Awakening *Series* (AU, TEEN) [COMPLETE]

Finished stories set in an alternate universe to that introduced in the show, or which alter events from the show significantly, but which include the Roswell characters. Aliens play a role in these fics. All complete stories on the main AU with Aliens board will eventually be moved here.

Moderators: Anniepoo98, Rowedog, ISLANDGIRL5, Itzstacie, truelovepooh, FSU/MSW-94, Hunter, Island Breeze, Forum Moderators

User avatar
Kathy W
Obsessed Roswellian
Posts: 690
Joined: Thu Oct 31, 2002 5:06 am

Re: Awakening *Series* (AU, TEEN) Ch. 18, 3/21

Post by Kathy W » Sat Mar 27, 2010 9:43 pm

Hello to everyone reading, and thanks for the feedback!
keepsmiling7 wrote:I am still sad over little Kyle missing his mother!
I always got the impression she left when he was quite young. Whenever Kyle talked about her on the show, it seemed to be in a very detached way....
PML wrote:Intricate little dance they are doing here.
And it's about to get even more intricate. Downright syncopated. ;)



CHAPTER NINETEEN



September 19, 1989, 5:30 p.m.

Proctor residence




"Come in, come in!" Diane said, herding the hybrids all the way into the house, oblivious to the four people gaping at them, dumbfounded. "Everyone, this is Max, Isabel, and their friend, Michael. Michael, I know you haven't been here before, but Max and Isabel remember this house, don't you? This is where we brought you the night we found you."

"Maybe it's best we don't bring that up," Emily said diplomatically.

Remembering that night is the least of our worries, Marie thought in dismay, unable to believe that she'd just managed to convince at least one of the Warders to make themselves scarce only to have all three hybrids waltz through the door. "Diane, you can hang their coats in the closet," Emily was saying as she threw a curious glance in Dee's direction, having obviously caught the tension in the room. "I should get dinner on. I'll give Philip a call so he and Anthony can join us."

"Thanks, Grandma," Diane answered. "I'd love to bring them to my house, but we're still unpacking, and it's still a bit of a mess. Come on in," she coaxed the three, who hovered on the edge of the living room staring at Brivari, who studiously looked away. "You all remember Dr. Johnson, don't you? You talked to her just a few hours ago."

"Nice to see you again," Marie said, managing a smile.

"And this is Mr. Johnson," Diane went on, gesturing toward Steven, "and....you're one of Grandma's old friends, right?" she asked Brivari. "I'm sorry, but I didn't catch your name yesterday, Mr...."

"Langley," Emily interjected.

"Mr. Langley," Diane informed the three children. "Children, say 'hello' to everyone."

Three pairs of eyes bored into the one non-human in the room, their unwavering stares so intense they could have caused combustion. "Hello," intoned three small voices, their eyes locked on target.

"The children seem quite taken with you, Mr. Langley," Diane said cheerfully, completely unaware of just how ironic that statement was. "Are you staying for dinner?"

"He can't," Marie said hastily. "He was just leaving."

"I was," Brivari confirmed. "If you'll excuse me....."

"No."

Uttered in a voice that was young and high-pitched, that single word might not have been noticed but for the tone with which it was delivered. Every adult head in the room swung toward the speaker.

"Max?" Diane said questioningly. "If Mr. Langley has to leave—"

"No," Max repeated.

"Well, you may not want him to leave, but I'm afraid he has to," Dee said firmly.

"No," Max repeated, looking directly at Brivari. "Stay."

"Now, Max," Diane began, "if—"

"It's quite all right," Brivari said in a strained voice. "Perhaps I could stay for a bit."

"Great!" Diane exclaimed as Marie's eyes widened. "Grandma will have a quite a full house; we'll need the extra leaves in the dining room table. That's a good job for you lot," she added briskly, scooping her arms around the children. "Come and help me; you'll like this. The table opens waaay up like an accordion! Mr. Evans used to love it when he was little. Mom, could you come help us? And maybe you can tell them how Philip used to play with the table....."

Dee shot a helpless look Marie's way and joined Diane as she rattled on, herding the three children with her; they went willingly enough, Max throwing a last glance toward Brivari before disappearing into the kitchen. The door had barely swung shut behind them when Marie rounded on Brivari.

"What are you doing?" she hissed. "The last thing they need right now is to remember—"

"Marie?" Steven said.

"—anything more than they have already! Did we or did we not just have a conversation about this? You can't—"

"Marie?"

"—afford to take the risk of being around them just now—"

"Marie!"

"What?" Marie snapped.

Steven nodded toward Brivari, who was just standing there staring into space, taking not the slightest notice of her harangue. "Look, I know this is hard," she said, reining herself in, "but you should just slip out now while they're busy doing something else—"

"No."

"Good Lord, what is it with the one syllable answers?" Marie demanded in exasperation. "What do you mean, 'no'?"

"I mean, no, I can't 'just slip out'," Brivari said, his voice tight.

"You have to," Marie insisted. "You can't stay—"

"I can't leave."

"Of course you can. They'll get over it."

"You don't understand," Brivari insisted. "I can't leave."

"Why ever not?" Marie asked, bewildered.

"Because I've been ordered to stay!" Brivari exclaimed.

" 'Ordered'?" Marie repeated blankly. "What, you mean when he said, 'Stay'?" She paused, composing herself with effort. "Okay," she said slowly. "Max may be the embodiment of your king, but physically he's just a little boy. I know you want your king back, but you shouldn't want him back so badly that you're taking every utterance as an order."

"You don't understand," Brivari said, his tone a study in frustration. "He gave me an order, and I am unable to refuse it."

"He's right," another voice said.

It was Jaddo, any trace of his earlier pique gone. "You heard?" Brivari asked.

"Yes," Jaddo said gravely. "At least we know the mark is active."

"All right, what are you talking about?" Marie demanded. "What 'mark'? You know what? Never mind," she amended. "It doesn't matter. You both need to leave—"

"It does matter because we can't leave," Jaddo said. "Or rather, Brivari can't leave. He was the one given the order."

"Would you knock it off with the 'order' business!" Marie exclaimed. "Whatever he was before, he's a little boy, for heaven's sake! And whatever he remembers, or thinks he remembers, he's in no position to be giving either of you 'orders'—"

"Maybe we should let them explain," Steven interrupted. "Why did you say you were 'unable' to refuse an order?"

"Antar's monarch bears a mark on his brain which identifies him as the king," Jaddo said. "All Covari are genetically tied to this mark, and engineered to be unable to kill it's bearer and to obey the bearer's direct orders."

"Handy," Steven murmured.

"Except in the current situation," Jaddo said, "which I can safely say no one could have foreseen."

Marie blinked. "Wait a minute....do you mean this isn't just some misguided sense of loyalty? Are you telling me that you are literally unable to leave?"

"Didn't we already say that?" Brivari said irritably.

"We are physically unable to refuse a direct order from the one who bears the royal mark," Jaddo answered. "The mark is the main reason Khivar wants to find the hybrids. Without the mark, he can never truly be king, and with it, he can command virtually all Covari."

"So....you're telling me that you are unable—physically unable—to refuse an order from a little boy?" Marie said incredulously.

"The architects of this never foresaw the mark being housed in a 'little boy'," Jaddo replied. "And the hybrids were supposed to emerge full grown, so—"

"But they didn't," Marie said firmly. "They didn't emerge full grown, and your 'king' is a little boy with only a smattering of his old memories."

"Unfortunately that doesn't matter," Brivari said. "We respond to the mark regardless of who bears it."

"But that's nuts!" Marie exclaimed. "No, that is nuts," she insisted when Steven tried to shush her. "He's a child! He doesn't even know who or what he is, and very likely doesn't have a clue what he's saying."

"Irrelevant," Jaddo said. "The mental state or intentions of the one who bears the mark do not factor into the equation."

"I don't believe this," Marie said, one hand to her forehead. "It is absolutely crazy that a little kid who's in some twilight state can give you orders that you have to obey. Have you even tried to fight it?"

"Fight it?" Brivari echoed. "Fight it how?"

"Leave," Marie said abruptly. "Just go."

"I told you—"

"You told me, but you haven't actually tried," Marie said. "Walk to the door. Go ahead. What, do you explode, or something? Try it!"

Brivari looked at Jaddo, who gave a small shrug, then walked to the front door.

"See?" Marie said. "Nothing happened. Now put your hand on the doorknob."

Slowly, Brivari complied. "Still nothing," Marie said triumphantly. "Now go."

Silence. Brivari's hand hesitated on the knob, shaking slightly as he stared at it like it was someone else's hand. "Go on," Marie urged. "Just open the door, and go."

"I'm trying!" Brivari gasped....and Marie's eyes widened as the realized his hand was trembling not from fear, but from effort as he tried—and failed—to turn the doorknob.

"I don't get it," Marie said. "This didn't happen when he walked to the door, or when he touched it."

"Because he didn't really intend to leave," Jaddo said softly. "This time he's actually trying."

Oh, my God, Marie thought, watching Brivari's face grow red with effort as the trembling spread to his whole arm. They weren't kidding. He was literally unable to leave this house because a small boy who didn't know who he was had told him not to. "Okay, stop," she said, fighting a rising tide of panic. "What if we took you out? Like carried you, or something."

"Then I would be obliged to stop you," Brivari whispered, flexing his disobedient hand. "And you wouldn't like that."

"Got that right," Steven agreed. "We've established he can't leave, so let's think in more practical terms. How long do you have to stay? Does the order 'wear off' at some point, or do you have to stay until he tells you that you can go?"

"The order did not contain specifics, so Brivari would only be obliged to stay until the king left," Jaddo answered. "Unless he were to be given an additional order to stay even after the king's departure."

"Incredible," Marie muttered.

"But stay where, exactly?" Steven asked. "In the room? In the house? In the yard? In the neighborhood? Where are the outer boundaries of 'stay'?"

"I really don't know," Jaddo admitted. "This was intended as an emergency measure; direct orders were rarely used and never so non-specific. Judging by his inability to leave the house, I would say the house itself is the outer boundary."

"What if he isn't within earshot when an order is given?" Steven continued. "What if he were, say, upstairs while Max was downstairs, and Max gave an order he couldn't hear?"

"He would have to hear it," Jaddo said. "And the king would have to mean it. Casual utterances would not have the same effect."

"Fine, so....damage control," Steven said. "You 'stay', but you stay upstairs. Say you're not feeling well, or something. We'll all have dinner, we'll keep the kids downstairs, and then Diane takes the kids back to Westlake. Max never sees you again, so he can't give you another order, and the old order expires when he leaves. End of problem."

There was a pause while Jaddo considered this; Brivari, for his part, still seemed to be in shock. "That could work," Jaddo said finally. "The king could always demand that Brivari be brought before him, but none of you would be compelled to obey."

"Damned right we wouldn't," Marie muttered.

"But you would be," Steven said to Jaddo, "so you have to stay out of sight too."

"And neither of you can get near the hybrids until this is sorted out," Marie added firmly. "We can't take the risk of this happening again, not while they're in the state they're in."

Jaddo hesitated, then nodded. "I must reluctantly concur. The negative consequences could be severe."

"For once, we agree," Marie said. "Go on, get out of here," she added to Brivari. "Quick, before something else happens."

Brivari looked at her blankly for a moment before climbing the stairs. "Wait," Steven said quietly as Jaddo moved to join him. "A question we haven't asked yet....why did the king order his Warder to stay? Was it just reflex, or do you think he's remembered more and has something else in mind?"

Jaddo glanced toward the kitchen, where the sounds of Diane and Emily chattering floated through the door. "I don't know," he said in a troubled voice. "I really don't know."





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




6:30 p.m.



"Grandma, I can't believe you whipped this up so quickly," Diane said. "And for so many people! I don't think I've ever cooked for more than a half dozen at most."

"I keep extra food on hand when we have guests," Emily answered.

"Well, thank goodness," Diane smiled. "Our house is still a work in progress, and I never thought I'd get a chance like this so soon."

David glanced at his wife as as their daughter-in-law gazed fondly at the three small people seated between her and Philip, all dutifully eating their hamburgers. She's fallen for them, he thought heavily. As if they didn't have enough problems already, Diane had transferred her desire for a baby to the hybrids, who were destined to break her heart by leaving any moment now. The only good thing about that was that after they left, Diane might consider adopting an older child, something in which none of them had been able to interest her.

"So, Dr. Johnson," Philip said, "I haven't thanked you for visiting the children earlier today. I hear you made quite an impression on Mrs. Melbourne."

"Fancy that," Dee muttered.

"She's quite a character," Marie agreed. "But I think she means well."

"Really?" Dee asked skeptically.

"I take it you don't like Mrs. Melbourne?" Steven asked.

"Mom doesn't like anyone who challenges her," Philip said dryly.

"Neither does Mrs. Melbourne," Anthony commented.

David set his glass down. "Who's Mrs. Melbourne again?"

"That dreadful social worker who showed up at the hospital after the children were found," Dee answered. "Officious, pencil-pushing diva, if you ask me."

"No one did," Philip said pointedly.

"Anyone for more french fries?" Emily asked brightly.

David smiled faintly as he surveyed the group around the table, large enough that they'd needed the extra leaves in the dining room table. There were three generations here with he and Emily, Dee and Anthony, and Philip and Diane, plus Steven and Marie and the three hybrids. It was odd, really; the last time the hybrids had been in this house they had merely been fetuses in glowing pods, fetched from under a bridge where Jaddo had stashed them after rescuing them from the Army. Now they were small children with dark eyes and solemn expressions....one of whom was disturbingly familiar. So this is what Charles Dupree had looked like when he'd been kidnapped by Brivari's people, or rather, the king's people, the very king embodied in the little boy next to him. He'd never found out what happened to Charles after he'd received that letter with the news about his wedding. He really should look him up, especially now that a copy of his childhood self was sitting at this very table reaching for yet another hamburger.

Make that a hamburger with hot sauce. "They have good appetites," David noted as Michael tipped a bottle of hot sauce upside down over his burger. "And tongues of steel."

"Michael, honey, go easy on that," Diane chided, righting the bottle as the miniature Charles Dupree scowled at her. "That'll upset your stomach something awful."

"What time do they need to be back at Westlake?" Marie asked.

Her tone was light, but David didn't miss the catch in it. He and Emily had received a hasty summary of the problem at hand from Steven, along with the impression that Marie blamed herself for this latest turn of events. Marie wouldn't be happy until Max was gone and Brivari was officially off the hook.

Max, for his part, had stopped eating at the mention of their return to Westlake and now fastened his eyes on Marie.

"Where is Mr. Langley?" he asked.

"Oh, honey, Mr. Langley wasn't feeling well, so he couldn't have dinner with us," Diane answered, giving the official excuse for Brivari's absence.

Max's gaze swung around to her. "I want to see him," he declared.

"You can't," Philip answered. "Like Mrs. Evans said, he's not feeling well."

The stare Max subsequently fixed on Philip made David think that perhaps it was a bad idea to tell a king what he could or couldn't do. "I want to see him," Max announced again.

"And I said you can't," Philip answered. "I'm sorry."

Max set his hamburger down and rose from his chair.

"Bring him to me."

Michael and Isabel stopped eating and looked at Max. Emily glanced at David; Marie's eyes widened, while Dee's narrowed. It was jarring to hear such a commanding tone coming from such a small boy, but there was now little doubt that Max was remembering, and more than just the color of the sun in the sky.

Philip, of course, had no idea that the child seated next to him was anything other than exactly what he appeared to be. "I said, 'no'," Philip said firmly. "We don't bother people when they're not feeling well."

But Max wasn't about to be cowed by an uninformed human. "Bring him to me now," he ordered.

"Max, honey, what's wrong?" Diane asked worriedly. "Is something—"

"Max, sit down," Dee said sharply.

Max's head snapped to Dee, who held his gaze without blinking. A tense silence ensued as Max and Dee squared off, both hybrids and adults waiting to see who would win this particular boxing match, with the exception of Philip and Diane, who merely looked confused.

"I want to see him," Max repeated.

"And you don't always get what you want," Dee said tartly, "nor is what you want always good for you. Sit down."

"Mom, please!" Diane admonished. "He's just a little boy!"

No, he isn't, David thought, and Dee knew that....and Max could see that she knew that. "I want to see him," he said deliberately. "I need to see him."

"I know you do," Dee answered, "and you will, when the time is right. The time isn't right now, and you're just going to have to accept that. Sit down, and eat your dinner."

There was a long pause where time seemed to stop.....and then Max quietly sank into his chair and went back to his hamburger, as did Michael and Isabel. Silverware scraped against plates as everyone returned to their food. Everyone except Philip.

"What in blazes was all that about?" Philip demanded.

"You should eat your dinner too," Dee said.

"Jesus, Mom, I'm not six," Philip grumbled.

"Philip!" Diane exclaimed. "Language!"

"Since we're almost done, I'll put the kettle on for tea and coffee," David interjected smoothly.

"Oh, let me serve, please?" Diane asked. "It's the least I could do after Grandma went to all this trouble."

Emily's assurances that Diane could help faded as the kitchen door swung closed behind David. Sometimes it seemed like having family around was really nothing more than refereeing a slightly dressed up boxing match. Either that or a domino pattern, as one person started on someone, who started on someone else, and so on and so forth. And while it certainly didn't help to have alien-human hybrids or pint-sized order-giving monarchs added to the mix, he had to admit the same thing would be happening even absent that. The subject may change, but the behavior didn't, nor did every family member's uncanny ability to push each other's buttons. No one could annoy you like those who knew you best.

David filled the kettle, set it on the burner, and turned the knob, the blue gas flame flaring beneath it. Better set it on high, he thought, turning it up. The faster they all finished, the faster Diane and company would leave. He'd turned to go back into the dining room when he noticed the light on the phone, a modern version which had replaced the trusty old dial phone in the hallway with a push button wall model sporting a cord long enough to wrap around the house. Emily loved it, but he was always getting it caught on anything and everything, himself included. Curious, he picked up the receiver.

A string of expletives bounced off his eardrum, and David listened in stunned silence as two strange voices swore at each other before hastily replacing the receiver. What the hell was that? Party lines had disappeared long ago, and besides, the little light indicated that someone in this house was using the line, which was interesting given that everyone was currently in the dining room.

No.....not everyone....

A moment later, David was climbing the stairs. An angry voice was wafting faintly from the second floor, and it grew louder and louder until he came to a halt outside his own bedroom. Brivari was inside, the telephone receiver to his ear as he paced back and forth. Or tried to, anyway, given the short cord on their ancient dial phone which shortened his travel to quick sharp bursts that fit perfectly with his tone.

"I don't care if she wants two dozen lilies and purple carpet in her dressing room—she's not there yet!" he snapped. "You've gotta command a much higher price tag before you can start making ridiculous demands like that! Have you got the balls to tell her, or do I have to do it for you?"

The answer was so loud, it was almost audible to David all the way over by the door. "It's not in her contract," Brivari insisted. "And it won't be, I can promise you that. If you ask me, little Miss Sunshine is getting too big for her britches. Tell her to get off her high horse, or she loses the part. I'll call you later in the week. No, you can't reach me here. It doesn't matter where I am," he added. "I'll call you."

The receiver plunked back into its holder. "Trouble?" David asked.

Brivari turned around quickly. "Oh....no. No trouble. Just business. That was my assistant. He can't wipe himself without instructions, so I figured I'd better check in. I always call collect, so you needn't worry about your phone bill."

"I wasn't worried, I was just....surprised," David admitted. "Dee told me you'd gone into the movie business, but I guess I hadn't really processed that until now. You sounded.....different."

"We're chameleons," Brivari replied. "And one has to adopt a certain attitude in order to work in the film business, or one isn't taken seriously."

"By 'little Miss Sunshine's'?"

Brivari snorted softly. "By those who pretend to a higher station than they're entitled to. It's amazing how much Hollywood is like a palace, complete with royalty, courtiers, traitors, and spies." He paused, one arm against the window frame, gazing out the window. "Too bad the real thing isn't as easy to manage as the illusion."

"Yeah....about that," David said. "Dinner's almost over, so they should be leaving soon. I'll let you know as soon as they're gone."

"And how is his Highness behaving?"

The tone was bitter, with an undercurrent of something much stronger, and David hesitated before answering, wondering if this particular situation called for a breezy "just fine" devoid of details.
"Max asked to see you," David said, opting for details. "More like 'demanded', actually."

"And?"

"And Dee shut him down. Told him to sit down and be quiet."

"And did that work?"

"For the moment. Although they were each giving the other the evil eye before I came up here."

Another faint snort. "I'm sorry I missed that."

"He's a bit on the pushy side," David noted.

Brivari was quiet for a moment. "All kings are on the 'pushy side'," he said finally, his voice a shade less bitter. "They have to be."

"So who pushes back at home?"

"Rath," Brivari replied. "And Ava. And myself, of course, although anything I said was suspect."

David eased himself onto the bed. Emily's arthritis was worse, but his was no picnic either. "I.... take it you didn't have the best of relationships with him?" he asked gently.

"An understatement. I was really his father's Warder, and he knew that. I only took him on that father's insistence....and he knew that too." He paused, shaking his head. "And now I'm hiding from him. Unbelievable."

"I'll admit I don't get that," David said. "I understand the provision for not being able to kill the king, but if you can't harm him, why does he need you to obey?"

Brivari gazed out the window a long moment before answering. "To answer that, you have to remember where our society was at the time. Zan's father, Riall, swept to power with the support of my people, the Covari, whom our society feared for obvious reasons. In return for our support, Riall promised to ease many of the restrictions placed on us.....but in order to do so, he had to reassure the rest of the populace that he wasn't unleashing a race of monsters on them. The ability to command us was supposed to be a 'kill switch' of sorts, a way for the king to quell the uprisings some feared greater freedom would encourage. He also introduced hunters to make it easier to find rogue Covari."

"Those I remember," David said with feeling, having killed one in the very dining room in which everyone was eating downstairs. "So how often did they use this 'kill switch'?"

"On me? Never."

David blinked. " 'Never'? Neither of them? Wow," he added when Brivari shook his head. "So this is a first for you. That's gotta hurt. Although I'm not certain he realizes what affect he's having on you. It could be that he's just trying to piece together what happened, and he knows he needs you to do that. I guess if I woke up on a strange world in a strange body, I'd be copping an attitude too. Give him some time."

"I'll have to," Brivari said. "I certainly can't take him back the way he is now. I'd sooner take you."

"Me?" David chuckled. "Nah, you don't want me. I'm an old man now."

Brivari's eyes dropped. "So," David went on, veering away from what was clearly yet another uncomfortable subject, "I'll let you know as soon as he's gone. Feel free to use the phone; it'll give you something to do while you're waiting." He paused. "Just out of curiosity....is there any way to undo this 'obey me' thing?"

"Why?"

"Well....I know this is a really weird situation that no one could have foreseen," David said, "but that aside....it just seems like an awfully risky provision. Much too easy to abuse."




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



Much too easy to abuse.

The words rang in Brivari's head like an accusation even if they hadn't been meant that way. According to Malik, abuse is exactly what had happened, with both Zan and his father before him commanding troublesome Covari to the labs to silence them, a contention Valeris had confirmed if one believed his experience in the Indians' "sweat" years ago. Which he still didn't completely believe given that Valeris had been dead twelve years at that point, but no matter—regardless of whether the king had abused his power years before, he was definitely abusing it now. The obedience stricture was intended to be a last resort, a safety valve, and neither Riall nor Zan had ever shown him the disrespect of using it on him....until tonight. Tonight had been the first time he'd felt the pull of his genetic programming, and the effort to fight it had literally paralyzed him, sending him into a fit of trembling as he'd pushed against the invisible bonds that bound him to his monarch even in the form of a small child not entirely himself. Not to mention the not-so-invisible bonds of sheer fury as his anger at being treated this way warred with the very sensible opinion voiced by David Proctor. It was entirely possible, even probable, that Zan had no idea of the effect he was having on his Warder.

Irrelevant, Brivari decided. Whether or not David was correct, there was no way he could return Zan to Antar if there was any chance that he would use his power casually or capriciously. He had no idea how many Covari remained on Antar, but every single one of them would be subject to the king's commands, or rather, to the commands of the one who bore the royal mark, which was precisely what Khivar coveted and why he coveted it; possession of the mark conveyed the ability to command every shapeshifter on the planet. If it was wrong to allow Khivar to misuse it, it was equally wrong to allow anyone to misuse it. He could not, in good conscience, subject his own people to a monarch who would abuse them even if that monarch was his own Ward. How terribly ironic that the most hotly contested provision of his agreement with Riall, a concession championed by himself as the only way to reassure a nervous population that they should be allowed to come out of the shadows, had backfired so spectacularly.

Unlatching the window, Brivari opened it, the fresh air doing wonders to clear his head. He was getting ahead of himself. It was still much too early to draw any conclusions from anything the hybrids did or said. Even when they came fully back to themselves, the road ahead was rocky at best. Khivar had never really taken the throne, but he had taken power, and there was no way he would relinquish that easily. So much time had passed that there would no doubt be a delay in rounding up the resistance, whoever remained of the royal family, and any allies they could muster, not to mention convincing all and sundry that Zan really was who he said he was and still deserved their loyalty. And long before that they would have to deal with the likely reaction of Zan and Ava to the loss of their child, and everyone's reaction to the realization that Vilandra was directly to blame for what had happened, something Khivar would not fail to point out. They would need to move past the personal stuff before returning home and have a public rebuttal prepared that the entire Royal Four would support; there would be no time for recrimination once they hit Antarian soil as any hint of dissention within the royal family would only dampen their chances with allies and the populace. Humans were fond of saying that a house divided against itself could not stand, and Khivar's coup had proven that old adage held on Antar as well as Earth.

Brivari pulled his head back inside and relatched the window. He'd convinced himself he'd never see this day, that he'd live out the rest of his days on this strange world, with the task of restoring the monarchy falling to others. But however bizarre the current circumstances, the end was now in sight. Their attempts to jog the hybrids' memories had been successful, and now that it had begun, it would move inexorably forward even if slowed, and the end result would be one last trip to the Pod Chamber to activate the Granolith and return to a world where he was considered a monster. Another war was about to begin. It may be brief, hopefully would be, but there was no doubt in his mind it would be a war. Jaddo would welcome it, even revel in it, but himself.....for just a moment, he wondered if he was up for this, if he still had it in him to place a king on a throne. "Hollywood" could be annoying, but it was ridiculously simple by comparison, and people rarely died.....

Footsteps approached, very soft footsteps, barely audible. They stopped just as Brivari turned toward the doorway to find no one there.

"David?" he called warily. "Is that you?"




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




Valenti residence




Made it, Jim Valenti thought as he pulled into his driveway. He was supposed to be home by 6:30 p.m., although Sarah, Kyle's babysitter, was usually willing to cut him some slack. Tonight she wouldn't have to. He'd been concerned his new position would have him home later than ever, but it was turning out to be the opposite. Being the boss meant you were on the hot seat for the big stuff, but for the day to day drama that seemed to eat so much time, you could just delegate and run. Turned out it was good to be the king.

So why was Dad gone so much? Valenti thought as he climbed out of his cruiser. God knows he'd had a cracker jack staff who would have been able to all but impersonate their boss if need be, yet dinnertime at his house when he was a child had nearly always consisted of himself and his mother. Since '59, anyway, he amended, fishing the file he'd pulled earlier out of the car. "John Doe/Anderson, James" had been on his mind and on his desk most of the day, even if it had been tucked beneath the blotter. He didn't dare be seen looking at any of his father's old case files without an iron clad reason, especially one that had made his father utter "aliens!" like he had last night. Truth be told, he wasn't entirely certain why he'd pulled this file; it seemed a strange choice after he'd tried so hard to distance himself from his father these past few days. Maybe he wanted to know more about the case which had made his father sound almost coherent last night. Or maybe he wanted to know what it was his father had claimed he'd "lost" when he'd been looking through that box of belongings Hanson Sr. had turned over. Or maybe I'm just nuts, he added darkly. Maybe a part of him he'd rather not acknowledge liked a walk on the wild side every bit as much as dear old dad.

"I'm home!" he called as he opened the front door, tossing his hat on the nearby hook.

Silence. "Kyle? Dad? Sarah?" he called. "Where is everyone?"

There was a sound from the hallway, a strangled, almost-cry which made him reach for his gun. What happened? he thought wildly, inching his way down the hall. Had some nutcase decided to go after his family? The first bedroom was his father's, and it was empty. The second was Kyle's; that was empty too, as was the bathroom across from it. The third bedroom was his.....and nothing prepared him for what he saw when he rounded that corner.

Sarah was hunched on the floor beneath the window on the far side of the room, shaking, both arms looped protectively around Kyle, who was huddled against her, wide-eyed. His father sat on the bed facing them, his back to the door, the box Hanson had delivered open beside him as it had been last night, the contents scattered everywhere.

"Sarah?" Valenti said warily, lowering his weapon. "What's wrong?"

But Sarah didn't say anything, just shook her head and pointed at his father. "Dad?" Valenti said. "What's going on? Why are Sarah and Kyle so scared?"

His father twisted on the bed......and Valenti's heart almost stopped. A pistol lay in his father's lap, his finger on the trigger. He wasn't pointing it at anyone, but he was certainly prepared to. Jesus H. Christ—no wonder this looked like a hostage situation. It was.

"Dad, what are you doing?" Valenti said sharply. "Why do you have a gun?"

"She took it," his father said.

"I didn't take anything!" Sarah burst out. "He's crazy!"

"She took it," his father repeated. "And she won't give it back."

"Took what?" Valenti demanded. "What do you think she took? You know what, never mind. It doesn't matter. Just give me the gun."

"I need it back," his father insisted.

"I don't have anything!" Sarah wailed.

"It's in her pocket," his father said accusingly.

"Give me the gun, Dad," Valenti said, holding out his hand.

"Not until she gives it back," his father said stubbornly.

Valenti looked at Sarah, who shook her head vigorously. What the hell was going on here? Had his father finally cracked all the way? Whatever had happened, his father certainly knew how to use the weapon he was holding, so the first priority was to get that away from him.

"Fine, I'll get it back," Valenti said in what he hoped was a soothing tone. "Give me the gun, and I'll have Sarah give back what she has. We'll work this out," he promised, sending Sarah shushing glances when she looked ready to protest again. "Just give me the gun."

His father looked down at the gun in his hand as if noticing it for the first time. "Give me the gun, Dad," Valenti said firmly. "You're scaring everyone."

His father looked at Sarah, then back to Valenti. "But what if she's one of them?"

"Them who?" Sarah burst out. "Mr. Valenti, I'm Sarah! I'm Kyle's babysitter! You've known me for months!"

"They can look like us, you know," his father said. "Lot of people don't know that."

Shit, Valenti thought, beginning to sweat. His father, in all his madness, had decided that Sarah was an alien. Great. Just great.

"Sarah, empty out your pockets," Valenti ordered.

Sarah blinked. "What? I—"

"Just do it. Stay right where you are, take everything out of your pockets, and put it on the floor."

Sarah's eyes jerked wildly toward his father. "But then he'll—"

"No, he won't," Valenti promised, raising his weapon again. "I won't let him. Now empty out your pockets."

Sarah hesitated a moment, then unlocked her arms from Kyle and dug a trembling hand inside her right pocket, producing a lipstick, a folded piece of paper, a stick of gum. Kyle huddled miserably against the wall, his eyes locked on the spectacle of his father holding a gun on his grandfather, who was holding a gun—sort of—on his babysitter. God, but the kid was going to need therapy. At the rate things were going, they all would.

"That's it," Sarah said, dropping a couple more items from her left pocket onto the pile. "That's everything. Like I said, I don't...."

His father suddenly lunged off the bed. "Dad!" Valenti roared as Kyle cowered and Sarah screamed.



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


I'll be out of town next weekend celebrating Easter, so I'll post Chapter 20 on Sunday, April 11th.
BRIVARI: "In our language, the root of the word 'Covari' means 'hidden'. I'm always there, Your Highness, even if you don't see me."

User avatar
Kathy W
Obsessed Roswellian
Posts: 690
Joined: Thu Oct 31, 2002 5:06 am

Re: Awakening *Series* (AU, TEEN) Ch. 19, 3/28

Post by Kathy W » Sun Apr 11, 2010 2:50 pm

^ Thanks!


CHAPTER TWENTY


September 19, 1989, 6:35 p.m.

Valenti residence





Valenti's heart nearly stopped all over again as his father lurched off the bed toward Sarah and Kyle, the gun still in his hand. Was this Silo all over again, with his own son in the line of fire this time? Just how unhinged had his father become that he was threatening his own grandson?

