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

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Kathy W
Obsessed Roswellian
Posts: 684
Joined: Thu Oct 31, 2002 5:06 am

Chapter 118

Postby Kathy W » Sun Jun 30, 2013 8:16 pm

^ Thank you both for the feedback! There are a couple more chapters before I head down under.



CHAPTER ONE HUNDRED EIGHTEEN




May 13, 2000, 12:45 a.m.

Eagle Rock Military Base






"Samuels," Pierce ordered briskly, "fetch a wheelchair."

Agent Samuels blinked. "A wheelchair?"

"Yes, a wheelchair. You know, a chair with wheels? If the Lieutenant needs a picture to jog her memory, what better picture than the one downstairs? Go on," Pierce ordered when Samuels didn't move. "I haven't got all night."

A wheelchair appeared and they set off down the long main hallway with Yvonne wondering if they planned to bump her down the stairs. But the refit of the compound had apparently included an elevator which hadn't been there in her day. It was carved into a wall where it shouldn't be, and as it opened near the basement stairwell, she felt the hair on her arms beginning to rise. She'd last been here with Stephen a good ten years ago right after the hybrids emerged, and the place had been a wreck. The decorating committee had been hard at work down here, harder than upstairs, which had received a more utilitarian facelift. They passed the corridor with Pierce's lab, the one which held her old room, and came at last to the one which had housed Jaddo's cell. But they walled that up, she thought as they rounded the corner. Had Pierce found it?

He had. Pierce wheeled her into the observation room, the window occupying one entire wall made of microperforations which had been cutting edge at the time. Major Lewis had been so fond of that room, so proud of it. And he'd be proud of it now if he could see it because the room was once again occupied by a lone figure, this time in a leather jacket and jeans, frantically pounding on the featureless white walls. Good Lord, Yvonne thought despairingly. This was worse than seeing Jaddo in there. Jaddo was a Warder; Max was just a boy.

"Do you remember this, Lieutenant?" Pierce asked eagerly as the agent stationed in the room looked her up and down. "You used to work here. There was an alien prisoner in that cell just like there is now. Do you remember?"

Yvonne stared fixedly ahead as Max thumped by, banging on what looked like a wall to him, the window invisible from his side. It was just a cube in there, just a white box, featureless, even the door hidden. So different from Jaddo's first cell where he'd been allowed furniture, books, clothing, the accoutrements of human civilization. Lewis and Pierce had stripped him of everything human by arguing that he wasn't human.

"Lieutenant, what do I do?" Pierce pressed. "What did my father do? What was the first thing my father did after he found his prisoner? Jesus Christ," he muttered when Yvonne didn't answer. "Where's Dr. March? I told you to call everyone in."

"I did," Samuels answered. "He couldn't leave right away, not without attracting attention. He'll be here tomorrow morning."

"Tomorrow morning?" Pierce echoed in exasperation. "What the hell am I supposed to do with it until then?"

It. Yvonne's hands clenched on the arms of her wheelchair. Cavitt had always referred to Jaddo as "it", and so had Lewis; Pierce had taken a more nuanced approach although he certainly felt the same way. It was an ugly word which betrayed an ugly mindset, especially when applied to a child who had no idea what was going on. History was repeating itself in so many awful ways, she was losing count.

"What's with the Q-tip?" the observation room agent murmured to Agent Morgan, looking sideways at Yvonne as Pierce and Samuels argued.

"Addled," Morgan said in a bored tone. "But she worked with his father, and you know how he gets about his father."

"Can't think straight," the other agent agreed.

"...but his team is here, and they're ready to start the tests," Samuels was saying. "Just say the word. Just give the word," he insisted as Pierce continued huffing. "March doesn't have to be here, he sent detailed instructions on how to proceed..."

I'll bet he did, Yvonne thought darkly. Whoever this "Dr. March" was, he probably viewed this as no more than experimenting on a mouse. It was downright nauseating to think of what he might have dreamed up from his hospital office or academic cubbyhole. Time to enter the fray and put what she'd learned to good use.

"Sleep."

It was only a single word, but it brought conversation in the observation room to an abrupt halt. Four pairs of eyes stared at her, two with surprise, one with suspicion...and one with hope.

"Lieutenant?" Pierce said. "Did you say something?"

Yvonne kept her eyes focused on the window. "Sleep," she repeated. "He needs sleep."

" 'He'?" Samuels said skeptically. "Do we even know if it's a 'he' or a 'she'? How do we know—"

"No, no, I read about this," Pierce broke in. "My father wrote that Lieutenant White insisted on referring to the prisoner as 'he' even when everyone else used 'it'. My father started calling it 'him' to humor her."

"Right, because this is all about humoring her," Samuels said in disgust. "We captured an alien, Danny! And now some fossil wants us to tuck it in and read it a bedtime story? Why are you even trying to talk to her? We know she's a sympathizer. Why would we listen to a word she says?"

"Because my father had the utmost respect for her," Pierce retorted. "Because she was there for the last one from beginning to end. And did I mention my father had the utmost respect for her?"

"Your father isn't here," Samuels shot back. "We're here, and we're running out of time. Someone knows about us, and we can't afford to wait until morning."

"You look like him," Yvonne said.

Samuels rolled his eyes as Pierce's head swung around. "I do?" he whispered.

"So much like him," Yvonne said. "Just like him."

"You aren't actually buying this, are you?" Samuels objected when Pierce knelt beside her as though before an altar. "Can't you see she's playing you?"

"Or she's coming back," Morgan interjected. "Like my grandmother did. I told you she—"

"Oh, will you shut up about your fucking grandmother!" Samuels snapped. "You can't come back if you've never left! She's—"

"Quiet!" Pierce ordered, silencing Samuels, who grunted in frustration. "Lieutenant," he said to her, taking her hand as she braced herself not to flinch, "tell me...what did my father do? What would my father do?"

"Let him sleep," Yvonne said, patting Pierce's hand like a grandmother. "He's no good without sleep."

"Is that what my father did?" Pierce pressed.

Yvonne nodded. "Yes. Can't tell you anything without sleep."

"Oh, for Christ's sake," Samuels began.

"No, it makes sense," Pierce said, sounding suddenly confident. "We want information, reliable information, and we're unlikely to get it while it's frantic. Let it sleep."

" 'Him'," Yvonne said firmly. "Let him sleep."

A phone rang; Agent Morgan answered it. "They want to know when you'd like to start the tests," he reported.

Pierce gazed through the observation room window where Max was still frantically circling. "Tomorrow morning," he answered. "Let him get some sleep."

"Yes, sir, Agent Pierce," Morgan answered.

"So you're just going to give her everything she wants?" Samuels said furiously. "Tuck it in, call it 'him', wait for hours we don't have?"

"My father was brilliant, Brian," Pierce said. "If it was good enough for him, it's good enough for me. If she was good enough for him, she's good enough for me."

"Danny—"

"Take the Lieutenant to her room," Pierce interrupted. "Morgan, you do it," he clarified as Samuels reddened. "Take her to her old room, the one with the bathroom attached. Make sure she's comfortable; get her anything she needs. Stay outside the door in case she needs something during the night."

"Yes, sir," Agent Morgan answered.

Pierce smiled at her as Morgan wheeled her away, and Yvonne managed to conjure a return smile. She'd bought Max some time, precious time for Brivari to sabotage from the inside, for Jaddo to get in from the outside. It wasn't much, but it would have to do for the moment.

The last thing she saw as she was wheeled into the hallway was Max slumping to the floor with his head on his knees.




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




Proctor residence




Dee jerked awake, startled by the sound of someone crashing around downstairs. Her first thought, ironically, was not of who had invaded her home, but one of surprise that she'd managed to fall asleep at all given how much she'd been fretting after her aborted phone call with Isabel. As for the invader, their identity didn't much matter; whoever it was had picked the worst possible time to mess with her. She retrieved the baseball bat from the closet, stashed there years ago by her parents after a rash of break-ins in the neighborhood, and crept down the stairs.

She needn't have bothered with the creeping. The lights were on, and her visitor wasn't making even the slightest effort to be quiet. Puzzled, she walked slowly toward the dining room to find Jaddo busily deconstructing a radio which had sat on the dining room sideboard ever since she could remember.

"What in the name of God are you doing?" Dee demanded.

"Making a tracking device," Jaddo answered without looking up. "Are you going to use that?"

It took her a moment to realize he was referring to the bat. "Depends," she said warily, lowering it. "What happened?"

"What happened is that I need a tracking device."

"But why do you need a tracking device—"

"Are you going to help me, or are you going to slow me down? Because, trust me, it's in everyone's best interests to do the former, not the latter."

Dee's lips set in a thin line; whatever the answer to her question, it obviously wasn't a good one. "What do you need?" she asked tersely.

"Technology," Jaddo answered, waving at the radio in pieces. "For parts."

"But what kind of technology?" Dee persisted. "Do you want—"

"Any kind," Jaddo interrupted. "All kinds. It's all the same on this planet, all incredibly primitive, which fortunately makes it incredibly hackable. Get me anything that plugs in or takes a battery."

" 'Anything'?" Dee repeated.

"Yes, anything," Jaddo said impatiently. "I said 'anything', didn't I?"

Without another word, Dee went into the kitchen, returned to the dining room, and slapped the electric can opener on the dining room table. "Will this do?"

Jaddo gave her what must be the Antarian equivalent of the evil eye. "I'd prefer something with a circuit board," he said, sounding pained. "Or at least some transistors."

"Oh, so, not just 'anything'? Because Anthony's got an electric nose hair trimmer upstairs that's only gently used. And I've got an eyelash curler, ghastly looking thing, but it plugs in—"

"Radios," Jaddo interrupted. "Telephones. Televisions. Calculators, GPS's—"

"Computers?" Dee suggested. "Laptops?"

"No," Jaddo said. "Believe it or not, they might actually trace that."

"So there's 'primitive' and there's 'primitive'," Dee said with mock gravity as Jaddo rolled his eyes. "Let me see if I can come up with just the right level of 'primitive'. Oh, and when you're done," she added, fixing him with a gimlit eye, "you're going to spill, or I'll invite Pierce for dinner and serve you as the main course."

Jaddo looked daggers at her, but she ignored him and set about rounding up all the gadgets she could find which fit the current description of 'primitive'. She must have gotten the equation right because each one set upon the dining room table was dismantled and stripped of its parts, which were promptly repurposed in the oddest looking contraption Dee had seen yet. It was like a living, breathing version of a scene from E.T., only with a large, grumpy alien instead of the small, cute variety. This one better have a happy ending, she thought darkly as she waited with growing impatience for an explanation. Finally Jaddo pulled out his cellphone, hooked it to his creation with what looked like a charging cable, and stared at the screen for a very long time.

"What exactly are you doing?" Dee asked, unable to contain herself any longer.

"Pinging a signal off cell phone towers and satellites," Jaddo answered. "Hush." She did, albeit with difficulty, until he leaned back with a sigh, wearing a very pensive expression.

"Well?" Dee pressed.

"Well," Jaddo replied, tapping the phone, "the good news is I found him."

"Him?"

"Brivari. I haven't been able to reach him for hours now. The bad news is, he's in the compound."

"But...shouldn't he be? I mean, one of you should be because I assume that's where they took Yvonne."

"And that's why he went there," Jaddo agreed. "But he's still there, and it's locked down tight now. He's trapped." He paused. "Which could be good."

" 'Good'?" Dee repeated in astonishment. "How is that 'good'?"

"He's on the inside, I'm on the outside," Jaddo replied. "Which will make it much easier to get him out."

"You're not making any sense," Dee said peevishly. "How does his being on the inside make it easier to get him out? Don't you mean 'her'?"

The expression on his face this time sent chills down her spine. "What happened?" Dee demanded. "And don't you dare put me off, or I'll reconsider that bat."

Jaddo cocked an eyebrow. "Seriously?"

"Answer me!"

Jaddo dropped the phone on the table in frustration and laced his fingers together. "Pierce has Zan."

The silence which followed was complete, total, paralyzing. Nothing moved, no one spoke. Dee's chest constricted as Jaddo kept his eyes on the table as though unwilling to look at her.

"Did you just tell me," she said slowly, "that Pierce has my grandson?"

Jaddo's eyes remained on the table. "Yes."

Slowly, Dee lowered herself into a chair, no longer certain of her legs. Even worse than the answer was the fact that he wasn't arguing with her, wasn't telling her that Max really wasn't her grandson like he always did. "How?" she whispered.

"It wasn't supposed to happen like this," Jaddo insisted. "I never intended—"

"Of course it wasn't supposed to 'happen like this'!" Dee interrupted in exasperation. "Get to the part where it happened anyway!"

Jaddo was quiet for a moment. "When you called and told us the Healer had been taken, Brivari and I split up: He went after the Healer, while I implemented a plan we had talked about earlier, namely to lead Pierce into a trap and remove him from the equation."

"You mean kill him," Dee clarified. "Lead him how, exactly?"

"I took Zan's shape. He wanted Zan, so he followed me."

"You took Max's shape?" Dee said in disbelief. "That's disturbing on so many levels, I don't know where to start, so let's not. What happened?"

"What happened is that Pierce wasn't the only one following the trail. Zan followed it too; they all did, even Ava. Pierce grabbed him instead of me."

"Wait...Max?" Dee said, puzzled. "Why would he follow a trail you left for Pierce? They couldn't be out Nasedo-hunting; they'd already found you."

"No, they were out Parker girl hunting," Jaddo said in disgust.

"Liz? What was she doing there?"

"She was there because I brought her there," Jaddo answered.

Dee's eyes widened. "You 'brought'...brought her where? Why? Wait," she commanded suddenly, a horrible thought occurring to her. "Do you mean to tell me that you fooled her into coming with you by impersonating Max?"

Jaddo snorted softly. "You don't really think she would have come any other way, do you? He figured out what happened sooner than I anticipated, but I never expected him to follow her. Why in blazes would he do that?"

Dee gaped at him in stunned silence, at a loss for words. "And then he showed up, and there were two of him," Jaddo continued sourly. "Pierce grabbed the wrong one. Or the right one, if you look at it from his perspective. I had him—I had him—and Zan blundered right in there over a female. Can you believe it? He got himself captured over a female! What a waste of—"

The hand Dee slammed down on the dining room table to silence him did its job, cutting off the flow of invective mid-sentence. "You blithering idiot!" she exclaimed, at a loss for words no longer. "I know you're socially challenged, but this one takes the cake! Why would he follow her? Good Lord, why wouldn't he? He's in love with her, you moron! Of course he followed her, especially when the big bad murderer, Nasedo, threw her over his shoulder and carried her off! What did you expect him to do? Sit by and wait to see what happened?"

"I expected he wouldn't know about it until it was all over," Jaddo retorted, "when Pierce would be safely dead and his shadow Unit unveiled. No doubt she'd tell him some tale of woe, but it would be irrelevant because they'd be safe. Instead he comes riding in on his charger to rescue the princess who isn't a princess while his queen blunders around trying to find him, putting herself in as much danger as he was—"

"As you put her in," Dee interrupted hotly. "You did this. You orchestrated this entire mess, and for what? What was the point in dragging Liz Parker along?"

"She was my insurance policy," Jaddo argued. "If something went wrong, Pierce would be interested in her too."

"I don't believe I'm hearing this!" Dee said furiously. "You'd throw her to the wolves, just like that? Like you wanted to throw me to the wolves years ago, wanted to let me die because that was more convenient? You honestly don't care about anyone, do you? Not anyone!"

Jaddo's expression darkened dangerously. "How dare you?" he ground out with barely controlled rage. "How dare you accuse me of not caring? I care about him. I care about them. They're all I care about, all I think about every waking minute of every interminable day on this Godforsaken rock. I will do whatever it takes, sacrifice whomever it takes, to keep them safe. It's my job, Deanna. It's my reason for being. No one is more important than they are, no one. I will get them home and the king back on his throne, or die trying."

"Well, congratulations, you're doing a bang up job," Dee said sarcastically. "You went to remove an enemy and wound up getting your king captured. A+! Gold medal! And bonus points for putting an ally in harm's way for no reason at all!"

"There was a reason," Jaddo protested. "Zan wasn't supposed to be anywhere near us, remember? He wasn't part of the equation because he wasn't even supposed to know about it until it was all over. The Parker girl was a consolation prize for Pierce if, and only if, one was needed. She's always blathering on about 'loving him' so much, I would think she'd have no objection to playing a part in removing his deadliest enemy."

"What in the name of God are you talking about?" Dee demanded. "What possible part could she have to play? I don't believe this!"

"Believe it," Jaddo shot back. "Better her than him. Better..." He paused, his jaw tightening. "Better her than me."

Silence. Dee stared at him, putting it all together for the first time. Zan wasn't supposed to be anywhere near us... So if anything went wrong, it wouldn't have been Max who would have been captured, it would have been...Jaddo. Jaddo, who had already been captive at the hands of a Pierce, who had already spent three years as a "guest" of the U.S. military. If anything went wrong he wanted an escape route, a bone to distract the hounds. Liz Parker would have been that bone, and if he'd had to toss it, he would have.

"Brivari said he'd get me out," Jaddo said, his voice tight. "He promised that if they managed to capture me, it wouldn't be three years this time. But that's a promise he can't keep. I'm not going back in there. Not again."

The doorbell rang. Dee arrived at the door just as Anthony came down the stairs. "Did I hear shouting?" he asked, tying his bathrobe. "And who's at the door—"

He stopped short as Dee opened it; Michael and Isabel stood on the front porch, the latter in tears. "Grandma," she whispered, clutching Dee as though she were a life raft.

"We've got some...stuff...going on," Michael said awkwardly. "She doesn't want to go home, and I told her she could stay with me, but..."

"Stop right there," Dee said, holding a shaking Isabel. "Come in, both of you. You too," she said firmly to Michael. "Whatever it is, you shouldn't be alone either."

Michael hesitated for only a second before capitulating, a testament to just how bad things were. "Anthony, would you take over, please?" Dee said. "They'll be spending the night. I'll put some coffee on. Later," she added when he gave her a what-in-blazes-is-going-on look. "I'll be back in a few minutes."

She left Anthony settling a shaking Isabel on the couch and marched grimly into the kitchen. Jaddo was there, in the dark, silhouetted against the little window over the sink, his back to her. He didn't turn around when she came in.

"I know you were caught off guard when they grabbed Yvonne," Dee began. "I know you had to improvise. I also know what you risked by making yourself the bait. While you were in there for three years, I was out here watching everyone trying to get you out. It wasn't easy then, and it would be a lot harder now. I get it." She paused. "But you screwed up, Jaddo," she went on when he didn't say anything. "If you want to protect him, you have to realize how he thinks even if you don't share those thoughts. You took someone he loved and put them in harm's way, so of course he tried to stop that. Any king worth his salt would. And you risked an ally, something I know you're not supposed to do, and it wasn't all about not wanting to be captured. Look me in the eye and tell me you wouldn't have been glad to get rid of her. Look me in the eye and tell me that it wouldn't be one hell of a lot more convenient to get him and Tess together if Liz were out of the way."

She paused again, but Jaddo remained motionless in the dark kitchen, a mere shape against the window. "Make no mistake about it—you did this," Dee went on firmly. "This was your mistake. Max wouldn't have been anywhere near you if you hadn't taken Liz, something I'm sure you'll have to answer for when you get him out. And you haven't done yourself any favors because you're going to have to do the one thing you were most afraid of—go back inside the compound. That's where he is, so that's where you'll have to go. Even with Brivari inside, you'll both have to work your tails off to get him out. This isn't 1947; I doubt they'll be doing the 'question/answer' bit these days or using anything as primitive as a shoe fitter. You not only got him captured, you put yourself in more danger than you were before. This is a total FUBAR all the way around. 'Fucked Up Beyond All Recognition'," she clarified when his head moved slightly. "This has to qualify as the all time definition for that acronym."

Sounds of sobbing came from the living room, followed by soothing male voices. "Now, get out of here," Dee said roughly. "Don't come back until you've got my grandson, alive and well. And Jaddo? If you don't get him, don't come back at all. If you don't fix this...we're through."

There was a brief pause before the shape in front of the window simply melted away.




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




Eagle Rock Military Base




"So what's the word?" Agent Rooney asked. "Are they aliens, or not?"

Agent Morgan shrugged as he helped himself to a cup of coffee in the makeshift break room. "Looks like a kid and an old lady to me, but what do I know? Supposedly they can look like anybody, so..." He paused, cocking an ear toward the door. "Well, whatdya know," he said with a smile. "There's trouble in paradise. Again."

"What are they arguing about now?" Rooney asked, glancing down the hall to where Samuels and Pierce were engaged in a hot debate.

"Cliff's Notes version? Pierce trusts Grandma, Samuels doesn't," Morgan answered. "The old lady was pretty out of it tonight. Samuels thinks she's faking."

"Could be," Rooney said doubtfully. "But my grandmother used to do the same thing. She'd be fine during the day, then kind of lose it at night."

"Same with mine," Morgan agreed. "This one perked up once we brought her downstairs, but Samuels wasn't buying it. Grandma told Pierce to lay off the prisoner until tomorrow morning, and he agreed, which pissed off Samuels. He thinks we're about to be boarded."

"Seems unlikely. If someone knew we were here, wouldn't they have been here by now?"

Two heads turned toward Brivari, who had been listening to this conversation in the guise of Agent Emerson. "Good point," Morgan allowed. "Can't wait to see the rest of the fireworks. I've got old lady duty, so I'm front and center. What about you, Rooney?"

"I've got scanner duty," Rooney said glumly. "Samuels wants a doorman in case anyone shows up who shouldn't."

"I'll switch with you," Brivari offered.

Rooney's eyes widened. "Really? Gee, thanks, man! I hate to miss the show."

"It's only fair," Morgan noted. "Emerson's the newbie."

Another tidbit, Brivari thought as Morgan and Rooney hurried away, eager to watch the conflict. The Healer had been right—impersonating someone for any length of time was dangerous business, and this time was more dangerous than most given the dearth of information on the human whose shape he'd taken. Usually one had sources like the human's dwelling, their vehicle, personnel records, something. But hidden as they were in a place where they weren't supposed to be, there was nothing here to tell him thing one about Agent Emerson save for what he could glean from the conversation of others. It was fortunate that Emerson was "the newbie", meaning that few knew him well, and that he'd managed to score a position away from the pack where he was likely to encounter few or no others. It was unlikely anyone else would be coming in tonight. Let's hope so, he thought grimly as he approached the barrier. Far too many had already come in. The gate loomed before him, reinforced with depleted uranium and linked to a scanner far more sophisticated than the shoe fitters of old. Though still primitive by Antarian standards, it remained an obstacle which was impenetrable without setting off a host of alarms, while blowing a hole through the compound's walls would cause too much noise and attract far too much attention. Just like last time, Brivari thought bitterly. Human technology may be primitive, but it was annoyingly effective.

*Brivari? Are you alone?*

Brivari glanced quickly around, but no one was nearby. *Yes. Where are you?*

Jaddo stepped from the shadows on the other side of the barrier. "It's easy to get this far," he reported. "There's no one outside."

"Because they're all in here arguing over their toy," Brivari said darkly. "What the hell happened?"

Jaddo sighed and leaned against the gate. "I attempted to lure Pierce out by showing him the one thing he wanted most—Zan. And then Zan showed up. Pierce grabbed him instead of me, and...here we are. You?"

"I had to wait for a break in security to get past this," Brivari answered, eyeing the bars between them. "I was on my way out with the Healer when they brought Zan in. She insisted on staying to do what she could."

"Of course she did," Jaddo said quietly. "How is the king?"

"Unmolested, for the moment. The Healer bought them both some time by convincing Pierce to wait until morning. He's apparently enamored of his 'father's nurse' to the point where he listened, although that's causing dissension in the ranks."

"Clever girl," Jaddo murmured.

"Hardly a girl at this point," Brivari noted.

"I know," Jaddo allowed. "But she was. The last time we were here, she was so young..." He paused, his eyes on the ground. "I'm sorry about this, Brivari. It wasn't supposed to happen this way."

"Really?" Brivari said dryly. "And here I thought this was just another ploy to get Rath on the throne. Kidding," he clarified when Jaddo's eyes flashed. "I'm on the wrong side of the gate, so I get to kid if I want to."

They stared at each other for a moment before Jaddo looked away, the years he'd spent here in captivity written on his face. "I see you're an agent now," he said, changing the subject.

"Agent 'Emerson'," Brivari said, brandishing his badge. "The Healer's jailer until he and I met. There's little information available about him, but on the plus side he's new, and everyone's busy with their prisoner. I might get out of this yet." He paused. "You're going to have to bring the hybrids into this, Jaddo. You know that, don't you?"

"And risk the rest of them being captured? Are you serious?"

"Dead serious," Brivari answered. "We're going to need all the help we can get to pull this one off. We've got two to rescue, and we need a human body to get past this scanner, which is armed on both sides now, by the way; I only had to get past it on the way in before, not the way out, and that took time. We don't have time."

"We'll have even less if we wind up with more hostages," Jaddo noted.

"It can't be helped," Brivari argued. "And why try? Ava showed them the book; they know who you are, or who you're posing as at the moment. Either bring them into it, or wait for them to blunder in on their own. You know as well as I do that Rath won't merely sit on his hands while his king is captive."

"Yes, well, 'blundering' is what they do best," Jaddo muttered.

"What do you mean?" Brivari asked. "Has something else happened?"

Jaddo shook his head. "No. Nothing, I...I just feel like I'm the one who got you both into this, so I'm the one who should get you out, without risking anyone else."

"You had no choice," Brivari said gently. "We had to do something, and that comes with risk. So does not doing something. It's just spectacularly bad luck. It happens."

Jaddo's eyes dropped. "Right. Well...I'll figure out how to get in here. You keep him alive until I do. And no three years this time. I promise."

"I certainly hope not," Brivari whispered. "Now get out of here before we both start getting sappy."

Jaddo's mouth twitched in the hint of a smile, but he backed away from the gate, never taking his eyes off him until he rounded a corner. Brivari watched him until he was out of sight before settling down beside the scanner, consoling himself that if one of them had to be trapped with the King, it was better it be him; there was no telling how Jaddo would react were he to find himself a captive in this place again. At least all of them were safe for the next several hours, or as safe as they could be under the circumstances. But Jaddo had better hurry.

Imagine Pierce's glee were he to discover he'd captured two aliens instead of one.



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


I'll post Chapter 119 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."

User avatar
Kathy W
Obsessed Roswellian
Posts: 684
Joined: Thu Oct 31, 2002 5:06 am

Chapter 119

Postby Kathy W » Sun Jul 07, 2013 5:10 pm

CHAPTER ONE HUNDRED NINETEEN




May 13, 2000, 6:30 a.m.

Proctor residence





The sun was just peeking through the curtains when Michael's eyes fluttered open. Flowered furniture, flowered wallpaper, an ancient telephone on the table, plaster ceilings...what the hell? This certainly wasn't his apartment...it was too clean, for one thing...but he couldn't for the life of him place where he was until he turned his head and saw who was watching him. Isabel was stretched out on yet another flowered sofa, wrapped in a fuzzy blue blanket, her eyes puffy, her hair spilling over one of those useless pillows which always came with sofas and served no purpose except to take up space. She was so still that, for a moment, he wondered if she was sleeping with her eyes open. But then she blinked.

"You're awake," Michael said.

She stirred slightly, stiffly. "So are you."

"You look like hell," Michael noted.

"Yeah, well, you're not exactly GQ-ready yourself," Isabel said dryly. "Especially with your mouth hanging open like that. What's the matter? Never seen a living room before?"

"I wasn't sure where I was," Michael said, pushing himself into a sitting position. "Just knew it wasn't my place."

Isabel smiled faintly. "No pizza boxes?"

Michael shook his head. "Beefaroni cans. Can't afford pizza. And the flowers. All the times I've been here, I never realized how much flowered stuff your grandmother has. She doesn't seem like the flowery type."

"She isn't," Isabel said. "This is all the original furniture, meaning my great-grandmother Emily bought it. That would have been back in...oh, maybe the '40's?"

"The '40's," Michael murmured. "So your great-grandparents were here for the crash?"

Isabel shrugged slightly. "I don't know. I guess so. I don't see them much."

Michael sat on the flowery couch and looked around the house with fresh eyes. It did have a rather World War II-ish look about it, from the grandfather clock in the front hall to the old-fashioned dial telephone to neat wainscoting. What would it have been like to live nearby when their ship had crashed? How did that song go...if these walls could speak... He looked toward the dining room, scanning the walls until he located the hole he'd once asked Grandma Dee about...

"What's that?"

"That, Michael, is a bullet hole."

"Really? You have a bullet hole in your wall?"

"I do indeed."

"How'd that get here?"

"My father put it there."

"So why'd your father shoot a gun in the dining room?"

"He was trying to bring down an alien."


"Isabel," Michael said slowly, sitting up further on the couch. "Do you think your grandmother...knows about us?"

" 'Course she knows about us," Isabel murmured sleepily, eyes half closed. "That's why we're here, isn't it?"

"No I mean, 'knows' about us, as in knows. Knows what we are. Knows where we came from."

Isabel's eyes flew open. "What?"

"I said—"

"I heard what you said," Isabel interrupted. "Where on earth did you get a ridiculous idea like that?"

"See that hole in the wall?" Michael said, pointing. "In the dining room, just right of the picture. I asked her about that once," he went on as Isabel craned her neck to look, "and she claimed it was a bullet hole. She said her father put it there when he was trying to bring down an alien."

Isabel stared at the bullet hole, merely a speck at this distance, before plopping her head back down on the pillow. "You have got to be kidding me," she groaned, one hand to her forehead. "God, Michael, don't you know a joke when you hear one?"

"See, I'm not so sure she was joking," Michael argued. "I thought so at the time...I even told her that was an alien story I hadn't heard yet...but now I'm wondering—"

"Well, stop," Isabel ordered harshly. "It's bad enough we have real bogeymen in the world; do you have to go dragging my grandmother into it? The one person I can lean on no matter what, and know she won't go to pieces?"

"That's just it," Michael said. "I was thinking it'd be great if she knew. She's probably the only adult in the world I'd trust."

Isabel was quiet for a moment, picking at the fuzz on the blue blanket. "No," she said finally. "I mean, yes, it would be great to have her know. Great for us, that is, but terribly unfair for her. She's old, Michael. How's she going to run from FBI agents and aliens? I'd feel terrible if anything about me put her or Grandpa in danger. Or Mom or Dad either, and if you utter one syllable, one, about them not being my real Mom and Dad, I swear to God I'll—"

"Truce," Michael called, holding up his hands in the shape of a "T". "That subject's off limits, for now at least. We have bigger problems."

"Yeah," she whispered. "We do."

They were both quiet for a moment, her staring at the ceiling, him staring into space. "So how long have you been awake?" Michael said finally, changing the subject.

Her eyes dropped. "All night."

"All night? You didn't sleep at all?"

"Don't think so. Not much anyway. How can I sleep with Max..."

Her voice trailed off, the sentence unfinished. With Max captured, Michael thought silently, Liz's distraught sobs sounding clearly in his head. "Didn't seem to bother you, though," Isabel went on. "You went out like a light."

"I'm no good to anybody if I'm exhausted," Michael said defensively. He checked his watch. "I've got a shift in less than an hour. You should come too."

Isabel blinked. "What, you're...you're going to work?"

"Sure I am. Why not?"

"Why not?" Isabel echoed incredulously. "Why not? Oh, I don't know, maybe because the FBI has my brother? Because we should be getting him back, not flipping pancakes and mixing up Alien Blasts?"

"We don't know how to get him back," Michael pointed out. "We don't even know where he is. We need Nasedo, remember? And until he shows, I'm going to do what I always do because walking in circles doing nothing won't help Max. And you should come with me because Liz will be there, and eventually everyone will be."

"But what do I tell Grandma and Grandpa?" Isabel objected. "They're going to come down and find both of us gone."

"We'll leave them a note," Michael said. "We'll tell them where we went. Besides, if we're all in one place, Nasedo will find us all at once, and we won't waste precious time rounding everyone up. You're of more use to Max at the Crashdown than here."

"We're no use to him any which way," Isabel said bitterly. "All we can do is wait. Guess it doesn't much matter where we're waiting."

"Then let's not wait," Michael said, pulling out his phone.

"Who are you calling?" Isabel asked.

