rocky Point Ranch. Foster Ranch. Schrimsher Ranch. Frustrated, he consulted the web, and what he found there sent him digging through his collection of Roswell maps, the whole map business having induced him to collect any map of the area he could get his hands on. The oldest map was a dog-eared version he'd found buried in a book on World War II at a library book sale with a copyright date of 1950 and badly faded printing like it had been left out in the sun. Not old enough, he thought after striking out here too. But it was the oldest he had, so he lay the cave map over the 1950 map, and bent over it, studying intently.

"C'mon, c'mon," Michael muttered, one finger tracing the spidery print. "Where are you?"





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




"Did you see them?"

Jaddo came up beside him as Brivari glanced across the street to the Crashdown, crowded at this hour with high school students. "Yes, I saw them," he replied. "That didn't take long."

"They lost their toy," Jaddo said darkly as they strolled down the street directly across from a Unit agent doing the same. "I guarantee someone's head rolled when that camera went dark."

"Oh, I'm sure," Brivari nodded. "But I'm surprised to see agents walking around in broad daylight. One of their chief concerns was that the Bureau not find them here. Chasing Topolsky was one thing, but this...this means he's getting bolder."

"He's getting cocky," Jaddo corrected. "Bravado was always Pierce's Achilles heel."

"He isn't well managed," Brivari agreed. "There's no one to answer to like Ramey, no one to spar with like Cavitt. There's no one above him, and none of his acolytes comes close to being his equal. A precarious position for one with a God complex."

"An excellent position"," Jaddo countered. "The sooner he trips over his own ego, the better. Those who think they're invincible soon learn otherwise, and I, for one, would be happy to teach him that lesson."

"Looks like you'll get your chance sooner than expected," Brivari said.

"Patience isn't a Pierce's strong suit," Jaddo observed.

"It was for his father," Brivari countered. "He spent years trying to impregnate Lieutenant White before he finally succeeded."

"Am I supposed to find that impressive?"

"You're supposed to find it instructive," Brivari corrected. "Pierce Sr. was willing to wait to get what he wanted. Junior is more hasty."

"You hope," Jaddo said, watching the agent peer into the Crashdown's window. "The alternative is that his 'shadow Unit' has grown so strong that he can afford to take risks."

"Agreed," Brivari sighed. "And if that happens, whether now or in the future, he has to go, and promptly. Have you given any thought to how you'd like to do it?"

Jaddo snorted softly. "Which of the dozens of enormously satisfying scenarios would you like me to start with?"

"I knew that was a silly question," Brivari said dryly. "Start with the one most likely to work."

"Fine. We lure him here and kill him—"

"Thus giving the Unit a reason for its existence," Brivari finished. "We've been over this. Bad idea. Next?"

"You didn't let me finish," Jaddo protested. "We lure him here, kill him, and I take his place."

"Take his place?" Brivari said sharply. "Are you serious?"

"Dead serious. Yes, I know full replacement is risky," Jaddo went on. "In this case, that risk is justified."

"It's more than just risky, it rarely works, and for good reason," Brivari argued. "The longer we assume someone's identity, the more likely we'll give ourselves away."

"To whom?" Jaddo asked. "As you've already noted, Pierce's inner circle is extremely small and subordinate. There would be precious few to convince, and I could 'retire" any who proved reluctant and promote from within. I seriously doubt those newly promoted underlings would protest."

"You can't get past the Bureau's scanners," Brivari said.

"I can if I have the time to reprogram them," Jaddo answered. "And I will, since I'll have all of Pierce's access codes."

"Which you'll obtain how? You don't seriously think he'll give them to you."

"I'll impersonate another agent, like you did," Jaddo said. "Once I have what I need, I can dispose of Pierce, take his place, and take the Unit down from within."

"Are you crazy?" Brivari demanded. "Taking an agent's shape is always dangerous, and now you want to do it twice?"

"You did," Jaddo said, "and came back with several valuable details."

"I did it for a very short period of time," Brivari reminded him, "and my knees were knocking the whole way. But I didn't have scanners to contend with, or—"

"We need to get rid of Pierce," Jaddo interrupted. "He's getting too powerful, powerful enough now that he's sending agents into Roswell not because he doesn't think anyone will notice, but because he knows he can cover his tracks; he's recruited enough converts to his cause who will cover for him while he goes to ground should any alarm be raised. Same goes for if the FBI's director gets wind of what he's up to; he won't have even hung up from that phone call before Pierce will be notified and on the run, and as long as he's alive, his Unit will rise again. We have to take him out. He's too dangerous to leave alive."

Brivari pondered that for a moment. "If it's truly reached that point, than even discrediting the Unit won't be enough. Since most of its members are secret, they won't be caught; they'll just be absorbed back into the Bureau and reappear in the future."

"But we'll have bought time," Jaddo said. "The Unit will be dismantled in it's current form, and there will follow a period of discord and disarray; you know how long human legal proceedings can take. By the time they regroup, we may be long gone."

"Indeed," Brivari agreed. "We may be dead."

"Better us than the hybrids. That's who Pierce is after. Which would you rather have fall?"

"I'd rather none of us fall," Brivari said crossly. "Where would they be without us?"

"Highly unlikely we'd both go down," Jaddo said. "And if anyone does, it should be me."

Brivari stopped dead in his tracks. "What on Earth are you talking about?"

"You're the King's Warder," Jaddo said. "If only one of us accompanies him home, it should be you."

"How about both of us accompany him home?" Brivari retorted. "Not to mention that your Ward will need his Warder every bit as much as mine, if not more."

"Calm down," Jaddo said impatiently. "I'm just being practical. The last time we tangled with a Pierce, we lost two of us."

"Urza and Valeris died from gunfire on the first day our ship was discovered," Brivari reminded him. "Pierce was nowhere in sight, nor was the Unit. He may be smart, but he's not invincible, Jaddo. Don't give him more credit than he's due."

"I was merely noting that should only one of us survive, that one should be you," Jaddo shrugged. "And since you know perfectly well that I don't have a death wish, don't read more into that than you should."

Brivari gave a snort of disgust as he resumed walking. "And what happens to Ava while you're off being Pierce?"

"She's old enough to take care of herself," Jaddo said. "And Dee would help. I'd like to see those two go at it."

"That would be amusing," Brivari agreed. "And it would get you out of those parenting duties you hate. Oh, don't look at me like that," he added when Jaddo scowled. "You know you don't, and so do I."

"I don't like it," Jaddo admitted. "It ties me down. And children are unpredictable, which drives me crazy. But the more relevant observation is that I'm not good at it."

"I feel like I've stumbled into a taping of 'The View'," Brivari muttered.

"I showed her the book," Jaddo said.

Brivari stopped again. "Valeris' book?"

"No, the Guinness Book of World Records," Jaddo deadpanned. "Of course Valeris' book."

"And?"

"And...nothing," Jaddo said heavily. "She couldn't read it. None of it. I hid it in the 'ancient languages' section as a joke, but it may as well have been a lost language for all that it meant to her."

Brivari was quiet for a moment. "I'm sorry to hear that," he said finally.

"You and me both," Jaddo sighed. "Her presence has definitely jogged the others' memories. Why wouldn't the book have jogged hers?"

"That might be apples and oranges," Brivari noted. "The book was created after her death, so Ava never saw it. It isn't something she'd remember."

"But the language is," Jaddo argued. "Even if she couldn't read it, it should have looked at least vaguely familiar. I expected the rest of them to remember more when they were reunited with her, and they have, but I also expected her to remember more. Why does it work one way, but not the other?"

"I don't know," Brivari answered. "These are questions for the Healer. Perhaps Dee can see if she has any insight to offer."

"Right," Jaddo muttered. "Someone else in Pierce's path. Just what we needed."

"He's not after her," Brivari reminded him. "And as for replacing him, that's risky enough that it should be a last resort. At the moment, the base is still empty and he's just watching. Until that changes, we wait."




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




11:30 p.m.

Harding residence





With a huff of impatience, Tess stalked out her front door into the spring night. The street was dark save for the streetlights, dark and quiet and...empty. No one walked the sidewalks. Several cars were parked by the side of the road, but none of them were occupied. Nasedo had left long ago, in contrast to last night when she'd wanted him to leave and he hadn't. She was alone.

They weren't coming.

Tess plopped down on the front step, thoroughly disgruntled. Where the hell were they? Max had watched her take the book from the library hiding place; she'd made sure of that by chatting up a jock named Kyle with puppy dog eyes and a tendency to pant who had supposedly once dated Liz Parker, a story lent credence by another tendency of his, looking longingly at Liz. She'd watched Liz as she'd engaged the jock in conversation, or what passed for it with a jock, watched her bristle with alarm, tug Max's sleeve, nod toward them. Good, she'd thought approvingly. He would do. She needed bait, someone or something to make them follow her to the library and watch her take the book from its hiding place of obviously alien origins, after which she would wait outside the library for them to approach her.

Only it didn't work out the way she'd expected. Only Max and Liz showed up to the library, drawing a snort of disgust from her that she'd had to explain away to Kyle. No Isabel, no Michael, just Liz? Seriously? What did Liz have to do with this? But both had dutifully followed her, although only Max had seen her reveal the handprint and remove the book, which was only fitting and the one thing which had gone right this evening. After drawing an audience of one instead of three, she'd managed to ditch Kyle and waited outside the library in plain sight, the book in her hand for all the world to see. Max and Liz had emerged about twenty minutes later, walked right by her...and left. Just like that. What the....?! she'd sputtered privately, watching them climb into his jeep. Had he really just blown off an opportunity to learn more about themselves? After a few flabbergasted minutes, she'd decided that perhaps she should go home. Perhaps Max didn't want to have this encounter in public, arguably a poor choice of locations. So home she'd gone, cooling her heels for the past several hours, expecting a knock on the door at any moment. No such luck.

Unbelievable, she thought angrily, climbing into her car. She'd been pestering Nasedo to learn more about herself ever since she could talk; the Others had no guardian, no one to even pester, and they walk right past a never-before-seen opportunity? What in blazes was wrong with them? Part of her was so angry that she found herself heading for Michael's apartment. He hadn't even shown up at the library, but he'd at least shown some interest when she'd tried to jog his memory, and something told her he'd be far more interested in the book than Max would be. No hovering outside windows this time; she went right to the door and knocked. No one answered. One thought clicked the lock open, and she walked inside.

No one was home. Tess glanced around the surprisingly tidy apartment, suddenly uneasy when she remembered that this was the place the Unit had been watching. Had they regrouped? Would the Others even notice if they did? Best to leave the lights off just in case, and she roamed the single room, looked inside the fridge, rifled through the mail on the counter...and came to a halt in front of the room's one table, on which were spread several maps. She moved the top one closer to the window where the lights from the parking lot helped a bit and saw it was a map of Roswell, circa 1963. The other maps were also of Roswell, although of more recent vintage, and a slow smile spread across her face as she realized what Michael was doing: He was trying to find the pod chamber, which, it turned out, was what the symbol she'd sketched on the window stood for. But if Michael had figured out what the symbol meant, why hadn't he come to her? Where was he now?

Stupid question.

Calmer now, Tess climbed back into her car. Five minutes later she was peering through the windows of the Evans' house where Max was sound asleep and Michael and Isabel were talking in Isabel's room. Of course Michael had come here. Of course the three of them would stick together, huddling against the big bad unknown. Unlike her, they'd had no idea there was anyone else like them, no idea they had a greater purpose. For all that she'd felt alone with Nasedo, the Others had been alone in a different way, a way every bit as isolating. For her, learning more about themselves meant finally finding out just exactly what their destiny was; for them, it meant finding out they had a destiny in the first place. For her, the Others represented family and purpose; for them, she represented the unknown, always a frightening thing. She was being unfair. She was way ahead of them, so it was she who should make the first move.

Max's room was dark when she climbed in the window and stood at the foot of his bed. God, he was beautiful, and he was hers; the book made that clear. He was also lost, and it was her job to bring him home. Moving slowly, she straddled him. His eyes were open by the time they came face to face.

"It's time," she whispered. "You understand, don't you?"

"Tell me," Max answered. "Tell me what I'm feeling."

"I'll show you everything," Tess promised, "and you'll remember." She climbed off the bed, held out her hand. He took it without hesitation, a warm, strong hand that completely enveloped hers.

"Come with me."




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




"Michael, I can't do this," Isabel said miserably. "I can't be pregnant! We haven't even...I mean, we never...I mean you're like a brother to me! This isn't right!"

"How do we know what's 'right'?" Michael countered. "We have no idea what's 'right', Isabel. We don't even know who we are. Maybe we're....you know."

"What?" Isabel demanded. "Master and slave? Pimp and prostitute?"

"I was thinking more like boyfriend and girlfriend," Michael said. "Or husband and wife."

Isabel's eyes widened. "No," she said, shaking her head firmly. "No. No, no, no. No way."

"You gotta admit it's way better than your ideas," Michael noted.

"I was joking!" Isabel exclaimed. "You're not!"

"Well, why else would you be having a baby?" Michael asked.

"I don't know!" Isabel wailed. "We're not human, remember? So why ask me?" She flopped flat on the bed, closed her eyes, opened them. "This is unbearable," she declared, sitting up abruptly. "I can't sleep, I can't stay awake...I feel like I'm losing my mind."

Michael stood up. "Then let's go settle this."

"I can't 'settle it'," Isabel said impatiently. "You may find this hard to believe, but I don't stock pregnancy tests in the bathroom, and the pharmacy won't open until 7 a.m.—"

"I don't mean that," Michael interrupted. "I mean let's go to Nasedo and find out what's what."

Isabel blinked. "What...now? Just walk in there and say, 'Cough it up, buddy?' What makes you think that's going to work?"

"Because nothing else has. Ever wonder why Nasedo keeps dropping hints? I do, all the time, and I think it's because he's waiting for us to come to him."

"Well, then, he can go right on waiting," Isabel declared. "I'm not going anywhere near him."

"So you'd rather just wander around worrying that you're pregnant? Oh, right, that's a plan."

"I'd rather stay alive!" Isabel retorted.

"He's not gonna kill us, Isabel. If he were gonna do that, he would've done it already. Why drop hints all over the place if he's just gonna bump us off? It doesn't make sense."

"There's one thing we agree on," Isabel sighed. "None of this makes sense."

"And it's time it did," Michael announced. "I'm gonna get Max, and then go talk to Nasedo. Stay here if you want, but I'm going."

"No, Michael...wait!" Isabel called, scrambling out of bed as Michael left the room. "What are you going to do? You can't just..."

She nearly ran into him when Michael stopped dead just inside the door to the Max's room. Pushing past him, Isabel stared at the empty bed with alarm and scurried to the window when she heard an engine starting. "It's him!" she hissed. "It's Nasedo, and he's got Max!"

"I see that," Michael said darkly. He grabbed Max's keys from the dresser. "Get dressed. I think I know where they're going."

"You do? Where?"

"I'll tell you when we get there," Michael answered, tossing her the keys. "You're driving. I'll be reading the maps."





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


I'll be back in 2 weeks with Chapter 112, on Sunday, May 5th. :)
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 112

Postby Kathy W » Sun May 05, 2013 5:18 pm

keepsmiling7 wrote:Hated to hear Mr. Sommers say that you can't escape destiny. That's all Tess had to hear!


Yeah, it probably didn't help to have the teacher chiming in, however inadvertently!

emerald123 wrote: I especially liked the conversation between Brivari and Jaddo about what to do about Pierce.


Thank you! We all know Jaddo winds up doing exactly what he proposed...and it works out just the way Brivari had feared.





CHAPTER ONE HUNDRED TWELVE




May 12, 2000, 6:30 a.m.

Pohlman Ranch





Spring sunshine shone into the pod chamber, a shaft of sunlight reaching into places untouched by light for decades. Tess took a moment to etch the scene in her memory, the warm sun on her back pouring in the open door, the remains of the pods on the wall, mute testimony to their origins, the soft, automatic light which was visible further in where the sun couldn't reach and seemed wired to the chamber's door; whoever had designed them had truly thought of everything, right down to the lights in the living room. Today would definitely go down in history as the highlight of her life, the day that all four of them returned to the place of their birth and knew each other for what they were. For the first time, the "Others" were no longer "other", and neither was she; they were one, a unit, a group of four so important that people on another planet had seen fit to create them. For someone searching for a reason to be and someone to be that with, it didn't get much better than this.

Granted, it had been something of a bumpy ride. She'd been ecstatic when Max had willingly come with her and even recognized the rock formation without any prompting from her. The confusing rant which followed had caught her off guard, but handily answered the question about why all of them were so afraid of her; who wouldn't be afraid of a murderer? At some point she'd have to sort through the wild accusations he'd flung at her, but for now she was simply grateful that a sudden burst of memory had told Max who she was, and just in time to divert Michael and Isabel from the warpath. She'd watched their skepticism at his announcement that she was one of them evaporate after he'd taken off for the pod chamber, finding the rock face just as she had, even remembering the handprint lock, which was annoying because she hadn't. Then the four of them in the chamber, gazing at their birthplace with mixed emotions. All together again for the first time since they'd been in those pods. Reunited to fulfill their destiny as planned.

And then the Kodak moment was over, and reality intervened. Isabel had fled, volubly refusing to believe what was right in front of her. Max had wanted to stay—she could see it in his eyes—but had followed his sister. Only Michael had remained, and she'd pressed that advantage, giving him the book and reiterating that she was not their enemy. He'd left reluctantly, the book his consolation prize, and now just as she'd started to process what had happened, Nasedo had conveniently appeared, madder than a hornet. Fair enough. That made two of them.

"How could you bring them up here like this?" Nasedo demanded angrily. "You know the special Unit is close! You saw that camera. Who do you think put it on them in the first place? Our friend, Pierce."

"Oh, yeah, so why don't you just kill him?" Tess retorted. "According to Max, you've done that before."

Nasedo looked startled, equally startling to Tess because he was rarely caught off guard. "What has he been telling you?" he demanded. "You're going to trust him over me? Listen," he ordered, taking her by the chin, "you and I have spent a lot of time together. Now I don't want to say we're family—"

"You're not my family," Tess declared. "You never will be. Max, Michael and Isabel are."

"Fine," Nasedo said acidly. "Go have your little reunion. If I have to kill people, I kill people. Pierce is dangerous! You all still need me if you expect to survive him."

Tess stared at him, taken aback as he withdrew, turning his back to her. She'd seen Nasedo angry many, many times, at least half of those being caused by her, but this was different. He wasn't just mad, he was...defensive? But Nasedo never got defensive; he always acted like his word was law, that he never had to explain anything to anyone. Why would he suddenly be worried about what they thought of him?

"You're really scared of Pierce, aren't you?" she said softly. "More than the others."

Nasedo gave a snort of disgust. "He's smarter," he said darkly. "He's closer to the four of you than anyone's ever been. If you're not scared, you damn well should be. And they," he continued, stabbing a pointed finger in the direction of the door, "have no idea what's coming at them. But you do. So what possessed you to bring them to the one safe place you have?"

" 'Safe'?" Tess echoed. "If it's safe, then what's the problem? How did you even know I was here? Is the place rigged? Because if it is—"

"I saw your car headed this way, and followed you," Nasedo interrupted. "And if I can follow you, so can Pierce. Ever think of that?"

No, Tess admitted silently, noting uneasily that he had a point. "I'm sorry, I...I didn't think."

"No kidding," Nasedo snapped. "And what about the book? I told you that was much too precious to wander around with, and you not only took it out of the library, but you gave it to them? Do you hear anything I say?"

"Perfectly," Tess said irritably, "but what was I supposed to do? You keep telling me to 'wake them up' and 'get them ready', but they don't trust me! I couldn't just walk up to them and say, 'Hi! I'm an alien too, and we're all one big happy family!' "

"The point was to get them to remember on their own," Nasedo argued. "You can't just hand it to them. They may not be ready to hear what that book has to tell them."

"Like what?" Tess said in exasperation. "I couldn't read it, and I bet they can't either. I gave it to them for the pictures; they prove we belong together. It was no good just saying that. I needed to show them something that would make them believe me."

"Well, nice going," Nasedo deadpanned. "Isabel certainly seemed to."

"Oh, for God's sake, what is it with Isabel?" Tess demanded. "Max and Michael are different. Michael wants to know so badly, he can taste it, and Max remembered all by himself, just like you wanted him to."

Nasedo crossed the few feet between them so quickly, he was a blur. "He remembered?" he demanded, hands gripping her shoulders. "What did he remember? Who he is? Who you are?"

"Not...exactly," she stammered, squirming in his grip. "He remembered the pod rocks. He remembered the handprint lock. I didn't even remember that."

"Because you didn't use it," Nasedo said. "I led you out, but they had to get out of here on their own. What else?"

"Um...he remembered I was one of them. Thank God, because they thought I was you."

Nasedo's hands fell. "Me?" he said, flabbergasted.