Or was he? The gun hung limp in his father's right hand as he snatched with his left at something from the pile Sarah had made on the floor and held it up triumphantly.

"I told you she had it!"

Valenti stared in disbelief. It was a key, a single gold key, all by itself with no ring or fellow keys. That's what this was all about? A key? "Fine, you've got it," he said, holding out his hand again. "Now give me the gun."

His father glanced at Sarah, then held out the gun. "Sarah, take Kyle out of the room," Valenti instructed. "Wait for me in the living room."

Sarah scrambled to her feet and hurried Kyle out of the bedroom. Valenti waited until they were gone before holstering his own gun.

"My God, Dad," Valenti whispered. "What the hell were you doing?"

"It's not loaded," his father protested. "I just wanted to scare her."

"I don't care if it was loaded or not!" Valenti exclaimed. "She thought it was loaded! You pulled a gun on the babysitter because of a key?"

"She took it," his father said accusingly. "I was looking at all of this, and she took Anderson's key."

Anderson's key. Valenti's eyes raked the contents of Hanson's box strewn across the bed. So that key was the one from the box, and it had belonged to Anderson, the dead guy with the silver handprint who had turned out to be a John Doe.

"Don't you see?" his father persisted. "Anderson had that key on a chain around his neck when we found him in the woods that night. They missed it. Whatever killed him missed it, and now they've come back for it!"

Valenti stared at his father uncomprehendingly. Gone was the blank stare, the vague sentences, the wandering gaze. He sounded completely and utterly himself, focused, coherent, totally present. But he's not, Valenti thought despairingly. Anyone who pulled a gun on the babysitter couldn't possibly be coherent.

"Dad, it's Sarah," he said, struggling to control his temper. "You know Sarah. You've known her for months. And even if you hadn't, you can't just pull a gun on someone—"

"But that's how they do it, don't you see, Jimmy?" his father said earnestly. "They look like us! No one knows that; they think they're little green men, or gray men, with big hands and big eyes. But they're not; they can look just like us, can go anywhere and not be detected. That's what happened to Hub."

"What are you talking about?" Valenti said sharply. "What happened to Hubble?"

"I always knew they'd be back," his father said confidently. "They always come back. I was right all along."

"Right about what?" Valenti demanded. "Is this about Silo?"

"It was them, Jimmy," his father insisted, grabbing him by the shoulders. "It was them all over again! Same thing! Same handprint! That's how they kill, and they did it again!"

"Dad, you shot an innocent man!" Valenti exclaimed. "And now you almost shot an innocent babysitter!" He paused as his father's eyes widened. "Think, Dad," he said urgently. "If they can look like us, then how can you tell? How can you be sure?"

His father stared at him as though he'd just been slapped, shaking his head slowly from side to side as though unwilling to believe it. "All right....sit down," Valenti said, pushing his father back toward the bed. "Just.....just sit down. I have to go talk to Sarah and Kyle. You just sit here and don't move. Hold your key. Don't move, you hear?"

His father nodded slowly, and Valenti double-checked that he had both guns before heading out to the living room, his heart in his throat. He knew what was coming, and he wasn't looking forward to it.

"I quit!" Sarah exploded just as soon as he was within earshot, Kyle perched nervously on a nearby chair. "That father of yours has always been a nutcase, but I never thought he'd try to kill me!"

"Sarah, I'm sorry," Valenti said, holding up both hands. "I understand completely, but first....please.....tell me what happened."

"What happened?" Sarah echoed shrilly. "What happened? What happened was that daddy was more bonkers than usual today, running around snapping the lights on and off in broad daylight. And then he went in your room and dumped that box out and spent over an hour going through it, muttering under his breath. And then Kyle went in there to talk to him—".

"It's my fault," Kyle said in a small voice.

"Your fault?" Valenti said. "Why?"

Kyle hung his head. "I found the key."

"He handed me that key," Sarah said, "and I figured it was yours and put it in my pocket. I'd forgotten all about it."

"It was on the floor," Kyle said pleadingly. "I didn't know it was Grandpa's. Honest. I didn't."

"And then your father called me in there and demanded I 'give it back'," Sarah went on. "And when I asked him what he was talking about, he whipped open a drawer and pulled a gun on us, and started claiming I was one of 'them'."

"You told Grandpa you'd given Sarah the key?" Valenti asked as Kyle nodded miserably.

"I won't stay here," Sarah declared. "I like you, Sheriff, and I love Kyle, but I won't stay here, not after this. He's always been goofy, your dad, but this is—"

"I know," Valenti broke in, "and I'm so sorry. I just need you to do one more thing before you go."

"One more thing?" Sarah exclaimed. "What, saving your kid from a madman with a gun wasn't enough for one day?"

"I just need you to stay with Kyle," Valenti begged. "Please, I need...." He stopped as his voice threatened to break. "I need you to stay with Kyle. I don't want him to see this. Just....please. Just this one last thing. For Kyle."




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



Proctor residence




David returned to the dining room to find Philip, Diane, and the hybrids missing. "Where'd they go?" he asked. "Did they take them back already?"

"No," Dee answered. "Max demanded to be taken to the bathroom, and then of course the other two had to go with him. I think I'm beginning to see why he drove Brivari nuts."

"I told them to use the basement powder room," Emily said. "And your arguing with him certainly isn't helping."

"Well, someone has to," Dee protested. "Or perhaps you think we should just give him what he wants, when he wants it? Honestly, Mama, you didn't raise me that way."

"We're not 'raising' Max, and perhaps now would be a good time to remind you that you could be every bit as infuriating, if not more so," Emily said mildly. "It's really too bad those video cameras hadn't been invented when you were a child. We could let you see for yourself just how challenging you could be."

"They had film," Dee said. "Why didn't you use that?"

"We couldn't afford it, and besides, that was reserved for special occasions when everyone was on their best behavior," Emily said sweetly. "Even you."

"To hear you talk, I didn't have a 'best behavior'," Dee said dryly. "Now just imagine if I'd had someone who had to jump when I told them to."

"I'd rather not," Emily said frostily.

"That's the last thing any child needs," David agreed.

"That's the last thing anyone needs, and for heaven's sake, he's not a child," Emily said. "None of them are. They're adults in children's bodies."

"Are they?" Dee said. "Could have fooled me."

"Look, it's really just Max who's giving us attitude," Emily reminded her, "and you can hardly blame him. How would you feel if you were in charge of a planet and then suddenly woke up on a different planet in a different body with no recollection of how you got that way? Wouldn't you be demanding some answers? Goodness, what am I saying? You demand answers even without all that drama."

"Welcome to yet another mother/daughter argument," Anthony sighed.

"No, welcome to Mama working overtime to defend Max," Dee said crossly.

"Correction: Welcome to Deanna overreacting to a boy who's behaving much the way she has her entire life," Emily said tartly.

"I thought you just said he wasn't a boy?" Dee retorted.

"Okay, is this really productive?" David interrupted. "I thought the goal here was to get them out of the house so Brivari could leave, not tussle with each other over their relative percentages of adult to child."

"Which no one can know at this point anyway," Marie interjected. "Keep in mind that they're only just starting to remember. We're not seeing their full personalities yet, only aspects of them, and not necessarily the best aspects."

"I noticed," Dee muttered.

"Brace yourself," Marie warned, "because it may get worse before it gets better. Maturity is a process that comes not just from having experiences, but from examining them, learning from them, and adjusting your behavior based on what you've learned. They're going to have to go through that process again."

"So you're saying that remembering won't be enough?" David asked.

"At least not initially," Marie said. "Think of a child and an adult who both watch something disturbing. Both see the same thing, but the adult interprets it differently. It's not enough to know something; you have to be able to put it in context, to understand it. The process will probably be greatly sped up this second time around, but it's still a process, and it will still have to happen."

"Great," Dee sighed. "So we'll have a little boy who remembers he's a king and remembers giving orders, but isn't smart enough to figure out when it's a bad idea to give them."

"Which is what we have now," David pointed out.

"At the risk of sounding like a broken record," Steven said, "I have to ask again, is it wise to bring them back to the Villa? I know Max can't 'order' anyone there, but if he's not mature enough to know when not to issue orders, what makes us think any of them are mature enough to know when to keep their tricks to themselves? With all those people around, that could attract an awful lot of attention."

"So what do they do with them?" Anthony asked. "They can't stay with the Warders, or at least Max can't."

"Which brings us back to Philip and Diane," Emily said. "Again."

"And I say that's a bad idea," Dee insisted. "Again. You saw the way Max acted, Mama. He'd eat Diane for lunch!"

"But not Philip," Emily said thoughtfully. "Philip is very much like you, Deanna. He won't take any guff from anyone, much less what he thinks is a child. If these children need a firm hand, he'd be a good one to provide it."

"And if the worst happened, and they start levitating, at least we have fewer people to explain it to," Steven chuckled.

"Very funny," Marie said darkly.

"I'm serious," Steven said. "Maybe Philip and Diane should be encouraged to foster them."

"And what happens when they leave?" David asked softly. "That will break Diane's heart."

"Which is precisely why I've always said they should be told the truth," Emily replied.

Dee shook her head vigorously. "No. Absolutely not. I'm not certain what they'd do with that information."

"You think they'd turn them in?" Steven asked.

Dee and Anthony exchanged glances. "Perhaps it's not very charitable of us," Anthony said sadly, "but given what a stickler Philip is for rules and how timid Diane is about everything.....well.....we just don't see either of them dealing very well with the notion of alien hybrids anywhere, especially under their own roof."

"I think that will be a problem anywhere you put them," Steven said, "but I still say the fewer people around to witness anything weird, the better. More witnesses means more people to talk, and what if the Army or the FBI get wind of them? For all we know, someone's out there just waiting for something like this. It they were with Philip and Diane, at least we'd hear about anything that happened and have a fighting chance to explain it to people we already know."

"And who already know us," Marie added. "Need I remind you that we're still AWOL? If we let them in on the secret, the hybrids aren't the only secret they could wind up spilling."

"Shhhhh!" Emily whispered as footsteps pattered toward the dining room.

The door opened to reveal Diane balancing several plates of chocolate cake on each arm. "I thought I'd dish up dessert while we were waiting," Diane said cheerfully.

Dee blinked. "Waiting?"

"For the children," Diane clarified. "They had to—"

"Use the bathroom. Yes, I know," Dee interrupted. "But that was fifteen minutes ago. You mean they're not back yet?"

"Philip is getting them," Diane said. "He said we should have had them go one at a time, but you know how Max and Isabel go everywhere together. And now they both seem to go everywhere with that Michael too—"

"Wait," Dee interrupted. "You let them go alone? All three of them?"

"Why not?" Diane asked. "It's just the basement, not the middle of downtown, Mom."

Philip poked his head through the kitchen door. "Are the children in here?"

Startled glances flew around the table. "We haven't seen them," Emily said faintly.

"Well, they're not downstairs either," Philip said.

Diane looked around in bewilderment. "Then.....where are they?"




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




"David?" Brivari called again, looking quizzically at the doorway. "Is that you?"

No answer. Cautiously, he moved closer to the doorway. He would have sworn he'd heard something out there, but he wasn't hearing it now, so perhaps it was his imagination running away with him. The circumstances were certainly ripe for that....

Brivari stopped abruptly, scarcely daring to breathe as three hybrids rounded the corner, Zan in front, Rath and Vilandra behind him, each wearing an expression that was different parts bewilderment, suspicion, and alarm. Gone were the blank looks, the lost looks, the thinking-about-something-else looks which had been customary since their emergence. How much did they remember now? Say nothing, Brivari told himself fiercely, biting back the urge to speak as Warder and Wards faced each other in tense, expectant silence. The stand-off continued until Zan finally stepped forward.

"Brivari?"

A torrent of emotions flooded over Brivari at the sound of his name, comical as it was in that high-pitched, childish voice. Never mind that this didn't necessarily mean his Ward remembered him. Never mind that their oh-so-brief connection last night might have been just enough to dredge up a simple piece of information that had little behind it. His Ward had just called him by name, and suddenly it appeared that all the years of exile, the setbacks, the doubts, the deaths, had been worth it, their task completed, Antar's future secure.

"Where have you been?" Zan demanded. "I was waiting for you. I....I need you."

Brivari's eyes widened. Those last three words were suffused with just the right proportions of the twin emotions that typified their relationship, the non-stop tug-of-war between Zan's need for his counsel and the resentment he felt for needing it. "I'm here, Highness," Brivari said, surprised to find his voice shaking. "I've always been here."

The relief that flooded Zan's face was telling, as was his instant acceptance of his title. "Then why did you try to leave?" he asked with a petulant edge to his voice. "And why are you hiding up here?"

"Never mind that," Rath said. "You still haven't asked the most important question: Where are we?"

"And why do we look like this?" Vilandra chimed in, her disdainful downward glance making it clear how she felt about human aesthetics.

"And who are those people downstairs?" Rath added.

"And where is Ava?" Zan whispered. "Where is my wife? Where...."

He stopped, his lower lip quivering. He's crying, Brivari realized incredulously. He couldn't ever remember Zan crying, with the exception of his father's death, and then only in private. To display this kind of emotion in front of his second was very unusual, and Brivari felt a prickle of doubt as he looked back and forth from one to the other. All three hybrids had clearly regained more memory, and their command of English had improved enormously, but that prickle of doubt was large enough to give him pause. Perhaps he should summon help. Everyone had assured him they'd keep the children downstairs, so obviously they'd been given the slip. He was just about to give Dee a telepathic call when another voice intruded.

*Wait.*

*Fine time for you to be the one to want to 'wait',* Brivari said crossly. *And this is one time I disagree. We should call the others to come and get them. These questions—"

*Are exactly what we wanted to hear,* Jaddo interrupted. *He knows you, Brivari. Just look at him. Your Ward knows you.*

Does he? Brivari wondered, gazing at his emotional Ward. The desire for that to be so, the urge to rush forward as though it were so was almost overpowering. *The Healer only said we weren't supposed to provide details they didn't ask for,* Jaddo went on. *They're asking for details, therefore we should provide them.*

*But how much detail?* Brivari asked. *Should we tell them they were murdered?*

*Of course not,* Jaddo said patiently. *Both you and the Healer have insisted this is a process that should not be rushed. I concede the point, but impeding that process when it advances naturally is also arguably a bad idea. We are not prompting these questions; they are. The process is ongoing. Should we really halt it now?*

*Then what do I say?* Brivari asked, bewildered. *How am I supposed to explain how his wife wound up where she is?*

*That's not what he asked,* Jaddo pointed out. *The Healer's template still applies: Answer only the question asked. Don't embellish or volunteer more information than asked for. Keep it as simple as possible for as long as possible, and let's see where this goes.*

She did say that, Brivari thought, studying the three expectant faces. The Healer had insisted that if the hybrids were not aware enough to ask a question, they shouldn't be given that information. The corollary to that was that if they were aware enough to ask, they were aware enough to know, at least the basics. Now, how to apply that.....

"Ava is safe," Brivari said, beginning with the simplest question and sidestepping it a bit.

" Safe where?" Zan asked.

"Nearby."

"But why isn't she here?"

"She will be."

"When?"

"Soon."

"But when?"

That last word was a study in desperation....a desperation which had an outlet. All Zan had to do was to say, "Tell me when," and Brivari would have been obliged to answer....but he hadn't worded it that way. "She will be here as soon as she's ready," Brivari said gently, "but I promise you, she is safe."

"Fine, she's safe," Rath said impatiently. "But you still haven't told us where we are."

Brivari hesitated as three pairs of eyes fastened on him. "This house belongs to allies."

Zan gave him a puzzled look. "We have human allies? Since when?"

"Since we had need of them."

"But why do we have need of them?" Rath chimed in. "And why have you still not told us where we are?"

"I told you where you were," Brivari replied. "I said you were safe among allies—"

"That's not what I meant," Rath interrupted, pointing toward the window. "That's not our sun."

"No," another voice said. "It isn't."

Three heads swung around, and Brivari watched with mixed emotions as Jaddo stepped from the shadows. He would have preferred him to remain hidden, for a while, at least, but it was too late now.

"Wait," Rath said slowly. "I....I know you."

A look of relief, of absolute peace spread across Jaddo's features just as it had over Brivari's only moments ago. "Of course you do," Jaddo said softly.

"Do you know where we are?" Rath asked. "If that's not our sun, what planet are we on?"

"You are on Earth."

Three pairs of eyes blinked, looked at each other. *Be careful,* Brivari said warily. *The more I think about it, the more I think that virtually any question they ask will lead in the wrong direction.*

*Not if we steer them onto safer paths,* Jaddo said firmly, *which is our job, is it not? We certainly don't have to tell them everything. It would be prudent to keep the worst of it from them for the time being.*

*What makes you think we'll have a choice?* Brivari asked.

*Because we will explain why full disclosure must wait. Look at them, Brivari—they're back, or at least enough of them to reason with. Zan isn't binding you even though he can, and Rath knows me. He'll listen to me, and when the stakes were high, he could always get Zan to listen to him. Don't you see? It worked! Our efforts last night worked! They're remembering, just like they should. This is exactly what we wanted.*

Is it? Brivari wondered. Clearly the hybrids were far more themselves than they'd been so far....but there was still something missing, something off. Zan was too emotional. Rath wasn't responding to his Warder the way he would have expected. Vilandra was much too quiet. And their questions only underscored that none of them remembered the violent events which had led to their presence here, which is precisely where those questions would lead if they followed their logical path.

The hybrids, for their part, were still grappling with what they'd just been told. "Earth?" Rath echoed incredulously. "What are we doing here?"

"Is that why we look like this?" Vilandra asked, disgust wreathing her voice.

But Zan was ahead of them. He held up his hand, his impossibly small hand, and from that hand sparked a tentative green tendril, a ribbon of energy that sizzled in the dry air.

"Not just human bodies," he whispered. "Human brains."

Vilandra looked down at her own hand in horror as though it might attack her. Never the tentative type, Rath eagerly held up his own, producing crackling lines of green fire.

"Be careful," Jaddo warned.

"Why?" Rath demanded.

"Because you don't know how to control that yet," Jaddo answered.

But Rath wasn't listening. As Vilandra cowered, green bursts flowed from his hand, through the air, up toward the ceiling...until they stopped abruptly.

"What happened?" Rath said accusingly. "Who stopped me?"

"I did," Jaddo said firmly. "You shouldn't be playing with what you don't understand."

Rath's eyes narrowed, and the look he shot his Warder was one of pure defiance, his hand rising as though he intended to try again.

"Don't," Zan said firmly, reaching out his own hand to lower Rath's.

Brivari had breathed a sigh of relief when his Ward quite properly intervened, but Jaddo looked troubled. *He didn't listen to me,* Jaddo said, puzzled. *He always listened to me.*

*Zan went through a period of defiance,* Brivari reminded him. *Maybe this is a phase they'll all go through. I'm still not convinced any of them are entirely themselves, and I'd still feel better if we cut this short. They've learned quite enough for the time being.*

*You may be right,* Jaddo said reluctantly. *Perhaps we should—*

"Wait," Vilandra said. "Where is Urza?"

Brivari groaned inwardly as Vilandra's question sent the tension in the room skyrocketing. He'd forgotten the wild card, the one who could set either king or second spinning. Leave it to the princess, who had so far shown interest only in the superficial, to broaden her horizons at the worst possible time and ask the worst possible question.

"He's not here," Brivari answered.

"I can see that," Vilandra retorted. "Is he 'safe' too?"

Hardly. Vilandra's eyes narrowed in the ensuing silence, and she glanced at her brother.

"Tell her," Zan said.

Brivari felt his chest constrict as, for the second time that night or any night, he felt the pull of the genetic bonds that bound him to his king. They had assumed Zan had not been issuing orders because he'd regained enough maturity to realize that was unwise. Was this order deliberate, or was he unaware of his power? Whether accident or design, this was a bad sign.

"He is dead," Brivari answered.

The news of a death seemed to stagger all three of them. Vilandra recovered first, rounding on Jaddo. "Did you kill him?" she demanded.

"Lonnie," Zan warned.

"Don't call me that!" Vilandra exclaimed, bristling at the hated pet name. "He always hated Urza! You know he did!"

"I didn't kill him," Jaddo said deliberately.

"Then who did? I want to know who killed my Warder!"

"Brivari didn't say anyone did," Zan pointed out. "All he said is that Urza is dead. He didn't say how."

"All right, then—how?" Vilandra asked.

"Urza died protecting you," Jaddo said in a steely tone.

"From what?"

Silence. Zan came face to face with Jaddo, shushing yet another outburst from his sister. "From what?" he asked again. "What was he protecting her from?"

"From those who would have harmed her," Jaddo answered.

"But why would they have harmed her?" Zan persisted. "Why are we even here? What could have happened that would have placed us on another planet in completely different bodies?" He paused, waiting for an answer, his jaw twitching when none came. "What happened to our old bodies?" he asked firmly, Rath stepping up behind him as if to lend weight to the question. "Answer me."

Tug. Brivari's fists clenched and unclenched, the look on Jaddo's face making it clear he felt it too. *Jaddo,* Brivari said tersely, *this has gone far enough.*

*I quite agree,* Jaddo whispered.

"Answer me," Zan repeated firmly. "No one enters or leaves this room until I find out what I want to know."

Damn it! Brivari swore silently. He should have sent out a telepathic call to Dee the moment this started. He could still call her, but it wouldn't do any good; he would now be compelled to deny her entry. *Don't panic,* Jaddo said, sounding distinctly uneasy now. *He wasn't entirely specific; it appears he doesn't realize what he's capable of, or doesn't know how to wield it. That's less than we'd hoped for, but we can make use of it. Give him something, and hopefully that will be enough.*

With 'hopefully' being the operative word, Brivari thought. But Jaddo was correct; Zan hadn't quite hit the mark. His command required an answer of some sort, but as he'd neglected to be specific about exactly which question he wanted answered, that gave them a bit of wiggle room. A bit.

"Your old bodies were damaged beyond repair," Brivari said, sidestepping the issue that death, specifically murder, had been the cause of the damage.

"So we died?" Zan asked.

"Only your bodies died. You are still very much alive, and very much Antar's ruler because you still possess the royal mark."

"And Ava?" Zan whispered. "Is she dead as well?"

"None of you are dead," Brivari said gently. "All of you live still, including Ava. Her....transformation is merely taking a bit longer."

"But what happened?" Zan continued, still grasping for a reason. "Was there a plague? Some kind of natural disaster?"

"We should remember something like that," Rath protested. "At least one of us should remember something so bad that it resulted in this."

*And they don't,* Brivari murmured to Jaddo.

*Not so fast,* Jaddo muttered.

Brivari followed his gaze. Vilandra was backing away from her brother with a stunned look on her face. "Lonnie?" Zan said. "What's wrong? Do you remember something?"

"No," she said quickly. Too quickly.

"It doesn't matter what we remember," Rath said, eyeing his Warder. "They remember....and they still haven't told us what they know. I want to know everything," he announced to Jaddo. "Everything."

"In good time," Jaddo replied. "It would not be wise to—"

"Now!" Rath exploded.

Jaddo stiffened, stunned at the rebuke. "Listen to me," Brivari said urgently. "We will answer your questions, but we must be careful. You all have been through a physical transformation, one which is not yet complete. The experts we have consulted have been very insistent that we be careful not to rush the process lest it go awry, something which obviously would not work in your favor. You all need to be patient. Answers will come, but only when it's safe for them to come."

Brivari waited as an all-too-familiar expression crossed Zan's face, his desire to know warring with the common sense his Warder represented. This had always been their battleground, experience versus inexperience, patience versus impatience, what Zan wanted versus what he could—or should—have. It had been many long years since Brivari had had to fight this particular battle, and he now found he hadn't missed it in the least, nor had its absence rendered him more tolerant of it. Riall would have bowed to his Warder's advice without hesitation. His son had always been another matter.

And still was. "Why wouldn't it be safe for us to know?" Zan said in frustration. "And why can't I remember? How could I forget something like dying?"

"Your memories will take some time to return," Brivari said. "There's always a transition period after a hybrid emerges—"

"But there doesn't have to be this time," Zan said firmly. "We may not remember, but you do." He held out his hand. "Show us."

Brivari's heart nearly stopped. "Tell us" was bad enough; "show us" was even worse. "That would be most unwise," Jaddo warned. "A connection cannot be controlled—"

"And what need have you to control it?" Rath demanded. "Are you keeping things from us?"

"Oh, for heaven's sake, don't be so dramatic," Jaddo said sharply. "You have only just emerged after a massive transition, so it's entirely appropriate that we temporarily restrict—"

"So you are keeping things from us," Zan said accusingly.

"For your own protection," Brivari insisted. "Which is our job, if you remember, to protect you, even from yourselves, if necessary. You've learned a great deal already—"

"But not all that you know," Zan said stubbornly.

"No, all that you need to know at the moment," Brivari said firmly. "How many times do I have to repeat that we have been advised not to rush things?"

"Advised by whom?" Zan demanded.

"By a human healer, an ally who knows about these things—"

"The other female," Rath broke in. "The one who came to us today."

"The one who put us in that machine," Zan added.

"The one who is trying to make this work!" Brivari exclaimed in exasperation. "You were supposed to emerge as fully grown humans, not children! That unforeseen complication merits more caution—"

"And why were there 'unforeseen complications'?" Zan asked suspiciously. "What else went wrong besides our deaths?"

"Plenty," Brivari said irritably. "But you can hardly expect us to detail all of it in the first few minutes of your awareness."

"I expect you to give me whatever information I need," Zan declared.

"And I will!" Brivari said angrily, finally losing his temper. "But only in such time as it will be of use to you! Have you learned nothing? I orchestrated your father's rise to the throne, I shepherded him through his rein, I oversaw your own transition to power, yet you consistently ignored me! And now you learn the unthinkable has happened, and you're still ignoring me! What will it take to make you listen? You've lost your throne, your very life, even, and you're still not listening!"

Brivari and his Ward locked eyes on each other in the silent battle of wills which had been the cornerstone of their relationship since Zan's birth. How could he have expected Zan to be any different? If anything he was worse, more petulant and suspicious and obstinate than usual. His very world had fallen apart, and he still thought he knew better than a Warder who had quite literally ushered his father to a dynasty. It was positively mind-boggling.

Zan extended his hand again. "Show me," he ordered.

Brivari looked helplessly at Jaddo, who turned to Rath, dropped to one knee so as to be eye to eye with his Ward. "Do you remember me?" he asked. "Good," he went on when Rath nodded warily. "Then remember I have always given you sound counsel, counsel you have always trusted. Trust that counsel now, and tell your king to trust it. All of you have only recently emerged. Wait, watch, and learn before insisting on all the answers."

"But I want to know what happened," Rath said obstinately.

"And you shall," Jaddo said. "Just not right now."

"But we want to know now," Zan insisted.

A cold dread stirred in the pit of Brivari's stomach. There was no reason in either pair of eyes, no evidence of thought, no evidence of anything other than the typical child's desire to have what they wanted when they wanted it. "Don't do this," Brivari warned, his voice shaking. "It could be the worst mistake of your life....and that's saying something."

"Show us," Zan commanded. "Both of you, show us what happened to us. Lonnie," he added, "come here."

Vilandra reluctantly crept forward, her eyes bearing the look of a cornered animal. The hand she held out to join the others was shaking badly.

"Don't make me do this," Brivari begged. "You may regret it in ways you couldn't possibly imagine."

But Zan took his hand, that ridiculously small, child-sized hand forming an iron grip that brooked no argument.

"Show us."



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



I'll post Chapter 21 next Sunday. :)
BRIVARI: "In our language, the root of the word 'Covari' means 'hidden'. I'm always there, Your Highness, even if you don't see me."

User avatar
Kathy W
Obsessed Roswellian
Posts: 690
Joined: Thu Oct 31, 2002 5:06 am

Re: Awakening *Series* (AU, TEEN) Ch. 20, 4/11

Post by Kathy W » Sun Apr 18, 2010 2:22 pm

Hello to everyone reading!

Misha wrote:Girl, every time I hear Max ask about his wife, a little piece of dreamer heart dies inside of me... :shock: But then I remember, this is not Max, but Zan, and Zan has all the right in the world to be worried about Ava. And then I forgive you :lol:
Your Dreamer heart is safe. We all know Max doesn't remember Ava, and that he marries Liz. Case closed. (Well.....I might have a different spin on Tess. I am a Drebel, after all. ;) )
I keep remembering Diane saying in The Toy House how there were things she couldn't explain in their past but that she had just put away, though she never forgot about them.
And that is such a useful line to have Diane utter because that means all kinds of things can happen that she will just push to the back of her mind. Very handy for prequel writers. :mrgreen:
keepsmiling7 wrote:can't wait until he shows them..........
Then here we go!




CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE


September 19, 1989, 6:45 p.m.

Proctor residence




Dee Evans stared at her son and his wife in disbelief, as did everyone in her parents' dining room. Idiot! she thought furiously, wadding her napkin into a ball and slapping it on the table. Everyone thought it was such a wonderful idea to have the clueless Diane serve as surrogate parent, and here she'd just let three hybrids wander off with absolutely no supervision. It had been ten or fifteen minutes since Philip and Diane had taken the children to the bathroom, so they would have had somewhat less time than that to go looking for Brivari. "Serve the dessert," she said crisply to her daughter-in-law, who stood there like a deer in the headlights with plates balanced on each arm. "I'll go look for them."

"Calm down, Mom," Philip said. "They haven't been gone long; I'll find them. We were in the kitchen the whole time, so I don't see how they could have come back up without us seeing them."

No, of course you don't, Dee thought, throwing a hard look at her mother, who dropped her eyes. Philip couldn't see because Philip had no idea what he was dealing with. Which is precisely why anyone who thought Philip and Diane could ever serve as foster parents needed their head examined as quickly as possible.

"Mom, sit down," Philip said firmly. "They're my responsibility, and I'll look for them."

"Yes, and we all know how well you've done so far," Dee huffed.

"What, so it's my fault?" Philip demanded.

"That's not fair," Diane protested.

"Deanna," Emily said warningly.

"I'll go with you," Marie said. "Just in case something's wrong, I mean."

"What could be 'wrong'?" Philip asked irritably. "Honestly, you all act like we abandoned them by the side of a road, or something."

"Oh, very funny," Dee said darkly, "but hardly—"

The rest of that sentence died in her throat as the lights flared, brightening to a blinding glare before they crackled and died, plunging the house into darkness just as a scream echoed through the house, ricocheting off the walls, the ceiling, every object in every room. It didn't stop, going on for an impossibly long time, far longer than the average person could manage without drawing breath, and everyone froze, transfixed. Assuming it would end. Waiting for it to end.

It didn't. Dee bolted out of her chair and vaulted for the stairs, Marie on her heels. Behind her plates crashed to the floor as Diane dropped the desserts in a panic, and chairs scraped sharply backwards as everyone scrambled to follow. She took the stairs two at a time like she had when she'd been young, moving by memory and by feel. But she wasn't young any more, and her legs were screaming by the time she hit the second floor landing. The noise was coming from her parents' room, and she reached the door, panting, even as the screamer had still not drawn breath.

It was Isabel, barely visible on the floor against the far wall beneath the window, her hands over her head, her mouth stretched in that impossibly endless wail. A few feet away was Max, curled in a ball, his arms looped around his knees, rocking back and forth.

"Oh, my God," Marie breathed, skidding to a halt behind her. "What happened?"

"I don't think we need a rocket scientist to figure that out," Dee muttered. "Or even an alien scientist."

"How could we let this happen?" Marie said despairingly. "We should never have let them out of our sight!"

Footsteps pounded behind them. "Mom!" Philip shouted over Isabel's scream. "I brought a flashlight. What happened? Did they get scared when the lights went out?"

I wish, Dee thought sadly as the light from Philip's flashlight bobbed up and down inside the bedroom, landing first on Isabel, her tear-strained face a mask of terror. Max's, by contrast, was a study in shock, his eyes glassy as though he'd suddenly gone blind. The bright beam in the dark room only added to the ghostly effect.

"Isabel!" Diane exclaimed, pushing past everyone and running to the little girl's side. Isabel finally stopped screaming, reverting to sobs as she collapsed into Diane's arms. "Max!" Diane said, holding out an arm to the little boy, who ignored her. "Come here. What's wrong?"

"I think the power failure scared them," Philip said. "Dad and Grandpa are looking at the breakers."

Fat lot of good that will do, Dee thought. The reasons for the lights going out were right there in front of them.

"Wait a minute," Philip said slowly. "Where's Michael?"

