The Message *Sequel* (CC ALL, YTEEN) 11/18 COMPLETE

Finished Canon/Conventional Couple Fics. These stories pick up from events in the show. All complete stories from the main Canon/CC board will eventually be moved here.

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Re: The Message *Sequel* (CC ALL, YTEEN) Ch. 9 - pg. 6 - 8/6

Post by Misha » Sun Aug 26, 2012 9:21 pm


I'm alive! With the amount of work I had these past three weeks, believe me, it's nothing short of a miracle :roll:

ken_r, ah, doesn't it seem like yesterday when you helped me out plotting Dave's past before he was 6 years old? :mrgreen:

Timelord, yep, not much longer before we get to the ending. But oh, so much to say still...

Natalie, thanks! The muse was generous with book 2 :D

xmag, I don't think Dave knows for sure what would happen, he's just assuming the worst. On the other hand, we haven't met the resistance as he has, so... The plane question is brought later in this book, so I won't spoil it for you. Although if you do want to know, send me a PM :)

keepsmiling7, I'm always rooting for Max! But Zan is kind of sneaky...

trulov, good grief, The Offer was endless to write... I love book 2 so much! It practically wrote itself :lol: (if only I could say the same thing about book 3 ¬¬ )

xilaj, Dave is indeed a complicated character. He would say he isn't, but yes, he is...

Now, let's go back to the past for a little while :)

Part 10 – Lost
May 15 - May 18, 2005

1 : Dave

1:29am Paris
T minus 6 years, 5 months, 15 days, 23 hours, 31 minutes

Dave quietly watched Liz looking out the window. Almost all the window shades were drawn since it was the middle of the night according to their inner time; still, since they were flying counter clockwise, they were actually chasing the sunset. The sun was shining, but no one wanted the glare inside except Liz. There were two pilots, one steward, and four passengers, counting himself, and yet he felt as if Liz was the only one in that plane who mattered.

He was watching her for practical reasons. If Liz got another “shut them off” moment, the plane would go down, down, down to the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.

He was watching her for personal reasons. If Liz could channel Max’s energy to that point, being thousands of miles apart, that was impressive. But she had admitted that was only partly because of Max. That meant it was partly because of her, that she could do her own show. He was dying to know what exactly that entailed.

And lastly, he was watching her because she was his link to Max. And by extension, to Jake. He’d seen when she had hugged Maria and Isabel, reassuring her sister-in-law that Max wasn’t dead. She didn’t say anything about Max getting shot, or any of the other nonsense she had shouted at him when they had been in the car. But watching her now, he knew she was thinking about it, and whatever meaning it really held.

“Does it happen often?” he quietly asked, still staring at her. Somewhere, behind her, Maria and Isabel were facing each other, whether dozing or doing something else, he wasn’t able to tell. He had made sure he was sitting right in front of Liz for the sole purpose of having this conversation. It had only taken him seven hours, fifteen minutes and six seconds since Liz’s outburst in the car to build up the courage and find the right questions.

Liz shook her head twice, her eyes still looking out the window.

“Does Max know?” he pressed. This time, Liz turned to look at him, startled.

“Of course he does,” she said in the same quiet tone. “He… I… It had never been like this… Max was really scared. I don’t think he’s ever been more scared in his life…”

Try him seeing you shot four years ago… Instead, Dave nodded. They had gotten little information regarding what was going on before boarding, and even now, with the pilot on alert to any news, nothing was coming. Either Jake was too busy, or he was too unsure of the outcome. Neither explanation soothed his nerves.

“What about Maria?” he asked, slightly looking past her.

“I… I don’t know… Michael has never been this afraid.” She didn’t like to talk about it, Dave knew by the way her body instantly tensed. She looked torn, her eyes lost. Whatever she had felt had truly frightened her.

“Jesse?” Dave pointedly asked. Liz looked at him, frowning. She had obviously not thought about her former brother-in-law, probably not for a couple of years.

“I… I wouldn’t think… Isabel has never said anything about him…” Liz trailed off, slightly turning to her left as if she wanted to look at the blond girl.

No, Isabel didn’t mention Jesse, but she had been mentioning anything less and less. She was withdrawing, both Jake and Ray had pointed out. Lately, Dave had been keeping a closer eye on Jesse. He had once offered Isabel to bring him on board, and she had never completely said no. Maybe now was the time to take the choice from her, and offer it to him. Quietly, discreetly, and if Jesse answered no, well… Dave would think what to say to her if she ever changed her mind and wanted to see Jesse again.

“Who is going to shoot Max?” he calmly asked. Liz looked surprised for two seconds, and then was impassive again.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she said, escaping to her window, trying to dismiss it. Was that one of the things she had been thinking? What would she say if he asked?

“Let me remind you then. You said you never wanted to come. That if you kept him away, he was not supposed to get shot.”

She wasn’t looking to the window anymore, more like at some point between her seat and the plane’s walls. “So I’ve drawn a few conclusions here: Max was going to get shot in Paris. Or France. Maybe even on a plane… I haven’t really figured it out all the way. I know Max knew he was going to get shot, that’s why he refused to come. But Max being Max, he convinced you to come, because who would deny his wife seeing Paris?”

A tear ran down Liz’s cheek. It was all the confirmation he needed.

“You knew, and you fought him, but in the end… if he wasn’t here to fulfill this… vision, I guess… then he would be safely tucked away. Let’s add Maria and Isabel… Company? Protection?”

Liz closed her eyes, restraining her tears.

I would have never suggested you two coming here if I had known. Did that even occur to any of you? Whatever this… however this information just happened to land on you, I would do everything in my power to prevent it. That’s part of my deal.”

“You would use it for your own gain,” the reply came instantly, Liz’s words harsh and sharp, her eyes trying to burn him.

“Damn right I would,” he said back, returning her angry stare. “And that would mean using it to protect Max. And you…All of you. Goddamn it Liz, it’s been two years now. I don’t want your trust, but I don’t want your idiocy either!”

She looked both hurt and offended, with good reason. “What if Max got shot right now, huh?” he said, pressing Liz’s wounded mind. “And all because Allan and I agreed it was a good idea for you to come to Paris? You wouldn’t be here if I had known. Max wouldn’t be hurt if you had told me.”

“This isn’t about you!” Liz said, her angry voice starting to rise.

The hell it isn’t! he wanted to shout, but they both were getting volatile right now, and Dave hated being volatile. Hated being out of control. Hated not knowing what was in the dark lurking to mess up his plans. He took a deep breath.

“What else do you know?” he asked, all business now. In front of him, Liz remained stubbornly silent. He thought for a second about telling her the truth, and then let it go. When that time came, it wouldn’t be in the middle of the ocean, when it would sound like a too-convenient explanation to gain information.

“Is Max responsible for this?” Is that even possible? But this, too, went unanswered. He was going to lose his temper again if he was not careful. “Would you at least warn me in the future if what Jake or I, or whoever, is doing, places you in danger?”

Her eyes lost the angry edge, replaced by doubt.

“Listen, Liz. I don’t care how it works. But I do care what it says. Right now we are flying blindly, here. We don’t even know what happened, you don’t know what happened. But something else would have happened if Max had come, am I right?”

She broke their staring contest first, calmer now than a minute before. He took that as a yes. “Is there anything else… anything at all that you think I should know?”

Sighing in defeat, Liz closed her eyes. And then shook her head. Was she telling the truth or just denying him the knowledge he had just asked for? He sighed in defeat along with her. He thought for a minute. Or thirty-six seconds to be exact.

“How about this?” he said as he moved forward. “I’ll make you a deal. I’ll never ask about this. Ever. But you will never withhold anything from me. Anything like today. No matter how bizarre your request, or how farfetched, I will believe you.” Everything depended on Max being alive so Antar wouldn’t destroy the Earth. If she could make that happen, he would give her anything. Anything.

He extended his hand. Liz stared at it, a storm of emotions going through her brown eyes. From uncertainty, to confusion, to defeat… to hope. Unconsciously, she bit her lower lip. And ever so slowly, inch by inch, her hand extended to shake his.

2 : Michael

7:58pm US
T minus 6 years, 5 months, 15 days, 20 hours, 2 minutes

Michael was pacing. He didn’t know when he had started, but now he couldn’t stop it. Up to the farthest wall in his living room, back to the door to the hall. And again. And again. And again. It was almost 8 pm, but far from being hungry or exhausted, he felt ready to blow up the entire compound. Something had happened to Max eight hours ago. Something bad enough that their connection had been severed.

Dozing on his couch, Kyle lightly snored. He had been with him since Michael had been released from the confinement in the cafeteria to the confinement in his apartment. Ray had lost his temper to the point of yelling at him that if he didn’t move it to his apartment he would not allow him any means to communicate with the outside. Meaning Maria. The bastard. Kyle had convinced him to leave the place peacefully before Michael had a chance to blow up Ray instead of the damn walls.

Just as he couldn’t go out, nobody could come down. And not knowing what the hell was going on was as upsetting as knowing the main doors and hallways in this place were reinforced with depleted uranium. Dave didn’t want them to go, certainly not escaping. His military mind suggested that Dave might rather want to keep someone out than someone in, but Michael dismissed the idea.

His phone rang, shattering Michael’s train of thought, and startling Kyle into wakefulness.

“Yes?” he curtly answered.

“Michael,” Jake’s voice came, “he’s stable.”

Relief that almost threatened to sink him to his knees flooded him. “I want to see him,” he said, sounding so calm he amazed his inner self.

“Not until I know what happened to him,” Jake replied in the same calm voice.

“The hell you don’t know. What did you do to him?!” he all but shouted on the phone, eight hours of pacing frying the last of his nerves. Silence met his request.

Finally, “I need you to help Ray re-trace Max’s last twenty-four hours, if not longer,” Jake clearly said as if Michael hadn’t exploded just two seconds before. “Whatever happened to Max, it happened somewhere in the compound. Ray will tell you what I’m looking for. He’s on his way to your apartment right now.”

“When will I see Max?” Michael growled into the phone, barely under control.

“As soon as I know that whatever happened to him is not going to happen to you.” Jake hung up just as Ray knocked on the door. Michael almost fried the phone. Almost. Kyle got the door.

“Why can’t anyone see Max?” Michael interrogated as soon as Ray was in and the door was closed. “What are you hiding?”