"Yeah, you," Tess answered. "Max said, 'She's not Nasedo; she's one of us'. They saw me use my powers to fix that statue Liz broke. They thought I was you, and they're afraid of me because they think you're a murderer. Max accused me of killing someone named 'Atherton', and somebody's wife. And he knows you're a shapeshifter; he wanted me to show him 'what I really look like'. He said..."

"What?" Nasedo demanded when she stopped. "What else did he say?"

"He said, 'I'm not like you'. He said, 'I live in this world. It's all I know. And I will not be a part of anything as evil as you'." Nasedo stared at her, stone-faced, as Tess let that sink in. "So you see what I'm up against? They're afraid of me because of you. They're following me around and spying on me because of you. And even if they know I'm not you, I'm still swimming upstream because they think you're 'evil'. I need all the help I can get, whether it's pod chambers or books or whatever."

"Fine, you showed them," Nasedo said. "Do not come back here again unless it's an emergency. And the book needs to go back where you found it."

"Not until they've all had a chance to look at it," Tess said stubbornly. "Don't you see? We're all in there! Our faces are in that book, every one of us—"

"Which is exactly the point," Nasedo interrupted. "If Pierce gets a hold of that, he'll be chasing more than just one of you. Put it back."

"They know it's from our world, so they'll be careful with it," Tess protested. "They're not stupid—"

"Debatable," Nasedo declared. "Same goes for you, and you should know better. Put it back."

"They need to look at it," Tess insisted. "I'll put it back after they look at it."

"Assuming you're alive then," Nasedo muttered.

"Nobody's dead," Tess retorted, "at least not unless you decide to change that. So is Max right? Did you kill those people? Did you...where are you going?" she demanded when he walked away from her.

"To do my job," he said angrily. "Can I trust you to lock up on your way out, or did you plan on leaving the door gaping open for all to see?"

"Answer me!" Tess exclaimed. "They don't trust me because of you, so I deserve an answer!"

"Then here's your answer," Nasedo snapped. "I will do whatever it takes to keep you alive. That's my job, to keep the four of you alive. Don't make it harder than it already is."

Yes, Tess thought as he stalked out, answering her own question. Sometimes no answer was an answer in itself. And why did that bother her? God only knew what the Special Unit would do if it got their hands on any of them; didn't that justify whatever it took to make sure that didn't happen? Didn't that make it self defense? Maybe this was just a case of Max not understanding the nature of the threat, understandable since he'd never had cause to feel threatened until just recently. Maybe, but it was certainly a pain in the ass now, when she needed them to trust her and found herself on trial for murder.

Shielding her eyes from the sun, Tess paused just outside the pod chamber where the barren desert stretched below, feeling a pang of guilt as she realized just how easy it would have been to follow them if someone were so inclined. Max, Michael and Isabel were gathered in a tight knot some ways away from the cars, passing the book back and forth and talking animatedly, their very posture screaming shock and fear. They didn't hear the pod chamber door rumble closed, didn't hear her come down the side of the rock face, didn't even look when her car started. They may not be ready to hear what that book has to tell them. Gazing in her rear view mirror as she pulled away, she felt a stab of unease. The pictures in that book were the only thing which meant anything to any of them. What did the words say? Would they tell them something awful? Is that why the Others had a breakdown as children and forgot everything they knew? Would that happen again now that she'd dropped this in their laps?

No more, Tess decided as she drove off, the rest of them not even noticing. Now she would wait. The next move, if there was one, would be theirs.




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





"Do you smell that?"

Max glanced in the rear view mirror. "Smell what?"

"It's disgusting," Isabel said, sniffing her sleeve. "Ugh! It's from that cave. Something reeked in there. Didn't you notice?"

Max shook his head. "No."

"Well, we were born in there," Michael remarked, his eyes glued to the alien book. "Probably some kind of extra-terrestrial amniotic fluid."

Isabel's hand flew to her mouth. "Oh, God. Oh, God, oh...stop the car. Max, stop the car!"

Max screeched to a halt. Isabel had the door open before the car stopped moving. Tumbling out, she staggered several feet before falling to her knees on the desert sand. The retching noises which followed made Max wince and pulled Michael away from his book.

"Throwing up is a sign of pregnancy," Michael remarked.

"It's also a sign of a smell turning your stomach," Max said.

"You don't believe us, do you? About the dreams and the baby."

"I believe you had the dreams," Max answered. "I still don't see how anyone can get pregnant from a dream, so unless you..."

"No, we didn't," Michael said firmly. "But we're not human, Max—"

"Yeah, thanks Michael, I'm so likely to forget that."

"—so we don't know how it works for us," Michael went on, ignoring him. "We really don't know anything about ourselves. And what about this book? We're paired up in here, me with Isabel and you with Tess."

"If you read side to side," Max noted. "What if our people read top to bottom? Then it's you and Tess, and me and Isabel."

Michael blinked. "Dude, she's your sister."

"Is she? You just said we don't really know anything about ourselves. How do we know Isabel isn't my wife? Or my mother-in-law?"

"Okay, now you're just being weird," Michael muttered.

"Then that makes two of us," Max retorted. "She's your sister too."

"Not according to this," Michael said. "And judging by the way Tess has been after you, I'd say she's a side-to-side reader too."

"We're brothers and sisters because that's what we are," Max insisted. "Because we say so. I don't care what whoever wrote that thinks. They're not here now anyway."

"You sure about that?" Michael murmured.

Silence. Outside, Isabel had rocked back on her heels, both hands locked behind her head. "How'd you find us?" Max asked.

"With the cave map," Michael answered. "Pohlman Ranch wasn't on even the oldest Roswell map I had from 1950, but there was a map of the surrounding area on the back which dated from '43, and it was on that one. I just overlaid the two maps and figured out where that four-kidney-beans symbol was."

"How'd you even know I was gone?"

"Isabel and I both had the same dream last night," Michael answered. "We both woke up, she started freaking out that she was pregnant...and I decided I'd had enough. I was coming to get you so we could go to Nasedo and shake some answers out of him when we saw you leaving with him. I mean 'her'," he corrected. "But if Tess isn't Nasedo, then who is?"

"Her 'father'," Max answered.

"You mean the dweeb? Great disguise," Michael allowed when Max nodded. "I've got a few million questions for that guy."

"Good. You're the one who summoned him."

"Hey, he left a message for us first," Michael retorted. "I just sent one back. And he came," he added, shaking his head in disbelief. "That's a first. No one's ever come for me." He glanced out the window to where Isabel was still hunched on the sand. "I'd better go get her."

Max opened the car door. "I will."

It was getting hot outside. Max's footsteps crunched on the sand, weirdly loud in the empty desert. Isabel stood up before he reached her. "I'm okay," she said in a shaky voice.

"You sure?" Max asked gently.

She nodded much too quickly. "I'm sure. Let's go."

"We could wait a few more minutes—"

"No," Isabel said quickly. "I want to get out of here as fast as possible."

Max didn't argue. "Okay. Let's go."

She walked past him toward the jeep, so she didn't see him look back the way they'd come to where the rock formation was barely visible in the distance. They'd always known they were "other", always known they'd been found wandering in the desert, but this...to have been born in a cave in the alien equivalent of a Petri dish had never been on the list of possibilities. He'd always assumed they belonged to someone, that they were someone's children, someone's family, but now that looked uncertain, especially in light of the pictures in the book. Whether one read up and down or side to side, there was no denying that whoever had written it had known exactly what they would look like, both now and when they were younger. It left him with a hollow feeling inside, like the dream of belonging to a family much like his own on another world had been ripped away.

"C'mon in," Michael said, gesturing toward Isabel, who took one look at the alien book and shied away.

"No, thanks. I'll sit up front."

Michael looked taken aback, probably thinking Isabel was rejecting him, not the book. Max didn't bother to clear up the confusion, running down his mental list of questions for Tess as they sped toward town. It was a long list, and he still hadn't finished it by the time they pulled into the Harding's driveway.

"I'll come with you," Michael announced.

"No," Max said quickly. "I'm going alone."

"Like hell you are," Michael objected. "Aren't you the one who's always reminding me he's a murderer?"

"I'm talking to Tess, not Nasedo," Max said.

"There's a difference?" Isabel muttered.

"That's one of the things I want to find out," Max answered. "This is a conversation, not a confrontation. I'm going alone."

"Hey, I know how to have a conversation," Michael protested. "I know—"

"Shut up, Michael," Isabel interrupted. "I am not staying here alone while the two of you go into the lion's den, so either Max goes or we all go."

Max climbed out before Michael had a chance to digest that and he had a chance to lose his nerve. Because losing it he was, with each and every step that brought him closer to the Harding's front door. Curiously, he wasn't worried about talking to Tess; it was Nasedo he wasn't keen on encountering. Bracing himself, he rang the doorbell and knocked, rang and knocked again, peered through the windows.

"They're not home," he reported a few minutes later when he climbed back into the jeep.

"Good," Isabel declared.

"Bad," Michael corrected. "What, did they up and skip town just as we figured out who they were? That would be a real kick in the—"

"No one skipped anywhere," Max broke in. "The furniture's all still there. They're just not home.

"We could try the Crashdown," Michael suggested. "Maybe she's waiting for us."

"Maybe," Max agreed as Isabel gave an involuntary shiver. "Or maybe..." He took off suddenly, pulling into the school parking lot five minutes later. "Or maybe she just went to school."

"You think she'd just go to school?" Isabel said doubtfully. "Maybe, but—"

"But there's her car," Michael broke in, peering out the window. "Bingo."

Max pulled into a parking space, climbed out, and tossed the keys to Michael. "I need the book."

Michael clutched it protectively. "Why?"

"Because I'm asking her questions about what's in the book," Max said. "Give it."

"You've already seen it," Michael protested. "Can't you just ask her anyway?"

"Oh, for God's sake, Michael, give him the stupid book!" Isabel exclaimed. "It's not like he's going to leave it in the library book drop. Although I wouldn't mind if he did."

Michael ran his hands over the cover one more time before reluctantly handing it over. "We'll wait for you."

"No, let's go somewhere," Isabel begged. "Anywhere. Anywhere but here. Please? I can't take seeing her again right now."

"Isabel Evans wants to skip school?" Michael said dryly. "How can I refuse that? Fine. We can hang out at my place."

Max watched the jeep pull out before going into the school, and he'd rounded a single corner when he ran into Liz. "Max!" she said, brightening the way she always did when she saw him, the way he'd thought no one ever would. "You're early."

"I'm...here to see a teacher," Max said.

Liz came closer. "Go that way," she whispered, pointing to the left hallway. "I saw Nasedo at her locker."

Something about the expression on his face made her pause. "Are you okay?" Liz asked. "You look...intense. The way you do when something's happened. Is something wrong?"

Yes. "No," Max lied. "I'm good. Thanks for the tip." He kissed her, smiled, took off down the left hallway...and retraced his steps just as soon as she was out of sight. Hard to believe, but it wasn't Liz he wanted to talk to right now. The one he wanted to talk to was pulling books out of her locker, and she paused when he came up behind her.

"I had a feeling one of you would come," Tess said. "I'm glad it was you."




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





Crashdown Cafe




"Is that one of them?" Dee asked.

Brivari's eyes flicked up. "Yup."

"Is it just me," Yvonne murmured, "or is he not making even a token effort to blend in?"

Brivari shook his head. "Nope."

"Oh, dear," Yvonne signed. "Not good."

Another head shake. "Not."

Dee glanced back and forth from one to the other, then out the Crashdown's large front window. She and Yvonne had been up since the crack of dawn and had come out for breakfast, running into Brivari by sheer chance. Yvonne woke that early out of habit, while for her it was sheer worry, a worry given shape and form by the dark-suited, Men in Black-looking agent milling back and forth on the sidewalk. Yvonne had a point; were this the financial district in New York City, the agent would have been indistinguishable from passers-by, but here in Roswell he was seriously overdressed.

"Why is that 'not good'?" Dee asked. "Isn't that how they always dress?"

"It's not so much the suit as the loitering in broad daylight," Yvonne explained. "If Pierce is trying to start a clandestine Unit, his agents aren't being very clandestine."

"Which means...what?" Dee asked, feeling stupid.

"It means Pierce is feeling very sure of himself," Yvonne answered. "Unusually sure of himself for someone going head to head with the FBI. We can only hope he's not really as powerful as he feels."

Great, Dee thought despairingly as Brivari gave an affirmative grunt which she took as agreement. Interesting how he and Yvonne could communicate in shorthand, grasping nuances she'd missed. Most of the time she completely forgot that, as close as her family had been and still was to the Warders, there were others who had been as close or closer. Yvonne and her husband had been staunch allies during Jaddo's three years of captivity, and she remained the one human being on the planet whom Jaddo would defer to without argument. That alone was impressive.

"Something wrong?"

Yvonne was looking at her questioningly while Brivari was far away, his attention locked on his quarry. "I was just feeling...well...stupid," Dee admitted. "You and Brivari notice things that pass right by me. And here I thought I knew something about this."

"You do," Yvonne assured her, "just in a different context. We watched the Army fight over what to do with Jaddo for three years. I spent three years periodically hiding in my room while Brivari took my shape so he could see him. We became very efficient at it because we had to catch each other up quickly every time we switched so he'd know enough to be me and I'd know enough to go back to being me after he'd been me."

"What's scary is I actually followed that sentence," Dee said dryly. "But it's more than that. Brivari's wearing a face neither of us have ever seen, but you spotted him right away. I can only do that with Jaddo, and even then only sometimes."

"Practice," Yvonne said with a small shrug. "He spent a lot of time at the base while Jaddo was captive. I'm sure you know how they have 'favorite faces' the way we have favorite clothes, but he'd periodically change up the wardrobe and show up with a new one. Stephen and I didn't always figure it out the first time, but we certainly got better at spotting him."

"I wonder if shapeshifters have seasons for faces the way we do for fashion," Dee remarked as Yvonne chuckled. "You know, like 'mustaches are out this fall, but freckles are in'. That sort of thing. But good for you," she went on. "I'm impressed that you can still read him so accurately after all these years."

Yvonne sobered rather suddenly. "This is the closest I've seen him to the way he was back then," she said quietly. "I don't mind telling you that I don't like it."

"I'm sure it's dredging up some very nasty memories, especially for Jaddo," Dee agreed. "And to have it be Pierce's son this time... Talk about deja vu."

"Back then it was the Warders who were in danger," Yvonne said, "which was bad, but not as bad as it could have been. This time it's worse; this time it's the hybrids."

"My grandchildren," Dee said sadly.

Yvonne's eyes widened. "Goodness, I'm sorry. They were always 'the hybrids'. I keep forgetting that to you, they're much more."

"No, no, that's okay," Dee said. "They are hybrids. Any time I'm foolish enough to forget that simple fact, it always comes back around to kick my ass. Excuse my French."

Yvonne erupted in peals of laughter which drew only a momentary glance from the preoccupied Warder across from them. "Do people still say that?" she chuckled. "My mother used to think 'excuse my French' got her out of swearing like a sailor."

"People our age still say that," Dee corrected. "I'm dating myself, but then I'm dated anyway."

"Tell me about it," Yvonne agreed. "And is it my imagination, or are the waitresses getting younger?' she added as Maria DeLuca swished by with two coffee pots. "If they get any younger, they'll be in diapers." She paused. "Oh, dear. The plot thickens."

Dee followed her gaze to the front of the cafe, where a number of new customers had just entered. It took her a moment to pick out one of them, headed straight for them wearing his customary disgruntled expression. "Are you still on that one?" Jaddo said, taking a seat next to Brivari. "There are three others."

"Milling around town, yes," Brivari answered. "But this one is clearly assigned to the Crashdown, the most likely place to encounter our Wards. I assume you're here because the other three are still merely milling around town?"

Yvonne and Dee exchanged glances as Jaddo gave the trademark snort which typically accompanied Brivari being right about something. "Not just that. The king thinks I'm 'evil'."

Dee blinked. "You mean Max?"

"Last I knew, he was the only 'king' in town," Yvonne remarked.

Brivari raised an eyebrow. "Since when do you chat up my Ward?"

Jaddo hesitated, which had the effect of garnering everyone's complete attention; the news must be momentous indeed for one so voluble to find himself at a loss for words. "Tess took the book out of the library and showed it to the rest of them," he reported, not looking at Brivari.

"Valeris' book?" Dee said. "The one with their pictures inside?"

"Awkward," Yvonne murmured.

"What possessed her to do that?" Brivari demanded. "I thought you told her to leave it in the library! We can't have that wandering around town, not now!"

"Believe me, I made that clear," Jaddo said darkly. "And to make things worse, she took them to the pod chamber."

Brivari's eyes flared. "She did what?"

"Fortunately it was the middle of the night, so I doubt the Unit was paying attention," Jaddo went on. "I impressed upon her the necessity of discretion, but she claims she had to allay their fears because they saw her use her powers on that infernal camera before I found it, and they thought she was me, and they've decided I'm 'evil'—"

"I don't care if they think you're Bozo the Clown, they can't congregate at the pod chamber!" Brivari hissed. "Or wave that book around with every single one of their faces conveniently cataloged!"

"You think I don't know that?" Jaddo demanded. "I can't control her any more than you can control them! I'm telling you in case there are repercussions, not for a lecture."

"Which we appreciate," Yvonne said calmly. "Now perhaps you should both get back to the business at hand. You can kill each other later."

Brivari left first, stalking out so quickly that he attracted the attention of Maria. "Not another argument," she said worriedly as Jaddo stalked out after him. "The last time two guys argued in here, things didn't go so well."

"Don't worry about them," Yvonne said lightly. "They do this all the time. May we have our check, dear?"

"Good idea," Dee agreed as Maria hurried off to fetch it. "I have to find Isabel. She must be going crazy after seeing herself in that book."

"Then let's go find her," Yvonne said, pulling out her credit card. "I'll get the bill."




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




Roswell Sheriff's Station




When he felt the phone in his pocket buzzing, Pierce struggled to keep his expression neutral as the fat deputy appointed as his handler explained the intricate nature of the filing system, that being alphabetical. Fatso must have missed that part of kindergarten because he droned on about ABC's for another five minutes before Pierce was able to beg off and slip away.

"Are you out of your mind?" he demanded when Brian answered. "What part of 'under cover' do you not understand?"

"The part where your cover is blown," Brian retorted. "I haven't changed my opinion one bit, Danny. You've had some wacko ideas in your time, but this is the wackiest. What part of 'keep your head down' do you not understand?"

"I am keeping my head down," Pierce said tersely. "Valenti's elbow is the last place on Earth Director Freeh would look for me, assuming he had any reason to look for me, which he doesn't, because I've been keeping my head down. Next question?"

"Right, because agents crawling the streets of Roswell are such a great example of keeping your head down. No one will notice them. Why would they?"

"It's four agents," Pierce argued. "Four, not forty-four, which I could pull up in a heartbeat, by the way. Did you call for a reason, or are you just determined to have this not work?"

"Far be it from me to interfere with your sudden desire to play dress-up," Brian deadpanned. "Kind of like our illustrious cross-dressing founder—"

"Brian!"

"We got a hit," Brian sighed, "on that blip from a few days ago."

"You mean the one you lost track of?"

"If we followed everyone you wanted followed, we'd have four dozen agents here," Brian said crossly. "And besides, she turned up. Just used her MasterCard at the Crashdown." He paused. "What do you want me to do?"


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



I'll post Chapter 113 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 113

Postby Kathy W » Sun May 12, 2013 8:05 pm

keepsmiling7 wrote:LOL.....Micheal's comment about the "dweeb"....Nesado.


Seriously, if you want to hide an alien, hide it behind a face like that. No one will ever know. :mrgreen:







CHAPTER ONE HUNDRED THIRTEEN



May 12, 2000, 9 a.m.

Roswell Sheriff's Station





"Fisher? Deputy Fisher?"

Momentarily forgetting that was now his name, Pierce turned around to find not the tubby deputy who'd been teaching him his ABC's, but the slightly more intelligent and considerably thinner version who'd first shown him to Valenti's office. "Is that a personal phone call?" Thinner asked. " 'Cos the sheriff frowns on personal calls on the clock."

"Sorry," Pierce said, flipping his cell shut, certain that Brian was celebrating on the other end. "Just didn't think."

"Didn't want you to get off on the wrong foot," Thinner said. "You know, like you did already."

The slap was delivered so smoothly Pierce almost missed it, accompanied by an expression so neutral it had him guessing as to whether he'd heard correctly. "Right," Pierce said slowly, noting that he may have underestimated this one's intelligence just a smidgen. "I...thank you. Thanks for the heads up."

"Any time," Thinner replied. "I'll let you get back to your filing," he added, with just enough emphasis on "filing" to make it clear that he felt that was exactly where the new guy belonged.

"Wait," Pierce called suddenly. "It's Hanson, right?"

Hanson turned around. "Yeah."