Michael dialed, put the phone to his ear. "Who do you think?"





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




Harding residence




Tess Harding was running. A clown was chasing her, a grotesque thing with a wide red mouth and a flower hanging from its buttonhole which looked diseased. It ran surprisingly fast given its floppy shoes, gaining on her no matter how hard her feet pounded the pavement. Then the pavement disappeared, replaced by boggy mud which sucked her feet down, slowing her. The clown kept gaining, only now it was wearing a suit and dark glasses, an earpiece coiling from its floppy red wig down into the ratty looking flower. She ran faster, but it didn't help; the clown got closer, closer, closer until a huge, white-gloved, Mickey Mouse-style hand clamped on her shoulder, wrenched her backward. She screamed, flailed, kicking and thrashing with all her might...

...until her eyes flew open. She lay there, panting, trying to see, making out only dim shapes in the gloom. She was in a small, enclosed space, a thin rim of light showing beneath the only door she could see, her arms and legs bruised from thrashing against whatever was around her. For one horrible moment she thought she was captive, that the clown had finally caught up with her, and she kicked and flailed again only to stop when she realized she wasn't bound. Was she locked in? Reaching up a hand, she slowly tried the doorknob. It turned, the door opening a fraction, and she peeked out into...

...her kitchen?

And then memory, blessed memory, came flooding back, and she collapsed, exhausted, into the pile of boxes and boots she'd hidden behind in the little closet off the kitchen where she'd crawled in a fit of panic. It hadn't really hit her until Michael and the other had left last night, until she was all alone in the dark, empty house. At first she'd been okay because she'd been expecting Nasedo to show up any minute, but as the hours had dragged by with no sign of him, she'd become more and more paranoid. Being captured by the Special Unit was her absolute worst fear; human children's bogeymen came with fangs and scales, but hers wore suits and dark glasses. To have one of them captured by the Unit was a nightmare come to life, and the fact that it was Max and not her was no comfort; in some ways she would have preferred it had been her because she was probably more prepared to deal with whatever the Unit would dish out. Nasedo's failure to return was upsetting also; did that mean the Unit had him too? Was she all alone now? Did the Unit know about her? Were they coming for her? She'd stayed awake as long as she could, but when exhaustion finally loomed, she hadn't felt safe falling asleep in her room or anywhere out in the open. She'd spent a half hour booby trapping the house before climbing into the kitchen closet, concealed enough that there would be a delay in finding her, but with a straight shot to the back door if necessary. She'd huddled miserably awake for a long time before she'd apparently fallen asleep and had dreams vivid enough that she may as well have painted a giant red target on the cupboard door for all the noise she'd been making. Some hiding place.

Climbing stiffly to her feet, Tess stepped cautiously into the kitchen. Morning sunshine was pouring in, her ears detected no one nearby, and the various breakable objects she'd left beside windows and doors were untouched. Thank God, she thought, leaning against the wall with relief. Apparently the Unit didn't know about her, and...and Max didn't snitch, she added guiltily. She hated to admit it, but that had been part of her fear, that he'd give her up to the Unit. Not on purpose, of course, but the Unit allegedly had ways of making you talk...

A phone rang, startling Tess so fiercely that she nearly jumped out of her skin. Heart pounding, she went in search of, finding the handset in her purse, dumped unceremoniously in the living room upon her return from what was supposed to have been a happy occasion, she and Max returning the alien book to its library hiding place together. God, was that only yesterday? It seemed like a year ago. She didn't recognize the number, but it could still be Nasedo; he may be using a different phone. "Hello?" she said hopefully.

"It's Michael," a gruff voice answered. "Is Nasedo back yet?"

"Oh," Tess said, trying to keep the disappointment out of her voice. "Well...he must be, or he must have left a note. I'll look. Hang on."

Five minutes later, she stood in the living room, cold all over. Nasedo not only wasn't here, there was no evidence that he had been, not a "note" exactly, but subtle signals they'd worked out long ago to leave each other messages no one else could read. "Uh...Michael? He's not here."

"Well, then, where is he?" Michael demanded.

"I have no idea," Tess admitted. "He's never left me alone this long." She paused, swallowing hard. "I'm scared."

"Yeah, we all are," Michael agreed. "We're all scared for Max. Look, why don't you meet us at the Crashdown. I have a shift, and Isabel's coming with me. Then we'll all be in the same place when he gets back."

"Good idea," Tess said. "I'll be there."

The line went dead. Tess sank slowly into a chair, trying to stop the trembling. We're all scared for Max. No doubt, but that wasn't what she'd meant. She was scared because Nasedo wasn't back yet, because, be he ever so grumpy, he was all she had. Where was he? He should have at least have left her something, some kind of communication to let her know he was okay. Unless he wasn't, of course...

Stop it, she told herself fiercely. They didn't know that. They didn't know anything, which meant the answers could be anything. The best thing to do would be to go the Crashdown and wait with the rest of them, even if Michael's tone had been less than enthusiastic.

At this point, even grudging company would be better than none.





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





Crashdown Cafe





"Liz? Liz, honey, wake up."

Liz Parker jolted awake, blinking as her mother's face swam in front of her. "You were twitching something fierce," Nancy confided. "Must have been some dream."

It was, Liz thought, sinking back down with a groan. She'd been on the merry-go-round trying to escape Nasedo, and every time she'd jumped off she'd landed on yet another merry-go-round, with him on a horse right behind her, smirking while wearing Max's face, an image that was so wrong in so many ways, she didn't know where to start. How long had she been at this? Quite a while given that her legs were aching.

"Um," Nancy said uncertainly, "would you...like to tell me why you're sleeping on the balcony?"

Liz's eyes flew open. She was on the balcony, curled in a chair, which would account for the way her muscles were screaming. "Uh...I guess I just fell asleep out here," she answered.

"Really?" Nancy said skeptically, looking around. "Kind of chilly, don't you think?" She clasped her hands together, looked toward the bedroom. "When I first came in and you weren't in your room, I thought...I mean, just for a moment, but I thought—"

"I know," Liz broke in gently, reaching for her mother's hand. "I know what you thought, and I know why you thought that...and I won't do that ever again. I promise."

Nancy broke into a relieved smile. "Wow. That sounds like the old you. The one I could believe."

"Because it is," Liz said firmly. "I'm sorry, Mom. I'm really sorry I was gone the whole night and didn't tell you where I was. I was being a brat. It won't happen again."

Nancy squeezed her hand. "Thank you," she said in a husky voice which sounded suspiciously close to tears. "I have no idea what caused this, and I won't ask. I'm just glad it did."

You might not be if you knew what it was, Liz thought sadly as her mother kissed the top of her head and left. Having your life hanging by a thread pulled certain things into sharper perspective. Watching the love of your life captured by the FBI clarified one's priorities. She'd replayed that scene over and over, trying to recall it clearly, having not really filed it away because she'd thought it was Nasedo being captured, and hurray for that because he deserved it after what he'd done to her. But it hadn't been Nasedo, it had been Max, and after she'd returned home to her empty room, she'd taken a long hot shower to wash away the memory of having kissed...that...and promptly started to panic. What if Nasedo came back for her? He'd wanted to trade her for Max, or what the FBI would have thought was Max, so wouldn't he want to do the same now? She'd looked toward the window in terror before dashing back into the bathroom, pulling her hamper against the door and backing against the far wall, feeling exceptionally stupid. What, a hamper was going to stop a shapeshifter? And besides, did she really want to stop him? Trading her for Nasedo was no bargain, but trading her for Max...

Doing a complete 180, she'd pulled the hamper away, and gone out onto the balcony, looking around eagerly for what had scared the daylights out of her only 60 seconds ago. She would gladly trade herself for Max; she'd much rather it be her in the FBI's clutches. And just to make that clear, she'd settled down on the balcony, ripe for the taking, not wanting Nasedo inside her house or anywhere near her family. She may as well have hung out a sign saying, "Come Get Me!"...but she was still here, and Max, presumably, was still there. Because they got what they wanted, she thought bitterly. She had only ever been a distraction, a bone to throw while Nasedo got away. What the FBI really wanted was Max, and it had him. They wouldn't trade her for him if she showed up gift-wrapped.

A phone rang. Pulling herself stiffly to her feet, Liz padded inside and pulled out her cell. It had stopped ringing by the time she reached it, but the screen read Maria. There were voicemails, too, about eight of them. She'd called Maria last night just so she wouldn't worry, leaving a message at her home number instead of her cell because she just didn't want to talk about it and hoping against hope that the story would have changed by morning. It hadn't, and she still didn't want to. Talk about it, that is.

"Hi, Mrs. DeLuca? Liz Parker," Liz said when Maria's mom answered. "Can I leave a message for Maria?"

"Morning, Liz!" Maria's perennially cheerful mother said. "I think she's upstairs; just a sec and I'll get her—"

"No! I mean, no, I don't have time to talk," Liz said hastily. "I...have a shift. And I'm late, or almost late. And you know how Maria likes to talk, so I...I just thought I'd leave a message that I'll be at the Crashdown if she wants to stop in. That's all."

"Ah, my Chatty Kathy daughter," Mrs. DeLuca said sagely. "Good idea. Good dodge."

"And bring Alex," Liz added. "I mean, if she wants to."

"I'll tell her," Mrs. DeLuca promised. "Have a nice day, Liz."

Not likely, Liz thought, squeezing her eyes closed as tears threatened. She had friends coming to support her, but Max had no one. Where was he now? Was he waking up too? Was he even alive? And if he was, how long would he be able to stay that way?





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




Eagle Rock Military Base




The ceiling which greeted Yvonne when she opened her eyes was a good deal more faded than it had been 50 years ago, with hairline cracks having appeared from years of neglect, but it was still recognizable. The mattress, however was not; had it been this hard back then, or was it just her creaky old bones? The bathroom she shuffled into had suffered more than the main room, but was still functional and most welcome; no more banging on the door and begging to go potty like a small child. Agent Morgan, he with the sundowning grandmother, had seen to her needs with unexpected thoughtfulness; the bathroom was fully stocked with just about everything one could need, although having to don the same clothing after her shower wasn't pleasant. The largesse didn't fool her, however; she hadn't spent all that time in hell without learning a thing or two about power plays. Pierce had taken to her because she represented a link to his father, so Morgan's sucking up to her meant sucking up to the boss, at least as long as that boss's affection lasted, and also meant a chance to dethrone Pierce's right-hand man, Agent Samuels, who had correctly divined what she was up to. Hierarchies always suffered from such jostling for position, and if one played one's cards right, it could be used to one's advantage—watching Brivari play Cavitt, Pierce, Lewis, and Ramey like violins in an orchestra had taught her that. It had taken him years, but he'd finally managed to use those power plays to free Jaddo. Not this time, she thought wearily. They couldn't do 3 years this time. Max wouldn't survive it, and neither would she.

Someone knocked on her door. "Yes?" she called.

"Good morning, Lieutenant, it's Agent Morgan," a respectful voice called. "Our chief surgeon, Dr. March, has arrived, and he'd like to speak with you. I told him I'd need to see if you were ready."

Surgeon? Oh, that didn't sound good. "Give me 15 minutes," she answered.

Fifteen minutes later on the dot, another knock came, and this time she answered it. Agent Morgan was outside with a tray of breakfast and an exceptionally dweeby looking man wearing a tweed sport coat which had seen better days and a pair of horn-rimmed glasses which could have been Harry Potter's. "I just realized you hadn't eaten," Agent Morgan said apologetically. "If you'd rather wait to speak with Dr. March until after breakfast, he'll understand."

"But I only have a couple of quick questions," interjected Dr. March, who didn't look like he'd understand at all. "And my apologies for Agent Morgan's mode of address," he added, looking pained. "I'm trying to impress upon these people that, whatever you were back in the '40's, you are now a neurologist and should be addressed as 'doctor'."

Ah, yes, Yvonne thought. That would be the way to earn this one's respect, the fact that both of them were M.D.'s. "Come in," she said to the doctor's delight. "You can ask me your questions while I'm eating." Although your questions will probably spoil my appetite, she added silently, but that couldn't be helped. She needed to milk whatever advantage Pierce's adulation gave her for as long as she had it, and that meant staying fed and rested, or as much as she could manage.

"Doctor, I'd like to take this opportunity to convey how honored I am to be in your presence," Dr. March babbled as Morgan set the tray on what had been a brand new desk back in '47. "To be working with one of the original scientists who pioneered this research is...well...it's a dream come true. I've read over Dr. Pierce's notes several times, and it's clear he had the utmost respect for you even when you were just a nurse. I want you to know you have mine as well."

"Thank you, Doctor," Yvonne said, ignoring the "just a nurse" comment as Morgan left the room. "But please promise me you won't show that 'utmost respect' the same way Dr. Pierce did."

March looked blank. "Come again?"

"He raped me," Yvonne said calmly as March blanched, "for months, right here in this room. He was hoping to get me pregnant with a half alien child. It was all in the notes. Didn't you read that part?"

"I...I...no," March stammered, having flushed crimson. "I...he...I..."

"I gather Agent Pierce redacted that portion," Yvonne said thoughtfully. "Interesting. Makes you wonder what else he left out...doesn't it?"

A satisfying curtain of doubt descended over March's features. "It certainly does," he agreed grimly. "On behalf of the entire scientific community, I would like to apologize for your treatment, Doctor. That was unforgivable."

"Appreciated, I'm sure," Yvonne answered, seeing a glimmer of hope for this one. Maybe he didn't realize exactly what he was getting himself into. Maybe she could turn him into an ally. "Now," she said briskly, "what were your questions?"

"Well, the first involved Dr. Pierce's handwriting," Dr. March said, fishing a photocopied page out of his pocket. "I had to guess when I made the first batch of the serum which controls the prisoners...abilities...but I'm concerned I guessed wrong." He held out the paper, pointing. "Is that a '4' or a '7'?"

Yvonne donned her eyeglasses, peered at it. "It's a '4'."

"Oh...are you sure?" Dr. March said doubtfully. "I really thought it was a '7', although I erred on the low side just in case."

"Dr. Pierce's handwriting was every bit as bad as any doctor's," Yvonne answered, "and I admit that some of his 7's look like 4's, and vice versa. But that's a '4'; I'm sure of it. And you wouldn't want to get the dose too high," she added when March still looked uncertain. "Dr. Pierce's notes should make it clear that things did not go well when that happened during the serum's initial trials. Or did Agent Pierce redact those parts as well?"

"Oh, no," March said quickly. "I have all those and have thoroughly reviewed them, which is why I erred on the low side. Thank goodness you're around to clarify these things," he added, scribbling on the photocopy. "I would have guessed that was a '7'. Just one more question, and then I'll leave you to your breakfast. On which part of the body do you feel we should start the dissection?"

Yvonne's hand froze on the coffee pot. " 'Dissection'? I thought Agent Pierce wanted information?"

"He does," March confirmed, "but—"

"But nothing, Doctor," Yvonne said firmly. "One can't get information out of someone in bits and pieces. The whole reason Agent Pierce's father was called in back in '47 was because of his background in psychology. They wanted him to talk to the prisoner, not carve it up like a Thanksgiving turkey."

"I'm aware of Dr. Pierce's orders," March said, "but with all due respect, they tried that approach for 3 years without much success and without ever attempting to learn anything concrete about the alien's body. An opportunity was missed—"

"Hardly," Yvonne interrupted. "Dr. Pierce collected samples from the prisoner daily. I should know; I drew the blood myself. And you should know if you read his notes, or those portions you were allowed to see, as thoroughly as you claim."

"And I have," March insisted. "But coming from a surgical background, I just feel there's so much more that could have been learned. I gather they were moving in that direction in 1950, but then the prisoner escaped and the opportunity was lost. I'm sure Agent Pierce will speak with the prisoner, but he won't want to lose a similar opportunity, and I value your input as to where to start."

"Then here's my 'input'," Yvonne said coldly. "You start nowhere. Make one wrong move, and you kill the prisoner, after which their bodies turn to dust. Then you have no more prisoner, just dust, which is precisely why no one ever went that far back in the '40's. And don't give me that rot about 'lost opportunities'. My 3 years beats your pile of dust any day."

"I wouldn't kill it," March protested. "I'd be very careful not to kill it."

"Oh, how kind of you," Yvonne said sarcastically. "What happened to you, Doctor? A minute ago you were incensed over my treatment, and now you're itching to carve up a living, breathing, thinking being. A bit bipolar, don't you think?"

"Not at all," March answered, unruffled by her anger. "What was done to you is unforgivable because you're human, Doctor. The prisoner isn't. It's as simple as that." He rose from his chair. "I appreciate your assistance, and I'll report back after the initial interrogation. Enjoy your breakfast."

Yvonne let out a long slow breath as the door closed behind him and the lock clicked into place. It's not human. Every awful thing done to Jaddo had been justified by that sentence. What the speakers always seemed to forget was that being human was not merely a physical state or an announcement of species; it was a code of behavior by which one lived, a way of relating to other living things...or not, as the case may be. And since March was a surgeon, of course he wanted to cut. Cutting was what surgeons did, was all they knew how to do. That Pierce had called in a cutter did not bode well for the future, but at least she'd bought some time. The questionable number in the serum formula really had been a "7" instead of a "4"; that would cut the dose almost in half, and Max's powers would return more quickly. It wasn't much, but any little bit might help. Hurry, Brivari, she thought sadly, because it won't be enough for long.




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




"She was certain?" Pierce said, peering at the precious original and somewhat faded piece of paper which contained the formula for his father's serum. "Looks like a '7' to me."

"She acknowledged that his 4's and 7's were sometimes interchangeable, but was very specific that that was a 4," March answered, his eyes darting between Pierce and the viewing room window through which a dark-haired thing which looked like a boy in scrubs prowled a very white room. "I'd go with her interpretation, at least initially. The last thing we want to do is damage it."

Pierce considered that for a moment before pocketing the formula. "All right. For the moment."

"She also told me your father tried to impregnate her with an alien offspring. You never mentioned that."

"Because it's irrelevant," Pierce said. "That was my father, not me, and she's hardly fertile now."

"But you should have told me," March said reproachfully. "I don't like being blindsided by something like that. You told me I'd have full access—"

"Fine," Pierce broke in impatiently, "although I can't see what difference it makes now. Did she have anything to contribute to the discussion at hand?"

March hesitated. "She refused to contribute. She thinks we should talk to it, like your father was called in to do."

"And we all know where that got him," Pierce muttered.

"She seemed quite sympathetic to it," March commented, "and quite put out that we were considering any kind of dissection."

"Of course she is," Pierce said. "She's a woman; that's how women think, and how this particular woman has always thought. My father valued having a woman's influence on the prisoner, but only insofar as affected its behavior. He was never foolish enough to put much credence in her viewpoint, and I won't either."

"So you're not going to just talk to it?" March asked hopefully.

"Oh, I'll talk to it," Pierce answered. "Just not for 3 years. Try 3 hours. Go ahead and sharpen your scalpel." He leaned forward, clicked a button. "Good morning, Max."

The boy-thing stopped, looked around. "Where am I?"

"Someplace where no one can find you," Pierce answered.

"Why am I here?" it demanded.

Pierce glanced at Dr. March and smiled faintly. "That's what I want to try to find out."



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


I'm off to New Zealand this week, so I won't be back for a few weeks. Sorry it came mid-White Room; I didn't plan it that way! I'll post Chapter 120 on Sunday, August 4. See you next month!
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 120

Postby Kathy W » Sun Aug 04, 2013 5:09 pm

CHAPTER ONE HUNDRED TWENTY




May 13, 2000, 12 noon

Eagle Rock Military Base





"Morgan!" Agent Matheson exclaimed as the security scanner opened the gate for Agent Morgan. "Finally, someone from the inside. I've been stuck out here for hours. How goes it?"

"Pierce is getting impatient," Morgan reported. "The prisoner won't tell him anything."

Matheson gave a soft snort of derision. "What, he thought it would? Fat chance. So have you seen it? What's it look like?"

Morgan shrugged. "A kid. Talks like a kid too. Makes a damned convincing kid, if you ask me."

"Isn't it supposed to?" Matheson said. "Don't fall for it, Morgan. It's trying to suck you in, trying to make you feel sorry for it. I wouldn't feel sorry for it, that's for sure. Hope Pierce isn't either."

"He isn't," Morgan confirmed. "Last I knew, he was reaching for the electrodes."

"There you go," Matheson said confidently. "Maybe that'll shock some sense into it. Pun intended."

The agents laughed as they continued down the hall, and Jaddo waited until they'd rounded a corner before stepping from the shadows. He'd been this far in twice already, looking for Brivari but not finding him, fearing the worst. It didn't help that this place was "messing with his head" as Tess would say, conjuring memories he'd rather leave be. The only saving grace was that his time here had been spent on the lower level, not this upper level where the offices and personnel quarters were housed. But the time was coming when he'd have to go deeper, get past the scanner and... Stop, he told himself severely as the memory of that awful white room left him clammy. He had no business letting fear get the better of him now, especially since he'd been rescued just before Cavitt and Lewis had been able to use the tactics now being used on Zan. However awful Pierce Sr. had been, he was far more of a talker than a doer, far more one to play head games than use torture. Head games you could live through; torture was another matter entirely. Stepping up to the gate, he scanned the hallway beyond.

*Brivari? Are you there?*

For one heart-stopping moment, it appeared he wasn't. But then "Agent Emerson" appeared, and Jaddo let out a long, slow breath. "Thank God. I've been here twice already, and...and I thought you'd been discovered."

"Things must be bad if you're invoking a deity," Brivari said dryly. "No, I haven't been discovered, but I've had to tap dance around being assigned to the other side of this infernal thing. They're patrolling the entire compound now, and one has to scan out as well as in."

"I noticed," Jaddo said. "Looks like several more agents arrived last night."

"Eight, to be exact, with more on the way. Please tell me you've found a way out of here."

Silence. Brivari's eyes narrowed as Jaddo hesitated. "The Healer is safe for the moment, as am I, but Zan is another matter," Brivari said. "This particular incarnation of Pierce is impatient."

"So I hear," Jaddo said darkly.

"Then you understand why it is imperative to end this now," Brivari said firmly. "You've been prowling since last night. You must have come up with something."

"There are just too many of them!" Jaddo burst out in frustration. "We can get past some of them, but not all of them. One of us will have to stay behind to aid the other's escape, and that...that should be me. The King should have his Warder."

"Stop talking nonsense," Brivari ordered. "Two things are clear: Losing any of us is unacceptable, and we can't do this alone. Where are the hybrids?"

"Home fretting," Jaddo said, "where they should be. This is no place for them."

"You mean they haven't come in search of yet?" Brivari said, his voice dripping irony. "Of all the times to suddenly show restraint, this has to be one of the worst. Go get them."

"If losing any of us is unacceptable, that's the last thing we want to do," Jaddo argued. "They're not ready—"

"Of course they're not ready," Brivari interrupted. "Get them ready. We need a human body to get past this gate."

"Correction: We need a human hand," Jaddo said, "which, lucky for us, is portable once severed. Check the duty rotations and tell me who I should take out."

"We can't take any of them out," Brivari said impatiently. "They check in with each other too often for that to be useful. Take out one, and his partner will find out before we reach the basement; take out a pair, and another pair will discover it almost as fast. If anyone so much as sniffs anything unusual, they're under orders to lock the place down, meaning the scanner won't work for anyone. We need the hybrids."

"Brivari—"

"Jaddo, listen to me," Brivari said intently, grabbing the bars which separated them. "Zan won't be able to take much more of this. Pierce started with talking, but soon tired of that."

"He won't kill him," Jaddo said bitterly. "Then he wouldn't have anything to play with."

"He might kill him," Brivari countered, "if only by accident. This isn't a Covari we're talking about. The human body is fragile compared to ours, and his chief medical officer is a surgeon. Three guesses where he's going with that one."

Jaddo paled. "He wouldn't dare."

"Oh, yes, he would," Brivari said. "Did you miss the 'impatient' part? He's convinced he can do anything he wants just as long as he keeps him alive; he doesn't realize that the notes he's referring to concern a different species. A human body won't last long under that kind of duress, and the hybrids' bodies are programmed to disintegrate much faster than ours—"

"I know that!" Jaddo exclaimed. "Just let me think!"

"My point is there's no time to 'think'!" Brivari retorted. "Go get the hybrids and haul them in here, by the hair if necessary! However inexperienced they may be, they've shown remarkable results with flying by the seat of their pants, and there's no doubting their loyalty to each other—"

"It's not that," Jaddo interrupted. "There are other...complications."

Brivari stared at him for a moment. "What is it?" he demanded. "What 'complications'? Answer me!" he exclaimed when Jaddo didn't. "Because absent an answer, I'm forced to conclude that you want both Zan and me to die so Rath can—"

"Don't you dare accuse me of that!" Jaddo said furiously. "Is this going to come up every single time we disagree with one another? And now I'm not only accused of fomenting rebellion against the crown, but regicide as well? I already told you the only clear way out of this."

"Which doesn't involve using all of our resources and sacrifices one of us. As I said before, unacceptable. Now, what are these 'complications'?"

Jaddo closed his eyes briefly. "The hybrids are not very happy with me now."

"Because they see you as the reason Zan was captured," Brivari said. "Big deal. They'll get over it, if only long enough to get Zan back. You can kiss and make up later."

"Brivari—"

"Hey!" another voice called. "Emerson, is that you?"

Jaddo melted against the wall as Agent Matheson appeared around the corner. "We heard something," Matheson announced, his eyes sliding right over Jaddo, currently the color of the wall tile. "Voices, several of them. You hear anything up this way?"

"No, but there are enough new agents that I guess that wouldn't surprise me," Brivari answered.

Matheson shook his head. "Morgan thought a couple of them sounded female."

Brivari raised an eyebrow. "Hubba hubba."

Matheson stared at him a moment before he burst out laughing. "Yeah, that would be the ultimate perk," he chuckled. "Talk about downtime! But seriously, Pierce is convinced there are more aliens than the one we have and that the rest will come after it, so keep your ears open."

"Will do," Brivari promised.

Matheson left, still chuckling. " 'Hubba hubba'?" Jaddo muttered.

"Shop talk," Brivari answered. "Guess who's here? I told you they would be."

"Not only that," Jaddo muttered. "She's here."

"Yes, well, I imagine Vilandra will be wanting her brother back," Brivari said. "And Ava her husband, and Rath his king. Get going before someone finds them. And Jaddo," he warned, "remember...he's 'Michael'. Don't expect him to be the way he was."

Don't remind me, Jaddo thought as he made his way through the compound. Pulling the hybrids into this was incredibly risky, not to mention that he wasn't looking forward to the inevitable questions about why he'd carried off Liz Parker. Love, he thought derisively as he shrank into a doorway when an agent approached. So overrated, so unpredictable, so lunatic. "Love" was the reason they found themselves in the current charming situation, not to mention the reason they were exiled to this planet in the first place if Vilandra was to be believed...

There, Jaddo thought after the agent had passed and he'd moved along. In the morgue, of all places, fitting given their chances of survival now that the gang was all here. Tess was there too, and the look on her face when Vilandra lifted a sheet on one of the bodies to reveal a silver handprint made him pause.

So why don't you just kill him? According to Max, you've done that before.

For all that Tess knew more than the rest of them, that was one thing she didn't know. He'd kept his executions from her for her safety, for their safety; one couldn't tell what one didn't know, or at least that's what he'd always told himself. So why did the look on her face bother him? Why would he give even a passing thought to her opinion on the matter? Because they're human, he thought, full of all the usual human idiocy about the "sanctity of life" and other such rot, even if the sanctified life in question was hell bent on taking your own. Even Tess, much as he'd tried to teach her otherwise, had fallen for that trope. They needed to be royal now, not human. They needed to survive like they never had before, or get the hell out of here and leave survival to the experts.

"Hey!" Jaddo called, coming through the morgue doors. "You shouldn't be here. What are you doing here?"

Rath held up a hand, sent a blast of unfocused power his way. Oh, please, Jaddo thought, repelling him the way one brushes away a bug, sending him flying. Was this the best he had? Perhaps he should just be grateful he'd tried; the other two merely gaped at him, although one was showing signs of intelligence.

"It's you!" Tess exclaimed.

The other two looked uncertain. Sighing inwardly, Jaddo shifted back to the more familiar—and more dangerous—form of Ed Harding. He was much safer in the form of an agent, but then there was no other way to prove that he was indeed who they thought he was. Vilandra he could understand—she'd never been big on brain power—but Rath? Disappointed twice in two minutes, he thought heavily. Not a good sign.

But Tess wasn't paying any attention to Rath, now sprawled on the floor, or Vilandra, currently helping him to his feet. She was glaring at him, her expression a melting pot of worry, betrayal...and fury. "Don't ever leave me alone like that again," she said angrily.

"I have four of you to watch now," Jaddo retorted.

Rath had picked himself up and, commendably, came to face him. "I've been looking for you for a long time," he announced.

Jaddo fixed him with a level stare. "Not as long as I've been looking for you."




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




4 p.m.

Roswell Sheriff's Station





"Sir?"

Jim Valenti snapped awake. It took him another couple of seconds to process the late afternoon sunshine streaming in the window of his office, the puzzled deputy standing over him...and his hands raised in a defensive posture as though to ward off an attack.

"You...fell asleep at your desk, sir," Hanson said uncertainly. "Didn't get much sleep last night?"

"No," Valenti answered, lowering his hands, pushing himself into a sitting position. "No, I...I didn't."

"Rough night," Hanson admitted. "But it all worked out okay in the end."

"It did?"

"Sure," Hanson said. "The Parker girl is back safe and sound, right? Evans too. Nothing but a false alarm."

"Oh...right," Valenti agreed. "Right, that's...that's what she told me."

"Guess her friends just jumped to conclusions," Hanson continued. "Weird about the whole gas station bit, but we'll figure it out."

"Right," Valenti said slowly. "Hanson...do you have any idea why Deputy Fisher followed me last night? I mean, I know what he told me, that he thought I was in more danger than I knew, and that I needed back-up even though I hadn't called for any, but...is there anything else? Anything at all?"

Hanson hesitated before leaning in closer. "Between you and me, sir...he's a brown noser. Wants to get in good with you real bad, so bad that he asked me how to go about it."

"And you recommended tailing me?"

"No!" Hanson exclaimed. "God, no. I had no idea he was going to do that, sir. It's just that...well, you told him to wait for the security cam pictures, and he not only waited, he sat by the fax machine and practically drooled. When I told him that 'wait for the pictures' didn't mean 'stand by the fax machine and hold your breath', he said he wanted to be the one to make the report. Said he was trying to make up for pissing you off earlier by organizing your files. Guess he got all fired up when the pictures came in and decided to come riding to the rescue."

"Guess so," Valenti murmured.

"Like I said, sir, brown noser," Hanson said. " 'Overachiever' is a bit of an understatement. Probably learned his lesson when you almost shot him," he added with a chuckle.

"One can only hope," Valenti agreed.

"You should go home, sir," Hanson advised. "Looks like it'll be a quiet weekend. We'll keep an ear to the ground for whatever happened at the gas station and let you know if we hear anything."

"I appreciate that, but I've got some stuff to do," Valenti said. "If Liz Parker or any of that group—Guerin, DeLuca, Whitman, Isabel Evans—shows up, send them right up."

"What about Max?"

"What about him?" Valenti asked warily.

"You didn't mention him. If he shows up, do we send him right up too?"

"Oh...yeah," Valenti said quickly. "If there's anything they need to spill, I want to hear it firsthand."

"Will do, sir," Hanson promised. "But I still say you should go home. You look more than just tired."

"I'll be okay," Valenti promised.

I hope, he added wearily, closing his eyes again as Hanson left. Never again would he use the expression "worried sick" lightly because now he knew what it felt like, that it wasn't just a figure of speech. He had indeed been awake most of the night, going over and over what he'd seen—or thought he'd seen—at the carnival, and the conclusion he'd finally reached had sent him to the kids, practically begging them to 'fess up. They hadn't, but if they changed their minds, he needed to be here, right here, where they could find him without effort because if this was what it looked like, he'd need to move fast. Hell, if this was what it looked like, he was in so far over his head, it wasn't even funny. Because what it looked like was Kathleen Topolsky's warning come to awful life, a lawless, murdering alien hunter in their midst. He would have sworn he'd seen two of Max Evans last night in that fun house, and one of them was dragged off by men in suits who were spitting images of the ones along the side of the road, the ones with the dead body. They'd vanished like smoke, elusive despite all his efforts to locate them, efforts which had been hampered by a sputtering Deputy Fisher who'd gone on and on about how Valenti's life was in danger. Leaving Fisher blathering, he'd set off for a circuit of the carnival, making two complete revolutions without finding Evans, Parker, or even one Man in Black, eventually reuniting with a contrite Fisher who claimed to have found nothing as well. This was the first time in his entire career that he was truly at a loss for what to do, and he rose from his seat and stretched, still lost in thought. Finally he pulled out his wallet, fishing out a photo of his father, gazing at it for a long time.