"I....I don't know," Diane admitted.

"Have you seen him at all?" Philip asked, raking the room with the flashlight beam. "Do you suppose he ran away? Or—"

A shape flew out of a dark corner straight at Philip, knocking the light out of his hand. It rolled toward Dee who snatched it up and trained in on Philip to find him fighting with a pint-sized blur of arms and legs. "Jesus!" Philip bellowed, struggling as his attacker clawed at his face and neck. But he was far larger than his assailant, and in a matter of seconds, he had a thoroughly angry Michael in a hammerlock, one arm around his neck, the other pinning the boy's arms behind him.

"That will be quite enough of that," Philip said sternly. "What's gotten into you?"

"My goodness, I didn't know he was violent," Diane said, still cradling Isabel.

"He's not," Dee said.

"Sure as hell looks it to me," Philip said darkly.

"Well, obviously something upset him," Dee said.

"Max and Isabel are upset too, but I don't see them trying to pound me into the pavement," Philip retorted as Michael struggled in his grasp.

"No, but something's really wrong," Diane said worriedly as Max continued to ignore her overtures. "This can't be just fear of the dark. It's too intense."

"So what do we do?" Philip asked. "Bring them back to Westlake with this one in a straightjacket?"

"I think we should take them to the hospital," Diane declared.

"No!" Dee exclaimed. Good God, the last thing they needed was to have the children's blood drawn again. They'd managed to dodge that bullet the last time, but there was no guarantee they could pull that off twice.

"Why not?" Philip asked suspiciously.

"Yes, Mom, why not?" Diane echoed. "It looks like they're having some kind of breakdown. Dr. Johnson, what do you think?"

"Yes, Dr. Johnson," Dee said deliberately, looking at Marie. "What do you think?"

Marie's mouth opened and closed as Dee waited for her to come up with a logical reason for not going to the hospital that her son and his wife could accept. They may not listen to her, but they would certainly listen to a neurologist.

"I think you're right; they may very well be having some sort of breakdown," Marie answered as Dee's mouth fell open. "Anything could have triggered it. And the hospital would be a good first place to start."

"Well, there you have it, then," Philip said, pushing himself to his feet with the struggling Michael still in his grip. "Diane, bring Isabel. Mom, will you get Max?"

"We both will," Marie said quickly. "You two go along, and we'll be right behind you."

Philip and Diane were barely out of earshot when Dee rounded on Marie. "Just hold on a minute," Marie said quickly before Dee could say anything. "Think! If we brought them back to the Villa in this condition, what do you think is the very first thing they're going to do?"

Dee, who had only just drawn breath to let loose, deflated. "They'd probably send them to the hospital," she admitted.

"Exactly," Marie said. "This way I get to go with them and maintain some control over things. I may even be able to go on record as their physician because Diane really likes me. If they're going to go anyway, this is the way to do it. And it's not necessarily a bad idea," she added. "We don't know for sure what happened, and this way, we'll at least settle whether there's anything physically wrong with them. It's just the blood work we need to be careful about. They're 99% human."

"It's the 1% that worries me," Dee said. "In the wrong hands, that 1% could land them in a world of hurt."

"If you ask me, they're already in a world of hurt," Marie said.

The lights abruptly came back on. "And that would be Daddy," Dee murmured.

"Look at him," Marie whispered. "That's not the same boy you scuffled with at dinner."

No, it isn't, Dee thought sadly. With the lights on, it was clearer than ever that something awful had happened as they gazed at Max, huddled in a ball on the floor. No king here, just a terrified little boy with his eyes screwed tightly shut, rocking back and forth.

"Where do you suppose the Warders are?" Marie asked.

Dee shook her head as she watched Max rock back and forth, back and forth. "No idea."




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



Roswell Memorial Hospital




Marie stood on the broad curving sidewalk that ran alongside the horseshoe-shaped driveway outside Emergency, mentally going over her speech. It had already worked on the ED staff, and Philip and Diane Evans certainly hadn't objected, but the one she was waiting for was another matter entirely. That one could blow away the entire smokescreen with a single word. Hopefully there had been enough good will stockpiled earlier today that that wouldn't happen, but still.....

"Doctor!" an urgent voice called.

Madeline C. Melbourne was waddling toward her as fast as her plump legs would carry her, her pocketbook slung over one arm. "I came as fast as I could when I got your phone call," she panted as she came closer. "My goodness, what a setback! And after everything was going so well. How are they?"

"Asleep," Marie answered. "I gave them something to calm them down."

"It was that bad?" Mrs. Melbourne said in dismay. "Oh, dear. Oh, dear, oh dear. Does anyone know what happened?"

"There was a power failure," Marie answered, conveniently leaving out the part about the hybrids' being unsupervised for a short period of time. "That's when they got upset."

"Oh, dear," Mrs. Melbourne fussed, following Marie through the automatic doors into Emergency. "Perhaps something dreadful happened to them in the dark. Given the way at least Max and Isabel were found, that could be any number of things."

"Whatever caused it, it provoked quite a reaction," Marie said. "They were all basically incoherent. I'd like to continue monitoring them for a little while before moving them back to Westlake. If that's all right with you, of course. I wouldn't want you to think I was trying to usurp your authority."

"Oh, no, of course not," Mrs. Melbourne assured her, in a generous mood because no one was trying to usurp her authority. "I'm deeply grateful for your presence here, I just can't thank you enough. You absolutely have leave to do whatever you think necessary."

Good, Marie thought, threading her way between stretchers, wheelchairs, and staff toward the room where the hybrids were sleeping off the night's misadventure. Having Mrs. Melbourne's seal of approval would go a long way toward convincing everyone else to back off. "They're in here," she said, indicating a doorway. "Same room as last time."

All three were asleep, in separate beds this time, the bond that had previously proven impossible to break having vanished in the wake of whatever had frightened them. Diane sat beside Isabel's bed holding the little girl's hand, while Philip sat beside Max. Dee had stayed with Michael, both of the younger Evans' having taken quite a burn to the way he'd attacked Philip.

"Diane, darling," Mrs. Melbourne cooed. "I'm so sorry."

"No, I'm sorry, Mrs. Melbourne," Diane said in a trembling voice. "I don't know what happened. I hope it's nothing we did. You know I would never hurt them, ever."

"Of course not," Mrs. Melbourne said soothingly. "Traumatized children act out in odd ways, and it's often difficult to ferret out the reasons even when they're verbal. I'm so glad to see you here; I was afraid this would have put you off the whole idea. Oh," she added in a markedly less friendly tone. "I didn't see you there."

"Nice to see you, too," Dee said tartly.

"Do you know anything about what happened to them?" Mrs. Melbourne asked Dee in a faintly accusing tone.

"Why are you casting aspersions on my mother?" Philip demanded. "She didn't have anything to do with this. Nobody knows how it happened. It just did."

"Of course," Mrs. Melbourne said, slightly taken aback. "I didn't mean to imply.....I was just wondering if your mother had noticed anything."

"Oh, of course you did," Dee said in a deeply skeptical voice.

"Dee, why don't we step outside and let Mrs. Melbourne talk to Philip and Diane alone?" Marie suggested. "Michael's asleep, so he won't miss you."

Dee threw her a look that would have frozen boiling water, but Marie just smiled and beckoned toward the hallway. "I'll be just outside if you need me," Dee said frostily to her son and daughter-in-law, ignoring Mrs. Melbourne as she walked by.

"I know you don't like her, but she's genuinely worried," Marie said, cutting Dee off before she could light into her for the second time tonight, no small feat as Dee lit into people pretty fast. "She's afraid Diane and Philip won't want to foster them anymore. And like it or not, it's Mrs. Melbourne who has custody of the hybrids, so it's absolutely imperative that we remain in her good graces so that I can remain their de facto physician."

"And since good old Madeline C. craves control, one of the best ways to do that is to let her have control," Dee muttered.

"Exactly. This is a relatively safe time to let her helm the ship. Later might be worse."

"Okay, okay, I get it," Dee sighed. "I just don't like it. What did you find out?"

"Physically, they're okay," Marie answered. "I got around the blood work by doing the draws myself and faking the results in their charts. They're not injured, they're not sick, they're—"

"Screaming and rocking and hurling themselves at other people," Dee reminded her. "I'd hardly call that 'okay'."

"They were all displaying classic symptoms of severe psychological trauma," Marie said. "Frankly, that might be much harder to fix than anything physical."

"Having them get caught would be hard to fix too," Dee noted.

"Have you seen the Warders anywhere?" Marie asked.

"Not a trace. But they're here. I know they are."

"Then where are they?"

"My guess? Those kids aren't the only ones with 'psychological trauma'," Dee said quietly. "You might wind up with more patients than just three."

A nurse appeared. "Are you Dr. Johnson? We need your signature on some paperwork."

"Go on," Dee said after the nurse had walked away. "I'll stay here and eavesdrop. And call my parent's house to let everyone know what's going on. The pay phones are down there, right?"

"Around the corner," Marie nodded. "I'll be right back."

Five minutes later, after scribbling her signature on a mountain of hospital and county child protective forms, Marie started back.....and paused, looking down the hallway in the opposite direction of the children's room. There was one place she hadn't checked for the Warders. It was a long shot, but he'd been there before.

The chapel was nearly empty, only two people occupying its pews as she silently guided the door closed behind her. One was a woman seated in the front row, and the other.......

Marie padded across the back of the chapel, her shoes making no sound on the carpet, and took a seat beside the lone man in the back corner.




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




Dee stood outside the children's room, straining to catch any of the muffled conversation taking place inside between her son and daughter-in-law and the militant Madeline C. Melbourne. It appeared the hospital doors had been inconveniently engineered for sound deadening because she could hear almost nothing besides the low murmur of voices, ultimately resorting to nudging the door open a crack with her foot.

"......bathroom," Diane was saying. "......should have..........with them........"

Perfect, Dee thought sourly. Leave it to Diane to confess all to Reverend Madeline. The irony was that Mrs. Melbourne would no doubt forgive Diane just about anything while finding fault with Dee for doing exactly the same thing. And I am at fault, she added heavily. They all were. They should never have let the hybrids out of their sight with people who didn't know who they were and what they could do. Everyone in that dining room was responsible for what had happened, and no one would ever be able to tell either Philip and Diane or Mrs. Melbourne the truth. Thank goodness the lights had gone out because that served as a handy excuse. Thank goodness it had not yet dawned on anyone to ask why the hybrids had been upstairs, nor had Philip or Diane recalled that "Mr. Langley" had supposedly been upstairs. Let Madeline C. get wind of that, and she'd start a state-wide manhunt for a child molester.

"Three days?" a familiar voice exclaimed in disbelief. "Why three days?"

Dee let the door close, her attention diverted by a familiar voice. It was coming from the nurse's station, where a man in a deputy's uniform stood with his back to her.

"Well, then, keep him here for three days," the man said as she walked closer.

"I'm sorry, Sheriff, but there's nothing medically wrong with your father," the nurse answered.

Sheriff. Was it..........yes, it is, Dee thought, getting a look at the speaker. Jim Valenti Jr. was leaning on the counter, his features a study in frustration.

"I can't take him home," Valenti insisted. "He's dangerous. I've got a young child, and—"

"You've said that before," the nurse interrupted. "You say he's dangerous, but you won't say why. What exactly did he do that makes him dangerous? Look, Sheriff," she continued when Valenti hesitated, "I want to help you. I do. But rules are rules, and Medicare won't consider a nursing home admission unless the patient has first spent three days in a hospital. You could always take him home and have a social worker—"

"I just told you I can't take him home," Valenti broke in.

"And you still haven't told me why you can't take him home," the nurse said patiently. "Help me out here, Sheriff, and then maybe I can help you."

"Sheriff!" Dee said suddenly just as Valenti looked ready to spill whatever beans he was holding. "I didn't expect to see you here."

Valenti blinked at her. "I'm sorry....do I know you?"

"I came round the other day to visit your father," Dee said brightly. "Remember?"

"Oh. Right. You," Valenti said shortly. "This isn't a good time."

"So I hear," Dee said sympathetically. "I gather your father's here? I'd love to see him. Would you show me where he is? Thanks so much," she added over Valenti's protests, taking him by the arm and steering him away from the nurse's station, the nurse looking only too glad to see him go.

"What are you doing?" Valenti said sharply as she propelled him out of earshot of the nurse. "Lady, I—"

"Keep walking, and stop talking," Dee ordered in a whisper. "That nurse is required by law to report anything you say to her, including to any potential facilities your father might be applying for admission to."

"And you would know this....how?" Valenti demanded.

"Because I'm a lawyer," Dee answered. "Is whatever he did something that would make them deny him admission?"

Valenti looked away. "That's what I thought," Dee said, stopping around a corner from the nurse's station. "Let me ask you another question: Is whatever he did something that should make them deny him admission?"

"No!" Valenti said impatiently. "I don't think he would have actually hurt her.....he said he was just trying to scare her....." His voice trailed off, the look on his face making it clear he thought he'd said too much.

"Think long and hard before you tell anyone what happened," Dee warned, "because anything you say can and will be used against your father when it comes to placement."

"Ironic that you'd be giving me advice on this subject," Valenti said angrily. "You're the one who started all this."

"Me?" Dee echoed. "I don't even know what happened. How is this my fault?"

"You're the one who woke him up. My father was eccentric but manageable, and then you showed up and he started remembering things."

"What kinds of things?" Dee asked warily.

"What do you think?" Valenti demanded. "He thought our babysitter was an alien! And he was talking about Hubble, and this guy who died in the woods back in 1959 that he claims aliens killed, and how aliens can look like us, and all sorts of nonsense. It all started with you, and then I pushed it, and now....." He stopped. "And now he's worse than ever," he finished, his voice close to breaking.

"I'm sorry," Dee said quietly. "I didn't.....I mean, I never meant to—"

"No, of course you didn't," Valenti said sharply. "But you did. What was I thinking when I let you in that day? I must have been nuts."

"Now, wait just a minute," Dee said, annoyance creeping into her voice. "Your father and I talked about Hubble, yes, but not about babysitters, or—"

"But that's what set it off!" Valenti exclaimed in exasperation. "That was the first domino to fall! And now I can't have him at my house anymore because I can't risk my son. It would have been better if he'd never remembered, if he'd just stayed like he was."

"Can I see him?" Dee asked desperately. "If you think I contributed to this, maybe it would help if I talked to him—"

"No," Valenti said flatly. "Just stay away from him. You've done enough already, and the last thing I need is to have it get worse. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm due for round two."

Dee stood in the middle of the hallway as Valenti walked away, the slap, slap of his shoes sounding as angry as he looked, glancing only briefly at the door to the hybrids' room before following him. It turned out Valenti Sr. was just down the hall, and she hovered outside the room as his son argued with a doctor inside, the snatches of conversation she managed to overhear making it clear that he was trying to convince the doctor to find a reason to keep his father there. The health care system in the United States was such that institutions worked well with each other, but not as well with patients; consequently it was very difficult to obtain a nursing home admission directly from a patient's home, much easier if they were coming from a hospital or some other institution. If the sheriff really didn't feel he could bring his father home, he'd have to prevail upon the hospital staff to keep him here for the requisite number of days before the system would start to work in his favor. It stank, but that's the way it was.

The doctor left abruptly, sweeping past Dee without seeing her. When she looked inside again, the curtain had been pulled aside and the sheriff was seated beside his father, his head in his hands. And his father looked.....blank. Valenti Sr.'s face was every bit as empty as it had been when she'd first seen him a few days ago. What had he done that was so terrible that his son feared for his own son's safety?

Down the hall, a door opened, and Mrs. Melbourne appeared, followed by Diane. Dee looked back at the shattered Valenti's, then at her daughter-in-law, who had obviously been crying. Memory could be a real bitch, and the number of victims it had claimed this night appeared to be growing.




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




"And they call this a place of 'comfort'?"

Marie glanced sideways at Brivari, who was watching the woman in the front row as she all but collapsed against the makeshift altar, jostling the various religious symbols it held. They had sat in silence for several minutes, Marie and Brivari in the back corner and the woman in the front row before other members of her family joined her, apparently bringing bad news.

"People frequently find religious faith comforting in bad times," Marie said.

"Then I submit to you that this woman's 'faith' has failed her, as she does not appear the least bit comforted," Brivari answered. "Nor have any of the many others who have passed through here this night, the one notable exception being a man who lost his temper and cursed any deity who would inflict suffering on a person. It caused quite a stir among the assembled."

"I'll bet," Marie murmured.

"And yet his reaction to his situation was far more understandable than the typical crying and begging. Not to mention he appeared far more 'comforted' afterwards than anyone else."

"It probably felt good to blow off some steam," Marie replied. "Anger can be a mask for grief." She paused. "So are you going to tell me what happened, or shall we go on pondering the existential questions about the effect of religious beliefs on human behavior?"

Brivari gave a soft snort. "What 'happened'? I'll tell you what 'happened'. What 'happened' is what has 'happened' countless times before."

"That being?"

"That being I was ignored. That my knowledge, my experience, my proven skills in statecraft and diplomacy were tossed aside in favor of immediate wants and needs."

The weeping woman left, supported by her family, leaving Brivari and Marie alone in the chapel. "Wait a minute," Marie said slowly. " 'Statecraft and diplomacy'? I know Max was aware enough to ask why you weren't at dinner, but he wasn't anywhere near 'statecraft and diplomacy'."

"He was when he reached me. He knew me. He called me by name. He knew himself, he knew his sister, he knew his second. He knew he was not on Antar and not in his own body."

"So.....he wasn't just latching onto random memories, he was actually....aware?"

"Too aware," Brivari sighed. "They all were."

"All of them?" Marie repeated. "They all knew who they were? Are you sure?"

"Vilandra asked why Urza wasn't there. Does that answer your question?"

Marie closed her eyes briefly, the memory of what had happened to Vilandra's Warder still a painful one after all these years. "And what did you tell them?"

"We followed your advice to the letter. We started with the most basic information and added more as they sought more. Unfortunately each new detail provoked a storm of demands for another, so they wound up with an outline of what happened, albeit an abbreviated one."

"So you point blank told them that they died and were resurrected?"

"We didn't have a choice. I was able to sidestep some poorly worded commands, but not all were poorly worded."

"And that's when they broke down?"

"No."

Marie blinked. "No? Hearing that they were murdered didn't cause them to break down?"

"Because they didn't remember being murdered, and we only told them they died, not how," Brivari answered. "None of them, with the possible exception of Vilandra, had any memory of the events which landed them here."

"Well....those were their newest memories," Marie said. "And as they died shortly after, they didn't have time to process them. Part of what anchors memory is actually remembering, going over what happened again and again. They never had the chance to do that. But they must have remembered something because something set them off. Did they....oh, no," she said suddenly. "You didn't....you didn't connect with them, did you?"

"I had no choice," Brivari said. "For all that Jaddo and I argued against it, Zan was adamant, and so was Rath."

"Oh, my God," Marie whispered. "So they saw....."

"What we saw," Brivari said. "There was no keeping it from them."

Marie leaned back in the chair and closed her eyes. This was bad, very bad. However upsetting the hybrids own memories may be, they likely paled by comparison to the Warders' memories, who had seen far more than their Wards. "How much?" she asked, terrified of the answer. "How much did they see? Did they see all of it?"

"Worse. They not only saw our memories, but our memories awakened their own."

"So when you connected.....they remembered being murdered?" Marie said faintly.

Brivari nodded. "New memories or not, they're still there. And Rath saw it twice. No one witnessed the other deaths, but Jaddo saw Rath die."

"Oh, dear," Marie said wearily.

"Their murders were just the tip of the iceberg," Brivari said. "There was Khivar's affair with Vilandra, his use of her to gain access, and her complicity in that, meaning she betrayed not only her brother, but Rath, to whom she was betrothed. And Zan's wife was pregnant with a son he knew nothing about, and who perished along with the rest of them."

"Good Lord," Marie muttered. "And just when I thought it couldn't get any worse. So you connected with them, this played out in living color, and then they broke down?"

"Rath was furious," Brivari said quietly. "Zan seemed to collapse into himself. And Vilandra.....Vilandra screamed. And we withdrew, knowing her cries would bring the rest of you and thinking it unwise to be found with them."

"But you were still there? Did you see Rath attack Philip?"

"Of course I did. I couldn't leave the house, not until the king left. And there was nothing we could do for them that wouldn't likely make things worse, and too much of a risk from showing ourselves to the king."

"I agree," Marie said quickly. "You both have to stay away until we sort this out."

"I'm not certain we will 'sort this out'," Brivari said bitterly. "How can I return Zan to Antar in the condition he's in? He displayed horrendous judgment, ignoring our counsel for caution and compelling me to do what I plainly told him could be disastrous. He always chafed under my guidance, but eventually developed a respect for my viewpoint, albeit a grudging one. Certainly he would never have pressed forward with something I was so completely opposed to, that I argued against so vociferously. And Rath was no better; usually he could be counted on to listen to his Warder and talk sense to the king, but he ignored Jaddo and was every bit as impatient and impulsive as Zan. They were acting like....."

"Like children?" Marie finished when Brivari hesitated. "But they are children. That's what I've been trying to tell you. The memories they're dealing with are those of adults, but physically, mentally, they're not fully developed yet. Simply remembering isn't enough. Memories are just information; you have to have the maturity and experience to process that information, to put it into context, or it won't do you any good. You're expecting them to behave like they did when you last knew them, but no matter how much they remember, they're more likely to behave like they were as children."

"Wonderful," Brivari muttered.

"Which is why you need to stay away from Zan," Marie advised. "Even if he's aware now, the ability to order you around in the hands of what amounts to a child is a bad combination. You're going to have to wait for them to mature, Brivari. Eventually they'll process these memories, and I'm willing to bet they'll mature faster than ordinary human children, but you're right, you can't expect them to function as adults, never mind rulers in the state they're in now."

Brivari's eyes fell. "Then I did not help things."

"What do you mean?"

"I....we, Jaddo and I....we thought we'd succeeded. We thought they were back. Jaddo thought we could keep the worst of it from them, that they could be reasoned with. I was less certain of that, but they remembered so much...it made sense."

"That was a logical conclusion to draw," Marie said. "Don't be so hard on yourselves."

"It's worse than that," Brivari whispered. "I got mad at him. Zan never compelled me, nor did his father. I don't think he realized at first that he could, but toward the end....it seemed he did. His behavior was rash, and rude, and completely uncalled for.....and I lost my temper."

"I doubt things would have worked out differently even if you hadn't," Marie said gently. "Remember, you're dealing with a child. Children are impulsive, self-centered, prone to focusing on what they want right now, and not inclined—or able—to ponder what effect their having what they want is likely to produce. There's nothing you can do about that; that's just the way they are right now. It might have taken him a bit longer to lower the boom if you hadn't gotten mad at him, but I bet he would have done exactly the same thing anyway." She paused. "Where's Jaddo?"

Brivari shook his head. "I have no idea. Rath treated him no better, so I imagine he's every bit as rattled as I am."

My goodness, Marie thought sadly. First shattered children, now shattered Warders. She'd always known the hybrids would have issues with each other, but she hadn't counted on their relationships with their Warders being impediments as well, reinstating patterns of behavior which weren't helping things one bit. One thing was certain—after the initial shock of learning the cause of their fate had worn off, the hybrids would likely be furious with each other. She would have to be careful who was around when they woke up to overhear what was bound to be a bitter confrontation.

"One thing I don't understand," Marie said. "Why didn't you leave? I've seen the way you can move, can vanish, in the blink of an eye, almost. Why didn't you disappear when you saw they'd found you?"

Brivari was quiet for so long, she almost thought he wasn't going to answer. "Didn't I mention it?" he whispered finally, his eyes far away. "He called me by name."



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


I'll post Chapter 22 next Sunday. :)
BRIVARI: "In our language, the root of the word 'Covari' means 'hidden'. I'm always there, Your Highness, even if you don't see me."

User avatar
Kathy W
Obsessed Roswellian
Posts: 690
Joined: Thu Oct 31, 2002 5:06 am

Re: Awakening *Series* (AU, TEEN) Ch. 21, 4/18

Post by Kathy W » Sun Apr 25, 2010 3:58 pm

Hello and thank you to everyone reading!





CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO


September 19, 1989, 9 p.m.

Roswell Memorial Hospital






After leaving the chapel, Marie made it only halfway back to the hybrids' room before running into Dee. "There you are!" Dee said. "I was wondering where you'd gone off to."

"I had a hunch," Marie answered. "And I found him. Brivari, anyway."

Dee's eyes widened. "Did you find out what happened?"

"I certainly did," Marie sighed. " They 'connected'. All five of them."

"But....that's exactly what you told them not to do!"

"They didn't have a choice," Marie said sadly. "Brivari says they all knew who they were when they found him upstairs, knew who he was, and they insisted on being shown what happened to them."

"Oh, my God," Dee whispered. "So they saw....they know....."

"That they all were killed, that Isabel caused this, that the queen was pregnant, 'was' being the operative word there.....oh, yes," she added when Dee paled. "As if being deposed and murdered weren't bad enough. But at least we found out before they woke up, so now we have some idea of what to expect."

Dee hesitated. "That's why I was looking for you. They're awake."

"What?" Marie exclaimed. "When?"

"About twenty minutes ago."

Oh, no, Marie groaned. The hybrids had no business being awake so soon, and were probably saying all sorts of interesting things within earshot of some very puzzled people. Obviously she would have to do more research into the effects of pharmaceuticals on Antarian-Human physiology. "I'm so sorry," she said, hurrying down the hallway with Dee on her heels. "They should have been asleep much longer; their bodies metabolized the medication I gave them much faster than I expected. So what are they saying? Is Max mad at Isabel? Or maybe Michael is? I guess any of them could be furious with any of the others, given what happened."

Dee's mouth opened, then closed. "I think you'd better see for yourself."

Marie felt a cold hand grip her stomach. What could be so bad that Dee wouldn't even say it out loud? Had they already implicated themselves? Had Max announced he was from another planet, or Isabel confessed to getting her brother killed? Or—God forbid—had someone already called the military or the FBI? In which case she shouldn't even be here, the former having dire implications for her as well.

Stop it, she told herself severely as Dee opened the door. Decades had passed; the odds that anyone from the Army would recognize her now that she was in her sixties was highly unlikely. It was the children who stood to lose the most from being discovered, so she'd need to put a psychologist's spin on the strange things they were undoubtedly saying....

Or not, she added, as her ears were greeted by....nothing. No one was talking inside the hybrids' room, never mind arguing or yelling. Isabel was huddled on the bed, leaning against Diane, who had her arm protectively around her. Max was on the next bed, his knees drawn up, his arms looped over them, rocking back and forth as he had been back at the house. Both were staring straight ahead, their eyes glassy and far away.

"We seem to have taken a step backward," Mrs. Melbourne said. "Perhaps several."

"They won't say a word, doctor," Diane said miserably. "Not a single word."

Marie walked slowly between the two beds. "Max?" she said gently. "Isabel?"

No answer, not even a glance. "They wouldn't look at us either," Diane said. "Or respond to their names, or tell us what happened."

"This is very much like the condition in which we first found them," Mrs. Melbourne observed.

No, it isn't, Marie thought. Yes, the hybrids had initially been non-verbal.....but this was different. This was the condition in which they'd last seen them, minus Isabel's screaming. This was shock, a shock so profound it rendered them senseless.

"Do you suppose they remembered whatever happened to them?" Mrs. Melbourne asked.

"I....suppose anything's possible," Marie said, momentarily unnerved by Mrs. Melbourne having inadvertently hit the nail right on the head. "Something in the Proctor's house may have triggered a reaction. If they're not talking, it's hard to tell." She paused, suddenly noticing something. "Where's Michael?"

Mrs. Melbourne's face darkened, and Diane's became uncharacteristically hard. "He woke up first, and I had him moved to a different room," Mrs. Melbourne answered. "Come with me."

Marie glanced at Dee, whose face was unreadable. Mrs. Melbourne led her to a room two doors down, Dee trailing behind, knocking twice before the door was opened by a middle-aged volunteer in the traditional striped vest.

"How is he?" Mrs. Melbourne asked.

"Calmer, but still angry," the volunteer replied, stepping back so they could come in.

"He" turned out to be Michael, curled on the bed and rocking back and forth just like Max. But unlike Max, Michael wasn't in shock; he was angry, his jaw clenched, his eyes narrowed.

"He lashed out at everything and everyone just as soon as he woke up," Mrs. Melbourne said. "Including Isabel, Lord knows why. Thank goodness she was still asleep."

"Has he said anything?" Marie asked.

"Nothing," Mrs. Melbourne answered. "So, other than knowing that something traumatized all of them, we're still in the dark as to what. I'm curious as to why something would have triggered a reaction in all three of them. Is it possible they know each other?"

Marie shook her head. "No idea."

"Well, one thing's for certain—he can't return to the general population at Westlake like this. We can't have violent children in a group setting."

"So where will he go?" Dee asked.

"We reserve the top floor for children like these," Mrs. Melbourne said. "He'll go there, at least until we can be certain he won't cause trouble. I'd like to take the other two back, if I may. I'm thinking they may normalize there."

"Right. Yes," Marie said. "Go ahead. I'll come see them tomorrow." She paused. "May I have a few moments alone with Michael?"

Mrs. Melbourne gave her a skeptical look, but she motioned the volunteer to follow her out of the room, either not noticing or not caring that Dee didn't join them. "Three guesses what 'traumatized' all three of them," Dee murmured. "He started hitting everything in sight as soon as he woke up. Diane was scandalized, and Mrs. Melbourne banished him from the room. I think she was afraid he'd cause the other two to do the same thing."

"Frankly, this is more along the lines of what I expected," Marie admitted. "But he didn't say anything?"

"Nothing," Dee answered. "Not a word."

"So none of them are talking," Marie murmured, reaching out a hand to the little boy, who glared at her suspiciously and jerked away. "What about telepathic speech? Have they responded to that?"

"No," Dee signed, "nor have they responded to either of their names or used their powers. It's like they've forgotten everything they've learned in the past three days."

"Regression," Marie nodded. "That's a common symptom of childhood trauma. Toilet-trained children suddenly start wetting themselves again, and children who'd begun talking stop. The only place these children have to 'regress' to is the point right after they broke out of those pods."

"But they're not at that point," Dee said. "This isn't how they were behaving back then. Which must mean that part of them remembers."

"Part of them, yes," Marie agreed "but which part? And can we get to it?"

"Or do we want to?" Dee added. "If this is what happens, maybe we don't."

"Or at least not yet," Marie said. "They can't handle what they discovered; that's why they're reacting this way. It's like I said before, they may need to be older before they can process everything."

"And in the meantime, we do.....what?"

"The only thing we can do," Marie said. "We wait and see what happens. Let's give it a few days and see how they are."

"A few days," Dee sighed. "That's what everyone needs tonight."

"Sorry?"

"I....Valenti's here," Dee said, looking very upset.

"Valenti?" Marie repeated. "You mean....our Valenti?"

Dee nodded. "His son says it's not safe to have him living at their house anymore, but the hospital staff was telling him that his father had to be admitted for at least three days before a nursing home would be covered. When I asked him what happened, he said his father claimed their babysitter was an alien, and that aliens can look like us."

Marie glanced toward the door. "Where is he?"

"Up the hall. On the right. Don't send the volunteer back in," Dee added, taking a seat a good distance from the still fuming Michael. "I'll stay with him."

Ten minutes later, Marie stood beside the bed of a man she barely recognized. The former Sheriff Valenti looked much older than he was, and was in a similar condition to the children down the hall, minus the rocking but with the same vacant stare, the same lifeless eyes....and perhaps for the same reason.

"Sheriff?" she whispered, taking his hand. "Jim?"

No answer, not even a glance. Is this what we're reduced to? she thought sadly. After everything he'd done, everything he'd seen, this was the end result. Popular psychology claimed one had to confront one's demons, but tonight's events suggested that was unwise if one didn't have the resources to deal with them.

Releasing the still limp hand, Marie pulled the chart from the end of the bed and flipped through it. According to the notes, Valenti's son wanted his father placed in a care facility, but insurance didn't kick in until after a three day stay in the hospital, something Valenti's doctors were apparently reluctant to sign off on as he had no pressing physical ailments. But she suffered from no such reluctance.

"Excuse me.....who are you?"

Marie stopped scribbling and blinked, feeling like she'd just stepped back in time. A much younger but still familiar looking man was watching her curiously, holding a foam cup of something or other and looking like he hadn't slept well in a good long while.

"You must be Jim Jr.," she said.