“You can see him through the monitors. You just can’t leave this area. Not until we are certain whatever happened to Max—”

“Is not going to happen to me, I heard the excuse already,” the light briefly flared as Michael could barely restrain himself now.

“Listen, the girls are on their way back with Dave. It’ll take them another couple of hours to get here, and Isabel won’t be able to go see him either. Not until we know what’s causing this. So you two can either help me out and see what Max was doing all day yesterday, or you can sulk in the dark in here. It’s your choice.” It really wasn’t a choice, but Michael managed to stay still while Ray loaded a DVR with the footage from the security cameras that had followed Max through the maze of halls that was the compound. Somewhere, in there, was the answer to this whole mess. He just had to look carefully. Really carefully.

3 : Liz

9:57pm US
T minus 6 years, 5 months, 15 days, 18 hours, 3 minutes

But I lost it. She had wanted to say those four little words for hours now. Dave knew. At least knew enough. He had even called it a vision, to name it somehow. And he was right. She had seen Max getting shot in a French restaurant. She just didn’t know if her trading Max’s trip to Paris had meant Max getting shot somewhere else. It didn’t make sense. She had changed her visions before.

None of it mattered right now. She didn’t have visions anymore. She had dreams. For all the good that was doing. Through all the flight she had been thinking about it. She didn’t know if Max had been shot—she didn’t know what had happened to Max—but she had recognized that sunset painting in Paris. So what was it? Her vision from the French restaurant or her dream about petals and sunsets and symbolic things like that? I used to have a useful power, but I lost it. The one thing that could have kept them away from the Unit and Dave. The one thing that would have meant a world of difference. She had lost it.

She knew it wasn’t logical. Max had healed her because she was having terrible migraines. Her precognition had not come without a price. And even if she were willing to pay, there was no way to get it back.

Dave stopped the car at the gate. He had been trying to get a hold of Jake, but had repeatedly failed. Ray hadn’t been much help. Now, barely a few hundred feet from her husband, Liz couldn’t wait to get out of that car, and down to Jake’s lab.

“Sir,” the guard quietly said, “we’re on lockdown.”

“I know,” Dave said with the same tone. “We’ll stay above level until we have the all clear.”

“Yes, sir,” the man said with a tip to his hat.

Dave drove slowly, as if he were dreading the same as she was, but instead of wanting to race his heart out like she wanted to do, he was bracing himself for bad news. He parked, and before he had turned the motor off, all three girls were out.

Liz went first, followed by Maria and Isabel. Behind them, Dave closed his door and came into the building. As much as Liz wanted to run down the hall and press the elevator button to go down, she knew better than to try. She wasn’t wearing her White Card—that had been left with all her things at her hotel in Paris—so they needed Dave to key in the proper codes to get to Max.

Except he didn’t. Dave went straight to his office, and all three of them followed him. He lit the room, and waited for them to enter before closing the door. Liz had seldom been in that office since her first meeting with Dave, but the place had never looked so cold, so void of life. The grand, black, wooden desk was covered with a white sheet, a clear sign Dave had not been intending on coming back for a long time. Outside, it was raining. Inside was not feeling much warmer.

Dave took his cell phone out, fast dialed, and waited. They all waited.

“We’re here,” he said to whoever had answered. Nodding to his invisible interlocutor, he frowned a second, and then turned to look at Isabel. “Is Michael okay?” he asked into the phone a second after. Maria barely suppressed a gasp, and Liz put an arm around her shoulder. Dave looked at her best friend then as he was listening for his answer, and then curtly nodded to Maria, as a way of saying that her boyfriend was okay. “Let me talk to them, and I’ll call you back.” He hung up, and rested his hands on his desk, his back to the windows. He looked tired, Liz noticed for the first time. Even if it was 5:00am in Paris, Dave never looked tired. It sent a chill down her spine.

“Max had some sort of reaction, either to an allergen or to a toxin. Jake is not sure. It was serious, but Max is resting now.” Dave said it so calmly, it seemed absurd that she felt as if the world had moved from under her feet. Max was resting. She could hardly get a sense of him, but that was all she needed to hear right now. “What Jake is sure of is that he doesn’t want to risk any of you three,” Dave continued, looking directly at Isabel, meaning the three hybrids, “so he asks you to stay out of the compound until they have figured it out.”

The three of them talked at the same time.

“Where’s Michael?”

“What do you mean ‘stay out’?”

“They?” she said louder than Maria and Isabel. Until they have figured it out. It should have meant Jake and Ray, but she didn’t believe that was the case.

Dave looked at her, and she knew the answer was something she wouldn’t like. “Michael is restricted to your apartment,” he acknowledged Maria first. “‘Stay out’ means staying up here, in my office.” His hazel eyes looking at Isabel. “If we reach midnight, we’ll move to the huts for the night.” Then he turned to look at Liz, barely pausing to gather his thoughts. “‘They’ means Jake and one of his colleagues. Greg was present when the incident happened, and Jake had to tell him something. Jake needed his help, so there was really no option.”

Dave wasn’t happy about it, and Liz wasn’t either. Part of their agreement was that he would never reveal their identity. No exceptions. It seemed they had found the one and only.

“What did Jake tell him?” she asked in a voice as calm as his, which surprised her.

“I don’t know. Jake hasn’t been chatty. I’m going to stay here with Isabel, and…” Dave trailed off, and slowly turned to look at Liz, something in his mind. “How different…?” he whispered, trailing off again, frowning. Liz understood his meaning a second after. How different are you? He blinked, his composure back. “Maybe you shouldn’t go down either.”

None of them said anything, the three of them silently standing in Dave’s office. Liz had already told them about the lights, about the outburst in the car. Honestly, she didn’t know how different she was. If something had sickened Max, who was to say it wouldn’t sicken her?

“I’ll go see Michael, then,” Maria said after a minute when neither Liz denied nor Dave affirmed. Dave nodded to Maria’s request, going to the other side of his desk. He slightly removed the white sheet, and opened the middle drawer. A small laptop was inside, and in no time was he typing away, granting Maria access to go into the compound. They watched him work in silence, and when he looked at Maria, she simply turned and went out.

How Liz wished she could go out with her as well.

Dave kept pressing keys, a hum sounding from the left wall signaling heat was being generated. She looked at Isabel, feeling awkward at not having anything to do but wait. “Maybe we should wait outside,” Isabel said, turning to leave. Dave distractedly nodded as he kept typing.

Okay… Liz thought, following Isabel out, her thoughts on that plane, on that car… on that sunset. By the time she joined Isabel by the black couches outside Dave’s office, she wished she knew if she should have said anything at all.

4 : Michael

T minus 6 years, 5 months, 15 days, 17hours, 49 minutes

They went backwards in time. Painfully slowly at times, and dreading fast forwarding the digital video, Ray, Kyle and Michael watched the images that showed Max’s movements throughout the compound. It was distressing to see Max collapsing on the floor. It was weird to see him with the roses. It was the sneeze that tipped Michael that something in there wasn’t right. He wasn’t exactly sure why, because they sure as hell sneezed at random times, but something just wasn’t right. Ray texted Jake, and they kept watching. And watching. And watching.

They’d gone through all twenty four hours when Maria entered his apartment, and fiercely hugged him.

“Are you okay?” she whispered, still holding him tight.

“Yes… just… worried about Max.” He didn’t let her go either.

“Liz is barely holding on. Isabel is not much better,” Maria said, finally letting him go, and turning to hug Kyle.

“Where are they?” Ray asked, the monitor frozen.

“Didn’t Jake tell you?” Maria asked, first to Ray, and then to Michael and Kyle. “They’re not allowed inside. They are up there in Dave’s office. Until Jake gives the all clear, I was the only one who could come down.” Michael frowned. Isabel he could understand, but Liz?

“He…” Maria said, looking defeated, “he already knows…” they looked at each other, and understanding hit him like a train wreck. Dave already knew Liz was different. At least different enough to not risk her coming down. Michael hugged her again, this time placing his chin over her head. What would Dave do now that he knew they had been blatantly lying to him all this time? Worse, what would he do to Liz or Kyle? Or Max?

5 : Jake

T minus 6 years, 5 months, 13 days, 13 hours, 53 minutes

It had been the roses.

Sitting beside him on the couch, Liz was contemplating the picture of her would-be present with a sadness that was hard to watch. Max had cultivated them for her, spent countless hours working on this gift, hoping they would be just perfect. And in return, they had almost killed him.

Alone with Liz in the hut’s living room, Jake felt a million years older. Dave had been anxious, but he had nothing on the stress levels the kids were living with. He hadn’t seen Michael personally, but he’d seen Isabel. No matter how much he reassured them Max was out of the worst part, until they talked to him, they wouldn’t trust any of Jake’s words.

“And this—this spray is harmful to all of them?” Liz asked, trying to gain some composure. In front of him, Jake had the chemical composition of the spray, and the hybrids’ blood. They were still waiting for the final results on Liz’s blood tests. A little vial of blood was all he was going to ask from Max’s wife right this moment. He’d agreed on that with Dave.

For now, the only thing they knew for sure was that the spray was harmless to humans. Max, Michael and Isabel, on the other hand…

“It’s particularly toxic to Max, but it might have to do with the fact he spent months exposed to variants of it. What he went through was an extreme allergy reaction. The last batch, though, wouldn’t take much longer to affect Michael and Isabel on a toxic level.”

She nodded, her eyes still on the rose.

“We estimate it’ll take another three hours to wipe it out of the compound, a little bit longer from the lab where it was created. Once it’s a safe place for them, we’ll let them come in.”

“I don’t want him alone…” she whispered, a lone tear barely making a descent before she wiped it out. “Can I ask Maria to be there?”

“Of course,” he said simply. Staring at her for a minute, Jake finally managed to ask, “How is he?”

She frowned. No longer looking at the picture, her tired eyes looked at him in confusion.

“What does your connection tell you? How is he?” he repeated, anxious himself. He had all the hard data, but even with a couple of years of studying them, he was barely grasping the tip of the iceberg. Any information was welcome.

Her lips parted slightly. She had not been expecting this kind of question. Her eyes unfocused for a second, and then she sighed. “He’s deeply asleep. I can’t—I can’t really tell. When you drugged him… it felt as if he had died.”

This time, the tears did come freely, silently.

He tentatively hugged her, and when she didn’t resist, he pulled her to his shoulder. “It was my fault…” she whispered in a desolate voice, the picture in her hands crumbled inside her fists.