"Jesus, Dad," he whispered. "What now? I can't call the FBI; they'll come for me and Kyle, if they haven't already. I can't even mobilize my own men because they'll think I'm nuts. The only people I can talk to are a bunch of high school students, but they're not talking. I can't just sit here and do nothing, but what the hell do I do?"

The office door opened behind him, and Valenti palmed the photo as he turned around. "Liz Parker," he said.

She looked defeated, exhausted, and...well...worried sick. Lot of that going around today. "You're right, Sheriff," she said quietly. "I need your help. We all do." She paused, took a deep breath. "Your new deputy, 'Fisher'? He isn't a deputy, Sheriff, and his name is not 'Fisher'. It's Pierce, from the FBI Special Unit. He's the one who has Max."

"How do you know that?" Valenti asked warily.

"I can't tell you, Sheriff," Liz answered, "but Max is in a lot of trouble. I think that they all are. Sheriff, please...will you trust me? I can tell you where he is."

"Where?" Valenti demanded.

"At the Eagle Rock Military Base," Liz said.

"You mean the one just outside town? That was decommissioned decades ago."

"That's the story," Liz agreed.

Valenti sank into his chair, afraid his legs wouldn't hold him much longer. So the murdering alien hunter was not only right under his nose, he was in his office. Suddenly Fisher's behavior made sense—digging through his files, salivating over the security cam picture, coming after him. But Eagle Rock? That didn't make sense. "Wait," he said suddenly. "Why there? There must be dozens of places more secure than a decaying base. Why not put him under Cheyenne mountain, or take him back to Washington to show him off?"

Liz turned white. "Let's just thank God they didn't. He's still here, Sheriff. We can still get to him. You can still get to him."

Just me, Valenti thought heavily, not relishing the thought of poking around an abandoned base full of FBI zealots all by himself. "I don't suppose you'd be willing to share how you came about this information? Here's the thing, Miss Parker," he went on when an unblinking stare was the answer. "Trust goes both ways. Now, I know all of you see me as the enemy—"

"Shoving someone against a wall during a festival and threatening to arrest them for eating at a diner can do that," Liz noted.

"...and I'm not going to argue that you don't have a reason to feel that way," Valenti continued. "But I've tried. I've reached out to Max, to all of you, again and again. When Kathleen Topolsky came back. When I gave him back that gray thing, that...whatever it was. And today, when I came to all of you looking for answers, offering to help, and you told me you didn't know any more than I did. I want you to trust me, and I've made offerings, several of them. Now you want me to trust you, but you're not giving me anything but fantastic claims with no supporting evidence. I'll ask you again—how did you come by this information?"

"Sheriff, I...I can't," Liz answered, looking genuinely anguished. "Telling you that would betray a trust."

"But you want my trust?"

"I...I don't know what to say," she stammered. "I'm taking a big risk just by coming here; they're probably not going to agree that I'm doing the right thing. But I can tell you this—I wasn't lying earlier today. We really didn't know any more than you did, or nothing that would help. But now I do, and...here I am."

Not helpful, Valenti thought, having expected any acceptance of his offer of help to come with a certain amount of disclosure. "You've gotta give me something, Miss Parker," he argued. Reaching into his desk drawer, he pulled out a copy of the security cam footage from the previous night. "Tell me this," he said, pushing the picture across the desk. "Is that you in that car?"

Liz's eyes dropped to the grainy photograph of her and Max Evans at the gas station mere moments before a pump exploded. Slowly, ever so faintly, she nodded.

"And that's Max?" he continued.

Slowly, ever so faintly...she shook her head.

"No? Because it looks like Max."

Nod.

"But it isn't Max."

Shake.

"It just looks like Max."

Nod.

"So...there are two people who look like Max?"

The nod this time was so small, it was barely perceptible. Two Max's. That's what he'd seen last night. Why would there be two Max's? Why would anyone pretend to be Max? What purpose would that serve? What...

"It's a set-up," Valenti said faintly.

"What?" Liz said, finding her voice.

"It was all a set-up," Valenti said. "They left a trail...the body by the side of the road, the symbol in the sky...to make Pierce follow them, but then the real Max showed up, and..."

"And it all went horribly wrong," Liz whispered.

"Did it?" Valenti asked. "Were they trying to get him captured, or trying to get rid of Pierce?"

"To get rid of Pierce," she answered. "And they're still trying, but it's been hours, and they're not back yet, and...I'm scared. I'm really, really scared."

You and me both, Valenti thought. If a cadre of aliens couldn't rescue one of their own, what in blazes was he supposed to do? "I'll do what I can," he promised, "but I'm only one person. I can't bring my deputies in on this one."

"You're not 'just one person', Sheriff," Liz said gently. "You've never been 'just one person'. That's why we were so careful about saying anything to you or letting you anywhere near us—you're smart."

"Apparently not smart enough to figure out one of my deputies wasn't a deputy," Valenti muttered.

"Okay, but I'll bet you had your doubts," Liz argued. "Was there anything off about him? Anything strange? Anything that had you wondering?" The look on his face must have served as an answer because she nodded as though he'd agreed. "See? You sensed it, even if you didn't know it. Max and the others got stopped by Fisher last night, and they didn't sense anything. You're a match for him, Sheriff. I'm sure of it."

"Aren't I the one supposed to be giving you the pep talk?" Valenti said dryly.

Liz smiled faintly, the equivalent of a pat on the hand. "I know you can do this. And you won't be alone. They're out there now. They've been out there for hours. Just bring him back. Please?"

She left, closing the door behind her as Valenti leaned his head on his clasped hands. They've been out there for hours... That could be good news or bad news. Maybe "they", whoever "they" were, had all been captured, or maybe they just needed an extra push. There was a reason it was just one straw that finally broke the camel's back...

He stood up, a piece of paper falling to the floor when his arm brushed it. Dee Proctor, it said in Hanson's handwriting, followed by a phone number and re: Max Evans.





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




Proctor residence




"What time is it?"

Anthony raised an eyebrow before looking at his watch. "Five minutes past the last time you asked. Or 4:23. Take your pick."

"You don't have to get snippy about it," Dee muttered.

"I'm not getting snippy," Anthony replied. "I'm just being realistic about how long it would take to break into an FBI Special Unit installation, extract two prisoners, and get out without being captured yourself. I imagine it's not a walk in the park."

Probably not, Dee agreed silently, but whatever it was, she just wished it would happen faster. It was almost dinner time, and they were still missing a grandson, a former Army nurse, and two Warders. That was a long list, there wasn't a thing she could do about it except wait for news, and waiting had never been her strong point. She'd phoned the sheriff's office twice more only to be told that last night's message had been duly delivered, which made it unlikely it would be answered. Her only other option was to go down to the station herself and plead her case. The last time she'd tried that it hadn't gone over so well; she'd been hoping the buffer zone afforded by a telephone would work better this time. She was still mulling that over when she opened the oven to check the cookies Anthony had recommended she bake as a celebration for Max's homecoming. He was just trying to distract her, to give her something optimistic to do on a very dark day, and it had worked, if only fractionally...until now.

"They're flat!" she exclaimed.

"What's flat?" Anthony asked.

"My cookies! They're flat as pancakes! What the...what happened? What did I... She stomped around the kitchen, pulling open cupboards. "Did I leave something out? Did I...oh, good Lord," she groaned. "I used baking powder instead of baking soda."

Anthony appeared in the kitchen doorway, newspaper in hand. "There's a difference?"

"Of course there's a difference," Dee said crossly. "Baking powder has baking soda in it, but—"

Her phone rang. Dropping the box of baking soda, she raced to pick it up. "Hello?" she said breathlessly.

"Mom?" came Phillip's puzzled voice.

"Oh," Dee said heavily. "It's you."

"Love you too," Phillip said dryly.

"Did you want something?" Dee asked irritably.

"Yeah, that's why most people make phone calls," Phillip said. "At least people my age. I was wondering if you knew where Max and Izzie are."

Dee's heart almost stopped. "I...what?"

"Well, Izzie said they were staying over at Michael's, but none of them are answering their phones. Diane thought they might have gone to your house because we know the kids like going there."

Dee looked helplessly at Anthony, who was close enough to hear the conversation. None of them are answering their phones... Good Lord. Max's phone was probably ringing in some FBI vault, and God only knew where Michael and Isabel were. I should tell him, Dee thought suddenly. If Philip knew his son was in the hands of the FBI, he'd tear the building down brick by brick to get him out, and besides, didn't he have a right to know? "No, they're not here," she answered, "but there's something I think you and Diane ought to know—"

"Phillip?" Anthony interrupted, whisking the phone out of her hands. "It's Dad. Sorry your mother was so abrupt; she's upset that her cookies didn't turn out well. And the kids aren't here, but I'm sure they're just out and about. " He paused. "If we see them, we'll tell them. Love to Diane. Bye." He hung up, gave her a level stare. "What was that?"

"That was me thinking that maybe Max's father ought to know what's going on," Dee retorted.

"Only his father?"

"Parents," Dee corrected impatiently. "Obviously he wouldn't keep it from Diane."

"Actually, he might," Anthony said, "but really, Dee? Now? Is this really the best time to tell him his children aren't human?"

"Of course not!" Dee said savagely. "It's not a 'best time' for anything, or a 'good time' for anything, or even a 'sort-of-kind-of-maybe' time for anything! It's a four alarm fire, Anthony, and there's no one we can go to, no one who can help. You know our son; he'd dismantle the Pentagon to get his child back."

"And get himself killed in the process," Anthony said. "We already have the best possible people working on this. There's nothing Philip can do that they can't or we can't. It's no use putting his life in danger too."

"But—"

Her phone rang again. "I'll answer it," Anthony said, holding it away from her outstretched hand. "Hello?"

There was a long pause before he put his hand over the handset. "It's Jim Valenti. And he's asking for you."



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


I'll post Chapter 121 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."

User avatar
Kathy W
Obsessed Roswellian
Posts: 684
Joined: Thu Oct 31, 2002 5:06 am

Chapter 121

Postby Kathy W » Sun Aug 11, 2013 6:11 pm

Hello to everyone reading!




CHAPTER ONE HUNDRED TWENTY-ONE



May 13, 4:45 p.m.,

Proctor residence





Dee stared at the phone in her husband's hand for a moment, completely nonplussed. Why was she hesitating? Wasn't this what she wanted? Hadn't she been ready to march down to the station and spill her guts just minutes ago? She should be grabbing that phone right out of Anthony's hand, should be shouting into it anything and everything that would save her grandson's life. So why wasn't she? Because I did this once already, she thought. She'd marched into Valenti Sr.'s office, plopped a trithium generator in front of him, and begged him to help Courtney and her father. The end result was three casualties—Courtney lived, but her father and Malik died, and Valenti was never the same again. Handed proof that his theories about aliens were real but unable to pass that proof along, he'd deteriorated from that day forward, ultimately losing his job and the respect of the townspeople. Was history about to repeat itself? Was she about to doom another Valenti to a life of ignominy and unemployment? Doesn't matter, she decided. Max was worth the risk. She took the phone.

"Hello, Jim."

There was a sharp intake of breath on the other end. "This is Sheriff Jim Valenti," came a stern voice. "Is this 'Dee Proctor'?"

"Yes—"

"Or rather, 'Dee Evans'," Valenti interrupted, "a fact you conveniently left out of your message last night, that and your being Max Evans' grandmother and the nature of the so-called 'emergency'. But whoever you are and whatever you want, I can promise you that you and I are not on a first name basis. That's 'Sheriff Valenti' to you."

Oops. Dee slowly lowered herself into a kitchen chair, one hand gripping the back. Two words, and she'd already dug herself a hole. That had to be a record, even for her. "Right," she said carefully. " 'Sheriff'. Sorry."

"Are you the same 'Dee Evans' who visited my father years ago?" Valenti demanded, not even slightly mollified. "1989, to be exact? You got him talking after years of not saying anything, and then right after that, he tried to shoot the babysitter for being an alien. I had to put him away."

Dee swallowed hard. "Uh...yeah, that was me. Philip and Diane had just moved here, and—"

"You also promised to do some talking, as I recall," Valenti went on. "And then you left without making good on that."

"I know," Dee said. "I—"

"I haven't seen hide nor hair of you since then, and now you suddenly pop out of the woodwork? Why now?"

"You weren't ready," Dee said, "but—"

"Oh, so I'm 'ready' now? Who the hell are you to decide when I'm 'ready'? Who the hell are you—"

"I'm his grandmother," Dee interrupted. "That's 'who the hell I am'. And the FBI has my grandson. So you're ready, Sheriff; like it or not, we all are. We're going to have to be if he's going to get out of this alive."

Silence. Anthony's eyebrows rose so high they would have joined his hairline if he still had one. Only breathing could be heard on the other end of the line.

"Look, there's no way to package this politely," Dee said, plowing through the silence, "and no time to do it even if there was a way. The FBI's Special Unit took Max last night. They're holding him in one of the buildings at the old Eagle Rock base, and if we don't get him out of there...well, let's just say I don't think he'll ever get out of there. It took us three years to spring the last alien they captured, and that was when it was easier. I get that you're mad, I'm sorry I was so forward, but I...I feel like I know you. Your father and I, we...we tangled. For years. I watched you that summer in '59 when you worked at the station and all that stuff went down, and then I've watched you pursue Max these past few months, and...and it was like it was happening all over again. My mouth got ahead of me; it does that. So beat me up later, but we don't have time for that now. Max doesn't have time for that now."

She stopped for breath, one hand to her forehead. A cup of tea appeared at her elbow, courtesy of a husband who was all too familiar with her tendency to run off at the mouth. Utter silence reigned on the line for a very long time.

"Liz Parker was just here," Valenti said finally. "She told me the same thing, about who took Max and where he was. How did she know that?"

"Honestly? I have no idea," Dee said.

"Then how do you know that?"

Good Lord, Dee groaned. The answer to that question was a mile long. How to condense? "Max has a...a guardian, for lack of a better term," she answered. "Think of him like a...like a secret service agent. He told me."

"If he has a guardian, why does he need me?"

"Because there's too many of them and only one of him," Dee said urgently. "Because there's every chance that he might be captured too. Because every single pair of hands counts when you're that outnumbered."

"And how do I know the guardian won't take me out?" Valenti asked. "It's not like I've been friendly."

"Tell them I sent you," she instructed. "They'll listen."

"Oh, they will, will they?" Valenti said skeptically. "So where have you been all these years? Why haven't I ever seen you?"

"Because I've been trying very hard to stay out of your way," Dee said.

"You weren't 'out of my way' back in '89."

"That was before Max," Dee said, "and before I moved back here. At the time I didn't think it would be an issue."

" 'Before Max'? How long have you been at this, exactly?"

"Can we do this later?" Dee said impatiently. "There's really no time for a history lesson—"

"Like hell there isn't!" Valenti snapped. "You call me out of the blue, tell me some far-fetched story, want me to go in search of, and in the bowels of the FBI, no less. These are the people who killed Agent Stevens, who killed Kathleen Topolsky! I have a son, Mrs. Proctor, or Evans, or whoever the hell you are. What if I don't come back? If you want my help, you're going to answer every single piddly little question I have whether you think you've got 'time' or not! Make time!"




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




Roswell Sheriff's Station




Jim Valenti slumped in his chair, the phone to one ear. Had he really just thrown a temper tantrum via Ma Bell with, leaving aside a single encounter ten years ago, a total stranger? Her story was fantastic, but it was the same story he'd just heard from Liz Parker and it fit what he'd seen last night...and that, quite frankly, was nothing short of terrifying. He'd been hoping against hope that he was wrong, that what he'd seen just couldn't be, even though he knew deep down that he wasn't and it could. All those times he'd looked under Kyle's bed for monsters when he was little, assuring him there weren't any, that they didn't exist. What did you do when the monsters were real?

"Fair enough," said a resigned voice over the phone. "What would you like to know?"

"Let's start with my last question," Valenti answered. "How long have you been at this?"

There was a pause. "Do you know who my next door neighbor was?" Dee asked.

"No. Should I?"

"His name was William Brazel. His friends called him 'Mac'."

"As in Mac Brazel? The Mac Brazel who supposedly found an alien ship on his ranch in 1947?"

"The same. You see, the night before that, there was a big storm," Dee continued. "I was only 8 then, and I was at my window watching the rain and the lightning, and...and I thought I saw a star fall out of the sky. A very big star. It looked like it fell over Mac's ranch. It was summer time, and school was out, so the next morning I asked him if I could go to work with him to look for my star."

"Let me guess," Valenti said. "You found it."

"Oh, yes," Dee said softly. "It changed my life. Just like yours is about to change, because now you know. You knew before, of course, but now you know for sure."

A chill crept up Valenti's spine. "Just tell me one thing straight—was Liz Parker really shot that day at the Crashdown?"

"Yes."

Valenti swallowed hard. "And did Max...did he fix her?"

"Yes."

"With a handprint?" Valenti persisted. "He healed her with a handprint?"

"The handprint doesn't heal," Dee explained. "It doesn't 'do' anything. It's what's left behind whenever they use their...energy. It's the energy that does the healing."

"Or the killing," Valenti noted, thinking of Atherton and Hubble's wife.

"Let's be clear on something," Dee said firmly. "Max is not one of the aliens I met in '47, and he's never killed anyone."

Valenti fingered the photograph of Parker and Evans which had come over the security feed. "What about blowing up gas stations? Does he do that?"

"Come again?"

"I have a photograph here of Liz Parker and Max Evans at a gas station outside Hondo where a gas tank blew up and a silver handprint was left on a pump."

"That wasn't Max," Dee protested.

"Sure looks like Max."

"I'm sure it does. But it isn't."

"And why would someone impersonate Max?"

"To lure Pierce out," she answered. "Unfortunately he made the very stupid mistake of taking Liz with him, which made Max follow them, and...well, the rest you know. Believe me when I say I've made my displeasure with this turn of events abundantly clear, to the point of telling him not to cross my threshold again until he retrieves my grandson. My mother threw them out once, and so can I."

The sheer amount of history in those few sentences was so staggering that Valenti almost missed the fact that he'd guessed correctly, that leaving a false trail for Pierce had been exactly the plan. The voice was laden with exasperation tinged with not just a little anger, an almost parental don't-you-dare-show-your-face-again-until-you've-picked-up-your-mess tone that he'd used with Kyle when he'd been at the end of his rope. It was also noteworthy that the aliens felt beholden to someone, that she could banish them from her house with the expectation that they'd listen. "Your 'grandson'," he murmured. "So that's how he wound up with Philip Evans. They kept him 'in the family', so to speak."

"Well, he was only 6," Dee said. "He had to go somewhere, and Diane couldn't have children. Look, the point is he's innocent. He's done nothing wrong, nor does he have any plans to do anything wrong. He doesn't even know why he's here."

"And what about you, Mrs. Evans? Do you know why he's here?"

"Yes, I do," she admitted. "But he can't, not yet. He needs to grow up. He was supposed to be an adult before any of this..."

"Hit the fan?" Valenti finished helpfully.

There came a very deep, very heavy sigh. "Unfortunately, that's a good metaphor. When he healed Liz, it caught the attention of the wrong people and set things in motion that weren't supposed to happen for several years. He's not ready to go home yet, Sheriff. He's too young. If he goes back now, they'll kill him; if he stays here, we might."

And it's my fault, Valenti thought heavily, the weight of guilt descending again just like it did with Hubble. The FBI knew about Max because he'd told them. The odds were good that, had he not made that phone call to Agent Stevens back in September, the story about the broken ketchup bottle would have flown and the Bureau would never have known about the shooting. That one phone call had brought Hubble to Roswell, killed Agent Stevens and Kathleen Topolsky, and was now poised to kill Max Evans. This was his doing, plain and simple.

And his responsibility to undo. 'I'll do what I can," Valenti said, "although I'm a little unclear how much good that will be. That base is pretty big. Any idea where they'd be holding him?"

"In the same building they used back in '47," she answered, sounding relieved. "Go in the main gates; they're probably chained, so you'll need a bolt cutter. Straight down the main drive is the main building with the mess hall and such; hang a left, go down about four or five buildings. It's one story, completely non-descript, but I imagine there'll be some vehicles around it."

"My, my," Valenti said dryly. "You have been at this a while. How'd you wind up knowing all that if you were only 8 when all this started?"

"I saw an awful lot for an 8 year-old," she replied. "Perhaps the most pertinent part was that Pierce's father was an Army officer and one of the original jailers. He tried to impregnate an Army nurse with a half alien child."

"Jesus Christ," Valenti muttered.

"Almost killed her," Dee went on. "The aliens saved her. She's the one who signed off on your father's nursing home placement back in '89. Pierce took her too. We had breakfast at the Crashdown yesterday, and his agents took her right off the street."

"Daddy's base, Daddy's nurse, Daddy's prisoner...no wonder he went on about his father," Valenti said darkly. "All right...sit tight. I'll call you when I've got anything."

"I could come with you—"

"No," Valenti said firmly. "There are enough lives at stake. I'll do this myself. Oh, and Mrs. Evans? After this is over, you and I are going to talk for just as long as I want us too. Are we clear?"

"I look forward to it," she answered, sounding like she meant it. "Just one more thing—Max doesn't know I know about him. Please don't tell him."

"Seems to be an awful lot he doesn't know," Valenti observed. "Not sure that's the best way to handle this, but what do I know. I'll be in touch."

"Good luck, Sheriff."

"Thanks," Valenti said. "I'll need it."

Five minutes later Valenti walked out the back door of the station to find Liz Parker, Maria DeLuca, and Alex Whitman leaning against Amy DeLuca's Jetta, which was parked right next to his cruiser. "Relax," he said quickly. "I'm going to look into it."

"And we're going with you," Liz announced.

"You most certainly are not," Valenti countered. "Go home, where it's safe."

"Nowhere's safe," Liz argued. "And besides, maybe I can help. Pierce is interested in how Max healed me. Maybe I bargain with him."

"No one's bargaining with anyone," Valenti said. "Go home, all of you."

"No way are we going home," Maria retorted. "Michael's there too, and Isabel—"

"Wait," Valenti said. "Do you mean they went in? By themselves? Damned fools," he muttered when their silence gave him his answer. "Great. So now it's not just Max we have to rescue. Look, the longer we stand here arguing, the longer it takes me to get there, and the job just got harder. Go home."

"We won't go home, sheriff," Alex said, apologetic but firm. "And I think the real point is that we're going anyway, with or without you. So since we're going anyway, isn't it better if we all stick together?"

"And I can't just go home and wait," Liz added desperately. "This is all my fault. If Max hadn't healed me, none of this would have happened. Every single bad thing that happened to him since then is because of that, because of me. Like Alex said, we're going one way or another. The only question is which way. Do you want us with you, or off on our own?"

Guilt, Valenti mused, taking in the folded arms, the stubborn stances, the unmistakable air of panic. Guilt could drive the young and the old, send both children and adults off on some damned fool, idealistic crusade. "So you'll be the Luke Skywalkers to my Obi Wan as we go after Darth Vader," he said dryly. "All right, then; better all of you be on my leash then running free. Follow me in your car. We'll need another vehicle."




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




Eagle Rock Military Base





The observation room door trundled open, and Yvonne hesitated on the threshold, leaning on her cane, not wanting to go in. She had few good memories of this place, but among the worst were those of this room and the one beyond, gleaming even whiter than before, if that was possible. Still, even this was better than fretting in her locked room not knowing what was going on. She'd put up with here to get away from there.

"Lieutenant," Agent Pierce said cordially. "Come in."

"We were told they bricked this over," she said, not budging. "Erased it from memory."

"They did," Pierce answered. "But my father's notes told me where it was. Please...have a seat."

Yvonne took a few steps forward, eyed by the agent at the counter and Dr. March in the corner, he of the itchy scalpel. "You've redecorated," she noted, looking through the glass.

"Everything is completely modern and up to date," Pierce said proudly, "the very latest technology."

"Mmm," Yvonne murmured. "That's what Colonel Cavitt said when they built this place."

"I'm afraid you're mistaken," Pierce said. "My father built this place."

Yvonne shook her head. "No. Colonel Cavitt and Major Lewis built it; your father opposed it. Not on the prisoner's behalf, of course, but because he reflexively opposed anything Cavitt and Lewis did, up to and including breathing. The feeling was mutual."

"My father's notes make it clear that he and he alone was responsible for the construction of this room," Pierce said firmly.

No doubt, Yvonne thought. But since calling Pierce's revered papa a liar wasn't the best way to stay in his good graces, she let it go, fixing her gaze on the window through which she could clearly see a dark-haired, trembling figure in what looked like blue scrubs strapped to a chair.

"What did you do to him?" she whispered.

"Incentives, Lieutenant," Pierce said briskly. "Which is why I've called you here. Do sit down."

She did, lowering herself slowly into a chair, making it look more difficult than it really was. "Now," Pierce continued, "what I need to know from you is, how did my father get his prisoner to talk?"

Yvonne raised an eyebrow. "Come again?"

"Talking, Lieutenant," Pierce said with more than a touch of impatience in his voice. "My father managed to wring all sorts of things out of his prisoner, even got it to repair its own ship. How did he do that?"

Yvonne smiled faintly. "Should I take this to mean that your 'incentives' didn't work?"

Pierce's expression darkened, reminding her that baiting him would serve no purpose. "My point," she said quickly, "is that it's a well established fact that torture garners little or no useful information. You catch more flies with honey, Agent. Your father knew this."

"Sir, with all due respect to the esteemed doctor, I would like to note that your father had all the time in the world," Dr. March broke in, "or thought he did. You don't."

"Lieutenant," Pierce said intently, squatting in front of her chair, "I need it to talk to me. I need to know what it knows. Like Dr. March said, I don't have a benevolent organization backing my every move. I'll have to prove myself, and I can't do that without information. And what's more, that...that thing in there is not like the alien you knew," he went on, stabbing a finger in the direction of the cell. "That one has an entirely human body. Do you know what that means? It means we can no longer identify them by their bone structure. It means that only their blood gives them away. And it raises another issue even more disturbing—do you remember the fetuses retrieved by the Army in 1947? The ones which looked human?"

"Of course she doesn't," Dr. March said when Yvonne shook her head. "She was just a nurse back then."

"The Army found 8 of what looked like human fetuses," Pierce went on as Yvonne resisted the urge to smack March with her cane. "The aliens rescued them. I think that thing in there is one of those fetuses. I think they're being born all over the Earth. There could be thousands of them. But it seems to think it's human. It says it doesn't know anything."

"Well, if they were born here and think they're human, it's quite possible he doesn't know anything," Yvonne said, "at least not yet."

"This is a precursor to an invasion," Pierce insisted. "I'm sure of it. I need to know what it knows!"

"Which is my point, Agent," Yvonne said gently. "He can't tell you what he doesn't know."

"It wants me to think that," Piece said angrily, "but I'm not falling for it."

" 'Falling' for what?" Yvonne said. "It makes perfect sense. Think about it—if you're right, and this is an invasion, having the instruments of that invasion be unaware for as long as possible would be advantageous. Just seed these human body aliens all over with no knowledge to give away, and then activate them when the time is right. Any of them captured can't tell us anything, and if there are enough of them, losing a few won't matter. Which means that all the 'incentives' in the world won't get you what you want, and makes it all the more important that we're careful with the one we have. We may never find another."

Yvonne waited while Pierce prowled, all traces of his former cordiality having evaporated. Things were obviously not going well, no great surprise as Max had precious little in the way of bargaining chips. Agreeing that there was an impending invasion seemed ridiculous, but as there was no way she was going to convince him otherwise, she may as well play along and try to bend things her way.

Dr. March, however, was having none of it. "I can get you what you want, sir," March said eagerly. "You haven't given me a chance."

"A chance to what?" Yvonne said. "Kill him? Then you'll definitely have nothing, nothing but a pile of dust."

"There are many, many things I can do that don't involve killing it," March said.

The voice was casual, factual...and chilling. Good Lord, Yvonne thought heavily. Every generation had it's Mengele, and it appeared that March was in the running for the job. "Torture makes people say anything," she argued. "You can't trust a word anyone says under duress because—"

A sharp knock sounded on the door. "Agent Pierce?" an excited voice called. "You're going to want to see this."

Pierce threw open the door. Agent Samuels was outside wearing a triumphant expression and holding a small gray oval. "It was right where it said it was," he said proudly. "We were in and out with no one the wiser."

Pierce's hands practically trembled as he took his prize from Samuels' hands. "So torture doesn't work, Lieutenant?" he said softly, holding the communicator aloft. "Oh, but it does. Sometimes it's the only thing that does. It told me the truth about where this was because I threatened its 'girlfriend', and now it's going to tell me the truth about how to use it. You," he ordered March, "ready your team. Samuels, open the cell door."

"Shall I take the Lieutenant back to her room?" Samuels asked.

The eyes Pierce swung her way had lost all traces of civility. "No. Let her watch. Maybe it will jog her memory."

"You know, I was wrong about you," Yvonne remarked.

Pierce paused. "Oh? How so?"

"You look like him," Yvonne said. "You look so much like him...but that's where the resemblance ends. You don't have his smarts, Agent. Your father was brilliant, but you're just an impatient child. You got what you wanted, and now you're going to throw it all away because you have the attention span of a gnat. Good thing your father didn't, or there wouldn't be any legacy for you to follow. Good thing he's not here now to see what a disappointment you've become."

A shocked silence descended over the room. Everyone had frozen, Pierce included, and Yvonne waited to see if her last ditch effort had any effect; if he really was going to start carving Max into pieces, perhaps the only thing which would stop him was the thought of his father's disapproval. For just a moment, a flicker of pain crossed his face, of doubt...

...but then the moment passed, that flicker replaced by hard eyes more closely resembling his stepfather than his father. "Then it's a good thing he's not here," Pierce said coldly. "Prop her up near the window, boys. I wouldn't want her to miss this."

The door closed. A moment later, Yvonne watched Pierce walk into the cell holding both communicators. Hurry up, Brivari, she thought heavily, or you won't have anything left to rescue.




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




C'mon, c'mon, Brivari thought, staring impatiently through the bars of the security gate. Pierce had stopped his initial attempts at torture and gone in a different direction, but it wouldn't be long before he came back to the favorite tool of the power hungry because Zan couldn't tell him what he wanted to know. Jaddo had been in a position to dole out tidbits of information which made his jailers feel like they were getting somewhere, but Zan didn't have that advantage. They had left him mercifully alone for the last hour or so, but when that respite ended, it would be crunch time, and that wouldn't end well if Jaddo didn't get the hybrids on board and quickly.

Footsteps sounded in the distance. *Jaddo?* Brivari called. *Is that you? Tell me that's you.*

But there was no answer, and the two agents who rounded the corner made it clear why. "We're back, Emerson!" Agent Moore said cheerfully, placing his hand on the scanner. "And guess what? It told us the truth!"

"About what?" Brivari asked.

The door opened, and Brivari squelched a sudden urge to dive through it; he could slip through the door when it was open, but then Zan would be completely unprotected. "Show him, Samuels," Moore urged when both came through the gate.

"No way," Samuels protested. "This is way too important to wave around."

"Aw, come on," Moore scoffed. "Emerson's been away from the action this whole time. Throw the guy a bone."

"Is it interesting?" Brivari asked, sounding wistful.

"Very," Moore promised. "C'mon, Samuels. All it can do is get everyone more excited for the cause."

Samuels glanced up and down the hallway before reluctantly capitulating, withdrawing from his pocket something wrapped in a cloth which he unwrapped with all the ceremony of a priest presenting a host at Mass. "Cool, huh?" Moore said.

"What is it?" Brivari asked.

"Supposedly it's a communicator," Samuels answered. "We've had one since the forties, but you need two to make them work. Now we've finally got a second one."