"Right," he answered slowly. "And you are.....?"

"Marie Johnson," she answered, extending a hand. "Dr. Marie Johnson. We haven't met. I knew your father."

"Everyone knew my father," Jim Jr. said.

"Not the way I did. This is all you'll need for your three day window."

Jim Jr. looked down at the chart she'd just handed him. "But the doctor said no."

"Correction: The attending at a dinky hospital said no," Marie said. "I'd like to see them argue with the Chief of Neurology at Columbia."

"Wait!" Jim Jr. called as she walked away. "How in the world did my father know the Chief of Neurology at Columbia? He never mentioned that, not even when he was coherent."

"And he probably wouldn't have recognized me, even when he was coherent," Marie said. "Just call it a favor for an old friend."

She left him standing there, holding the chart and looking confused. He didn't follow her, just as well because she was crying now. It was stupid, really, because there were bound to be casualties. This was just the latest, and it was frankly astonishing there hadn't been more, nothing short of a miracle that all of them hadn't wound up exactly like James Valenti Sr.




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




FBI Headquarters,

Washington, D.C.





Daniel Pierce stepped into the elevator, noting the hush that fell over the three people already present. That hush followed them all the way up to the tenth floor, their eyes boring into his back; it was almost a relief when the door opened and he stepped out, only to be greeted by more silence and furtive glances. It had been this way all day today, word of his pedigree and inheritance having obviously made the rounds, security clearances be damned. Is this what it's like to be a rock star? he wondered as he moved through the halls, heads turning as he passed. The place to which he'd been directed was a nondescript part of the building with a lone assistant parked in front of a cube farm.

"Do you have an appointment?" she asked in a perfunctory tone without looking at him.

"Yes, with Agent Summers," Pierce replied.

"Name?"

"Agent Daniel Pierce."

The assistant's head snapped up, as did everyone's within earshot. "Oh....I'm sorry," the assistant stammered, springing to her feet. "Have a seat while I tell Agent Summers you're here. Could someone get Agent Pierce some coffee?"

At least three different people hurried to obey as Pierce settled into the offered chair, quite liking this new place in which he found himself. The Bureau had obviously gotten the message that he had something of tremendous value to offer, and was responding accordingly. Petty as it may be to enjoy it, it was nice compensation for the upheaval of the past several days, and he was wearing a very satisfied smile when the assistant reappeared.

"Right this way, agent."

She led him down a hallway as he idly wondered who would drink the three cups of coffee which were currently being poured. Agent Summers was waiting around a corner sans his usual shirtsleeves. No, tonight's appointment apparently called for a suit and tie.

"Glad you could make it, Daniel," Summers said. "Thank you, Carla."

Carla disappeared as Pierce looked around. "So is this your 'official' address? This can't be the Special Unit's lair."

" 'Lair'?" Summers chuckled. "So now we're wolves?"

"That would be a 'den'."

"True. 'Lairs' are for monsters. I think I prefer the wolf analogy. We chase the monsters."

"I'm betting you didn't ask me here tonight to play word association," Pierce commented.

"No, I didn't," Summers confirmed. "I asked you here to discuss the terms you outlined earlier today."

"Really?" Pierce said with a small smile. "That was fast."

"Of course it was. There's a lot at stake. Shall we?"

Summers opened the door to a nearby office....and Pierce realized they weren't alone. Seated in a chair opposite the standard issue desk was a man wearing so many medals he probably clanked when he walked. "General, this is Agent Daniel Pierce," Summers said, taking a seat at the desk. "Daniel, this is General Edward Chambers, United States Army, here all the way from California."

My goodness, Pierce thought. He'd only called Summers' bluff this afternoon; General Chambers must have hopped a jet shortly afterwards. Which meant they wanted what he had to offer in the worst possible way, and why not? What he offered was of immeasurable value, and the asking price was some dusty old records and a deserted building. Smart move.

"General," Pierce smiled, extending a hand. "Nice to meet you."

The general didn't smile, didn't get up, didn't shake. Pierce's hand hung in the air for a several long awkward seconds before he retracted it, a good deal less sure of himself than when he'd extended it. "I gather you're here because of my proposal?" he ventured.

"No, I dropped everything, including my pants, and flew in for a pool party," Chambers deadpanned.

"So the military has a sense of humor," Pierce said, settling himself into the chair next to Chambers. "Who knew?"

Chambers glowered; the corners of Summers' mouth twitched. "You're Daniel Pierce's son?" Chambers said. "Colonel Daniel Pierce's son?"

"That's right."

"Hmpf. I can see you're every bit the pompous ass that he was."

"You knew my father?"

"I'm glad to say I did not. He was before my time. But I didn't need to know him to know his reputation."

"If that's the case, then you also know his reputation for brilliance," Pierce said. "Well, of course you do. That's why you're here. You want that 'pompous ass's' brilliance for yourself.....don't you?"

Chambers' face darkened. "That pompous ass belonged to us," he said bitterly, "along with any 'brilliance' he produced. What you have belongs to us. It was developed by Army personnel on Army property with Army resources."

"And you lost it," Pierce said casually.

"Your father went AWOL!" Chambers exclaimed. "We searched for him for years!"

"And never found him. That's gotta sting."

"Maybe. But don't you think it was fitting that the monsters he helped subdue are the ones who got him in the end?"

Pierce's jaw clenched. "Not really. But given your attitude, I do think it's fair that you never found what you wanted, not him, not his work, not any of it. And even more fair that I make certain it's kept from you in perpetuity." He rose from his chair. "Good evening, general. Nice meeting you. Do have a safe trip back."

One could have heard a pin drop as Pierce left the office and closed the door quietly behind him, rounding the corner into the main hallway before leaning his forehead against the wall and breathing deeply. He'd been letting his indignation carry him, but now he was literally shaking, he was so rattled. What had he expected? That the Army would welcome him with open arms after his father ditched them and ran off with the prize? Perhaps he'd been wrong to link his offer to the Bureau with access to the compound. It had seemed a simple enough request at the time given that the building, indeed the entire base, had been abandoned. But he hadn't counted on the Army's anger toward his father's behavior, or that anger being aimed at him in his father's absence. If the Army refused to play ball, would the Bureau make a counteroffer? Or perhaps he should come up with a new set of demands? Certainly stiffing the Army at this point would be very satisfying......

Get a grip, Pierce ordered himself firmly. He still had something everyone wanted, so he was still in a position of power, decorated generals' tantrums aside. He had to remember that.

"Well played."

Pierce stiffened, forced himself to turn around slowly. "What the hell was that?" he demanded.

" 'That' was exactly what you asked for," Summers answered.

"Really? I asked to be reamed by a guy wearing so much metal, he could be Magneto?"

"Who?"

"X-Men. Didn't you read comics?"

"Can't say I did, although it may have prepared me for my current job," Summers replied. "But I digress. Let's review: You asked for access to Army facilities and records. In order to get that, you have to deal with the actual Army, not the Tooth Fairy."

"No, you have to deal with the Army," Pierce corrected. "The Bureau has to deal with the Army. What I asked for was the Bureau to gain access to Army facilities and records—"

"Which is exactly what we're doing," Summers broke in. "You hadn't even hit the sidewalk outside my building before I had Chambers on the phone, and he obviously ran for the nearest plane."

"So why am I getting skewered? That's your job."

"It was our job to make the overture," Summers corrected. "We got you an audience, and now you have to seal the deal. You didn't really think the Army was just going to roll over for the son of it's most famous AWOL soldier, did you?"

"As a matter of fact, I did," Pierce retorted. "They'd be damned stupid to walk away from what I'm offering."

"Except that you're 'offering' something they feel was stolen from them," Summers said. "And don't forget the close association between 'damned stupid' and 'damned proud'. Your father was a huge embarrassment to the Army, as was its inability to find him."

"Then you can congratulate the general on his stupidity and pride having prevented him from recovering what they lost," Pierce said darkly. "Thanks for the 'audience', but I'm done here."

"Whoa, pardner," Summers said gently, catching his arm as he turned away. "Not so fast. You can still get what you want; you just have to play it right. You've made it clear you're no doormat, and that you're not going to let the brass browbeat you about your dad. You've also made it clear you're willing to take your bat and ball and go home. And now that's out of the way, it's time for round two."

"No way!" Pierce protested. "I already walked out. If Chambers wants to make nice, let him come to me."

"He did," Summers said. "Why do you think I'm out here? You didn't really think he was going to come out here and grovel himself, did you? Daniel," he continued, taking Pierce by the shoulders, "I said 'well played' a moment ago, and I meant it. But now you're in danger of overplaying it. You can't let a few jabs below the belt get in the way. You still have something Chambers and the Army desperately want. What you have to do now is give them a way to justify an alliance with the son of someone who betrayed them."

"So having something they 'desperately want' isn't enough?"

"It's part of it," Summers said. "The part you're missing is that your serum isn't the only thing either the Army or the General desperately wants. Think about it.....how did he act? What did he say? What's the first thing he went for, his very first target? Figure out what else they want and find a way to give it to them....and everyone wins."

Summers patted him softly on the back before going back into the office. Pierce remained in the empty hallway, desperately searching his memory of his father's writings for some hint of what to do next. Power is a game, Daniel. He'd been playing that game, following his father's advice to the letter, or trying to. But his father hadn't anticipated the current climate, and his advice didn't address pissy Army brass, something Agent Summers seemed very familiar with.

What's the first thing he went for, his very first target?

Five minutes later, Pierce re-entered the office and resumed his seat, gratified to see the fleeting look of relief on Chambers' otherwise stony face. "Let's try again, shall we?" Pierce suggested. "I'm offering a great deal for such a small price, merely an abandoned building and some dusty old records."

"The 'price' is always too large when you're buying back something that's already rightfully yours," Chambers huffed.

"Perhaps," Pierce said thoughtfully. "But keep in mind you're getting much more than just the serum."

Chambers' eyebrows rose. "Such as?"

"Such as something every bit as precious," Pierce answered. "Revenge."

Pierce held Chambers' gaze, and he was fairly certain Summers wasn't breathing. "Go on," Chambers said finally.

Pierce leaned forward. "You're mad at my father. I get that. You're delighted aliens got to him even if the Army couldn't. I get that too. But consider.....he ran off with your serum and successfully kept it from you for almost forty years, and I'm fairly certain he wouldn't be very happy about the prospect of my returning it to you. I'm willing to bet he's rolling in his grave at the very notion of all his hard work going right down the proverbial drain, back into the hands of those he worked so hard to keep it from. There's a certain symmetry in the serum having come full circle, a measure of karma....don't you think?"

Chambers said nothing; he was still scowling, but his hands worked in his lap, and he didn't respond. "And consider this," Pierce went on. "The Army spent years looking for my father and never found him until it was too late, never found the serum at all. But now you have the chance to return a Pierce to the Army's scrutiny and the serum at least partially to the Army's use. You can put to rest nearly half a century of embarrassment, reacquire what was lost, and piss off my father's ghost, all at the same time.....and the best part is, you'll get the credit for it. It will be your name that goes in the record books as having righted this wrong. Not bad for an empty building and some old records."

Silence. Pierce waited, and so did Summers, although Summers waited patiently instead of on tenterhooks. Finally, Chambers heaved to his feet.

"I have to confer with my superiors," he said gruffly.

"Of course," Summers said, rising also. "Thank you for coming, general."

"It was a pleasure meeting you, sir," Pierce added.

Chambers' eyes narrowed as though he thought he was being mocked, but he left the room without another word, his medals clinking as he walked. "I think you're growing on him," Summers said.

"You think?"

"Absolutely," Summers nodded. "Like fungus."

"You're hilarious. So did I figure out what he wanted besides the serum?"

"You did indeed," Summers replied.

"Great. Now what?"

"Now," Summers said slowly, "we wait."




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



Pod Chamber




"How is she?"

Jaddo barely stirred from his seat in front of Ava's pod as Brivari took a seat beside him. It was odd to have only one pod in the chamber, the three ruined pods hanging nearby only accentuating the one left.

"Still here, obviously," Jaddo answered. "I think her pod is a bit clearer, but it's hard to tell." He paused. "How are the rest of them?"

"According to the Healer, they are traumatized."

Jaddo gave a soft snort. "Small wonder, given what they saw." He paused. "We had them, Brivari. We had them....and then we lost them."

"We didn't 'have them'," Brivari countered. "We had part of them, enough to cause trouble. And we had a desire to 'have them', which blinded us. Both of us."

"Perhaps," Jaddo sighed. "So.....what do we have now? What exactly does 'traumatized' mean in practical terms?"

"They are basically as they were found after we broke the connection, although Vilandra is no longer screaming."

"There's something," Jaddo muttered.

"All are uncommunicative and appear to have lost all awareness of their true selves," Brivari continued. "Zan is withdrawn, Vilandra is clinging to Dee's daughter, and Rath.....Rath is angry, so much so that they have separated him from the others."

"Can you blame him?" Jaddo said. "To watch Nicholas murder you is bad enough, but to find out that your fiancée not only intended to marry Khivar, but actually facilitated the aforementioned murder would be enough to set anyone off."

"Vilandra never intended for anyone to be murdered," Brivari said gently. "You saw that every bit as clearly as I did."

Brivari waited while Jaddo fell into a bitter silence, unable to contradict that. Connections flowed both ways, and while both of them had done their best to filter what their Wards saw, the hybrids had made no such effort. The rush of emotion they'd experienced at seeing their final moments in their Warders' minds had triggered their own memories, memories which had been so overwhelming that it had taken a while for both he and Jaddo to recover. It was quite possible that what the hybrids had shown them was more graphic and upsetting than what they had shown the hybrids. The difference, according to the Healer, was that he and Jaddo were able to assimilate that information, to put it in perspective. The hybrids were not.

"Fine," Jaddo said flatly. "So she did not intend what happened. Nevertheless, she caused it."

"And she knows that," Brivari said. "You felt her shame, her panic when she realized what was happening, her horror when she discovered her brother's body. You even saw her die. And so did her brother."

"Better her than Ava," Jaddo said. "At least we know the king and his wife did not suffer."

No, they didn't, Brivari agreed, that being the one bright spot in the connection. Zan and Ava had been dead when Brivari reached them, and the only ones who had witnessed their deaths were their executioners, who had completed their business so swiftly that Zan had had no time to react or even process what was happening. He had only fleeting memories of a shadow bearing down on him, and nothing more.

Rath, however, had not been so fortunate, having dismissed his Warder before meeting Khivar's army, and both he and Jaddo had felt the full force of his fury before he'd fallen by Nicholas's hand. And all five of them had reeled from the depth of emotion unleashed when Zan and Rath discovered the unwitting author of their destruction, it being worse for Rath because it meant his marriage would have been a sham had it taken place. But Zan had suffered his own personal shock upon learning that Ava had been pregnant when she fell. That and his sister's betrayal had caused him to break the connection, which had served as permission for the rest to break it also.

"It appears they will need more time than we thought to work through what happened," Brivari said. "Zan and Vilandra have returned to Westlake. Rath will be housed on a different floor because they fear he will harm the other children. We'll have to wait for all of them to recover."

"Except this one," Jaddo said, his eyes fastened on Ava. "And this one should not be placed with humans. We should oversee her care ourselves."

"So....you think allowing humans to care for the hybrids compromised them in some way?"

"I don't know if it did or not, but we can't afford to take that chance."

"But you saw what resulted from even limited exposure to us," Brivari said. "How would even greater exposure be a benefit?"

"Our problem was not exposure, it was the royal mark," Jaddo argued, "or rather, it being in the hands of one who doesn't know how to wield it responsibly. There is no such problem with Ava, or any of the others, for that matter. None of them could have compelled us in any way."

"But even our first, brief connection provoked a burst of memory—"

"Exactly. That first connection brought memory, and then awareness, which is exactly what we wanted. The second connection simply moved the process along too quickly. We will not have that problem with Ava. We can learn from what happened to the others and control the flow of information to give her time to adjust."

"And what of the fact that she's a child?" Brivari said in bewilderment. "We're not parents, Jaddo. We don't know how to raise a child."

"If she attains the level of awareness the others had tonight, she won't be a child," Jaddo insisted. "They were not children tonight; they were themselves, aware that they were in new bodies and on another world. We have no way of knowing how things would have progressed without the second connection, but we do know that none of the hybrids broke down prior to it. What if we can bring Ava to that point, but no further? The others were there tonight....and then they went over the edge. If we can keep her from going over that edge, we can allow things to progress naturally, and given how quickly the others progressed, she may mature far faster than the average human."

"Or she may not," Brivari noted. "It could all go sour just like it did with the others."

"Ever the optimist," Jaddo said dryly. "Have you considered that she might make the better ambassador? Would Zan have pushed forward against your advice if Ava had been there to guide him? Who better to influence a king than his queen?"

He leaned forward, reached out a hand to touch Ava's pod. "You want your Ward back, Brivari, and I want mine. I believe the answer is here, right in front of us. If we do it right.....if we're successful.....she could be the one who leads them home."



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


I'll post Chapter 23 next Sunday. :)
BRIVARI: "In our language, the root of the word 'Covari' means 'hidden'. I'm always there, Your Highness, even if you don't see me."

User avatar
Kathy W
Obsessed Roswellian
Posts: 690
Joined: Thu Oct 31, 2002 5:06 am

Re: Awakening *Series* (AU, TEEN) Ch. 22, 4/25

Post by Kathy W » Sun May 02, 2010 5:43 pm

Hello to everyone reading!
keepsmiling7 wrote:So it is expected that Ava will lead them home.....
Expected by Jaddo, anyway. And since he's Ed Harding, I'm guessing that idea stays in his head!





CHAPTER TWENTY-THREE


Three weeks later



October 12, 1989, 12:30 p.m.

Westlake Villa




"Fancy meeting you here."

Dee smiled as she slid over on the bench in the Villa's back yard. "Haven't you already done your shift?" she asked as Marie took a seat next to her. "You're morning, I'm afternoon."

"It was such a nice day, I stayed a bit later," Marie answered. "And I hadn't seen you since last week, so I thought we should compare notes."

"That won't take long," Dee sighed. "Nothing's changed. You?"

Marie shook her head. "Nope."

"Well.....you wanted them to wait until they were older before they remembered."

"I know," Marie said. "But this wasn't what I had in mind."

I'll bet, Dee thought sadly as they both gazed at Max, sitting alone on the lawn while Diane pushed his sister on the swings nearby. After the hybrids had reacted so badly to learning what had befallen them in their previous lives, everyone had braced for the fallout, expecting anger, recrimination, and every other emotion that went with suddenly finding oneself on a distant planet in a new body after an exit involving betrayal and murder. It had been hard to return to them to the Villa, convinced as they'd been that at any moment all three of them were going to launch into some very interesting conversations, if not start throwing things at each other. But no one had been prepared for what had actually happened, which was, in a nutshell.....nothing. All three hybrids seemed to have forgotten everything. There was no more talk of missing wives or wrong suns, no evidence of special powers, no references at all to their former selves. They just went through the motions, eating meals, playing games, and doing art projects, having lapsed entirely into the personas of human children. Especially one of them.

"She's quite the chatterbox, isn't she?" Marie commented as Isabel shrieked with delight when Diane sent her soaring into the air.

"At least she's talking," Dee said. "Max can talk, he just doesn't most of the time. They don't respond to telepathic speech, they haven't used their powers, they aren't joined at the hip like they used to be. They just.....forgot."

"And yet they haven't," Marie said. "Or at least the boys haven't. Michael is still angry, and Max is still withdrawn, so both are clearly aware of something. They just don't know what."

"Is good old Madeline ever going to let Michael out of jail?" Dee muttered, glancing up at the Villa's third floor where the asocial were housed.

"Not while he keeps picking fights with everyone," Marie answered. "And it's not 'jail'; all the segregated children received the same services, just on a staggered schedule so they're not around everyone else. I realize Mrs. Melbourne doesn't let you see him, but she lets me visit him daily, and after seeing both him and everyone else up there, I'd have to agree with that strategy."

"So what's up with Isabel?" Dee asked. "Why is she so much better?"

"Maybe she wants to forget," Marie said softly. "If you'd caused what she caused, however inadvertently.....wouldn't you?"

Isabel abandoned the swing in favor of the sandbox, both she and Diane trying unsuccessfully to convince Max to join them. He shook his head solemnly, but never took his eyes off them as Isabel dug happily into the sand with a plastic shovel.

"It's been three weeks," Dee said. "You come every morning, I come every afternoon, Diane practically lives here, and none of us have seen so much as a hint of memory. It seems all they do is become more and more human, minus the anger and silence, that is."

"Chalk that up as one more way they're becoming human," Marie said. "They're in this predicament because their impatience to know got in the way, and no wonder; they are children, after all. And what they're doing now is what many children do when they encounter something traumatic, which is suppressing their memory of it, locking it away where it can't hurt them."

"So how do you bring them back?"

"You don't," Marie answered. "At least not now. When they're older, when they've matured, we can work on accessing whatever memories haven't come back naturally. They'd need to be at least eighteen, maybe twenty before I'd feel comfortable doing that. Good Lord," she added with a wry chuckle. "That's over a decade from now. Hope I'm still alive."

"Nonsense," Dee scoffed. "I'd never guess you were in your sixties, especially holding down the position you have at Columbia."

"About that......" Marie began.

Dee nodded sadly, having suspected this was coming for a while now. "You need to get back."

"I hate to leave things like this," Marie said, "but I almost went back when Steven went home last week. I pulled some strings and got another week out of it, but that's about all I can spare."

"Does Diane know?"

"I told her this morning," Marie replied. "I also told her she could call me any time of the day or night if she had any concerns. The last thing we want is for her to take them to someone local."

"You've gone above and beyond," Dee said. "Again. Without you, this could have been a disaster."

"You mean it wasn't?" Marie murmured.

"No," Dee said firmly. "No one died, no one was discovered, no one was captured. And no one did this on purpose, not you, not the Warders, not the children; it just happened. There were bound to be setbacks; we both know that. We both know many, many ways this could have been worse."

A bell rang. Isabel and Diane brushed off their hands and headed for the picnic tables where lunch had been set up, Max trailing behind. "Grandma's going to join us for lunch," Diane was saying as they drew nearer, "and....look, kids, it's Dr. Johnson! We thought you'd left already, doctor. Won't you join us for lunch?"

"I'd love to," Marie answered as Isabel ran up to her. "How was the sandbox, sweetheart?"

"Good," Isabel smiled.

"And how's Max?" Marie prompted.

Isabel turned to look at her somber brother several steps behind her. "He's sad," she said solemnly.

Marie knelt down beside the little girl. "Are you sad?"

"No," Isabel answered.

"Can you tell me why Max is sad?"

Isabel said nothing, her eyes locked on Marie's. "Let's wash up, honey," Diane said gently after several seconds passed. "You too, Max. I know you didn't play, but you still have to wash your hands before lunch."

The three of them trooped off, Max still trailing behind. "Do you think she knows why Max is sad?" Dee asked.

"Perhaps," Marie said thoughtfully. "Deep down, at least. Every time I visit I ask her those same questions, and every time she gives me those same answers."

Hands washed, Diane settled between Max and Isabel on a bench, with Dee and Marie opposite. "They're still doing that," Diane commented as the children dug into their lunch, Max's melancholy apparently not having affected his appetite. "They put all that sugar and salt all over their food, and even in their milk. It's strange."

Annie appeared with a pitcher of milk. "I've seen stranger," she remarked, pouring milk into little plastic cups. "Had a kid here once who would only eat raw meat. Don't even want to think about what made him do that. By the way," she added to Marie, "we were hanging up some new art projects today, so we took down the old ones. Isabel tells me these are yours."

Annie set two construction paper drawings on the table and moved on down the table. Isabel stopped chewing and stared at the top one, the drawing Marie had made of the house she grew up in with the yellow sun overhead.

"Do you remember when I drew this?" Marie asked.

Isabel studied it a moment longer before nodding. "You said there was something wrong with it," Marie reminded her. "Do you remember what you thought was wrong with it?"

Isabel's eyes flicked toward Marie, then back to her sandwich. She shook her head.

"You thought the sun was the wrong color," Marie went on. "You thought it should be red, not yellow."

"Really?" Diane asked. "Why would she expect the sun to be red?"

Isabel glanced up at the sky. "It's yellow," she announced, pointing.

"Of course it is, sweetheart," Diane said.

"What about you, Max?" Marie asked, sliding the drawing over toward him. "Do you remember?"

Max gave the drawing only the briefest of glances before responding with only the briefest of head shakes. "I'm sorry, doctor," Diane said. "I do appreciate your trying, but whatever upset them must have really upset them. Maybe it's better they don't remember it anyway. Isabel, at least, seems much happier now." She picked up the second drawing. "Did you draw this one too? It's very good."

"Thank you," Marie said as Diane looked at Max's drawing of Earth from space. "Max showed an interest in it at the time."

"I can see why," Diane said. "It's beautiful, don't you think so, Max?"

"Diane?"

It was Madeline C. Melbourne, her arrival covering the fact that Max hadn't so much as glanced at the drawing he'd done weeks before. "Hello Dr. Johnson, Mrs. Evans," Mrs. Melbourne continued, sounding friendly toward Marie, merely cordial toward Dee. "I have wonderful news for you," she continued to Diane. "Your application for fostering has been approved. You can take the children home with you as early as tomorrow."

"But I thought you said that took weeks, or months, even," Dee protested.

"I would think you'd be pleased for your daughter-in-law," Mrs. Melbourne said, her tone turning frosty.

"Of course she is, she's just surprised!" Diane exclaimed, misreading Dee completely. "Oh, this is wonderful! I'll be all ready by tomorrow, you can be certain of that. Did you hear that, kids? You can come home with me! Thank you so much, Mrs. Melbourne."

"You're very welcome, dear," Mrs. Melbourne beamed. "I think they'll be much happier in a real home."

"And what happens to Michael?" Dee demanded.

"Oh.....Mom....we only wanted two children," Diane said awkwardly. "And he's so angry....."

"I have secured him a placement in foster care as well," Mrs. Melbourne said. "And believe me, it wasn't easy."

"Here in town?" Dee asked.

"Yes," Mrs. Melbourne answered in a steely tone. "Here in town. Diane, would you come with me? If you do wish to take them home tomorrow, there's paperwork to complete."

"Of course," Diane said. "Stay with Grandma and Dr. Johnson, and I'll be back in a little while," she told Isabel and Max, the former nodding, the latter ignoring her.

"Well," Dee murmured as Diane trotted off after Mrs. Melbourne, "Der Fuhrer must have rushed the paperwork."

"She wants them out of here," Marie said. "She was just darned lucky their little 'episode' occurred outside these walls, and if they have another, she might not be so lucky. Just imagine the bad publicity."

"Do you think the Warders will let them go?" Dee asked doubtfully.

"I hope so," Marie said. "What they need right now is simplicity and structure, which is exactly what human parents can offer them. All of them, Wards and Warders, need to take a step back, take a few deep breaths, and let things happen naturally."

"I don't think you'll have any trouble convincing Brivari of that," Dee said. "But Jaddo....he's another matter."





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





*Another day, another waste of time spent uselessly watching,* Jaddo grumbled. *Honestly, Brivari, this is worse than the humans' 'television'. And that's saying something.*

Brivari bit back a retort as he joined Jaddo on the opposite side of the yard. He remembered very well how impatient Jaddo became when he had to wait, and decades of not having anyone to rein him in had made him even more impatient than ever, if that were possible. Even the human film industry, that bastion of instant gratification, paled by comparison to Jaddo.

*Well?* Jaddo demanded. *Did you hear anything? Has anything changed? What did that Melbourne woman want? Why did Dee's daughter-in-law look so happy?*

Brivari closed his eyes briefly. He'd been delaying this, delaying what he knew would be a massive disappointment and likely cause a massive confrontation. Jaddo had spent these last weeks going back and forth as to what they should do, and Brivari hadn't challenged any of his many suggestions. In the case of Ava, he hadn't needed to as she still had not emerged; with the others, it had made sense to wait and see how they recovered. Now that the answer to that question was clear, the concept of "waiting" had taken on a whole new meaning. And given what he'd just overheard, it was time to face some unfortunate realities.

*Fine, don't talk to me,* Jaddo grumbled. *Just listen. It's been weeks, and they still don't remember. Obviously standing by and doing nothing isn't working. When are we going to realize that and try something else?*

*Now.*

Jaddo's head swung around. *Really? Finally! You have no idea how much it pains me to watch our King play in the sandbox all day and his second color pictures. When do we take them?*

*We don't,* Brivari answered.

Jaddo blinked. *What?*

*Dee's son and his wife have just received permission to take Zan and Vilandra home with them.*

* 'Permission'?* Jaddo said caustically. *We are the only ones who grant 'permission' regarding our Wards.*

*Jaddo, you know we can't take the risk of being near Zan—*

*Of course I know that,* Jaddo interrupted, *and Dee's son is as good a human guardian as we will likely find. But the others should come with us.*

*And do what?* Brivari asked. *Play house? Build sand castles?*

*No, we should connect with them again,* Jaddo said. *And again. And as often as it takes for them to regain their memories.*

Brivari stared at Jaddo in shock for a moment. He'd heard at least a dozen theories in the past several weeks, but this was a new one. *Connect with them? You can't be serious! That's exactly what got us into this mess in the first place!*

*And perhaps what could get us out of it,* Jaddo said. *We've tried holding back and waiting, but they're still every bit as lost as they were when it first happened, which is why I think we're approaching this the wrong way. Maybe we need to finish what we started. Our Wards were clearly upset at what we showed them, and we've responded by showing them nothing else....but what if that response is exactly the opposite of what we should be doing? What if the way to correct this is to continue exposing them to the truth until they become accustomed to it? Or to share happy memories to offset the bad ones?*

*According to the Healer, they may not possess the physical capacity to understand—*

*May not,* Jaddo interrupted. *But we've only tried it once, and she doesn't know. No one knows because no one has seen this species before.*

*I'm aware of that,* Brivari said, irritation creeping into his voice, *which is why we can only go on the best information we have. The Healer's logic makes sense—the hybrids have human bodies, including human brains, brains which at this point are not fully developed. They've emerged, but they're not finished. They'll need to finish their maturation outside the pods, and for their own safety and ours, they must finish it with humans.*

*Correction: Only Zan must finish his maturation with humans,* Jaddo said. *The others are another matter entirely. Even if you insist on waiting until they mature physically, nothing prevents us from raising them ourselves.*

*But how?* Brivari demanded in exasperation. *As much as we may not like it, at the moment our Wards are human children in need of parents. We're Warders, Jaddo, not parents! How would we educate them? How would we socialize them? It's not enough to merely return them to Antar; they must be returned as whole people, responsible enough to rule, capable of taking back what they lost. And what do we do when we accidentally form a connection with them and the memories of how they died overwhelm them all over again?*

*I remain unconvinced that will happen the second time around,* Jaddo argued. *And what about Ava? She has not been compromised. We have the opportunity to try again with her, to control the flow of information—*

*Until she accidentally connects with us or one of the others and sees how she died,* Brivari said. *I've been over this a million times, and it won't work. One way or another, if they're around us, they're bound to see more of what put them in this condition in the first place.*

*This is a mistake, Brivari,* Jaddo insisted. *What if placing them with humans makes them identify with humans? What if avoiding all memories allows those memories to sink deeper and deeper until they're as good as gone? And it's all well and good for Zan and Vilandra that Dee's son is willing to take them in, but what of Rath and Ava? Would you abandon them to strangers?*

Something in Brivari snapped, a tidal wave of frustration overwhelming his efforts to control his temper. *How dare you talk to me about abandoning our Wards?* he said furiously. *You turned over two—not one, but two—sets of hybrids to the Argilian Resistance without consulting me, and we lost both of them!*

*I would hardly equate entrusting secondary and tertiary sets of hybrids to allies from our own world with abandoning our living, breathing primary set to a backward species on a backward planet,* Jaddo retorted. *And you're changing the subject. What if—*

*Enough with the 'what-if's',* Brivari interrupted tersely. *We tried it your way; this was the result. Now we're doing it my way.*

Jaddo's eyes narrowed suspiciously. *What happened to you? Is this retribution for losing the other two sets? Or envy because I can have my Ward, but you can't have yours? Or is this you still smarting because your Ward gave you an order?*

*Don't be ridiculous,* Brivari snapped. *This is nothing more than an attempt to salvage our reason for coming here before it disappears forever.*

Jaddo stared at him hard for a moment. *So that's it,* he said finally. *You think it's over. You think they'll never recover. So you're going to dump them with humans and trot back to your palace, or mansion, or whatever you call it, go back to pretending to belong to your world of pretend....and then you need never answer to anyone else again.*

*And what about you, Jaddo?* Brivari said acidly. *Do you really want to play daddy to a bunch of young children, or are you just tired of scouring the globe for Special Unit agents to kill? Or maybe you're terrified you've screwed it up for good this time, gone one step too far and destroyed any hope of your Ward's return, so much so that you'll do anything, try anything, to reverse it. Because when you've driven things this low, there's nowhere to go but up.....right?*

Jaddo's face darkened. *Believe what you like,* he said coldly, *but know this: You do not make decisions for my Ward. If I want him, I will take him, and nothing you can do or say will stop me.*






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




11:30 p.m.