"Look, Hanson, I'm sorry if I made the wrong impression," Pierce said. "Maybe I should have checked a little more thoroughly before coming down here—"

"And putting down a deposit on an apartment," Hanson finished. "You think?"

"Okay, no 'maybe' about it," Pierce allowed. "I should have checked. I just thought that orders were orders, and...well, never mind what I thought. Lesson learned. Listen, I was hoping I could find out a bit more about Sheriff Valenti, and seeing as you're his right-hand man, I figured you're the one to talk to."

"Who told you that?" Hanson asked warily.

"Well...no one. No one had to. It's obvious. Every sheriff has one, and you're Valenti's."

Pierce suppressed a smile as Hanson promptly stood up a bit straighter; flattering a man's status with his boss was always a way in. "So I was hoping," Pierce continued, "to learn a bit more about him, just so I don't, you know, stick my foot in it even worse. Helps to know what a man's hot buttons are. Like personal calls on the clock."

Hanson looked him up and down for a moment before giving him a nod. "Guess Checora could spare you for a few minutes. Come on."

Hanson led him through the standard miasma of a sheriff's station, including ringing phones, coffee, over-nuked food, and sweat, that last coming from armpit rings the size of Jupiter on Deputy Checora, he of the enormous girth and ABC fetish who hadn't even noticed his newbie was missing. They stopped in the main hallway where Hanson pointed to a row of formal photographs, all Roswell sheriffs at one time or another. "You want to understand Sheriff Valenti, you need to know about his daddy," Hanson announced, pointing to the second last photograph on the wall. "Jim Sr. was Roswell sheriff for decades when he lost his job over the killing of a local vagrant."

"I've heard of him," Pierce said. "He the one who believed in aliens?"

Pierce donned a suitably alarmed expression when Hanson gave him a baleful stare. "See, that's what you don't bring up," Hanson said sternly. "That's a hot button if ever there was one, the hottest. There are plenty of people in this town who still remember the first Valenti, and some of them aren't thrilled to see a second. The sheriff ain't his daddy."

"Shame," Pierce commented, "because I also heard he was a good sheriff. Doesn't seem right that one mistake could take down a man's entire career."

Hanson's expression softened. "Plenty of people feel that way too," he confided. "And Jim Sr. was an excellent sheriff. Took his responsibilities seriously. His son's no different."

"Wasn't there some kind of dust-up with the feds?" Pierce asked. "We heard about it in Santa Fe."

"That's another hot button," Hanson said. "The Bureau's barged in here a couple of times in the past few months. Last time was over the most recent 'sighting'. I have no idea why they bothered."

"Me neither," Pierce agreed. "This is Roswell, after all. Sightings are a dime a dozen."

"That's the spirit," Hanson said approvingly. "Helps to have a healthy dose of skepticism around here."

"Oh, I do, I do," Pierce smiled. "Well...I'd better get back to my filing before Deputy Checora misses me. Although between you and me and the fence post, I do believe he's been misassigned. He'd do well on the school or bar beat. Anyone gave him any trouble, he could just sit on'em."

There was a long pause where Pierce was afraid the joke had fallen flat. But in addition to a love of flattery, another human trait one could generally count on was the tendency to poke fun at one's co-workers. "He's a bit of a porker," Hanson agreed finally, chuckling. "Loves his doughnuts, that one. Really upholds the stereotype."

"I'm sure he's a good deputy," Pierce said. "I doubt Sheriff Valenti would have him around if he wasn't. He doesn't strike me as the type who suffers fools gladly."

Hanson beamed at the praise for his boss and clapped Pierce on the back. "That he doesn't. Checora's good at paperwork, and someone has to do it. I hate it, so it may as well be him."

"Then I should go learn from the best," Pierce smiled. "Thanks for the info, Hanson. Appreciate it."

"My pleasure. Oh...one more thing," Hanson said. "Aren't you going to claim your personal phone call was an emergency, or something like that?"

Pierce shrugged. "Nope. No emergency. Just really good news someone wanted to share."

Hanson stared at him for a moment before breaking into a smile. "Honesty! I like that. You'll do fine here, Fisher. You'll do fine."

That I will, Pierce agreed as he gazed at the photograph of Valenti Sr., his father's nemesis. Valenti Jr. was clearly on the same path judging from the instant suspicion with which he'd greeted his new employee, a suspicion which would no doubt be followed up by the very deputy with whom he'd just bonded and who would never expect him to do what he was doing now, which was to pull out his phone and make a personal phone call moments after being chastised for doing just that.

"You in trouble?" Brian said with satisfaction.

"Apparently I'm not supposed to make personal phone calls on the clock," Pierce said with due seriousness.

"Of course not," Brian said. "You're a grunt now, Danny. You haven't been a grunt since...well, since never."

"Haven't missed a thing," Pierce said cheerfully. "Although I must admit I do like being in the trenches. There's been entirely too much skulking in motel rooms for my taste. This is just what I needed."

"Speak for yourself," Brian muttered. "Now about—"

"Bring her in," Pierce said.

"What, now?"

"Yes, now," Pierce answered. "I'm done watching. The next time any of them step outside Valenti's protective circle, they're mine."




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




Tess hung an arm out the window of the jeep, her eyes closed and a smile on her face. It was a fine day, and she was in a fine mood. The Others finally knew she was one of them, Max had come to her unbidden, and they'd had an actual conversation about things that actually mattered. It hadn't really sunk in yet that there'd be no more hiding from any of them, that she no longer had only one other person with whom she could truly be herself, but three. Granted those three weren't exactly thrilled about that, but right now she was willing to set aside the awkwardness, Nasedo's anger, and her own disappointment that her news hadn't exactly been greeted with a peal of bells and just be grateful for the wind in her hair and her former husband at her side as he drove her home. They'll come around, she thought. Michael pretty much already had, and Max was definitely on his way there.

"I had another question," Max said suddenly, "about those pictures Liz found, the ones of me. How long were you stalking me?"

But not quite there yet, Tess amended. "I wasn't 'stalking' you," she answered. "First of all, the pictures were of all of you; Liz couldn't have looked far or she would have seen that. And Nasedo took the pictures to show me what you all looked like."

"But why?" Max asked. "One or two I could see, but why a whole box? And why take pictures at all? You had the book. Didn't you already know what we looked like?"

Tess took a moment to sift through the various answers to that question. The Others had just had a bomb dropped in their laps. Telling them virtually everything might not be the best idea.

"One of the first things Nasedo ever told me was that there were others like me," she began, deciding that the beginning was as good a place as any to start. "He told me that some day I would meet them, and he used that to keep me in line. I kept asking and asking, and finally he brought me those pictures. It was a way to keep me quiet until we actually came here."

"But why not come right away? Why did you have to wait?"

"He never said," Tess answered. "He usually doesn't. He won't tell me most of what I want to know. I don't know why."

Max brought the jeep to a halt at a red light. "Then how do you know we can't get pregnant from dreams?"

"Because one thing he did tell me was that I have a human body," Tess explained. "One of my earliest memories is watching him change his face, and when I couldn't do that, he told me it's because I have a human body, and human bodies don't do that. He said that was so I could hide, so no one could tell I wasn't completely human."

"Except for blood," Max said.

"What?"

"Blood. That gives us away. I found that out the hard way."

"Oh," Tess said faintly. "That must have been frightening."

Max nodded as he pulled away from the light which had turned green. "It was."

Tess was quiet for a moment, wondering what else the Others knew that she didn't. Pregnant women had always both fascinated and bothered her. Was it possible he knew why?

"So why the pictures?" Max went on. "You had the book."

Tess shook her head. "No, I didn't. I'd never seen the book before two nights ago. That's the first time Nasedo showed it to me."

"Then why all the stuff with Kyle and luring us to the library?"

"How would you have felt if I'd just shown up with it?" Tess asked. "You already don't trust me; you would've trusted me even less if I'd just handed it to you. I wanted you to see where it was hidden, watch me take it out of its hiding place. You needed to see that."

Max pondered that for a moment in silence. "So you hadn't seen it either," he said finally. "But why not? I mean, you know more than we do even if he doesn't tell you everything. Why keep that from you? Why keep so much from all of us?"

Because the last time you learned a lot, you had a nervous breakdown. "I don't know," Tess answered, deciding this wasn't the time to bring that up. "Like I said, Nasedo hasn't told me much of anything. He gives out information in dribs and drabs."

"Is that why you didn't just tell us who you were?"

"He told me not to," Tess nodded. "He wanted you to remember on your own. He said it was better that way."

"And we did," Max murmured.

"Yes," Tess said softly. "You did. And now you know we belong together.

Max shot her an uncomfortable glance. "I remember a few things," he allowed, "but I don't remember...us. Do you?"

"Well...no," Tess admitted. "But the book says we belong together."

"You can read it?"

"I wish," Tess sighed. "No, I can't read it either, but I don't have to. The pictures make it clear."

"Do they? What if we read up and down instead of side to side? Then it's you and Michael, and me and Isabel."

Tess's mouth opened and closed. She hadn't even considered that possibility because Nasedo had point blank told her Max had been her husband. "Nasedo says it's....side to side," she answered. "Look, I know it doesn't look familiar now, but it'll come back. We just have to give it time."

Max rounded a corner, pulled into her driveway. "There's one thing I still don't understand."

"Only one?" Tess said dryly.

She was rewarded with a faint smile. "Only one at the top of the list at the moment," Max amended. "Why did Nasedo take you and not us? Wouldn't it have been better to raise us all together?"

Finally, Tess thought. A question she honestly didn't know the answer to, didn't have to dodge in some way. "He never said," she answered. "You remembered leaving the pod chamber with me still in the pod, and that squares with me remembering that I was alone when I came out. Nasedo was there when I came out, but not when the rest of you came out, so maybe he lost you? Maybe he just didn't know where you were?"

Max's eyes drifted far away. "Until I healed Liz," he whispered.

"What?"

"I healed Liz," Max repeated. "She was shot when there was a fight at the Crashdown, and I...I fixed her. That's what started all of this, Nasedo, the FBI...all of it."

"Yeah, I know," Tess said. "Nasedo told me. That was kind of the equivalent of sending up a flare."

"I don't regret it," Max said defiantly. "I'd do it again in a second."

"I know you would," Tess said.

"I'm in love with Liz. No matter what the book says."

"I know you are." Tess paused, an awkward silence building between them. "But regret it or not, it caused a certain...reaction," she went on, choosing her words carefully. "We found the camera you put in our house—"

"I know. Valenti gave it back to us."

Tess blinked. "Valenti...you mean the sheriff? What does he have to do with this?"

"He's been suspicious of me since the shooting," Max said, "but lately he sounds...different. He said Ed Harding had found the camera in his house, that it came from the FBI, and that we had to trust each other."

Tess was silent for a moment, digesting this incredible information. If what the sheriff told Max was true, that meant Nasedo had given the camera to the sheriff. But why would he do that? Nasedo hated humans and never missed an opportunity to reinforce that. "It did come from the FBI," Tess said, leaving the question of why Nasedo would have pulled the sheriff into this for another day. "Which is why we have to put the book back in the library. Nasedo was really angry when he found out I'd given it to you. I told him I had to, that seeing our pictures would prove to you that I wasn't just making it all up. But having all our pictures in it means we can't risk it falling into the wrong hands. It has to go back where we found it."

Max nodded slowly. "You're right; the book is why I listened. And he's right—it's dangerous." He started the jeep. "Meet me at the Crashdown tonight at dusk. As soon as the library closes for the night, we'll put it back."

"You...you want me to come with you?" Tess said.

"I want to make sure I do it right," Max answered. "And you know more than I do. So we'll do it together."

Tess climbed out. "Okay. I'll be there."

She watched him drive away, still wary but less uncomfortable. There were lots of ways to look at this. Maybe Max just wanted to be sure the book was safe and sound. Or maybe he didn't trust her to put the book back herself. Maybe they were planning to ambush her at the library. Or maybe—just maybe—this would turn out to be their very first date.

Walking back into the house, she decided to go with that last one.





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





"You didn't have to get that," Dee chided as they left the Crashdown, Yvonne tucking her credit card receipt into her purse. "I'd be delighted to take you out to eat."

"Yes I did, and so would I," Yvonne said firmly, slipping her purse over the arm which wasn't holding the cane. "I'm staying at your house, so it's the least I can do. Now...what's this book they're arguing over? Have I seen this?"

"Probably not," Dee allowed as they made their way down Main Street, currently devoid of agents. "Valeris wrote it...made it?...whichever, shortly after they crashed as a sort of fail safe; it was supposed to tell the hybrids who they were and how they got here in case none of the Warders survived."

"And it has pictures of them in it?"

"Two sets," Dee nodded, "one as children, the other as...well, as they are now, or pretty close."

"So the younger ones would be the donors," Yvonne murmured.

"Which is a euphemism for 'test subject'," Dee said. "My father met one of them who woke up in the middle of whatever they were doing to him. He was quite literally scarred for life."

"I can imagine," Yvonne said. "Rest assured I have no illusions about the alliance I made. What they did was wrong; Stephen and I both agreed on that."

"So why did you help them?"

"Because what we were doing was every bit as wrong," Yvonne answered. "Perpetuating the cycle by responding in kind accomplished nothing."

"I gather it was Max's father who started the whole thing," Dee said. "And Max continued it when he became king."

"But do you think he'll continue it when he goes back?" Yvonne said. "No, of course not. He's lived among humans. He has a human body, human parents, human friends. I have a hard time believing that won't have an effect on him."

"Tell my mother that," Dee sighed. "She kicked Brivari out of our house for months after she learned what they'd been up to."

"And I don't blame her," Yvonne said. "But I can also see the other side of it. Brivari told me they usually barter with other worlds for the biomedical research they wanted from us, but we weren't advanced enough to establish relations with, so they merely took what they wanted. We needed to change that perception. Behaving the way Cavitt and Pierce did only encouraged them to continue viewing us as unapproachable."

"Because we are unapproachable," Dee said. "You know that. We're not ready, not as a planet, not as a race. We spend most of our time trying to kill each other."

"And Antar's better?" Yvonne said dryly. "I've never been a parent, but this strikes me as similar; you can never truly be 'ready' to become a parent, you can only be ready to acknowledge you'll never be ready. Other than that, you just have to do it."

"Not argument there," Dee agreed. "But I don't think 'just do it' will work in this case. We may emerge from the process as better people, but not for a very long time and not without getting my grandchildren killed in the process. I hate this," she added sadly. "I can't sleep for worrying about what could happen with the Bureau here again. It's times like these that make me grateful my mother has no idea what's going on."

"How are your parents?" Yvonne asked. "You haven't said."

"My father is still in good shape and sharp as a tack," Dee answered. "My mother's a different story. She still recognizes me and my father, but her mind is definitely going, and she can barely walk."

"Ah, I'm sorry to hear that," Yvonne answered gently. "She was very kind to me, your mother. I'll always remember that."

"You were the reason Brivari was allowed back in the house," Dee reminded her. "It was let him in, or let you die. Leave it to Pierce to prove there were worse things than Antarian medical experiments."

"Or that human medical experiments were just as bad and just as wrong," Yvonne noted. She stopped, gazing up and down the street. "So many memories. I was only here three years, but it defined the rest of my life." She pointed across the street. "That drycleaner's used to be a shoe store. I talked the owner out of one of his shoe fitters when the top brass threatened to kill Jaddo unless we came up with a simple way of identifying aliens."

Dee's eyes widened. "What's this? I don't remember this."

"Well, you were quite young," Yvonne noted. "Your parents may have kept the worst of it from you. Antar sent people after the Warders, and some of them had attacked the compound."

"That I know," Dee said. "A hunter came to our house. We still have a bullet hole in the wall where my father shot him."

"The aliens had defeated the question-and-answer method of screening everyone entering the compound," Yvonne went on, "so the brass decided he was too risky to hold. We could identify them with a blood test, but giving everyone a blood test when they went in or out wasn't practical. We had a day to come up with an alternative."

"Good Lord," Dee muttered. "No pressure."

"When we hit on the x-ray method, I begged the owner of the store to give me his shoe fitter," Yvonne continued. "We would ultimately have several of them, but we needed enough to meet the deadline. They were quite popular back before everyone realized how dangerous they were, and he was loathe to give it up. I recall having to use that tried and true method of making a man do what you want—I cried."

"You didn't!"

"I did," Yvonne laughed. "And it worked. Always does. I assured him he was saving someone's life; I just didn't tell him it wasn't a human life."

"Probably for the best," Dee agreed. "How did you get dragged into all this in the first place? I mean, I know they pulled you in for the autopsies, but how did they staff the compound? Did people volunteer?"

"Oh, no," Yvonne said, shaking her head. "We were all assigned, and I was...well, I was basically kidnapped."

" 'Kidnapped'?" Dee repeated. "Why bother? Why not just reassign you?"

"Cavitt claimed that's what he was doing," Yvonne said. "I'd been transferred, you see. I wanted out of here after those autopsies. Cavitt knew I'd been transferred, and he wanted to make it look like I'd left town. I was in line for the bus..." she paused, walking a little further..."right here," she said, gazing up at the storefronts. "And then I felt a hand over my mouth, I was dragged away, and knocked out. I woke up inside the compound...and the rest you know."

Apparently not, Dee thought, peering down the little alley nearby. She'd known Jaddo's life had been in danger when he'd first been captured and right before he escaped, but she'd had no idea he'd come so close to losing it mid-captivity, nor had she realized the violent way Yvonne's membership in the alien club had begun. "It's a wonder you even want to come back here," Dee said. "So many awful memories."

"Awful in some ways," Yvonne shrugged, "but not in others. What happened here made me who I am. I've had a long and successful marriage and a long and successful career; many can't say that. But we're supposed to be looking for Isabel," she went on briskly, "who arguably isn't having a great time at the moment. Where should we start?"

"Good question," Dee sighed. "Let's start with Philip's house. We'll just have to be certain to keep any whiff of anxiety from Diane because she can smell worry a mile away." She looked down the street, gauging the distance to the car. "Oh, dear. We wandered in the opposite direction of the car. I'll pull it around."

"I'll stay here and soak up the ambiance," Yvonne joked.

On the spot where they grabbed you? Dee thought. Some ambiance. She hurried toward the car, feeling guilty that she'd left Yvonne in such an emotionally laden place, fumbling in her purse for her car keys. She'd just unlocked her door when a another car screeched to a halt right beside Yvonne...

...and three men jumped out, bundled her inside, and drove away.




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




Brivari came to a halt where his quarry did, who promptly began the requisite milling. Time to stop procrastinating, and he pulled his phone out of his pocket.

"What?" Jaddo asked tersely when he answered.

"Nothing serious," Brivari answered. "I'm at the sheriff's station. Odd place to stake out. Probably watching Valenti."

"Then why are you calling?"

Brivari hesitated. "I'm calling to apologize."

"Apologize?" Jaddo repeated in a deeply skeptical voice.

"Yes, you heard right," Brivari sighed. "I shouldn't have lit into you the way I did about Ava's hijinks. They're all exhibiting monumental cases of myopia, and she's no exception. You can't control her any more than I can control the rest of them, so I shouldn't blame it on you."

There followed a silence which grew more awkward by the second. "I'm glad you told us about it," Brivari went on, "and further glad you set her straight. I can't do that with the other three, not that there's any guarantee it would help."

Another long silence. Brivari was just beginning to get testy over the prospect of having to prolong an already over long apology when Jaddo finally spoke.

"It helped. I spoke with Tess. She and Zan plan to return the book to the library tonight after it closes."

Brivari's eyes widened. "She and Zan? You mean both of them? Together?"

"I do," Jaddo said with satisfaction. "She said he asked her to accompany him."

"Jaddo, that's wonderful!" Brivari exclaimed. "Well done!"

"I'd think so," Jaddo agreed, "if not for Tess also telling me that Vilandra thinks she's pregnant. By Rath."

"I...she...what?" Brivari sputtered. "Oh, God. Don't tell me they—"

"They did not. But they're apparently both having dreams, similar dreams featuring the other, and in those dreams, they have a child. Zan asked if they could get pregnant from a dream."

Brivari nearly collapsed against a nearby parking meter with relief. "Jesus! Don't do that to me!"

"Had you worried, did I?"

"Just a little," Brivari said crossly. "The last thing we need is a hybrid pregnancy."

"Well, that too," Jaddo allowed, "although that example wouldn't have been my first choice."

"They were engaged," Brivari reminded him. "You can't really expect them to have forgotten that, especially Rath. He wanted to marry her."

"Don't remind me," Jaddo said darkly. "And if I shouldn't expect them to forget it, can I at least ask that it not be tops on the list?"

"They were raised more as siblings this time around," Brivari said. "I sincerely doubt they'll wind up marrying."

"I sincerely hope not," Jaddo answered, "especially since I took the precaution of securing him a suitable mate."