"Wow," Brivari said, trying to sound reverential. "How did you find it?"

"The prisoner told us where it hid it," Moore said with satisfaction. "Only problem was avoiding its 'parents'. That 'father' is one hard ass lawyer. Quite the ball buster, I hear."

Indeed he is, Brivari thought dryly, just like his mother. "So what are you going to do now?" he asked out loud.

"Get it to show us how they work," Samuels said. "What else?"

"So you're going to let it phone home?" Brivari said. "But...what will you say?"

"What do you mean?" Samuels asked warily.

"Well...I'm new here, so take this with a grain of salt, but...seems like the first thing the prisoner will do is yell, 'Help, they're holding me prisoner!'," Brivari said. "And the first thing its people will do is get mad. The way only those with interstellar transport and weapons we can only dream of can get mad."

Brivari resisted the urge to roll his eyes as two faces contorted in an effort to square this very sensible viewpoint with the fact that both wanted very much to see their new toy sing and dance. "Uh...he has a point," Moore allowed. "Maybe calling their planet isn't the greatest of ideas right after we tortured one of their people."

"Stop talking nonsense," Samuels snapped. "Of course it is. These monsters need to know that the people of Earth won't be trifled with, that we know they're here, and we're ready to defend ourselves."

"With what?" Brivari asked.

"What do mean, 'with what'?" Samuels said crossly. "With anything. With everything. With guns. With bombs. With nuclear warheads, if necessary."

"And that'll work?" Moore said doubtfully. "Against the kind of weapons these people probably have?"

"They're not 'people', and we don't know what kind of weapons they have," Samuels retorted.

"They can fly ships here and look like anybody," Moore noted. "It's a good bet they've got something."

"Then I guess we'll find out," Samuels said stubbornly. "At any rate, it'll take them a while to get here. If it gets ugly, we'll have time to prepare."

"It's the 'look like anybody' bit that worries me," Brivari noted. "There could be hundreds or thousands of them here already, which means we won't have time. Seems like a big risk for the equivalent of a cell phone."

"Are you two doubting Thomas's finished?" Samuels snapped. "Our orders are to take this to Agent Pierce so he can decide what to do with it, not stand out here speculating like sci fi movie writers."

"Sorry," Brivari said. "Just thinking out loud."

"Well, stop thinking," Samuels ordered. "This is why we don't take a poll when there's a decision to be made. Just do your job, and be quiet."

Brivari gave a slight nod to show he understood, and Moore raised an eyebrow as he followed Samuels deeper into the base. So...Zan had had a card to play after all. But having played it, he'd be expected to demonstrate how the communicators worked, potentially disastrous in so many ways, he didn't know where to start. The communicator they'd just walked in with had been disabled, but the one in the Bureau's possession had not; even without knowing exactly how to activate it, it was entirely possible Zan would do so in a fit of desperation. Any signal would be picked up by Nicholas and his Skins here on Earth and on each and every one of the 5 planets; he could just imagine the scrambling which would ensue when it became clear that the King of Antar was on the phone, in which case it wouldn't be only the Bureau which would get more than it bargained for. He had fifteen long minutes to fret over it before he heard something.

*Brivari?*

Finally, Brivari thought with relief as a freshly combed, pressed, and very taut Rath rounded the corner with what looked like Agent Matheson but bore a faint infrared signature. *Took you long enough,* Brivari said irritably. *How long does it take to wrangle a few hybrids?*

*Longer than you think,* Jaddo said crossly as Rath regarded the scanner like he thought it would eat him. *Vilandra is going to contact Zan and tell him what's coming, and Tess will distract Pierce while Rath and I remove him. I need you to come through the gate once it's open and remove the agents on this side. It all goes down at precisely 6:35.*

*Wait...Vilandra is going to 'contact Zan' how, exactly?*

*Some version of Urza's dreamwalking. Apparently she can do it even when he's awake. That's how they found him here. Details later,* he added severely. *Clear them a path so they can leave unimpeded. Then we can retrieve The Healer and blow the place.*

Rath placed his hand on the scanner. *Clear a path so 'they' can leave?* Brivari said suspiciously.

*I meant 'we',* Jaddo said as the scanner accepted Rath's hand and a look of relief spread across Rath's face.

Brivari's eyes narrowed. *Jaddo, don't do anything stupid. We can get Pierce later.*

*No lectures,* Jaddo said crisply as the gate began to open. *No time. We're on a tight schedule.*

*I mean it,* Brivari insisted. *No lingering to settle scores. Get out while the getting's good.*

*Will you stop?* Jaddo snapped. *Are we saving the King, or aren't we? Go! Before it closes!*




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




Jim Valenti crept down the hallway, weapon raised, ears alert for any sound. Max's grandmother had been right about needing the bolt cutters—the base's main gate had indeed been chained shut and looked like it hadn't been touched in years. Pierce and company must be using some other entrance because the compound was right where she'd said it would be, with several cars and vans outside. He'd parked around the corner, severely admonishing Parker and company not to follow him and fully aware they'd ignore him if they felt it necessary; if the possibility that they might need to run didn't exist, he would have handcuffed each and every one of them to the steering wheel. The compound's doors had been unlocked, a testament to Pierce's confidence that no one would find him. He hadn't seen anyone so far, but the place was clean, much cleaner than it should be given its age and alleged lack of use, and the power was on, dead giveaways both. Someone was here, that was certain.

A man in a suit suddenly stepped from a doorway. "Halt!" he ordered. "Drop the gun and put your hands in the air!"

Shit. Valenti was slowly lowering his gun with no intention of actually putting it down when another agent appeared.

"Emerson!" the first agent said. "Can you believe what the cat dragged in? Call it in, would you?"

"Of course," Emerson answered, reaching for his radio...and then suddenly extended his hand, palm out. The gun flew out of the first agent's hand, followed by the agent flying back against the wall; his head hit with a sickening smack, and he slumped to the ground, unconscious. Valenti, in the process of lowering his gun, brandished it instead in a panic.

"Don't shoot!" he shouted. "I'm here to help!"

Whoever "Agent Emerson" was smiled faintly. " 'Don't shoot' is an interesting plea from the one pointing a gun at me. And why would you, of all people, be here to 'help'?"

The tone was conversational, the stance non-threatening. Then again, you probably didn't need to look threatening when you could do what these people could do. Slowly, Valenti lowered his gun.

"Because Dee Proctor sent me."


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


I'll post Chapter 122 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 122

Postby Kathy W » Sun Aug 18, 2013 4:47 pm

Thanks to everyone reading, and thank you for the feedback! ^^ Let's get Max out of there before I go on another trip...





CHAPTER ONE HUNDRED TWENTY-TWO



May 13, 2000, 6:25 p.m.,

Eagle Rock Military Base





The hallway was completely silent. Valenti kept his grip on his lowered weapon more out of habit then out of any real hope it could do him any good against the so-called "Agent Emerson" at the other end of the hall. The unconscious body of the real agent who had threatened to shoot Valenti remained slumped nearby.

"What did you say?" Emerson asked, puzzled.

"I said Dee Proctor sent me," Valenti repeated. "Or Dee Evans. Max's grandmother. Or step-grandmother. Or foster grandmother, or...Jesus," he went on, flustered. "I don't know what she calls herself, but she called me and said Max was in trouble. Told me where to find him. Told me you could use a hand."

"Indeed?" Emerson said in a voice which sounded equal parts amazement and amusement. "Well. That must have been quite the conversation."

"You could say that," Valenti said warily.

"And you came," Emerson said wonderingly. "Why?"

Valenti blinked. "Why?"

"Yes, 'why'. Your family's antipathy toward my kind is well known."

"Max is a Roswell resident," Valenti said. "I'm Roswell's sheriff. That makes him my responsibility."

"Interesting," Emerson murmured. "Your father didn't appear to share that viewpoint."

"Okay, let's get one thing clear right away," Valenti said severely as Emerson's eyebrows rose. "I am not my father. We are two separate people living in two separate eras. We are not interchangeable."

Emerson considered that for a moment. "I'm familiar with sons not being their fathers," he allowed, "and not wanting to be. But I'm still a bit fuzzy on the whole 'responsibility' bit. Do you really expect me to believe that you'd be willing to take a risk as large as you must know this is out of professional obligation?"

"Why not?" Valenti bristled. "I'm law enforcement. People in my profession take risks all the time."

Emerson said nothing, merely regarded him levelly. "Look, Dee told me that Max is innocent," Valenti went on. "She said he never hurt anyone, and that squares with what I've found. And I'm tired of the Bureau pushing me around. They've lied to me, raided my office, whacked me over the head...I don't owe them a thing."

More silence. Valenti began to sweat as his interrogator waited, clearly not buying it. "When Kathleen Topolsky came back to Roswell, she told me Pierce had a 'list'. Supposedly my son and I are on that list. And now that I've seen what Pierce does to anyone who opposes him, I..."

Valenti stopped, unable to believe he'd fallen for it. I'm blabbering, he thought furiously. One of the best interrogation techniques was to say nothing, simply maintain silence and let the subject babble. He'd just fallen for one of his most successful ploys.

But Emerson now looked interested. "A 'list'? How quaint. And you believe her?"

"Why shouldn't I?" Valenti retorted. "She's dead! Agent Stevens is dead! Pierce killed both of them. Whatever beef he's got with you, he's willing to kill me, and mine, and a whole lot of other people to settle it. That doesn't fly with me. That's not how we do things."

"With 'we' being...who, exactly?"

"This country," Valenti said. "This nation, this democracy, this government he's sworn to uphold, just like I am. He's breaking every law we've ever made about how to go about this."

"Ah," Emerson said. "So not 'we' as in 'humanity'?"

Valenti swallowed hard. "Don't I wish."

"Don't we all," Emerson agreed. "But megalomaniacs are hardly exclusive to humans. There are Pierces in every race I've ever met. So...self-preservation. Parental worry. That makes more sense. Exactly what kind of assistance are you offering?"

"I..." Valenti paused, feeling suddenly useless...and foolish. What could he do for people who could throw someone against a wall without touching them? "I've got a car all ready to go," he finished lamely. "People won't question the sheriff's car."

But if Emerson considered that lame, his brisk nod didn't show it. "Good point. Keep going down this hall until you encounter a locked gate. They'll bring him out that way."

"Wait!" Valenti called when Emerson began to walk away. "I have a question. Did you kill Kathleen Topolsky?"

"No," Emerson answered.

"But you told them where to find her, didn't you? You turned her in."

"She was attracting unwelcome attention," Emerson said. "You see, 'Max' is also my responsibility, Sheriff. He was my responsibility long before you came into the picture and will remain so long after you're out of it." He checked his watch. "You have 3 minutes to get to the gate. Better get moving."




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




"Bring in the surgeons."

Yvonne shrank into the shadows of the observation room, or such shadows as one could find in a room so small, as Agent Moore grinned and reached for his radio. "Dr. March, you have a go. Get your team down here on the double."

"Finally," Agent Samuels muttered. "Took long enough."

"This is where it gets interesting," Moore agreed. "Think it'll work? Just wondering," he went on when Samuels gave him a quizzical look. "It didn't work with Agent Stevens."

"Jesus," Samuels said sourly. "First Emerson, now you? Good thing neither of you are paid to think, or wonder, for that matter."

"So you do think it'll work," Moore said. "Wanna bet?"

Samuels raised an eyebrow. "You're on."

Animals, Yvonne thought sourly as wallets were fetched and bills produced against the backdrop of a terrified boy facing a psychopath twirling a knife. Neither had followed Pierce's order to "prop her up near the window", thank goodness, but that hadn't prevented her from seeing what happened, hadn't spared her the look in Max's eyes as his interrogator demanded of him something he could not give. Even if he knew how the communicators worked, she had no idea if he was capable of activating them while under the influence of the serum. He was damned if he did and damned if he didn't.

"Five bucks," Moore announced, "that it squeals within a minute."

"A minute?" Samuels said. "And only five bucks? Can't be too confident if that's all you're willing to put down."

"Ten," Moore amended.

"Fifteen," countered Samuels, "that it takes at least five minutes for it to squeal."

"Twenty," Moore argued. "No more than a minute."

"You've gotta be kidding," Samuels protested. "A minute? Seriously?"

"It's just a kid," Moore said. "It'll squeal."

"It looks like a kid," Samuels corrected. "And you're falling for it."

"So put your money where your mouth is," Moore challenged. "Twenty bucks. You in, or you out?"

Samuels eyes narrowed. "In. It'll get us a pizza while we watch, at least."

The radio crackled. "Agent Moore?" Dr. March's eager voice said. "We're ready."

"Stand by," Moore answered, tossing a twenty dollar bill on top of Samuels' offering.

"I'll get it," Samuels said, rising from his chair. "You babysit."

He glanced back at her as he left, proving they hadn't forgotten about her. The cell's door had to be opened from the outside, if she remembered correctly, and a moment later, March and his merry band filed into the cell. Samuels reappeared in the observation room, he and Moore leaning forward eagerly as though watching a particularly interesting football game, wristwatches in hands. There was a scuffle as Max was strapped down and lots of admonitions from Pierce, followed by a silence so profound even the watching agents held their breath.

"Stoopppp!"

It was a scream of desperation, of self-preservation, and it drew a wince from Yvonne, a whoop of victory from Agent Moore, and a snort of disgust from Agent Samuels. "Would you look at that!" Moore crowed. "Five seconds! Five measly seconds! Jesus, I was off by a mile!"

"What a credit to its people," Samuels muttered.

"Whatever," Moore shrugged, pocketing his winnings. "Sounds like it's going to make the communicators work."

Someone knocked on the door, and Moore reached over, opened it. "Matheson! Come on in, bro. I just lifted $20 off Samuels. Good times."

"Nice," Agent Matheson agreed, stepping inside. "Everyone, this is Fields. He's new." Heads swiveled as the new agent stepped inside, Yvonne's included...and her heart almost stopped.

It was Michael.

Neither of the new agents gave her so much as a passing glance as Yvonne's hand tightened on the head of her cane, every nerve in her body standing at attention. Michael looked much the same as she felt, tense, taut, absolutely wired. The fool, she thought sadly. A brave fool, but a fool nonetheless, walking into the lion's den like this. There was no way he could fight off this many agents even with his powers, and once he used them, he wouldn't have them for long. Now he stared through the window, twitching when he saw Max cradling the communicators.

"So what's up?" Matheson asked. "Get anything out of it yet?"

"One hell of a noise," Moore chuckled as Michael's fists clenched. "Squealed like a stuck pig. It was Deliverance, alien style."

"What's...'it'...doing?" Michael asked tightly.

"It said it would make the communicators work," Samuels answered, "although it would appear it lied. No big surprise."

"Bets on how long it'll take to squeal next time?" Moore suggested. "I'm going with fifteen seconds. Samuels, you in?"

"You bet," Samuels answered, pulling out his wallet. "Fifty this time, for ten seconds."

"Big spender," Moore said dryly. "What about you, Matheson? You in?"

"Absolutely," Matheson smiled...and then reached out, grabbed both of their heads, and smacked them together. Both agents slumped forward, and Matheson pushed them aside as Yvonne watched, open-mouthed with astonishment. Of course! she thought jubilantly. Why hadn't she thought of that? Michael wasn't stupid enough or skilled enough to make it all the way in here without help. Celebrations were cut short, however, by a rushing noise in her head and a sudden wave of dizziness. She'd covered both ears without success before she realized what was happening.

*...hear me, Lieutenant?*

Yvonne bent her head against the vertigo as it worsened, her eyes squeezed shut. Telepathic speech. She'd lost the ability to use it long ago, but the fact remained that she'd possessed it once. Now her head ached as brain pathways long unused roared to life, making the room spin.

*Can you hear me, Lieutenant?*

Yvonne smiled in spite of herself. She'd always found it funny how a telepathic "voice" could be just as distinctive as an audible one. *Yes,* she told Jaddo, *although it's been awhile.*

*Brivari is coming for you,* he said. *Sit tight after we remove Zan, and he'll be here.*

"Shouldn't we do something?" Michael demanded, having still not noticed her and unaware another conversation was taking place in front of him. "Pierce looks pissed."

"We can't do anything until Isabel and Tess finish," Jaddo answered, checking his watch. "Twenty-five seconds."

"How are we gonna know when they're 'finished'?" Michael protested.

"We'll know," Jaddo said. "Twenty seconds."

"This isn't gonna work if there are more people in the room," Michael argued, "and he's threatening to call more in. We have to go now!"

"You go busting in there now, and none of us will get out," Jaddo retorted. "Fifteen seconds."

"He doesn't have fifteen seconds!" Michael exclaimed.

*My, my,* Yvonne said dryly. *Who's he like?*

This drew a snort of impatience from Jaddo, but Michael was right. She could hear Pierce over the speaker, threatening to call the surgeons back...and then, suddenly, he stopped. An eerie silence descended over the room.

"Timing," Jaddo said to Michael with deep satisfaction, "is everything."

His hand came up, and the observation room's window shattered, the wall which held it crumbling. Smart, Yvonne thought approvingly. These rooms were soundproofed; no one outside could hear it. Through the gaping hole she spied the incredible sight of a trembling Max holding both communicators as Pierce gazed at them in awe although nothing was happening, or nothing she could see, anyway. Michael lost no time in gathering up Max even as Pierce continued to stand there, mesmerized by something only he could see.

"Get out of here," Jaddo ordered. "You know the escape route."

"What are you doing?" Michael demanded. "Come on!"

Jaddo looked at Pierce. "I have something to take care of."

"No!" Michael exclaimed as Max slumped at his side. "You are not leaving me again! Let's go!"

*Jaddo?* Yvonne said sharply. *What's going on?*

"There are only seconds left!" Jaddo snapped, ignoring her. "Go!"

Oh, God, Yvonne thought wildly as Michael reluctantly left, half carrying Max. *Jaddo, don't do this,* she begged. *Not now, not here! Get him later, in a safer place!*

*There won't be a later,* Jaddo said furiously. *This family is a plague which will not haunt us again, not if I have anything to say about it.*

*No!* Yvonne pleaded. *You're not doing him any favors if you get yourself killed! Get out before—*

Too late. Pierce abruptly awakened, the blissful look on his face disappearing like a balloon which had suddenly popped. "Are you all right, sir?" Jaddo asked. "You were in here a long time. We thought we'd come check."

"Where's the prisoner?" Pierce demanded, looking around wildly.

"Are you all right, sir?" Jaddo repeated, stepping closer.

Do it now, Yvonne begged. If you're going to do it anyway, do it fast. And he probably would have had not three more agents appeared, guns drawn.

"Sir, stand back!" one of them called. "He is not Matheson!"

Pierce jerked backwards. Shots rang out. Jaddo was flung back against the wall, then slumped sideways over a cart of medical equipment. Pierce stared at him wide-eyed for a moment before coming to his senses. "No, GO!" he shouted frantically as the agents started toward him. "Lock it down!"

Everyone left, running right past her; why bother with an old woman when your star prisoner is escaping? Yvonne stood in the rubble of what had been the observation room, looking back and forth from the hallway to the cell, her heart pounding as shouts rang through the compound followed by the sound of an alarm. Finally she picked her way past through the broken glass and shattered pieces of wall, climbing carefully through the gash, cutting her hand in the process, until she reached Jaddo's side. "Jaddo?" she said urgently, leaning her cane against the wall, easing his body onto the floor with both hands. "Jaddo? Can you hear me?"

No answer. He was unconscious and didn't appear to be breathing, although he wasn't bleeding from the multiple gunshot wounds. "You blithering idiot," Yvonne whispered wearily. "He's alive, and you're not. How's that an improvement?"

"Lieutenant?"

Her back to the hole in the wall, Yvonne's expression hardened. They'd cut him up now, just like they did to Urza, and there wasn't a damned thing she could do about it. *Go to hell!* she thought furiously.

*I'd argue we're already there,* a voice answered.

Yvonne whirled around. "Brivari!" she exclaimed in relief when she saw "Agent Emerson" in the remains of the observation room. "Michael left with Max—"

"They're out," Brivari interrupted. "And we have to go. Now."

Yvonne glanced down at Jaddo. "Is he..."

"Dead?" Brivari finished. He stepped over the ragged edge of the hole, looked down at him. "Not precisely. It's not a head wound, so there's that, at least."

"I tried to talk him out of it," Yvonne said sadly. "I told him to do it later."

"As did I," Brivari said darkly. "But no one could ever tell him anything. We have to go."

"But—"

"I'll have to come back for him," Brivari said, taking her arm. He guided her to the edge of the gash, helped her over, and glanced back at Jaddo with disgust. "So much for blowing the place."




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




"Where are they?" Dee fretted, checking her watch. "Shouldn't they be here by now?"

"Don't know," Anthony answered. "I'm not familiar with the timetable for breaking people out of FBI occupied army bases. Doubt they are either."

Dee shot him an irritated glance, although it was unlikely he could see it in the gathering gloom. Night was falling fast, and it was chilly out here despite the fact they'd parked behind one of the base's derelict buildings which was in the path of the wind. Truth be told, she suspected the temperature wasn't all that low; she was probably shivering from sheer terror. Her husband, on the other hand, was cool as a cucumber, leaning casually against the car as if he hadn't a care in the world because according to him, he didn't, at least until notified otherwise.

"Where are they?" Dee repeated mere seconds later. "Something must have gone wrong."

"Oh, count on it," Anthony said.

"Don't try so hard to cheer me up," Dee said crossly. "You might break something."

"Frankly, I don't see a reason to 'cheer up'," Anthony answered. "These to-do's are always dicey. There's nothing we can do but wait."

"Yes, there is," Dee announced. "We can drive closer. Maybe they can't make it this far. Maybe the FBI is pinning them down, and—"

But Anthony, casual, accepting Anthony, suddenly morphed into steely-eyed Anthony who straightened up and looked her in the eye. "No," he said firmly. "He told us to wait here, so here's where we wait."

"But for how long?" Dee protested.

"As long as it takes," Anthony replied. "They think we're here. What if they get here, and we're gone? It'll fargle up the whole thing, that's what. We wait. Right here."

"Is 'fargle' a word?" Dee muttered.

"It is now. And you're changing the subject."

"Fine, you wait here, and I'll take the car up ahead," Dee argued. "Then you can direct them if you're right."

"And we'll lose precious time," Anthony countered. "We stay here."

"Maybe I'll just take the car anyway," Dee retorted.

"Then maybe you should have learned how to hotwire it," Anthony said, pulling keys out of his pocket...and she realized with a start that those were her keys, not his.

"You took my keys out of my purse?" she said in astonishment.

"And locked the car," Anthony noted. "So you've got some choices: You can break a window and hotwire it, tackle me for the keys, or wait here like you're supposed to. Take your pick."

Shit, Dee thought sourly, having not realized her husband's calm masked such deviousness. She was seriously considering the first two options when she heard it.

*Are you ready?*

"They're here!" Dee exclaimed as two figures rounded the corner of the building, running to meet them. "Yvonne!" she called, taking the arm which wasn't around Brivari. "I was so worried. Is Max—"

"Out," Brivari said shortly, easing Yvonne onto the seat of the car through the door Anthony had opened, her feet still on the gravel. "And I need to make certain he stays that way. Take her home and keep her there. I'll contact you when I can."

"But—"

"Did you really call Valenti?" Brivari interrupted.

Dee's question about Max's wellbeing hung in the air as she gaped at him, annoyed. Was he really going to do this now? "You bet I did," she said tartly. "And don't start with me. You needed all the help you could—"

"Thank you," Brivari said. "We needed him."

He vanished in that annoying way shapeshifters did, leaving her open-mouthed with shock as a low chuckle came from the car. "My goodness," Yvonne said. "Never thought I'd hear him say that. Bet you didn't either."

"Are you all right?" Anthony asked her. "Did they hurt you?"

"No, no, I'm fine," Yvonne answered. "And so is Max," she added, "at least as far as I could tell."

"He's okay?" Dee asked anxiously.

"Physically, at least," Yvonne nodded, "although he might not have been had it taken any longer. Emotionally...well, let's just say I'm guessing he's in for some nightmares."

"Oh, thank God," Dee said, breathing freely for the first time in hours. "I mean, not thank God for the nightmares, just thank God he's still alive to have them." She paused. "What did they do to him?"

"Later," Anthony said crisply. "I don't know about you, but I'm not in a big hurry to hang around here one minute longer than I need to."

"I don't imagine they'll waste a lot of resources searching the base," Yvonne said, easing herself into the car. "We heard a fair bit on the way out. They all left in cars, so I imagine the aim will be to get as far away from here as possible."

"They?" Dee said. "Who is 'they'?"

"All of them," Yvonne answered. "Michael, Isabel, Tess—"

"Wait, they were all here?" Dee interrupted.

"They were," Yvonne confirmed. "And a good thing, too, because they were all needed. Not sure of the details, but Isabel and Tess had Pierce off in La La land while Jaddo and Michael took Max out. And I gather from the chatter that Valenti met them at the door, and...well, if I heard right...he shot Pierce."

"And?" Dee said hopefully. "Is he..." She stopped, suddenly ashamed at the glee in her voice.

"Dead? No," Yvonne sighed. "Unfortunately. Don't be embarrassed, dear. I can safely assure you that any planet would be better off without that piece of work; he's worse than his father ever thought of being. It should have been him that died."

Dee and Anthony exchanged glances. "Someone died?" Anthony said. "Who died?"

There was a long silence. "They found out somehow," Yvonne said finally, "about Jaddo. He stayed after Michael left with Max. I tried to get him to leave, but he wanted to kill Pierce, and...and they shot him."

Dee swallowed hard. "And he's...dead?"

"Sure looked it," Yvonne said heavily. "I remember this from when Urza was injured. They can fix it with the healing stones if they get to him in time. If they don't..."

"Then his body will disintegrate," Dee whispered.

"And getting to it won't be easy," Anthony noted.

"Or Brivari's first priority," Yvonne added. "That has to be Max."

"No wonder he left so fast," Dee said faintly. "He's the only one left."




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




"Ouch!" Pierce exclaimed over the blaring alarms. "Jesus, haven't you heard of Novocain?"

"I gave you a local," Dr. March replied petulantly, "but digging out bullets isn't quite the same thing as getting a tooth filled, nor am I accustomed to working while sirens blare or with such few supplies."

"You be sure and note the poor working conditions in the employee survey," Pierce said darkly. "Hurry up."

"I'm working as fast as I can under the circumstances," March protested. "It doesn't help that most of my patients are unconscious and blissfully silent instead of haranguing me. Hold still."

"Love to," Pierce retorted, "but having a bullet dug out of you isn't quite the same thing as...shit!" he exclaimed, jerking away. "That hurts! Are you a surgeon, or aren't you?"

"Of course I'm a surgeon," March said crossly, "not some ER hack. I do open heart surgery and arterial anastomoses. I wasn't trained to dig bullets out of thugs. Present company excepted, of course."

"Then get your surgical ass in gear and get me more Novocain," Pierce snapped, "lest I decide that surgeons just aren't worth the effort. Present company excepted, of course. Until it isn't."

"More numbness, coming right up," March said tartly. "Would you like it in your wound, or your mouth? And FYI, it's a bad idea to threaten the one holding the knife," he added when Pierce glared at him. "Not that you're short of bad ideas. That's why we no longer have a prisoner."

"Get off your high horse, doctor," Pierce ordered. "Fat lot of good you were."

"You were the one who ordered me out of the room," March reminded him. "If you'd let me do what I wanted, whoever rescued it wouldn't have been able to pick it up in one piece."

"It said it would show me how the communicators worked!" Pierce exclaimed. "I needed to know!"

"Hmpf," March muttered. "And then it used them to escape. Took your father three years; took you less than twenty-four hours. Score: Alien, one, Agent Pierce, zero. Hold still!" he barked when Pierce twitched in fury. "Or I'll wind up driving this blasted thing in further!"

"Danny?"

"Where have you been?" Pierce demanded when he saw Brian in the doorway. "I haven't seen anyone for ages!"

"With 'ages' being 10 minutes," March muttered.

"Shut it!" Pierce snapped as Brian raised an eyebrow. "Did you find it?"

"Not yet."

"Not 'yet'?" Pierce echoed. "It can't have gotten far!"

"I know that, and I've got everyone out looking for it," Brian said. "In case you haven't noticed, it's got help." His eyes dropped to the wound March was struggling to treat. "Are you sure it was Jim Valenti who shot you?"

"What do you mean, am I 'sure'? Of course I'm 'sure'! Don't you think I know the sheriff when I see him?"

"Yeah, it's just...wow," Brian said, shaking his head. "A Valenti working with the aliens? Just...wow."

"Thank you, Agent Samuels, for that astute evaluation," Pierce said sarcastically. "Where's the one that tried to kill me?"

"Locked down tight," Brian answered. "March's people are x-raying it. How the hell did it get in here?"

"Isn't it obvious?" Pierce said bitterly. "It got in with one of the others, the ones with human bodies. Human bone structure won't set off the scanner."

"But it scans fingerprints as well—"

"I don't know all the details!" Pierce exclaimed. "And I don't care! It got in! So we have to figure out how to stop that from ever happening again because when we get it back here, I can't afford to lose it again! Am I clear?"

Plink. Two heads turned toward March and the metal slug in the basin beside him. "It's out," he announced.

"Finally," Pierce muttered. "Took you long enough. And why is that bloody alarm still going off? It's been blaring non-stop since the lockdown, and it's giving me a headache."

"I'll look into it," Brian promised.

"There's your bullet," March said. "Where's my alien?"

"You'll have to play with the one in cold storage until Agent Samuels can find it," Pierce said. "Which had damned well better be fast because—"

Brian's phone rang. Seconds after answering it, his face lit up. "They found them!"




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




The water rushed below them, dark, cold even from this height. There were agents advancing from both sides; the only way out was down. Liz pulled away from their kiss, squeezed Max's hand.

"Together," she whispered.

Max nodded. "Together."



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


I'm away again next week, so I'll post Chapter 123 on Sunday, September 8th. :)
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 123

Postby Kathy W » Sun Sep 08, 2013 4:07 pm

Hi, everyone! Thanks for reading, and thanks for the feedback!

Misha, you were on that bridge?!?! Do tell!!! I had no idea that was on the Roswell tour! Do you have pictures? Was it a long way down? Did anyone jump off? :mrgreen:







CHAPTER ONE HUNDRED TWENTY-THREE



May 14, 2000, 4 a.m.

Proctor residence





The phone startled Dee awake. It was still dark out, the one lamp they'd left on throwing shadows around the living room. Across from her Anthony slumped on the couch sound asleep, oblivious to the jingling from the coffee table between them. He'd rarely woken for Philip's nighttime cries, so it wasn't surprising a phone couldn't stir him either. "Hello?" Dee said breathlessly, only half awake.

"Is Zan with you?" Brivari asked.

Dee sat up, looking hopefully around the living room. "Don't I wish," she said sadly. "Why? Where is he?"

"I don't know," Brivari admitted. "I reached them just as they were jumping into the river with the Unit on their tail."

"The river?" Dee said. "Wait...'they'? Who is 'they'?"

"He and the Parker girl," Brivari explained. "They were cornered on a bridge, and they jumped off the edge into the river. I masked their trail, but by the time I was certain I was successful, I'd lost them."

He's with Liz, Dee thought, relieved. That meant Max had somebody with him who could keep a clear head, which she was guessing would be useful if he'd been treated as badly as she was inferring; Yvonne had refused to elaborate on the subject of what exactly had been done to Max, which meant the answer was definitely something she didn't want to hear. "What about the rest of them?" she asked. "Yvonne said Isabel was there, and Michael and Tess."

"They left in separate cars," Brivari answered. "I'm not sure where they are either, but the Unit isn't after them, so that isn't a pressing issue. Agents have fanned out over a wide area, and I'm trying to keep an eye on as many as possible, but it's difficult. I'm fast, but not that fast."

You mean you need another Warder, Dee thought heavily. "Yvonne told me...she said Jaddo was...dead," she finished haltingly. "Is that true?"

"Damned straight it's true," Brivari said angrily. "He should be out here with me, not laid out in some cold storage unit because he behaved like an idiot."

"Okay, he was an idiot," Dee agreed, "but can you revive him? I mean, if you—"

"I don't have time for that," Brivari snapped. "I can't keep up with the Unit, and I have no idea where the King will emerge. The idiot will have to wait. Call me if you hear anything."