He told her that she was wrong, that there was no way she could have known, that anyone could have known, but all the time he felt she meant a far deeper meaning than just the roses.

6 : Max

T minus 6 years, 5 months, 13 days, 9 hours, 23 minutes

He felt heavy. Even breathing seemed to weigh him down every time he filled his lungs. He didn’t want to move. Frankly, he didn’t want to be thinking about how heavy he felt. He was groggy, and confused, and…

“Hey…” someone said by his side.

“Liz?” he whispered, trying to open his eyes. She didn’t feel like Liz, but then again, he was far from feeling like himself either.

“She’s nearby,” she said in a low voice, getting closer to him. He tried harder to wake up and look at her. “Take it easy, girlfriend, you gave us one hell of a scare.”

Girlfriend. The only person in the world who called him that was…

“Maria?” he asked, finally able to focus. Wherever he was, was dark. She was barely a silhouette in a world of more silhouettes.

“Hey… How are you feeling?” she quietly asked, tentatively reaching for his hand, but stopping. Her question forced his mind to take inventory on what his body was feeling.

“Heavy…” he said, trying to smile, but not really managing. Either way, she was not going to see it.

“Hmm… Jake said you might feel funny when you woke up.” This time she did reach for his hand, and hold it with a feathery touch.

“What… what happened?” Now that the strangeness of the situation was sinking in, Max started to get scared.

“Remember when Michael got drunk and everything was really, really high?”

And I had to drag him to Liz’s room? He wanted to say, but his mind was stuck with Liz’s rose. Where was his rose?

“You got that, ten times worse,” she kept explaining. “Jake is keeping the lights out so they won’t bother your eyes and you don’t start exploding things.”

He remembered then. He gripped Maria’s hand as the intensity of knowing what it felt like to have his throat closing crashed into his memory.

“Max?” she asked with alarm. He made himself calm down and released her hand. He started to feel the IV on his right hand, and heard the distant hum of machines.

“Sorry…” he whispered. “Sorry…” he apologized again, trying to piece together how he had ended up here.

“It’s okay. We were all worried about you. Jake is actually sleeping on his couch right now, he couldn’t stay awake any longer. Dave is not much better, go figure.” There was amusement in her voice, but too many blanks in Max’s mind to fully appreciate it.

“I got… drunk?” he asked, centering on Maria’s explanation that he’d gotten ten times worse than Michael on New Year’s eve.

Maria chuckled. “I would have loved to see that,” she said, holding his hand. “They think you had an allergic reaction to some herbicide or something. You were in Jake’s office when it happened. Your senses overloaded and you exploded the lights of the entire lab, burned half the sheets on your bed, and scared the hell out of us. Greg sedated you before you brought the entire thing down.”

“Greg?” Him Max didn’t remember. Although he remembered little after his clothing started to ignite his skin to the point Max thought he was going to spontaneously combust.

“A guy who is helping Jake taking care of you. If he asks, you’re psychic.” That was easy to remember. They were psychics for everyone but Jake. He’d always viewed saying that as an incomplete truth. They were psychics. It just happened that they were also half-aliens.

“Can I get you some water?” Maria asked, and Max nodded. Since she didn’t move, he remembered that she probably had as poor a view of him as he had of her. “That would be great.”

She stood and slowly reached for something on his side. She was probably lightly touching the objects on the table in order to get him the water. In that moment, Max was deeply grateful for Maria’s friendship.

Somewhere close by, Liz’s joy filled him so strongly he caught his breath. It was almost as having her tackling him to the bed in a fierce hug. He wanted nothing more in the world than to get out of here and hug her for real.

That reminded him of her roses.

Which in turn reminded him of Paris.

“Why aren’t you in France?” Max asked as she was pressing some button and the bed started to rise to get him into a sitting position.

“Why would we be?” she asked, placing the cup on his left hand. “Liz thought you were dying. You think a little inconvenient thing like the Atlantic Ocean was going to stop her? We just came along for the ride. Can’t have my favorite girlfriend dying across the world.” She was trying to make light of it, but Max heard the anxiousness behind the words. He didn’t drink the water.

“Why isn’t she here, then?” he slowly asked. He wasn’t offended she was not by his side, but if she wasn’t, it meant some major force had managed to get her out of his room. If the Atlantic Ocean was not enough to keep her away, what was? “Maria, how long have I been here?”

“About three days, a little less I think…” she answered, completely skipping his first question. “I’ll get you Jake. He wanted to know when you were awake.” Her evasion tied knots in his stomach. Nearby, a cell phone rang, and Maria left his side with a quick squeeze on his hand.

Alone in the bed, his eyes adapted better to the poor light. He still was at Jake’s lab, on a hospital bed. Holding the cup of water on his left hand, he started to slowly sip the slightly sweet water. With his right hand, he felt the circular electrodes on his chest. He noticed by then that he wasn’t wearing any clothes under the sheet, and that embarrassed him momentarily. You burned half the sheets on your bed, Maria’s words echoed in his mind. He had done it as an outlet to the maddening sensation that he was himself on fire, he vaguely remembered that. He clearly saw himself taking his jacket off. If he hadn’t been able to stand the touch of fabric, that would explain his lack of clothing, and he was immensely grateful he didn’t have the need to strip in front of Maria right now. It reminded him of what she’d told him years ago, Girlfriend. Like, I know that we bonded over the summer, but I'm not quite ready to show you the bod just yet. Indeed.

His right index finger throbbed, but besides that, he was feeling okay. Tired, groggy, and still plenty confused, but okay. He tried to concentrate on that so Liz would get a better reading on her side of the connection. Having her back from her trip was a relief in itself, but not knowing why she wasn’t coming in had him nervous. The bad kind of nervous. At least the rose was finally a success. The one he’d been carrying was probably dried and dead by now, but there were plenty more where that came from.


“Welcome to the land of the waking,” Jake said, barely above a whisper.

“It’s okay… I’m not… overloading any more.”

Jake stopped. “Are you sure?” he still said in a low tone.

“Positive. I’m not whispering right now,” he said to prove his point. Turning around, Jake walked to the wall.

“Close your eyes while I adjust the light.” Max complied, and the lights came on, strong enough to make Max see pink through his eyelids. Then they faded.

“There, that’s much better,” Jake said, signaling Max could open his eyes again. He did, and everything looked bluish, the light more soothing than harsh. Jake let go a deep breath when Max didn’t started exploding things. But Max did stop breathing. Jake’s face had a dozen little cuts on the left side of his face.

“What… what happened to you?” he asked, deducing an instant later he’d somehow caused that.

“Nothing a few days of care won’t be able to erase. Maria told me you’re your usual self, but humor me with the basic tests,” Jake said with a smile, wiping away Max’s question. Max didn’t let it go.

“What happened?” he commanded rather than asked, Zan’s impatience igniting Max’s already guilty conscience. Jake looked at Max with both curiosity and astonishment.

“It’s quite interesting to see it happening,” he murmured as he came closer, taking Max’s wrist. They had been talking about Max recovering Zan’s memories for a few months now, and Jake had not missed the change. Max inwardly cringed. He had to get a hold of it or Liz would notice it, too.

“Do you remember exploding the lights?” Jake asked, his attention on Max’s pulse.

“Yes. Vaguely, but I do.” Jake nodded, and took his penlight from his pocket. Besides the cuts, Jake’s eyes had dark circles under them, and he wasn’t wearing a lab coat. He usually was when he was in doctor mode.

“I covered you as the debris rained on us. That’s how I got the cuts,” he simply explained, moving the light to Max’s eyes. It stung for a moment. “I’m sorry, I should have listened to you when you asked me to turn them off,” Jake apologized as he moved the pen to the side, waiting for Max to follow. He didn’t.

I’m sorry,” Max said, “You got cut trying to protect me from something I did.”

“Follow the light,” Jake sternly said, and Max did it with no little amount of annoyance. “Let’s call it even, then.” Jake turned the light off, put it on his pocket, and grabbed a stethoscope that was lying on the bedside table, along with the water. As Jake reached for Max’s chest, Max held his hand high.

“Let me fix them,” he whispered, looking at the longest gash by Jake’s ear. “It’ll make me feel better,” he added with a small smile. Jake hesitated for a moment. Then nodded.

“The minute you feel something off,” Jake admonished as Max placed his hand above his cheek to avoid the silver handprint, “you stop.”

Max smiled. The cuts were all superficial, but he did feel better healing them. It took Jake longer to warn him than for Max to heal him.

“Okay,” Max said, taking his hand away. It took Jake a few seconds to realize it was over that fast.

“Amazing…” Jake whispered, his eyes shining as he placed his hand on his face. It was the first time Max had ever healed in front of Jake—let alone Jake himself—and Max sincerely hoped it was going to be the last.

“Where’s Liz?” Max asked, as much to change the subject as because he wanted to know. Liz’s joyfulness was now full of wariness. Jake’s eyes followed a strikingly similar path. He, just like Maria, didn’t want to answer that question. Except Jake had nowhere to run.

“She’s not allowed in here right now…” Jake said as he sat on the bed. Max didn’t notice. All he knew was that Liz was singled out. And there was only one reason for that. “Michael and Isabel too. We think we found what triggered this reaction in you. We are clearing it off the compound, but I want to make sure it’s just you and neither of them. It’s a long shot that it would affect Liz, but better thorough than going through what you went through, right?”

Jake placed a comforting hand on Max’s shoulder. Max stared at him, his heart beating too fast.

“Max, it’s okay. They’re okay. You’re okay.” Jake’s hand tightened to make a point.

“Did Dave…?” he didn’t even know how to ask that.

“He arranged something with Liz. You can talk to all of them over the phone once we’re finished here. Now, I’ll run a physical examination so I can finally sleep well tonight, hmm?”

Jake went on, and Max tried to be a nice patient and endure Jake’s inquiries and exploring hands. He’d been unconscious for the better part of three days while his body had been fighting to regain control over the overload that was assaulting his senses. All this Jake explained to him in detail, but the only thing Max’s mind was centered on was Liz. And Dave.

He knows. Oh God, he knows.