"And how exactly did you do that?" Brivari chuckled. "Did my invitation to the debutante ball get lost in the mail?"

"Very funny. This was years ago, decades now. It's all settled."

" 'All settled'? I'm curious as to whether Rath will feel that way," Brivari remarked. "As I recall, he was quite resistant to your meddling in his engagement to Vilandra..." He stopped. "I have to check something out. I'll call you back."

Brivari rung off over Jaddo's objections, his eyes across the street. The happy diversion of talking about weddings had taken his eye off the ball, and he hadn't gotten a close enough look at the deputy who had briefly exited the building, then gone back inside. By the time he arrived at the main desk, he wore a difference face and carried an empty leash.

"Let me guess—lost dog," the cheerful "Hanson" at the main desk announced.

"That deputy over there may have seen him," Brivari said, pointing. "The one with his back to us."

Hanson turned around. "Fisher! Come here a minute?"

"Fisher" obligingly presented himself at the counter. "This man thinks you might have seen his dog run away," Hanson told him. "Did you?"

"I was just outside, but I didn't see any dogs," Fisher answered. "Would you like to file a report?"

"No, thank you," Brivari said coldly. "I'll keep looking."

"Sorry I couldn't help," Fisher said. "Good luck."

To you as well, Brivari thought, hurrying back outside. His phone rang before he could dial Jaddo...but it wasn't Jaddo this time.

"Where did you go?" Jaddo demanded five minutes later. "Is something wrong?"

"You could say that," Brivari said grimly. "Pierce is here. He's posing as one of Valenti's deputies."

"You're certain?" Jaddo said sharply.

"I am. There's more. Dee just called. They abducted Lieutenant White right off the street. I'll take care of her. You get Pierce."

There came a heavy silence on the line. "Brivari, I...if things go south—"

"I'll get you out," Brivari said firmly. "It won't be three years this time, Jaddo, I promise. Just take him down. I don't care how."




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




The coins klinked in the parking meter as Jaddo eyed his target, an agent who had just parked his car and begun the requisite milling. His quarry was depressingly predictable—one long stare in his direction had him following, and moments later, Jaddo realized he knew this one. This was an agent he'd evaded before, when he'd executed Agent Summers, if he remembered correctly. The agent had been younger then, an obvious newbie who'd been horrified at the sight of his boss festooned with a handprint. Despite that horror, he'd sounded the alarm with a speed both admirable and inconvenient. It could be argued that this was a kind of poetic justice, or natural consequence to use current human emotispeak.

"I was hoping it would be one of you," Jaddo said softly. "I need to send a message to Agent Pierce."




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


I'll post Chapter 114 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 114

Postby Kathy W » Sun May 19, 2013 7:44 pm

Hello and thank you to everyone reading!






CHAPTER ONE HUNDRED FOURTEEN




May 12, 2000, 11 a.m.

Eagle Rock Military Base




When the hood was removed, the light was so strong that Yvonne kept her eyes closed against the glare. It had a been a good hood, thick and sturdy, letting in very little light on the ride to wherever they were now. Her captors had been surprisingly careful with her, speaking in soothing tones and promising not to hurt her, telling her that she wasn't in trouble but their country was, that their country needed her. Heard that one, she'd thought dryly, offering no resistance because, really, what was the point? An old woman with a cane against several male FBI agents in their prime? No contest, that, and they'd made the mistake of staging their little grab in front of Dee, who would lose no time in notifying the appropriate people that history had repeated itself; she'd been snatched on the very spot where she'd been snatched before. She'd made a mental note to avoid that corner in the future and sat quietly, so quietly that her captors had grown uneasy. "Is she breathing?" one of them had asked nervously. So they wanted her alive, at least. Good to know.

"Lieutenant?" a male voice said. "Lieutenant, are you all right?"

Still afraid I'll keel over? Yvonne thought. Good. "My name is Marie Johnson," she answered, eyes still closed. "Dr. Marie Johnson."

"That's been your name for a very long time now," the voice acknowledged. "But we both know your real name is Yvonne White. Lieutenant Yvonne White of the United States Army."

Yvonne cracked an eyelid, then another. A man in a dark suit crouched over her, young, earnest, a bit worried. "First Lieutenant," she said firmly. "That's First Lieutenant to you. Let's not forget the 'First'."

There followed a collective sigh, a group exhalation of relief, as though they'd been afraid she'd fight them on this one. " 'First' Lieutenant it is," her interrogator agreed with a faint smile, "although I believe it's customary to use "lieutenant" in everyday address."

"Do you, now? And what rank do you hold, young man?"

That young man's smile faltered. "I'm not a soldier, I'm an agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation."

Yvonne raised an eyebrow. "Really? You don't look a day over 10. Is the Bureau really so bad off that it's recruiting in schoolyards?"

Another group exhalation, this time of stifled laughter at the expense of the interrogator, ironic, really, as the two other agents in the room whom she could now see were no older than the first. "I'm 36," her interrogator informed her with a pained expression, "and a fully trained agent, I assure you."

"Well, I'm 80 and a fully trained neurologist, and I'm not buying it," Yvonne said. "But as you're just a boy, I'll forgive your ignorance of a rank you couldn't possibly understand in a service you'll never belong to. You may address me as either 'lieutenant' or 'ma'am'."

It took the assemblage a moment to work through those three sentences, equal parts courtesy and condescension. "Then...that's settled," her interrogator said, moving past the slap he may not realize he'd just received. "Allow me to introduce myself. I am Agent Brian Samuels of the FBI, and these are Agents Bellow and Lehman. May I say, Lieutenant, that I'm gratified you decided to fess up about your identity."

"Seems silly not to," Yvonne said. "You obviously figured it out, and decades after the Army, I might add. How did you find me?"

"We have our sources," Agent Samuels answered.

"I see. And then you decided to kidnap me?"

"We didn't 'kidnap' you," Samuels said with a pained expression. "We merely want to have a conversation with you. We—"

"Kidnapped me," Yvonne interrupted. "I realize conversational skills are dying amongst your generation, agent, but I hardly think they've descended to the level of throwing a bag over someone's head and shoving them into a car."

"I apologize for the manner in which you were brought here," Samuels said. "I admit it was a bit...aggressive. But my agents were instructed to treat you with the utmost courtesy and respect because the reason you're here is that we need you. Your country needs you."

"That's what tyrants always say," Yvonne remarked.

" 'Tyrants'?" Samuels echoed. "You think I'm a tyrant?"

"No, agent, you are a lackey," Yvonne answered as Samuels flushed. "Lackeys merely work for tyrants. I fought one tyrant, worked for another, and now here comes a third. I know a tyrant when I see one."

"With all due respect, Lieutenant, I don't think you fully understand the situation," Samuels objected. "I don't know what you think you know, but perhaps I can iron out any misconceptions you may have. Let's start with the basics. You are in a secure national facility, the purpose of which is—"

"I am at the Eagle Rock Military Base outside Roswell, New Mexico," Yvonne interrupted, "in the compound last used between the years of 1947 and 1950 to house an alien prisoner. We are currently in the office previously occupied by the secretary of one of the commanders of that operation, one Sheridan Cavitt, a cruel man who was a disgrace to the uniform he wore. His secretary's name was Harriet, a good woman who didn't realize what a monster she was working for. She turned against him in the end. Tyrants eventually lose, gentlemen, and when they go, they pull everyone clinging to their coattails down with them. Remember that as we continue our...'conversation'."

The agents shifted uneasily, a barely perceptible shuffling. "An interesting story," Samuels allowed. "Please don't take this the wrong way, but that was a long time ago. Your memory may be a bit hazy."

"On the contrary, Agent Samuels, my memory of those three years in hell is exceptionally clear," Yvonne answered softly. She paused for effect, looking around the room, her eyes settling on Bellow, the most uncertain looking of the bunch. "Battles were fought within these walls, gentlemen. Lives were lost. There was a pool of blood where you're standing right now."

That was a bald-faced lie, but it had the desired effect; Bellow stepped hastily sideways, as did Lehman, staring at the tile floor in alarm. Only Samuels held his ground, albeit with difficulty. "Blood?" he said skeptically. "In an office? Highly unlikely. Now I'm certain your memory is hazy."

Yvonne shrugged. "Believe what you like. But I was here; you weren't." She glanced at a nearby air vent. "Harriet always had trouble with mice in this office. She frequently put a mousetrap in that vent. I doubt anyone thought to remove it when we left. You could check my memory if you wanted to."

There was a moment's hesitation before Agents Bellow and Lehman dropped to their knees as one. "Oh, seriously?" Agent Samuels demanded petulantly. But they'd pried the vent off in short order, and the looks on their faces when they withdrew the mousetrap were priceless.

"Oh, my," Yvonne murmured as the bones of the last rodent to attempt the infiltration of Cavitt's office came into view. "That could serve as a metaphor for the entire operation here."

"Put it down," Samuels said crossly. "So they had a pest problem. Big deal. And there were no pools of blood," he snapped when Bellow's and Lehman's eyes drifted to the floor. "It was an office, for God's sake."

"She was right about the mousetrap," Lehman said reproachfully.

Yvonne kept her face carefully neutral as the three fell to squabbling. Pierce Sr. had been a master manipulator. It had been he who'd taught her that this was how it started; with small things, a word dropped here, an insinuation there, like water trickling down a surface. Given time, water could carve canyons. She didn't have that much time, but then she didn't need a canyon. A simple crack might do.

"Let's stay on topic," Samuels ordered as Bellow gingerly set the trap containing the mouse corpse on Harriet's desk and backed away from the alleged blood stain on the floor. "You are here, Lieutenant, at the behest of the United States government to furnish your expertise in a matter of national security. The government would like to know—"

"The government?" Yvonne repeated. "The government knows I'm here? The government knows you're here?"

There was a brief moment of startled silence. "Of course they do," Samuels answered, recovering. "We're with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, federal police. We—"

"I'm aware of the Bureau's function," Yvonne said. "I'm also aware that your director has no idea you're here, hasn't sanctioned any of this. This is the work of a rogue agent whom all of you have foolishly chosen to follow."

Three pairs of eyes exchanged alarmed glances. "Where did you hear that?" Samuels demanded.

Yvonne shrugged ever so slightly. "I have my sources."

"Then your sources are unreliable," Samuels declared. "In 1950 the Bureau sanctioned a Special Unit, the purpose of which—"

"His name is Pierce," Yvonne announced.

Four words only, but their effect was electric. The tension in the room skyrocketed as Lehman and Bellow hastily took a step back as if to flee, their heads whipping sideways as though expecting pursuit. Samuels merely stared at her in disbelief, shaking his head vaguely from side to side as though doing so could erase what she'd just said.

"I gather my sources are somewhat more reliable than previously thought," Yvonne noted.

"Sir," Agent Lehman said tightly, "may we speak with you a moment?"

There followed a tense, tight huddle in the hallway with Yvonne left unbound and unattended, no great risk as she could hardly run away; no one knew better than she just how much square footage lay between her and safety. No, there was no way to physically outdo her captors; she would have to outthink them, outsmart them, turn them against one another and hope against hope they'd bring themselves down from within. What she'd just done had been risky; if Pierce thought he was operating in the shadows, he'd soon learn otherwise, and that knowledge would produce a reaction which may or may not be helpful. Frightened tyrants made mistakes which could be capitalized upon, but that didn't make them any less dangerous.

"No! No!" she heard Samuels hiss to Bellow and Lehman, both of whom were arguing vociferously. "Okay, I'll look into it. But no one moves until I do. Is that understood?"

Bellow and Lehman withdrew, scowling. Samuels came back into the office, thoroughly put out. "You're coming with me," he said tersely, hoisting her from the chair without so much as a by your leave.

"Something wrong?" Yvonne inquired. "You seem to be losing all that reverence you professed to have for me only moments ago."

"Yes, well, you've just thrown a monkey wrench into the works," Samuels muttered, reluctantly slowing his steps to match hers. "You can sit in your old room until we need you."

"While you try to put Humpty Dumpty back together again?" Yvonne said dryly. "Did he really think no one would figure this out? You know, that's the trouble with Pierces," she continued as Samuels scowled at her. "They're forever underestimating their adversaries. They're smart, but they forget that others are smart too. Tolerable, perhaps, if they only stood to bring themselves down. But you'll all come tumbling down with him, won't you?"

Samuels didn't answer, but he didn't have to; the look in his eyes told her she'd hit a sore spot. "In here," he announced, opening a door.

"Here?" Yvonne said. "This wasn't my room."

"No. But it was someone's. Excuse me, Lieutenant."

The door closed. A lock clicked. Yvonne looked around the familiar room for a moment, ran a hand over the familiar desk. How often had she sat here? Too many times to count. Then the morning's festivities started to catch up with her, and she lowered herself into the familiar chair, closed her eyes. Her room had been on the basement level, so when Samuels had led her to a room on the first floor, she'd assumed he'd just been confused. She'd been wrong.

It was Stephen's room.




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




Roswell Sheriff's Station




"Fisher! Telephone!"

It took Pierce a moment to look up from the filing cabinet he was hunched over. "Your name 'Fisher'?" Deputy Checora chuckled. "Your name starts with an 'F', by the way. Just in case you forgot your alphabet already."

Pierce plastered a smile on his face as titters sounded all around at the expense of the newbie. God knows Checora had spent enough time teaching him his ABC's this morning, and he was still at it. "Thanks," Pierce ground out, holding out his hand for phone.

"Hell, no," Checora said, pulling it back. "This here's my phone. Use that one on the back desk in the corner. You know, the one by the toilets?"

More laughter, louder this time. "Just as well," Pierce said. "I'd probably gain a few pounds inhaling the glaze all over your receiver." He patted his belt buckle. "Wouldn't want to outgrow the old uniform right after I got it."

Checora's smile evaporated as the laughter morphed into an ominous, taunting Ooooooooh!, at his expense this time. He'd just slapped the lid on the half eaten box of glazed doughnuts on his desk when Hanson appeared.

"What's all the racket?" Hanson demanded.

Pierce shrugged on his way past. "Beats me. Got a call—maybe it's that guy with the lost dog."

"What are you up to?" Brian's weary voice said when Pierce picked up the phone-on-the-back-desk-in-the-corner-by-the-toilets, an advantageous location under the circumstances.

"Just stirring the pot a bit," Pierce said. "And don't blame me; he started it."

"Sounds like a fifth grade lunchroom," Brian muttered.

"Sounds about right," Pierce agreed. "Look, it's not my fault the 300 pound deputy who does little else but stuff pastries in his mouth and chant the ABC's decided to use me as a punching bag. I don't like being used as a punching bag. If he has any working brain cells, admittedly an open question at the moment, he'll think twice before pulling that again. Now, where the hell have you been? I've been waiting all afternoon for an update."

"I can't just call your cell," Brian noted. "And I didn't want to get you in trouble, although it sounds like you're doing a bang-up job of that yourself."

"What, this? This is nothing," Pierce said. "Valenti already bitched me out when I tried to put my newfound filing skills to good use with his personal files. Had to talk him down with a nice little speech about daddies. Thanks for the reference, by the way. Although I could have done without the 'overachiever' bit."

"Had to make it authentic," Brian said. "He's the suspicious sort. I don't think your uniform was even warm before he was on the phone."

"Yeah, he's a real peach," Pierce said darkly. "Called me 'kid'. Stupid jackass. I swear I'll get him for that if it's the last thing I do."

"He's not stupid, Danny," Brian said sharply. "Don't make the same mistake you made with Topolsky, and Stevens, and everyone else. Just because you don't like him doesn't mean he's stupid. Don't underestimate him too."

Pierce paused. "Is there a point to this diatribe, or are you still pining after the blonde with the death wish?"

"I'm serious," Brian insisted. "You always do this. You think you'll outsmart everyone, but you forget you're not the only smart person on the planet."

"All right," Pierce sighed. "What happened? Did you get the nurse?"

"Yes," Brian allowed. "Although it didn't quite work out the way I expected."

"Why? Did she drop from a heart attack like you were afraid she would?"

"No."

"Did she disavow all knowledge of anyone named Yvonne White?"

"No. She didn't even bother."

"Good!" Pierce said cheerfully. "Leave it to the grandma to be smarter than the sheriff. So what's she like? My father obviously thought highly of her, and I doubt he gave his approval lightly."

"I can see why," Brian said. "She's onto us, Danny."

There was a moment's pause before Pierce turned his back on the bustling office, including Checora and his doughnuts and Hanson arguing with a couple of teenagers. " 'Onto' us? 'Onto' us how, exactly?"

"She knows we're under the radar. She knows Freeh doesn't know what we're doing. She knows your name."

"My name?" Pierce said in astonishment. "How would she know that?"

"Exactly," Brian said. "How does an octogenarian who's been in hiding for the past half century know so much about what we're doing? Great question. Let me know when you've got an answer. And this was after she freaked everyone out with her tales of blood on the floor and dead mice in the vents—"

"Oh, stuff it!" Pierce hissed, backing further away from Hanson and the kids, whose voices were rising. "I don't want to hear about my agents getting the willies from bedtime stories! Get back to the part where she supposedly knows me."

"No 'supposedly' about it," Brian answered. "And it has everyone here up in arms. Bellow and Lehman heard it, and I convinced them to keep their mouths shut until I looked into it, but they're both jumpier than cats on hot tin roofs, and don't think everyone hasn't noticed—what is that noise?"

"Just a couple of kids bitching at Hanson," Pierce said impatiently. "So? Did you look into it?"

"All afternoon," Brian replied, "and I don't see any sign of pursuit. There's no chatter on the wires, no tails in town. Whoever knows is keeping real quiet about it, but someone does. How else would she know who you are?"

"Okay," Pierce said, trying to stay calm, trying to think. "If we've been made, we have to move fast, before they can get to us."

"Danny, are you nuts? If we've been made, we have to move out. If we're caught here, we're all dead!"

"Not if we have a live alien as collateral," Pierce argued. "It'll be a much different conversation with a party favor like that."

"Sure it will," Brian said crossly, "for just as long as it takes to get their hands on the alien, at which point we'll all go down. No, we have to leave. Now."

"No!" Pierce snapped. "No!" he added more quietly when several heads turned his way. "I am this close to the prize, and I'll be damned if some fossil gets in my way!"

" 'Fossil'?" Brian snorted. "You know, I think she's right. She said your father suffered from the same thing you do—underestimating your enemies, thinking they're stupid when they're not. And now here you go again. She's no fossil, Danny. She may not be running any marathons, but she's sharp as a tack. Even at 80, I have no trouble seeing how she got past your father. Or how she'd get past you."

Anger flared in Pierce, and he bit back a sharp retort which would have ricocheted off the walls of the station. It was bad enough that aliens and lousy agents like Topolsky had made a fool of him, but an old lady? This was supposed to be a moment of triumph, of finding the missing "Subject #1" the army had never been able to locate after she'd gone AWOL in 1950; instead, it looked like "Subject #1" was bringing his Unit to its knees.

"We have to talk to Sheriff Valenti ourselves," an insistent female voice demanded behind him. "No one else; just the sheriff."

"You've said that a million times, young lady, just like I've told you a million times that the sheriff is a busy man," came Hanson's weary rejoinder. "That's why he has a staff, which would be me. So, for the tenth time...what's this about?"

"Look, could you at least ask the sheriff?" a more reasonable male voice said. "Just tell him what we said, and let him decide. Tell him Maria DeLuca and Alex Whitman need to talk to him."

That last sentence pierced the fog of fury surrounding Pierce, and he turned around just as Hanson was reaching for a pencil, muttering under his breath. "Fine. Talk to him about what?"

The tall strokey kid and the brunette exchanged glances. "About Max Evans and Liz Parker," the girl answered. "Max...he kind of...took her. And we're scared."

" 'Took her'?" Hanson repeated. "What do you mean, 'took her'?"

"Danny, are you still there?" Brian asked.

"Shhhhh!" Pierce said reproachfully, listening as Hanson wrote down more details, waiting while he called Valenti, who of course told him to send the kids right up. "Well, how about that," he murmured as they all disappeared up the stairway. "Hallelujah."

"What are you talking about?" Brian demanded. "There's no 'hallelujah' anywhere—"

"Put everyone on stand-by," Pierce interrupted. "We just got an opportunity, and we're going for it."

"What opportunity?"

"To get our hands on an alien. What else?"

"If I call everyone in, they'll have to leave their posts and make their excuses," Brian warned. "Are you sure about this?"

"Positive," Pierce said firmly. "It's only one alien, not the litter we were hoping for, but that's all right—it's the one."




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




Highway 380,

New Mexico






Darkness was falling, that murky twilight which was Jaddo's favorite part of an Earth day, the one time he could almost forget he was on a distant planet with inferior life and no clear path home. Earth's sun made it much too clear that he wasn't home during the day, and its single lonely moon did the same at night, but twilight...twilight was an in between time, the closest Earth came to an Antarian sky. No wonder there was a smile on his face as the car sped along with the wind in his hair, a twilight glow in the sky, an enemy's body in the trunk, and a license to kill from an unlikely source. This was what he'd been made for, to remove obstacles, to neutralize threats, to take down anyone and anything which would threaten his Ward. Life didn't get much better than this.