The line went dead. Dee stared at the phone for a moment before slowly closing it. Across from her, Anthony's eyes were open.

"Bad news?" he asked.

"He can't find him," Dee said. "Max is with Liz, and they jumped into a river to get away from the Unit. Brivari made certain they got away, but now he can't find them."

Anthony climbed off the couch and disappeared into the kitchen, returning a moment later with a map, which he unfolded on the coffee table. "River," he murmured, running a finger over the map. "That would be the North Spring River. He said they 'jumped?"

"Off a bridge," Dee nodded.

"There's an overpass here," Anthony said, pointing. "And then they'd go downstream."

"So around here," Dee said, following his finger.

"That's a mighty big 'here'," another voice said.

Dee turned around. Yvonne was on the stairs, wearing one of Dee's bathrobes. "As I recall, that dumps right into the desert," Yvonne said, joining them beside the map. "Truck stops, junkyards, ranches...they could be anywhere."

"I know," Dee said sadly. "I asked him about Jaddo. He sounded..."

"Angry?" Yvonne suggested. "Of course he is. He's been left hanging at the worst possible time since the crash. If Jaddo had left with Max and Michael, he'd still be alive, and we all know it."

"It was more than angry," Dee said. "He was worried. And he doesn't even know where the rest of them are. Apparently they all split up."

"Wise decision," Yvonne noted. "What do Philip and Diane know about this?"

Dee shook her head. "Nothing...yet. I gather Isabel called and told them they were spending the night at Michael's place."

"Good choice," Yvonne said. "No other parents around to give the lie to that one." She paused. "You should help him."

Dee blinked. "Help...what, you mean Brivari?"

"Brivari, Max, Valenti, all of them," Yvonne answered. "They're all smart, and they're all doing the best they can, but they're outnumbered. The more eyeballs out there, the better."

"Then let's go," Anthony said. "At the very least we might provide a distraction."

"Anything's better than sitting around the house waiting for news," Dee agreed.

"I'd go with you," Yvonne said, "but should you run into the Unit, I'm afraid my presence might prove something of a distraction."




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




Eagle Rock Military Base





"Agent Samuels," Pierce said darkly. "Please tell me you have some good news for me."

"We've looked everywhere," Brian answered, joining him in front of the scanner. "Searched the place top to bottom. She's gone. Or hiding. Could be that, given that she knows the place better than we do."

"Gone," Pierce corrected, shifting his injured arm uncomfortably in its sling. "She's gone. They took the prisoner and the nurse. Now we know what they value."

"No big surprise," Brian noted. "We suspected all along that she was working with them."

"No, what's surprising is that it took everyone six hours—six hours—to realize she was missing," Pierce retorted. "And here I thought she was safely locked in her room all that time."

"We were trying to retrieve the prisoner," Brian protested. "We're still trying to retrieve the prisoner. I've got everyone but the geeks fanning out across the area. We'll find him."

"Ah, yes, the geeks," Pierce said. "So how did they manage to take the scanner out? Because it was working perfectly when it was locked down. Wouldn't even open for me."

"Yeah, we know," Brian said. "We found your blood all over the screen. Nearest we can tell is that someone forced the computer to open the door. Which set off the alarm, of course, but—"

"But it was already going off," Pierce finished, "so we didn't realize what was happening. They piggybacked the second escape onto the first, and we never noticed."

"The geeks suggested different alarms for different circumstances," Brian went on, "one for lockdown, another for a breach like this one, another for—"

"I get it," Pierce interrupted. "Who were they impersonating besides Matheson?"

"Uh...we're not sure."

"What do you mean you're 'not sure'?" Pierce demanded. "Who was the last to scan in? What did you see on the videotapes?"

Brian hesitated. "The data was all destroyed, Danny. We don't have anything to look at. Nearest they can tell, there was some kind of a...I don't know, a 'pulse' sent through the system. It wiped all the data, fuzzed all the video. The geeks described it as a giant static charge. Whatever it was, it worked."

"Are you telling me that all our records are destroyed?" Pierce demanded. "We captured an alien, and we have nothing to show for it? Nothing?"

"Nothing electronic," Brian corrected. "We still have paper copies, x-ray films, and eyewitnesses. And according to those eyewitnesses, it was Agent Fields who was seen carrying the prisoner out. Fields was also seen entering with Matheson about fifteen minutes before the jail break. We know from the x-rays that the Matheson alien isn't human, but get this—we found Fields' body in the morgue, not far from Matheson's. Witnesses said it didn't look like the Fields they saw. So we did some sketching, and guess who it was?" He pulled out a roughly drawn sketch and a photograph.

"Well, I'll be damned," Pierce murmured. "Guerin."

"He would have needed the right fingerprints," Brian noted. "Maybe the Matheson alien changed his fingerprints?"

"Or he changed them himself," Pierce said. "The one we had looked completely human; those x-rays would have fooled anyone. The only giveaway was its blood." He looked at the photo for a few more seconds before handing them back to Samuels, wincing as his shoulder ached. "What about Valenti? Where's he at?"

"No idea. No one's seen him anywhere, including the station or his house."

"No one?" Pierce repeated. "So you have no idea where the sheriff is? Finally, some good news!" he exclaimed as Brian stared at him, no doubt expecting to be slammed for not having located the sheriff. "About time I caught a break."

"Uh...so what's the 'break'?" Brian asked, following him into one of the side rooms where Pierce grabbed a bag.

"This," Pierce answered, brandishing a handheld radio, which he clicked on. "This is Deputy Fisher calling for Sheriff Valenti. I repeat, Deputy Fisher calling for Sheriff Valenti."

The radio crackled, hesitated. "Fisher?" a voice answered. "Hanson. The sheriff's not in yet, but he should be soon. Can I give him a message?"

"I'll be in shortly, so I'll do that myself," Pierce answered. "Thanks, Hanson."

"No problem. Hanson out."

Pierce clicked the radio off, grinning from ear to ear as Brian regarded him warily. "Don't you get it?" he asked Brian, who shook his head in bewilderment. "Valenti's with the aliens! The station has no idea what's going on! And he apparently didn't blow me in, so I get first dibs on telling this tale. Where'd I put my uniform?" he continued, rummaging in the bag.

"Your uniform?" Brian said incredulously. "What, you're going to dress up as a deputy again? With your arm?"

"I hurt my shoulder fixing the car," Pierce shrugged. "Or fell down the stairs. Or, I don't know, I'll make it up on the way. Help me out of my suit."

"This is crazy," Brian protested. "What if Valenti walks in on you?"

"What if he does? It'll be my word against his," Pierce said. "We have a chance to take control of this before he turns up, Brian, to use the resources of the sheriffs' department to our advantage. I'm not passing that up."

"You want his own deputies out looking for him?" Brian said.

"No, I think we'll leave that to headquarters, or make everyone think so," Pierce answered. "And what about the sheriff's boy? He has a kid, a bright-eyed, bushy-tailed youngster, another little Valenti in the making. We would be remiss not to keep an eye on the lad. I could even see us making a trade, say, a youngster for an alien?"

A slow smile spread across Brian's face. "Danny, you are spectacularly devious."

"I am," Pierce agreed. "And that's why I'm the boss."




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





The sky was growing lighter by the minute as Valenti sped along the road, eyes peeled for any movement. They were approaching the point where a car could have turned off in any one of three directions as it fled the Army base, and when he got there, he'd have to make a choice; the Jetta definitely hadn't taken their route, so that left two others, and he'd better choose correctly. It would be the height of irony if, having been told point blank that aliens were real and made the decision to help one of them, he helped bust him out and then promptly lost him. Beside him sat a walking, talking bag of fear and worry called Michael Guerin, more tightly wound than any spring and only millimeters from losing it. Though he hadn't turned out to be the town thug he'd first appeared to be, Valenti was willing to bet that any Special Unit agents they happened across faced long odds of survival—judging from the look on Guerin's face, he'd beat them to a bloody pulp if he had half a chance. No surprise, really; it took incredible balls to do what he'd done, to dress up all agent-like and walk into hell itself to pull his friend out. Here he'd been hovering uncertainly around the front door while a teenager wormed his way in, got what he wanted, and made it back out in one piece. Granted he'd had a hand in that, but still...it was a sobering thought that law enforcement had dithered while kids took matters into their own hands.

"See anything?" Valenti asked, breaking the heavy silence.

"Don't you think I would have said something if I had?"

Fair enough, Valenti thought dryly. "So how'd you pull it off back there?" he continued, long used to snarky responses from Kyle. "Nice suit, and all, but how'd you get past that security gate?"

Guerin glanced at him briefly. "Guess I got lucky."

"Bullshit," Valenti said casually. "That wasn't 'luck', and you know it. And I know it."

"Put it this way—it was a lot more luck than I wanted it to be. What about you? How'd you know where to find us?"

"Liz Parker," Valenti answered, fairly certain that if Max's grandmother didn't want Max to know she was "in the know", she probably didn't want Michael knowing either. "She told me where to find him. And then insisted on coming along. All of them did."

They'd reached the fork in the road and, mentally rolling the dice, Valenti began to turn down the nearest option. "Why are you going this way?" Guerin demanded.

Valenti shrugged. "We have no idea which way they went, so it's a toss-up. We've got a 50-50 chance either way."

"No, go back!" Guerin ordered. "Go the other way!"

"Why?"

"Because Liz is a linear thinker. She would have taken the straightest path."

As good a clue as any, Valenti thought as he swung a U-turn and headed down the other road. They'd only driven a couple of minutes when Guerin shouted, "There's the Jetta!"

Valenti pulled up behind Amy DeLuca's little red car, parked all catawampus on the river overpass. "The back window is broken," Michael said, bolting out of the cruiser even before it had stopped. "Max! Liz! You out here?"

Valenti braced himself for what they'd find when they reached the car, but there was no one inside. Both front doors were open, the rear window was indeed shattered, and there were multiple bullet holes throughout the vehicle. "They were shooting at them?" Michael said incredulously. "Jesus!"

"No blood stains, though, so they didn't hit anybody," Valenti noted, pushing the blood-stained scrubs he found on the floor beneath the front seat. Those stains weren't from a gunshot wound, although he didn't like to think where they had come from, nor did he want Michael wasting his time thinking about it either.

"So what does that mean?" Michael demanded, his voice rising. "Does that mean they caught them?"

It might, Valenti thought privately. "Let's not jump to conclusions," he said out loud, walking to the edge of the overpass. "I'm betting they went over."

Michael joined him at the edge. "Really? Down there?"

"Think about it," Valenti said. "The car's cold, so whatever happened here happened a while ago. It would have been dark, pitch dark out here, with no street lights. They could have lost anyone tailing them by hunkering down in that dark."

"Max was in bad shape," Guerin fretted. "He could barely walk."

"I remember," Valenti allowed. "But Liz wasn't. And she would have moved heaven and Earth to keep them from being found."

Guerin surveyed the drop beneath the overpass, precipitous in the growing light. "Yeah, well, that's the least she could have done."

Valenti followed him back to the car, reflecting on the fact that Liz apparently wasn't the only one who felt she was to blame for Max's current troubles. "It's not her fault, you know," he said as they headed down the road closest to the river. "That he healed her, I mean. She didn't ask for it. And it's not his fault either; he had no idea all this would come of it."

Guerin fixed him with a measured stare, and for a moment, Valenti thought he was going to deny the whole thing. "Yeah, well...it's kind of hard to miss the fact that if he hadn't done that, we wouldn't be here right now," Guerin said, apparently deciding they were past the broken ketchup bottle story.

"No, you'd be visiting Liz's grave," Valenti said, "or at least Max would be. And wishing he'd done something to make it turn out differently. He saved a girl's life, Michael. It's hard to fault him for that."

"You didn't seem to have a problem 'faulting him for that'," Guerin retorted.

"I didn't realize what had happened," Valenti argued. "I thought handprints killed. I thought he'd killed."

"Max has never killed anyone," Guerin insisted.

"I know that now," Valenti said. "But I didn't then, and you lot weren't exactly forthcoming."

"You didn't give us a reason to be," Guerin shot back.

"Maybe not," Valenti allowed. "But you can't deny that this all would have gone a lot differently if he'd just fessed up right away."

"And told you what?" Guerin demanded. "Hi, I'm an alien, and I just healed that girl's gunshot wound? Like that would have gone over. Do you really expect me to believe you wouldn't have blown him in if he'd done that? I don't even get why you're not blowing him in now. Why are you helping us?"

"There's a right side here, and a wrong side," Valenti answered, grateful to have been spared having to answer the first question. "I don't think Pierce is on the right side. Besides, I'd like to think that if my son were in trouble somewhere and I wasn't around to help, that somebody would be there for him. Maybe that's..."

He stopped. Two figures were up ahead, far ahead, running hand in hand...and followed by a Hummer. "There they are!" Guerin called. "Stop the car!"

The authority in his voice was such that Valenti obeyed even though it seemed like the wrong thing to do. They both climbed out, Valenti drew his gun and aimed for the tires, while Guerin raised his hand...

...and Valenti watched as his world, somewhat larger of late, grew even larger.




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





"Anything?" Anthony asked.

Dee lowered the binoculars with a sigh. "Nope. Nothing."

"We've reached town," Anthony noted. "Where to now?"

Good question, Dee thought. They'd been scouring the desert for almost two hours now with no sign of Max, always following the road back into town just in case he'd made it back that far. They had, however, passed two FBI vehicles, both of which had slowed as they passed, presumably to peer into their car for contraband teenagers and ironically the only bright spot in their quest. If the Unit was still looking, they hadn't found him either.

"Let's go back around," Dee said.

"We've been around three times already," Anthony reminded her.

"Then let's make it four."

"So we're just going to keep going round and round all day?"

"Yes," Dee said crossly, "and all night if we have to, until I know where he is."

"Can we stop for breakfast?" Anthony asked, looking hopefully at the Crashdown's gaily winking sign.

"Unbelievable," Dee muttered. "Your grandson's on the run from the FBI, and you want food!"

"I can't help my grandson if I'm starving," Anthony pointed out. "Jeff'll wrap it up for us."

"No. It'll take too long."

"Coffee, then?"

"Fine, but hurry up," Dee said, sighing the sigh of the put-upon as Anthony pulled over and dashed into the diner just as her phone rang, pulling it out so fast, she almost dropped it. "Hello?"

"Why didn't you tell me Max wasn't the only one?"

The voice was harsh, accusatory, more than a little scared...and male. "Jim—I mean, Sheriff?" Dee corrected hastily. "Where are you?"

"None of your business," Valenti retorted. "Answer the question—why didn't you tell me Max wasn't the only alien?"

"Oh, for heaven's sake!" Dee exclaimed in exasperation. "My grandson is missing, and that's what's on your mind? My husband and I have been driving around the desert for hours looking for him, and now he wants breakfast. Is there something about Y chromosomes and bad timing?"

There was a pause. "He's safe," Valenti said, sounding somewhat mollified, "him and Liz both. We found them."

"Oh, thank God," Dee breathed, leaning against the window in relief. "Is he all right? Is he hurt? Is he—"

"He's fine," Valenti said. "He's walking and talking, running, even. Whatever they did to him, he lived through it."

"Thank you," Dee said over a huge lump in her throat. "Thank you for finding him."

"You're welcome. Now, about that question of mine?"

"It wasn't relevant," Dee said. "Max was the only one in danger, or so I thought—I didn't realize the rest of them had gone after him. Besides, I was dumping enough on you at the time without—"

"Permission granted to dump more," Valenti interrupted. "How many constitutes 'the rest of them'? How many are we talking?"

"Let me guess," Dee said wearily. "You're thinking invasion?"

"I'm thinking I'm neck deep in this, and I still don't know what's going on," Valenti said tartly. "How many?"

"Four," Dee answered. "Max, Isabel, Michael, and Tess."

"Who's 'Tess'?"

"She's new in town. You'd know her as Ed Harding's daughter."

There was a sharp intake of breath, as though that nugget hadn't been expected. "Okay," Valenti said warily. "That pretty much matches what Max told me, although he didn't mention Tess."

"They only just met her," Dee said, "so they're still grappling with the fact that there's one more of them. They all grew up thinking it was just the three of them."

"And why is that?" Valenti asked. "Why three in Roswell and one not?"

"I'd be all day answering that one," Dee said.

"We don't have all day. Summarize."

Dee bit back another observation about wasting time as the sheriff's tone grew sharper. He's on the edge, she realized, and she was partly to blame for that. She'd sucked him into this without full disclosure, although there'd hardly been time for that. "Put it this way," she said carefully. "Alien guardians quarrel just like human guardians. One of them felt the children should be raised by humans, while the other felt they should raise them themselves. They parted company."

"Why did he want them raised by humans?" Valenti asked suspiciously.

"Because he wanted them to have families, to have parents who loved them. They're guardians, not parents. They're not cut out for parenting."

"But why children?" Valenti pressed. "They can't be survivors from the crash; that was decades ago."

"They weren't supposed to be children," Dee said, struggling to compress a complex story into something both smaller and coherent. "They were supposed to be...I don't know, 'born' full grown and then go straight back home and mop up the mess there. But it didn't work because things got damaged in the crash, and they showed up as children who needed raising which they weren't expecting to have to deal with, so they had to wait for them to grow up before they could tell them what they're supposed to do. But then Max tripped the alarm by healing Liz, and...oh, good Lord, this isn't making any sense," she sighed. "It must sound like some bad sci fi show."

There was a long pause where Dee was certain she'd lost their newest ally for good. "Actually, it doesn't," Valenti allowed. "I've got a nose for lies. Lies are usually carefully thought out and wrapped up with a bow, not messy and rambling and desperate."

"Yes, well, that's what happens when you make me compress War and Peace into three sentences or less," Dee said crossly. "And thanks for calling me 'desperate'."

"Maybe not one of my most diplomatic observations," Valenti allowed, "but you have to admit it fits."

There was just the barest hint of humor in his voice now, which no longer sounded quite so tense. "How did you find out about the rest of them?" Dee asked. "What happened?"

"I was out with Michael looking for Max," Valenti answered. "We caught up with them being chased by the Bureau. Michael got out, and held up his hand, and...well...I don't know what happened. Their car started smoking, and it stopped, which gave Max and Liz time to climb in and us time to get out of there."

Anthony reappeared with two huge cups of coffee, looking at her questioningly as he climbed inside. "We heard you shot Pierce," Dee said. "Is that true?"

"Yeah."

"Does he know it was you who shot him?"

"Oh, yeah."

Dee's eyes widened. "Okay. Uh...so if you're with Max and the rest of them...may I ask where Kyle is?"

"Home," Valenti answered. "Why?"

"You sure about that? Because if Pierce knows it was you who shot him and he can't find you, he'll go for the next best thing."

"He wouldn't dare," Valenti said.

"Seriously?" Dee said. "You've got a nose for more than liars, Sheriff. Do you really believe that if he can't find you, he won't head straight for the thing you love most?"





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




"Then we have to run," Isabel said sadly.

The statement hung in the air like a cloud, making the cold, damp air in the old mine feel even colder and damper. Max looked from one resigned face to another, realizing he had a fight on his hands just to get to the fight he wanted to have. Now that he'd had some sleep, now that he'd put some distance between him and the electric shocks, ice cold water, and scalpels, now that he'd nearly stopped shaking in fear, he was beginning to shake with something else—anger, anger which could be put to good use except for the fact that he'd need help. Lots of it.

"If we run, then he'll just keep hunting us, and there's no coming back," he argued as Isabel eyed him, unconvinced. "Are you willing to never see home again? Any of you?" Max looked deliberately from one pair of downcast eyes to the next. "Then we have to fight."

"Fight the most elite unit in the FBI," Alex said skeptically.

"Who now knows who we are, and everything about us," Isabel added.

"Pierce does know who we are," Max allowed. "But we also know who he is. And we're stronger than he thinks. We may even be stronger than we think."

"With 'may' being the operative word there," Isabel murmured.

This wasn't going well. Max glanced at Michael, whose expression made it clear that he both wanted to fight and didn't believe it would work. Even Tess looked despondent, probably because she'd lost Nasedo. Only Liz looked determined, but Michael and Isabel wouldn't follow her...

"Then I say we fight," another voice declared.

It was Valenti, standing in the mouth of the cave and looking very shaken. "What's wrong?" Max asked sharply. "Did something else happen?"

"He's got Kyle," Valenti answered heavily. "I heard Pierce on the radio playing deputy. Which explains why my home phone line is dead, and Kyle's not answering his cell."

"Oh, my God," Maria whispered.

"Kyle has absolutely nothing to do with any of this," Liz protested.

"Pierce doesn't care," Max said. "All he cares about is that Valenti shot him and helped me escape."

Isabel's eyes widened along with everyone else's. "What? He..." She turned to Valenti. "You shot Pierce? You mean with a gun?"

"No, with a Super Soaker," Michael deadpanned. "Of course with a gun. And no, he's obviously not dead."

"Crap," Alex muttered.

"You said it," Maria said darkly.

"Look, for me this was about fairness," Valenti said, looking directly at Michael. "It was about doing the right thing. It still is, but now it's more—now it's personal. You have your...talents, and I have mine. I want this guy gone, out of my life, out of yours. If we all work together, we can do that." He paused.

"Who's with me?"



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


I'll post Chapter 124 next Sunday. :)
BRIVARI: "In our language, the root of the word 'Covari' means 'hidden'. I'm always there, Your Highness, even if you don't see me."

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Kathy W
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Chapter 124

Postby Kathy W » Sun Sep 15, 2013 4:34 pm

emerald 123: Thank you! Dee's suggestion to Valenti that Pierce would stoop that low came right before Valenti heard Pierce on the radio confirming that he had. Valenti is so honorable that it might not occur to him that Pierce would use a child that way. I was always surprised that he struggled with the notion of killing Pierce at the end of S1; after all,, Pierce was clearly willing to kill any and all of them. It wasn't really until the beginning of S2 when Michael was in jail and Valenti told him not to feel guilty about killing a man like Pierce that he seemed to have made his peace with that. Valenti got there in stages; I got there a lot faster. Not sure if that's good or bad... ;)

keepsmiling7: Supersoakers. :mrgreen: I agree that would be totally Michael!


Thanks for reading, and especially for the feedback!





CHAPTER ONE HUNDRED TWENTY-FOUR



May 14, 2000, 5:45 a.m.

Valenti residence





Kyle Valenti cracked his bedroom door, listening carefully. Hearing nothing, he crept into the hallway, careful not to make the slightest sound, working his way to his father's bedroom. Empty, as was the living room and the kitchen. The real test, however, would be the driveway. Holding his breath, he peeked out the front door.

Yes! Kyle thought jubilantly, pumping a fist. His father's cruiser was gone, meaning he'd managed the twin feats of arriving home late last night after curfew and avoiding a morning confrontation regarding same. The fact that he hadn't been nailed last night meant nothing; his father was famously all-hearing and all-knowing, as evidenced by the many times he'd thought he'd gotten away with blowing curfew only to find his dad waiting for him the next morning, ready to lower the boom. All that experience, however, had finally paid off; he'd had Paulie drop him off a block away, crept through several neighbors' backyards, and climbed in his own bedroom window, conveniently left open for just this occasion. He didn't believe for one minute that his father didn't know what he'd been up to, but delaying the inevitable father-son confab always made things better; the insertion of an entire day of police and school business between arrest and arraignment typically made the sentence at least somewhat less severe.

This time he'd managed to delay the arrest also, and he was in a fine mood as he whistled into the kitchen and dug into the back of the cupboard for the forbidden box of cereal. No Shredded Wheat today, no siree Bob—it was good ol' Count Chocula, a whole bowl full, in all its chocolaty, sugary glory. The real version of Chocolate Frosted Sugar Bombs, Kyle thought, recalling the comic strip Calvin and the title character's favorite fictional breakfast cereal as the brown globs spilled into a bowl. His father hated this stuff, always insisting on "healthy" cereal, so he had to buy the good stuff on the sly and squirrel it away for just such reprieves as this. And what a glorious reprieve it was, eating sugar coated chocolate in your boxers, another no-no in the Valenti household and after busting curfew, no less. It didn't get much better than this. Almost made Monday morning worth it.

But all good things must come to an end, including second bowls of forbidden cereal. Careful to place his cereal bowl in the dishwasher—no point in adding to the list of transgressions—he helped himself to a very long, very hot shower minus the parental bellowing about hogging hot water, electric bills, and such like. Finally ready for school, he had to retreat twice, first to comb his hair and again because he'd forgotten to put on deodorant. Funny how all the usual social niceties went out the window when dear ol' dad wasn't looking over your shoulder. Maybe it was just as well that dear ol' dad usually did; barring that, it appeared he'd revert to a troglodyte state in record time. Wonder if troglodytes used Mitchum, Kyle chuckled, finally throwing open the front door...

...where a man in a dark suit regarded him impassively.

"Wow," Kyle said. "Little early for deliveries, isn't it?"

Suit's expression darkened. "I'm not a delivery boy. I'm here to make certain you don't leave this house."

Kyle blinked. "Say what?"

"I said, I'm here to make certain—"

"Yeah, yeah, I heard you," Kyle interrupted. "What I meant was, what the hell? Who are you, anyway?"

"Your father sent me," Suit informed him. "I'm to make certain you stay here, and protect you from any harm."

"What kind of 'harm'?" Kyle demanded.

"My orders are to protect you from any harm," Suit repeated.

"You said that," Kyle said impatiently. "What happened? Where's my Dad?"

"Not here," Suit answered. "I'm here, and my orders are to protect you from any harm."

"Great, you're on a loop," Kyle said in exasperation. "Look, if you're not going to tell me what's going on, just get out of my way. I have school."

"Not today, you don't," Suit informed him.

"Yes, today I do," Kyle insisted. "You know, attendance requirements and all that jazz? Eligibility for sports? Ringing any bells? No? Fine," he said, dropping his backpack on the floor, going to the phone. "I'll just call the station and..."

A prickle of fear crept down Kyle's spine when he was greeted with deafening silence instead of the familiar dial tone. "Oh, no you don't," he muttered, pulling out his cell, only to have it plucked from his hand by Suit.

"Your father wants you to stay here," Suit said. "No school, no phones. My orders are to—"

"Stop sounding like a broken record!" Kyle exclaimed. "And give me my phone back! What the hell is going on here? My dad wouldn't put some Men's Wearhouse advertisement on the front stoop to 'protect me', he'd send one of his deputies..." He stopped suddenly, realizing that was exactly the point.

"Oh, I get it!" Kyle said, breaking into a smile. "This is payback! I know you're not supposed to admit it," he went on when Suit raised an eyebrow, "but this is about me getting in late last night, isn't it? Because if this were real, he would have sent someone I know, and besides, Dad loves to get creative with the punishment. Like that time I egged Mrs. Murphy's house at Halloween, and he not only made me clean it up and apologize to the Murphy's, he also made me buy a dozen boxes of eggs with my own money and stand outside the supermarket giving them away for free while wearing a sign that said, 'I will never throw eggs again.' " Kyle chuckled at the memory, although it certainly hadn't been a laughing matter at the time. "It really bugs Dad when I screw up because I'm the sheriff's kid, so he always feels he has to overcompensate with the discipline because, hey, how's he supposed to keep his station in order if he can't keep his own house in order, right?"

Suit said nothing, the expression on his face so...well...expressionless that Kyle was tempted to kick him in the shins just to see if the guy would yell. "But this," Kyle went on admiringly, "this is just above and beyond. Putting me on house arrest because I'm not 'safe'? Sending some actor automaton to make it look real? Because we both know his goofy deputies wouldn't be able to pull this off and keep a straight face. It's supposed to get me thinking about the reason for the curfew and how ignoring it isn't 'safe', right? Right? Right," he concluded when Suit remained silent. "Okay, here's the deal, Superman. I hate English class, so I'll go along with this for that long, but no longer, 'cause if I'm absent today, that screws up my attendance for sports, and I know Dad wouldn't go that far. So you just run along and do your best doorstop imitation until then, when I'm leaving one way or another because you can't watch every single window and door at the same time, now can you? 'Course not," he said, answering his own question as Suit continued to stare at him. "But I gotta say, you're doing a bang up job. Had me going there for a minute. Hope he's paying you well. You deserve it."



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




"So are we all clear?" Valenti asked. "Everyone straight on their marching orders?"

"Yes," Max answered.

"Got it," Michael said.

"Absolutely," Tess nodded.

"I guess," Isabel allowed.

That last, less than enthusiastic answer pretty much summed it up for the remaining members of the group, all of whom appeared unconvinced. Valenti hadn't known what to expect from Ed Harding's "daughter", although Dee's explanation had made it clear why Evans and company had bothered to hide a camera in her house. Turned out she was one of the most vocal contributors to their plan to take their lives back, second only to Max and Michael. Isabel was another story, as were all of the humans. Listen to me, he thought dryly. The "humans'. He'd only just learned there really were aliens, and he was already categorizing by species.

"Speak up," Valenti said bluntly. "It's clear we have some reluctant participants here, and that's bad; anyone who's not one hundred percent invested in this could very well scuttle the whole shebang. What's the problem?"

"The 'problem'," Alex Whitman said, "is that we're all having trouble imaging our merry little band going up against the FBI. At least that's my problem," he clarified. "Please, everyone else chime in."

"We just went up against the FBI, and won," Valenti pointed out.

"With help from Nasedo," Isabel said. "And now he's..."

"Not here," Michael finished as Tess dropped her eyes. "Yeah, I know. But this doesn't involve breaking into high security facilities. This is our turf."

"Exactly," Valenti agreed. "That's the whole point, to engage Pierce on our own turf."

"And that's supposed to make us feel better?" Liz said.

Valenti fixed her with a level stare. "I'm surprised at you, Miss Parker. You of all people should know what's at stake here. I would think you'd be rarin' to go."

"Yeah, well, maybe I'd be more 'rarin' ' if I hadn't just almost lost Max," she answered. "If this goes wrong, I could lose him again."

"And if we do nothing, you could still lose him again," Valenti pointed out as Evans pulled her closer. "Let me be clear here; this isn't a choice between taking a risk or not taking a risk. We take a risk either way. Do nothing, and Pierce continues to hunt us, all of us; do something, and we might put a stop to it...or we might not. There's a risk either way. The question isn't whether we want to take the risk—the question is which risk do we want to take. I say we take the 'do something' risk because we at least have a chance of ending this. Pick 'do nothing', and Max is right back behind bars at Pierce's earliest opportunity."

Silence. Max, Michael, and Tess were nodding, but the rest still looked wary. "But because there's a risk either way," Valenti continued, "I understand if some of you feel differently. Those of you who do need to back up and leave it to those who agree with me. You can't be halfway in on this one—the stakes are too high. Partially committed people make the whole thing iffy, and we can't have that."

"Because it's not iffy to begin with," Alex said in a deeply ironic tone.

"Because it is iffy to begin with," Valenti corrected. "It's already risky, and having those with huge doubts participating makes it even riskier. Step up, or step away. I won't think less of you for it. And if you really think what we're trying is that dangerous, you'll want to do everything in your power to make it less so...right?"

There was a long pause where no one said anything before the last person Valenti expected to throw a hat in the ring stepped forward. "I'm in," Maria DeLuca declared with a certainty which made her the spitting image of her mother. "As in all in. I'm with the sheriff—I want this sucker gone."

"Me too," Alex agreed.

Liz Parker looked up at Max before nodding. "Yeah, me too."

"Oh, of course I'm in," Isabel said impatiently when Michael raised an eyebrow in her direction. "I just think it's...ambitious. But I'm in," she added hastily. "All in."

"Good," Valenti said. "I'll go to the station and find Pierce. Ring my phone when you're done."

Everybody scattered. Liz Parker and Tess Harding climbed into the back seat of the Jetta, sitting conspicuously on different sides of the car. Max came over to Valenti's cruiser, leaning on the open window. "Kyle's okay," he said reassuringly. "They won't hurt him, not while they think he'll be useful against you."

Valenti winced. "Aren't I the one who's supposed to be reassuring you? Word is I'm the adult, and law enforcement to boot."

Max smiled faintly. "I'll take care of him. Don't worry. And sheriff?" he added seriously. "I really appreciate your help. Thank you."

"Don't thank me yet," Valenti said soberly. "We're not done." He held out a hand. "See you at the UFO center."