T minus 6 years, 5 months, 13 days, 9 hours, 3 minutes.
Last edited by Misha on Thu Oct 18, 2012 1:23 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: The Message *Sequel* (CC ALL, YTEEN) Ch. 10 - pg. 7 - 8/

Post by Misha » Sun Sep 16, 2012 1:01 am

Ah! Finally! I can't keep a posting schedule to save my life, but there! All shiny and edited :mrgreen:

Thank you for coming back to read!

xmag, I think the Dave's relationship with the kids was complicated, but we'll get to explore that in the next book. By the way, the answer to the plane was bumped into that too... but my offer still stands to PM it to you :)

Natalie36, thanks! Coming with cliffhangers is hard when telling both present and past, that's for sure!

keepsmiling7, what's going to happen next is book 3 :lol: Now help me bribe the muse...

Timelord31, ::hugs::

xilaj, I hope I have more time too... I really, really do... It's half written though :) That's half the battle won :mrgreen:

ken_r, your descriptions are priceless to me! Thank you for thinking about my scenes!

Now back to the present :)

Part 11 – All Wrong
November 2nd, 2011

1 : Dave

T minus 47 minutes

The metal table in front of him was cold, and the cuff on his right wrist was more than a little tight. He didn’t really mind the discomfort. He had other things on his mind.

The blindfold had been taken away when his asthma attack had been triggered forty-two minutes and three seconds ago, removed by some nondescript agent who had given him the inhaler he now had in his left hand. Dave hadn’t looked at him, had not even acknowledged him. McKay had not been in the room at that point, and after he had regained his breath, Dave had been left alone. Probably not unwatched, but that was hardly his biggest concern.

He should have told Max.

The irony was that he had been about to. Too bad it had taken him two years to decide to do so, but still… Had he not been careless, and had he eluded his pursuers this morning… he would have talked to Max by this time. Now he had no idea where they were. Where anyone was. And it was too late for regrets.

The door silently opened, and although he had not met those steely eyes in more than thirty five years, there was no mistaking them. In front of him, McKay studied him with the implacable stare of one who is used to breaking spirits. I bet it won’t be as easy now that I’m forty-six than it was when I was six.

The inhaler that was in his hand wanted to differ.

He wanted to toss it. He wanted so much to be able to control his brain, to make it stop triggering the asthma reaction. He wanted to think that now that the initial shock had passed and he had already had his asthma attack, it wouldn’t happen again, but he couldn’t be sure. Goddamn it, he couldn’t be sure!

“You were brilliant,” McKay finally said, still measuring Dave’s physical responses.

I am brilliant, General. IQ points are hard to downsize despite what others want to believe, Dave silently thought. He hated being here, hated the man who had haunted his dreams for forty years, but he would never give him the satisfaction to rise to his bait.

“You got careless. Asking the wrong questions of the wrong people.”

Dave refrained from answering that. No matter how infuriating it was, McKay was right. The man in front of him was pushing seventy and Dave could still picture him in the prime of his life, looming over his six-year-old self, telling him he had to break the codes so the bad people would die.

“You can be silent all you want, David,” McKay said, the way he emphasized his name making him grip the inhaler, “it never worked when you were a kid.”

Dave smiled at that. McKay was right, he was no longer a kid, and he had learned a trick or two since then. His grip eased on the inhaler.

“What do you want McKay? Run into some code that is wreaking havoc on your systems?”

McKay didn’t look amused. Maybe he was now suspecting that so many systems crashing on his watch had not been coincidence. It wasn’t Dave’s fault the man didn’t hire the best to stop hackers from entering and playing with the data. Dave had never done it himself, but he had… encouraged others to do so.

“Where’s Max Evans?” McKay asked a second later. Dave’s breath caught in his throat, along with his heart, all amusement gone.

“Somewhere you’ll never catch him,” Dave promised as he swallowed his fear. How could McKay know about Max? Dave had lost track of McKay on and off over the years, and he hadn’t checked on the good colonel for the past two, but this?

“I think it’s strange, for all your talk about human life, David, you would go and protect a killer. Do you want a list of all the people he and his race have killed? Want to be responsible for all the blood that will be spilled if we let them invade?”

Not the Unit, Dave thought with dread, Tell me you’re not in the Unit.

“Think whatever you want,” was his automatic response.

It didn’t matter. If McKay wanted Max, Dave would make sure that didn’t happen. It was all coming to an end anyway. He just had to keep McKay in this room for the next couple of days, and all Dave had prepared for the past eight years would unfold, one way or another.

2 : Isabel

T minus 43 minutes

Isabel was stalling.

Standing in front of a Nine West apparel, she was looking-but-not-really-looking at a red pair of boots. They would be the perfect match to the red coat she was wearing, she fleetingly thought, knowing the boots she was already wearing were also a perfect match. And a gift from Jesse.

He always knew what to get her. And she always knew how to make it fit. So what if the boots were a size too small? A little wave of her hand was all that was needed. She never told him those things… didn’t want to ruin the gift by bringing up his mistake and her alien powers.

She sighed. It wasn’t his fault she didn’t want to bring it up. It wasn’t his fault he had married a woman who had clearly lived before. An old soul, indeed.

So now she was stalling walking into her husband’s waiting arms and warm smile to tell him the truth. She didn’t want to, obviously, but a tiny part of her was hopeful. She wanted to show off as much as Max did with Liz. She wanted to get as explosive as Michael did when he wanted to vent his frustration at something. She wanted to openly laugh at the alien jokes, instead of feeling mortified when she was with him.

She wanted Jesse to know.

The realization hit her so hard, the window trembled. She raised her hand to steady the window, and her self-control. It was true, she did want Jesse to know; to delight in what she could do; to sooth her fears. To start over. To explain to him that her memories about being a princess on a distant planet were nothing more than echoes of a life that was no longer hers. That had never been hers. She just knew Vilandra very, very well. That was all.

She closed her eyes, the red boots oblivious to her dilemma. Max always made it sound so easy, so logical. She hoped he had as much trouble figuring it out as she did.

I can do this, she coached herself. I’ll show Jesse, and he’ll understand. He had to. He had already understood once. He would understand now.

With not so steady legs, she finally walked towards her destination without further delays.

3 : Maria

T minus 37 minutes

She wanted to run through the doors into the lobby. She also wanted to run in the opposite direction to see if Michael was coming. But most of all, she wanted to feel safe.

While Kyle finished paying the taxi driver, Maria contemplated their options. Dave going missing was leaving them in a weird kind of limbo. If Dave disappeared forever, they would be left up in the air. Ray had told them once that protocols were in place for any circumstance, but he hadn’t elaborated.

Now they were gathering here by Ray’s orders, and they didn’t really know why. It was a happy coincidence they were all in the same city, but had they been scattered to the four winds, would they still have been ordered to the same place?

“I think he just wants to know where we are, and this was convenient,” Kyle said, startling her. He had heard her thoughts, and because it wasn’t an everyday occurrence, it felt weird. It was one thing to know he could do it, and another to see him doing it. “Sorry, can’t help it with all that’s going on…”

“Don’t mention it,” she said, grabbing Kyle by the arm and dragging him inside as fast as she could. He didn’t complain. They went directly to the counter, and had to get in line. An elderly couple was with one receptionist, and a very angry man was with the other. Maria felt her pulse rising.

“What are we supposed to do? Just wait?” she whispered to Kyle. For his part, Kyle looked worse than she felt.

“Max, Michael, Isabel, and Jesse are already checked in, right? We just wait for them…” he whispered back

“Do you realize what it means if Dave is gone?”

“We’re free,” Kyle said grimly, no cheerfulness to speak of. She didn’t feel cheerful either. “It means we’ll have to fend for ourselves without even knowing where we stand,” he muttered as he covertly checked everyone sitting in the lobby. “He may be a bit scary, but at least when Dave is there, you know someone's flying the plane,” Kyle finished. It was so strange to see Kyle worried that her anxiousness exponentially skyrocketed.

It meant their bank accounts wouldn’t be safe. It meant that if Dave’s empire collapsed, there was no continent that didn’t have ties to him, making it hard to pick a place to disappear. Over the last year, the seven of them had made emergency plans, but not one of those scenarios involved Dave dropping off the face of the earth…

“I’m so sick of this,” Maria said, glimpsing sideways to see who was watching her. No one was. “I want out of that man’s shadow, now!”

“I just want to contact Sybelle… Do you think she’s on Ray’s priority list?” Kyle hopefully asked. Neither of them knew. Kyle winced as if something had stabbed at his head, and not for the first time Maria was grateful she didn’t have any powers to complain about.

The elderly couple finally checked in, and it was their turn to move to the counter. By their side, the angry man in a suit tried to tell them something not nice about the service, but one look at Maria’s no-nonsense face, and he shut up. The clerk looked gratefully at her.

Eight minutes and half dozen signatures later, they were heading for their rooms. Everyone had checked in, but no one had answered their room phones. Defeated and redefining the word angst, they went to their floor. Phones were there. She had to contact Ray. Kyle had to contact Sybelle. Hopefully someone was going to have answers soon.

4 : Michael

T minus 23 minutes

Michael hardly paid the taxi before sprinting into the hotel. After leaving Christy’s apartment, he had considered where he should go, for about two minutes. Maria was supposed to still be in England, but if she was here and she wanted to locate him, she would go to their hotel. It was the only concrete place in the city where they had agreed to be.

He rushed into the lobby, and expertly surveyed the area as he walked to the counter. Maria had been here, he could feel it in his bones. He asked for her at the desk, and the guy actually smiled. Michael didn’t have time to wonder why this guy thought it was okay to grin like that at the mention of his wife, so he narrowed his eyes enough to convey he was not amused. The clerk didn’t get it.

“She has just checked in,” he happily said, and typed in something. Michael felt relief flooding him. She was here, and she was safe. A minute later, the clerk called her room. “She’s not answering. Would you like me to try again in a few minutes?”

“Yes,” Michael responded curtly, and reclined on the counter. He didn’t like it, but there were a million things Maria could be doing that prevented her from getting to the phone. He couldn’t go after her without a room number, either. He could only hope she would feel his presence as strongly as he was feeling hers and come down. He didn’t know what else to do.

He kept rotating his gold band on his left hand. It was the only physical object that could both ground him to reality and calm his nerves. When he had begun to lose his sense of self at times when Rath’s memories were becoming more and more vivid, it was that ring that had reminded him what was important. Now it was a poor substitute for Maria’s presence.

His mind kept trying to find a way to get to her sooner. Liz was in the city, so Max wouldn’t take long in coming back as well. Damn phones that didn’t work! He asked if the guy could call Liz’s room. He did, and got the same answer: she wasn’t picking up either. Why was everyone disappearing on him now?