"Did you really have to blow up the gas station?"

Except for that, Jaddo sighed. "I didn't blow up the station," he corrected. "I blew up the pump."

"There's a difference?"

Jaddo snorted softly. "And here I thought you were supposed to be smart. Guess not if you can't tell the difference between a pump and a station."

"I'm smart enough to know that's semantics. The pumps are connected. Damage one, you'll damage them all. So you blew up the station, not just the pump."

"Analytical, aren't we?" Jaddo said dryly. "But your analysis is flawed. If the pumps are connected, I blew up all the pumps, not the station, which is the building behind the pumps. If you'd like, I can go back and make your analysis correct."

Elizabeth Parker gave him a level stare before lapsing into a wary silence. It was hard to believe this was the object of the king's affection, an affection so strong it had put all their lives in danger. While she wasn't stupid as humans went, she certainly was no genius either, nothing like The Healer, whose life was now in danger courtesy of Pierce, whose presence was courtesy of...Elizabeth Parker. It all came back to her, every threat emanating from the same source. If the King had simply let this female die, or whatever her fate would have been on that day back in September when all this had started, none of the rest would have followed. The hybrids could have continued to grow and mature in blissful obscurity until a time of their Warders' choosing, could have been introduced in the manner of their Warders' preference. Instead they had mad scrambling to stay ahead of the dominoes set in motion by that one act, hasty decisions, clumsy introductions, wild conclusions, knee jerk reactions. It was rare that so much misery could be traced back so completely to a single source, and he'd mused on that as he'd made his way around town this afternoon, prepping for the chase, laying eyes on his quarry all decked out in his shiny deputy's uniform, planning his attack. That attack included collateral because even though Pierce would not survive, the Unit might; their efforts to discredit it would have to be reworked. In the meantime, what better to keep them occupied than something else they wanted, say, a girl healed by an alien? No, the Unit would not leave this party without a party favor, which would accomplish the twin goals of distracting them and removing a constant thorn in the King's side, even if he didn't see it that way.

"We thought you were Tess."

Jaddo's head swung around. "Or that Tess was you," the girl said. "And that it was creepy that you'd become a teenage girl just to get close to Max. Although becoming Max is even creepier."

Jaddo said nothing, rolling his eyes at the universal propensity of females to babble. "But since you're not Tess," the current babbling female continued, "then who is Tess?"

"Tess is one of them," Jaddo answered. "There are four of them; she's the fourth. Didn't that camera you so clumsily planted tell you that?"

The girl gave the smallest of shrugs. "Couldn't have been too clumsy if it took you so long to find it."

"Oh, and another thing," Jaddo said, annoyed at the jab. "Max belongs to Tess. They belong together. Sorry."

That last was delivered with a smile which hopefully made it clear he was anything but. "Says who?" the girl demanded.

"Says me."

"And who are you? Who are you, exactly?"

"I'm the one responsible for protecting them," Jaddo said, "and for making sure things work out the way they're supposed to. Which they are, I'm happy to report. You've heard about how he's responding to her."

"That doesn't mean he 'belongs' to her," the girl argued. "If being with you makes me respond by throwing up, does that mean I belong to you?"

"You belong to me for an entirely different reason," Jaddo said cheerfully as the girl rewarded him with a suitably pale face. "And was he 'throwing up' in those dreams he was having about her? Because that's not what I heard. Don't take it personally," he added when she looked away. "This was all decided a long time ago, in a solar system far, far away."

"That's a 'galaxy far, far away'."

"In the movies," Jaddo allowed. "This isn't a movie."

"So...Max's planet is in our galaxy?"

Jaddo's eyes flicked sideways, surprised. He'd expected the usual female tears, protests, and exhortations, not a request for a factoid. "And why do you want to know that?"

"So I can tell him. If I live through this, that is. I think he'd want to know where his planet is."

"I think he already does," Jaddo said. "He certainly doesn't need you to tell him."

"He needs someone to tell him what's going on," the girl said. "It's pretty clear you stink at that."

"Oh, really?" Jaddo said in amusement. "Is this what they call a 'performance review'? Do tell!"

"Okay. If you're supposed to be a 'protector', you're doing a rip roaring awful job of it."

"No!"

"Yes," the girl said firmly, oblivious to his sarcasm. "Leaving signs in the woods? I mean, really, the woods? Making them wander around at night with the sheriff on their tail? What kind of 'protector' would put them in that position? And then sending Tess to pretend to be their friend? And those creepy pictures I found in your house? You could have been talking to them, guiding them, but instead you're stalking them with a camera, and luring them into dangerous places, and sending in moles? What kind of 'protector' does that?"

Jaddo's hands tightened on the steering wheel as Brivari's arguments spewed from another mouth. "The kind who knows things you obviously don't," he retorted. "And you're a fine one to be lecturing me about putting them in danger. You've put Max in more danger than anyone."

"Who? Me?"

"Yes, 'you'. By not politely dying when you should have. Or living, as the case may be, but without his help. When he healed you, he brought the wrath of every real alien hunter down on their heads. Every single thing that's gone wrong since then can be traced back to that single event. So congratulations, sweetheart," Jaddo added as she stiffened. "When it comes to putting him in danger, you're way ahead of me. You win the prize."




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



Roswell





A date, Tess thought excitedly as she walked toward the Crashdown. Our first date. A bit of a stretch, perhaps, but that was how she'd decided to view Max's invitation to join him for the replacement of the book. While it was hardly a typical first date, they were hardly a typical couple, with the whole not being human thing and all, so that kind of fit. He'd asked for her company, so it counted. Later on she'd be able to tell Nasedo that not only was the book back, but she and Max had done it together as planned. She couldn't wait to see the look on his face, especially after he'd chewed her out this morning and then completely disappeared. Typical. She rounded a corner, humming a bit to herself...

...only to find herself hauled away by the arm. "Michael!" she gasped as Michael dragged her forward with an iron grip on her arm.

"What's going on?" Michael demanded.

"What are you talking about?" Tess sputtered.

"You know what I'm talking about," Michael declared. "Nasedo has Liz."



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


Next weekend is Memorial Day Weekend, so I'll be posting Chapter 115 on Sunday June 2. :)
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 115

Postby Kathy W » Sun Jun 02, 2013 3:42 pm

Hello to everyone reading!


keepsmiling7 wrote:You should have been a writer on staff!


Thank you, but nah. I wouldn't have liked it when the network vetoed my story lines. ;)

emerald123 wrote:You're doing a fine job with Jaddo. I hate him as much as I hated Nasedo on the TV show.


:lol: Success! Someone once told me I was trying to "rehabilitate" Nasedo, but I don't find him all that rehabilitated. A bit more explained, maybe, but not rehabilitated.





CHAPTER ONE HUNDRED FIFTEEN



May 12, 2000, 9 p.m.

Highway 380






Darkness had fallen. The car sped along the highway, Jaddo at the wheel and a problem at his side, the girl having gone quiet after he'd pointed out the indisputable fact that she alone was the cause of all the misery the hybrids had endured these past few months. Several precious minutes had gone by without an answer as Jaddo waited for the tears and protests he'd miraculously avoided so far, certain they'd come this time, even looking forward to it. Making this one cry didn't seem like such a bad idea, even if it did mean having to listen to it.

"You're right."

Jaddo blinked. "What?"

"I said, you're right. This is all because Max healed me. If he hadn't done that, none of it would have happened. I've told him that. A lot."

"Well...then...here's your chance to correct it," Jaddo said, loathe to admit that not only a human, but a female had left him momentarily at a loss for words. "We're luring one of Max's deadliest enemies into a trap so I can remove him. Be a good girl, and do your part."

"You know, I would," the girl answered seriously. "I'd gladly do anything for him if I thought it might work. There's just one problem."

"Let me guess—you don't have the nerve?"

She shook her head. "Got a mirror?"

Jaddo stared at her for a moment before divining her meaning. "What, me? Why am I a problem? I'm trying to undo all the trouble you caused."

"So you say," she allowed. "But I don't trust you. They don't trust you, and you haven't given any of us even one good reason to trust you. You stalked them, and lied to them, and now you're going to kill me—"

"Ah, ah, ah," Jaddo wagged a finger at her. "I never said I was going to kill you. Quite the opposite; you're the door prize for the Unit, if they stop keening over Pierce's body long enough to notice. But you never know; they might not. You might get lucky."

"But you don't care if I die."

"Not even remotely," Jaddo confirmed.

"See, that's not going to fly with Max," the girl protested. "He loves me, and I love him."

"Sure you do."

"I mean it," she insisted. "I really love him."

"If you say so."

"You don't believe me?"

"It doesn't matter whether I believe you or not," Jaddo answered, "just like it doesn't matter whether you love him or not. Honestly, that has to be the most overrated emotion on any planet. Do you have any idea how many stupid things humans have done in the name of 'love'? How many wars were fought in the name of 'love'? How many people have died in the name of 'love'? But whatever...if you do 'really love' him, you'll do everything in your power to help me bring down his mortal enemy. If you don't, you'll put yourself first and revert to the drive for self preservation which defines every living thing I've ever encountered. Either way, it has no bearing on my job, which is to keep him alive any way I can."

"For someone so interested in 'keeping him alive', you leave an awful lot of dead bodies around," the girl said.

"Allow me to clarify," Jaddo said. "My job is to keep him alive any way I can, or any way I have to."

"Including murder?"

"It's not murder if they're trying to murder you," Jaddo noted, "or, more to the point, trying to murder him."

"Then why did you kill James Atherton?" the girl demanded. "River Dog said he was your friend, and you killed him in the middle of a forest years before Max and the others were even around. I mean, Hubble's wife I could maybe see if she surprised you, or you were running from something, but why Atherton? Why kill a friend in the middle of nowhere? He's what made them realize you were dangerous, that you're not to be trusted. That's what started it all."

Jaddo swore silently as the subject of Atherton reared its ugly head once more. He'd executed many and would gladly execute more if they posed a threat, but it was this single death for which he was not responsible which dogged him, the product of Brivari's habit of making friends and then professing surprise when they turned on him exactly the way "friends" usually did. Brivari had even had the sense to clean up his own mess and remove the threat himself, but he wasn't the one blamed for it. It was at times like these that he regretted the necessity of keeping one of them in the shadows because that also meant keeping one of them off the hook.

"You have no idea what circumstances surrounded that," Jaddo said coldly. "Typical human, passing judgment on something you know nothing about."

"Oh, you mean like you're passing judgment on me when you don't know anything about me?"

"I know all I need to know," Jaddo retorted. "You're in the way. You're always in the way."

"Because you decided Max and Tess belonged together?"

"I decided no such thing," Jaddo replied. "Max and Tess decided that. They chose each other long before you were even born."

That shut her up for a blessed few seconds before she shook her head. "Why am I even listening to you? You're a murderer. You want me dead."

"Trust me, sweetheart, if I wanted you dead, you'd be dead," Jaddo assured her. "And if you don't believe me, is pissing me off such a great strategy for staying alive?"

"It doesn't matter whether I believe you or not. If I'm right, you'll kill me anyway. And if I'm wrong, you can't kill me because you need me. Either way, anything I say now has no bearing on whether or not I live."

"Oh, right," Jaddo said darkly. "Parrot my words back to me."

She shrugged. "Worked for you."

"Are you always this annoying?"

"I thought you said I was fantastic company."

"I take it back," Jaddo said crossly. "Hush. Or don't. We're almost there, so you'll be able to babble all you want, and it'll just blend into the background."

She followed his gaze, her eyes widening. "That's where we're going?"

"It is," Jaddo said cheerfully. "No better place for all sorts of mischief than a carnival. Everyone's busy, lots of strange things going on, anything weird is considered part of the act. Great place to dispose of people. Or bodies. Just F.Y.I." He smiled when she paled. "So...ready to catch a killer?"





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





The jeep was pulled off to the side of the road, hidden in shadow. Despite the warm spring night, Tess shivered, wrapping her jacket tighter around herself as they waited for the sheriff to stop arguing with the Special Unit agents and get back on the road so they could follow him. Despite the fact that she violently disagreed with following him at all, Tess was dearly wishing he'd hurry up because anything would be better than sitting in this dark, cold jeep all alone. Granted there were three other people with her, and for the first time in her life all three were her species, but for all practical purposes, she was alone. Again. They'd made that very clear, and just in case they hadn't, the tense silence which enveloped them did the trick. After all this time alone, she should be used to it, so why was it so hard now?

Someone coughed. Tess risked a peek to the side, then in the rearview mirror. Michael and Isabel were staring out their respective windows, or where the window would be if the top were up, while Max stared straight ahead, down the road, as if looking would conjure what he wanted to see. From the turmoil of last night, to the revelations of this morning, to the nerve-wracking wait for a reaction, to the encouraging talk with Max followed by his invitation to join him in placing the book back in its hiding place, she'd ridden the roller coaster long enough to have some idea what he was feeling. She'd been absolutely right when she'd insisted Liz had nothing to do with them; technically speaking, she didn't. But she'd been wrong in the sense that Liz had something to do with Max. Max had also spent his life in a box, a different kind of box than hers, perhaps, but a box nonetheless. Saving Liz, letting her in on the secret, falling in love with her, had given him something he'd never had: Friendship, support, a bigger box, a different perspective, all the things she'd looked forward to having when finally reunited with the Others. Looking at him now in the dim light, she recognized the expression on his face as the look of one faced with the prospect of losing something precious, something too long awaited and too soon lost. She could sympathize; she understood.

"I have a question."

Isabel's voice was quiet, almost plaintive, unusually loud in the dark and the cold. Three heads turned to look at her...well, two. Max was still staring straight ahead.

"You said...you were talking about our 'destiny'," Isabel said. "You said, 'it's what we were planned for'. But...what? What were we planned for?"

Tess returned her gaze to the road. "Why would you want me to answer that? I'm told I have nothing to do with you. Any of you."

Uncomfortable rustling noises came from the back seat. Max dropped his eyes. The silence stretched.

"I'm sorry about that," Isabel said finally. "We're...upset."

"So now I do have something to do with you?"

"Of course you do," Isabel answered. "But so does Liz. We're not aliens and humans, we're friends. All of us. So saying that Liz doesn't have anything to do with us...that's wrong. That's what set Max off."

"Really?" Tess said. "Because I thought it was just because she's his girlfriend."

"No," Max said suddenly, his voice firm. "If it were Maria or Alex, we'd be right where we are right now, every bit as upset as we are now. Like Isabel said, we're friends—all of us."

He means it, Tess realized, looking into his eyes. Turning around, she realized the other two did also, even Michael. "Wow," she said faintly. "I...can't imagine that. Humans have always been the enemy. I've never been that close to one human, never mind three."

"Up until last September, same here," Isabel admitted, "so it's kind of new for us too. But we've been through so much together now...it's not 'us' and 'them', it's just 'us'. I know that must be hard for you to understand. It would have been hard for me to understand just a few months ago."

"I get it," Tess nodded. "I mean, I don't 'get it', but I hear you. All for one, and one for all. I've just never had an 'all'."

"Were you always alone with...him?" Isabel whispered.

The jeep went very quiet as the tension evaporated, replaced by an expectant waiting, the hesitant pronoun hanging in the air. What had she meant to say? "Monster", maybe? Or was she just having trouble getting her head around a shapeshifter for whom gender meant nothing? "Yeah," Tess answered. "Like I told Max, he was there when I came out of the pod, and he's taken care of me ever since."

"Just you and him," Isabel murmured, shaking her head. "Wow."

"We moved a lot," Tess went on. "Had to, with the Special Unit on our heels. I made friends wherever we went, but they weren't real friends. Not like your friends."

"That's why you were so surprised that I'd lived in the same place all my life," Isabel said.

"I can't imagine that either," Tess said. "I can't imagine living in the same house for that long, with real pictures and someone marking my height on the wall. I can't imagine not being chased."

"Good God," Isabel said wearily. "We've only been chased for a few months, and it feels like forever. For you, it must be—"

"Easier," Tess said gently. "For you, it's new. For me, it's all I've ever known, and we've got it down to a science."

"This is all fascinating," Michael broke in, "but I'd like to know the answer to that question about why we're here."

Tess shook her head. "I wish I knew. All I know is that one of the few things Nasedo has told me ever since I can remember is that we're here for a reason, that we have an important job to do."

"What?" Michael said eagerly, leaning forward on the seat. "What job?"

"I don't know. He would never tell me."

"And we're supposed to believe that?" Michael demanded.

"Michael..." Isabel began.

"Don't 'Michael' me," Michael retorted. "We've waited all our lives for answers, and now we find someone who lives with the guy with the answers, and she says she doesn't know? How's that work, exactly?"

"It works because he won't tell me!" Tess said crossly. "You think you've got it bad, not knowing anything? Buddy, you've got it easy. Try living with someone who knows and won't tell you. Try living with someone who drops tidbits and hints, but clams up when you try to find out more. It's unbelievably frustrating to know that he could answer all my questions if he wanted to, but won't. It's worse than not knowing."

"Not so sure about that," Michael muttered.

"Okay, let's work this backwards," Isabel broke in, one hand on Michael's arm as if to mollify him. "What did he tell you? We know so little that anything he told you is probably something we don't know."

"That we have a purpose," Tess said. "That we're here for a reason. That there were others like me that I'd meet some day. That the Unit wants to capture us. That humans are the enemy. That's pretty much it."

"But why won't he answer your questions?" Michael persisted. "Didn't he ever say why?"

He did, Tess thought silently, but things were way too fragile for her to share every scrap she'd painstakingly collected, often through blood, sweat, and tears, not to mention that noting they'd all had nervous breakdowns probably wasn't a great idea when they were arguably on the verge of another. "He thinks we should remember on our own," she answered. "He thinks that's better, for some reason. That's why he didn't want me to just walk up to you and say, 'Hi! I'm Tess, and I'm an alien too!' He was hoping you'd remember me on your own."

"We did."

Max looked startled as everyone stared at him. "I mean...I mean I did."

"And Isabel and I kind of...'remembered'...each other," Michael added as Isabel looked supremely uncomfortable. "Which makes sense when you look at the book."

"That was the first time I realized Nasedo was right," Tess admitted. "If someone knew exactly what we'd look like now and when we were little, we must have been planned. And why plan us without a reason? It fit what he'd been telling me all my life—that we're here for a reason."

"But what reason?" Isabel whispered.

"Whatever it is, it's not a good one," Michael said.

Isabel looked at him in alarm. "What makes you say that?"

"Think about it," Michael shrugged. "If we were all living lives of quiet suburban desperation on Tatooine—"

"Michael, don't trivialize this," Isabel said severely. "Just don't."

"I'm not 'trivializing' anything," Michael protested. "I'm just saying you don't...'plan'...people and plop them on another planet if everything's peachy. It's not the kind of thing people do when things are going well."

"Right, like you know so much about what makes people do that 'kind of thing'," Isabel huffed. "Like any of us do."

"Maybe not," Tess allowed, "but Michael has a point. With everything Nasedo and I have been through, it must be for something really important. Whatever this is, it isn't a joy ride, or a vacation, or even an immersion course. It's something else. Something bigger."

" 'Immersion'?" Isabel echoed worriedly. "What, you mean like before an invasion?"

"Good going, Isabel," Michael said dryly. "Jump right for the alien clichés."

"Well, what if it's not a cliché?" Isabel demanded. "What if it's true? What if—"

"It was just an example," Tess broke in. "Nasedo's never said or done anything to make me think we're here to take over the planet."

"What has he done?"

It was Max again, who had sat in silence through most of this discussion. "What has he done?" Max repeated when she looked blank. "Have you ever seen him do anything like this before? Kidnap somebody?"

Tess shook her head. "I—"

"Have you ever seen him kill someone?" Isabel interrupted.

"Have you ever killed someone?" Michael added.

"Michael!" Isabel admonished.

"Quiet," Max ordered. "Let her talk."

Tess looked from one expectant face to another. "I've never seen Nasedo do much of anything," she answered. "He leaves me alone. A lot. I didn't even know he'd killed people until Max told me, and when I asked Nasedo about it, he got angry and said he did whatever he had to. I've never seen him kidnap anyone, or kill anyone, and no, I haven't killed anyone. Ever."

"So what's he up to?" Michael muttered.

"I don't know," Tess admitted. "But—"

The rest of that sentence was cut off as a shaft of light pierced the sky in the distance. Four pairs of startled eyes watched as it climbed, swirled, coalesced at the top into...into...

"I've seen that," Isabel whispered. "That's on my necklace!"

"And the orb," Michael added.

"But why?" Max wondered. "Why do something so public?"