The handshake was firm, the hand completely human, at least on the outside. I just shook hands with an alien, Valenti thought, willing to think of just about anything, however mundane, that would take his mind off the thought of his son in Pierce's clutches. I like to think that if my son were in trouble somewhere and I wasn't around to help, that somebody would be there for him. He hadn't expected that to come true quite so soon, but it appeared someone was there for him, and a quite unexpected someone at that. Thank God for small favors.

His phone rang. Unknown number, the screen declared, and he stared at it for a moment before flipping it open. "Valenti," he answered warily.

"Where is he?"

The voice was calm, but commanding, and it didn't sound like Pierce. "Who is this?" Valenti demanded.

" 'Agent Emerson'," the voice announced, "or that's who I was when we met at the base."

Valenti's hand tightened on the phone. "You're the alien."

" 'The' alien," the voice chuckled, an odd sound in the midst of such dire circumstances. "Such a singular honorific. But yes, I am 'the' alien."

"Surprised you're laughing," Valenti said. "Not much to laugh about at the moment. I take it you've been talking to Dee Proctor?"

"I'm always talking to Dee Proctor. And it's precisely when we have little to laugh about that it becomes so important to laugh at whatever we can."

Philosophy? While Valenti wasn't certain what he'd been expecting, he could safely say he hadn't been expecting that. "How did you get this number?"

"Seriously? Your 'cell phones' are—"

"Let me guess," Valenti broke in. "Toys? Playthings?"

"Not that bad," the alien allowed, "but simple devices nonetheless. But we digress. Dee tells me you found him. Where is he?"

"Since they're such 'simple devices', then you know how insecure they are. And why I'm not willing to answer that question over a cell connection."

"A connection with my phone is different," the alien said. "No one can hack this."

"That so?" Valenti said. "How nice for you. But since I don't know how that works, or if it works, or even if you're who you say you are, I'm still not answering."

"Sheriff, perhaps I did not make myself clear," the alien said deliberately. "I require information regarding my Ward's whereabouts. You have this information. Therefore you will furnish me with the information I require. Am I clear now?"

"No," Valenti retorted. "And I'm not at all 'clear' how you got from 'I know it' to 'I have to tell you because you said so'."

"Correct me if I'm wrong, but you offered to help us—"

"Right, I offered," Valenti said. "That makes me a partner, not a lackey. Oh, and when someone on Earth wants something, it's considered good manners to say 'please'."

"Very well then," came the now slightly exasperated voice. "Although this is hardly the time for indulging your hurt feelings, will you 'please' tell me where I can find Max Evans?"

"No," Valenti said bluntly. "This connection isn't safe, and if they find him again, we'll never get him back. He's out, he's okay, and he's safe. That's all you get."

"That is most certainly not 'all I get'," the alien said sharply. "I've been hunting him for hours, as has the Unit—"

"And I found him first," Valenti said. "Tough break, but there you have it. If it's any consolation, Michael Guerin was with me, and he blew up one of the Bureau's cars, or something like that. Thanks for not telling me there was more than one of them."

"Says the man who won't tell me where my Ward is," the alien retorted. "Things could go very badly if I remain separated—"

"Things already have gone badly," Valenti snapped. "They have my son!" He stopped, closing his eyes briefly. "So don't you dare lecture me about being 'separated'," he went on after a moment. "I've got more than just my own skin in this game now, and I am not doing anything—anything—to screw it up. Including blabbing sensitive information to God knows who over a cell connection."

What sounded like a deep sigh came over the phone. "My apologies that your son was dragged into this. But Max is my responsibility—"

"And Kyle's mine," Valenti interrupted. "Try again."

"Keeping me out of the loop will only make things worse," the alien argued. "You need me."

"What for?" Valenti retorted. "You're the one who screwed this up in the first place. If you hadn't taken Liz Parker last night, none of this would have happened."

There was a long pause. "Say again?"

"Liz Parker!" Valenti practically shouted. "You know, the Liz Parker you rode off into the sunset with on your mission to smoke out Pierce? Great idea, crappy execution; taking Liz made Max follow you, which is how Pierce got a hold of him. None of this would have happened if not for that single stupid move that I still don't understand. Not that it matters now that my kid is stuck just exactly where Max Evans was just last night!"

Valenti put a hand to his mouth, physically stopping himself from continuing. He was perilously close to losing both his temper and his nerve, neither of which he could afford to lose right now. Just the thought of Kyle in Pierce's clutches made him sick, and the thought of waltzing into the station and placing himself in those same clutches wasn't much better. Then Pierce would have both of them, and he would be entirely dependent on the mercy of others to free them, others like the owner of the voice on this phone who he'd just basically called an incompetent idiot, not the best strategy for securing someone's help. Especially someone who could kill with a touch.

"It would appear apologies are in order again," the alien said, his voice now heavy with disgust. "I was not aware of the Parker girl's involvement, although it does answer some nagging questions. I agree it was a foolish move and had tragic results. I'm not the one who made that move, so I unfortunately had no control over it."

"I don't care who did it," Valenti said. "It's done, and we're left with the fallout. You got what you wanted—Max is free. But Kyle isn't, so we'll talk when he is. Not a moment before."

"He may be free, but he's not safe," the alien argued. "Those are two different things which don't come as a set. Freeing your son will not guarantee his safety—"

Click.

Valenti set the phone down, ignoring it when it rang again. More philosophy, and technically true. If their plan worked, they would all have both freedom and safety, but there was no point discussing that with the alien.

He seriously doubted whoever was on the other end of that line would approve of Max walking right back into the lion's maw.




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




Valenti residence




"There," Max said, pointing. "Look through the patio door."

Tess narrowed her eyes. "I see him."

"So do I," Michael said. "Standing there like a road block."

"There's someone else just beyond him," Isabel reported. "Must be Kyle."

"I don't see a blessed thing," Alex said.

Tess glanced over to see Alex, Liz, and Maria all looking at the patio, then back to each other, bewildered. "We have sharper eyesight," Isabel explained almost apologetically. "He's there; a single agent, just inside the patio door."

Alex looked again, shook his head. "Guess I'll have to take your word for it."

"One agent," Maria said thoughtfully. "And one outside the Crashdown. Is that it?"

"Looks like it," Michael answered. "There aren't any at any of our houses, which is weird."

"Not really," Tess said. "They don't have many to spare, so they have to place them strategically. Kyle is collateral to control Valenti, and they know we all go to the Crashdown. Every agent they park somewhere else is one less out looking for Max."

"Good," Max said, although everyone else looked less than enthusiastic with this assessment. "That makes less for us to take care of. So...two agents in two different places. How do we take them out?"

The Others and their friends began listing various ways to waylay the agents as Tess listened with growing impatience. There were too many people, too many opinions, and it wasn't helping that some of those opinions were coming from humans who offered limited value for the task ahead. Only Liz held her tongue, ironic, really, because Liz was the one who'd done the most. Against all the odds, she'd kept Max away from the Unit for the entire night, giving him time to recover and Michael and Valenti time to find him. He'd looked a mess when they'd finally rescued him last night, barely able to walk as Michael half carried him to the car, but as long as he was out, she knew he'd be okay—now all they had to do was run, comparatively simple to extracting him from a high security compound. But then Nasedo hadn't come out, and by the time they were on their way to the mine, she'd started to worry. When Michael had pushed back at her very sensible suggestion that they go to the pod chamber, Nasedo's very orders in the event of just such an emergency as this, she'd started to panic.

"Listen, he might not have made it, okay? We heard gun shots."

Tess closed her eyes against the memory even as the rest of them continued arguing. I can't die, Nasedo had always told her, not in the conventional sense. He'd never bothered to define "conventional sense", but he had left her instructions on what to do should circumstances define it for her, none of which involved the pod chamber because by that time, she'd be past merely waiting for him to reappear. She'd known the way to the Indian reservation as long as she could remember, known exactly who and what to ask for and what story to tell whoever listened, along with a second story in case no one did. As the hours went by and Nasedo did not reappear, it grew more and more likely that she'd have to follow those instructions. The only question was would she follow them herself or include the Others? Part of her hesitation was that telling the Others meant telling the humans; she still wasn't used to having so many people to consult, and she doubted they'd be interested in resurrecting Nasedo. Another part was that she strongly suspected the Others would feel exactly the same way.

"I'll do it," Tess said suddenly.

Everyone stopped talking. "You'll do what?" Michael asked.

"Get rid of Pierce's agents," Tess answered. "You can all stop arguing."

"Uh...maybe you meant 'discussing'?" Alex ventured.

"No, I meant 'arguing'," Tess replied. "But if you'd like to argue that you're not arguing, go right ahead. Whatever you call it, you can stop now. I'll take care of it, the same way I took care of Pierce."

Max looked at Michael, who shrugged. "I have no idea what she did. All I know is that it worked; Pierce was threatening to slice'n dice you, and then all of a sudden he was in La La Land."

"How?" Max asked, looking at Tess. "What did you do?"

"She can make people...see things," Isabel answered when Tess didn't say anything.

"What kind of 'things'?" Max asked warily.

"Pretty much anything," Tess admitted.

"Sure worked on me," Isabel said. "She gave me a demonstration. Made me think an agent was carrying her off when we were both just sitting there."

The atmosphere in the group changed suddenly, just as suddenly as Pierce had gone into "La La Land". Tess braced herself against the tidal wave of suspicion rolling her way, knowing this was coming but expecting it later. The way she'd waylaid Pierce had been bound to come to light, and when it did, she'd known they would all react just exactly the way they were reacting now, the way Max was reacting as he started putting two and two together. And once they found out about mindwarps, she'd be forced to admit she'd mindwarped Max, who would think that every vision, every flash he'd had regarding her had been a mindwarp. Some weren't, but the fact that any of them were would taint the rest, and the fact that she could do that at all would mean they'd never trust her. It was a moment she hadn't been looking forward to, but there was nothing for it now. This was the only way.

"Look, it's the safest way to handle this," she told the gimlit-eyed group. "You're talking about throwing rocks at windows and getting them to chase us, and all of that is too risky. I can do this from a distance, so none of us has to be in harm's way. It'll work."

"How much of a distance?" Michael asked.

"Valenti's house and the Crashdown aren't that far from each other," Tess said, "not much farther away than Pierce was when I...distracted him."

"It's true," Isabel confirmed. "We were on the other side of that security door when she did it."

"But that's only one person," Max said. "We have two agents."

"I can do two at once," Tess said, "as long as it's simple. This'll be simple."

"How simple?" Michael asked. "What are you going to make them do? Kill themselves?"

"Michael!" Maria scolded.

"What?" Michael said. "I'm just trying to figure out the parameters here."

"I can't make anybody 'do' anything," Tess said. "I can only show them something."

"Can you make someone feel something?" Max asked softly.

Tess looked him directly in the eye. "No," she said deliberately. "What anyone does or feels is up to them."

"Okay, so, you can show them something that will make them...what?" Michael asked.

"It'll make them go away," Tess answered. "Isn't that what we want? For them to go away so we can get Kyle out of there?"

"Yes," Max said, apparently reserving the inevitable showdown on this subject for later. "We do. Michael, go with Tess to the Crashdown. Take Isabel and Liz with you. The rest of us will wait here for this agent to go away, and then talk to Kyle."

"Wait...what?" Tess protested. "I should stay here with you!"

"I want to stay here with you," Liz added.

Max shook his head. "This is the most dangerous place to be because Kyle is important to them. I want you out of danger," he said gently to Liz, "and if Tess can do what she says, that could come in handy later, so she needs to be away from here too."

"Right, so, Alex and I are expendable," Maria said dryly.

"Not at all," Max answered. "You're both going to keep your distance until I give the all clear, and then you're going to help me talk to Kyle. He's way more likely to listen to you than me."

"He's more likely to listen to me," Liz insisted.

"And I should be here in case anything goes wrong," Tess insisted. "If this is the most dangerous place to be, it's also the most important place to be."

"You said we don't have time to stand around arguing," Max reminded her, "and you're right. Valenti's waiting for us, and after what he did for me, I'm not letting anything happen to Kyle. Let's go."

You stood around arguing before, Tess thought, willing to bet the real reason he didn't want her there was because he didn't want to be near her in case she sent another chemistry class-style mindwarp his way. But everyone accepted his verdict without question and started moving with the exception of Liz, who hung back. "Go," she heard Max say softly, one finger to her lips. "I won't put you in harm's way again."




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




Roswell Sheriff's Station




Pierce checked his watch, went back to his magazine, checked it again. Five minutes later he walked to the window, left open so he could hear any car approaching the sheriff's usual parking spot. Five minutes after that, he threw in the towel.

"Agent Bellow," he called over the radio, "report."

"Haven't seen them, sir," Bellow answered. "All's quiet."

Shit, Pierce thought darkly. He slapped the radio down, grabbed it again, thought better of it and pulled out his cell. "Brian," he said when Agent Samuels answered. "How's our little bargaining chip?"

"Suspicious," Brian answered in a low voice. "He wasn't at first. Kid stayed out past curfew, figured this was daddy's way of teaching him a lesson, and I didn't bother to correct him. Guess Valenti gets points for inventiveness in the discipline department."

"So what changed?" Pierce asked.

"Technically? Nothing," Brian said. "The kid has the Valenti nose for trouble. Any word on his dad or the alien?"

"No," Pierce said sourly, "neither. And this is getting old. I told Valenti's deputies that Albuquerque was headlining the search for him, but I can't hold them off forever."

"Then let's cut our losses and head for Washington with the only prize we have," Brian said. "The alien's body will turn to dust some time in the next 48 hours, and we can't afford to let that happen."

"No way," Pierce retorted. "I didn't go through all this just to end up with the equivalent of a door prize."

"Danny, they're going to find out," Brian argued, "and when they do—"

"When they do, a dead body won't be enough," Pierce insisted. "I need more, and I am so close. We know there are at least two aliens out there now, so—"

"So, what, we're just going to chase them forever? It's over, Danny. At least you can take the news about the human body aliens back to Freeh and hope that saves your ass."

"And Valenti," Pierce said darkly. "I want his head. Without his help, it would never have escaped."

"Does he even know we have his kid?"

"He knows," Pierce assured him. "I made sure I put that out on the radio, and I know he's listening. He's way too wired into his town to stay away. He'll show up. We just have to give him more time."

"It's been hours," Brian protested. "He knows you won't do anything to his kid as long as the kid's still useful, which is probably why he hasn't bothered..."

A door slammed. Pierce walked to the window with Brian still protesting in his ear. "Oh, ye of little faith," Pierce said with satisfaction. "Never underestimate the pull of fathers and sons, Brian. Works every time."



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


I'll post Chapter 125 next Sunday. :)
BRIVARI: "In our language, the root of the word 'Covari' means 'hidden'. I'm always there, Your Highness, even if you don't see me."

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Kathy W
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Chapter 125

Postby Kathy W » Sun Sep 22, 2013 5:04 pm

Hello to everyone reading!

keepsmiling7 wrote:"social niceties" out the window when his did is gone.....that's an understatement!


I swear the vast majority of teenaged boys would skip a whole lot of social niceties if someone wasn't there insisting otherwise. :wink:

emerald123: Calvin & Hobbes. *sigh* They were better than most of the Sunday sermons I've heard. :mrgreen:

And no, I'm quite certain Tess didn't consider the consequences before engaging mindwarp. They're all still children, older children, perhaps, but children nonetheless, and children act on impulse, adolescents even more so. I'm betting she had an "impulse" with Max, one I'd understand and sympathize with, but would (hopefully) be smart enough not to indulge!






CHAPTER ONE HUNDRED TWENTY-FIVE




May 14, 2000, 9:30 a.m.

Crashdown Cafe





"I'm back!" Tess announced, the jeep rocking as she plopped into the passenger seat. "I got lucky—I had my hood up the whole time, but there was nobody in there, and the cashier didn't even look at me because he was busy reading Sports Illustrated. Here, I got you some."

Liz's head swung around to find a granola bar and a small bottle of orange juice hovering in mid-air. "No, thanks," she said tonelessly. "I'm not hungry."

The granola wavered slightly. "I...know it's not much," Tess allowed. "I wanted to get in and out as fast as I could."

"No, that's okay," Liz said. "I'm surprised you were willing to go at all."

"Well, you couldn't," Tess said. "Anyone would have spotted you in a New York minute. Nobody knows me yet, so I could get away with it. And besides, Chuckles the agent is on one of his laps, so we had a few minutes. Sure you don't want some?"

"Thanks, but no thanks," Liz said firmly. "Not hungry."

Tess shrugged. "Suit yourself." Ripping sounds followed, the wrapper of a granola bar followed by the pop of a cap. "I'll save yours in case you change your mind. It keeps, so even if..."

Please shut up, Liz begged silently as Tess babbled on, seemingly unaffected by the chaos around them. How could she sit there stuffing food in her face after what had happened to Max? She could safely say she'd lost her appetite after that flash in the junkyard of all the horrible things they'd done to him. And what in blazes had made Max insist on her going with Tess, of all people? For someone who didn't want to put her "in harm's way", it seemed an odd choice, especially since Tess had apparently done something during Max's rescue which was alarming enough to unnerve the rest of them. She hadn't quite followed the conversation about what Tess had done to Pierce, although frankly anything she'd done to Pierce was okay by her, nor was she clear on exactly what Tess was supposed to do when the agent assigned to the Crashdown reappeared, as he would shortly. A few minutes of surveillance when they'd arrived had revealed the pattern: Wait outside the Crashdown for 10 minutes, circle the area slowly for the next 10 minutes, repeat. Currently circling, the agent was due back within the next few minutes which was when Michael and Isabel, who were hiding nearby, would lead him astray and Tess would...what? She had an alien sitting next to her who could do something which frightened the other aliens, and she had no idea what it was. Assuming she does it at all, Liz thought wearily as various chewing and slurping noises came from the passenger seat. Thank God she'd only managed to slip into a convenience store. Just imagine what she'd be eating if there'd been a Chinese restaurant nearby.

"Sure you don't want some?" Tess said between bites. "Gotta keep your strength up if you're going to fight the Unit."

"I've been 'fighting the Unit' just fine without chocolate chip granola," Liz said.

Tess glanced down at the unopened granola bar. "Oh, geez, I'm sorry! I should have gotten different flavors in case you didn't like chocolate. I guess I'm not used to buying for someone else—

"No, it's not...I don't...I'm not hungry," Liz said crossly, cutting her off mid-sentence. "It's that simple."

"No, it's not," Tess protested.

Liz stared at her. "Excuse me?"

"I said it's not that simple," Tess repeated, as though she had every right in the world to weigh in on Liz's eating habits. "When was the last time you had something to eat?"

"I...why?" Liz demanded. "What difference does it make?"

"It makes a difference because we can't help anyone, not Max, not each other, not even ourselves, unless we're in good shape," Tess answered. "The last time I ate was late yesterday afternoon, and I'm betting it was about the same for you. We're all tired, we're all hungry, and tired, hungry people make mistakes. Making mistakes around the Unit is a bad idea. A very bad idea."

"Okay...well...I'll keep that in mind," Liz said, furious that Tess had a point.

"I'm serious, Liz," Tess persisted. "I've been running my whole life. When you're under this kind of stress, the usual parameters don't apply. Just because you don't feel hungry doesn't mean you don't need food. Just because—"

"Okay, I get it!" Liz burst out in exasperation. "Enough with the science lesson!"

Tess paused. "I was about to say that just because you don't like me isn't a reason not to eat the granola bar. Especially when Max's life is at stake."

Liz's hands tightened on the steering wheel. How dare she? How dare she make it sound like she was some selfish tweenager throwing a tantrum after everything she'd been through? "This isn't about Max, or you, or your lifestyle. It's just about me not being hungry."

Tess's expression softened. "Yes, it is. It's about all of that, and more. You know that."

Liz closed her eyes briefly as Tess went back to her granola. She was right, of course—it was about all of that, and she was behaving like a petulant child while Tess was sounding reasonable and knowledgeable and mature, and...and infuriating, Liz finished silently. If only it were possible for someone to choke on their own granola.

"I'm just. Not. Hungry," Liz said, struggling to keep her voice even. "And no wonder, because nobody could be if they knew what had happened to Max. Do you have any idea what they did to him?"

Tess's eyes grew round. "No. What did they do to him?"

Liz's mouth opened, but she clamped it firmly shut before she could answer the question. Tess didn't know because Tess didn't have what she had, didn't connect to Max the way she did. There's a book, Max had said when she'd asked him why they'd decided to trust Tess during their long night huddled in that junkyard. A book she knew about. A book with our pictures, when we were little and now. They knew what we'd look like. According to Max, the book claimed that he and Tess were a pair...which was exactly what Nasedo had said. That news had hit her like a slap in the face, but she'd been so exhausted that she'd fallen asleep, and so busy since then that she hadn't had time to ponder it until she'd found herself alone with Max's alleged other half. But book or no book, it was she who'd connected to Max, who had kept Max going through what looked like sheer hell. Could a book they couldn't even read cancel all that out?

"Bad things," Liz answered vaguely, having no intention of sharing the details with Tess. "Really bad things."

Tess was mercifully quiet for a moment while she finished her granola. "Nasedo used to keep me in line when I was little by telling me the Unit would get me if I didn't behave," she said finally. "He said that if the Unit got me, they'd lock me up like some zoo animal and experiment on me like a mouse in a cage."

Liz felt a pang of completely unwanted sympathy. "That's horrible!" she protested in spite of herself.

"Maybe," Tess allowed. "Also sounds like it's true. And Nasedo would know because he was captured years ago, right after the crash. He was locked up for 3 years."

Liz felt her stomach clench and was suddenly grateful she'd passed on the granola. Three years? Good Lord, did that mean Max could have been locked up that long? What would she have done if he had been? There was no one to go to, no one to complain to, no one to help because it was their own government doing it.

"Well, they weren't...'experimenting' on him," Liz said in a shaky voice. "Not that I could tell. They were just...hurting him. Just because. Just because they could."

Tess nodded thoughtfully. "Sounds like the Unit."

She started on her orange juice as Liz stared at her in disbelief. She'd just essentially told her that Max had been tortured, and her response was to swig some OJ? "What?" Tess said, wiping orange juice off her mouth.

"I...how can you...never mind," Liz said, flustered, exasperated, and slightly nauseous all at the same time. "Just never mind."

A hand touched hers. "Hey," Tess said gently. "I get it. This is all new to you, and it's awful. But it's not new to me, and it's not a 'lifestyle'; it's survival. Just look at what they did to Max, and you'll see what I mean."

Liz flushed and pulled her hand away, suddenly feeling very foolish. "The important thing to remember is that whatever they did to him, it's over now," Tess went on. "And we have to keep our wits about us, or it'll start again. That's the whole point here, to make certain it never starts again. We can't afford to get all bogged down in what happened, not yet. There'll be time for that later." She looked past her. "The agent's back."

He was. Liz tensed as the van pulled into a parking spot outside the Crashdown. A moment later, Isabel and Michael walked past the van. The agent got out and followed them.

"It's time," Tess announced.

"What are you going to do?" Liz asked.

Tess smiled. "I'm going to make them see Pierce."

Liz braced herself as Tess closed her eyes, wondering what would happen. Would it be loud? Would it draw everyone's attention? But nothing happened, nothing obvious anyway. The agent was following Michael and Isabel, both strolling at a leisurely pace although the set of Isabel's shoulders made it clear she wanted to bolt, he'd almost caught up to them, and then...and then...

And then he stopped. Standing in the middle of the sidewalk, the agent stopped and started talking to...no one. Confused, Liz looked back and forth from Tess with her closed eyes to the agent blabbering to no one while Michael and Isabel did a quick search of the van. A moment later, the agent climbed back into the van and drove away.

"What...just happened?" Liz asked Tess, whose eyes were now open.

"He's going to Hondo," Tess said with satisfaction. "Both of them are, this one and the one at Kyle's house."

Liz blinked. "You told them both at the same time to go to Hondo?"

"Pierce told them to go to Hondo," Tess corrected.

"Can you just do that with everyone?" Liz asked incredulously. "Make them see things that aren't even there?"

Tess fixed her with a level stare. "Sometimes it's easier to do that than to make someone see something that's right in front of her eyes."

Liz held her gaze for a moment before tearing her eyes away as tears threatened. Tess had just sent two FBI agents packing without even breaking a sweat. How could she compete with that? Maybe this is what Max needed, someone who could distract his captor long enough for him to be rescued, could be cool, and matter-of-fact, and clear-headed in a crisis. Someone powerful and experienced. Someone for whom survival was second nature.

Isabel and Michael appeared, climbed into the back. "The van was empty," Michael reported. "No one else inside."

"Call Max," Tess said suddenly. "Something happened over at Kyle's."

"What?" Isabel asked in alarm. "What happened?"

"I don't know," Tess said, "but something broke my link with the agent at his house. Call Max and make sure he's okay."

"He is," Liz said suddenly.

Michael paused, his phone in his hand. "What?"

"He's okay," Liz said. "I mean, go ahead and call him. But he's okay."

"How do you know that?" Tess demanded.

Liz shrugged faintly. "I just do."





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




UFO Center




Max locked the door behind them and flipped a switch, sending a weak glow throughout the first floor. "Emergency lights", he said when Alex and Maria peered hesitantly into the gloom. "I don't want anyone to know we're inside."

"You know, I didn't think this place could get any creepier than it already was," Alex murmured. "But I was wrong."

"Word," Maria muttered.

"What's wrong?" Max asked.

"Nothing," Alex said quickly. "It's just a bit...atmospheric. And the last time we were here wasn't exactly party time."

"The last time we were here was when we figured out where Pierce had taken you," Maria explained when Max looked blank. "Isabel saw the symbol on the floor, the one in that photograph over there, and that's how we tracked you."

Max walked to the display, one he must have passed hundreds of times but never really looked at. Eagle Rock Military Base. At least that part of Milton's sideshow was right, and he'd even met the alien who'd been held captive there.

I know this place intimately. I've already escaped it once.

Max felt a lump in his throat as he put a hand on the glass over the photo of Eagle Rock. Three years, Pierce had said. Nasedo had been held in that place for three years while he'd been there only 24 hours. Could he have survived that long? What would three years do to a person? What had 24 hours done to him?

"Michael and the rest of the them are on their way," he said to Alex and Maria. "Let them in when they get here. I'll be in the back."

He left quickly, nearly running down the hall, past the offices, past the storerooms. It wasn't information he wanted this time, although Milt probably had plenty of that, but something a bit more prosaic; if memory served, Michael had used a shower here after his "Alien Takedown". He had a few minutes before the rest of them arrived and they alerted Valenti, and the thought of spending those few minutes washing away the last 24 hours was so alluring, it practically hurt. He found the shower, had his clothes off in a trice, and was just stepping inside when he caught a glimpse of himself in the full length mirror on the back of the door...and froze.

There was a thin, red line down the center of his chest, angry, vivid, a line in the sand. He touched it hesitantly, tracing it from top to bottom with trembling fingers. The cut wasn't deep, only superficial really, but he didn't doubt for one second Pierce's intention to take him apart "piece by piece". He'd come so close, so close...wait. What was that smell? He lowered his head, sniffed, caught the faint odor of the alcohol they'd used to clean his skin before the cut...apparently it was okay to take him apart piece by piece, but they didn't want their prize to die of a skin infection...but this was something deeper, something fetid, cloying, evil. It wasn't until he lifted his arm and almost knocked himself over that he realized what it was: Fear. The scent of fear, the perspiration of sheer terror, covered his entire body like a rancid, oily film. God, how had Liz managed to sleep next to him last night? How had the rest of them managed to be in the same car? It filled his nostrils, making him gag as he anxiously inspected the rest of his body, finding tape residue on the insides of his arms from the IV's, multiple skin pricks from all the needles, goo in his hair from whatever they'd used to attach the electrodes to his head, vicious red bands around his wrists and ankles where he'd been strapped to the table, sore spots inside his mouth where they'd jammed the x-ray film when they'd x-rayed his teeth, and of course that thin red line, so faint, yet so bright.

Backing away from the mirror, Max climbed into the shower and scrabbled at the faucets. He made the water as hot as he could stand it before soaping himself again and again and again, scrubbing himself raw as though mere soap could wipe away everything on him that wasn't supposed to be there. And then he made the mistake of opening his eyes directly beneath the shower, and for just a moment, he saw the tank they'd immersed him in, saw the water level rising, rising...

Dropping to his knees on the floor of the shower, Max dry heaved, his stomach having been empty for a very long time now. The floor felt good, cold and solid, with a drain right in front of him to remind him that this was no tank, that the water went away, that he wasn't going to drown...

"Max?"

Max looked up, blinking through the rain as he huddled on the shower floor. Michael was looming over him, and he stared at him for a moment before reaching over and turning off the faucets.

"Hang on a sec. I'll grab some towels."

A moment later a towel settled across Max's shoulders. "C'mon," Michael coaxed. "Get up. Careful—that edge is a bitch. Whacked my toe on it right after the 'Takedown', and it hurt for a week."

Max sank onto a towel-covered toilet seat just as the shivers set in, violent, trembling shudders that shook his entire body and had nothing to do with being cold judging from the way several extra towels didn't help. Finally Michael flung an arm around his shoulders. "It's okay, buddy," he murmured, squeezing his shoulder. "It's over. It's all over."

Gradually, the shuddering subsided. They sat in silence for several minutes, Max dripping beneath a pile of towels, Michael squatting beside him.

"So I haven't called Valenti yet," Michael said finally. "I'll wait till you come out."

"If I come out," Max muttered.

Michael shook his head. "Maxwell, if there's one thing I've learned, it's that when shit happens, you can't make it unhappen. All you can do is try to make certain it doesn't happen again. Whatever Pierce did to you in there, you'll have to live with that. Only question is, do you want to live with that while he's locked up or on the loose?" He stood up. "You already know the answer to that, and so do I."

"Wait," Max said. "I...thank you."

Michael shrugged. "I'd make a good towel boy."

"That's not what I meant."

"I know what you meant. What's that?" Michael added, pointing.

Max's hand rose to his chest. "They...cut me," he said haltingly. "Right before you got there."

"Why haven't you fixed it?"

"Can't. They gave me something that blocked my powers."

"Did you try? No? Why not?" Michael asked. "Whatever they gave you can't last forever."

"What if it does?" Max whispered.

"Max," Michael said deliberately, "try. Try to fix it."

Max swallowed hard. "What if it doesn't work?"

"Then we'll keep trying until it does. Try to fix it."

Max resisted the urge to roll his eyes; he was an absolute mess, and certainly in no position to have an opinion about anything, but Michael's voice had that familiar "I'm-going-to-stand-over-you-and-badger-you-until-you-do-what-I-say" tone. He raised a hand, expecting to hit that wall, that freakish wall of nothingness he'd run smack into when he'd tried to use his powers on Pierce. He could still see that smirk on his face, still feel the emptiness when nothing happened, the sheer helplessness...

"Max?" Michael said. "Look."

Max looked down. The thin red line was gone. "I'll be outside," Michael said. "Take your time."

He left. Max slowly climbed back into his clothes, relieved he was no longer broken, no longer helpless, and that the evil smell was now gone even if all the telltale marks weren't. He was tempted to remove them all, but he wasn't certain how strong his newly returned powers were. Best not to push it.

He found the rest of them in the research center, with Alex and Maria hard at work mining Milton's records. "Says here that a live alien was held captive after the '47 crash," Alex read.

"There's one bit of trivia we can confirm," Isabel said.

"Really?" Alex said. "What happened to it?"

"Him," Michael corrected. "It was Nasedo. That's how he knew how to get Max out of there. He'd already gotten out himself."

"Sheesh," Alex murmured. "How long did they have him?"

"Three years," Max said.

Every head turned. "Three years?" Alex echoed as Liz came up and put an arm around Max. "Seriously?"

"Good Lord," Maria muttered.

"Did you take care of the other agent?" Max asked.

"We found him in the closet," Tess answered. "He thinks Pierce let him out; I mindwarped him again, and he left for Hondo. Kyle wasn't there, though. I...got you something," she added, holding up a granola bar and a small bottle of orange juice. "Thought you might be hungry."

"Uh...thanks," Max said, taking the juice. "Just this. Not sure what my stomach would do with the rest of it."

The juice was good, pure sugar, easy to digest and just what he needed. He downed the bottle in a few gulps, and Tess produced another, which disappeared just as fast. When he finished, he saw Liz watching him with wide, startled eyes.