“Michael!” He turned around to find Isabel coming to him. “What are you doing here so early?”

“Maria’s in town,” he said, taking their conversation away from the front desk. “She was really scared. I thought you were meeting with Jesse.”

Isabel’s smile faded. “I am. I got… distracted, so I’m late. I’m guessing Jesse is in our room. Where’s Maria? Why is she scared?”

“She’s here, somewhere. She’s not picking up her room phone. I’m trying to pinpoint her, but you know how it is for us. And—What the hell is Jake doing here?” Michael asked, all his senses going on alert. Isabel turned in time to see the older man walking through the doors, looking nothing like his cheerful self. Even Michael knew Jake was not easy to scare, not enough to put that look on his face.

Jake saw them a moment later, a mix of relief and regret on his face. They met in the middle.

“Ray wants all of us here,” Jake said before Michael could ask. “There’s… a situation with Dave.”

T minus 19 minutes
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Re: The Message *Sequel* (CC ALL, YTEEN) Ch. 11 - pg. 7 - 9/

Post by Misha » Sat Oct 20, 2012 9:03 pm

Wow, I'm about to finish two fics at once :shock:

xmag, PM sent! Sorry it's taken so long! Alas, book 3 is already in the works :mrgreen:

keepsmiling, Dave can be quite stubborn, especially when he has a nagging feeling he's not really doing the right thing, but he doesn't want to acknowledge it. Regardless, he's in a big mess, half of his own doing :roll:

xilaj, that final line, "a situation with Dave", was rather difficult to come up with. The chapter had originally ended a bit further, but then the last chapter didn't have much to cover, so... Heh, if Dave were reading this, he would say, "what did I do, now?"

ken_r, as usual, your insight always shows me a side I hadn't seen before ::hugs::

Part 12 – Consider
May 18 - 21, 2005

1 : Dave

T minus 6 years, 5 months, 13 days, 6 hours, 2 minutes

Dave watched the roses go into the small incinerator. Jake had not told Max yet, and Dave supposed that unsavory news was going to be his to deliver.

Sixteen months. Henry had said Max had been working on his rose project for sixteen months. That he’d gotten the rose he wanted was a happy coincidence. Some people could go a lifetime without getting their perfect rose.

The last plant went in, and the door was closed. This was the sixth batch. Dozens and dozens of pots burned to the ashes inside the fiery box. I’m sorry, Dave apologized. He didn’t like to see illusions go up in flames, especially for someone like Max. He had talked to Jake about any way around it, but the truth was, all those roses along with half the plants under Henry’s care, had been sprayed with Henry’s formula. One that had turned into a very effective hybrid killer. Max had been exposed to it for sixteen months, but it was the latest version that had proven almost lethal.

Now Henry had to start again on his research from his last version before this one, or risk getting nothing from Dave. Dave could not risk something as dangerous as that getting out into the world Max was sure to walk in the future. If the Antarians came to know it, they would kill him, and he wouldn’t blame them.

“Anything else you need?” Henry quietly asked. It had been sixteen months for Max. It had been nine years of research for Henry. He understood that Max had had a violent reaction, and he had accepted that part of his work had to disappear. It didn’t mean he had to be happy about it.

“No Henry, I think we’re done here,” Dave said, placing a hand over the older man’s shoulder. “You are going to help Max again, right?”

Henry smiled for the first time since Dave had arrived. “He really had something, you know? I hope he can have it again.”

It wasn’t a yes, but it wasn’t a no neither. Either way, it was too soon to press Henry for any compromise.

Alone in the spacious room that was the engineering area, Dave kept watching the door to the incinerator. They had kept things from him. Important things. And he wasn’t sure how to react to that. He’d thought he knew them well enough. Research and observation could only take him so far, of course, but still…

They were good, he reluctantly approved, much the same way he was reluctant to allow Sybelle’s involvement with extreme sports. Two years under his roof… It begged the question, then: what things would they do once they were out from under his roof?

For the first time in two years, Dave wondered if he should call Langley.

If he was not careful though, his plans could very well go up in smoke, just like the roses and Henry’s formula were doing inside the incinerator right now.

“I’ll let Liz see Max in about half an hour,” Jake said coming into the room. Dave turned to see him, and was surprised by Jake’s lack of scars. Jake simply smiled.

“Small miracles, I guess,” he said by way of explanation. He stood by Dave’s side, looking at the incinerator while Dave processed that latest bit of Max’s behavior.

“Did you talk to Liz?” Dave asked a few seconds later.

“Yes, though not for long. She’s a tight bundle of nerves, which is understandable with her husband unconscious for three days. But Dave… I wouldn’t hold my breath. If they feel we need to know, then we’ll know.”

“You didn’t see it, Jake. Liz blew up the entire room’s electric system. Fourteen lamps in a thirty foot radius. She could have done it five minutes earlier with a room full of people. At the very least she has to learn to control it. There’s only so much I can hide.”

“I’ll make sure she’s aware of your worries,” Jake said dryly. Not everything is about you, Jake had told him when he was fourteen, wanting to get drunk. Who do you think has to babysit you? And what if we have to run, then how are you going to even know what’s happening? Dave had refrained, until he was nineteen, supposedly dead, and away from Jake’s tendencies to kill his interest in the world. He’d regretted it fourteen hours later when he had experienced his first and only hangover, of course.

Dave sighed to concede the point. “How’s Max doing?”

“He’s fine, darn that metabolism of his. He’s a little frustrated about being ordered to remain in bed until tomorrow. He didn’t want to miss Liz’s birthday, but I’m arranging the party to come to him.” Dave smiled, thinking about Danielle’s wonderful chocolate cake. But Jake did not smile with him. “It was really close, Dave. Had he been somewhere else… I asked him to carry an epi-pen. He looked at me as if I had grown a second head.”

“I’m sure Liz will make him,” Dave guaranteed him, standing to walk away. The people who worked here were coming back from the testing they had been doing on the other wing of engineering.

“There’s a thought,” Jake mused, following him out.

“You haven’t told him? About the…” Dave hesitated, turning to look at the distant incinerator.

“Now-extinct roses? No. He suspects, but if anyone is persistent enough, it’s Max. How long are you going to stay?”

Until Max agrees to carry his epi-pen, Dave thought somberly. It was one thing that Max had almost died by accident, another to not be prepared for next time. “A few days. See that things settle down again. I have some ideas I’d like to try discussing with our merry band now that the girls are back… I think it’s time for a change.”

2 : Liz

T minus 6 years, 5 months, 13 days, 4 hours, 49 minutes

“He even sent for our bags,” Liz was telling her audience, while they quietly ate her birthday cake. Jake had allowed them to use one of the lab’s long tables, so they were sitting bar style, with Max on one side, and all five of them on the other.

“And he hasn’t asked you anything else?” Max questioned, sneaking a bit of chocolate cake even though Jake had sternly warned he shouldn’t load his stomach with something so heavy after two days of nothing solid. Michael tossed him the Tabasco sauce, and since Max’s reflexes were as good as ever, Liz didn’t argue with him about his sweet-n-spicy treat.

“He said it on the plane. ‘I won’t ask about it, but you better tell me if you have a vision’. I thought for sure he was going to corner me until I came up with a suitable answer.”

“That doesn’t sound like him…” Kyle mused.

“It’s a tactic,” Michael deadpanned, looking intently at Max. “He’s just waiting for us to do or say something and he’ll use it to his advantage. He’ll probably provoke us into it, too.”

“What about Jake? Has he asked you anything?” Isabel asked her brother. Max shook his head.

“He’s talked to me in detail about what happened. Made sure I was really feeling okay, which I am,” he added when Liz started to chew on her lip. “It’s over, and everything is back to normal,” he smiled that slow smile that she loved so much, but she needed far more than that to calm her guilty conscience.

“It was awful…” she whispered, “I thought it had been my fault. I wasn’t thinking what I was saying to Dave. I just… I’m sorry…”

“No one is blaming you, Liz,” Isabel said, “Michael and I felt it too. It was horrible, Max. Don’t take it lightly. If Jake hadn’t acted so quickly, I don’t even know where things would be right now.”

“I am not taking it lightly,” Max said with a little bit more force than he needed. It was in moments like this when Liz thought she got a glimpse of something. Something else going on behind Max’s eyes. It didn’t scare her, it intrigued her. She never felt anything unusual in their connection, and it never lasted more than a few seconds, that feeling that Max had tapped into something deeper within himself.

Michael and Isabel took it in stride, but Liz noticed how Maria and Kyle had stopped eating for just a second. They had noticed. It was Michael and Isabel who just hadn’t cared. Or were used to it far more than she was.

“Do you think we should figure out what are we going to say about Kyle if we ever need to?” Maria asked, changing the subject.

“How about we don’t?” Kyle answered without skipping a beat. “If he doesn’t want to know about Liz, he sure as hell is not going to know about me.”

They kept talking, and eating, and after a while, they started joking. Presents were unwrapped, hugs given. Yet the doubt nagged at Liz. Why wouldn’t Dave want to know about it?

3 : Isabel

T minus 6 years, 5 months, 11 days, 23 minutes

The door to Dave’s office was ajar, and Isabel took a moment to compose herself. She’d been the only one who had been called to a meeting with Dave, and after the last couple of days with Max getting sick and Liz showing some of her power, Isabel had no idea why would she be the one to be called.

It reminded her of the first time she had been in this same spot, two years ago, not knowing what to make of this man and his offer. Sadly, her position had barely changed.

She went in.

Instead of 15,000 pieces of puzzle, a white sheet covered one half the surface of Dave’s desk, while he was typing on his laptop on the other. He looked absorbed on his work, and barely raised his eyes to acknowledge she was here. “Just a minute,” he said, without breaking the speed at which he was typing.

She briefly looked around, noticing that the place had been dusted. On her right, the large group of numbers she remembered was still hanging on the wall. In front of her, looking past Dave, was the window. Instead of the eternal white they had seen in their first meetings, now all she could see was green and greener all around.

She sat down as Dave’s typing slowed almost to a standstill. He frowned, not liking what he was reading. Then he let it go, closed the laptop, and looked at her. He was forty, and still looking ten years younger. Not for the first time she wondered if he had lied about his age.

“Jesse is in trouble,” he started without even a good afternoon. She stared at him, her mouth slightly opening as her mind ran with a thousand things to say, to ask, to shout.