FBI Academy, Quantico






The door to his room flew open, startling Pierce so violently that he dropped everything in his hands, whipped his pistol out, and whirled around, unable to identify his visitor with the lights off. Who was it this time? The Bureau again? The Army? Someone else entirely? Honestly, but he was getting careless; he should have not only locked the door, but booby-trapped it somehow....

"Don't shoot!" called a familiar voice from the dark shape in the doorway framed by the light from the hall beyond.

Pierce paused. "Brian?"

"Danny?"

The light flicked on, making Pierce squint. It was Brian, gaping in astonishment at both him and the gun he was holding. "Turn off that light," Pierce ordered. "What are you doing here?"

"What am I doing here? What are you doing here? Jesus, Danny, I thought someone was going through your stuff! Why didn't you tell me you were back?"

"Because I didn't want anyone to know," Pierce said, striding over and flipping off the light, plunging the room back into the weird pseudo-moonlight produced by the lights on the grounds outside. "Which is also why I want the light off. It's not a good idea for anyone to see Daniel Pierce's room glowing like a beacon."

"Maybe not, but you didn't have to pull a gun on me," Brian said accusingly.

"I didn't know it was you. At this point in my life, it could have been anyone. Either come in and shut the door, or leave and shut the door," Pierce added. "Take your pick."

There was a pause, and then the lighted rectangle of doorway slowly disappeared, followed by the soft squeak of the bed springs as Brian sat down on the bed.

"So how'd the tour of the old homestead go?"

"Wasn't much to see," Pierce said shortly.

"Why? Did they tear it down?"

"No. Another family was living in the house where my parents lived. And the hospital was....."

"Was what?" Brian prompted.

A nightmare, Pierce finished silently, recalling the former Norwood State Hospital. Abandoned for decades, the place was decrepit to the point where he wouldn't be surprised if it had been used as a set for horror movies. Assuming they could find the place, that is, a large assumption given its location quite literally in the middle of nowhere.

"Was abandoned," Pierce finished. "They closed it in '59 after my father's murder, and no one's used it since. Place was a mess."

"What about the lawyer? Did you talk to him?"

"He still lives in De Baca County, but he wasn't home."

"So the hospital was falling apart, and you didn't get to see your parents' house or talk to the lawyer," Brian said. "Guess you really can't go home again."

"I never had a home to begin with. Not unless you count boarding school."

"Then why have you been gone for three weeks?" Brian asked. "That couldn't have taken.....wait. Are you packing?"

"Yes."

"Why?"

"Because I'm done here, Brian. So are you. This is a training academy, and we're both trained. We're agents now, so we leave."

"After we're assigned," Brian corrected. "I don't have my assignment yet, and neither do you. And I think we both know you're one hell of a lot more than just 'an agent'."

"Which is precisely why I'm packing."

"To go where?"

"I don't know."

"You don't know?"

"No, I don't know!" Pierce said in exasperation. "I just know that I can't stay here, can't stay anywhere anyone can find me. It's not safe!"

There was a pause before Brian's voice floated out of the darkness again. "Guess this means the Army hasn't gotten back to you?"

You guessed right, Pierce thought darkly, stuffing a pile of clothes into a bag, working by feel in the dark room. After that one wild night when the Bureau had treated him like a rock star and General Chambers had treated him like a pimple on his ass, the silence from all directions had been deafening. He hadn't seen hide nor hair of Agent Summers or anyone else from the Special Unit, hadn't received any messages, nothing. The offices Summers had used for their meeting with Chambers were now occupied by others, making him wonder if he'd dreamed the whole thing. So far as he could tell, he hadn't even been followed. It was as though everyone had simply forgotten about him, which made him very uneasy indeed; the only reason he would suddenly become superfluous was if interested parties had found a way to get their hands on the serum without going through him. The very notion had sent him into such a panic that he had nearly retraced the steps he'd taken to hide it before realizing that may well be the whole point of shutting him out, to make him do just exactly that.

"No, the Army hasn't gotten back to me," he confirmed. "Neither has the Bureau. And since it's been a few weeks, that probably means they aren't going to get back to me. Which means the next move is mine, and I'd best not be anywhere findable when I make it."

"But why haven't they bitten?" Brian wondered. "You offered it to them first. You'd think they'd have jumped at it."

"Because it comes with strings," Pierce sighed, having spent a good deal of time pondering that very question. "Strings they think they can cut."

"But....I thought you went to great lengths to make certain they couldn't do that. I thought your father gave you explicit instructions—"

"He did. And I followed them. To the letter. And that's the problem." Pierce sank onto the bed beside Brian. "A minute ago, you said I wasn't 'just an agent'. But you're wrong; I am just an agent, and they've figured that out. My father tried to help me, and I did what he said, but I'm just following a script. He couldn't possibly have known where I'd be if and when this happened, so a lot of it was up to me....and I think I blew it."

"But Summers said you did good with the general," Brian noted. "And you figured out Summers was bluffing."

"I 'did good' only after he dropped continent-sized hints about what to do," Pierce answered. "And I didn't figure out Summers was bluffing until the next day. I'll bet my father would have seen through him right away."

"But you did figure it out," Brian argued. "That must count for something."

"Sure it did," Pierce said bitterly. "It showed that they could snow me, for a little while, at least. It showed just how green I really am. It showed that if they leave me dangling, maybe I'll mess up, or freak out, or do something that lands the serum in their laps without having to deal with me, which is always what they've really wanted." He paused. "I'm just too new at this, Brian. I played it wrong; I swaggered and threatened and asked for too much, too soon. I'm all hat and no cattle, and they know it. So they're waiting me out. That's why the next move is mine."

"And the 'next move' is.....what?"

Pierce rose from the bed. "Never make a threat you don't intend to carry out. That's Pierce Sr. 101. So the next move is to do exactly what I said I'd do. I made an overture to the CIA. I have an appointment with them tomorrow."

"Jesus," Brian muttered. "And how does one go about making an 'appointment' with the CIA?"

"One namedrops," Pierce said. "And then one waits while they check out your story, and then you get your appointment."

"And then your first contact finds out you made that appointment," another voice said, "and the negotiations begin anew."

Pierce froze, and Brian bolted off the bed just as the light snapped on. Agent Summers was standing in the doorway.

"Who the hell are you?" Brian demanded.

"Agent Summers," Pierce said coldly, "this is Agent Brian Samuels, a friend of mine."

"Nice to meet you," Summers said casually. "Get out."

Brian looked ready to protest, but a glance from Pierce made him think better of it. He left with a murderous look at Summers which Summers ignored.

"So how've you been, Daniel?" Summers asked after Brian left.

"How've I been?" Pierce echoed incredulously. "Where have you been? I haven't been able to find you anywhere!"

"I believe that's the point of black ops," Summers chuckled. "If it's any consolation, we didn't know where you'd disappeared to until you called the CIA."

Pierce blinked. "Someone at the CIA tipped you off?"

"Of course someone at the CIA tipped us off," Summers said calmly. "We all have moles in each other's organizations. I've been waiting for you to make a move. Took you long enough."

"Took me long enough? Weren't you—"

"I meant it took you long enough to realize that you'd have to make good on your threat to shop across the street. Did you really think the Army was just going to curtsey? You made a good argument to Chambers, and he took the hint; he's plastering his name all over everything to do with this. But he wasn't going to just give in, not without seeing if you had the cajones to actually walk away. Once you did, he got the point."

"Wait," Pierce said slowly. "Does this mean........"

"It means you got your price, Daniel. The Eagle Rock facility is yours, plus access to any pertinent Army records." Summers held out a hand and smiled. "Welcome to the Special Unit, Agent Pierce."






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


Next Sunday is Mother's Day, so I'll be posting Chapter 24 on Sunday, May 16th. From there it's smooth sailing to the end of the book with Chapter 28. Book 6, the final book, will begin a couple of weeks after that. :)
BRIVARI: "In our language, the root of the word 'Covari' means 'hidden'. I'm always there, Your Highness, even if you don't see me."

User avatar
Kathy W
Obsessed Roswellian
Posts: 690
Joined: Thu Oct 31, 2002 5:06 am

Re: Awakening *Series* (AU, TEEN) Ch. 23, 5/2

Post by Kathy W » Sun May 16, 2010 3:28 pm

Hello and thank you to everyone reading!



CHAPTER TWENTY-FOUR


October 13 1989, 7:30 a.m.

Evans residence





"Do you think we should move the bed away from the window?" Diane asked anxiously. "The sun coming in might wake them up."

"That's what curtains are for," Philip said.

"But curtains are never 100%. It can always seep in around the edges. And it'll be hotter near the window."

"They're thermal curtains," Philip said patiently. "They'll block the heat and the light."

"But—"

"Why don't we wait and see what happens," Philip broke in gently. "We can always move the bed later."

"I know," Diane sighed. "It's just that Max is so sad now, and I want everything to be perfect for him."

"Everything's not going to be 'perfect', so I think you should shoot for 'good enough'," Philip said. "Besides, you put the bed by the window in Isabel's room without all this angst."

"That's different," Diane insisted. "Isabel loves the sun, talks about it all the time."

"She does?"

Heads turned toward Dee, who had been biting her tongue as she worked on the closet. "Yes," Diane answered. "She's always pointing to it, and she colors everything yellow. But maybe the window isn't the best place. Oh dear......."

Diane trotted off to the bedroom next door, fretting the whole way. "Congratulations, Mom," Philip said dryly. "You haven't made a single sarcastic remark since you got here. That must be some kind of record."

"All this new furniture must have set you back," Dee said.

"And there goes the record," Philip muttered.

"I'm not being sarcastic, I'm just stating a fact," Dee objected. "Where'd you put all that baby furniture she bought?"

"In the garage. Someone sold it to us, and we'll sell it to someone else, I'm sure."

"And the baby clothes?"

"Same thing. Someone else will be able to use them."

"Aren't you a little worried that Diane was all gung ho about a baby and now you're taking in two six year-olds?"

"Aren't you the one who kept saying we were never going to be able to adopt an infant, and that she should accept reality?" Philip retorted. "So here she's accepted reality, and you're still not happy. Why am I not surprised."

"I'm not unhappy for you," Dee protested. "I'm just....concerned, is all. These are kids with problems, and they won't benefit from having her change her mind again."

"She won't change her mind," Philip insisted. "She latched onto them the very night we found them, and they latched onto her, or at least Isabel did."

"And I worry about Michael," Dee added. "I worry about splitting them up, about—"

"Splitting who up?" Philip asked. "He wasn't found with them, he just took up with them afterwards. Besides we only have two bedrooms because we only wanted two children, and we definitely didn't want one who runs around picking fights." He nudged the twin bed Diane had been dithering over a few more inches from the wall. "Try to be happy for her, okay? Just try. Set aside all the doubts and reservations, and just be happy for her, for us, for them. I don't see how anyone could see this as anything other than a good thing."

Because you don't know what they've lost,, Dee sighed, plopping down on the admittedly badly positioned bed as Philip left the room. When it came to the hybrids, no solution seemed right. Leave them at Westlake, and they risked being discovered. Foster them and they risked the same, albeit with a smaller but more attentive audience. Even if Warders posed as parents, Max would still have to be fostered elsewhere until he could use his power responsibly. The best answer was also the most unattainable: That they would regain their memories. Although they did that, Dee amended silently, and look what happened. Marie had been right; simply remembering was not enough.

*So this is where he will live?*

Dee nearly jumped a foot; despite a lifetime of Warders appearing and disappearing soundlessly, she still wasn't used to it. *No, this is where he will sleep,* Dee told Brivari, who was standing in the far corner looking around curiously. *Still a bit of a come down for a king, I imagine.*

*He's not a king,* Brivari said. *Not yet.*

*Not that I enjoyed seeing the 'king' part of him, but according to Marie, it's still in there somewhere,* Dee replied. *She says their memories aren't lost, just suppressed.*

*I know. She was quite clear about that before she left, among several other points. Although not about the process of recovering those memories.*

*I think she's afraid you'd want to try to too soon,* Dee said dryly.

*And she'd have a point,* Brivari admitted, *at least where Jaddo is concerned. He was difficult to deal with even before his captivity, when his tendencies toward paranoia and over-reaction became much more than tendencies.* He paused. *Out of curiosity, did she mention how exactly one unsuppresses a suppressed memory?*

*Well....I gather one of the ways to do it is by returning them to where whatever upset them happened.*

*Like your parents' house?*

Dee hesitated. *I....think she meant Antar.*

Brivari chuckled, sounding more sad than amused. *Take them back to Antar in the shape they're in now? They'd be dead within days, if not hours.*

*So what are you going to do? Are you going to let Philip take them?*

*Under the circumstances, I don't see as we have much choice. Neither Jaddo nor I can safely approach Zan.*

*Then what if Anthony and I took him?* Dee suggested. *I'd like to see him try to order me around.*

Brivari smiled faintly. *As would I. But you've seen Zan with his sister. Would you separate them?*

Dee opened her mouth to say yes, yes I would, but never got there. Isabel was the only thing keeping Max sane at the moment. To lose the one anchor he had left, even if he didn't remember why it was an anchor, might shatter him completely. *No,* she admitted. *That might well send him right over the edge. But what about Michael? We could take him, and Ava too, when she's born.*

*A tempting offer,* Brivari admitted. *But if the Healer is correct, we must all be careful not to jostle any disturbing memories or awaken Ava's prematurely as we did with the others, something which will be very difficult to do if they're living with any of us. We could accidentally connect with her, or she could connect with the others.*

*Which means she'll find out how she died,* Dee sighed. *And how her husband died.*

*And how her unborn son died,* Brivari added. *After which she may very well suffer the same fate as the rest of them.* He took a seat beside her. *Jaddo wants us to take them.*

*But like you said, none of us can take them,* Dee said. *All of us know too much. Even I'll have to be careful when I'm around my own.....'grandchildren'. God, that sounds weird,* she added ruefully.

*Which leaves human fostering as the safest option,* Brivari said.

*That's not safe either,* Dee pointed out. *What if their foster parents find out they're different? Diane drives me crazy sometimes, and God knows my son does too, but they're both good people whom I hope will take good care of them even if they learn the truth. What if Michael and Ava aren't so lucky?*

*I said 'safest', not 'safe',* Brivari answered. *If they were discovered, we would of course have to remove them, but that's a risk we'll have to take. Warders are meant to be guardians, not parents. Were we to raise them, they would miss something crucial in their development, not to mention that their ability to function as a unit would be impaired because Zan would have been raised in a totally different environment out of necessity. If the king will be raised with humans, then so must the others be. They must have a common frame of reference.*

*That may even help them remember,* Dee murmured.

*Assuming they ever do.*

*You don't think they will?*

Brivari stared at his hands for a moment, clasping and unclasping them. *Jaddo accused me of not believing they would ever recover, but I have to consider that. We have to consider that. Given that none of them have shown any signs of memory since their...'breakdown', we have to face the possibility that we've damaged them irreparably.*

*But you couldn't have because they do remember something,* Dee said gently. *That's why Isabel talks about the sun so much, because that was the first thing she realized was different. That's why Max is so sad, why Michael is so angry. They're still in there. I agree with Marie—the odds are good their memories aren't lost, just suppressed.*

*Perhaps. But if they remain suppressed, they're as good as lost.*

*No,* Dee said, shaking her head vigorously. *You can tell them. When they're old enough, I mean. Even if they don't remember, you could still tell them who they are and what happened to them.*

Brivari stared out the window at the swing set Philip had erected just last night. *We could. But if they've lived their lives among humans, with only echoes of their former selves......what are the odds they'll want to know?*




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




The Haven Living Center,

Roswell





"You get all nice and comfy, and then we'll mosey along to your room," the aide said cheerfully. "Pick your foot up....nope, the other one.....that's good, Mr. Valenti. All tucked in. Off we go!"

Jim Valenti trailed behind the inexplicably cheerful aide pushing his father's wheelchair on the way to his new room, recoiling at the scent of disinfectant struggling valiantly to cover the scent of urine. And vomit. And unwashed bodies. The elderly, as it turned out, were merely infants writ large, and all the things you put up with when you had a baby, the poopy diapers and the spit-up and the dirt, were present in much larger quantities on much larger bodies in the waning years. And this time there was no reassuring oneself that they would "grow out of it". No, these people were only to grow ever more into it. Things were only going to get worse.

"The Haven is a new concept in elder care," the aide was saying. "We call ourselves a 'living center' instead of a 'nursing home' because we're trying to avoid the image of a warehouse. When you first arrive, you walk down our 'Main Street', where the gift shop and the hair salon and all the administrative offices are. Each of our four 'villages' has a different name, a village center, and its own staff. Think of it like Disneyland, with it's different lands."

"Minus the big ass mouse," Valenti muttered.

"Sorry?"

"Nothing," Valenti said quickly. "Very nice, very....innovative."

"It certainly is," the aide agreed. "And here's the town square, where all the residents can gather."

Valenti blinked. The "town square" was a large, white room with an industrial tile floor, metal tables and chairs, and cold metal blinds on the windows. A sign outside the door had the words "activity room" scratched off.

"And here's East Village," the aide chirped in her best tour guide voice, propelling the wheelchair through a set of double doors which clanged shut behind them with unnerving finality. "Your new home, Mr. Valenti."

"East Village", as it turned out, was merely the east wing of the "living center", and its "village center" the main desk behind which sat the customary 250 pound nurse who gave Valenti the customary 250 pound stare. Why did so many nurses seem to be overweight? Did they overeat to forget the demands of their jobs? But if their jobs were so demanding, when did they find the time to overeat?

"Here we are!" the aide announced as though they'd just arrived at Cinderella's castle. And it was, at least by The Haven's standards, because Valenti had sprung for a private room for his father, one of the few available. Four walls of his very own, a bed, a nightstand, a dresser, a chair, and most prized of all, his very own bathroom.

"This is all yours, Mr. Valenti," the aide assured him as she parked the wheelchair in a corner and fastened the brake. "Your very own room. Your son must love you very much."

Or feel very guilty, Valenti amended silently, dropping the bags full of his father's belongings on the bed. "I'll let you get settled for a few minutes before I bring the forms by," the aide went on. "Someone will be along later to label all his clothes."

"Label them?" Valenti echoed. "Like camp?"

"Same idea," the aide admitted. "All the laundry for a given village is washed together, so it helps get everything back to the right residents. I'll be right back with the tail end of the paperwork," she added to his father. "I think you're going to like it here, Mr. Valenti."

Don't get your hopes up, Valenti thought, watching his father stare into space. Ever since the incident with the gun and the babysitter, he'd been even more distant than usual, if that was possible. As for Sarah, Valenti had prevailed upon her to continue as Kyle's babysitter after she'd learned his father wouldn't be living with them anymore, and further prevailed upon her to keep the incident quiet. Hopefully she wasn't given to blackmail.

"So.....," Valenti said in the awkward silence which followed the aide's departure. "Would you like me to unpack your things, Dad?"

No answer. He hadn't really expected one. Valenti started unloading the bags, socks and shirts and trousers, a couple of belts, a stack of underwear. You knew things had changed when you found yourself rifling through your father's underwear.

"Where would you like these?" Valenti asked. "Would you like your socks and...other stuff in the top drawer like you had....."

He stopped, having been about to say like you had at home. The Haven was trying to reinvent itself, but most of it was just semantics, like calling the activity room a "village center". Admirable, but as it was still obviously a nursing home, the effort fell short. This was not "home" and never would be.

Abandoning any effort at conversation, Valenti spent the next several minutes unpacking. Socks and underwear in the top drawer, followed by pajamas and t-shirts. Shirts and trousers in the closet. Toothpaste and razor on the bathroom shelf. It was like a child's game of "where does this belong?", and the mind-numbing nature of it was soothing in this strange, unpleasant smelling place, at least until the illusion was broken by the reappearance of the aide.

"Why, how nice this looks!" the aide beamed with that false chirpiness Valenti was rapidly coming to hate. "Your son has done such a nice job! Don't you think he's done a nice job, Mr. Valenti?"

His father predictably didn't answer, didn't even seem to know anyone had spoken. "What a wonderful son you have!" the aide went on, undaunted by the lack of an audience. "Not everyone has a son or daughter to help them move in, let me tell you. You're one lucky man, Mr. Valenti."

The aide settled herself on the bed as Valenti sank into the one chair, reasonably certain that his father didn't feel the least bit lucky. Neither did he, although he should; he still hadn't followed up on that doctor who claimed to have known his father and who had signed off on the required three day hospital stay, but her doing so had triggered an institutional chain reaction. The three days had stretched into two weeks as a hospital social worker had worked to find his father a placement in a facility in Roswell, no small feat because Roswell had only a few such places. That she'd managed to pull off not only that but find a private room besides was something of a small miracle. Valenti had insisted on the private room because he was afraid his father would annoy the daylights out of a roommate and jeopardize his place here if he ever started talking again, or flipped the lights on and off, or—God forbid—decided that roommate was an alien in disguise. While all that could still happen even with a private room, it was less likely. Or so he liked to think.

"Now," the aide was saying, "we have all your father's records from Roswell Memorial, so I just need to clarify a few things. Will you be setting up his doctor appointments, or will we?"

"Uh....you will," Valenti said.

"Very well. And will you be accompanying him to his appointments?"

How the hell am I supposed to do that and police the town at the same time? "I....no. I really don't have a job that allows me to—"

"Perfectly understandable," the aide broke in with that maybe-you're-not-such-a-good-son-after-all tone of voice. "And will you be providing his medications, or shall we?"

"Well....you'll be dispensing them, so shouldn't you be providing them?"

"Of course," the aide said briskly. "Now, regarding personal items....The Haven provides some, while residents' families provide others. We provide toilet paper, for example, but not Kleenex. We provide soap, but not shampoo or toothpaste. You can keep track of those yourself and replenish them as necessary, or you can sign up for our toiletries program, which will furnish them for your family member as necessary, although at a higher cost." She paused, waiting for an answer. "This was all in the paperwork you were given, sheriff. Did you not see it?"

"I....guess not," Valenti admitted, mentally sifting through the forest of papers he'd been deluged with. "Um....can I get back to you on this?"

"Why don't I sign him up for it just in case," the aide suggested. "You're only charged if you use it, so it can serve as a back-up in case something is missed."

"Good idea," Valenti agreed gratefully. "Let's do that."

"We have a beauty salon on the premises which serves both male and female residents," the aide continued. "You can set up a personal account for your father at the village center, and the cost for haircuts will be deducted with each one. He can also use the account to buy items from the village store."

"Right," Valenti said, seriously doubting if his father was even capable of buying items from the village store.

"Now....about what time does your father get up in the morning?"

"Um....around 6?"

"Very good, and what time does he got to bed at night?"

"Around 9 or 10."

"Any night wandering or nightmares? Or specific fears in general?"

No, he just threatens babysitters with guns. "Not so far," Valenti fibbed, figuring it wasn't a good idea to disclose all the light switch flipping and alien finger pointing.

"Anything he doesn't like to eat?"

"Not really. He's not picky."

"All right then....I think that's it," the aide said. "If there's anything else, we'll give you a call. I'll stop pestering you now and let you get better acquainted with your new home."

The aide bustled out, and Valenti suddenly wished she'd come back; even false cheerfulness was preferable to the heavy silence which settled over the room. His father sat motionless in his wheelchair as Valenti found homes for the rest of his things, the very last being a calendar which he hung on a nail on the wall.

"I'll be back tomorrow, Dad," Valenti said, circling the date with a marker, "and I'll bring some more of your things. I just grabbed what I thought you'd need to get started because I didn't have a lot of time; this room opened up, and we had to claim it within twenty-four hours or lose it."

What am I saying? Valenti thought wearily. His father didn't care how he'd gotten here, didn't even seem to care that he was here at all. Perhaps that was a blessing. Perhaps it would make it easier to leave him here if he didn't care.

"Well.....I guess I'll be going. I'll stop at the desk....sorry, the 'village center'.....and put some money down on your account so you can get your hair cut and....other stuff. Whatever you want to do."

Nothing. Valenti stared at his father's unresponsive expression, the hands limp in his lap. What should he do? Just walk out? Just leave him there, silent in his chair, alone in this strange place with no one who knew him?

"Goodbye, Dad," Valenti said finally.

It took him several minutes to deal with the 250 lb. nurse at the "village center" and another blizzard of paperwork, and several more to wind his way back through East Village, the town square, and Main Street to reach the front doors, free at last of a burden he'd carried for years. The world had never looked so good......and he'd never felt so awful.




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




Evans residence




"Popsicles!" Diane called from the back door, producing a bouquet of brightly colored treats. "Who wants one?"

Dee watched as Isabel dropped her shovel in the sandbox and ran to the back door. Max, who was sitting on the grass a little ways away with Philip, looked up, but didn't move.

"Wouldn't you like one, Max?" Dee asked.

He shook his head. "Why don't I get you one," Dee suggested as she and Philip exchanged glances. "Do you have a favorite flavor?"

Another head shake. Dee followed Isabel to the door, where the little girl was pondering the dilemma of cherry versus grape, ultimately choosing the latter. "Which one do you think your brother would like?" Dee asked.

Isabel immediately took another grape popsicle, hesitated, then went past Diane into the kitchen, where she grabbed the salt shaker off the kitchen table and poured salt all over both popsicles.

"What do you say?" Diane prompted when she returned to the back door.

"Thank you, Mommy," Isabel said.

"You're welcome, darling," Diane smiled. "Go give Max his popsicle before it melts."

Isabel scampered off, plopping down beside her brother and handing him the salt-laden popsicle, which he accepted without a word. "Weird taste buds, those two," Dee murmured.

"Never mind the popsicles," Diane said. "Max hasn't said a word since he got here."

"Which was only a few hours ago," Dee reminded her. "And he barely said a word before that, so nothing much has changed."

"I wish Dr. Johnson were still here," Diane fretted. "I'd feel so much better if they could keep seeing her."

"She had to get back to her job," Dee said. "They'll be fine, Diane. Isabel's thrilled, and Max will sort it out."

"You're right," Diane said, nodding vigorously as through trying to convince herself. "I'll have to be patient. He just needs some time."

Maybe a whole lot of time, Dee thought as Diane plastered a smile on her face and headed off to join her new family. They had arrived at Westlake this morning to find the children packed and ready to go, Mrs. Melbourne apparently being in something of a hurry to get rid of them just as Marie had predicted. Everything they owned had been given to them by Philip and Diane, so it was somewhat comical to watch as all the clothes and toys were loaded back into the car which had brought them there along with the two children they were meant for. Isabel had been excited but wary and quite quiet on the ride home, clinging to Diane, petting her yellow sweater. Her wariness disappeared, however, just as soon as she crossed the threshold, where Philip and Diane had certainly outdone themselves turning the house into a toy store; the backyard alone looked like they'd taken out stock in Little Tykes, and Isabel had spent the next hour running from room to room over and over again as though afraid it would all disappear the moment she stopped looking. It turned out that even alien-human hybrid children responded to the pull of brightly colored plastic.

Or one of them did, anyway. Max, by contrast, had remained silent and withdrawn, doing as he was told but not responding unless absolutely necessary. He'd sat on the bed in his new bedroom looking around with heartbreaking bewilderment, eaten his lunch in silence, and followed his sister into the backyard at Diane's insistence but refused to play with anything. The popsicles had been Diane's latest ploy to draw him out, and that had failed too. She hated to break it to her daughter-in-law, but her efforts weren't likely to succeed anytime soon. Isabel may be all too happy to let go, but Max clearly wasn't. Although he had managed to finish his popsicle, handing the wrapper and stick to Philip and lapsing back into quiet staring mode.

"Hey, Mom," Philip called as he came closer, too much of a neat freak to simply set the trash on the ground until the next time he came inside. "At least he's eating."

"Haven't met a man yet who would starve himself," Dee chuckled. "Of any species."

Philip blinked. " 'Species'?"

"Never mind," Dee said quickly. God, but she'd have to be careful not to think out loud with all that she knew about these two that their foster parents didn't know. "He'll be all right. Eventually."

Philip paused, leaning against the doorframe. "I wanted to thank you for coming with us today. I had to drive, and Diane wasn't sure but what we'd need an extra pair of a hands, and they knew you better than Dad. I hope he doesn't mind waiting until tomorrow to come over."

"Of course he doesn't. Neither do Grandma and Grandpa. We know you didn't want to overwhelm them."

"They're not the only ones overwhelmed," Philip said. "It's weird, but....they're all we think about now, all we've thought about for the past couple of weeks. It's like our lives completely changed."

"Because your lives have completely changed," Dee said. "That's what happens when you become a parent, although usually you have longer than a couple of weeks to get used to the idea."

"Think we'll be any good at it?"

Dee looked at her son in surprise, but Philip was gazing across the yard at his new charges. She had never been that close to him; they were too much alike, both of them too controlling, too intent on winning any argument for them to co-exist peacefully. That he would even ask her such a question was unheard of. She moved closer, slipping one arm through his.

"I think you'll both be fantastic."





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




10:30 p.m.,

Westlake Villa





"Into bed with you now," Annie said firmly. "And no trouble, this time, you hear? You stay put."

"What happened?" Delores asked sleepily from the doorway.

"This one was up and about again," Annie said disapprovingly, pulling the covers up. "Weren't you, Michael?"

"Doing what?" Delores asked.

"Same thing as always: Wandering the hallways," Annie answered. "Trying to get downstairs." She flipped the light off. "He does this every single night, sleepwalks like this. Or I think he's sleepwalking. He must be because he's more cooperative."

"Wait," Delores whispered, catching Annie's arm before she left. "Do you suppose he's trying to get back to the other two? He's watched them from the window every chance he got."

Annie snorted softly. "If he was, he's going about it all the wrong way. Picking fights with everyone, not eating, not following the rules. All the things that would land him right up here with the other miscreants. Besides, it's too late. They're gone."

"But he doesn't know that," Delores said. "I was surprised they never tried putting them back together again."

"After the way he went after Isabel?" Annie said. "Didn't you hear Mrs. Melbourne? First thing he did after the 'incident' was go for her, Lord knows why. Maybe that's why he was watching from the window. Maybe he wanted another crack at her."

"Maybe," Delores sighed. "I just feel so bad for all of them. Whatever do you think happened?"

"No way to tell," Annie said. "All of these kids have so much baggage. Could have been anything."

They left the room, their footsteps receding down the hallway as Jaddo stepped from the shadows, his eyes on his Ward. He must have been "sleepwalking", as the humans called it, because he was indeed asleep, having never really awakened despite being caught by the aide and brought back to bed. This was a nightly occurrence now, and although the one called "Delores" didn't realize it, she had divined the reason: Rath was attempting to return to his King. Despite the setback all three hybrids had suffered when they'd witnessed what had happened to them, enough memory remained that Rath realized he had a job to do. And enough to be angry with Vilandra, Jaddo added with satisfaction. While his Ward's behavior baffled the humans, it made perfect sense in light of what he had learned about his betrothed. Perhaps he would abandon the idea of such a disastrous marriage and seek a more suitable mate when he was himself again.

Or "if" he is himself again, Jaddo amended, feeling guilty for even considering that. He'd accused Brivari of abandoning hope for their recovery, but the truth was, he harbored doubts himself. Watching Zan and Vilandra today in their new "home" eating treats and playing like any other children had been difficult, so difficult that he'd had to turn away. To see them fall so far so fast, from being themselves to being members of an inferior species, and immature members at that, was galling. Well....not with Vilandra, perhaps, who had never been much more than a child in his eyes anyway, but the king.....the king was a different matter entirely.

As are you, he added silently, gazing at his Ward, who lay half asleep and restless in his bed. Zan and Vilandra had each other, but Rath had no one......no one but his Warder. Rath was his responsibility, and the power to make decisions regarding him rested solely with the one entrusted with his safety years ago on another world. Let Brivari ponder and pontificate even as he took calls from "Hollywood" and made plans to return to his human life. He would test his theory right here, right now.