"I don't know," Tess repeated, staring in amazement at Nasedo doing the one thing he'd always taught her not to do—attract attention. "I know he's worried about a particular agent, more so than usual. Someone named 'Pierce'--"

"Oh, God," Isabel said, looking suddenly ill.

"What?" Tess demanded. "Do you know him?"

Max and Michael exchanged glances. "Topolsky," Michael said. "The FBI agent who posed as our guidance counselor. She was just here with stories about an alien hunter who was after us. She said his name was 'Pierce'."

Everyone got very quiet as the swirling symbol continued to light up the sky. The Others looked shocked, but Tess wasn't; it had never occurred to her that Nasedo was wrong. Whatever else he was, however angry or annoying or just plain mean, he was rarely wrong, so how did that apply here? He must know that any Unit agent who saw that would immediately tell Pierce, who would...

Tess closed her eyes, recalling something Nasedo had said to her when she'd complained about yet another of their midnight relocations. "I'm so tired of this," she'd complained. "Can't they just leave us alone?" "Pray they don't," Nasedo had answered. "If they're busy chasing us, they'll leave the Others alone." That had never made sense to her, because weren't the Others running too? But now she got it—the Others were not only not running, they couldn't run. They had no idea what was out there and wouldn't have recognized it if it had appeared, at least not when they were younger. Keeping the Unit focused on her and Nasedo had been exactly the right thing to do to keep the Others safe, leaving a trail of breadcrumbs which led them right where he'd wanted them to go....

"Oh my God, I know what he's doing," Tess said suddenly. "He's leading Pierce right to him."

"And to Liz," Max said.

"Why?" Michael demanded.

Tess gazed at the brilliant symbol dominating the sky. "He wants to kill him."




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




Roswell Sheriff's Station




C'mon, c'mon, Pierce fretted as he paced back and forth in front of the fax machine, willing it to turn on. Jesus, how long did it take to send a picture from a security camera? What, had the techs gone out for pizza? Had he made a mistake a few minutes ago when he'd stood only inches away from the suspect, but let him drive off into the night?

Closing his eyes, Pierce forced himself to breathe deeply, to blot out the image of the silent fax machine and concentrate on all the good reasons he'd made the decisions he had. He couldn't arrest Max Evans here in town; there were too many who would find out, too many who would object, including those who considered themselves his "parents". No, he needed to do this away from Roswell's protective embrace, and as his quarry was helpfully heading that way anyway, it made much more sense to let him go and send agents after him. But then there was the little matter that Max Evans shouldn't have been there at all; he'd supposedly kidnapped the shooting victim and driven off into the sunset, causing adolescent angst which had landed in Valenti's lap. So, what, were there two of them? Were they both aliens? Or was Max Evans a real human with an alien taking his shape? But then how could he not know he hadn't actually healed that girl back in September? Or that someone claimed he had?

Pierce risked a peek; the fax machine was still silent as he pondered his dilemma. He had at least a hundred people hanging fire, waiting for the call which would change all their lives as he was waiting for the picture which would determine whether or not he made that call. He couldn't afford to be wrong; his Unit was comprised largely of agents who would have to beg off their regular posts in order to answer that call, whether by taking vacation time, calling in sick, or some other means. Granted they would only need about half of those, and some were doctors, scientists, or other non-Bureau people who could get away more easily, but still...having that many people just suddenly up and leave would be the biggest giveaway so far that the so-called "Dark Unit" was real, far more so than merely wandering the streets of Roswell. That was assuming anyone was looking, but it was pretty clear someone was given the fact that an old lady who'd been out of the loop for decades knew his name and his game. He couldn't afford to screw this up. Someone was clearly onto him, so his only options were to go deeper into hiding or go for broke, hoping to come up with enough to stay the hangman's noose. Five more minutes passed with him on the razor's edge, tottering between the joy of snaring his prey and the risk inherent in summoning the manpower to subdue it, and during those five minutes, Pierce realized...he liked it here. Adrenaline made him focused; danger made him analytical. This wasn't frightening, it was invigorating. Maybe that was what defined truly great men, those who seized power and hung onto it versus those who passed it up or let it slip through their fingers. Fear was seen as a negative emotion, but the powerful had figured out how to make it positive.

"Problem?"

It was Hanson, looking at him curiously. "Oh...no," Pierce answered. "I was just waiting for some pictures from a security camera."

"The ones from Hondo? Sheriff already left," Hanson continued when Pierce nodded. "We'll contact him when they come through."

"Right," Pierce nodded. "Right."

"And they'll come through," Hanson added. "You don't have to babysit the fax machine."

" 'Course not," Pierce agreed. "But the sheriff, he asked me to wait for them. He said, 'You wait here for the security cam pictures to come through', so...I'm waiting."

"Okay," Hanson said slowly, "but I really don't think he meant 'stand in front of the fax machine and wait for them'. I think it was more of a generic 'let me know what they show when they come in'. Any of us can do that."

"Of course," Pierce nodded, "of course. But I'd..." He leaned in closer, lowered his voice. "I'd really like to correct the lousy impression I made first thing today," he confided.

"Uh huh," Hanson murmured. "And what about the lousy second impression? You know, the one where you were poking around in his private files?"

Pierce smiled through a clenched jaw. "That too. I just seem to keep putting my foot in it. I'd like a chance to do something right before I go home tonight, so I'd really appreciate it if the 'someone' who lets him know about the pictures could be me."

Hanson shrugged. "Go for it."

It took another five minutes and two more explanations to curious deputies before the pictures finally showed. Pierce smiled when he saw them, took out his phone, retreated into an interrogation room.

"Good, you're there," he said excitedly when Brian answered. "Have I got news for you! Get this...that Whitman kid was in here earlier with one of the girls, insisting they talk to Valenti. Seems Max Evans took off with our gunshot victim. They seemed to think he kidnapped her, and they're right—there's a security photo from a gas station outside Hondo that clearly shows Evans. He left a handprint on a pump and blew up another one. So," he went on, "how is it that I just saw Max Evans and company leaving Roswell only a few minutes ago? How many of them are there? Are all the aliens using this same form for some reason? Are they—"

"Danny," Brian's voice broke in, "Lehman's dead. You got a call," he went on in a strained voice, "or rather, the Bureau got a call; any calls for you are routed directly to me. The caller asked for you by name. Said he'd left a 'clue' on 380, at mile marker 67. It was Lehman. With a handprint. Looks like he's been dead for several hours."

Pierce leaned against the table, his mind whirling. "He knew my name?"

"He did," Brian confirmed. "Just like our nurse."

"Good God, they're still working together," Pierce breathed. "No wonder she knew so much! And he's covering his tracks by taking the girl. No gunshot victim, no evidence."

"Looks that way," Brian agreed. "Valenti's here, by the way. He's over there arguing with Rooney. I told him..." He stopped. "Holy shit!" he exclaimed.

"What?" Pierce demanded. "What's happening?"

"It's one of the alien symbols," Brian said. "Up in the sky like a searchlight. Jesus, it's huge!"

"In the sky?" Pierce repeated in astonishment. "Seriously?"

"Seriously," Brian confirmed. "He's definitely sending you a message."

Pierce smiled grimly. "Not a message—an invitation. And it would be rude not to respond."




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





Evans residence





"Let's see, that's Boardwalk with four houses and a hotel," Philip chortled. "Pay up, Dad!"

"Geez, you're killing me," Anthony grumbled. "When did you turn into such a shark?"

"He's ruthless," Diane agreed.

"Me?" Philip said. "I'm a pussycat compared to Mom. Right, Mom?"

Lost in thought, Dee came to. "What?"

Philip glanced at her unruly stack of Monopoly money and haphazard row of properties. "Let me rephrase that—I'm usually a pussycat compared to Mom. Tonight, for some reason, she's catatonic. Get it? Catatonic?"

Philip burst out laughing at his own joke as Dee's mouth set in a grim line. "Excuse me," she said frostily, rising abruptly from her seat. "The so-called humor in here is so bad, it's made me ill. Carry on without me."

"Oh, c'mon, Mom," Philip chuckled. "Mom? Mom, what's wrong? Okay, so it was a lame joke, but...Mom!"

"Now you've done it," Diane murmured. "You know it's bad if it upsets her, of all people."

"She's had a rough day," Anthony said. "I'll talk to her."

"Rough day?" Philip said. "What kind of 'rough day'?"

"The kind that's rough," Anthony said tartly. "Do you need a dictionary, Philip?"

"You don't have to get snotty," Philip objected.

"Philip..." Diane warned.

"And don't 'Philip' me," Philip said testily. "I'm just saying, she's retired, for God's sake. How rough could it be?"

"You've never seen 'rough' the way your mother and I have in your entire life," Anthony snapped. "As a parent, I'm supposed to hope you never will, but if it renders you this stupid, I'll have to rethink that. Excuse me."

Philip blinked as Anthony left also. "Geez, Louise, people! It's just a game! It's just—"

"Philip, put a sock in it," Diane ordered. "This isn't about the game! Isn't upsetting both of your unflappable parents in the space of sixty seconds enough of a record for one night? Isn't..."

Crouched over the kitchen sink with a glass of water in one hand, Dee didn't hear the rest of it. "He doesn't know," Anthony said quietly, coming up behind her. "He has no idea what's happened. And yes, he's being an ass, but he can't—"

"Anthony, they took her," Dee interrupted. "They took her right from under my nose on a public street! Who does that? Who has that kind of nerve?"

"Dee, you know as well as I do that the kind of people who want jobs like 'black ops, answerable to no one' aren't going to be the humanitarians of the world," Anthony said. "Or even human. We know two people in that kind of job who aren't."

"They were created to do what they do," Dee reminded him. "They didn't have a choice. Everyone on this planet has a choice." She paused. "I'm telling you, I haven't felt this way since Cavitt kidnapped my mother. I have a very bad feeling this is going to get worse before it gets better. If it gets better."

"It will," Anthony said soothingly. "You called them right away, you know they both sprang into action, Jaddo especially; Yvonne is the one woman on two planets he pays any mind to."

"I'd just feel a lot better if the kids were here," Dee fretted.

"So you can board up the windows and sleep across their doorways?" Anthony said dryly. "It's Saturday night, and they're high school students. They're out doing what high school students do on a Saturday night."

"You sure about that?" Dee whispered.

"Look, you told the two most powerful people on this planet what happened," Anthony said. "They'll take care of it. They always do." He squeezed her hands. "I'll get our coats. I don't think staying here is such a good idea."

Dee closed her eyes as Anthony left, hearing Philip and Diane going at it in the other room, the very loud tick of the clock, the equally loud beating of her own heart. She'd never worried much about her health, figuring she'd drop dead when she did and enjoy everything as much as possible up till then, but now she wondered if she wasn't a prime candidate for a heart attack, so hard was her heart thumping. Pulling out her phone for the fourth time in the last hour, she checked it with fear and anticipation. Nothing. No missed calls, no voice mails. She didn't dare call the Warders, having no idea where they were, but maybe...

"Isabel!" Dee said when Isabel answered. "How are you, dear?"

"Grandma?" Isabel's voice said, tense and worried. "What's wrong?"

"Nothing! Nothing at all," Dee lied. "Just wondering...if...your mother can borrow that lovely red sweater hanging on the back of the chair in your room," she finished lamely, desperately wishing she'd prepped this speech ahead of time. "She didn't want to ask, but I thought—"

"Take it," Isabel interrupted. "Keep it. I don't care. Listen, Grandma, I've gotta go. I'll talk to you later. Sorry."

The line went dead. Dee stared at the phone for a long minute, gripping it like a lifeline suddenly gone slack. She knew that tone—her granddaughter was in trouble, and not at some Saturday night high school to-do. You told the two most powerful people on this planet. Maybe so, but she knew better than anyone that sometimes even the two most powerful people on this planet needed human help. Her hands shaking, she dialed again.

"Roswell Sheriff's Station," a voice answered. "May I help you?"

"Yes," Dee said firmly. "I need to speak to Sheriff Valenti. It's an emergency."




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


I'll post Chapter 116 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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Joined: Thu Oct 31, 2002 5:06 am

Chapter 116

Postby Kathy W » Sun Jun 09, 2013 9:13 pm

Hello to everyone reading, and thanks for the feedback! ^^





CHAPTER ONE HUNDRED SIXTEEN



May 12, 2000, 9:30 p.m.

Route 380, Roswell





The road to Hondo stretched before him as Valenti gripped the wheel and tried again to figure out the strange turn of events which had him jumping in the car and speeding after God-knew-what, the same type of thing his father used to do, the same type of thing which had rendered him wife-less—maybe it was just as well he was already divorced. It was worth remembering, however, that his father had lost not only his marriage, but his job and the considerable respect he'd earned from the citizens of Roswell. This particular excursion had come gift-wrapped in an official complaint, but he'd still gone in search of by himself; he had no intention of risking his job or the respect which came with it, hard-won respect in his case as he'd taken the badge in the shadow of his father and what he'd done, or what everyone thought he'd done. He also had no intention of exposing his staff to whatever was out there, be it aliens or rogue feds. Something was foul in his town; he could smell it, could feel it rising around them like sewage. First Stevens' death, Kathleen's death, that high tech camera Evans and company had been playing with, and now this? What the hell was going on?

When Alex Whitman and Maria DeLuca had bullied their way into his office, he'd been at a loss to choose which part flabbergasted him the most—that both would voluntarily seek him out, the claim that Evans had "kidnapped" Liz Parker, or the announcement that Evans was "getting strange". He'd found it momentarily difficult to keep a straight face at that one because, honestly, didn't all of them know Evans was a bit "strange"? Didn't all of them know he was an alien even if none of them were willing to say it out loud? And didn't DeLuca and Whitman know that he knew Evans was an alien? Hadn't both valiantly clammed up on him when he'd tried to pry information out of them in the past? If either had made these statements back when he'd first grilled them, he would have been thrilled; knowing what he knew now, he was just puzzled. The Max Evans he'd come to sort of know in the past several months simply wasn't the kidnapping type. The Max Evans he'd come to know had taken a huge personal risk to save Liz Parker's life, and Parker and company had responded by forming a protective bulwark around him that even the feds hadn't managed to penetrate. To see that fiercely loyal group fall apart amid allegations of kidnapping was bizarre, to say the least, and left him grappling for possible explanations. Had something in Evans snapped? Was he programmed to feign humanity until some pre-arranged time? What else would have made him turn on someone he'd once risked exposure to protect? And if he'd turned on that one, the one no one would ever have expected him to turn on, what else would he do?

The radio crackled; Valenti listened eagerly, hoping for an update on the security cam photos, but nothing came, meaning he was still shooting in the dark. It didn't help that he knew there was something Whitman and DeLuca were keeping from him. She was truly scared, no doubt about that, but they hadn't been completely honest with him. He'd decided not to pursue that just yet because, whatever the reason, the levee had been breached; he'd been trying to get them to trust him, and they had, albeit in very strange circumstances...

Motion up ahead caught his eye. Something was happening on the side of the road, something involving cars strewn along the shoulder, men in suits, and...crime scene tape?

"What's going on here?" Valenti called as he climbed out.

One of the men turned his way, shone a flashlight in his face. "We have it under control, Sheriff."

Valenti's jaw clenched. Feds. He'd know those suits anywhere, those generic statements, those inscrutable expressions. He also knew a body when he saw one, which he did, on the ground behind his bouncer, partially covered with a coat. "This is my county," he retorted. "I demand to know what's happening."

"Go away, Sheriff," Bouncer declared. "This is a matter of national security."

"In that case, identify yourself," Valenti ordered.

"We're with the Federal Bureau of Investigation," Bouncer announced. "You can move along."

"Badge, agent," Valenti said firmly. "I need to see your badge."

"I don't need to show you anything," Bouncer retorted.

"Oh, but you do," Valenti assured him. "You want to claim jurisdiction, that's how it's done. Anyone can stand there and claim they're an agent. Either prove it, or get the hell out of my way."

Bouncer glanced uncertainly at the man crouched on the ground, who hesitated a good long while before nodding almost imperceptibly. Valenti braced himself as Bouncer reached into his jacket, having already done the math. This shouldn't be happening; Feds were usually all too glad to whip out their badges and stick them under your nose. These two had already identified themselves as FBI, so why the delay in producing proof? Because they're with Kathleen's top secret Unit, he realized, half expecting Bouncer to pull out a gun, not a badge. But a badge it was, and Valenti used his flashlight to inspect it carefully. "Agent Rooney," he read. "Who's your friend?"

"I showed you ID, Sheriff, now move along," Rooney said.

Valenti took a step closer. "I need identification from both of you. Unless you'd like me to call this in just to make certain you're legit. I can always start with your name."

This time the two feds eyed one another with unmistakable alarm. What's the matter boys? Valenti thought dryly. Are you where you shouldn't be? He was itching to get to the radio and find out where the Bureau thought Agent Rooney was supposed to be, or if there even was an "Agent Rooney", but before he could utter another word, something impossible happened. Off in the distance, a shaft of light cut through the darkness, hit the sky, swirled, coalesced...and took the form of a giant swirling symbol, lighting the night sky for what must be miles around. The sighting, Valenti thought, gazing at it wide-eyed. This was exactly what witnesses had reported during the sighting earlier this year. Taking advantage of the few seconds it had taken the agents to turn and stare at this latest interruption, Valenti hurried back to his cruiser. The apparition was due west and quite close...Hondo. Evans had purportedly been spotted blowing up a gas station outside Hondo, so that fit. If he hurried, he might beat the Feds. They'd be right behind him, but every second counted.

His phone rang. "Hanson, where the hell have you been?" Valenti barked as he maneuvered himself one-handed back onto the road.

"Sorry, sir," Hanson said. "I've been trying to raise you for several minutes now, and when the radio didn't work, I tried your phone."

"I'd stopped for few minutes, but I should have heard from you sooner. How long does it take for security pictures?"

There was a pause. "Didn't Fisher call those in, sir?"

"Fisher? You mean File Boy? No, he did not call them in. Probably too busy rearranging his Post-It's."

"Really? 'Cause he—"

"Yes, 'really'," Valenti snapped, one eye on the light, the other on the road. "Did you get them or not?"

"Yeah, we got'em," Hanson answered. "It's just that Fisher was keen on telling you himself, but he...geez, I don't see him around here..."

"Hanson!"

"Right," Hanson said quickly. "Got it right here. It's Max Evans and Elizabeth Parker in an unfamiliar car, not the jeep he usually drives."

"Is it a Jetta?" Valenti asked, remembering Amy's car.

"Nope. Never seen this one."

"But it's Evans and Parker? You're sure?"

"Positive, sir. I'm looking right at it."

Shit. "Okay," Valenti said heavily. "Thanks."

"Sir, I wasn't calling about the pictures," Hanson went on. "I thought Fisher was doing that. You got a call from someone who said it was an emergency. Asked for you personally. Said it was about Max Evans."

"What about him?" Valenti said warily.

"She didn't say. Just said the two of you had met before, and she needed to talk to you about Max Evans."

"Did this 'someone' leave a name?"

"Yep. 'Dee Proctor'."

" 'Proctor'? I don't know any 'Proctors'," Valenti said.

"Me neither," Hanson agreed. "But since it was about Evans, I did a little digging. Deanna Proctor was born and raised in Corona, and get this—she married an Anthony Evans, and they had a son named—"

"Philip," Valenti said.

"Yep. She's Max's grandmother."

"Grandmother," Valenti murmured. "Grandmother? I don't recall ever meeting anyone but his parents."

"According to her, it was a while ago," Hanson said. "1989."

Valenti's mind was whirling so fast, it was hard to keep track of the road, the light, and his own spinning thoughts. 1989... The year he'd taken the badge. The year a woman had shown up on his doorstep and claimed she'd known his father. She'd actually managed to get his father talking, the first person to do so in ages, and she'd said he'd talked about Hubble's wife, something Valenti had thought preposterous and written off to his father's delusions...until he'd turned out to be right. He'd long forgotten the woman's name, but then "Evans" wouldn't have rung any bells at that point. "Okay, so did she say what this 'emergency' was?" he asked.

"Nope. Said she'd only talk to you. Told her you weren't here, and I'd take a message. I've got her number—"

"Fine, I'll call her when I get back. I've got bigger fish to fry at the moment."

"Something wrong, sir?"

"Nothing I can't handle. Sit tight."

Valenti shut the call down as Hanson was still talking. It couldn't be a coincidence that Evans' grandmother had come out of the woodwork now, just as it appeared her grandson had gone non-linear. Assuming it really was Evans' grandmother, that is. What if this was just an attempt by the FBI to distract him? A tempting, if paranoid notion until he recalled something his father had said during the Hubble episode...

"They're not all bad, you know. She taught me that."

"Who?" Valenti had asked.

"Dee," his father answered. "And that mother of hers, that spitfire. Hell raisers, both of them; apple didn't fall far from that tree, straight down, really."