“What?” was the only one that managed to escape.

“Two days ago, while you were celebrating Liz’s birthday, Jesse was found by the Unit. Fortunately, he was quick on his feet, figured it out, and left his apartment. In about twelve minutes, Ray is going to pick him up. Now, Isabel, Ray can take him anywhere in the world.”

“No…” she whispered. “No…” she said again, wanting Dave to stop. Because he couldn’t ask her to make that decision. She couldn’t just say bring him here! No matter how much she missed him, how much she wanted to know he was okay, he had moved forward and built a life for himself; she just couldn’t make the decision to take it all away from him. “You’re not bringing him here,” she said through clenched teeth. Her fear was turning into anger, and Dave knew it.

“Isabel,” he firmly said, “I’m not telling you this so you can make the decision. I’m telling you this because I’m going to let Jesse make the decision of where he wants to go.”

“You can’t… You can’t bring him here!” she loudly said, her heart leaping in her chest. “You can’t have Jesse making that decision! You can’t play with him like that!” She was standing now, ready to do whatever it took to make Dave see reason.

“I think you made the decision of not making any decision a long time ago. Jesse is a man who has always known what he wants. If he doesn’t want to come, we won’t bring him here. He’ll stay protected, whatever he wants to do, but that’s as far as I’m going to go if you are not going to pick one way or another.”

“I pick no,” she said. “Let him leave, let him out of this,” she was begging. She didn’t care.

Dave regarded her with those penetrating hazel eyes, and she held his stare.

“The Unit won’t leave him alone.”

It was as if all the air had been punched out of her. She knew that. She knew that and yet she still didn’t want to believe that after two years they would still be after him. She had left him on the side of the road so he could get out of this kind of life. And she had failed.

She sat down. “He’ll choose here,” she said without any inflection. No matter what she tried, he just couldn’t escape her.

“He can choose here, yes. You can talk him out of it once you see him.”

Hope fired in her veins. “You would let him go?” she eagerly asked. Dave wouldn’t let them go by themselves, only as a group. So she’d figured if Jesse came, he was bound by the same rules.

“I would let him go somewhere I can still keep an eye on him, if that’s what you mean. But he wasn’t on the road when I found you. He didn’t make your deal with me.”

She could say good-bye. They could have one more moment together, make sure he was okay, and then he could move on. She was trapped in a life half human, half alien, her memories about destroying her world haunting her more and more. She didn’t deserve to see Jesse, but God, she wanted it so much.

“I called you in to be here when Ray takes Jesse in, so you can talk to him. He’ll want to know we are the good guys.”

Are you? she fleetingly thought as she looked at the desk, at the floor, anywhere but at Dave. Jesse might say no, she thought, and she wasn’t sure how to feel about that. Devastated yes, but could she feel relief?

Dave opened his laptop again, typed in a few things, and then turned it around so Isabel was looking at the screen. It was a live video. The camera was inside a vehicle, not a van, but something big. She couldn’t tell, cars had never been her strongest subject. The interior was pitch black, but outside on the street, the afternoon light was very bright.

“We have visual confirmation. He’s coming out of the elevator,” someone narrated. She couldn’t look at anything but the monitor, her heart sounding loudly in her ears as all her attention was on that half block away from the car. All she could see was a few people walking by, and the sand colored granite walls of the building. She didn’t want to make a sound. She didn’t even know if she could be heard or seen. She was about to ask, but then… then Jesse came into view.

“Jesse…” she whispered in anguish.

He had lost weight. Even at this distance, she could see the haunted look he had, the dark circles under his eyes. He was wearing a suit, but it was wrinkled, the tie knot hardly looking professional. His hair had been subjected to hands that wouldn’t stay still. He was walking with his usual firm stride, but she could tell he was nervous. Looking to his right and left, he briefly looked directly at her, and she wanted to shout his name. Then he stopped, looking at something to his right.

“Jesse!” someone was yelling in a friendly tone, and a few seconds later, Ray was jogging to him, as if they were long lost friends that had just met. Jesse didn’t trust the friendly guy, Isabel could tell, and rapidly looked around to look for a way out.

“Listen, sorry I’m late,” Ray kept saying, now standing three feet from Jesse, “but I had to make sure your wife knew you were coming.” Jesse froze. And so did she. “She wants to know if you would like to have dinner with her,” Ray said, handing Jesse a phone. He looked at it as if it was going to bite.

“You can speak,” Dave whispered over the monitor, and she looked at him both terrified and betrayed. She wasn’t prepared to do this now! And Dave had known about this for two days.

On the monitor, Jesse took the phone and moved away from Ray. “Isabel?” he whispered, yet his voice came loud and clear to her. “Jesse…” she said, her eyes filling with tears.

“Oh my God, Isabel!” he exclaimed, and through the monitor she could see how years were lifted off his shoulders, the smile she loved so much gracing his lips. “Are you all right? Where are you? Oh God, is this really you?”

“Yes! Yes, it’s really me. It’s… it’s really me…” she felt warm inside as she hadn’t felt in so long just to hear the longing on his voice, to see the happiness in his face.

“Who is this man? Where are you? I’m coming to get you.”

She looked at Dave then, he slightly shrugged. If she didn’t tell Jesse, Dave sure would.

“Listen. The man who gave you the phone, he’s Ray. I’m not sure how much he can explain to you, but he’s telling you the truth. He can get you to where I am, and then we can… we can decide things.”

Jesse wearily looked at Ray. “I don’t want to hang up,” he said a second later.

“You don’t have to,” she said, looking at Dave for confirmation. He smiled and stood up. A minute later, she was alone.


“I’m here. I’ll be here as long as I can.”

It turned out that she could stay for a very long time.

4 : Jake

T minus 6 years, 5 months, 10 days, 22 hours, 3 minutes

“That was sneaky,” Jake admonished as he was sitting on the couch outside Dave’s office. Jesse had arrived a couple of hours earlier and he was sharing one of the outside huts with Isabel. He wasn’t supposed to come so late, but Ray had decided to drive all the way instead of taking a plane that would have surely severed the phone call.

Sitting across from Jake, Dave looked far more relaxed now than Jake had seen him in the past two years. “I told you I wanted some changes around here. At least that one was easy.”

“I’m afraid to ask which ones aren’t,” Ray said from his comfortable position on the other couch, stretched on his back. He’d been driving for a good many hours.

“How did Max and the others take it?” Dave asked Jake. While Dave had been talking to Isabel, Max and Michael had felt Isabel’s distress and had almost blasted a hole in the wall to get to her. Jake had barely stopped them.

“Anxious. They want Isabel to be happy, but Jesse can make her very unhappy. This is going to affect their dynamics a whole lot.”

“Oh, I’m counting on it,” was Dave’s cryptic answer.

5 : Michael

T minus 6 years, 5 months, 10 days, 6 hours, 59 minutes

“So?” Michael asked with one eyebrow up as Max leaned on the wall, the same one Michael had tried to bypass almost a week ago and had found impermeable to his molecule-manipulation powers. Max concentrated for a second, and then shook his head.

“I can’t work around it,” he said, sighing at the effort.

Michael cringed. He shouldn’t have asked Max to use his powers so soon after he had been released from Jake’s watchful eyes, but there was no way he would drag Isabel down here to tell him if what he had felt six days ago was right or not.

“It’s all the main halls,” Michael explained, wearily looking at the wall. “They are all made of something we can’t get through. If we wanted to escape…”

“We would have to dig a hole, and that would exhaust us before we were half way out there…”

“On the other hand…” Michael reluctantly said as he leaned on the wall beside Max. “It also means no one who can do what we do, can come down.”

That was Rath’s reasoning. The only good thing that had come out from getting their memories back was that Michael understood things better. Rath had had an aggressive temper as well, but Rath had learned to use it. Michael was trying to get there, but meanwhile, he’d learned to see things from a tactical perspective. His Michael self would have concluded Dave had built them a cage. His Rath self argued that a cage could be turned into a sanctuary.

Max kept looking to the wall in front of them, thinking.

“Afraid of the Skins?” he finally questioned out loud.

“Our evil twins?” Michael added.

“Ourselves,” Max concluded, turning to look at him. “If he were to separate us, we wouldn’t be able to reach for the ones left behind.”

Michael somberly nodded, placing his hand against the wall, and trying to do something to it. He couldn’t even alter its color. “We need to get out of here,” he said with a determination he hadn’t felt since they had woken up in those blue rooms two years ago.

Max slowly nodded, still thoughtful. Still not showing the anxiety Michael needed him to show. They needed to get out of here, Max had to see that!

“Maxwell!” Michael snapped, afraid Max had a but coming.

“We can’t make too many plans with Jesse here,” Max said a bit exasperated. “If he decides to stay, he might not want to leave abruptly.”

Michael inwardly groaned. Of all the times to reunite, Isabel had to pick now? Now?

“If he decides to go… I’m not sure how Isabel will cope with that…” Max continued, his eyes turning sad.

They had both felt her withdrawing, and they both had a very good idea of what was causing it: Vilandra. She had always felt guilty about it, but it was one thing to be told they had done things in the past, and completely another to know they had done things in the past. Max was very sure this knowledge meant nothing to their present lives, now. Michael walked a fine line, wanting to keep remembering, and being happy with how things were now, memory-wise. But Isabel had never wanted any part of this, and sometimes she would look at them almost expecting them to hate her.

“I don’t get it,” Michael said in frustration. “He tricked her! Khivar tricked her and she knows it. It wasn’t her fault!”

“Knowing you were used does little to ease your guilt,” Max said in a somber tone. “These memories don’t tell us who we are, Michael, and we should hardly feel guilty for what they did with their own time, in their own lives.” It sounded to Michael that Max was trying to convince himself as much as he was him.

“What’s the latest thing you’ve remembered?” Michael quietly asked, his exasperation gone.

“Vividly? Zan’s father’s funeral… I started crying in front of Jake…”

All the alarms went off in Michael’s head. “You told him!” he hissed.

Max didn’t answer, just stared at the wall. It was useless to talk to him when Max was like that. Something Max had gotten from Zan, and that his Rath self hadn’t appreciated either.

“You can’t trust these people, I thought you knew that,” he was trying to be patient about this. Rational even. He wasn’t sure if he was pulling it off.