"You okay?" she asked.

Max felt the sugar perking him up and glanced down at his chest, where the angry red line was gone. "I am now," he answered. "Call Valenti. Let's get this over with."




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




The light turned red. Valenti hit the brake, easing off when he realized he'd whacked it kind of hard. Every nerve was on edge, every muscle taut, every reaction an over-reaction. If he wasn't careful, he'd pitch them both through the window.

"Lovely weather," Pierce said amiably as he lounged in the passenger seat, one arm propped on the windowsill. "Great day for chasing monsters."

Valenti said nothing, mentally noting that pitching Pierce through the window wasn't such a bad idea. "Funny place to congregate, the UFO center," Pierce went on. "Kind of obvious, don't you think?"

"I gather the point was that no one expected to find real aliens at the UFO center," Valenti answered. "That and the fact that Milton's out of town on one of his 'evidence-gathering' trips."

"Ah, yes, the Milton's of the world," Pierce chuckled. "They mean well, God bless'em. And every now and then they do us a good turn."

" 'Us'?" Valenti queried.

"Law enforcement," Pierce clarified. "The real alien hunters. You and me."

If that was supposed to create some kind of bonhomie, it failed; all it created was a sour feeling in the pit of Valenti's stomach and a wave of revulsion that Pierce was actually comparing the two of them. "And Hubble?" he said casually.

"Ah," Pierce nodded. "Everett. Everett had his uses, but he wasn't law enforcement; he was all about revenge. And for that, the aliens have no one to blame but themselves."

"That was you on the phone the night I shot him, wasn't it?" Valenti said, disturbed that he couldn't disagree with that last comment. "You sent him to Roswell to check out Max Evans."

"I did," Pierce agreed. "So what really happened that night?"

"Just exactly what I said happened," Valenti replied. "He tried to kill me, I killed him first. Why?"

"Why?" Pierce chuckled. "Oh, come now, Sheriff, do you mean to tell me you've never told a white lie? Fudged a report? Kept something to yourself? Of course you have. We all do. But...since you didn't this time, I can only conclude that finally finding his wife's murderer made poor Everett snap."

"Evans can't be the murderer," Valenti protested. "He didn't even show up until 1989."

"Wandering in the desert," Pierce murmured, "with his sister, Isabel. Doesn't matter. Evans is an alien, and an alien killed Hubble's wife."

"So you're comfortable condemning an entire race for the actions of one?" Valenti said skeptically. "Wow. Wish humanity luck with that one."

"Humanity isn't trying to invade another planet," Pierce observed. "We just pick on each other."

"We sure do," Valenti agreed. "Like when you murdered Kathleen Topolsky."

" 'Murdered'?" Pierce echoed. "It was a tragic accident, I'll allow, but you act like I personally set the fire."

"Nah, you wouldn't do that," Valenti said. "You're not a 'get-your-hands-dirty' type of guy. You'd have a lackey do it."

There followed a tense silence. When the light changed and traffic moved, Pierce was eyeing him closely, and Valenti threw him a disarming smile. "Agent Topolsky was a danger to herself and everyone around her," Pierce said.

"That why you kidnapped her?"

"Restrained her," Pierce corrected. "For her own and everyone else's safety. Although I imagine she had a different tale to tell. Something on your mind, Jim?"

"Kathleen said—"

" 'Kathleen'," Pierce chuckled, shaking his head. "You and Brian; I swear people are sweet on her. Sorry...go on. Regale me with what 'Kathleen' said."

"She said you had a list."

Pierce snorted softly. "A 'list'? What, like Santa?'

"More like a psychopath," Valenti answered. "But she said you had a list of targets, and that my name and Kyle's were on that list."

"Suspects, not targets," Pierce corrected. "And of course your names would come up; half of Roswell came up. Don't you keep track of potential suspects? Even those you know darned well have nothing to do with whatever it is you're looking for?"

Yes, Valenti admitted, although his lists didn't involve abduction and murder. "Let's just say that your confirming her claim makes me wonder about your promise to safeguard me and my family," he told Pierce.

"I promised you new identities, and I meant it," Pierce said. "You don't believe me?"

"Oh, right," Valenti said dryly. "I should have no problem believing the man who lied his way onto my staff."

"I was undercover," Pierce protested. "Don't you ever go undercover? Do you wander in wearing your uniform and flashing your badge when you do? Of course not. Besides, I wasn't investigating you; I was investigating Evans."

"Nice reference one of your agents gave you," Valenti commented, "although I think 'overachiever' is a bit of an understatement."

"Why, thank you," Pierce smiled, incredibly taking that as a compliment. "That's Agent Samuels, Brian Samuels. We went to Quantico together, and we've been together ever since."

"That the same Agent Samuels you radioed who didn't answer?"

A shadow crossed Pierce's face. "They hadn't better have hurt him."

"Because then it'll be personal," Valenti noted.

"It's already personal," Pierce said. "It's always been personal. Aliens killed my biological father and my stepfather."

"And which of those was the one who impregnated an Army nurse with a half-human fetus?"

Pierce's head swung around. "My, but you've been doing your due diligence! That would have been my real father, Daniel Pierce Sr. I think he suspected what I discovered when I had Evans; some aliens have completely human bodies. Only their blood sets them apart. Talk about an abomination."

"So your father tried to copy that 'abomination'?"

"Re-create it," Pierce corrected. "So we could understand it. Think about it—it's the perfect cover. If we can't identify them, they could infiltrate the highest levels of government before we even knew what was happening. My father saw that."

"And here I thought all that slop about your father was just for my benefit," Valenti said.

"Oh, it was," Pierce allowed. "But it wasn't 'slop'. My father was in the Army, so he wasn't precisely 'law enforcement', but my stepfather founded the Special Unit. I'm the second generation of freedom fighters in my family, just like you."

"Like me?"

"Your father," Pierce said. "Your father hunted aliens, now you're doing the same. We're really not so different, you and I. Come from the same stock, driven by the same thing, to protect those we love. We should have teamed up a long time ago, Jim. With our combined pedigree, we could do great things, don't you think?"

What I 'think', Valenti thought silently, is that if you compare the two of us one more time, I might heave. And the next time you call me 'Jim', I swear to God, I'll rip your heart out.




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




UFO Center




The cruiser pulled up outside the UFO center, and Pierce felt a surge of adrenaline. Finally. Finally, after all these years, he was going to get payback. The UFO center was probably the last place he would have expected that to happen, but no matter; it was terribly convenient of the aliens to gather in one place, making it all the easier to round them up. He was practically giddy thinking about the reception he'd receive in Washington when he appeared with not one, not two, but several aliens, maybe even some live ones if the tranquilizer darts he had with him worked as advertised. The fact that it was a Valenti leading him to this bounty was even better; what a coup to be the man who'd coaxed Valenti into the fold, no small feat given the way Valentis had tormented the Unit since its inception.

"It's open," Valenti noted when they tried the Center's front door.

"They're not expecting anyone," Pierce said. "Sign says 'Closed'. We've got'em right where we want'em."

They crept inside, hugging the wall as Evans' sister, the girl he'd healed, and another one Pierce wasn't familiar with went up the stairs toward the office. "Soon as we see them all," Pierce said, "shoot to kill, Sheriff."

Valenti looked troubled. "What about the civilians?"

"There's always a price to pay for freedom," Pierce answered. And besides, they're traitors, he added silently as Valenti continued to look dismayed; they deserved to die. This was a perfect example of why the Valentis of the world didn't make the tough decisions, and why they were the perfect ones to take the fall for those who did. Let the Sheriff shoot to kill while he aimed the tranq darts at the right suspects. He'd take out some traitors and keep the Unit's nose clean all at the same time. The name "Pierce" would go down in history as the one who'd brought both the alien invasion and that troublesome family to their knees. He raised his weapon, eager for a target, any target...

...and then the lights went out.




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


It's my wedding anniversary next weekend (29 years!), so I'll post Chapter 126 on Sunday, October 6. :)
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 126

Postby Kathy W » Sun Oct 06, 2013 4:51 pm

CHAPTER ONE HUNDRED TWENTY-SIX




May 14, 2000, 11:45 a.m.

UFO Center





"Good evening, Agent Pierce," Max Evans said in a deadly voice. "You know who I am. I know who you are. And now you're going to tell me everything."

"I've got nuthin' to say," Pierce drawled.

Since when? Valenti thought, leaning wearily against a bookshelf as he watched someone who looked like a teenaged boy, but wasn't, interrogate someone who looked like a sheriff's deputy, but wasn't, while being watched by someone who looked like a sheriff...but wasn't. Couldn't be, not with the thoughts currently racing around his mind, the calculations, the equipment lists, the cover stories. The two in the other room had never been all they'd seemed to be, but that wasn't the case with him: he was actually supposed to be the sheriff. But how could a real sheriff, a genuine officer of the law, be thinking what he was thinking?

I always thought you were out to get us. And I'm glad I was wrong.

Not quite,
Valenti thought as he recalled Michael's declaration of amnesty. He had been out to get them in the worst possible way, or what he'd thought at the time was the worst possible way until a long-legged blonde and a psychopath taught him otherwise. Gaining Guerin's trust should have been a high water mark, but it was drowned by his own guilt, the fact that his dogged pursuit had pulled in the maniac in the other room. Liz Parker was wrong; this wasn't her fault. This was his fault.

"What happened to Nasedo?" Max demanded. "Where is he? You know what I can do to you. Tell me what I'm asking, or I will take you apart piece by piece and make sure you stay conscious enough to feel every second of it."

"Untie me," Pierce said in that horrific, velvety voice, "and I'll take you to him."

No! Valenti shouted inwardly, recoiling at the thought of Pierce ever being loose again. The only time anyone should untie Pierce was when his body was cold and stiff.

Valenti staggered back, one hand in his pocket, the badge he'd removed earlier today feeling like a lead weight. Was he actually considering this? His father had hung for a mistake he didn't make, but his own son, a sworn officer of the law, was actually seriously considering something so heinous, it took his breath away. But what other choice was there? He'd worked the scenarios one by one, trying dozens of permutations, and this was the only one where justice, true justice, was done. Only problem was that this time, true justice wore a hood and carried a scythe...and pointed a long bony finger straight at him.

Footsteps sounded behind him; it was his new best friend, he of the hard won and arguably misplaced trust. Michael nodded to him, glanced beyond the curtain where Max was still getting nowhere. "Any luck?" he asked.

Valenti shook his head. "Not so far."

Michael eyes fastened on him. "You don't think he'll get anything out of him, do you."

"Do you?" Valenti asked, mentally noting the irony that the alien who could heal gunshot wounds was merely throwing questions, while the human who could do no such thing was pondering far more.

"Frankly? No," Michael admitted. "Although we do have an ace in the hole. Isabel," he explained when Valenti looked blank. "She might be able to see Pierce's answers even if he doesn't say them out loud." He paused. "So, this guy at the Attorney General's. Sheriff?"

"Hm?" Valenti said absently.

"The one you called?" Michael reminded him. "Is he coming here, or are you taking Pierce to him?"

See, this is the problem with lies, Valenti thought. Lies were like sieves; it was virtually impossible to plug all the holes. "I haven't decided yet," he answered.

Michael fixed him with a measured stare. "There is no guy, is there?"

Another lie died in Valenti's throat when he looked at Michael, the one other person in this mess who might be able to see this the way he did. "If I turn him in," he said deliberately, "I turn all of you in. He kills people, Michael. It's what the guy does. He killed Topolsky, and Stevens, and six innocent people in that hospital, and who knows how many others. And he was just about to kill all of you."

Michael stared at him for what must have been a full minute without blinking. "Are you...saying what I think you're saying?"

"Guess that depends," Valenti allowed. "What do you think I'm saying?"

Michael's eyes widened. "Wow," he said softly. "Did not see that coming. Not from you."

"That makes two of us," Valenti admitted. "I just can't see another way out of this. Anyone I turn him in to is going to need the full story in order to convict him, assuming that's what they wind up doing; they might just as well wind up agreeing with him. If you've got a better idea, I'd love to hear it, but right now, all I can come up with is that if Pierce goes down, you go down with him. Unless he..."

"Dies?" Michael suggested.

"Disappears," Valenti corrected, "with no one sure if he's alive or dead except a very small list of people."

Silence. Beyond the curtain, Max continued to hurl questions, the slide projector continued to click, and Pierce continued to smirk. "I see your point," Michael said finally. "I'm good with being on that list."

"Well, I'm not," Valenti said. "I told you I'd take care of him, and I will. It's my job. I'm the only one who knows the best way to do this."

Michael pondered that for a moment before nodding slowly. "Makes sense. You catch the bad guys, so you'd know how they do it. And how they get away with it."

Ouch. Valenti winced as Guerin cut right to the heart of the matter, for what else had he been doing but making mental notes of how best to cover their tracks? He was the law, or so the story went; he knew what the law did in cases like this, so he was in a unique position to evade it. Which makes me a dirty cop, he thought despairingly, the very notion leaving him physically ill. Did it matter that he was doing this to handle a dirty cop? It certainly wouldn't in court, although that same court would likely not be willing to grant the usual protections to aliens. Wasn't that the deal—obey the law because the law protects you too? But what if the law didn't protect you? What was the point of obeying it then?

"But even if it makes sense," Michael went on, "I'm not gonna let you do this alone. At the end of the day, this is our problem. You just got dragged into it."

"No," Valenti said, his voice ragged. "I dragged myself into it. You know that."

"However we got here, we're both here," Michael said, "and we both have a dog in this fight. So we do it together."

"You shouldn't have to," Valenti insisted. "This is my call. You're just a kid."

"You sure about that?" Michael said skeptically. "Because I'm not. I have no idea what I am." He paused. "I heard him, you know. When you came in. We can hear better than humans. I heard him tell you to shoot to kill. I heard what you said to him. More to the point, I heard his answer, 'There's always a price for freedom'. He's right about that, if nothing else. This is the price we pay for our freedom. When the time comes, tell me what you need me to do, and I'll do it."

Valenti shook his head as Guerin left, knowing this was one offer he'd never accept. Michael may or may not be a kid, but he sure looked like one, meaning every single time he looked at him, at any of them, all he could see was Kyle. That was his dog in this fight, not himself, but his son, a son Pierce wouldn't hesitate to mow down if it served his purpose. His one comfort now was that son was safe, far away from any of this and blissfully unaware of what his father was about to do.




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





The light changed. Kyle Valenti screeched to a stop only inches from the bumper of the car in front of him in a move reminiscent of one which used to give his driving instructor fits. It had always been a game with him, to see how fast he could stop and how close he could get, but it was no game now. Now there was nothing but impatience and a gnawing sense that something was terribly, terribly wrong.

Fingers tapping on the steering wheel, Kyle waited with growing frustration for the light to change, glancing down the nearby side street. School was down that street, the high school he'd been heading for this morning. For him school was merely a vehicle to get to sports, something he had to endure to reach that which he really wanted. Take the English class he'd been happy to miss, for example, where he'd suffered through Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, barely tolerable with its feuds and death, and Hamlet, which was better because pretty much everybody cacked. At the moment, if he wasn't sitting in this car waiting for the light from hell, he'd be in Mr. Sommers' history class, which was more annoying than English. "We need to know history," Sommers had insisted as Kyle had yawned with boredom. "We need to know how to look for patterns so that when they're repeated, we recognize them and realize what they could mean." Right, Kyle thought dryly. History had so much going for it, so many interesting questions to answer, but did they? Hell, no! Sommers would go on about feudalism and the middle ages when inquiring minds wanted to know what medieval toilets looked like. The chapter on the Crusades brought to mind the important question of how knights took a dump in their armor. And what about toilet paper? No Sears catalogs back then, so what did people use? Their hands? The same hands they ate with because there were no utensils? Questions like these were what kids wanted answered, but ask them and you'd wind up frowned at, yelled at, or sent to the principal's office. He should know—he'd done all three. Somehow, each time it happened, the teacher had failed to notice that his off limits question had garnered the attention of virtually every sleep-deprived teenager in the room. Kids cared about history, just not the history they taught in textbooks.

The light finally changed, and Kyle sent the car surging forward while throwing a longing glance toward the school. In a supreme burst of irony, he'd love to be in school right now even if it meant memorizing dates on an endless timeline that supposedly showed "patterns". Hell, he'd develop a love for Elizabethan poetry if it meant he could just go to school like always and either pretend this morning had never happened or that it was what he'd thought at first, one of his father's inventive attempts at discipline. That theory had been shot all to hell when, after a pleasant hour wading through Penthouse instead of the Bard, he'd shoved his magazines back under the bed and tried to go to school only to be blocked by Suit Dude. Thoroughly irritated, he'd made a side trip to the bathroom, intending to go out the window, and found the window nailed...yes, nailed...shut. And that was when it clicked—something was wrong. His dad may come up with weird things to get his attention, but pounding nails into his precious house? No way. It was hard enough to get him to string lights at Christmas because that meant putting holes in the siding, so no matter how pissed he was, he'd never nail a window shut. Either Suit had exceeded his mandate or something was truly wrong, a suspicion which had been confirmed in spades when Max Evans had busted in and locked Suit in the closet. He had no idea what Evans had done to the door, but when he couldn't get it open, he'd abandoned Suit to his fate, grabbed one of his father's many guns, and left. While it was heartening to know that Suit was Evans' enemy, the fact remained that Suit was also his enemy, having made him a virtual prisoner in his own house. Best to be rid of both of them.

Another light went red. Kyle glanced at the lump on the floor of the car uneasily, wishing he'd paid closer attention during that one shooting lesson his father had made him take. We have guns in the house, his father had said, so you should know how to use them. But he'd resisted, as he'd resisted most of his father's attempts to teach him the tricks of his trade, like how to spot holes in people's stories, how to tell if they were lying. You need to know this, his father had insisted, sounding irritatingly like Sommers. You never know when you might need it. Pleading a lack of interest in police work didn't help; his dad would go on about this or that officer whose family had been targeted by some nutcase and had to defend themselves. In Roswell? Kyle had thought. Seriously? The only nutcases here were tourists, the only crises the imaginary kind. Besides, he'd always chafed at being the "sheriff's kid", not wanting to be associated with the badge in any way, shape, or form. He remembered a summer camp where he'd met a preacher's kid and gone round and round about whether PK's or SK's had it worse. Ultimately the PK's won because they had to sit in boring religious services and go to bible studies, but both suffered from a rigid set of expectations and a general agreement amongst their peers that they were snitches. Both went out of their way to distance themselves from their parents' respective professions, but both still found themselves periodically hog-tied by them, such as when he'd been dragged to the shooting range and handed a 22 caliber pistol which had "so little recoil, your grandma wouldn't notice," according to the chuckling instructor. He was pretty sure the gun he'd grabbed wasn't the polite piece he'd hefted at the range, but whatever it was, he wasn't even sure he knew how to use it. Maybe he could hit somebody over the head with it?

The light changed, and Kyle roared through it, rounded a corner on squealing tires, and pulled into the sheriff's station. He noted his father's cruiser was missing from its customary parking space as he ran up the steps two at a time and burst through the doors, causing every head to rise.

"Where's my father?" he demanded.

This question was met with crickets, a stunned silence that extended even to the waiting room, whose occupants seemed to know more than he did. "Uh...let me get Hanson," one of the deputies stammered. "I'll be right back."

"Where's my father?" Kyle called impatiently. "Why can't you just answer me? Why do you have to get Hanson?"

Concerned glances were exchanged, chairs shuffled, throats cleared, and Kyle began to get very worried indeed. He'd worked up a good head of steam by the time Hanson appeared, puffing up to the front counter with a placating expression on his face. "Kyle!" he said, sounding surprised. "What are you doing here? Aren't you supposed to be in school?"

Kyle blinked. "School? Is this a joke?"

"Uh...no," Hanson answered. "Why?"

"Why? Why? Because I've been trying to go to school all morning, and the Suit wouldn't let me!"

Hanson glanced at another deputy, who shrugged slightly. "Kyle, Deputy Fisher said he explained everything when he talked to you—"

"Who the hell is 'Deputy Fisher'?" Kyle demanded. "No one's talked to me. No one's told me a damned thing, including the dude with the gun who showed up at the crack of dawn this morning!"

"All deputies have guns," Hanson said soothingly, in that tone one uses with the slightly dim. "Deputy Fisher wasn't trying to hurt you, he just wanted to clarify a few things—"

"Are you listening to me?" Kyle broke in. "Nobody's talked to me! Nobody's clarified anything! Besides, I know my dad's deputies, and this wasn't one of them. And he was wearing a suit, not a uniform."

Hanson looked puzzled. "A suit?"

"Yeah, you know, a jacket and a noose, otherwise known as a 'necktie'? He said his job was to 'protect me from any harm', and that I couldn't go to school."

Hanson and the nearby deputy exchanged confused glances which weren't exactly encouraging. "Could just be Fisher overachieving again," the other deputy suggested. "He said he sent someone over. Maybe someone took his job a little too seriously?"

Hanson pondered that for a moment before shaking his head as if to clear the cobwebs. "Look, Kyle, I'll check with Albuquerque. Fisher said they're coordinating the search from there—"

Kyle's eyes bulged. " 'Search'? What 'search'? What, are you...are you saying my father is missing?"

"Not 'missing', not exactly," Hanson said hastily. "Is that the word Fisher used?"

Kyle gripped the edges of the counter hard to keep himself from throwing something. "For the last time," he ground out, "nobody's told me anything, not a 'Fisher' or anyone else...including you. Forget it; I'll take care of this myself."

"Kyle, wait," Hanson called as he stalked away. "Kyle...Kyle!"

But Kyle ignored him, and went on ignoring him as his car roared away even as Hanson and company ran after him. Hanson bore about as much resemblance to an actual law enforcement officer as a McDonald's hamburger did to actual food, so it was a waste of time expecting more out of him. And what was this about Albuquerque? Was his dad missing in Albuquerque? But his dad was sheriff in Roswell and lived in Roswell, so what the hell was up with that? And...and why did that look like his dad's cruiser parked alongside the UFO Center?

Kyle's eyes narrowed. That was his dad's cruiser, way down on a side street beside the UFO Center while just a few blocks away, his deputies were "coordinating with Albuquerque" when they should have been looking around their own neighborhood. Typical. He screeched to a halt outside, tucked the gun into his belt, and bolted out of the car. The sign outside said "Closed", but the front door was unlocked, and he slipped inside. Someone's here, he thought, noting that some lights were on and faint voices could be heard. He followed the sound of the voices to the auditorium, where a lone figure in a deputy's uniform was seated in a chair in front of a screen on which slides were inexplicably running. His hands were tied behind him, and he was working furiously to untie them...but not so furiously that he didn't see Kyle.

"Hey, Kyle!" the deputy called. "Kyle!"

Kyle blinked. I know my dad's deputies, he'd told Hanson, but this one wasn't ringing any bells. Still, as though following a siren's call, he crept behind the chair.

"It's Max Evans and the others," the deputy said. "They have your father."

I knew it! Kyle thought triumphantly. Leave it to Evans to be mixed up in this, and in some weird, kinky way involving slide projectors. "Where?" he demanded

"I can't tell you now. Just untie me," the deputy urged. "They'll be back in seconds. Hurry up."

The knot wasn't a particularly good one, and it surrendered quickly. "Kyle," the deputy said suddenly in a finger wagging tone, "give me that. Give me that gun. What are you doing with it?"

Abashed, Kyle handed it over. "Get out of here," the deputy ordered. "Go hide."

Kyle did, leaving the deputy in the chair with his hands behind him, still ostensibly tied but now holding a gun. Just before he left, he spied the deputy's name tag.

Fisher.

Crouching behind a curtain with nothing to do now but think, Kyle grew more and more uneasy as the puzzlements piled up. That was Fisher? The same Fisher who'd supposedly "talked to him" and "explained things"? He'd never laid eyes on that guy in his life. He said he sent someone over. So Fisher had sent Suit? Fisher had sent a man with a gun who'd told him nothing and held him prisoner in his own house? Any way he sliced it, Fisher had lied to Hanson. But why?

He's not what you think he is.

Kyle shifted uncomfortably as he recalled his earlier encounter with Max. If Fisher had sent Suit, and Suit wasn't who he thought he was, then what about Fisher the Liar? What if Fisher was the bad guy? What if he'd just untied and armed the bad guy? He'd just accepted Fisher's claims without question, but the more he tried to put it together, the more the same patterns emerged. Too bad Mr. Sommers wasn't here to say "I told you so". Too bad he hadn't paid attention at that shooting range because it looked like a nutcase might be after his father. He doesn't want you involved, Evans had said. Well, of course not. His father knew he wasn't up to combating a threat like this. But what if he was wrong again? What if he'd reached entirely the wrong conclusion a second time? Find out! he told himself furiously, rising to his feet. Someone had tied up Fisher, and that someone was presumably still here. He could settle this by checking out whoever else was here and what they were up to...

Chaos erupted on the other side of the curtain, shots were fired, and the next thing Kyle knew, he was finding it hard to breathe as he slid to the floor, his chest unusually warm. Patterns... He really should have paid more attention, to history class, to his father...

...to everything.




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





What the hell just happened?

Max's eyes nearly glazed over as he took in the carnage around him, wrought in mere seconds. Five minutes ago everything had been going swimmingly, or as swimmingly as could be expected when you were being chased by a maniac. Isabel had managed to find out where they'd taken Nasedo, and Michael said Valenti had offered to take care of Pierce, although the details of how he planned to accomplish that were murky and his conversation with Michael on the subject unsettling. They'd gotten what they wanted, and had all of a few precious minutes to savor that before it had all gone to hell in a handbasket. Now Pierce lay dead on the floor and so, inexplicably, did Kyle Valenti, apparently not content to follow orders and stay put. But I wouldn't have either, Max admitted privately. If what had gone down in Kyle's house had gone down in his, there was no way he would have sat quietly and waited. He couldn't expect Kyle to either.

"Help!" Valenti called frantically. "Help me! Somebody, help me!" He looked up at all of them watching him cradle his bloody son in anguish, their eyes wide, Isabel's hand to her mouth. "Save my son," he pleaded to Max. "Please."

Max could feel everyone's eyes shifting from Kyle to him, feel the weight of their expectations like an anvil on his chest. How very different from the day he'd healed Liz when he'd burst out of that booth with Michael on his heels, protesting all the way. No one protested now. Now they waited for him to perform the miracle again, a miracle he had no idea if he could repeat, and not just because he'd had his powers drugged away. He'd never talked about this to anyone, not Michael, not Isabel, not even Liz, but he still really had no idea how he'd saved her that day. He'd just...done it. Because he had to. Because he couldn't bear to face a world without her in it. Because he loved her. He'd always wondered if that love had been the catalyst, the secret ingredient which had made it work because, honestly, he didn't know what had made it work. He'd just put his hand over the wound and wished with all his might, power coursing through him and...and what? He didn't know. All he knew is that it had worked, and for that he was so deeply grateful that the details didn't matter. Except now, of course, when they did, because while he certainly bore Kyle no ill will, he could safely say he wasn't in love with him. What if it didn't work? What if, after everything Valenti had done for them, had risked for them, he lost his only child because of it?

Max glanced at Pierce, lying still on floor of the UFO Center, and a hot anger flared. This is your fault, he thought angrily. He kills people, Valenti had said. It's what the guy does. Pierce had killed Topolsky and a host of others, tried to kill him, instructed Valenti to kill all of them, and now managed to kill Kyle. If love wouldn't serve as a catalyst this time, maybe anger would. Kneeling down beside Kyle, he placed his hand over the bloody wound and concentrated.

And it was different this time. At first he thought it was because the setting was different, with no need to hurry in a private place with a sympathetic audience. But it wasn't only that; he could direct his power now, could aim it in ways he couldn't back in September when they'd rarely used their powers, before they'd had to use them to survive. Closing his eyes, he found he could actually see the wound, and his mind explored its edges, followed it through the hole in Kyle's heart and out the back, between the ribs. Slowly, layer by layer, he began stitching the wound closed. Images of Kyle swam in front of his closed eyes as he worked his way from back to front, breathing heavily as the going became harder. Finally he finished only to see the heart sitting there, unmoving, uninterested in the fact that it was whole once more. Beat, damn you! he shouted silently, throwing a blast of power at it. The room was spinning, and he was rapidly running out of energy; if this didn't work, one of the others would have to have a go...

It worked. Max fell forward, exhausted, as Kyle drew a gasping breath at the same time everyone else exhaled. Blinking, he gazed up at all of them in surprise.

"What the hell just happened to me?" Kyle demanded.

Lot of that going around today, Max thought wearily. Join the club.




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




All parents have nightmares about losing their child. From the moment they draw their first breath, it dawns on every parent that they've not only created a new person, they've also created a new way to rip their hearts out. It was the reason mothers saw every cold as potential pneumonia and fathers saw their daughter's boyfriends as potential rapists. Jim Valenti was not only no stranger to this universal truth, he'd actually felt it more acutely since his divorce. Suddenly finding himself the sole parent for his child had been daunting. He'd second-guessed himself every single day for years after Michelle left, finally calming when Kyle reached high school unscathed and relatively civilized only to have every parent's worst nightmare happen on the floor of the UFO center.

And then unhappen, Valenti thought, cradling a bewildered Kyle in his arms as the rest of them withdrew. How many parents got to watch the equivalent of Superman turn the world backwards and make their worst nightmare unhappen? So this is what all the fuss was about, what Max Evans had done back in September that had the FBI hell bent on destroying him. He went up to her, Larry Trilling had said, and he...he put his hand on her, and then...and then she was okay. He'd had a front row seat this time, and Trilling's account was accurate, although he'd missed the part where Max had looked like he was going to pass out. And the part where your kid's eyes open, and all of a sudden it's worth living again.

"Dad?" Kyle whispered. "What happened?"

"Doesn't matter," Valenti answered, his voice gruff. "You're here, you're alive. That's all I care about."

"But...but...wait," Kyle said. "Didn't I...wasn't I..." He looked down, tugged at his shirt, pulled it up. "I could have sworn I was shot," he said faintly. "Something hit me. I remember it."

"You're fine," Valenti said, noting there wasn't a mark on him as he pulled his shirt down. "You're fine now. That's all that matters."

"But why?" Kyle persisted with that damnable Valenti doggedness. "And where am I? Is this...isn't this the UFO center? I hate this place. Why would I come in here? Why..."

Kyle sat up so quickly, he nearly whacked Valenti in the jaw. "Fisher!" he exclaimed. "I remember now! He's a liar! He told Hanson he'd talked to me when he hadn't, and he sent some dude with a gun over to the house to keep me there, and then Evans showed up and locked him in the closet, and then...oh, never mind," he finished impatiently. "He's here! Fisher, I mean. He's...he's..."

Valenti didn't bother following Kyle's gaze, didn't need to. Several feet away, Pierce's dead body lay on the floor where it had fallen. "That's him," Kyle said wonderingly, pointing. "That's Fisher. What happened to him?"

"He's dead," Valenti answered dully. "And his name's not 'Fisher', and he's not one of my deputies."

"Dead," Kyle whispered.

"Better him than you," Valenti said bitterly.

Kyle stared at him. "He was after you, wasn't he? Like you tried to tell me that day you took me to the shooting range, that you wanted me to learn to shoot because some crazy person might come after you someday."

"You took my gun," Valenti said. "I thought Max told you to stay put."

Kyle's eyes dropped. "He did. I just...I didn't know what was going on, and I...God, Dad, I'm sorry. I never meant for this to happen, for any of this to—"

"It's okay," Valenti assured him. "Believe me, neither did I. I'm sorry you got dragged into this. I didn't want you mixed up in all this."

"What is 'this'?" Kyle demanded. "What's—"

"I'm still in the middle of it," Valenti interrupted. "So right now you're going back home, and this time you're going to stay there. No 'buts', Kyle," he added firmly when Kyle continued to protest. "You leave that house again, I swear to God I'll nail your feet to the floor. We'll talk when I'm done here, I promise."

Fifteen minutes later, after Kyle had been bustled off home with Maria and Alex, Valenti found Max sitting in front of one of Milton's exhibits. "Alien autopsy," Valenti said, sinking onto the bench beside him. "Odd choice."

Max shrugged slightly. "Thought it was fitting."

"That what it looked like?" Valenti asked.

Max shook his head. "No," he said softly. "It was way worse."