Dee. There it was again, and from his father that time. Hubble may have been working with the Bureau, but there was no way anyone could have primed his father, given his condition...

The light in the sky suddenly faded, but he was close enough to see what it had centered over—a traveling carnival lay ahead, a bright spot along the road, all screaming children, midway rides, and artery clogging food. Valenti followed the stream of cars into the standard issue muddy field doubling as a parking lot, drawing stares as he parked his cruiser and hurried toward the midway, eyes peeled. It was tough going; amid the booths, rides, sideshows, and crowds, it was hard to see much of anything. Perfect place for a trap, he thought grimly, sidestepping a line of little kids at the Duck Pond and a line of bigger ones at the Bumper Cars. And the perfect place for a high body count if anything went wrong, so the sooner he could find Evans, the better...there! He spotted Evans in the entryway to the Fun House. Evans paused, scanned the crowd, locked eyes with Valenti...and stepped inside.

Valenti followed, but not without noticing something which left a cold pit in his stomach. Whoever he was following looked exactly like Max Evans. Whoever he was following was dressed exactly like Max Evans. Whoever he was following should be Max Evans. But he'd seen the look in those eyes, and he would have bet good money that whoever he was following...

...wasn't Max Evans.




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




"A carnival?" Isabel said, leaning forward into the front seat. "Really?"

"It's near where the light came from," Michael said.

"Clowns," Isabel muttered, wrinkling her nose distastefully. "Mud. Portable toilets. Can't decide which is worse."

"It's about where Valenti's car disappeared," Max said. "And there's nothing else out here."

"Still, a carnival?" Isabel persisted. "Just seems random."

"It's not random," Tess said. "Nasedo doesn't do 'random'."

Everyone went quiet. Tess had said nothing after they'd taken off after Valenti's cruiser as it shot past them in pursuit of the light, offering no further objections but no help keeping Valenti in sight. This was the first time she'd spoken since then.

"Seems random," Isabel murmured.

"It's not," Tess insisted. "He has a plan. Just because we don't know what it is doesn't mean he doesn't have one. If he's here, he picked this place for a reason."

"Great place to hide a murder," Michael noted. "Or a body."

Tess turned around. "Is it 'murder' if the one you're 'murdering' is trying to murder you?"

One could have heard a pin drop in the silence that followed. "No," Michael said finally. "It isn't."

Tess returned her gaze to the road. Max glanced in the rearview mirror and saw Isabel staring at her hands. Michael looked at him, then looked away.

"What do you mean, 'if' he's here?" Max asked, not even wanting to contemplate having lost the one lead they had. "Do you think he isn't?"

"I have no idea where he is," Tess sighed. "But we lost sight of Valenti's car, so we don't know where he is either."

"Like Max said, this is the only thing out here," Michael said. "So I say we go in and at least drive around the parking lot. If he's here, we'll see his cruiser."

"Good idea," Max agreed, joining the line of cars snaking onto the carnival grounds. Blue-jeaned volunteers holding flashlights directed traffic, sending them into a muddy field.

"Ewww," Isabel moaned under her breath as the jeep sank a bit in the muck.

"This'll take forever," Max said impatiently, craning his neck in circles. "And I can't get out; I'm boxed in.

"We'll go," Michael said. "C'mon, Isabel."

" 'C'mon' where?" Isabel demanded.

"To look for Valenti's cruiser," Michael said. "If we don't find it, he's not here, and we can skip the parking bit altogether."

Isabel remained admirably silent as they climbed out, the squelching noises making it clear what they'd stepped into. Tess remained in the car, staring into space, neither hindering nor helping. The line inched along before coming to a halt as a large SUV struggled to maneuver into a small space.

"You think we shouldn't do this," Max said finally, unable to hold his tongue any longer.

"I've already made that clear," Tess answered.

"Because Liz has 'nothing to do with us'?"

Tess glanced at him quickly, looked away. "I'm sorry about that. I mean, it's true she's not one of us. But she's your friend, so of course she has something to do with you. And I'm one of you, so I have something to do with you. We were both wrong."

"But she's not your friend," Max nodded. "I get it. You can stay in the jeep if you want. I won't ask you to risk your life for someone you don't even know."

"It's not that," Tess said. "It's no better watching all of you walking into this. Look, if I'm right and Nasedo is luring Pierce here, he's got this all planned out like a game of chess. And when we go blundering in there, it'll be like knocking the whole board over."

"But why take Liz?" Max demanded. "What does she have to do with this?"

"I don't know," Tess admitted, "but I do know he has a reason. It probably won't be something you agree with, but he has one, and whether or not you like it, you'd be smart to respect it. This isn't some nosy town sheriff he's after; this is the Special Unit, an FBI unit dedicated to hunting us. We've run from the Unit all my life, but I've never seen Nasedo so worked up about an agent like he is about Pierce. Nasedo doesn't get scared, but Pierce scares him. And that should scare all of us."

Max shook his head. "I don't care what the reason is. There's no reason I'd accept that puts Liz's life in danger."

"Have you considered that, by interrupting whatever he's planning, you may be putting Liz's life in danger?"

No, Max thought silently as the first niggle of doubt crept in. He'd been like a madman on a mission, charging forward, hurling obstacles out of his way in the mad dash to get to Liz, but he'd never thought about if that might be the wrong thing to do, might actually make things worse. The SUV wriggled into its parking space with inches to spare and they'd snaked around a corner into a new aisle before he spoke again.

"You might be right," he allowed, "but what's the alternative? To do nothing? To just sit home and hope for the best? I can't do that. She's here because of me. She's in danger because of me. Why he took her really doesn't matter; what's important is that he did. And he shouldn't have done that, shouldn't have to do that. If Pierce wants me, and Nasedo is posing as me, why would he need Liz? Nobody's chasing Liz, they're chasing me. If she really has nothing to do with us, why drag her into this at all?"

Tess shook her head. "I wish I knew. What I do know is that if this goes south, you might not get the chance to ask him those questions. And neither of them might be around to have anything to do with anybody."

There was a catch in her voice which made Max turn; she was staring out the window, and she looked worried. ...neither of them might be around... Because if this went south, it might go south for more than just Liz—it might go south for Nasedo, the only guardian she'd ever had. The only person she'd ever really known.

"You're worried something will happen to Nasedo," Max said.

"Not the way you're worried about Liz," Tess allowed, "but...yeah. Of course I'm worried. We all should be. His job is to protect us. That's why he's here."

"But you said Nasedo could handle Pierce."

"He can. But maybe not if four people he wasn't expecting crash the party." She looked out toward the midway, where the lights were flashing merrily. "He was already captured once, you know. Back when our ship crashed. He was held captive by the Army for three years."

Max gripped the wheel of the jeep harder to hide the sudden shake in his hands. Captured. It was one thing to talk about it, quite another to find out it had already happened. "What did they do to him?" he whispered.

"I don't know," Tess said quietly. "He never talks about it. I found out...another way. But three years...I mean, think about it. Three years." She paused. "We need him, Max. We may not like him, but we need him."

An enthusiastic volunteer swung a flashlight, guiding the jeep toward another bend. "And I need Liz," Max said. "We need both of them. So let's make certain we keep both of them. I just want Liz. I won't interfere with anything else he's doing, or try to hang around and watch. I just want to get Liz and get out of here, and he can do whatever it is he's out to do."

"Max!" a voice called.

Isabel and Michael were rushing toward them, as much as they could, anyway, given the mud. "He's here," Isabel panted when she reached them, oblivious to the state of her shoes. "We found him."

"We found his cruiser," Michael corrected as he and Isabel climbed into the jeep. "Parked near the entrance in the V.I.P. section. The engine was still warm, so we're not far behind. Skip the mud fest; we saw a faster way to get up there."

"Which way?" Max demanded.

"You're going to have to bust through the cones and plough up the side," Isabel said.

They had reached the end of an aisle. Max took off, knocking aside orange cones and drawing yelps from volunteers who leaped out of the way. "Go right," Michael instructed, pointing. "Now go between those posts, and we'll be able to pull up right beside the midway."

He was right. Max screeched the jeep to a halt within spitting distance of the midway. "This is where the light was coming from," he said, with certainty now. "We've got to split up and look for Valenti; he'll lead us to Liz."

They all scrambled out of the jeep, Tess too. "You don't have to go," he told her. "You can stay here if you want to."

"No way," Tess said. "I'm going with you."

"I thought you didn't approve," Max said.

"I don't. But if you're going to blunder anyway, you need all the help you can get. So does Nasedo."

"And so does Liz," Max said. "Let's go."




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




The merry-go-round spun, that God-awful music blaring into the night as Jaddo leaned over his horse and reflected on the various strata of human endeavor. This type of event, for example, was definitely on the lower end of the scale, although not as low as dog fighting and the like. Toward the upper end would be various works of art, something he did appreciate as evidenced by the amount he'd chosen to fill his house, and literature, some of which he'd actually read, more out of curiosity than anything else. A very little of that was very good while most of it wasn't, with one of the prime examples of the latter being the works of Jane Austen, she of the fixation on class and marriage. It was odd, then, that one of her opening lines should come to mind, albeit reworked:

It is a truth universally acknowledged that humans are a pain in the ass.

The current pain in the ass, one Elizabeth Parker, clung to a pole up ahead, having fled while he was busy convincing the previous candidate for pain in the ass that, yes, aliens really did exist. He'd heard her leave and let her go, knowing that finding her again would be child's play and besides, he was having way too much fun scarring the piss out of the non-believer. Now the Parker girl looked anxiously into the park as the ride spun, no doubt searching for him. A minute later, most likely responding to some deep-seated survival instinct, she suddenly turned around.

Not bad, Jaddo thought grudgingly as she jumped off, stumbled to her feet, and took off again. He swung off the ride, following her as she ran toward that carnival staple, the Fun House, this one festooned with mirrors. This should be fun, although Pierce and his minions should be arriving soon, so he might have to cut that fun short. Scanning the crowd, he smiled when he spotted another source of fun, that being Valenti. The ever vigilant sheriff must have picked up on the trail of breadcrumbs left for Pierce and followed them himself. A singularly poor idea given what was coming, but whatever; should he lose Valenti in the fray, it would be no great loss. He hesitated near the entrance, making certain Valenti saw him before slipping inside.

It was preternaturally quiet inside, other carnival goers having apparently opted for the louder, gaudier events. At first he caught only one pair of footsteps, then a second, the heavy tread of sheriff's boots. Now there were three, two humans walking loud enough to be heard on Antar and one silent Covari, killing time while his prey approached. He was growing more and more impatient to get this show on the road, but as Pierce the younger seemed a bit slower than his sire, it could be mildly amusing to watch Valenti and the girl bump into each other. He kept track of both almost idly, passing the entrance, where there was still no sign of the Unit. Someone else had entered the maze, however, a third set of oddly quiet footsteps, unusual for a human. Puzzling...

Jaddo paused by an intersection as the girl went by, unaware of his presence. She wasn't entirely stupid, this one; as humans went, the King could have done worse. Unfortunately, after the remarkably cogent arguments she'd lobbed in the car, she'd lapsed back into girlish piffle when they'd hit the carnival, driveling on about how she and Zan had "seen into each others' souls". What rot. Love made one act stupid and sound stupid, as evidenced by the fact that she hadn't sounded stupid earlier. A few corridors down, Valenti spotted him in a mirror, and Jaddo paused while the sheriff gazed ahead, than at his image, then ahead again, looking baffled. What was so baffling? Did he not recognize the Parker girl? Was he looking at the strangely quiet fourth maze dweller? Why the baffled look, then? A tendril of unease began to creep up Jaddo's spine, and grew stronger after another near encounter with the sheriff produced a similar double take. Valenti was certainly annoying, but he was no fool. What was he looking at?

Rounding another corner, he found the answer to his question.

Jaddo stood stock still, scarcely breathing as his carefully orchestrated trap shattered like that statue at his house. Zan stood only feet away from him, walking softly, peering around corners. No wonder the fourth set of footfalls had been so quiet—they belonged not to a human, but a hybrid who shouldn't be here, who should be absolutely anywhere but here. How in blazes had he found them? Watching Zan shy away from Valenti's reflection without so much as a whiff of surprise settled that—he'd followed Valenti. The trail of breadcrumbs left for Pierce had reeled in more than he'd anticipated. A lot more.

Jaddo's ears pricked. More footsteps had entered the maze, heavier footfalls, commanding steps. The Unit had arrived at last, and at the worst possible time. Time for desperate measures.

"What are you doing?" Jaddo hissed, coming up beside the king. "Get out of here!"

"Where's Liz?" Zan demanded.

"Pierce doesn't care about her, he only wants me!" Jaddo exclaimed in exasperation.

"He wants her too," Zan argued. "He wants all of us! I'm not leaving without her."

There had been several times since the king's emergence where Jaddo had seriously felt like throttling him, and that list had just grown by one. "I won't let him take you," he declared, taking off into the maze, leaving Zan rushing toward the Parker girl, who had appeared at the end of a corridor and was inconveniently behind a pane of glass. The quickest way to get Zan out was to get her out, and he knew exactly where she was, but progress was agonizingly slow; he counted three Unit agents in the maze, with no doubt more outside. How the hell was he going to get the king through all that? A trap sprung for an enemy had suddenly turned into a rescue mission, and he waited impatiently for agents to move...

"Behind you!" the Parker girl called.

Cursing silently, Jaddo threw caution to the winds and raced toward the girl, arriving just in time to see Zan sprint away with two agents after him. "I've got to get you out of here," Jaddo said gruffly, dragging the girl by the arm. She hurried after him, surprisingly compliant as he wove his way back through the maze, hoping against hope that he'd run into Zan so he could drag him out too. If the king hadn't been here, he could have sent the trailer up in flames and torched the lot of them...

A gun went off. Glass shattered. Terrified, Jaddo raced forward amid shouts, flying around corners, not caring who saw them. He reached the exit only to see one of the worst things he'd ever seen in his life, second only to Rath's lonely stand against Khivar's army.

Shit!

Zan had been pushed against the glass, his arms held by two agents behind him. *Fight them!* Jaddo shouted telepathically, hoping terror would break through. But Zan didn't respond, didn't fight back even though he could have killed everyone there with a thought; this wasn't a king, but a boy, a boy he'd just lost to his deadliest enemy save for the one who'd killed him in another lifetime. There was nothing to be done now that wouldn't put him in even further peril, and Jaddo pulled the girl out of the maze, through the carnival, and into a nearby bus. If his smitten king had risked capture for her sake, imagine what he'd do if they were captured together. That would be one of the few ways this could actually get worse than it was right now.

"Max, are you all right?" the girl asked, pulling him into a kiss, only to pull back a moment later.

"You're not Max," she said, stunned.

"No, I'm not," Jaddo said darkly. "And now I've got to get him back." He shifted, his features melting, his clothing reforming as she backed away in alarm. And then he was off, leaving her to grapple with the realization of exactly who it was she'd watched taken. A few minutes later, while scoping the grounds for the Unit, he saw her stumble into Rath, Vilandra, and...Ava? Good Lord, she'd drunk the "friendship" Kool-Aid too, and she should know better. The only thing worse than the king being taken was all four of them being taken; getting one out would be hard, getting four out would be nearly impossible. Not to mention the second problem which loomed every bit as large as the king's abduction.

When Brivari found out about this, he was going to kill him.




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




Eagle Rock Military Base




It was pushing midnight when Yvonne awoke, stiff and sore on the hard bed which Stephen had slept on for three years without complaint, albeit when he was younger. She'd spent the entire day in this room with the exception of visits to the bathroom, and seen no one unless you counted the surly agent who'd twice pushed her a tray of food, her breakfast at the Crashdown apparently counting as part of her daily caloric intake while on the FBI's tab. Now she needed yet another trip to the bathroom, and she shuffled to the door, banging on it with the flat of her hand. "I need to go to the bathroom!" she called, feeling silly. Honestly, an 80 year-old woman begging to pee? She'd started the day full of indignation and defiance, almost enjoying her repartee with Agent Samuels, but now that several hours had gone by, the bloom was off the rose. What was taking so long? She was too old, much too old to go through this again. Waiting for her jailer, she almost wished she'd been placed in her old room, one of the few in the compound with its own bathroom, a perk granted to her as the only female living there. As bizarre as it would be to be held captive in that room again, at least she'd be able to pee when she wanted.

Bang! Bang! Bang! "Agent, I'm reasonably certain you don't want me to wet the floor," Yvonne called crossly. "If you don't hurry, I'll—"

The door opened. Agent Emerson, her keeper, looked none too pleased as he ushered her to the nearest bathroom halfway down the hall for what must be the eighth time. Tough beans, buddy, she thought darkly as he locked the door behind her and she settled herself on the toilet. Lock up an old lady, that's what you get. If they didn't want to do bathroom runs, they could damned well—

Thump!

Yvonne paused. Something large and heavy had hit the door, followed by silence. Hurrying through her hand washing, she knocked on the door; no answer. "I'm done," she called, knocking again.

It was a good minute before the door finally opened. Emerson gave no explanation for either the noise or the delay, following her back to her room in the same grumpy silence. Probably slipped and hit his head, Yvonne thought as her door closed behind her. Must be embarrassing for a Bureau agent to be so clumsy. Just wait till he's 80, she thought dryly. Then he'd find out what "clumsy" meant. Lowering herself slowly to the bed, she looked up to find she was not alone.

"Oh, for heaven's sake," Yvonne said wearily as Emerson stared at her. "Now? Seriously? What do you think you're going to get out of me now that you didn't before?"

"Actually," Emerson said in a voice that wasn't Emerson's, "I wasn't looking to get anything out of you. I was just looking to get you out."


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


I'll post Chapter 117 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 117

Postby Kathy W » Sun Jun 16, 2013 3:32 pm

Hello to everyone reading!

keepsmiling7 wrote:All of those mirrors in the fun house and the clown.....that was all so creepy.


Very creepy. Clowns drive me nuts! (Which is where Isabel got her dislike of them. Well, that and because Isabel would dislike them. :P )

emerald123 wrote: I'm looking forward to more; but I'm hesitant to read the next chapter, as I always had difficulty watching Max being tortured by the Special Unit.


We already saw plenty of that on screen, so we won't be seeing much of that here. This deals with the periphery, so I think it's safe to read.


Thank you both for the feedback! I appreciate it so much!








CHAPTER ONE HUNDRED SEVENTEEN




May 13, 2000, 12:05 a.m.

Eagle Rock Military Base





Yvonne blinked as Emerson's features melted into another face entirely. "Brivari?" she said incredulously. "Where's Agent Emerson? Wait—never mind," she amended. "Please tell me he's stashed somewhere secure."

"They won't find him unless they tear this place down stone by stone," Brivari answered, "something I certainly wouldn't mind doing. Are you all right? Have you been mistreated?"

"Oh, no," Yvonne answered, shaking her head. "They treated me like I was daft, then got mad at me when they found out I wasn't and stashed me in here. I've been here all day, save for the odd bathroom break."

"This was Captain Spade's room, was it not?" Brivari murmured.

"It was," Yvonne sighed. "Not exactly subtle, the Unit."

"Lieutenant, please accept my deepest apologies for this intrusion. We had no idea you would be a target, or that Pierce knew anything about you."

"Jaddo did," Yvonne noted. "I know he's paranoid as hell, but even a broken clock is right twice a day."

"A point I'm sure he'll make at his earliest opportunity," Brivari said dryly. "About being right, that is."

"No doubt," Yvonne agreed. "Isn't it risky coming all the way in here? I thought you were going to take the compound down, or something like that."

"And we will," Brivari promised, "but not with you in it, and not until Pierce is out of the way. Jaddo's taking care of that."

Yvonne rolled her eyes. "Ye gads. He must be in heaven."

"Probably," Brivari admitted. He cracked the door, peered down the hall. "I'm sorry it took so long to reach you. They've installed formidable security, but fortunately its application is rather haphazard. I had to wait for a lapse in attention, then wait further until a suitable target detached from the group—" He stopped when she chuckled. "What?"

"It's just interesting to hear you lapse back into the hyper-formal speech pattern you used back when...well...back when we were here," Yvonne said. "You've become a movie mogul since then, with your jeans and leather jackets and slang. It's been a while since I've seen you in full-on Warder mode. So...what's the plan?"

"Jaddo contacted me about thirty minutes ago," Brivari replied. "He's laid a trap for Pierce which he's confident is being followed. They'll likely bring his body here, causing confusion which will be to our advantage; if not, they'll probably abandon this place, which would be even better. We'll wait to see which happens and choose our escape route accordingly."

"Very good," Yvonne said briskly. "I wish I could move faster. I can't do much more than shuffle slowly."

"We'll manage," Brivari promised. "We'll need to choose our exit carefully; this place has been fortified with depleted uranium in some very inconvenient places."

"Good Lord," Yvonne sighed. "Didn't Pierce figure out you couldn't shift that? Our Pierce, I mean." She shook her head sadly. "That means he left notes, or some kind of record. I figured as much when they led me here. With all the rooms available, it can't have been a coincidence."