“I hardly think telling Jake we’re remembering something we were supposed to remember all along is going to make any difference,” his best friend in the world finally said, in his usual quiet Max way. “I didn’t tell him about you or Isabel. I would never tell him anything but my own.”

“I can’t believe it,” Michael muttered, his hands tingling with his need to blast something. “Even with what we have just discovered about these walls?”

“Even with Jake risking himself to protect me from the exploding lights?” Max countered. Michael hadn’t seen Jake’s scarred face, but Maria had. She’d said it looked pretty bad. And Max had felt compelled to heal him. Privately, Michael thought Jake was only protecting an investment, but even he had to admit Jake seemed like a nice guy. Maybe, just maybe, he’d truly been worried about Max getting hurt further.

“Look, I know you don’t like it,” Max conceded, “but we… I need someone to talk to about this who has some perspective on how to deal with it.”

Michael snorted. “Because there are manuals on how to deal with bioengineered hybrids and their former lives. We would be luckier turning to Kyle and his Buddhist stuff.”

Max sighed, one of those deep ones he did when he was grasping for patience.

“I want to know what he thinks about this. I need someone to help us deal with this. You are a lot like Rath, and you always wanted to know about this. But I’m not Zan. Zan is in love with someone who is not Liz, someone I desperately don’t want ever to think about. He’s all about following his destiny, and it terrifies him to think about making any decisions outside of that. He’s arrogant, and too self-assured. I have one hell of a time separating his emotions, his reactions from mine. So forgive me if you don’t feel like sharing this information, but I’m more than lost here. I… just want this over…” Max whispered, leaning his head against the wall, looking at the ceiling. “Just over.”

That had been the worst outburst Michael had seen from Max in years, and it effectively shut him up.

Rath had been older than Zan, not by much by Antarian longevity, but certainly older. His glimpses of Zan were of someone who had the weight of the world on his shoulders, had a short temper for stupid things, and was always trying to live up to his father’s example. Rath had loved Zan as much as Michael loved Max, although for different reasons. But Rath had not been in love with anyone, even if Lonnie had not been hard to look at. They were the obvious choice for the king’s sister and his second in command, and they both had agreed. They hadn’t been in love, but they got along just fine.

Michael loved Isabel far more than Rath had ever loved Vilandra. She was his sister, and she understood him in ways that no one, not even Max or Maria, ever had. But all put together, Michael hadn’t recalled as many memories as Max had. He didn’t know that much about Rath to want it to stop. Secretly, he’d been pleased Max had said he and Rath were alike, because from all Michael had seen, Rath was someone he did want to be like.

He would have said that Max and Zan were alike as well, but seeing Max so anguished about it, he decided to keep his mouth shut just a little longer. It was hard to see Max lost, almost unnatural, really. Michael placed his hand on Max’s shoulder, and lightly shook it.

“I’m not liking it,” he sternly said, “but… you’re my friend. Do what you have to do.” With that, he walked down the corridor, Max following him a second later.

He’d been about to say ‘but you’re my king’, and that had chilled him. It was the first time Rath’s behavior had competed against his own words. It was the first time he truly had an inkling of what Max had been talking about. If it was going to become an everyday occurrence, then by all means, Max had to do whatever he had to do.

6 : Max

T minus 6 years, 5 months, 10 days, 5 minutes

“I take it you heard the good news?” Dave asked as Max entered his office. He was sitting on his leather chair, his laptop closed in front of him while he was taking a sip of something steamy. The white sheet on the desk was placed all over it, a sign Max took as meaning Dave was leaving the compound.

“Jesse is… a little overwhelmed,” Max diplomatically said. He wasn’t sure if it was good or disastrous at the moment, but looking at Isabel smiling again, he was betting on the former.

“You didn’t leave your apartment quarters for over a month when you first came. I bet you can relate.”

No, we were waiting for you to kidnap us and force us to do unspeakable things, Max silently thought as he took a seat. But to Dave’s credit, that had not entirely happened. The kidnapping thing was up for debate, though.

“I wanted to apologize for the roses,” Dave started, placing his mug on the desk, giving Max his full attention.

“Oh…” Max said, not expecting that. Henry had already told him the roses were gone, and Max had felt more terrible about Henry losing his research because he had gotten an allergic reaction to it than losing Liz’s precious flowers. “I… I think Henry lost more than I did,” he quietly said.

“In a way, yes,” Dave conceded. “If you want to start over, Henry will have a space for you in a few months. You just have to give him time to get things ready before he can give you any room.”

“Okay…” Max said. He wasn’t even sure if he wanted to start over with the roses. Liz had felt bad enough as it was, and his surprise had been thoroughly ruined for obvious reasons. “Thank you,” he added, for both the apology and the offering.

“Allan said Liz, Maria and Isabel were having a great time in Paris, though,” Dave continued, and Max was instantly alert. This was the reason he had been called, although the apology had been appreciated.

“They… haven’t said much,” Max admitted. Between him almost dying and Jesse coming, only Maria had been standing to tell the story, and she hadn’t wanted to without Liz and Isabel joining in.

“That’s… a surprise,” Dave said, genuinely amazed.

“I’m sure they did… have a great time,” Max said, wanting Dave to continue.

Dave smiled. “If their luggage is any indication, I’m sure they did, too.” Max smiled back. Michael had said half his apartment was clogged with new clothes, shoes and accessories, and Max had thought he had been exaggerating until he had tried to enter his friend’s apartment. Someone could pay a king’s ransom with all that clothing, Kyle had muttered in disbelief.

“Ray has pointed out to me that there’s hardly anything else he can teach you. Maybe it’s time for you to be out there instead of in here.”

“You want to end the deal,” Max stated, not sure whether to feel relief or dread. But why go through the entire thing with Jesse, then?

“I want to change it,” Dave corrected. “You have many talents that are being wasted here, and that’s not doing you any good. You are young, you’re in love, you shouldn’t be here. At least that’s what Jake says. I think you want to get out, too, you just don’t know how to do it.”

The reinforced walls came to Max’s mind.

“What… what do you have in mind?” Max cautiously asked, for the second time in two years wanting to know how Zan would handle this kind of situation.

“You are too young or inexperienced for the kind of work I need, for the most part. But there is something… you could be very creative in achieving. Tell me, Max, have you heard about my Messengers?”

Max stared at Dave, thinking for a moment what exactly he knew about them. “I… Network Keepers are obsessed about them. They say they are linked to you.”

“Yeah, they would think that. Messengers are, for all practical purposes, couriers. They are sneaky, invisible. Some things have to be hand delivered in this profession of stealing and selling information. For the most part, they go places and do nothing. They deliver packages, devices. They usually only carry one third of the total amount, so if they are caught, the information is useless. Ray has offered to teach you, said it would be useful to you once you are dodging your own pursuers. Time to put in practice what you’ve learned with him.”

Dave was offering him a job. A highly risky job, if Max could read between the lines, but a job nonetheless.

“What about the Unit?” It was the first question on his mind, because that was the main reason they never went out further than 50 miles around the compound.

“Their jurisdiction reaches only so far. I work in over one hundred forty countries. You are the ones who didn’t want to move from the United States. I respected your wish, but that came with a tight leash.”

“What if we say no?”

“Your world stays fifty miles around. Little would change, I guess.” Dave stood up, walked towards Max and leaned back against his desk. “Think about it. Ask Ray what it’s like. He was a Messenger once. If you don’t like what you hear, you can always stay.”

Max nodded, and stood. He would ask the Network Keepers first. And then Ray. Then he would ask his group. He didn’t want to accept, not with the little information he had now, but Dave was right on one thing: they wanted out of here. Maybe this was the perfect way to do it.


7 : Maria

T minus 6 years, 5 months, 9 days, 20 hours, 41 minutes

“Welcome to the underground,” Maria said as she hugged Jesse. The poor man had not slept in three days and it showed, but his hug was firm and warm.

“You have no idea how many times I wondered where you were, all of you,” Jesse said as the seven of them claimed a place in Isabel’s –and now Jesse’s- apartment. “For the first six months, the Unit harassed your parents as much as they dared. We would travel around town in groups, always letting everyone know where the other was supposed to be. We were always, always hoping to hear something from you, and at least having the Unit waiting for us to slip up meant that they didn’t have you. We took comfort from that.”

It was hard to hear him say that. She’d gotten in touch with her mom briefly in the past two years. She’d even managed to send her a couple of gifts when the time was appropriate. But they had kept their conversations short and on the positive side. Her mom had never said any of this.

“We contacted our parents whenever we could,” Kyle said, “but Dad always made it sound like you were holding on.”

“Valenti didn’t have a better time of it. We all wanted answers and he was more knowledgeable on what had happened with you. He filled in the gaps that Liz’s journal couldn’t answer.”

“Everything?” Max asked, concerned.

Not that, please not that, his eyes seemed to plead. Maria knew how tight Max kept his experience at the hands of their hunters. She suspected he had not gone into any detail about it with his parents. Now she was sure he hadn’t told them, and was hoping Valenti hadn’t told them either.

“As much as he knew,” Jesse said. Max nodded, accepting the fact he couldn’t know from Jesse what exactly everything meant. “I left Roswell. I couldn’t take it anymore. When you contacted them, I was relieved, but back then, all I really wanted was to find you. Find a way to put an end to this senseless pursuit. I knew your life had to be hell.”

Maria didn’t believe she would think this, but she couldn’t complain much about where she had spent the last two years of her life. It certainly wasn’t hell. Well, not physical, at least. Mentally… some days, it really seemed like hell.

“You didn’t have it easy either,” Isabel whispered, hugging him with one arm on his hip.

“There were times I would wake up in the middle of the night, knowing someone was outside the window. I would pack and leave the place in two hours. No wonder my bosses were always so flexible, always found something to do for me in my new place.”

Leave it to Dave to be so accommodating. On the other hand, it had been a long time since Maria had thought someone was lurking in the shadows. Michael made sure to fuse the door every time they went to sleep.

“It takes some getting used to,” Kyle said, “but we’ve managed to keep sane for two years here.”

“I’ll manage,” Jesse firmly said, tightly hugging Isabel with his one arm around her hip.

She could only imagine what they had been discussing in the hut for an entire day. But then again, maybe talking hadn’t been part of it at all…

“About… that…” Max tentatively said, unconsciously reaching for his right earlobe in an I’m-nervous Max gesture, “Dave wants us to consider something…”

Those were the words she would always think of as the before and after of their life with Dave. Consider something. Even without being able to see the future, she instantly knew she was going to like it.