Slowly, he stepped out of the shadows. Rath didn't stir as he neared him, took hold of his hand. You're in there, he thought fiercely. I know you're in there somewhere, and I'm going to find you. Gripping Rath's hand tightly, he reached out with his mind.

Images exploded in Jaddo's mind, whirling past him like wind out of a balloon. Rath stiffened, tried to pull away, finally cried out. Jaddo held on until he'd seen enough, then let go, melting into the shadows as human footsteps pounded toward the room.

Half an hour later, Jaddo stumbled into the pod chamber and sank down onto the floor opposite Ava's pod, shaking. His worst fears had been realized: His Ward was gone, his mind devoid of any memories other than those of drawing pictures and eating lunch and being disciplined by humans. Three weeks ago during that ill-fated connection, Rath's mind had been jumbled, confused, but he had remembered key events in his life even if they had been out of sequence and focus. None of that remained. Even his memory of his own death was absent, a bad memory, to be sure, but at least it had been his, had been real. Now there was nothing in there of Rath other than a faint echo, a vague sense that something was amiss. All that was left was a shell.

A human shell, Jaddo added bitterly. Let Brivari do what he wished with it. There was nothing to save. He had come all this way after all this time only to have his Ward return for a few brief moments....and disappear. He had failed.

The pod across from him twitched.

His grief forgotten, Jaddo stared at the pod in horror as it began to shake violently, the hybrid inside fighting, clawing, thrashing wildly. Valeris had made it clear that when the gestational fluid failed, when it lost its ability to make oxygen, the hybrid it housed would begin to suffocate....and that's exactly what this looked like. He was just about to open the pod himself when a small hand burst through the surface, ripping the pod open, sending a tidal wave of fluid cascading over the floor. And in the center of that fluid, on its hands and knees, was a small, trembling creature with yellow hair and wide eyes that rose to look at him.

"Hello," he said softly.




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


I'll post Chapter 25 next Sunday. :)
BRIVARI: "In our language, the root of the word 'Covari' means 'hidden'. I'm always there, Your Highness, even if you don't see me."

User avatar
Kathy W
Obsessed Roswellian
Posts: 690
Joined: Thu Oct 31, 2002 5:06 am

Re: Awakening *Series* (AU, TEEN) Ch. 24, 5/16

Post by Kathy W » Sun May 23, 2010 4:26 pm

Hello to everyone reading!
PML wrote: Is this story going to cover their childhood? Or is the next? Or do we go straight to as they are on the show?
This story ends with the hybrids in their respective foster homes and the next begins with the shooting at the Crashdown, so their childhood isn't covered (other than references made to it.) I'm glad you're enjoying this!
keepsmiling7 wrote:I can just see a young Max being sad and withdrawn.....


Me too. As I recall from Toy House, he described himself as pretty darned miserable in the beginning. Didn't he say he cried himself to sleep every night? I have the script here somewhere..... :mrgreen:








CHAPTER TWENTY-FIVE




October 14, 1989, 8:30 a.m.

The Haven Living Center






Jim Valenti paused outside The Haven's front doors, trying to work himself into the right frame of mind. He'd left this place yesterday cresting on a wave of guilt which had dogged him the rest of the day....and evaporated as soon as he'd stepped inside his peaceful, quiet house. No exasperated babysitters with tales of his father's weird behavior. No lights flipping on and off. No coaxing him to eat. No wandering during the night. He and Kyle had spent a relaxed evening together, he'd gone to bed early, and he'd actually slept soundly. It wasn't until he'd awakened this morning, rested and refreshed, that he'd realized it had been ages since he'd slept well, ages since he hadn't had one ear cocked for his father day and night, ages since he'd been able to relax. I should have done this ages ago, he'd thought without so much as a shred of guilt. He had little enough time with his son as it was, so to have so much of that precious time siphoned off by his father now seemed wasteful. Kyle had felt the change too; he hadn't argued over breakfast the way he usually did, hadn't dawdled getting dressed. For the first time in his life he had his dad to himself, and he knew it.

Which had made it all the more aggravating when the phone rang this morning and Valenti picked it up, expecting it to be the station....and it was The Haven.

"Will you be stopping by today, Sheriff?" the woman who identified herself as his father's "case manager" asked.

"Yes," Valenti said warily.

"What time will you be here?"

"After work, so around dinner time."

"Could you come earlier?"

"What for?"

"Your father's asking after you," the case manager informed him. "He's most anxious to see you."

"I might be able to stop by on my way to work, but no promises," Valenti had replied, trying to keep the irritation out of his voice.

"I'll tell your father," the case manager said, Valenti swearing softly as he hung up the phone. Since his father hadn't even been speaking yesterday, it was highly unlikely that he was "asking after" anyone. If The Haven was going to badger him about visiting, this was going to get very old, very fast.

Post-phone call, the rest of the morning reverted to the usual routine, with him hurrying Kyle and rushing through the selection of clothes and other personal items for his father that he promised he'd bring, but had planned to bring later. They'd both been thoroughly grumpy by the time he'd dropped Kyle off at school, and now he stood outside The Haven, wondering what, if anything, he should say to the staff about bothering him less than twenty-four hours after admitting his father. He couldn't be running over here every time his father "asked after him". That had been the whole point of placing him here, to give him and Kyle some space. That and it helped not to have guns pointed at the babysitter.

"Sheriff!" the receptionist chirped the minute she laid eyes on him. "Mrs. Cartwright is expecting you."

I didn't tell her I'd definitely stop by this morning, Valenti grumbled inwardly as the receptionist babbled on the phone. A minute later a woman in a suit appeared, holding out her hand.

"I'm Sophia Cartwright, your father's case manager," she said as Valenti returned the handshake. "I'm so glad to see you. There are a few things we need to go over."

Valenti hefted the bag of clothes and sundries to the other hand and followed her down the hall. "I went over lots of things yesterday. Did the aide forget something?"

Mrs. Cartwright slowed her steps. "Sheriff, did your father exhibit any unusual behaviors when he was living with you?"

And how. "What kind of 'unusual behaviors'?" Valenti asked innocently.

"He spent almost an hour flipping the lights in his room on and off last night," Mrs. Cartwright said. "Do you know why?"

"No," Valenti answered truthfully, having never figured that out. "But he has a private room, so that shouldn't be a problem."

"It wasn't a problem, we were just curious," Mrs. Cartwright said lightly. "We very much appreciate full disclosure from family members when residents are admitted. It makes everything go so much more smoothly."

In other words, you just called me a liar, Valenti thought angrily. The list of his father's "unusual behaviors" was a mile long and contained many things his father might never do here; revealing all of them would be counterproductive. Or so he told himself as he followed Mrs. Cartwright sullenly down the hallway.

"We made a doctor's appointment for your father yesterday and wrote it on the calendar in his room," Mrs. Cartwright continued. "He became very agitated when we told him our bus would be taking him to his appointment; he seems to think you're taking him. Is that true?"

"No," Valenti said. "That's just what he's used to. The aide asked me this yesterday, and I told her The Haven would be taking him."

"Oh," Mrs. Cartwright said, obviously disappointed. "Is there any way you could drive him?"

"I'm afraid not. It interferes with my job."

"Couldn't you take some time off?"

"Mrs. Cartwright, you know I'm the sheriff—"

"That should make it easier for you to take time off."

"—and I don't appreciate being interrupted," Valenti finished in a steely tone.

Mrs. Cartwright regarded him in silence for a moment before dropping her eyes. Valenti continued along beside her, fuming inside. He'd been taking his father to his doctor's appointments for years, and they took a huge chunk out of his day; he had to budget at least four hours to go home, get his father, get to the appointment, wait for him to be seen, wait while he was being seen, drive him back home with a fistful of paperwork and prescriptions, and get back to work. One of the benefits of this place was that they would do that for him, and given what he was paying for it, they had darned well better.

His father was seated in a wheelchair in his room, wearing the same pants as yesterday, but a different shirt. "Here's your son, Mr. Valenti," Mrs. Cartwright said. "I know you wanted to see him. Do stop by my office on the way out," she added to Valenti. "We have some further things to discuss."

Wonderful, Valenti thought bitterly, feeling like a parent called into the principal's office for an errant child. "I brought you some more things, Dad," he said awkwardly, emptying the bag onto the bed. "Would you like me to put them away for you?"

He wasn't expecting an answer, but his father stirred in his chair, reaching up an arm to the calendar on the wall beside him and thumping it commandingly with his hand. Valenti drew closer and saw he was pointing to a date a week from now which had, "Dr. Shapiro, 1 p.m." printed in a neat hand.

"Yeah, your case manager mentioned that," Valenti said. "I can't take you to your appointments. I'm sheriff now; you know how that is. I can't just disappear for hours at a time once or twice a week."

Thump. "I know you're used to me taking you, and I'm sorry, but that has to change," Valenti insisted. "I can't keep doing it."

Thump, thump. "I'll put your things away for you," Valenti said, deliberately ignoring the repeated thumping that only grew louder as he opened drawers and settled things in them. By the time he was finished, he was fit to be tied.

"No," Valenti said firmly, his father's hand still pointing at the doctor's appointment. "You're just going to have to get used to it; we all are." The hand moved, thumping on tomorrow's date. "No, I can't come back tomorrow. I can't come every day, Dad. I have other responsibilities besides you."

His father's jaw clenched, and the hand turned into a fist, pounding angrily on the calendar. "Damn it, Dad, just how selfish are you?" Valenti exploded. "I've barely been able to watch my own son grow up because I've had to spend so much time with you! As if it wasn't enough that you weren't around for me, now I'm not around for Kyle because of you! It has to stop! You're not the only person in my life, and my son comes first. Unlike me, of course, who never came first for you. No, that was the aliens. They always came first, didn't they?"

Valenti grabbed the bag and stormed out of the room, his father still thumping on the calendar. Mrs. Cartwright had wanted to see him before he left, but if he did that, he'd be even later for work. It was time to lay some ground rules, time to make it clear just how far he could be pushed. For one brief, precious night he'd had his life back, and he'd be damned if he was going to lose that now.




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




Eagle Rock Military Base




"So," Pierce said, leaning on the top of the car. "What do you think?"

Across from him, Brian climbed out of the passenger seat and stared. "Jesus, Danny," he said in disbelief. "Bit of a fixer-upper, wouldn't you say?"

"I know it doesn't look like much....."

"You can say that again," Brian muttered.

".....but it's still sound," Pierce finished. "Abandoned decades ago, and the roof still hasn't leaked."

"Same goes for a lot of prehistoric tombs, but I wouldn't recommend setting up shop in one," Brian said doubtfully.

"C'mon, Brian! This isn't a prehistoric tomb, it's an Army base, and it's all ours! That's a gift!"

"Then if I were you, I'd double check your gift registry," Brian said dryly. "Does it get any better inside?"

Pierce smiled indulgently as they strode through the sand toward the door of his father's former compound on the deserted Eagle Rock base, which admittedly bore more of a resemblance to a ghost town than a military base. So what if the place was a mess? It wouldn't be for much longer, and when he was finished, it would be a monument to modernity and the persistence of the Pierce genes. What it looked like now was unimportant.

"Okay, that's not reassuring," Brian commented, stepping gingerly upon opening the first set of double doors to find dust several inches thick. "God only knows what's growing in there."

"Weenie," Pierce said casually.

"Forgive me for assuming that when you said the Army agreed to give you a facility, you meant something a little younger than the stone age," Brian retorted. "What's that noise? Are there dinosaurs in here?"

"Dinosaurs died out long before the stone age," Pierce said calmly. "Did you fail Earth Science?"

"Passed with flying colors," Brian declared, "which is why......"

His voice died out as Pierce swept the second set of double doors open with a flourish. The inside of the compound was a sharp contrast to the outside; outside it was deserted, while inside it teemed with activity and life. Shop vacs—Brian's dinosaurs—roared toward the end of the long first floor hallway, wielded by men in work clothes and face masks, sucking up years of dust. The near end of the hallway had already been cleaned, the Eagle Rock logo which had previously been nearly obliterated gleaming on the floor in the front of them. A pile of signs leaned against the nearest wall, one of which was being hung by an Army private.

"Still looking for dinosaurs?" Pierce asked.

"Wow," Brian breathed, reading the sign being hung. " 'Medical Research Facility'.....but that looks like an old sign, Danny."

"It is," Pierce said, steering Brian further down the hall, away from listening ears. "That's what this place was before my father worked here, an Army medical research facility. I guess that's what it was while he worked here too, just research of a different kind. Anyway, the Army certainly doesn't want to admit what will really be going on here, so they decided to dress up the refit with a cover story about this being a research facility again, hence the old signs. And some new ones," he added, as they passed another enlisted man fastening a much more modern sign to a newly cleaned wall. "It's going to look very legit."

"What was all this?" Brian murmured, gazing into nearby rooms.

"This? Offices, personnel quarters, that over there was a mess hall. This was the public floor, what the uninitiated saw. The real stuff was downstairs." He paused, opening a door to the stairwell. "After you."

Brian descended the stairs slowly, almost reverently, a far cry from his earlier attitude. Cleaning hadn't yet extended to the basement, so it was still in the same dank condition in which Pierce had found it when he'd visited with Agent Summers, their footprints still visible in the thick coating of dust on the floor. Along with another set of footprints which could be found throughout the compound and which Pierce had painstakingly photographed before allowing restoration to begin.

"What are you doing?" Brian asked when Pierce bent over the footprints with a measuring tape.

"Double-checking," Pierce said calmly. "Once they're gone, they're gone. This was the business end of the compound, where the alien was held prisoner and my father had his office and lab. There were x-ray machines placed at the entrance and in the stairwells because the aliens' bone structure is different from ours. That and blood tests were the only ways to identify them."

"X-rays?" Brian echoed. "What, like a chest x-ray?"

"Some kind of foot x-ray machine which was popular in shoe stores back in the forties."

"They had x-rays in shoe stores?" Brian said incredulously. "Imbeciles."

"I gather they were all the rage until everyone figured out how dangerous radiation was," Pierce said. "We'll have modern scanners, of course, that use your hand and your fingerprints." He paused, looking down the hallway. "Sometimes," he said softly, "when I stand here alone and it's totally quiet....I can feel him. I can feel my father walking here, making history.....making my future. Making this future."

He looked back at Brian, who bore the alarmed expression of one becoming seriously creeped out. "Never mind," he shrugged. "This way."

Pierce led Brian down the long basement hallway to very last side hallway leading off to the right. Two men were waiting there, one wearing a suit and a smile, the other a uniform and a scowl.

"General," Pierce said pleasantly. "How nice to see you again. Thank you for meeting me here. May I present the Special Unit's newest recruit, Agent Brian Samuels, a classmate of mine at Quantico. Agent Samuels, this is General Edward Chambers of the United States Army. You already know Agent Summers."

"Nice to meet you, sir," Brian said, wide-eyed.

"Are we finished with the boring pleasantries?" Chambers demanded. "I've delivered, Agent Pierce, but you haven't."

"Actually, you haven't delivered everything," Pierce countered. "I have yet to see those personnel records I asked for."

"I've delivered the compound," Chambers said. "Now it's your turn. Didn't you ever play Mousetrap, son? Roll your dice, move your mice, and see where you land. Then we'll see if it's my turn."

Pierce's eyes flashed, but a warning look from Summers stayed his tongue. Chambers had been nothing but hostile since acquiescing to Pierce's demands, something which wasn't likely to change even after Pierce fulfilled his end of the bargain. Still, it should be enough to take the wind out of his sails, and that would be well worth watching.

"Very well then, general. It's here."

Chambers blinked. "What's here?"

"The missing cell, the one Major Lewis supposedly constructed," Pierce said. "Right behind this wall. That's why I asked you and Agent Summers to meet me in this hallway."

Chambers' gaze raked the totally unremarkable wall in front of them. "So you expect me to believe there's an alien prison cell behind this wall?"

"My father's notes were very specific," Pierce said. "Have your men open it up."

" 'Open it up' with what?" Chambers asked.

Pierce smiled faintly. "Why, general, haven't you ever used a sledgehammer? Crack the wall, find the cell.....and then it will be your move."

Brian, who was unfamiliar with the thrust and parry of power, stiffened only seconds after Chambers did, while Summers, who had yet to say a word, merely smiled. Pierce waited patiently, knowing full well that the general's curiosity would get the better of him eventually.

Eventually turned out to be immediately. "Send a detail down here equipped to break through a wall," Chambers barked into a walkie-talkie. "And I'm charging the Bureau for any damage to this facility," he added darkly to Summers. "I said you could use it, not trash it."

"Don't fret, general," Pierce said. "The cell was apparently very advanced for its day, but that was forty years ago. I'm sure it will need upgrading."

"You ever going to call me 'sir'?" Chambers demanded.

"Of course," Pierce replied calmly. "As soon as you start addressing me as 'agent' instead of 'son'."

Chambers' expression darkened, and he pulled Summers further away to engage in what looked like a heated debate. "I hope your dad's scribbles are right," Brian murmured, "because if they aren't, he's going to eat you for breakfast."

And lunch and dinner, Pierce added privately, not voicing his secret fear that something had changed after his father had made his diagram of the compound; it was not dated, and there was no way to be sure what had happened after he'd gone AWOL. Two privates and a lieutenant appeared from the main hallway, each bearing dangerous looking axes. They would know soon enough.

"Better step back," the lieutenant advised, pulling safety goggles over his eyes after inspecting the indicated wall. "This could get messy."

Thunk. Two axes bit into the wall, sending chunks of tile and grout flying. Pierce's heart skipped a beat with every thunk as though it and not the wall was being torn to pieces. Chambers stood well clear of the debris, a grim look on his face; he stood to win either way because he'd be delighted to find the cell and delighted not to, albeit in a different way. The axes rose and fell in rhythm for what seemed like forever, and Pierce was just beginning to sweat when one of them went clean through.

"There's something on the other side!" the private who had made the hole reported excitedly.

Everyone crowded around. There was indeed a space on the other side of the hole, and the two privates set to it with a will, creating an opening large enough to step through. Pierce went through first, snapping on his flashlight to reveal a square space walled in white.

"Holy shit," Brian breathed.

"My God," Chambers whispered. "It's real."

Pierce swung his light toward the left. "The observation room is behind that wall," he told the soldiers. "Open it up."

"Observation room?" Chambers echoed. "What could they 'observe' through a solid wall?"

"It's not solid, general," Pierce answered. "The tiles have tiny micro-perforations. When this room is lit and the observation room is dark, you can see just fine."

"Your father told you that?" Chambers said doubtfully.

"He did indeed. Go see for yourself."

More thunking in the hallway was followed by more cries of discovery. Pierce handed his flashlight to the still gaping Brian and followed Chambers out into the hall where another room had been discovered right next to the cell. A counter ran along the wall nearest the cell, above which was a glass window through which Brian's flashlight could clearly be seen.

"Well, I'll be damned," Chambers said incredulously. "I had no idea they could do this in the forties."

"This was state-of-the-art," Pierce said. "Notice how there are no doors? The doors were made to look like the hallway walls so the cell would be harder to find."

"Good idea," Chambers declared. "We should do the same for the refit."

"So there'll be a refit?"

Chamber's excitement rapidly morphed into annoyance. "Of course there'll be a refit," he said irritably. "Your court-martial-worthy daddy may have left you maps, but this is Army ingenuity at work."

"Which no one would have found without my court-martial-worthy daddy," Pierce noted.

"What did you expect?" Chambers demanded. "We held a live alien here for three years—three years—with few being the wiser. That coalition fell apart in 1950 when the alien escaped, two of its top officers were arrested, and its commander was strongly suspected of helping the prisoner escape."

"General Ramey," Pierce murmured.

"So of course they destroyed every scrap of information they could get their hands on," Chambers continued. "There was a very real possibility that one of those men would talk, and it was absolutely necessary that there be nothing to back them up if they did. I may not like working with you, Pierce, but I'll happily use what your father left you. He owes us that, and so do you."

"On the contrary, general," Pierce said levelly, "it's you who owe me now. Where are those personnel records I requested?"

"Upstairs," Chambers scowled. "First room on the right."

"Thank you, general," Pierce said pleasantly. "Such a pleasure doing business with you."

Pierce left Summers to mollify Chambers and smiled all the way upstairs with Brian on his heels. The "first room on the right" turned out to be a makeshift command center which had apparently already been notified of Pierce's impending arrival given that the captain in charge handed over two boxes without comment just as soon as they arrived.

"What's this?" Brian asked.

"The personnel files of one Captain Stephen Spade and Lieutenant Yvonne White," Pierce answered, pushing one box toward Brian. "Start looking. I want their shoe sizes. Should be in the very earliest records, from when they enlisted."

Brian blinked. "You've got hidden alien prison cells in the basement, and now you want some soldier's shoe size from the forties?"

"You bet," Pierce said, thumbing through his box. "Ah....here we are. Just as I thought," he said, consulting a piece of paper pulled from his pocket. "They match."

"What matches?" Brian asked.

"Find me a shoe size, and I'll tell you."

Brian hesitated for only a moment before rifling through his own box. "Lieutenant White wore a size...."

"....7 ½," Pierce finished.

Brian stared at him. "How did you know that? And what difference does it make, anyway?"

"Captain Spade and Lieutenant White were stationed here when the alien was held captive," Pierce replied. "Spade was in charge of security while White was my father's personal assistant, and the one closest to the prisoner. It's long been rumored that these two, along with General Ramey, helped the prisoner escape."

"Damn," Brian muttered.

"Spade and White went AWOL in 1950 just like my father," Pierce continued. "They were never found....until now." He brandished a photo. "These fresh footprints were found all over this compound when Agent Summers and I first came here. One set is male, one female.....and both match Spade's and White's shoe sizes."

"You think they came back here?" Brian asked. "Why on earth would they do that?"

"I don't know," Pierce admitted. "But what are the odds that a man and a woman with these exact shoe sizes would be wandering around this very building? And not just wandering; according to my father's 'scribbles', the foot prints led to very specific places. Spade's quarters. White's quarters. The alien's cell."

"So they came back for old home week?"

"What matters is that they came back," Pierce said. "Which means they're still out there.....out there for us to find. We're not just hunting aliens, Brian, we're hunting their former keepers. And when we find them, we'll bring them right back here, to the place where it all began. Nice symmetry, don't you think?"

Brian was quiet for a moment. "Jesus," he breathed. "I knew my ship had come in when you offered me a job in the Unit, but I had no idea..... To be a part of this, of all this history, is....it's....incredible. How can I ever thank you, Danny?"

"You already have," Pierce replied. "I'm so glad you accepted, Brian, because if you hadn't.....I'd have to kill you."

There was a long pause.....and then Brian burst out laughing. "Damn, you had me going there for a minute, Danny! Always the kidder, weren't you?"

Except I'm not kidding, Pierce thought as Brian continued to chuckle. Summers had made it clear that Brian knew too much, leaving only two options: Join the Unit, or die. Fortunately he'd chosen the former.

The other loose end on his list wouldn't get a choice.




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




8:10 p.m.

Evans residence





"Wouldn't you like to stay in longer?" Dee asked as Isabel started to climb out of the tub. "You still have a few minutes before bed time."

"It's too cold," Isabel announced.

"You mean the water? Then....why don't you warm it up?"

Isabel regarded her for a moment in silence before her eyes dropped. "It's too cold," she repeated.

"Right," Dee said heavily. "Then how about if I warm it up?"

Isabel considered that for a moment before nodding, looking eagerly at the faucet as Dee turned the knob to add more hot water to the sandy bath tub. They'd spent the first few days after the children were found worrying about when they'd use their powers and trying to teach them not to, and now here she was trying to get Isabel to use hers. But there had been no hint of powers from either her or Max, no glimmer of awareness when she spoke to them telepathically, nothing to suggest that they were anything other than ordinary human children.

"Where's Max?" Isabel asked.

"He's with Mommy," Dee answered.

"Because Mommy's worried about him," Isabel nodded.

Sharp as a tack, this one, Dee thought, mentally contrasting what she'd expected from Vilandra based on Jaddo's less than flatting opinion of her with Isabel's frequent, spot-on assessments of everything and everyone around her. Max's obvious unhappiness continued to stymie Diane. Philip, being Philip, was philosophical about it, but Diane was taking Max's emotional state personally, causing her to ask Dee to help out with Isabel while she spent more time with her new son, trying to make him feel better. Isabel, for her part, was cheerfully sleeping, eating, and playing, especially in the sandbox, where she'd managed to cover herself from head to toe with sand twice today.

"Too bad Max didn't want to play with you," Dee commented.

"Max is sad," Isabel responded.

"Why is Max sad, Isabel?"

Isabel shrugged. They'd had this same exchange many times; each time Isabel acknowledged her brother was sad, but claimed to not know why. She used to, Dee thought sadly. She'd known why Max was sad when he'd discovered his wife missing. The children who had reheated bath water, fixed CAT scanners, figured out the sun was wrong, and recognized their Warders had forgotten all of that.

"Read me a story," Isabel said.

"That's 'read me a story, please,'," Dee corrected.

"Read me a story, please," Isabel responded promptly.

"Which one?"

"The one you read me last night."

"That wasn't from a book," Dee said. "I just made that one up."

"I liked it," Isabel said.

"You did?"

"Yes."

Interesting, Dee thought, settling herself on the toilet seat, unwilling to deal with the stiffness she knew would come if she sat on the floor. That story had been one of her efforts to prod their memories, efforts which would cease or at least become much less frequent just as soon as she and Anthony went back to Albuquerque.

"Okay. Let's see.....a long time ago, there was a girl—"

"A princess," Isabel interrupted. "She was a princess."

"Don't interrupt," Dee said firmly. "Yes, she was a princess. And she lived in a palace, a great big fancy house."

"Far, far away from here," Isabel finished.

"Yes, far, far away," Dee agreed, wincing inwardly at her homage to Star Wars; she'd had to stop herself last night from uttering the famous line, "a galaxy far, far way". "The princess lived in the palace with her brother," she went on, "and—"

"The king," Isabel said.

"Yes, the king," Dee said, giving up on the interruption lessons because she was curious to see just how much of this Isabel remembered. She hadn't batted an eyelash last night when Dee had made this up on the fly, but perhaps it took time to sink in.

"Were they happy?" Isabel asked.

"I think so," Dee said. "I think they were happy, for the most part."

Isabel frowned. "Until something bad happened."

"Right. Something bad happened, and they had to run away, far away."

"Because they were hurt," Isabel nodded, pausing a moment before adding, "Where did they run?"

Dee hesitated; she'd neglected to include this bit of detail last night. "They ran here," she answered. "They came to where we live."

"To get better," Isabel said.

"Yes, to get better."

"So they could go home."

"Yes, so they could go home."

"But they weren't alone."

"No, they weren't," Dee said. "People came with them, protectors who watched over them. And...." She paused again, having not included this bit either. "And someone found them."

Isabel's eyes widened. "Really? Who found them?"

"A little girl," Dee answered, "not much older than you are right now."

"Did she tell on them?" Isabel demanded. "Like they do when you get out of bed after the lights are out or take an extra cookie?"

God, they learn fast, Dee thought wearily. "No, she didn't tell on them. She made friends with their protectors, especially the princess' protector."

"He had to go away," Isabel said.

"Yes, he did. But before he did, the girl promised that she'd find the princess when she got better and tell her that he'd watched over her as long as he could, and that she should go home."

"To fix the bad thing that made them run away."

"Right."

"I want to get out now."

Dee laid a towel on the floor, and Isabel climbed out of the tub. The story had ended here last night, with the guardian gone and the princess still in the process of getting better. She'd wondered if Urza's Ward would press for more details, but she hadn't.

"So did she?"

Dee blinked. "Did she what?"

"Go home. Did the princess go home and fix the bad thing?"

Dee reached for another towel. "What do you think? Should she go home?"

Isabel pondered that all the way through being toweled dry. "Maybe she doesn't want to," she said finally. "It's nice here."

*You left out a few parts,* another voice said dryly in Dee's mind. *Like the fact that she caused the 'bad thing'.*

Startled, Dee glanced around the bathroom. *Of course I did,* she said crossly to Brivari as she helped Isabel into her pajamas. *Not that it matters. She either doesn't remember or doesn't want to.*

*I doubt Vilandra will remember if she can avoid it,* Brivari said. *She has every reason not to.*

*Unlike Michael,* Dee sighed, *who can't seem to stop trying to remember even in his sleep.*

*What does that mean?*

Dee pulled the stopper out of the tub drain. *I went to the Villa today to see if I could talk good old Madeline into letting me see him. She must have been in a good mood because she let me. I gather he was up several times last night with bad dreams. Did Jaddo tell you about that?*

*I haven't seen Jaddo today.*

*Really? I thought he'd be hovering over all of them, especially Michael. Anyway, the staff said Michael kept talking about a man in his room in the middle of the night. I assume he's talking about the night you and Jaddo visited?*

Silence. *Brivari?* Dee called. *Are you still there?*

Guess not, Dee thought, guiding Isabel toward her bedroom, past Max's room where Diane was animatedly reading him a story while he slumped beside her. The Warders were in weird moods, and who could blame them? Here they'd thought it would be twenty years before their Wards were born, then more like a hundred, and then they'd unexpectedly popped out not knowing who they were, remembered, then forgotten. It was enough to send anyone's head spinning.

"Did she ever find her?"

Dee looked down to where Isabel was sitting on the edge of her bed. "Did who ever find whom?"

"Did the girl ever find the princess and tell her what her protector said?"

Dee's expression softened. "She tried. But the princess didn't understand."

Isabel thought about that for a moment. "Will she try again?"

"Oh, yes," Dee promised. "As long as it takes."





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




He's all right, Brivari thought with relief when he found Rath staring restlessly out the window of the Villa. For a moment there when Dee had told him what she'd heard, he'd feared that Jaddo had made good on his threat and spirited his Ward off. One more hybrid to check on. He hadn't visited the pod chamber in days because he'd been keeping such a close eye on Zan, and Jaddo had volunteered to keep watch over Ava.

He knew something had happened the moment he opened the door. They'd cleaned up from the previous emergences, so seeing the floor covered in gestational fluid sent him hurrying inside. She's out! he thought elatedly. Their last hybrid, and this one unsullied by hasty experiments or human contact. It was a pity they'd had to learn on the more important hybrids, but at this point, having even one untouched was something of a miracle.

The pod was empty. Brivari eagerly looked around, calling telepathically, wondering how the others would have responded had their first contact been with a Warder instead of a human. No one answered, and a thorough search of the chamber sent him into a panic. Where was she? Had she left like the others? If so, she could be anywhere by now......

The door opened behind him, and Brivari whirled around to find Jaddo standing on the threshold. "What are you doing here?" Jaddo asked. "I told you I'd keep an eye on Ava."

"Then you missed it," Brivari said urgently. "She's emerged, but she's not here. We have to find her at once."

Jaddo hesitated for a moment, then nodded. "Of course. You take the north and the west, I'll look south and east."

But Brivari stood stock still. "You don't look surprised," he said warily.

"Of course I'm not surprised," Jaddo said. "We both knew her emergence was imminent. I'm just sorry I wasn't here. I visited only a couple of hours ago."

Brivari walked closer. "Why don't you look surprised?"

"This is hardly the time to be debating facial expressions," Jaddo said impatiently. "We're wasting time."

Brivari's jaw tightened, a horrible suspicion growing in him. "You took her, didn't you?"

"What in blazes are you talking about?" Jaddo exclaimed. "Talk sense, Brivari, or we'll lose her."

"Where is she, Jaddo?" Brivari demanded. "Tell me where she is!"

Jaddo stared at him blankly for a moment.....and then his expression hardened.

"No."




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


I'll post Chapter 26 next Sunday. :)
BRIVARI: "In our language, the root of the word 'Covari' means 'hidden'. I'm always there, Your Highness, even if you don't see me."

User avatar
Kathy W
Obsessed Roswellian
Posts: 690
Joined: Thu Oct 31, 2002 5:06 am

Re: Awakening *Series* (AU, TEEN) Ch. 25, 5/23

Post by Kathy W » Sun May 30, 2010 7:00 pm

Hello and thank you to everyone reading!
PML wrote: I just can't help but feel bad for just about everyone in this story with the exception of Pierce.
Pierce gets no slack from me either. :P
keepsmiling7 wrote:missing cell.....???
:?: Sorry? I don't know what you mean.

And Max is my favorite character, so, happy or sad, I'm a sucker for Max at any age. (I suppose it also helped that they got such cute actors to play the small and large versions. :mrgreen: )








CHAPTER TWENTY-SIX



October 14, 1989, 9:30 p.m.