"It wasn't," Brivari agreed, "nor was taking you. It appears Pierce the younger wishes to recreate his father's tableau, complete with an alien and a nurse—"

Alarms sounded, loud against the concrete walls. "Stay here," Brivari ordered. "I'll see what's happening."

He left, leaving the door unlocked, and Yvonne promptly began to fret. He shouldn't be here. The Unit would happily take any alien it could get its hands on, and she moved so slowly, she would only be a liability. Perhaps they should have taken the place down with her in it, especially if—

"Lieutenant," Brivari called, cool as a cucumber. "It's time. Stay close."

She did, following him down the dimly lit hallway. This was a side corridor which had housed soldiers and probably not of much use to the Unit, which would account for the fact that it had only been lightly touched by beautification efforts. Loud voices sounded ahead along the main corridor, calling, shouting, pulling doors open...

"They sound...excited," Yvonne whispered. "Shouldn't they be upset?"

"They probably don't know what's happened yet," Brivari replied. "We'll wait for them to pass, then—"

The rest of that sentence was cut off as a man in a Roswell deputy's uniform strode past, dark hair, dark eyes, dark soul. Yvonne had never seen Pierce Jr., but it turned out she hadn't needed to—she'd know him anywhere. "Isn't he supposed to be dead?" she murmured just as a stretcher lumbered past behind him, it's occupant thrashing wildly.

It was Max.

Agents poured after the stretcher, causing Yvonne and Brivari to melt into a doorway; they both knew every square inch of this place, which is how each of them simultaneously drew back into the exact same space. It was odd how muscle memory took over when real memory appeared absent; if you'd asked her for good hiding places in this corridor, she wouldn't have been able to answer, but plop her here, and she found them without conscious thought.

"How in blazes did that happen?" Yvonne whispered.

"Irrelevant," Brivari said grimly. "It did."

They both watched in dismay as the stretcher disappeared down the hall. "I can still get you out," Brivari said. "There's enough confusion at the moment—"

"No."

He stared at her. "No? What do you mean, 'no'?"

"I mean 'no', I should stay. Pierce took me for a reason," Yvonne went on when he stared at her incredulously. "I worked under his father, and that apparently means something to him. I might be able to leverage that to help Max until you and Jaddo can free him."

"Lieutenant, we will not get another opportunity like this," Brivari argued. "Any minute now, they'll—"

"Lock the place down tight," Yvonne finished. "Yes, I know. I was one of those locked in tight, remember? Look, you need to stay here," she argued. "Jaddo will be here soon, and if he can't get in, you'll be the only Warder on the inside. Pierce has his prize, so he'll be coming for me soon, and there's nowhere to hide that he won't find me; this place just isn't large enough. Plus he'll know I'm in no shape to escape on my own, which means I had help, and the last thing we want is to give him two aliens to play with."

"Lieutenant—"

"No," Yvonne interrupted firmly. "You have other things to do. You'll have to be Emerson, and I remember how dangerous it is to take anyone's shape for more than just a short while. You'll have a time of it just hanging on until Jaddo gets here, so the last thing you need to worry about is me. Bring me back, and let me be useful. Max needs all the help he can get."

"Think carefully, Lieutenant," Brivari warned. "I can't help Zan at the moment, but I can help you. When the time comes to free him, he'll come first. I cannot guarantee your safety."

"Of course he'll come first," Yvonne said. "And safety is never guaranteed; we both know that, or at least we should. Come on," she added, heading back down the hallway. "I left my cane behind, so it will be slow going."

It wasn't. He had her by the arm and must have been lifting her to some extent; whatever the reason, they arrived back at Stephen's former room in something more like the time it would have taken her back when she was posted here. "Make sure you lock the door," she reminded him. " 'Emerson' will get in trouble if you don't." She shook her head when he hesitated. "I'm old, Brivari. I know that's a concept you struggle to deal with, but it's not all bad. When you're my age, every day is a gift, and you've lost so much, you have little left to lose. It makes you fearless, in a backward sort of way. This is my decision to make, and I've made it."

He reached up, touched her cheek in an uncharacteristic display of tenderness. "You were always fearless, Lieutenant," he said softly. "Even when you had much to lose. The king has no idea how fortunate he is."

"Of course he doesn't—he's still a boy," Yvonne reminded him. "Let's see to it that he lives long enough to appreciate what he has." She glanced down the still empty hallway. "You should go. They'll be here soon."

He left then, albeit reluctantly. Yvonne resumed her seat on the bed, unable to sleep even if she was mistaken about receiving visitors soon. But she wasn't; only a few minutes passed before she heard the steady slap of leather dress shoes, like jackboots coming toward her. A key rattled in the lock, and the door opened to reveal three agents, the middle of whom stepped forward.

"Lieutenant White," Pierce Jr. smiled. "So nice to finally meet you."




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




"Guess your age, one dollar!" bellowed a carnie, neither having nor needing a microphone. "I have to get it within three years, or you win! Guess your age! Only one dollar! I have to...hey, good lookin'," the carnie said, veering off script. "Let me guess your age? Only one dollar!"

Right, Tess thought darkly; she was young enough that guessing within three years wouldn't be much of a challenge. "No, thanks," she answered, marching past.

A hand clamped on her arm; the carnie wasn't taking no for an answer. "You sure?" he pressed. "I'd love to guess your age. Or anything else about you."

"Let go of me," Tess ordered.

The carnie smiled a particularly mirthless smile. "Or?

"Or else," Tess warned.

He leaned in closer. "Or else what?"

A moment later he was shouting and running and thwacking his hand against anything he could find; a mindwarp of her bursting into flames could do that to a person reluctant to let to go. Should have listened, Tess thought grimly, sidestepping the frantic carnie who hadn't even figured out that neither of them was actually on fire. Michael's directive after Liz's horrifying announcement, "They have Max!" had been a curt, "Everyone fan out and look for him, and if you find them, stop them any way you can." So fan out they had, scattering in four different directions...well, three, because Liz had been so distraught that Isabel had gone with her, and besides, what could Liz have done about anything except yell? Tess held out little hope that they'd find Max, but at this point, she'd try anything. Her worst nightmare had come to pass—the Unit had taken one of them, and right out from under Nasedo's nose, it would seem. Which meant what, exactly? Did they have Nasedo too? She'd never considered the possibility of life without Nasedo. He'd always seemed too strong, too domineering, too ornery to fail, never mind be captured; it had been rattling enough to learn he'd been captured before, something she'd written off to it being right after the crash. The thought that she might be all alone, completely on her own save for a handful of people who didn't feel she belonged with them filled her with a terror second only to that of the Unit.

This is pointless, Tess thought as she raced through the carnival grounds, finding nothing more than fatty food, fat humans, and a particularly nasty clown who was shooing children away right and left. Twice she passed the clown, which she could have sworn was giving her dirty looks, and the distraught carnie, who was telling his story to the rather skeptical crowd gathering around him. Abandoning the midway, she headed for the parking lot, running into Michael when she reached it.

"Don't bother," he called when he saw her coming. "Nothing there. You find anything?"

"Nope. What do we do now?"

Michael thought for a moment. "We round up Isabel and Liz."

They found Isabel with her arm around an ashen-faced Liz not far from where they'd caught up with Liz in the first place. Both jumped up when they saw them, their faces falling when they realized Max wasn't with them.

"Did you find anything?" Isabel asked desperately. "Anything at all?"

Tess shook her head. "Not a thing. You?"

Liz sank back down on the bench. Isabel glanced at Liz, then shook her head. There followed a moment of complete and utter silence while each stared at the other in turn, at a loss for words or direction.

"So," Michael said finally. "What do we do now?"

It took Tess a second to realize he was talking to her, leadership roles apparently having switched on the way back from the parking lot, and frankly, she had to agree; she had the most experience with the Unit. "We get out of here," she answered. "We go home and wait for Nasedo."

"But we can't leave without Max!" Isabel protested.

"If we're not careful, we'll be leaving with Max," Tess pointed out. "The Unit already captured one of us. Let's not make it two. Or more."

That did it. Tension skyrocketed; people moved. Her previous warnings about the Unit getting their hands on one of them fell on deaf ears no longer now that they actually had gotten their hands on one of them. They were all at the jeep in record time, Liz slowing when she saw Valenti's cruiser parked nearby in the V.I.P parking area.

"He followed you," Michael explained. "And we followed him. C'mon, let's go."

Tess climbed into the front with Michael; Isabel got in back with Liz, who stared straight ahead as if in shock. As soon as they were safely back on the road, Tess turned around.

"What happened?" she asked Liz.

"Tess, not now," Isabel protested.

"Yes, now," Tess said firmly. "If we're going to find Max, we need to know everything we can."

"It can wait," Isabel insisted. "We can—"

"No," Liz said suddenly, cutting her off mid-sentence. "She's right—we have to find Max." She looked around at all of them as though seeing them for the first time. "How did you know where we were?"

"I told you, we followed Valenti," Michael answered.

"We knew something was wrong when we figured out someone had been posing as Max," Isabel explained. "Then Max called you, and you got cut off—"

"Nasedo took my phone."

"—and we had to do something," Isabel went on. "So we...went to Valenti. Sort of," she amended when Liz's eyes widened. "Maria and Alex went. They told him a story about you and Max going off together, and then you wanted to come home and he wouldn't let you...never mind," she finished when Liz's eyes widened further. "The point is—"

"The point is we got him interested," Michael broke in impatiently. "So Valenti started after you, and we followed him. Your turn. What did Nasedo say?"

"Yeah, why'd he take you?" Isabel demanded.

Liz's eyes swung to Tess. "I swear to God with my eyes wide open, I did not know anything about this," Tess said, answering her unspoken question. "I'm not aware of him ever doing anything like this before, and I don't know why he did it now. The only thing I figured out was the grand plan, to suck Pierce in and kill him."

Liz blinked. "Yes! I mean, yes, that's what he was trying to do. He said he was the 'bait', and that he was 'drawing Pierce to him'."

"You were right," Michael murmured.

Of course I was, Tess thought. "So did he tell you why he took you?" Tess ploughed on, as puzzled about this as everyone else. "What did he say?"

"He said...he said I was his 'collateral'," Liz answered. "He said Pierce knew what Max did to me at the Crashdown, and he wanted me alive. He said I could come in handy for his survival."

"Jesus," Michael muttered.

"That's sick," Isabel said faintly.

That's cold, Tess added, very cold. But that was also Nasedo—cold, practical, ruthless. "Liz, I'm really sorry he did that to you," she said out loud, figuring this wasn't the best time to note that Nasedo could be a ruthless bastard. "I mean, I get the whole thing about him being the bait, but I don't get the part about dragging you into it."

"Isn't it obvious?" Michael demanded. "He was posing as Max, and if things went bad, he wanted to trade Liz for himself."

"Things did go bad," Tess reminded him. "How did they go bad, Liz? What happened?"

Liz's hands worked in her lap. "I got away from him," she said, staring at her hands. "At the carnival, I mean, when he was sending up that light—"

"We saw it," Isabel whispered.

"Yeah. So, I ran into a the fun house where they had all these mirrors," Liz went on. "I ran in there to get away from Nasedo, but than I found Max! The real Max, I mean. But there was glass between us, and he told me to get out of there, and I told him I wouldn't go without him. And then these two guys in suits showed up behind him, and Max ran away...and then he showed up just a minute later and said he had to get me out of there...and when we left, we saw the guys in suits grabbing someone who looked like Max, and I thought...I thought..."

"You thought you were with the real Max," Tess said softly. "But you were with Nasedo."

Isabel's hand crept into Liz's lap, and Liz took it as she nodded, squeezing hard as her face contorted. "He pulled me out, and I kissed him, and...and I knew. I knew it wasn't Max. And then he...changed...into a clown, this really weird looking clown."

"Always hated clowns," Isabel muttered.

"The clown," Tess said suddenly, grateful for a distraction from the awful notion of kissing Nasedo. "That clown...I saw him!"

"You did?" Michael demanded. "Where? When?"

"When we'd split up to look for Max," Tess answered. "There was this clown I kept passing, and he kept glaring at me, and pushing away all the kids who were trying to get him to make balloon animals and whatnot—"

"Great," Isabel said dryly. "Scarred for life."

"That's why I passed him so many times," Tess said, putting it all together. "He was going around in circles just like we were."

"Not exactly a comforting thought," Michael noted.

"Like hell it isn't," Tess retorted. "That means he's free, Michael. Nasedo is free. They didn't get both of them, and they easily could have because Nasedo looked like Max. Nasedo will get him back."

"He said that," Liz nodded. "He said, 'And now I have to get him back'."

"And he will," Tess promised. "He won't stop until he gets Max back."

They passed the town line, whizzing by the signs, one of which cheerily—and ironically—welcomed them to Roswell, "home of the aliens". "Say it," Michael said suddenly, looking at Tess.

"Say what?" Tess asked.

"Say we screwed up," Michael answered. "Say we ruined Nasedo's grand plan by stumbling in there and giving them two Max's to pick from. Say you were right about staying away."

"Fine, so I was right," Tess said. "So what? What good is being 'right' if they've got Max?"

"The only reason we were there at all is because Nasedo took Liz," Isabel argued. "If he hadn't done that, we wouldn't have been there. We wouldn't have even known what he was doing."

"I agree," Tess said helplessly. "It was a dumb thing to do, and I still don't know why he did it."

Liz shook her head slowly. "I told him. I told him Max would come for me. And he said, 'Why would he do that'? And I said, because Max cared about me. He acted like he had no idea what I was talking about."

"Because he didn't," Tess said. "Nasedo only cares about me, Max, Isabel, and Michael."

"I know," Liz answered. "He said, 'All I care about is protecting them. No one else matters'."

"Unbelievable," Isabel muttered.

"Believe it," Tess advised. "And be grateful for it. That singular focus is what will get Max back."

"Yeah, well, that 'singular focus' is also what got him captured," Michael pointed out. "Liz warned him, and he didn't get it. We do care about someone besides ourselves, and Nasedo better remember that the next time he decides to run off with one of our friends." He pulled up beside a stop sign. "Where to?"

"My house," Tess said without hesitation. "Let's see if Nasedo is there."

"Maybe he has Max back already?" Liz said hopefully.

This cheered everyone but Tess, who knew the Unit wasn't that easy to sidestep, but she held her tongue as Michael drove faster, arriving at her house in record time. Everyone piled out and piled in, but it was dark and, most depressingly, empty.

"It means nothing," Tess assured them. "Keep in mind this is the Special Unit we're talking about. He'll get Max back, but it won't be easy."

"And...what will they do to him in the meantime?" Isabel asked in a brittle voice.

"They won't hurt him," Tess said soothingly. "Pierce doesn't want to kill him, he wants to study him."

"Yeah, well, forgive me if that's not exactly reassuring," Isabel said dejectedly.

"So what now?" Michael said, frustration evident in his voice.

"Now's the hard part," Tess admitted. "Now we wait. Nasedo's never left me alone for long. He'll turn up soon."

Isabel turned anguished eyes on all of them. "I can't go home," she said, close to tears. "Not without Max. I couldn't look my parents in the face."

"Then stay here," Tess urged. "In fact, why don't we all stay here? Then we'll all be here when Nasedo gets back."

That thought seemed to have the opposite effect than the one intended as Liz looked alarmed, Isabel looked vaguely ill, and Michael looked away. "Look...nothing personal," Isabel said, "but...I mean, I know you're not the one who took Liz, but..."

"But you'd rather not be here when he gets back," Tess finished. "I get it. Who should I call when he gets here?"

Michael raised a hand. "Me. Iz, you can stay at my place. You too, Liz."

Liz shook her head. "No. No, thanks, I'll...I want to go home. For awhile there, I wasn't sure I'd ever see it again."

Tess winced as furtive glances swung her way. "Okay, then, I'll...let you know as soon as I hear something."

"Anything," Isabel clarified. "Anything at all."

"Anything at all," Tess promised.

They left. Tess leaned against the front door, watching as the jeep drove off. She wasn't the one who'd dragged Liz off, but she was being blamed for it. Guilt by association. Then she turned around to face a dark, empty house, the possibility of Nasedo being captured and her being alone for the rest of her life, and the reality that the Unit had Max. Sliding down to the floor, she looped her arms around her knees and shivered. Probably best not to turn the lights on.

Probably best not to let on anyone was home.




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





Eagle Rock Military Base




Yvonne stared silently at the three agents who had entered her room, one hand on her cane, the other on the edge of the bed. The one on the left was Samuels; the one on the right was unfamiliar, but at least it wasn't Brivari. The one in the middle, however, needed no introduction. Recognizable in the hall even from an angle, he was even more so here, a slightly younger version of the cruel, intelligent man who had held her almost as captive as Jaddo and treated her just as badly. To find herself at the mercy of her captor's son in the same place his father had held sway was bitterly ironic and more than little unsettling, as was the fact that they now had not a Warder, but a hybrid, and this time there were no spare sets ready to hand.

"Lieutenant White," Pierce repeated when she didn't say anything, "I'm glad to see I didn't wake you. I believe you've met Agent Samuels. This is Agent Morgan. And I am..." He hesitated, as though waiting for her to complete his sentence. "I'm Agent Pierce," he finished, watching her closely. "Daniel Pierce." He paused again. "My agents told me you knew of me. You've had them in a quite a state today wondering how."

Yvonne said nothing, having not yet decided how best to play this in light of recent events. Her earlier jousting with Samuels may not have been the best course of action. It was one thing to cross swords when hybrids and Warders were free, quite another to do so with a hybrid captured and a Warder nearly so. Her tipping them off that someone knew of their clandestine unit may have sent them into a panic, making them bolder than they might have been otherwise. At this point, it would seem silence was her best option.

Pierce, for his part, seemed puzzled by that silence, glancing at Samuels, who looked nonplussed. "I apologize for the late hour," Pierce continued, "but these things don't happen on schedule. Would you mind if I pull up a chair?"

More silence. Yvonne continued to look at each agent in turn, while each agent in turn looked at each other, no doubt wondering if she had all her marbles. She could certainly play that card, but that would limit her ability to help Max if they didn't trust a word she said.

"Lieutenant," Pierce said softly, lowering himself into the aforementioned chair, "can you hear me? Do you understand what I'm saying?"

In the silence which followed, Pierce looked at Samuels, who had flushed. "She was hearing just fine this morning," he protested, glaring at her. "Talking fine too."

"Sir," Morgan whispered, bending down to whisper in Pierce's ear. "If I may...I have some experience with this with my grandmother. It's called 'sundowning', when an elderly person kind of loses it later in the day. Happened to her all the time."

Pierce frowned. "Really? Crap," he muttered under his breath, pondering this bad news for a moment as Yvonne waited, still weighing how to proceed. Finally he scooched his chair closer, leaning forward in earnest.

"Lieutenant, listen to me," he said intently. "I need you. Your country needs you. We need you now like we never have before, so much so that we're willing to commute any charges that would arise from your previous behavior. You..." He paused, at a loss for words. "How do I convey how important you are? You are my link to my father, the only person I've met who knew him well. You worked with him for three years, and I desperately need what you know. He left me notes, reams of notes, but I'm not a scientist—I can't make heads or tails of most of them, and I'm unwilling to hand them over to just anyone. But you...you were there when he was writing them. I don't know if you know this, but he had the utmost respect for you. You I would entrust with his notes. Please tell me you're in there somewhere, that you know what I'm saying."

Utmost respect? Yvonne thought darkly. Is that what you called psychological warfare, rape, and the myriad other things Pierce Sr. was guilty of? But then this was his son, and raised by Major Lewis, no less, Pierce's rival and just as bad, if not worse; their definition of "respect" involved things like "wonderful test subject". "Subject #1" is what Pierce had called her in those much vaunted notes of his, an appellation which chilled her to this day.

"I don't think she understands, sir," Morgan noted helpfully.

"I think she's faking," Samuels muttered.

"Maybe we pushed her over the edge," Morgan suggested. "You talked to her early this morning, not after she'd been locked up all day."

"Is there any way of reversing this 'sundowning'?" Pierce asked. "Any way to get her to snap out of it?"

Morgan shrugged. "My grandmother did once. I'd pulled out a photo album, and she started chattering when she saw one of the pictures."

"She's faking," Samuels insisted. "The woman I met earlier was perfectly capable of it."

"They do say the elderly recall events from long ago better than recent events," Morgan continued, ignoring him. "Maybe that's what the picture did."

"Really?" Pierce murmured, eyeing her with a look Yvonne distinctly disliked. "Well, then...I have just the thing to show her."



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


Having now hit summer, we're running into vacation season. I have several trips planned, only 1 of them long (back to see my son in New Zealand!). I'll always tell you when I'm coming back. The first trip is next weekend, so I'll post Chapter 118 on Sunday, June 30.
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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