T minus 6 years, 5 months, 9 days, 20 hours, 31 minutes
"There's addiction, and there's Roswell!"

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Re: The Message *Sequel* (CC ALL, YTEEN) Ch. 12 - pg. 8 - 10

Post by Misha » Sun Nov 18, 2012 6:34 pm

Well, here it is! Thank you all for your patience and for coming back to read despite my hectic posting schedule :shock:

Book 3 is now in the revision process, but since we're in the middle of nanoland, I cannot promise anything till December...

xilaj, oh, you will see all of that! And not only their lives, but also how things were going behind the scenes for Dave. He didn't really spend the last 8 years in paradise, either...

keepsmiling7, when it comes to Max, Liz is capable of pretty amazing stuff :mrgreen:

ken_r, I once actually thought this was going to be a short ( !! ) story, or no longer than 15 chapters each book. Well, at last with book 2 I did manage just 13 :P The story certainly took a life of its own the more I realized I wanted to explore their thoughts. Book 1 was all about settling the past. Book 2 is about bridging their past, present and their future. Book 3 is about the conflicts they have to resolve in order to get their happily ever after, and that's assuming they actually can get a happy ending, or what would be the price for it, as you pointed out.

And by the way, the shack is in my backyard ;)

Michelle in LA, ah, my beloved beta! Rest assured Dave did not take that job offering lightly when he proposed them being Messengers. Because if something happens to dear Max, we already know the Rebellion won't be thrill about it... And don't worry! Book 3 looks like it's gonna be looooong as well. At 50,000 words, it's barely reached the middle, and that's on draft mode... Plus, you already got glimpses of what other ideas I want to explore :mrgreen:

xmag, I think the show really could have done a whole lot more with their past lives story. They had Max remembering Ava, and all that, but afterwards, the topic was never brought up again, especially since Liz seemed to feel so betrayed, effectively shutting any discussion. Max never really got anyone to talk about it, except maybe Isabel who completely disregarded him. Then we had Khivar coming and Isabel and Jesse, but nothing came out of it, either...

Regarding Dave, I think Dave doesn't truly realize the extent of what he does from the perspective of the people he makes deals with. Some part of him knows this, and that's why he trusts Jake to be "the voice of reason", following his advice as best as he can. Is not that Dave lacks empathy, is that he gets blinded when trying to pursue "greater" goals. Is until someone points out how things might fall through that he corrects his course of action.

The truly wild card here is Sybelle, like both Maria and Jesse have pointed out. If nothing else matters, at least what Kyle and Sybelle decide to do with their future might end up being the glue that sticks them together :!:

Ah... so much to write!!!

Thank you all! And special thanks to marzmez, my other beloved beta! Betas are awesome! :mrgreen:

Part 13 – Whereabouts
November 2nd, 2011

1 : Liz

T minus 17 minutes

Bags in her hands, Liz walked out of the store with a smile on her face. She’d gotten a gorgeous scarf for herself, and a nice, black sweater for Max. Her husband had traveled light, so she knew he would be in dire need of something warm. And then again, he would just wave his hand, and use the same sweater in seven different styles all week long. He certainly made it hard on her to get him a present.

Her smile grew wider, and hurried it up to the corner, where Max had asked her to meet him. Before she reached it, however, she saw another Empire State Building hanging poster. That feeling of foreboding that she had managed to suppress came crashing in on her. She walked past it, looking at it until she had to turn her head to keep walking.

It’s nothing, she told herself. The Empire State Building was not even on their list things to do while on the city. All the easier to avoid it like the plague then. Biting her lower lip, she looked up at the skyline, searching for the dark building. She couldn’t find it. Good, she grimly thought, I don’t need to have it in view while I’m with Max.

With a nod to herself, she picked up speed. She’d talk with Max about it, but she was not going to let it ruin her vacation.

The bistro was a nice, warm place, decorated all in reds and oranges. Small, intimate. She sat at the first table outside, chewing on her lower lip. Apparently, she was unable to stop thinking about it for more than two minutes. She looked at the hour, and frowned. Max was still far way. Far enough away to make it impossible for him to meet her at 4:00 pm. She didn’t want to, but she felt disappointed. She reached for her phone, and stared at it as it displayed no connectivity whatsoever.

“Welcome to Bonjour Bistro. I’m Jacky and I’ll be your waitress,” the blond girl said in a cheerful manner. She handed her the menu with a smile, “let me know if you need anything. I’ll be back in a minute to take your order.” Jacky disappeared.

Liz stared at the menu, and all color drained from her face.

It was the same menu she had seen in her vision nine years ago. The same French words in cursive letters, a flowing design at the top of each section. Time slowed down. In her mind, she saw Max holding this same menu, she heard the echo of the bullet, felt the table shaking as Max’s wounded body collapsed onto it. No! her mind shouted, No! I won’t let it!

“Hey!” someone greeted her, standing in front of her. She raised her eyes, up, up, up. She knew the voice, but it couldn’t be. Bending down to give her a kiss, Max stood in front of her. But it wasn’t Max. It couldn’t be Max. Max was somewhere else, somewhere at her right. Her connection told her so. Had told her where Max was since she had landed at JFK three hours before. The man who was just inches from kissing her was not Max.

He noticed her lack of response just before he was close enough to kiss her. He stopped his advance, and she read hesitation in his eyes.

“Please,” the impostor whispered, so close she could smell his minty breath, “for his sake, pretend I’m him.”

He kissed her nose lightly, and sat down in front of her, placing his hand over hers. It took all she had not to jerk her hand away. He smiled Max’s slow smile, and she almost started hyperventilating. She tried to smile back, but finding it impossible, turned instead to read the menu. Her hand was shaking as she passed to the next page, pretending to read it.

“Where is he?” she quietly asked. She tried to call for Max through their connection, and her heart sunk when she felt it muffled somehow. As if there was a fog. She knew Max wouldn’t be able to feel her.

“In a meeting,” Not-Max answered, smiling to the waitress as she came over with a second menu. Liz didn’t even glance at her. She didn’t know how sick she looked and if that would attract the waitress’s attention, becoming a problem. She looked around at the deserted tables.

“Who are you?” Liz asked once the waitress was out of earshot, her voice slightly quivering as she met his eyes. Max’s eyes in color, but definitely not Max’s eyes in soul. Whoever was looking back did not feel for her what her husband did. What she did see was fear, and that scared her even more. She contemplated if she should make her escape towards her hotel or to the metro station one block on the other direction.

He slightly gripped her hand and let it go, apparently not going to answer her. “Who are you?” she pressed, and after a second, he moved towards her as if he were going to tell her a secret. She didn’t lean towards him.

“Well, Ms. Evans,” he quietly said, “I’m the one who’s been watching over you for the past six years. I’m your bodyguard.”

2 : Max

T minus 13 minutes

Checking his phone one last time before getting into the elevator, Max got a sense of foreboding. The last time he had been in this building, it had been with Tess, and that trip had not ended well. He sighed, and let the memory go.

With no new messages to read, he pocketed his phone. He didn’t like being disconnected. He tried to reach Liz, but barely managed to get a hold of her. He’d been feeling a little fuzzy all afternoon long, and he had first thought it was because he was nervous about telling Liz the truth. Now he wasn’t so sure.

He fingered his epi pen. It had taken Jake a colossal effort to make him agree to carry it, but now he was grateful for it. It didn’t feel like something was making him ill, it just felt as if his mind was being crowded with something. He got the sensation that his senses were getting dull.

The doors opened, and a dozen tourists got into the car before he did. The elevator doors closed. He was just in time to meet Dave.

3 : Dave

T minus 7 minutes

Someone entered the interrogation room and slipped a piece of paper to McKay. For the last forty-three minutes, the good General had been trying to taunt him into telling him anything regarding Max. All Dave needed to do was start counting how many words McKay was saying to numb his mind. How many words, how many syllables, how many letters… nouns, verbs, adjectives. It was an endless game.

Soon, McKay would stop with the verbal techniques and move to the drug techniques. By that point, Dave would be so engrossed in the word game, his mind would not be much use. In his inner voice, he was switching to his mother’s tongue, Arabic, just to make sure McKay would have to really work at deciphering Dave’s words.

McKay’s eyes lit as he read the message, and then tore the paper to pieces. Dave’s fingers longed for those pieces. He could use a puzzle right about now.

“You were the best,” he said, a glimmer in his old eyes. “And you betrayed us. You know treason is punishable by death in time of war.”

“I was six years old and you were using my mind to kill people. I doubt even a court martial would condemn a twelve-year-old for wanting out.”

It was the first thing Dave had said since McKay had entered the room and he’d told him to believe whatever he wanted. Dave didn’t hide the hatred he felt for this man. He understood the evils of war now. Hell, he played with the evils of war when he had to nowadays, but he would never forgive McKay for taking advantage of a six year old, and using him against what his parents had so passionately stood for. And he wasn’t even factoring in what Jake had had to suffer. At least for Dave, things had been abstract. Jake had known exactly what his formulas were doing to the human body.

“You grew up to be a greedy bastard, David. Selling your own species to alien invaders? You can’t get any lower than that. But… it doesn’t matter anymore. We have a fix on Max now. He’s going down as we speak.”

Dave’s asthma attack was triggered instantly.

4 : Michael

T minus 3 minutes

He was not going to make it. He was too far from Max to reach him in time. He wanted to blow up half the city, consequences be damned. He just had to get out of the goddamn hotel first.

The elevator had never felt more like a cage than it did now.

“What the hell are you talking about?” Michael had growled to Jake not fifteen minutes before. “Dave is not missing. He texted Max for an urgent meeting at 4:00pm.”

He didn’t need to look at his watch to know what time it was. He didn’t need to remember Jesse telling them Liz was meeting with Max at 4 around the corner. Between the network failing, the impossible messages that both Max and Liz had gotten, and Dave going missing… Hardly anything had made sense after that.

It felt like watching the palace being taken all over again. His stomach hurt; he was going to be sick. There was nothing he could do. Nothing. Liz had been led away from the group, and Max was going to meet someone who had tricked him into going to the Empire State alone. When Michael had fled the room where they had been talking, he only had one thing in his mind:

Max was walking into a trap.

T – 0:00

End of Book Two
"There's addiction, and there's Roswell!"