Pod Chamber




Brivari had spent nearly every waking moment on this planet pondering how to keep the Royal Four safe. No matter where he found himself at the moment, no matter how much time had gone by, that singular reason for his presence here was always running in background like a filmstrip on a continuous loop flashing images of allies, potential allies, enemies, potential enemies, roadblocks, potential roadblocks, and anything in his power that could be done to combat and/or avoid any and all obstacles to their return home. It was an equation that was always changing, forever in motion, sounding at times like a bastardized version of a math problem human children struggled with: If you have "x" number of alien-human hybrids expected to emerge in "x" number of years, and they have "x" number of enemies and allies with "x" strengths and weaknesses, calculate the probability of success with a +/- ratio of "x".

Nowhere in those equations, however, was the prospect of having to protect the Royal Four from a fellow Warder. Not even this one.

"I appreciate you not attempting to continue the fiction that you don't know what I'm talking about," Brivari said coldly. "Especially since, wherever you've taken Ava, you've obviously left her alone."

"She is safe," Jaddo declared.

"No human child of that age is 'safe' alone!" Brivari snapped. "Further evidence that you are not in a position to play daddy! Where is she?"

"I'm not answering that until I have your word that we will raise her ourselves."

" 'Her'?" Brivari echoed. "Only her? Not Rath?"

Some of the fire went out of Jaddo's eyes. "Rath is no more. He died in battle, as he should have."

Brivari's eyes narrowed. "You connected with him again, didn't you?"

"You forbade me to," Jaddo said stiffly.

"Oh, come on, Jaddo! Since when did my 'forbidding' you to do anything ever mean squat? Rath had nightmares last night about a man in his room. That was you, wasn't it?"

"He was my Ward, Brivari. It was my call."

" 'Was'?" Brivari repeated. "As in past tense? So after lecturing me about 'giving up on them', you've gone and done just exactly that?"

Jaddo's face contorted, and he turned away, a gesture so alien, so completely unexpected that it caught Brivari off guard. "He's not in there," Jaddo said after a moment, his voice sounding dangerously close to breaking. "There was nothing of Rath in there. Nothing to save, nothing to wait for. He's gone."

"You don't know that," Brivari argued. "You heard the Healer. Memories can be buried deeply, so deeply that—"

"So deeply that they will never be found," Jaddo finished. "That's the part she wasn't clear on, the part she didn't want to say."

"Yes, there's a possibility their memories may never return, just like there was a possibility that none of the hybrids would survive the journey to Earth, or survive to emerge, or survive emergence, for that matter. There have never been guarantees, Jaddo. Why would you expect any now?"

"Did you hear me?" Jaddo demanded, turning to face him. "There was nothing in there, nothing. No trace of himself, no inkling of who he really was. Nothing but what he had for dinner, and some child that pushed him, and—"

"Yes, I heard you," Brivari interrupted impatiently, "and that's what I would expect under the circumstances. It doesn't mean Rath is gone forever, and certainly no reason for you to abduct Valeris' Ward!"

" 'Abduct'?" Jaddo said derisively. "I'm a Warder. Safeguarding our Wards is my job."

"And mine," Brivari retorted. "Valeris left her to me."

"Valeris is dead," Jaddo said flatly. "We are both responsible for all of them....and we disagree about how best to exercise that responsibility."

"So you've just taken it upon yourself to impose your version of 'safety' on Ava?" Brivari demanded. "Have you forgotten that it was you who was so eager to prod the others' memories? And I listened to you, stupidly, I might add, and look what happened!"

"You didn't just 'listen' to me, Brivari," Jaddo said quietly. "You wanted it every bit as much as I did. And why not? We were finally seeing the fruits of our labors—our Wards were standing before us. Of course we wanted to bring them back. Why wouldn't we? We both consulted the Healer and followed her instructions to the letter. Does that make what happened her fault?"

Brivari opened his mouth to answer, but found that he couldn't. Jaddo was right—he'd wanted to bring Zan back, to end this drama once and for all. And for all his legendary impatience, Jaddo had faithfully abided by the Healer's restrictions. This particular setback was not his fault.

"No, of course it's not her fault," Jaddo continued when Brivari stood there mutely. "It was no one's fault. All of us acted in good faith, and none of us had any way of knowing what would happen, and still have no way of knowing if something equally dire would have happened if we'd done nothing. For all we know, the same thing would have happened if they had remembered on their own. We're flying blind here, which is why it's all the more important that we learn from our mistakes and do better with Ava."

Brivari's willingness to concede his own part in this abruptly faded. "Oh, no, you don't," he said furiously. "I'll grant that none of us alone are to blame for what happened, but Ava's current situation is entirely your doing. And please do explain what exactly you mean by 'doing better'. You kept her emergence from me, spirited her off to God knows where, and now you won't tell me where she is! Is that what you call 'better'?"

"Better than being abandoned to humans—"

"Oh, for God's sake, Jaddo, they're not 'abandoned'!"

"In a way I guess they're not, are they?" Jaddo said bitterly. "They're no longer themselves, so it doesn't matter what happens to them. They're beyond help. But Ava isn't. Ava is untouched by memory or grief. To leave her with humans would be nothing short of abandonment."

"And what do we do when she accidentally connects with us and sees something she shouldn't? Or when simply being around us sparks a memory which lands her in exactly the same position as the others? We're supposed to withhold memory as long as possible, until they're old enough to—"

"To what?" Jaddo snapped. "To forget completely? To lose themselves in sandboxes and picture books like Zan and Vilandra? There was nothing, nothing I tell you, in Rath's head but the superficial life of a human child, and after watching Zan and Vilandra eat their 'popsicles' and build sand castles, I can assure you there's nothing different in their minds either!"

"If you're so convinced the others aren't salvageable, then what possible interest could you have in Ava?" Brivari asked, bewildered. "She's not of royal blood; she married into the family. She's of no use to you."

"Ordinarily, no," Jaddo agreed. "But under the circumstances, any surviving member of the Royal Four has value. Ava was the king's mate. She died carrying his son. With the help of our allies, she could, if necessary, regain the throne. And accomplishing that will take both of us, Brivari," he added earnestly. "If we're to save our last hybrid, we should do it together."

"We can't do it!" Brivari thundered. "Together or separately! We can't keep her away from humans on a planet crawling with them! If we keep her away from us, we'll stunt her emotionally, but we can't let her near us either! How do you foresee us raising her, educating her, under those kind of strictures?"

"I'll think of something," Jaddo declared.

Brivari was stunned into silence for a moment. "You'll 'think' of something?" he repeated when he found his voice again. "You'll think of something? You have no idea what you're going to do, do you? You just whisked her away, and you haven't given a moment's thought as to how you're going to do this!"

"On the contrary, that's all I've thought about," Jaddo protested. "And if you're so concerned, then help me. All I want is your assurance that you won't try to have her 'fostered', or other such nonsense. The others are already with humans. This is our last chance to get it right. And if the others aren't as far gone as I think they are, it could very well be Ava who brings them back."

"Which is precisely why she must be raised in the same environment as the rest of them," Brivari argued. "If she's to be a link, she must have a common frame of reference. If we isolate her, if we keep her separate, then she'll be as alien to them as humans are to us."

Jaddo looked at him sadly, almost pityingly. "You just can't let go, can you?" he said softly. "You persist in thinking your Ward is still in there, in that sad little boy who never stops crying."

"First you complain I've given up on them, now you're complaining I haven't," Brivari said acidly. "Make up your mind, Jaddo. You can't have it both ways."

"That was before I approached Rath a second time and realized how much was lost," Jaddo said. "But no matter. I know how you feel. And in deference to that, and to the possibility that you might be right, I'll offer a compromise: We'll raise her here, in Roswell. We can easily pose as parents and keep an eye on the others at the same time. They'll grow up in the same town, attend the same schools—"

"Haven't you been listening?" Brivari interrupted. "It's dangerous for them to be around us! We must remain in the background until they've matured to prevent what happened before from happening again!"

Silence. The ruined pods gaped at them as Jaddo gave him a measured stare. "Very well, then," he said coldly. "If that's your answer, so be it. It was worth a try."

"Where are you going?" Brivari demanded when Jaddo began walking away.

"Where do you think?"

"Jaddo, you're going to ruin her!" Brivari called after him. "She'll grow up some sort of freak, neither human nor Antarian—"

"Perfect," Jaddo said darkly. "She is neither human nor Antarian."

"—and if the others ever do remember, they'll never accept her! She'll never be one of them!"

Jaddo slapped his hand on the handprint lock, and the door rumbled open. "That's a risk, isn't it? It's all a risk. Isn't that what you just told me? No guarantees, you said. There were never any guarantees. There are only two of us left, and we both see things differently. Time will tell which of us is right."

Dear God, he means it, Brivari thought. He'd thought reason would eventually prevail, but apparently not. "Fine, you win," he said desperately. "We'll keep her here, near the others, and see how it goes. But at the first sign of trouble, we make other arrangements."

Jaddo paused, turning around. "No."

Brivari blinked. " 'No'? Isn't that what you wanted? Isn't that what you just suggested?"

"It is. But I don't trust you. Not anymore."

The anger that Brivari had successfully kept at bay boiled up inside him; his hand shot out, sending a blast Jaddo's way which missed him by inches. "I won't let you do this!" he said furiously.

"Do you really think you can stop me?"

"Did you really think I'd let you simply waltz off with my Ward's mate?" Brivari retorted.

"Your Ward is a little boy who eats popsicles. Someday you'll realize that."

Slam. A second blast hit the rock wall beside the door, the sheer thickness of it being all that kept it from crumbling. "I'll find you," Brivari threatened. "I'll find you, and I will bring you down!"

"And I'll see to it that you never find us," Jaddo said defiantly, "although you're certainly welcome to waste your time trying."

Enough! Warnings clearly weren't getting the point across, and Brivari braced to deal a crippling blow only to have Jaddo strike first. Brivari ducked, throwing up an energy shield just in time. But Jaddo kept his hand raised, causing Brivari to keep his shield up and preventing him from attacking again.

"Look at it this way," Jaddo said, his face an odd color through the shimmering green field. "I have only one, while you have three, including your Ward....and mine."

"I thought you didn't care about Rath!" Brivari shouted.

It was a cheap shot, and it worked. On the other side of the shield, Jaddo's face contorted, although his hand remained raised.

"For what it's worth, I hope you're right. I hope he's still in there. And if he is, I know you'll do right by him. Just like you know I'll do right by Ava."




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



De Baca County, New Mexico




It was well past dark when Pierce arrived at the small house in the sparsely populated county his father used to call home. He parked in the driveway and climbed out, a bottle of wine in one hand and two glasses in the other. There was a fork in the front walk, the left leading toward the front door while the right led toward what looked like an annex or addition to the building. Pierce took the left path and knocked on the door.

"Just a minute!" an annoyed voice called, followed by shuffling and muttering that was probably profane had it been intelligible. A full minute later the front light snapped on, and the door swung open with a creak.

"Mr. Angelone," Pierce nodded. "I'm sorry to come by so late, but—"

"Daniel!" the old man broke in with a wide smile. "You found me!"

"It wasn't hard. There aren't that many people in De Baca county, and even fewer retired lawyers."

"I expect you had an easier time finding me than I did finding you," Angelone chuckled. "And we're celebrating?" he added, spying the bottle and glasses. "That can only be a good thing, whatever the hour. Come in, come in!"

"Thank you," Pierce said, following Angelone into the house, the old man moving with the same surprising speed as he had when they'd first met. "Like I said, I'm sorry for the late hour, but I was in the area, so I thought I'd stop in."

"Cut to the chase," Angelone commanded. "Did you get what you wanted?"

Now it was Pierce's turn to smile. "That I did. And more."

"Excellent!" Angelone beamed. "Your father would be so proud! Now we celebrate. Sit down, sit down. Good thing you brought glasses; I'm afraid my supply of glassware just isn't the same since the wife died."

"So....is this where my father came?" Pierce asked as he settled into a living room chair.

"Yes, yes he did," Angelone answered, lowering himself somewhat more slowly into another chair. "You probably noticed the office next door. Practiced law there for nearly fifty years. But your father had somewhat more sensitive information to discuss, so we usually met here, where even my secretary couldn't overhear. I was the only one besides your mother who knew his true identity, you see. Even my wife didn't know."

"Then who drew up all the legal documents?"

"I did," Angelone said proudly. "My father made me learn to type. Said it would come in handy, even if it was woman's work. You going to open that?"

Pierce produced a corkscrew from his pocket, pulled the cork, poured two glasses, and handed one over. "Cabernet," Angelone said, taking a deep sniff. "My favorite. So....you did well?"

"I did."

"With whom? The Bureau? The military?"

"Both."

"Both? Then you did better than well," Angelone declared. "I tell you, the year your father died there were more government asses in that office next door than I could count if I lived to be a hundred. Which I almost am," he added with a chuckle. "I was suspect number one, but they couldn't pin me down; your father saw to that."

"How's the wine?"

"What? Oh, my goodness, here I am babbling, and I haven't even tried it. Oh, yes," Angelone added after taking a sip. "Quite good. Very good, even. Where was I? Oh, yes.....your father was very careful to tell me as little as possible so I could truthfully say I knew nothing about your inheritance. Took quite a bit of tap dancing, but then he was always good at that."

Pierce blinked. "So....you didn't know what you were delivering?"

"I knew I was delivering papers, mounds of papers, stacks of papers," Angelone answered, "But I haven't the foggiest what was in them. Something to do with his research, I imagine, which was what sent him running from the Army. But exactly what, I never knew, and I'm glad I didn't judging from the frenzy it drove everyone into. Might have lost my nerve."

"What about my mother? Did she know?"

Angelone's expression darkened. "Not a thing, Daniel, not a blessed thing. Your mother was one of the most trusting souls I've ever met; she trusted your father implicitly, so she would have—and did—trust any instructions he left implicitly. Unfortunately she also trusted that charlatan Lewis who married her just to get at you....and then got rid of her when she got in the way."

Pierce kept his eyes on his glass. "Do you think she found out?"

"About what was left to you? No," Angelone said. "When your father was killed, she suddenly found herself without a husband or income and a baby due in a couple of months. She had other things on her mind. But I'm speculating, of course. Lewis squirreled the both of you away, away from me, away from her own family, even. After she married Lewis, I had no further contact with her. The closest I came was a visit to the Hall of Records in Santa Fe to look for your birth certificate. She'd named you after your father just as he'd instructed, although she never knew why."

Pierce set his untouched wine glass down. "Mr. Angelone, I wanted to thank you for keeping my father's inheritance safe all these years and fulfilling your promise to deliver it. I wonder if he knew what a good friend you were."

"We were good friends," Angelone agreed. "See that painting over the fireplace? He bought that for me. It was quite expensive. Had an eye for the finer things in life, your father did. But it was also a professional matter. I was your father's lawyer, he made a bequest, and I'd be damned rather than not see his wishes carried out no matter how many wished otherwise. Although, frankly, I wondered if I'd live long enough to see your thirtieth birthday. And I certainly never expected to be talking to you about it after the fact."

"Why's that?"

"Because I figured they'd kill me, Daniel. Especially after they learned they'd been right, that it had been me all along. That would have gotten their goat," he added, chuckling. "Know what would have gotten it even more? If they ever discovered that the only one who ever did figure it out was a lowly sheriff."

Pierce's eyes snapped up. "A sheriff?"

"That's right," Angelone said with satisfaction. "Didn't see that one coming. Of all the uniforms and suits that threatened me, I never....." He paused, putting one hand to his forehead. "Oh, my. Perhaps I had a bit too much of this wine."

"You said a sheriff figured it out?" Pierce pressed. "What exactly did he figure out?"

"What?" Angelone asked, looking confused. "Oh....he figured out I had it. Even seemed to know more about it than I did. I always wondered....I'm sorry," he said, sounding breathless. "I'm afraid I'm not feeling well."

"It'll pass," Pierce said impatiently. "Who was he?"

The wine glass slipped from Angelone's hand. Pierce caught it just before it hit the floor, took hold of the lawyer and shook him. "Mr. Angelone! Who figured it out? What was the sheriff's name?"

Angelone's head nodded forward, resting on his chest. Pierce put two fingers on his neck.

"Shit!" he exclaimed, hurling the wine glass into the fireplace.

"You'll have to clean that up, you know," Agent Summers said behind him.

Pierce whirled around. "I thought I told you to wait in the car."

"I thought you might need a hand....or be getting cold feet," Summers said calmly.

"He didn't know," Pierce fumed. "He had no idea what I inherited."

"So he said. But even if he didn't, he still knew too much."

"Did you know a sheriff figured out that Angelone was in charge of my father's inheritance?" Pierce demanded. "He died before he could give me a name."

Summers frowned. "Really? That's unfortunate. But as this sheriff never seemed to have done anything about it, I doubt it's important. Assuming it's even true, of course. This was a very old man."

"Right," Pierce muttered. "A very old man who managed to keep what he had from the mighty FBI, find me decades later, and infiltrate Quantico."

Summers smiled faintly. "I'll admit that was embarrassing, although useful because it highlighted gaps in our profiling. We learned from it. And as for his health, look at it this way; you saved the good Mr. Angelone from a possibly long and debilitating decline. Instead he left this Earth peacefully and painlessly in the midst of a chat with the son of a good friend....and you proved your loyalty to the Unit. Not bad for a night's work." He paused. "I got a call from Agent Samuels right before we left. He's been showing around age adjusted photos of your Captain Spade and Lieutenant White, and he found a gas station owner outside Roswell who said they may have stopped there for gas."

"Credit card?" Pierce asked hopefully.

"Nope. Cash. If they've been missing this long, they know the drill. But....looks like you were right. Maybe they are still out there."

"I was right," Pierce said softly.

"Don't get a big head about it," Summers said blandly. "Like I said, you'll need to clean up that glass. No one will bother with an autopsy on a man this old, but someone might ask questions if they found a broken glass—what are you doing?"

"Taking this," Pierce answered, hefting the painting over the fireplace off its hooks.

"Someone also might ask questions if something's missing," Summers said. "Particularly a large and valuable something. Like a painting."

Pierce gave Summers a pointed stare. "I don't care. I want this. And get someone else to clean up the mess. As of now, that's officially below my pay grade."




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




Proctor residence




"So he just....left?" Dee asked in astonishment.

"Yes," Brivari said tersely. "He just left."

"And you let him?"

"Of course not. I searched for several hours, for all the good I knew it would do me."

"But...then what are you doing here? You should be out there looking for him!"

"Dee...." Anthony said warningly.

"No, I mean it," Dee insisted. "He's got Ava with him, so she'll slow him down. He can't just melt into the woodwork. And we know what she looks like, and what she looks like won't change, so if we all get going, we should be able to—"

"Dee," Emily said firmly. "Stop."

Dee fell silent reluctantly, staring in disbelief around the dining room table. Brivari had just finished the incredible tale of Ava's abduction as she, Anthony, and her parents listened in stunned silence, too surprised to do much more than sip the coffee which Emily had made when it had become clear they would need it. Now they all gazed at her with looks ranging from reproachful—that would be her mother—to pitying. At her. As though she was the one who had done something wrong.

"Explain to me why we're all sitting here drinking coffee when we should be out looking for them," she said, her voice rising. "We're wasting precious time!"

"When you first came back to Roswell, you told me that you could have found Jaddo if you'd wanted to," Anthony said to Brivari. "What makes you think you couldn't find him now?"

"Because he wasn't trying to hide from me," Brivari answered. "We're very much a match, he and I. I've always dreaded the day we went head to head because I was never certain who would win."

"But you haven't gone head to head, not yet," Dee protested. "Like I said, he can't move the way he usually would with a human child in tow, so he should be findable."

"And what happens when he finds them?" David interjected. "If Brivari brings Ava back by force, what's to stop Jaddo from taking her again?"

"We could hide her," Dee said stoutly.

"And he'd find her," David said. "Without her to protect, he'd be able to devote every waking minute to looking for her."

"Exactly," Brivari said. "It would never end. Unless I ended it."

"Meaning?" Emily asked faintly.

"Meaning he'd have to kill him," David said.

Good Lord. Dee's next words died in her throat, smothered by the prospect of one Warder killing another. "And there's my dilemma," Brivari said. "There are only two of us left. I can't afford to sacrifice a Warder for a hybrid, and the least valuable hybrid at that."

" 'Least valuable'?" Dee echoed. "What, now they have price tags?"

"In a manner of speaking," Brivari replied. "Ava is the most expendable because she's not of royal blood. Neither is Rath, but he was the king's chief military officer; Ava was merely the king's wife. Even Vilandra is more valuable as the king's sister and object of desire for Khivar. I'd rather not lose any, but if we have to lose one, that's the one to lose."

"It's still hard to believe he'd abandon his own Ward," Anthony said. "He must really believe he's damaged beyond repair to be willing to leave him behind."

"Jaddo is a military man, and he made a military decision," David said. "He took the one he felt was most likely to survive regardless of his personal preferences. In other circumstances, that kind of pragmatism would be an asset."

" 'Pragmatism'?" Dee exclaimed. "Honestly, what's the matter with all of you? She's a little girl! He took a little girl, and you're all carrying on like he walked off with some machinery which may or may not work right! Have any of you stopped to think what kind of a life she'll lead with only Jaddo to turn to?"

A long silence followed, one which was finally broken by Emily.

"Dee's right."

Dee blinked. "I....I am? I'm right?"

"Yes, you are," Emily said. "From what we know, Ava is still a child, and Jaddo is no parent."

"Imagine that," Dee muttered. "You never think I'm right."

"I'm having a hard time seeing Jaddo doing the kinds of things human parents do," Emily continued, ignoring her. "Can you see her sitting on his lap while he reads her a story, for example?"

"He'll touch her as little as possible," Brivari said. "Physical contact means she could connect with him and wind up in the same condition as the others. That's why none of us can safely act as day-to-day guardians, because we all know too much and could transmit that even without meaning to."

Emily had gone white. "He won't....touch her? Won't hug her, or hold her hand, or.....oh, my," she finished sadly when Brivari shook his head.

"That's going to be one warped little girl," Anthony murmured.

"So what do we do about that?" Emily said. "Do we just leave her to that fate, or do we go look for her?"

"He might still be in the area," Dee said, pressing the rare advantage of having her mother on her side. "We could file a missing person's report with the sheriff's station—"

"You do know that means Valenti's kid, right?" Anthony interjected.

"And if any of those deputies find her, what do you think will happen to them?" David asked.

"He's right," Brivari said when Dee fell silent. "Jaddo would kill anyone who threatens a hybrid. So would I. You know that."

"We all know that," Emily said quietly.

No one said anything for several long, uncomfortable moments. "So I'm afraid we're back where we started," Brivari said finally. "He has Ava, while I have the other three. He won't interfere with my oversight of those three because in order to do so, he'd have to leave Ava unguarded, and the same is true for me; I would have to leave them unguarded in order to mount any serious search for him. And I won't do that."

"Because she's not worth it," Dee said sourly.

"Because even one of the others is more valuable than she is," Brivari corrected.

Dee fastened her eyes on Brivari. "I wonder how Valeris would feel about that."

But Brivari returned her stare without flinching. "I believe that, under the circumstances, Valeris would understand why I've made the decision I have."

"You mean you want to believe that."

"Of course I want to believe that," Brivari said. "But even if he didn't, my decision stands. The point of this entire exercise is to restore the previous dynasty to the throne. Given what it will take to accomplish that, the king will have more need of his general than his wife."

"And what happened to that general?" Emily asked. "If Jaddo did this 'connection' thing with him again, is he even worse off than before?"

"He didn't look that way this morning," Dee answered. "He was meeting his foster family; they looked decent enough, and he didn't act up. I think it was all written off as a bad dream,"

"Let's hope it sticks," Emily said. "I have a feeling Michael isn't going to be the easiest child in the world to deal with."

"I'm not certain the others will be either," Anthony murmured. "At least not Max."




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



Evans residence




Diane Evans stirred, opening her eyes. The clock on the bedside table read 11:45 p.m., the red letters bright in the dark bedroom, a faint breeze lifting the curtains just behind it. She slept so lightly now, alert to the tiniest sound. Even when awake she found it hard to concentrate because her mind was always cataloging where each child was and what each was doing. This must be why parents always seemed so spacey and scatterbrained, from a combination of worry and exhaustion. But why was she awake now? She lay rigid in bed, ears straining for the slightest sound. It was several seconds before she heard it, a muffled choking noise that was sadly familiar.

Sighing, Diane pulled herself into a sitting position. Philip snored beside her, oblivious; he never heard anything at night, lucky man. He didn't move as she stuffed her feet into slippers and pulled on a robe, closing the bedroom door quietly behind her as she left. At least one of them should get some sleep.

Her first stop was Isabel's room. She was sound asleep, her blond hair splayed on the pillow, her right arm clutching the yellow sweater Diane had worn yesterday when they'd taken the children home from the Villa. She'd known what she'd heard wasn't coming from Isabel, but she'd stopped here first just to remind herself that Isabel, at least, was happy here. She and Philip must be doing something right.

The sound was louder now that she was closer. Diane paused outside Max's bedroom, listening to the muffled sobs. He'd cried himself to sleep last night with her beside him, desperately wishing there was something she could say, something she could do that would give him some comfort. But nothing she'd said had made a bit of difference, and he'd finally succumbed to exhaustion after an hour of shaking sobs. Was the same thing going to happen tonight? She was his mother; she couldn't let this go on night after night. But as she stood outside his bedroom listening to him cry, nothing came to mind, nothing at all. Perhaps crawling into bed with him and holding him while he cried was truly all she had to offer.

"Max?" Diane said softly, walking up to the bed. "Max, it's Mommy."

She stroked his hair, trying not to take it personally when he flinched and stiffened as she lay down beside him. "Why are you crying, sweetheart?" she whispered. "Tell Mommy what's wrong."

He didn't answer, just lay there snuffling. She hadn't expected an answer; she hadn't received one last night, or so much as a word all day yesterday or all day today. Max hadn't uttered one single word since he'd left the Villa. Not "hello", or "good night", or "I'm hungry", or "where's the bathroom"......nothing. Isabel chattered up a storm that more than made up for her brother's lack of conversation, but Max's silence was worrisome. She was beginning to wonder if she should take him to see someone, although she wasn't at all certain how much good that would do if he wouldn't speak....

"Home."

Diane nearly stopped breathing. "What, honey? What did you say?"

"H-home," Max stuttered, his shoulders shaking. "Want to go home."

He talked! Diane exclaimed privately, absolutely thrilled even though she was still holding a sobbing child in her arms. "Sweetheart, you are home," she said earnestly. "This is your home, and this is your room, all yours."

The small dark head beside hers shook violently. "No."

A tiny flame of annoyance flared in Diane. She'd poured her heart and soul into making a home for them, and while Isabel was grateful, Max didn't seem to care. Didn't she deserve at least some credit for all her hard work, for giving up her dream of an infant, for......

A second later, Diane was drowning in guilt. What on earth was the matter with her? She was supposed to be a parent, for God's sake. This was about Max, not her, and of course this wasn't home. How could it be?

"Max," she said softly, "do you remember your home?"

Silence. Diane had just about resigned herself to another non-answer when the dark head close to hers nodded. "You do?" she said, surprised. "Where is it, Max? Where is your home?"

There was a pause.....and then one small finger rose, silhouetted against the window, pointing toward the ceiling.

Up? Well, yes, of course "up". The bedroom in which he and Isabel had slept at the Villa had been on the second floor. "I know," she said. "You slept upstairs at the Villa. But we don't have an upstairs here, so....."

The small head shook again, the finger dropping back to the bed, the little body shaking as fresh sobs began. What am I going to do? Diane thought desperately. She was a parent now; she was supposed to know what to do. What had she been scared of as a child? There had been that little oscillating fan which squeaked when it turned. Her mother had used a crayon to draw a face on it complete with pink cheeks and a happy smile, and she had never been scared of "Freddie the Fan" again. There had been the ghost in the closet which had been combated by placing a hand-drawn ghost on the back of the door, ghosts apparently being afraid of other ghosts, and a doll with a strange face which was always turned away from her at bedtime after being covered with a special blanket which her mother had claimed was too heavy for the doll to lift. Come to think of it her mother had usually played into her fantasies, equipping her with some talisman or other to neutralize whatever frightened her rather than trying to talk her out of it. Wise advice with a young child, perhaps, but Max wasn't frightened of something coming to get him or anything conventional; he was frightened he would never see his real home again, a fear which she had to admit was all too likely to come true. How did one combat that?

Max continued to sob, and Diane continued to hold him, every bit as miserable as he was because she was convinced she was failing her first real test as a parent. It was one thing to swoop in from above and rescue two abandoned children. It was easy to buy them furniture and toys, ply them with treats, and read them stories. But what did one do when one of them was terrified of something intangible, something absent, something....unfixable? No matter how creative one was, there was no monster repellant for this one, nothing she could hand him to protect him from what stalked him everywhere he went....

The curtains fluttered, the streetlights outside barely illuminating the toy box by the window piled high with everything she and Philip could find at local garage sales. Including one item which Philip had teased her about, saying no modern child would ever want that.

"Hang on, sweetheart," Diane said, sliding off the bed. A second later she was back.

"I've got something for you, Max."

The sniffling diminished; a head turned slightly. Diane reached around and took one small hand, unfolded the fingers.

"This is for you."

She watched as he ran his hands over the little wooden house, a child's toy from earlier generations, a bit of an anachronism in this day and age of Little Tykes plastic. "It's a house....but not just any house," Diane whispered confidentially. "It's a very special house."

There was a pause....and then he took the bait.

"Why?"

"Because this house knows where your home is, Max. And if you hang onto it....if you keep it with you.....one day it could take you home."

The small hands moved over the painted windows. "Really?"

"Really," Diane said firmly. "It knows where its owner lives. If it were mine, it would know where I lived, where I came from. But it's yours, so it knows where you came from. It's a magic house. So you need to take special care of it so that when you're ready, it can show you the way home."

The hands brushed the walls, traced the roof line. "If it does," Max's small voice said, barely audible, "will you let me go?"

What kind of six year-old asks a question like that? Diane thought, holding him closer. But six years old or not, it was a legitimate question: What if Max's and Isabel's real parents did surface? She and Philip were only fostering, and Mrs. Melbourne had made it clear that should any natural parent reappear, the law would be on their side even though their children had been found wandering naked in the desert. If the time came, would she be able to give them up?

"Of course I would," Diane answered. "If the house leads you home, I'll let it take you there. I'll help you get there. Because I love you."

Liar, she thought privately. But what was important now was what Max needed to hear, and Max had obviously need to hear just exactly that because he curled on his side, the crying replaced by periodic sniffs.

"Would you like me to stay with you for a while?" she asked.

Her answer was only a small head shake, but no matter; Max had already said more to her in the past five minutes than he had since they'd met. Diane tucked the blankets around her little boy and his magic house and paused in the doorway, watching him cradle the house in the crook of his elbow. It would make for a strange bed companion with its rough edges and sharp corners, and she had no idea if that was lead-based paint. She was probably violating all kinds of safety rules; experts would shudder. Parenting magazine would not approve. Tough, she thought firmly. She'd vowed to be the perfect parent, but if breaking the rules helped her little boy sleep at night, she'd break every rule out there for as long as it took, and to hell with the experts. By all objective measures she'd just failed her first real test as a parent....but it looked to her like she'd won.



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


Only 2 more chapters to go! I'll post Chapter 27 next Sunday. :)
BRIVARI: "In our language, the root of the word 'Covari' means 'hidden'. I'm always there, Your Highness, even if you don't see me."

User avatar
Kathy W
Obsessed Roswellian
Posts: 690
Joined: Thu Oct 31, 2002 5:06 am

Re: Awakening *Series* (AU, TEEN) Ch. 26, 5/30

Post by Kathy W » Sun Jun 06, 2010 3:02 pm

Hello to everyone reading!





CHAPTER TWENTY-SEVEN




Three weeks later



November 6, 1989, 7 a.m.

Valenti residence






"Up'n at'em!" Valenti called. "Pancakes are ready!"

There was a pause before footsteps padded out to the kitchen. "You made pancakes?" Kyle asked.

"You bet I did."

"You never make pancakes."

"Well, I did this morning," Valenti smiled. "Go get dressed. Hurry up, they're getting cold."

Kyle hesitated for just a moment as though still unable to believe that his father was both domestic and cheerful. Then he scampered back to his room and dressed in record time judging by the fact that he slid into his seat at the kitchen table just as Valenti was setting a steaming plate of hot cakes at his place.