They sat in awkward silence for a minute while Valenti struggled for something to say. What did one say to someone you'd tried for months to bring down and who'd just saved your child's life? "You okay?" he asked finally, recalling how weak Max had looked right after Kyle had awakened. "You looked a little shaky."

"It takes a lot out of me," Max answered. "But I'm okay."

"Max, I can't begin to tell you how much I—"

"Don't," Max interrupted. "I wouldn't be here right now if it weren't for you. As far as I'm concerned, we're even."

"No, we're not," Valenti argued. "I called the FBI. I gave them Liz's uniform—"

"But I healed her," Max said. "Nobody made me do that. And I'd do it again in a second, even knowing what I know now."

Valenti nodded slowly. "I know you would."

"I mean, I didn't even know what I was doing," Max went on, "or how I did it, I just...did it. It was easier this time. I was more in control."

"You even cleaned up the blood," Valenti said. "Too bad you didn't do that last time. There wouldn't have been any uniform to hand over."

Max stared at him for a moment before both of them dissolved in laughter. Talk about weird, Valenti thought, a sheriff and an alien busting up in front of an alien autopsy exhibit which bore an eerie resemblance to real life. Nope. Didn't get any weirder than this.

"We need to clean this place up," Valenti said when their chuckles had subsided. "And take care of Pierce's body."

"Michael didn't mean to kill him, just...stop him," Max said. "He's really upset."

"Well, he shouldn't be," Valenti said, "because Pierce did mean to kill all of you. He needs to disappear, Max. Nobody can know for certain he's dead. I know how to make that happen."

"We'll all do it," Max said. "But we've got something else to take care of first."




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




Jeffords Airstrip



It was almost mid-afternoon when Brivari arrived at the airstrip, wound tighter than a spring and without his Ward, the worst possible position in which any Warder could find himself. Hours of searching both the base and the town had yielded nothing; Zan had gone to ground so thoroughly that even the vehicles used in the escape were missing. The one saving grace was that the Unit hadn't found him either, there being much chatter about Rath having successfully disabled their vehicle when they'd almost caught him earlier this morning and even more chatter about missing agents who weren't answering their radios and, most interesting of all, a missing Agent Pierce. It was entirely possible that his Ward was tripping through town while he was at the base, or even on one side of the block while he was on the other, but there was nothing for that; there was, after all, only one of him, and he couldn't be in multiple places at the same time. That both Pierce and Zan were missing simultaneously was disturbing, but he hadn't dared linger at the base too long; the scanners had been disabled, but the Unit knew they'd been infiltrated and were more sensitive than ever to any discrepancies in behavior. What he had learned, however, was the location of Jaddo's body.

Brivari's hands clenched as he gazed at the lone truck on the airstrip with a mixture of expectation and dread. You can bring him back, right? Dee had asked. Good question, that, and one he couldn't answer...and wasn't sure how he'd answer even if he could. It had now been several hours since Jaddo had been shot, and he had no idea what he'd find inside that truck. Part of him was terrified at the thought of being the only Warder left, while another part wanted to revive him just so he could strangle him with his bare hands. They were in this mess because of an enormously stupid choice on Jaddo's part, but should that be a surprise to anyone? Hadn't they always known it would come to this? They'd been heading toward this cliff ever since a damaged man had been rescued from the very base in which he'd finally been killed. The human phrase "rest in peace" came to mind when he envisioned finding a pile of dust instead of a body because Jaddo had had no peace, no real peace, since his capture. Leaving him in peace would be the one consolation prize if he were forced to guide four obstinate hybrids back to their world all by himself, a prospect so daunting, it was almost paralyzing. He was just about to climb out of the car when another figure appeared just beyond the truck...and he froze. It was Rath, all spiffed up agent style as he had been at the base.

"Hey!" Rath called to the agents guarding the truck. "Over here!"

Brivari watched, flabbergasted, as first Vilandra...Vilandra?...and then Zan appeared, each taking out an agent before climbing into the truck. Where the hell had they come from? Why hadn't he seen them? Had he been so lost in thought that he'd missed what was right in front of him? But the signature part of the entire episode was when Vilandra and Zan climbed into the back.

"It's him, it's Nasedo," Vilandra said. "Let's go."

It's Nasedo. Brivari sagged against the steering wheel with relief, surprised to find himself shaking. Those words could only mean one thing—they'd found a body instead of dust.

He wasn't alone in this world after all.





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


I'll post Chapter 127 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 127

Postby Kathy W » Mon Oct 14, 2013 8:09 pm

Hello to everyone reading!


keepsmiling7 wrote:But most of all I appreciate the extra emotion you brought to this segment. So much was implied on the show, but you brought every thing out into the open for us to feel.


Aww, thank you! Some of the highest praise I've ever received. Image

emerald123 wrote:Max healing Kyle: I never really thought about it. I just assumed because Max healed Liz, he could just heal anyone without thinking about it.


I've always been curious about the healing process, especially after Max healed the kids with cancer in S2. Cancer is a disease process, not an injury like a bullet hole, so I wondered if that was different or harder.

Brivari seems ambivalent about how he feels about Jaddo


Absolutely...but not for long. Jaddo's not long for this world, and nothing settles how we feel about anyone like their sudden disappearance.






CHAPTER ONE HUNDRED TWENTY-SEVEN





May 14, 2000, 1 p.m.

Proctor residence





"Dee, would you please stop staring at that?" Anthony said, a faint note of exasperation in his voice. "That's why phones have ringers, so you don't have to go around staring at them."

Dee felt herself flush as she set her phone down. She had indeed been carrying it around with her and anxiously checking it like a teenager waiting for a call from her boyfriend, a phase that would have passed eons ago if she'd ever gone through it, which she hadn't. "You know Max is free," Yvonne said gently from the other side of the kitchen table where they were all sitting, clutching at the edges of normalcy by attempting to have lunch. "That's the important part."

"I know he was free," Dee corrected. "I have no idea if he's still free. And neither Brivari nor Valenti are answering their phones."

"Valenti told you he found Max, and you passed that along to Brivari, so I imagine they're...coordinating," Anthony said.

"Brivari? 'Coordinate'? With the sheriff?" Dee said skeptically.

"You've got a better chance of him 'coordinating' than Jaddo," Yvonne noted.

A heavy silence fell over the room as yet another unresolved crisis reared its head. Jaddo was apparently dead, at least technically, unless Brivari could get to him before his body turned to dust. I don't know how much more of this I can take, Dee thought wearily. The last person she'd spoken with was Valenti, and although he'd had good news for her, he hadn't exactly been happy. Her suggestion that they look in on Kyle Valenti had been firmly rebuffed by Anthony, who had insisted they inform Brivari that Max had been found and let Warders and sheriffs mop up. If she didn't get some information or find something to do shortly, she'd explode.

"Frustrating, isn't it?" Yvonne said sympathetically. "Sitting and waiting," she explained when Dee looked blank. "I did a lot of sitting and waiting when Pierce had me. It was maddening."

"At least you tried to influence him," Dee said.

"With 'tried' being the operative word," Yvonne sighed. "The only real contribution I made was to lie about the formula for the serum that blocks their powers. They'd misread Pierce's handwriting and given Max only half a dose. I was happy to perpetuate their mistake."

"Yvonne, that's wonderful!" Dee exclaimed. "That was huge, I'm sure. I haven't done anything but piss off the sheriff and drive around the desert. If I don't do something with all this energy, I swear I'll scream."

"Then put it to good use," Anthony suggested. "Mop. Dust. Polish the silver."

"We don't have any silver!" Dee said crossly. "And if you—"

The phone rang. "Hello?" Dee said breathlessly, not bothering to check the caller ID.

Big mistake. "Mom?" Diane's annoyed voice said. "I've been calling you all morning. Where have you been?"

Damn, Dee thought wearily. Diane had indeed been calling all morning, and she'd been dodging her all morning, her heart sinking every time the phone rang and it wasn't Brivari. "I had my phone off," she lied. "Is something wrong?"

"I certainly hope not," Diane said, having no idea how ironic that statement was. "Are the kids with you?"

"No," Dee answered, wishing desperately that they were. "Why?"

"Because school called," Diane said. "They wanted to know why the kids weren't in school on Friday. Max and Isabel never showed up, and Liz Parker left early."

"How would you know about anyone but your kids?" Dee asked.

"Trust me, we and the Parkers stay in touch," Diane said darkly. "But along the way I also learned that Michael, Maria DeLuca, and Alex Whitman also cut some classes. I doubt it's a coincidence that their entire group skipped school. Honestly, sometimes I think I let the kids have too much rein. They've been out all weekend staying at various friends' houses supposedly to 'study', and now I find they skipped school? I mean, at least they weren't all necking in a closet, but still..."

"Yeah, I think all of them in a closet would qualify as an 'orgy'," Dee noted as Anthony raised an eyebrow.

"Mom!" Diane exclaimed, scandalized. "Be serious! This is serious! I've decided to round up all the parents so we can—"

"Don't," Dee interrupted. "Just wait until you see the kids, and settle it with them. It's the first time they've done something like this, right? So it's not like it's a habit."

"Well...yes," Diane answered doubtfully. "But I don't want it to become a habit. And I don't..."

Dee closed her eyes wearily as Diane droned on. This was precisely why she'd been dodging her daughter-in-law's calls; it was bound to be about some trifling thing or other, and she wouldn't be able to explain why whatever was eating Diane was "trifling", just like there was no explaining why the pathological maniac from the FBI wouldn't confine himself to weekends. She knew Diane didn't know what was happening and couldn't be blamed for that, but she really didn't have the patience to continue the charade, not now. She was just about to beg illness and ring off when Anthony thrust a piece of paper into her hand. "Sophomore skip day," she read.

Diane stopped mid-sentence. "What?"

"Sophomore skip day!" Dee repeated. "Gracious, Diane, you went to high school. You must have heard of skip days even if you didn't participate in them."

"I...well...I've heard of senior skip day," Diane said. "Since when do sophomores do that?"

"Why should seniors have all the fun?" Dee asked. "I'm sure that's what it is. Just give the kids a talking to when they get home. Probably best if you do it instead of Philip. Gotta go! Talk to you later."

There was a sharp intake of breath on the other end of the line as she rung off. "Brilliant," Dee said admiringly to Anthony. "You not only came up with a plausible excuse, you came up with one our rule-loving son will be sympathetic to. Even Diane will figure that out."

"I know Philip did a lot more than just a senior skip day," Anthony said. "He'll have fond memories of—"

Dee's phone rang again. "And she's back," Dee sighed. "Now that she knows I'm here, she'll be calling all day and all night. Diane, please stop fretting," she said after she flipped her phone open. "The world won't end if the kids skip one day of school."

There was a long pause on the other end. "School," a male voice said. "I forgot about school."

Dee sat up straight, taut as a bowstring. "Sheriff?" she said cautiously as Yvonne's and Anthony's eyes widened. "Is that you?"

"Yeah," Valenti said, sounding oddly detached. "I was wondering if you could lend a hand."

"I...sure," Dee said. "But what's wrong? You sound...is everything all right?"

"Is now," Valenti said. "But we've got a bit of a situation to clean up. Seeing as how you've had decades of experience, I was hoping you could help." He paused.

"So how are you with dead bodies?"





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



Pod Chamber



Tess glanced impatiently up and down the desert road, checked her watch, checked it again. They're late, she fretted, although frankly their arrival time had only ever been an estimate. Behind her the pod rocks rose like fingers, pointing to the sky, pointing the way home. For the longest time she'd dreamed about going home, about reuniting with the Others and going back where she belonged, where they all belonged. Now that dream lay in shreds. If Nasedo was truly dead, she had no idea how to get home, and if she didn't know, how could the Others? And if none of them knew, they were stuck here, a prospect she had never, ever considered and now found thoroughly revolting. Stuck on this planet with nowhere to call home and no one, not even Nasedo, to call family? Stuck on this planet when she was destined for greatness on another? It was enough to make one cry, and for a moment, she considered doing just that. Wouldn't have been the first time today.

When they'd fled the compound and Michael had refused to go back for Nasedo, she'd slumped into the back seat of the car and gone silent, certain that if she attempted to speak, she'd either force the car to turn around or burst into tears, more likely the latter. The prospect of crying was simultaneously horrifying and bizarre; horrifying because tears were one of Nasedo's worst irritations, one she'd learned at an early age to avoid at all costs lest he add insult to injury, and bizarre because...well, because it was him. Why would she cry if Nasedo was gone? Get worried, maybe, or scared because she was alone, but cry? Really? Crying denoted emotion, and the only emotions she'd ever related to Nasedo were along the lines of frustration, exasperation, or outright anger, certainly not the typical "crying" emotions. She'd barely held it together until they'd reached the mine and discovered Max was missing, at which point finding Max was certainly the priority; even Nasedo would agree with that. And besides, what did they truly know? Michael really had no idea what had transpired after he'd carried Max out. It was all just speculation. She'd been sick with worry when Nasedo had disappeared after the carnival incident only to have him reappear at the base, cranky as ever, and he was probably still there mopping up the Unit, secure in the knowledge that Max was free. Or at least that's what she chose to believe in the absence of evidence to the contrary, doing a Scarlet O'Hara and deciding that she wouldn't worry about that right now; she'd worry about that later. Smart woman, that Scarlet, and Tess's mood had lifted immediately, so much so that she'd actually enjoyed sending the agents on joyrides and relished seeing Pierce tied to a chair. Until Isabel had done her inexplicable voodoo, that is, and discovered the unthinkable.

I'm sorry. It looks like he's dead.

Tess slipped her hand into her pocket. Nasedo had told her many times that he couldn't die, not in the conventional human sense, at least. He'd never explained what the "stones" did, but he had told her where to find them. The Indian reservation was close to Roswell, but she'd never expected the others to have them already. They knew so little, had done so little...how could they possibly have them? And then, in an odd twist, Max had sent her to retrieve them from his room while the rest of them went after Nasedo. Maybe he was afraid she'd break down or something, but she took comfort in the notion that he trusted her alone in his room. Any other time she would have loved to have spent time there, but this time had been all business—get the stones, and get out. They were in her pocket now, heavy with possibility, one thing which could right her world again...but not the only thing. She'd watched, wide-eyed, along with the rest of them as Max had healed Kyle Valenti, marveling at how easy and how hard it had looked at the same time. If the stones weren't up to snuff, maybe Max could finish the job. Someone would have to. Acidic as he was, life without Nasedo was not a life she wanted to contemplate.

Dust appeared on the horizon. It was the jeep, followed by an unfamiliar van, both of which came to a halt in front of her. "Well?" she demanded when Max, Michael, Isabel, and Liz climbed out.

"We got him," Michael said, throwing open the van's back door.

"Tess, don't," Isabel urged when Tess started forward.

"Why not?" Tess demanded. "I want to see him."

"You will," Michael said. "Let's get him up to the pod chamber."

"I want to see him now," Tess insisted as Isabel tried to hold her back and Liz looked alarmed. "Let go of me!"

"Iz," Max said quietly.

Everyone stopped. One syllable, half a name, really, but that's all it took when delivered in a voice of authority. "Michael," Max went on, "would you give us a minute, please?"

Slowly, reluctantly, everyone stepped back. Max beckoned her to the back of the van, where a zippered body bag lay on the floor. Impulsively, Tess grabbed the zipper and pulled it down.

"I don't know him," she whispered.

"Of course not," Max said. "He's a shapeshifter."

"No, I mean...I've seen dozens of his faces. I'd know any of those. But not this one."

"Michael said he took the form of one of the agents," Max said.

Tess pulled the zipper down further. There was a single hole in the chest, dark, small, really...and bloodless.

"There's no blood," she said wonderingly.

"Yeah, we noticed that," Max said.

"Because he's not really dead," Tess said, trying to sound confident. "I mean, what else could that mean except that he's not really dead? Because he told me he couldn't die, not really. He told me that over and over." She ran a hand over the wound, looked at Max. "Could you...I mean would you try...I mean, I know it took a lot of effort with Kyle. I could see that. I'd try it myself, but I don't know how—"

She stopped as he shook his head. "I already tried," he said gently. "Nothing happened."

"Well...maybe you're tired. Maybe more than one a day is too much."

"Maybe," Max agreed. "So let's get him up to the pod chamber before someone sees us, and then we can all try."

"Do these really work?" Tess asked doubtfully, pulling one of the nondescript rocks out of her pocket. "They don't look like much."

"They saved Michael's life," Max said. "And the more of them we have, the better. Michael?" he called to the little group standing a ways off, watching them with varying degrees of suspicion and concern. "Help me carry him."

"No!" Tess said suddenly. "I'll do it."

"You?" Michael said skeptically. "No offense, but he's a little big."

Tess gave him a pitying look, held out her hand...and the body floated out of the van, suspended in mid-air. She walked forward, past Max and Michael, past the gaping Liz and Isabel, the body suspended in front of her outstretched hand.

" 'Size matters not'," Michael murmured behind her. "Okay, Yoda. After you."




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




UFO Center





There, Dee thought, spying the sheriff's cruiser down the side street beside the UFO Center, tucked alongside another car which made it hard to see from the main road; if he hadn't told her about it, she would have missed it completely, especially with the "Closed" sign on the Center's front door. Following instructions, she parked her car beside the sheriff's, went to the back door, and knocked four times. The door opened so quickly it startled her, but even more startling was the single eye which peered at her through the crack; for a moment there, she was reminded of a movie poster for The Shining.

But then the door opened and the moment passed. "Come in," Valenti said, looking weary, but normal, glancing quickly up and down the alley. "Did anyone see you?"

"No one sees a woman my age," Dee said, stepping inside. "Which is annoying most of the time, but good news now."

The ghost of a smile crossed Valenti's face. "Guess so."

"You almost smiled there, sheriff," Dee said softly. "So it can't be all bad." Or maybe it can, she added silently as the ghostly smile evaporated, and his eyes fell.

"This way," he said.

They snaked through back passageways she hadn't known existed until they came to a kind of storeroom. The lights were on here, and they could see each other better, something which had occurred to Valenti as well as he stopped, looking her up and down.

"I remember you," he said finally. "You don't look much different than you did in '89. Just older."

"Do you flirt with all the ladies, or just me?" Dee asked dryly.

Valenti flushed. "I...oh, God, did I...did I just say that? I—"

But Dee held up a hand. "I'm joking. We're all older than we were ten years ago. But if that's one of your pick-up lines, I'd lose it, and fast. Now, are you going to tell me what's what, or do I have to guess? That was very mean of you, by the way, to ask about dead bodies before saying you didn't mean one of the kids. I nearly stopped breathing for a minute."

Valenti blinked, blinked again. "I...sorry," he said, looking lost. "I...didn't think."

Good Lord, Dee thought, beginning to worry. If whatever had happened had left Jim Valenti in this condition... "Sheriff," she said gently, "you never said...who died?"

He stared at her with apparent incomprehension, and for a moment she was worried he didn't understand. But finally he nodded and stood up, leading her out into the museum proper, coming to a halt at the back of the auditorium. "There," he said, pointing.

Dee walked slowly into the auditorium. Something had clearly gone down here given the mess, but it was the shape on the floor which drew her attention. She approached it cautiously, almost fearfully, even though he'd already told her all the kids were okay, but it turned out to be a dark-haired man she didn't recognize wearing the uniform of a Roswell deputy. That must be why Valenti was so upset—one of his deputies had died.

"Who is he?" she asked.

"That's Pierce," Valenti answered.

Dee blinked. "Pierce? What, you mean...you mean the Pierce?"

Valenti nodded. "Uh huh."

"The Pierce who kidnapped Max? And the nurse?"

"Yep."

"The Pierce you shot?"

"The same."

Dee looked back down at the body. "He's dead," she said flatly. "He's dead."

"Quite," Valenti agreed.

"Yes!" Dee exclaimed. "Yes! Oh, this is wonderful news! Good for you, sheriff! Well done!"

But Valenti was gaping in disbelief. "Uh...okay. Not quite the reaction I expected."

"What, you expected me to mourn him?" Dee said sharply. "He's a menace! We're well rid of him, and by 'we', I should make it clear I'm referring to everyone everywhere, on any planet. Why is he wearing a Roswell uniform?"

"He impersonated a deputy so he could worm his way into the station," Valenti said.

"Well, of course he did," Dee muttered. She was quiet for a moment as Valenti continued to stare at the body. "Is this the first time you've killed someone?" she asked.

Valenti's eyes jerked up. "What? Oh, no, I...the first man I killed was Everett Hubble. The only man I killed was Hubble. I didn't kill Pierce; Michael did. I don't think he meant to," he added quickly when her eyes widened, "although he thinks he did. Pierce was going to shoot all of us, and Michael just...just...let loose. Pitched him back against the wall. Looks like he died of head trauma."

"Well, I'm sorry to hear that," Dee sighed. "The part about Michael, that is. He has a temper, and doesn't have the greatest control of his powers, but still...this will be hard for him. But I'm not the least bit sorry he's dead. God knows he would have killed any or all of you without a second thought."

"I know," Valenti agreed. "He said as much. I pretended to be on his side to lure him here so Max and the others could find out...some things they needed to find out. I was trying to figure out what to do with him, how I could turn him in, but every way I worked it out, it just didn't...work out. And so I...I..."

He stopped, his mouth working for a few seconds after the words stopped. "And so you came to the realization that you'd have to kill him," Dee finished, "something that's not exactly in your job description. And now a part of you is grateful that Michael did it for you."

"Did I say that?" Valenti whispered.

"You didn't have to," Dee said.

There was a long, awkward silence which Dee resisted the temptation to fill. "I'm a sheriff," Valenti said finally, " a sworn officer of the law. But here I was, working out the best way to kill a man, just kill him in cold blood! What does that make me?"

"Practical," Dee said crisply. "Because you know that all the laws in the country won't protect anyone from the likes of him, and protecting people is what you do." She looked down at the body again. "I must say I'm surprised it was Michael who did it. I would have thought Br—their guardian would have taken care of this. Was he late to the party?"

Valenti's eyes dropped. "He wasn't at the party."

"But I told him you'd found Max. You mean he didn't contact you?"

"He did," Valenti said. "But I wouldn't tell him where we were because the connection wasn't secure. He claimed it was, something about some hocus pocus he'd done, but I wasn't even sure I was talking to who I thought I was talking to."

"Bet that went over well," Dee chuckled. "But at least he knew Max was safe."

"Am I...am I gonna pay for that?" Valenti asked.

"How do you mean?"

"I mean is he going to kill me," Valenti clarified bluntly. "Or my son."

"Kill you?" Dee echoed incredulously. "Goodness, no! Why would he do that? For being cautious? I'm sure he wasn't thrilled you wouldn't tell him, but you had a perfectly good reason, and you just helped save Max's life—twice."

"I didn't just 'not tell him'," Valenti said. "I argued with him. A lot. I...I hung up on him. And didn't answer when he called back."

"Sounds a lot like me," Dee said dryly. "He'll never admit it, but he actually likes people who stand up to him. They don't just want allies, they want strong allies."

"You sure about that?" Valenti said doubtfully. "He's...alien."

"Alien, not stupid," Dee noted. "He's not going to hurt you or your son."

Valenti gazed at her a moment before his eyes dropped to the body on the floor. "But he would have," he said faintly. "Without a second thought. Turns out it was the human monsters we needed to be afraid of. The alien 'monster' brought my son back to life."

"Back to...what do you mean? Did something happen to Kyle?"

Valenti looked off into space as though seeing something else entirely. "You were right, you know. Pierce did have Kyle under house arrest. Max took care of that, and told Kyle to say put, but...he didn't. He took one of my guns and came looking for me, and then...and then..."

Dee's eyes widened. "He didn't understand," Valenti went on in a brittle voice. "Pierce got the gun off him, and when he attacked us, I...I accidentally shot him. Kyle, I mean. I didn't even know he was here! And then Max brought him back, just like he brought back Liz Parker. That's what all this is about, all this hysteria. About bringing people back to life."

Dee, who had nearly stopped breathing, lowered herself slowly down beside the sheriff. "He's okay," Valenti continued emphatically, as though trying to convince himself that was true. "Alex and Maria took him home. I just...I know he's okay, so why am I still shaking? Why am I..."

He stopped, his hands working in front of him, his eyes far away. Dee reached out, took one of his hands. "I've heard Milton drinks gallons of coffee," said gently, "which would explain a lot. And which means he must have a coffee maker around her somewhere. Why don't we have a cup, and then I'll help you...tidy up. And while I'm making coffee, you can call Kyle and double check that everything's still okay. It'll do you good to hear his voice. How's that sound, sheriff?"

Slowly, Valenti's eyes pulled away from whatever horror they were remembering and focused on her. " 'Jim'," he said in a husky voice. "Call me 'Jim'."




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




Pod Chamber




"Put him down there," Michael instructed, pointing, "in the middle, where we can all be around him."

Tess did as instructed, lowering Nasedo's body to the floor of the pod chamber. "Let's have them," Max said, holding out his hand.

Tess withdrew the pile of healing stones from her pocket. "We each get one," Max said, passing them out. "And then we..."

Max's voice trailed off. "And then we...what?" Tess asked.

Max and Michael exchanged glances. "We've never done this alone," Michael said. "We always had River Dog."

"So do we need River Dog?" Tess asked. "Because I can go get him—"

"No," Max said quickly. "We can do this ourselves."

"And he might not come," Isabel added.

"Oh, he'll come," Tess promised. "I'd make him come."

"Tess, he's an old man," Liz protested.

"I don't care," Tess said. "If we need him to bring Nasedo back, I'll drag him here if I have to."

"Nobody's dragging anyone anywhere," Max said. "We're fine on our own. Let's just...gather round."

The group knelt around the body, stones in their hands, waited. "Now what?" Tess asked after a minute. "Nothing's happening."

"Shouldn't we draw the lines like River Dog did?" Michael suggested. "He had me in the middle, with a line going out to each of you."

"I think that was just symbolic," Isabel said.

Watching from the shadows, Brivari winced. River Dog's symbols, chants, and ceremonies were indeed symbolic, but it had been Vilandra who had grasped that while Rath considered them essential. That would be enough to make Jaddo wish he'd stayed dead, assuming he didn't, that is.

"Let's all just focus like we did the last time," Zan suggested.

They did, heads bent over their stones, all except the Parker girl, who stood on the fringe of the group, having neither requested nor been offered a stone. C'mon, Brivari thought impatiently. It would take a good deal of power to bring Jaddo back from an event like this; if his help was also required, he'd need a stone, which meant he'd pretty much have to reveal himself. He'd followed them in here without their noticing and managed to remain hidden largely because they were otherwise occupied, but someone was bound to notice a glowing rock where there shouldn't be one.

Vilandra glanced at Rath. "Are you sure this is him?"

"This is who he was last time I saw him," Rath answered.

It's him, Brivari thought, the infrared outline around the body the telltale sign of any Covari, to another Covari, that is. The hybrids tried again, heads bent, eyes closed...and this time it worked. The stones glowed, and Brivari watched in wonder as the power inside the chamber rose higher, higher, higher. The last time he'd seen them use the stones, it had been two hybrids and three humans; four hybrids added up to one hell of a powder keg. Only Zan opened his eyes as Jaddo's body began to heal much faster than expected, cycling through the brain's memory of the shapes he'd recently held. Correction, Brivari thought—the Parker girl was also watching, open-mouthed. Most Antarians couldn't stand the sight of a Covari shifting, but the human was watching.

Jaddo's body suddenly shifted to his native form, meaning the healing cycle was nearing completion. Brivari gazed down at the short, skinny, bulbous-headed body which was his own native form with a mixture of surprise and...and what? It had been so long since he'd taken that form. There had been no need back when they'd thought it would take decades for the hybrids to emerge, and still no need when they'd emerged and been placed with human families. Even the past few months hadn't seen a need for him to change shape as it was easy to hide from humans in human form, easy to change his face, his height, his hair, even his gender without disturbing the core shape. He could also move soundlessly, make himself invisible by changing his skin tone to match the background, use his powers to create or dampen sound, affect the lighting, or otherwise distract someone from his presence. No, changing shape had not been necessary; he'd hadn't for so long now that it would probably be difficult to do so, and his own real form looked strange to him. You'll have a field day with that one, Brivari thought as Jaddo abruptly sat up. If you ever find out.

"I knew you wouldn't leave us," Ava said, obviously relieved.

"You're not ready to be left alone," Jaddo retorted, ever the warm and fuzzy type...and ever the one track mind as his eyes fastened on the anomaly in the chamber. "She doesn't belong here," he announced when he saw the Parker girl, ignoring Rath's order to "make the orbs work".

"She's with me," Zan answered with a touch of impatience. "We want to know. You're the only one who can show us."

Brivari stiffened. This bore the hallmarks of the last time they'd all been together, back in '89 when Zan had ordered them to reveal the events which had brought them to this planet. If Zan actually ordered Jaddo to use a communicator, the results could be disastrous.

'It's not my job to show you," Jaddo said. "My only job is to keep you alive."

"Your job?" Zan repeated.

"Well, if your only job is to keep us alive, then tell us," Rath countered "They're communicators. They communicate with who?"

Damn it! Brivari thought despairingly. Even if Jaddo could talk Zan out of it, Rath would likely talk him right back into it. "You're not ready to know yet," Jaddo answered, the panic in his voice evident to Brivari, if no one else.

"They communicate with our home planet, don't they?" Rath demanded. "Why don't you want us to contact them?"

"Because you don't know who else you may contact in the process," Jaddo said.

"Who else is there?" Vilandra asked.

Jaddo's eyes hardened. "Set off those orbs, and you have no idea who you may be leading straight to us."

"You don't know, do you?" Zan said. "You don't know how to use the orbs. If you knew..."

But Brivari didn't hear the rest, and Jaddo likely didn't either. Because Jaddo had found him, his eyes fastening on the infrared signature which only he could see. *What do I do?* he asked frantically in telepathic speech. *Just imagine the reaction on Antar if the King suddenly calls home!*

*Imagine the reaction on every single one of the five planets,* Brivari sighed, *not to mention Nicholas on this one. But there's nothing for it, Jaddo. You've been honest, you've laid it out for them. With any luck, they won't figure out how to activate them.*

"...but if you're not the leader, who is?"

Jaddo spun around, Zan's last question having clearly tweaked him. *He's a child,* Brivari reminded him. *They all are. He has no idea what he's about to do.*

*Which will be small comfort when the world comes tumbling down around them,* Jaddo snapped. "If you really want to know what the orbs do, you can find out for yourselves," he said out loud. "I can't stop you. But do it at your own risk."

"If you're really here to protect us, there's something you have to do," Zan said. "The only way we can ever go back is if nobody's hunting us any more."

"Pierce is already dead," Rath said.

"He'll only be replaced," Zan answered. "Unless we replace him."

*Interesting,* Brivari murmured. *Exactly what you'd proposed.*

*I only wish Rath had thought of it,* Jaddo muttered. But he was smiling as he shifted to Pierce's form, no doubt relieved to be off the dangerous subject of communicators.

"The other agents are at an abandoned gas station in Hondo," Zan informed him.

*Get out,* Brivari said urgently, *while the getting's good.*

*What about you?* Jaddo asked.

*I'll stay and keep an eye on them. He can't give me an order if he doesn't know I'm here. Go!*

"Now that I'm the head of their Special Unit, we'll have all their resources," Jaddo said with satisfaction. "You'll be safe now."

Brivari breathed a sigh of relief as Jaddo left the pod chamber, not even concerned when the hybrids promptly picked up the communicators. The real danger had been that the king would order Jaddo to show him how to work them; the way they were all holding them made it clear they didn't remember how to use them. Thank goodness, because the ramifications of contacting Antar at this point could be catastrophic.

"I want to know," Zan said. "Maybe if we just focus like Nasedo's always said."

Good luck with that, Brivari thought as the hybrids bowed their collective heads over the communicators they same way they had over the stones. It was logical to assume that both could be activated by merely "focusing", but that wasn't the case, something they would no doubt soon learn...

Blue light suddenly shot from the communicators. Brivari stared in astonishment along with the hybrids, a cold feeling in the pit of his stomach as the beeping started. He wasn't sure what was happening, but whatever it was, the damage was already done.

Everyone in the galaxy with the right technology had just been "texted".


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


Busy next weekend, so I'll post Chapter 128 on Sunday, October 27. :)
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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