"I got you some real maple syrup," Valenti said proudly, pouring a generous amount over his own stack.

"Looks different," Kyle said suspiciously.

"Sure it does. Real syrup is much thinner than that thick, corn syrupy stuff. Here....taste."

Kyle dipped a finger in the syrup and grimaced. "Yuck!"

"What do you mean, yuck? This is real syrup, not that fake stuff."

"I like the old stuff," Kyle declared, going to the cupboard and returning with a bottle of Aunt Jemima.

"No accounting for taste," Valenti muttered. "Okay, I'll keep the real stuff for me."

"Theez good," Kyle said, his voice muffled.

"Thanks. Don't talk with your mouth full."

They ate in companionable silence for the next few minutes, each of them polishing off seconds before Kyle spoke again.

"Daddy?"

"Hmm?"

"Can I ask you something?"

"Sure."

"Anything?"

"Sure, anything."

There was a pause. "Even if it means I'm bad?"

Valenti resisted the urge to roll his eyes. "What'd you do now?" he sighed.

"Nothing," Kyle said. "I just...."

"You just what?"

Kyle stared at his fork as it picked at pancake remnants. "Does it make me bad if I'm glad that Grandpa isn't here anymore?"

Not unless it makes me bad too. "No, Kyle, it doesn't make you a bad person," Valenti said gently. "Grandpa needed more help than we could give him. And I know he bothered you. He bothered me too."

"He didn't bother me," Kyle protested. "That's not why I'm glad he's not here."

"Then why?"

"Because you got so mad at him. And now you're not mad any more."

"Oh," Valenti answered, chastised.

"Will I ever see him again?"

"Of course you will. He's not that far away."

"When? When will I see him?"

"Sometime when you don't have school. Maybe next weekend."

"Can we write it on the calendar?"

What is it with calendars? Valenti thought. First his father and now his son wanted promises in writing on the calendar. "Not until I know for certain," he said.

"When will that be?"

"Not this morning," Valenti said. "Finish your orange juice." And not tomorrow morning either, or the morning after that, he added silently. Not until he'd had a few more days to savor the relative peace and quiet his father's absence brought.

The phone rang. "Aren't you going to get it?" Kyle asked when Valenti didn't move.

"Nope."

"Why not?"

"Because I'm eating breakfast."

"But you always get the phone."

"I'm working on my life balance," Valenti said. "Which means I'm trying to keep work and home separated," he added when Kyle looked puzzled.

"But what if it's Grandpa?"

"Grandpa hasn't used a phone in years," Valenti said as the answering machine picked up after precisely six rings, the number he'd programmed in last night.

"Why can't I hear anything?" Kyle asked, his fork poised in mid-air.

"Because I turned down the volume so people who left messages wouldn't bother us. Put your dishes in the sink, and go brush your teeth. It's almost time for school."

Kyle obediently rose and deposited his plate and glass in the sink before heading to the bathroom. Valenti remained at the table, finishing his coffee and studiously ignoring the answering machine which was still displaying the "someone's leaving a message" icon, a pretty long message from the looks of things. But then The Haven was expert at laying it on thick. There was no way he was going to run up there every single day or even every single week. They'd sucked him in twice already with a guilt trip, which meant they'd keep trying it, for awhile at least. He'd decided to screen all calls before answering them; heck, he might even invest in that new-fangled "caller ID" the phone company was pushing. It would be worth a few extra dollars just for the peace of mind.

Rising from the table, Valenti put his own dishes in the sink just as the answering machine switched to blinking in short, accusatory bursts. Kyle reappeared, only to be sent back to the bathroom to wash the toothpaste off his face. Ten minutes later they were both ready to go.

"Aren't you going to listen to the message?" Kyle asked as the answering machine flashed like a cruiser's rotary beacon.

"Later," Valenti said shortly, making a mental note to relocate the machine to a less visible spot. "We have to get you to school and me to work. Got everything? Your backpack feels lighter than usual....."

He stopped as something fell out of Kyle's backpack, something small and hastily retrieved by Kyle. "What's that?" Valenti asked.

"Nothing," Kyle said quickly.

"Which is code for 'something you're not supposed to have'," Valenti said dryly. "C'mon....let's see it."

Whatever he'd been expecting, it was not what his son sheepishly placed in his outstretched hand. It was the key from his father's box, the one he'd almost shot the babysitter over when he'd accused her of being an alien. "Where did you get this?" Valenti asked, trying to keep the anger out of his voice because he knew there was only one way Kyle could have gotten this key. "This was in Grandpa's box. Did you go in there?"

Kyle nodded slightly, staring at the floor. "Why?" Valenti demanded. "You know you're not supposed to be in my room."

"I wanted to see what was so special about it."

Valenti sighed heavily. "And what did you decide was so special about it?"

Kyle gave a small shrug. "Nothing. It's just a key."

"Exactly," Valenti said. "And another reason why Grandpa needed to live somewhere else. Don't ever go in my room again, Kyle."

"Yes, sir," Kyle said, abashed. He paused. "What's it for?"

"What?"

"The key. What's it for?"

"I don't know. I doubt Grandpa does either."

"Then why did he want it so bad?"

Good question, Valenti thought privately. According to his father's files, the key belonged to the John Doe with the weird handprint on his chest, the one who had turned up only weeks after the FBI had nearly carted them all off because they claimed there were aliens in Roswell. "That key belonged to a man who died," Valenti answered, figuring it was better to assuage at least some of Kyle's curiosity, "a man Grandpa was never able to identify. I guess he wanted to solve the mystery."

"Do you want to solve the mystery?" Kyle asked.

"Every law enforcement officer out there would want to solve a mystery like that," Valenti said lightly.

"Are you going to solve it?"

"Nope."

"Why not?" Kyle persisted.

Because solving mysteries like that wrecks your family, makes you loopy, and gets you fired. "Because it was a long time ago," he said out loud. "I have a lot of other mysteries to solve, mysteries that involve people who are here now. Those come first. Let's go; we're going to be late."

Kyle considered that for a moment before hoisting his backpack on his shoulder, apparently either agreeing with him or unable to come up with a counterargument. What he hadn't told Kyle was that he'd love to solve this mystery, to find out what had really happened to Mr. Silver Handprint Doe if only so he could present the evidence to his father and ask him why he'd wasted so much time chasing phantoms at the expense of his family, his reputation, his very sanity. So he could say, See? You were wrong, Dad. Was it all worth it?

The phone rang again. Kyle's eyes darted nervously toward it as Valenti's stomach clutched. That did it; as of this evening, the ringer was off too. Honestly, what did it take to get his father out of this house? It still felt like he was here, like there was nowhere to hide, not here and not at the station, where he saw his father sitting at that desk every single day he opened the office door.....

"Kyle," Valenti said suddenly, "would you like to come to the station with me this weekend? I could use your help."

"What for?"

"I'm going to move my office to another room."

"But that was Grandpa's office."

"I know," Valenti said with feeling. "And I'm thinking I want my own, one that no one's used before. The sheriff's office has always been on the first floor, so maybe I'll pick a room upstairs. I'll need some help carrying things. What'dya say?"

"Do you think Grandpa will mind?" Kyle asked.

The phone stopped ringing. "Let's not mention it to him," Valenti suggested gently.






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




Cahoon Park, 11:30 a.m.

Roswell





"Maxie! Isabel! Ten more minutes, and then we eat lunch!" Diane called, adding, "Philip, did you hear me?"

"Yes, I heard you," Philip answered in martyred tones. "The whole park heard you."

"Well, I never know if you're listening when you're glued to that camcorder," Diane said. "Sometimes you are, sometimes you aren't. Do you need help, Mom?"

"I can handle a picnic table," Dee answered, suppressing a smile; becoming a parent had had the welcome effect of making Diane less passive, even with her own husband. "I've gone to lots of picnics."

"Don't forget this," Diane said, pulling a bottle of hot sauce out of the picnic basket. "I have no idea why, but both kids have taken to sprinkling this on just about everything, just like with the salt and sugar. The doctor said it won't hurt them. I guess it's just a harmless quirk."

"Probably," Dee said lightly. "I've got the rest. Go play with your kids."

"Are you sure?" Diane asked. "It's not fair to stick you with the work. I've been doing that so much lately, and I really have to stop."

"You've had a rough few months, moving here and becoming a parent all at the same time," Dee answered. "I'm happy to help."

"And your support has meant so much to me," Diane said gratefully. "Especially when Philip gets ornery, like when I wanted to keep the kids out of school for awhile. He really thought sending them off to school right away would be good for them, and I just couldn't make him see that they'd already had enough transitions for the time being. Thank goodness you convinced him otherwise. How did you pull that off?"

"I just told him I agreed with you," Dee said, neatly sidestepping the shouting match she'd had with her son over the children's schooling. Obviously she couldn't explain to him why it would be a very bad idea to plop alien-human hybrids in a school setting with their mental state still in question, but independent of that, she'd agreed with Diane's gut reaction that school at this point would be too much, even for human children in the same situation. Convincing her notoriously hard-headed son of this had taken some doing, but eventually Philip had caved under the combined pressure of both wife and mother, muttering something about having liked it better when Dee and Diane hadn't gotten along so well.

"Whatever you said, I'm just glad it worked," Diane was saying. "And I'm thrilled that you and Dad are moving here. I'll feel so much better knowing I don't have to bother Philip at the office if I have a problem."

"We're moving to Corona, not Roswell," Dee said. "And to be precise, we're moving back to Corona. We grew up there, remember? Or I did, at least. Dad didn't move there until he was eight."

"Really? I thought he was born there too."

"Nope. We met in Grandma and Grandpa's backyard one day when everyone was playing 'capture the alien'. It was 1947," Dee added when Diane looked blank. "Just after the crash."

"Oh, yes, the 'crash'," Diane laughed. "I keep forgetting you were around for all that nonsense."

"Yes," Dee murmured, watching Max and Isabel chase a flock of pigeons. "Nonsense."

"But even though you're moving back to your home town, I know why you're doing it. Are you sure this is what you want, Mom? Because I don't want you pulling up stakes just for us."

"I'm not doing it just because of you," Dee said. "Philip's grandparents are getting up there, and it won't be long before they'll need help. It'll be easier to keep an eye on things and step in when the time comes if we're nearby. And of course I'm available to babysit. Just say the word."

Diane reached across the picnic table and took Dee's hand. "And I can't tell you how much it means to me to have someone I can trust to leave the children with, or just to talk to when I have questions. You were there when we found them, so you know all about that. I'd really like to keep that part of their story quiet around town so they don't feel stigmatized, so it's nice to have someone I don't feel I need to hide that from."

Diane gave her hand one more pat before withdrawing it, and for once, Dee let her. Diane was a demonstrative person while Dee wasn't, typically cringing at her daughter-in-law's need for physical contact. But the past few weeks had deepened her respect for Diane, who had handled the demands of instant parenthood with surprising grace. Philip had grumbled about the lack of sleep, personal time, and spontaneity familiar to parents of young children everywhere, but Diane had risen to the occasion with nary a peep, her sights firmly focused on the children and how to make them comfortable with their new lives. And her instincts had proven sound, especially with Max, who had been much slower to adjust than Isabel, because somehow, some way, she'd managed to reach him; although still very quiet, Max now talked, played with his sister and slept peacefully through the night, free of the nightmares and tears which had punctuated his first few nights at their house. Much as Dee hated to admit it, she'd been wrong about Diane. She made an excellent parent, better than her own son who tended to get bogged down in the details and was overly concerned with the "right" way to do everything.

"Nice day."

Dee glanced up to find an elderly gentlemen standing nearby. "Yes, it is," she agreed. "Bit chilly, though."

"Are those yours?" the man asked, watching Max, Isabel, and Diane toss food to the pigeons, Max's red pants making him clearly visible across the park.

"My grandchildren," Dee said proudly, reaching into the picnic basket for the watermelon. "That's my son with the video camera, and his wife with the kids."

"Handsome family."

Dee beamed. "Why, thank you."

*And a convincing performance.*

*Brivari?* Dee said in surprise. *Where are you?*

*Right in front of you.*

It took Dee a moment to recognize the small smile on the elderly man's face. *Don't sneak up on me like that!* she admonished crossly. *I didn't think you'd be back in town so soon.*

*What makes you think I left?* He settled onto one end of the picnic bench as she continued setting the table, his eyes on Max and Isabel. *I hear you, on the other hand, aren't leaving at all.*

*Are you kidding?* Dee said. *There's no way I could move back to Albuquerque and sleep at night knowing Philip and Diane are alone with two hybrids with a third elsewhere in town. Michael left Westlake two days ago,* she added. *I parked down the block and watched them leave. They looked like a decent couple. The father—*

*Is a car salesman,* Brivari broke in. *The mother is an Avon lady. They're comfortably middle-class and have fostered several children from Westlake, including several with problems, which is no doubt why they were selected for Rath. Oh, and the next time you decide to do a stakeout, you really should park further away. You were a bit too close.*

Dee shook her head ruefully as she finished setting the table. She'd seen little of Brivari since Jaddo had absconded with Ava weeks ago, but she'd forgotten that not seeing him meant nothing; he could be anyone, any time, anywhere. When he'd left all his contact numbers with her, she'd assumed he'd be going back to Los Angeles, at least for a short while. She should have known he'd be watching right along with her, although for him, watching meant keeping his distance, at least from Max. The need to stay away lest some casual utterance become binding had reduced him to the same position in which she'd found herself on Saturday, hanging back, lurking behind trees, fearful of getting too close.

*It was must be hard,* she said, taking a seat beside him. *Not being able to get close to him, I mean. You can't even talk to him.*

*It's peculiar, that's for certain,* Brivari allowed. *Sometimes it's frustrating. Sometimes it's a relief.*

*A relief?*

*I never spent much time with Zan as a child. It wasn't until he was an adolescent that his father asked me to take him under my wing, as it were.*

*As I recall, that didn't go so well,* Dee said.

*No, it didn't,* Brivari agreed. *We clashed. It got better once he reached adulthood, and better still when he took the throne and realized how little he knew. But it was always rocky, and the thought of reliving his adolescence is enough to give me nightmares.* He paused. *I don't suppose they've shown any signs of remembering?*

Dee's eyes fell. *No. I'm sorry.*

*I expected as much.*

*I haven't seen them doing anything unusual either,* Dee continued. *If they know they can do things other people can't, there's no sign of it. Although they do have some rather unusual tastes,* she added, fingering the bottle of hot sauce.

*All hybrids have 'quirks', as your daughter-in-law called it,* Brivari said. *We'll be lucky if that's their most prominent one.*

*But Isabel is still obsessed with the sun,* Dee said. *She's constantly drawing pictures of it. That must mean something. And Max was crying himself to sleep every night until Diane somehow stopped it.*

*She did? How?*

*I don't know,* Dee admitted. *But something she did helped him sleep at night. He's so quiet and reticent that he annoys Philip, but Diane seems to be tuned into him.*

*I'm glad someone is.*

The tone was meant to be neutral, but there was no mistaking the irony it contained. Dee was mentally slapping herself for pointing out that Diane was handling his Ward better than he did when Isabel's voice floated over to them. "Max! Mom! Look!"

She had stopped beside the pigeons they'd been feeding. "The bird is hurt," she called to Diane. "Something's wrong with its wing."

Dee's eyes followed her gaze to see one pigeon sitting apart from the others. "Okay, guys," Diane called as Max walked toward the bird. "No....no, Maxie, honey, get away from the bird. He could be sick."

Max ignored her, reaching down to grasp the twitching, fluttering bird with both hands as Isabel watched solemnly. "Oh, look at its wing," Diane said sadly. "Okay, just.....just leave it alone. Oh, I think its wing is broken."

Max glanced at her briefly, but didn't let it go. "Max, honey, just put it down," Diane called, her voice rising. "Please!"

But Max's eyes were locked intently on the bird.....a little too intently. *What's he doing?* Dee whispered.

*I'm not sure,* Brivari murmured.

Max had risen to his feet, the bird in his hands. For just a moment he looked directly at Diane. And then his hands flew into the air....

.....and the bird flew out of them, soaring above the treetops with two obviously strong wings. Six pairs of eyes followed its flight including Philip's, who panned the camera up to catch the bird's flight before panning back down toward his son, arms still raised, a blank look on his face as though he wasn't quite sure what he'd done.

"Philip!" Diane exclaimed, "Philip, did you see that?"

*Did you see that?* Dee asked Brivari breathlessly. *Did he just do what I think he did?*

*I believe so.*

*But....how? You can't do that without healing stones.*

*The hybrids are more advanced than we are,* Brivari answered. *Theoretically he shouldn't need any more than his own mind to accomplish what would take me several healing stones and people to wield them.*

*Imagine that,* Dee murmured. *I wish Jaddo were here to see this. And to think he'd written them off.*

*This wouldn't change his mind. Power doesn't equal memory.*

Dee hesitated, uncertain of whether to say what she was thinking out loud. *What if Jaddo's right?* she asked finally. *What if raising Ava yourselves was the right thing to do?*

*Well, then,* Brivari said slowly, *I guess we'll find out, won't we?*

Philip and Diane were still marveling over what had happened, with Diane insisting Philip back up the tape so she could watch on the monitor and Isabel insisting Philip lower the camera so she could watch too. "The bird was hurt," Isabel said matter-of-factly. "Max fixed it."

"It just looked that way, sweetheart," Diane said. "Max can't fix hurt birds."

Yes, he can, Dee thought, wondering what else he could fix and if he'd ever demonstrate that ability at an inopportune time; Philip and Diane were clearly writing this off as a fluke, but others might not. It was frightening to think what the wrong people would make of such a talent whether or not they ever connected it to aliens. Perhaps that thought was lurking somewhere in the back of Max's mind as he hung back, watching his sister and new parents replay his feat over and over again, the expression on his face that of one who wasn't sure whether he'd done something right or something wrong.

*They'll be coming over soon, so you'd better go,* Dee said sadly. *You can't let him get too close. I'll call you if there's anything you need to know before we see you next.*

*I'll be nearby even if you don't see me,* Brivari said.

*But for how long?* Dee asked. *How long are you going to give them before you give up too?*

Brivari watched as Philip put the camera away and Diane began herding Max and Isabel back toward the picnic table, accompanied by lectures about touching injured animals. * 'How long' is irrelevant. As long as they live, they are my responsibility. My protection is their birthright.*





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




Washington, D.C.




"What do you mean, you don't know?" Jaddo said into the phone with exasperation. "You work there! How could you not know?" He paused, waiting impatiently for the excuses to stop. "All right, all right," he interrupted when they didn't. "But you're not getting paid until you find out. I'll be here for the rest of the night. 555-2828, Room 221. No call, no money."

Jaddo plunked the phone back onto its cradle and whacked the door of the phone booth open, startling passers-by. He'd been out of commission for just a few weeks, and all hell had broken loose at the Special Unit with new agents brought on board, a rumored alliance with the military, and the acquisition of something which had them all dancing a jig. Unfortunately his lowly clerical contact didn't know exactly what that was, nor who the new agents were, nor the details of any of this. Damn it! he swore silently, shoving roughly past someone else on the way through the motel's front door and skipping up the stairs to the second. The highest floor was always the safest, being nearest the roof and a means of escape. For me, at least, he added silently. But it wasn't just him anymore, a fact of which he'd had to continually remind himself, which he reminded himself of now. If the Special Unit had cause to celebrate, that was very bad news indeed. Perhaps Ava's training in how to run and how to hide should begin sooner rather than later.....

There was no one in the upstairs hallway; humans who frequented low end establishments like these preferred rooms on lower floors, yet another good reason to head north. Eschewing keys, he opened the door with a thought and looked for his charge.

She wasn't there.

Jaddo froze. He'd given her strict instructions not to leave this room or make a sound. There was no evidence of forced entry, no sign of a struggle. Had she left? Why would she do that when instructed not to?

Muffled voices reached his ears. The bathroom door was closed, but there was more than one voice coming from behind the door. Had someone found them already? How could that be? Brivari would have a field day if he lost their last hybrid mere weeks after taking her. Coiled to strike, he flung open the bathroom door.

Two astonished faces gazed back at him, one familiar, one not. "Is that your daddy?" asked the little girl seated on the bathroom floor across from Ava, a few years older by the looks of things.

"What are you doing?" Jaddo demanded.

"Playing Barbie," the girl answered calmly, holding up the popular human doll which sported outrageous proportions that few humans possessed. "I'm Ashley."

"Good for you," Jaddo said gruffly. "Get out."

Ashley blinked. "What?"

Jaddo reined himself in with effort. "What I meant was, you must have someone looking for you. We wouldn't want them to worry."

"Nope," Ashley shrugged. "Mommy went to a bar. It'll be hours before she's back."

And I'm not babysitting you until she is, Jaddo thought darkly. "Then you'll have to wait for her in your own room. We have things to do."

Ashley brightened, his words producing just the opposite of the intended effect. "I could do them with you!" she said enthusiastically. "I'm always bored. I'm glad I found Tess."

"Who?"

"Her," Ashley explained, pointing to Ava. "She wouldn't tell me her name, so I named her after my cousin."

Jaddo's eyes bored into Ava, who kept her own eyes on the floor. He'd admonished her early on not to tell anyone anything about herself. She'd heard that much, at least, if nothing else.

"You can't join us, so you'll have to leave," Jaddo said.

Ashley's eyes narrowed. "You're mean," she announced.

"And you're in the way," he retorted.

"But you don't have to be so mean," Ashley declared.

"And you don't have to be so obstinate," Jaddo said crossly. "Go home."

Ashley's lower lip quivered. "I don't have a home."

"Me either," Ava said in a small voice.

"Yes, well, at least I'm not at a bar," Jaddo said scornfully.

"But you weren't here," Ashley said reproachfully. "Where were you?"

"None of your business," Jaddo snapped. "Take your dolls, and go!"

Ashley climbed to her feet, her face a thundercloud. "You keep that one," she said when Ava handed back the Barbie. "I'm thinking you're gonna need it."

Jaddo locked the door behind the retreating Ashley before rounding on Ava. "Where did she come from? I gave you specific instructions not to leave this room!"

"I didn't," Ava said defensively. "She came here."

Of course she did, Jaddo thought sourly. Enterprising Ashley had probably invited herself in, and he'd given Ava no specific instructions about what to do under those circumstances. The need to leave her alone at times was a fact of life, so it looked like he'd be drawing up legalistic lists of do's and don'ts.

"Listen to me," Jaddo said sternly. "You are not to let anyone in our room, ever. You don't speak to anyone, you don't answer the door, you don't let on you're here in any way. Do you understand?"

"Yes," Ava mumbled.

"Good. Now, give me the doll."

"Why?"

"Because you don't need that."

"But I want it," Ava said. "I like it. It looks like me."

"What are you talking about?" Jaddo said impatiently. "It doesn't look anything like....."

He stopped, watching Ava stroke the doll's yellow hair. He'd been about to say it doesn't look anything like you, but that wasn't entirely true. "Listen to me," he said intently, pulling the doll out of her hands. "This is not you. It may have hair like yours, but this is not what you really look like."

Ava's eyes widened. "Why? What do I look like?"

Jaddo's mouth opened and closed. How to answer that? He couldn't answer that, not without risking the same mental breakdown which had afflicted the other hybrids. "What I meant was, this is just a shell," he amended, snapping the doll in half at the ridiculously narrow waist. "See? It's just plastic. It's empty inside."

Ava gazed into the hollow doll halves. "What am I inside?" she whispered.

"Special," Jaddo replied promptly. "Very special. You have a destiny. Do you know what that is? That means you have a job to do," he went on when she shook her head solemnly, "a very important, very special job that only you can do. You're not empty inside like this plaything. That's why you don't need playthings."

"But I want it," Ava declared. "She's pretty."

"She's worthless," Jaddo insisted. "Those who have a destiny don't bother with toys."

"I want it," Ava said stoutly, holding out a hand.....and the pieces of the doll flew out of Jaddo's and into hers. Both Jaddo and Ava stared at it in shock for a moment before the latter's expression turned to one of triumph.

"It's my doll," she said proudly. "And I'll play with Ashley any time I want to."

Jaddo's heart pounded in his chest. This was the first, the very first manifestation of enhanced abilities he'd seen from Ava. To have it packaged as defiance was a cruel joke....and could not be tolerated.

He raised his own hand. The doll pieces flew toward him at the same time that Ava flew backward, hitting the wall with a thump that wasn't hard enough to hurt her, but plenty hard enough to get his point across.

"Don't you ever do that again," he said tersely.

Ava looked at him in shock for a moment, then burst into tears, great heaving sobs that shook her whole body. "Stop crying," Jaddo ordered.

"Ashley's right!" she wept, ignoring him. "You're mean!"

Sighing, Jaddo squatted down in front of her, wincing slightly as she shied away from him. This had been so much easier when she'd first come out of the pod, stunned and silent, needing only cleaning and food. We're not parents, Brivari had said. Much as he hated to admit it, he was wishing Brivari were here now. Brivari had much more experience with obstinate children.

"I said you have a destiny," he said to the sobbing child, "a very important, very special job that only you can do. And I have a destiny also: To keep you safe. That's a very important, very special job only I can do, and I will do whatever is necessary to accomplish that. And if being 'mean' is what it takes to keep you safe so you can do your very special, very important job, than I'll be as mean as I need to be. This," he said, brandishing the doll, "is not you, or anything like you, which is why you can't have it. Nor can you invite total strangers into our room when I'm not here; it's not safe. But..." He paused. "You'll need a name. You may choose your own."

The sobs paused; she stared at him for a moment as though trying to decide whether he meant it. Finally she scrubbed her hands over her eyes and sat up.

"My name is Tess," she announced. "What's your name?"

Jaddo hesitated. He'd never chosen a pseudonym, never needed one because he'd never lived among humans like Brivari and Malik had. He hadn't given a moment's thought to what he would be called.

"You may call me 'Nasedo'," he answered finally.

"And I'm Tess?" she prodded.

"You're Tess," he confirmed. "Now, go wash your face."

Mollified, she did. It was a tiny victory, really, but if it earned her compliance, it was worth it. He couldn't use her real name for fear of discovery, but she needed a name, if only because it would look odd if she didn't have one. "Tess" would do as well as anything else.

The phone rang. Instantly suspicious, it took him a moment to remember he'd given this number to his Special Unit contact. Normally he preferred to do the contacting, but slipping out to phone booths had become problematic.

"Hello?" he said into the phone.

"I got what you wanted," said his contact's voice on the other end. "Remember, I only take cash."

"I'll leave it in the usual place," Jaddo promised, "providing what you've got is worth it. What did you learn?"

"Remember I told you there was a new guy that Agent Summers was slobbering over? He just appeared out of nowhere, and none of us could figure out—"

"Yes, yes," Jaddo interrupted. "Come to the point."

"Okay, okay," his contact said. "Sheesh. Impatient much?"

"Look, if you can't—"

"I'm getting there. The new guy? His name is 'Pierce'."

Jaddo's heart nearly stopped. "What?"

" 'Pierce'," the voice repeated. "Daniel Pierce."





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


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

User avatar
Kathy W
Obsessed Roswellian
Posts: 690
Joined: Thu Oct 31, 2002 5:06 am

Re: Awakening *Series* (AU, TEEN) Ch. 27, 6/6

Post by Kathy W » Sun Jun 13, 2010 9:54 pm

Last chapter! A million thank-you's to all who have followed this tale. I know it's a weird story for fanfiction, so I really appreciate each and every reader.

I typically take a couple of weeks off between books, and it's a few days longer this time because of my upcoming vacation. The next (and last) book begins in the middle of the week because of the timing (let's hope Iceland's volcano doesn't erupt again, or I might get stuck on the other side of the pond!), but after that I'll return to the usual Sunday updates.






CHAPTER TWENTY-EIGHT




November 6, 1989, 5:30 p.m.

Washington, D.C.






Jaddo sank down on the bed, feeling like the wind had been knocked out of him. "You're certain?" he pressed. "You're certain it was 'Daniel Pierce'?"

"Positive," his contact answered. "Why? You know him?"

Jaddo didn't answer, couldn't answer. It couldn't actually be Pierce; he'd killed Pierce himself. Was it a relative? What were the odds? What were the odds of someone with that name showing up in the FBI's Special Unit?

"How old is this 'Pierce'?" Jaddo asked.

"Thirty. Just a few weeks ago. And get this: He inherited something on his thirtieth birthday, something everyone's been going gaga over."

Jaddo closed his eyes. "A serum?"

"Yeah!" the contact exclaimed. "It's supposed to control aliens, although frankly I think that's bullshit. Say, how'd you know that? Do you know this guy?"

"I'll leave your payment in the usual place," Jaddo said in a dull voice. "It may be some time before I contact you again."

"Yeah, you MUFON geeks are always on the move," the contact chuckled. "But you never answered me. Do you know this 'Pierce'? Seems kind of cocky, if you ask me, like he thinks he walks on water or something...."

Jaddo put the phone down, not bothering to listen to the rest of it. Pierce had had a son and somehow, some way, had managed to get the missing serum into his hands, hands which, belonging to a Pierce, were very dangerous hands indeed. The hatred which had been mollified by watching Pierce suffer and die flared anew, filling him with a rage so palpable it was almost painful. He had to find this new threat and remove him, and that was a job only he could do, that only he would do....but what to do with Ava? Hunting the Special Unit was difficult under the best of circumstances, and now he had a millstone around his neck. For several long minutes, he seriously considered returning her to Brivari.

The bathroom door opened, and Ava appeared. "What's wrong?" she asked anxiously.

No, Jaddo thought. Ava represented what was very likely the last hope for Antar; return her to Brivari, and she'd be coloring pictures and playing Ring Around the Rosie like a good little human in no time. He couldn't do that to her; she was so much more than that. It was his responsibility to pursue their enemies as Brivari had made it clear that he would not, so she would just have to adapt.

"Get your things," he said, rising abruptly. "We're leaving."

"Why?"

"Because we have to."

"Why?"

"Because it's not safe to stay here any more."

"Why?"

"Because I said so!" Jaddo exclaimed. "Move!"

She didn't. Whether it was simple human childhood obstinacy rearing its ugly head or Zan's queen rising through the hybrid fog, Ava planted her feet and didn't budge. "I want to know why," she insisted.

"What difference does it make?" Jaddo demanded. "You wouldn't understand anyway."

"But I don't want to leave," she protested. "I like it here."

"Here?" Jaddo said derisively, glancing around the seedy motel room. "Why would you like it here?"

"Because Ashley's here."

Of course, Jaddo thought sourly. Darling little Ashley and her plastic dolls were exerting a stronger pull than the notion of safety. He'd have to correct that and quickly, but first he had to get her out of here. He would be the first to acknowledge that he wasn't gifted in the arts of either diplomacy or psychology, both of which appeared to be needed as sheer intimidation wasn't having the desired effect, and once again he found himself wishing Brivari were here. He would know what to do, what to say, how to manipulate the situation to his advantage.....

"Do you remember," he said slowly, seeing a sudden advantage in his disadvantage, "when I said you were different?"

She nodded warily. "Then what would you say," he continued, "if I were to tell you that there are others out there who are also different?"

Her eyes widened. "Like me? Different like me?"

"Just like you. In all the same ways."

"Where?" she demanded. "Where are they? I want to see them!"

The ache in her voice was so strong, it nearly plucked at heartstrings which had long lain dormant. What was it like to be truly alone, the only one of your kind? Jaddo had never experienced that, not even when he and Brivari had been at odds and separated. He'd always known Brivari was out there, could have found him in a matter of hours if necessary. But to be truly alone, to be singular......that was frightening, even for him. And the knowledge that you weren't represented hope.

"We can't see them," Jaddo said. "I told you that you had a destiny, but you aren't the only one. The others who are just like you have a destiny also, the same destiny as yours. I split you up to keep you safe, and we have to leave now because staying is dangerous for both you and them."

"Then when?" she asked. "When will it be safe to see them?"

"When we make it that way," Jaddo said. "And step one is leaving this place as quickly as possible."

"But—"

"You want to see the others again, right?"

She nodded mutely. "Then do as I say," Jaddo said firmly, "or that time may never come. Get your things. Hurry. I want you ready to go in five minutes."

She scurried away, the longing in her eyes spurring her to action even though he was fairly certain she didn't have a firm concept of how long five minutes was and what he'd just offered her might be a pipe dream. He had no idea if the others would ever be retrievable, but as long as he could dangle the prospect of her being reunited with them, he had a powerful goad. He felt no remorse for that; she'd have to learn quickly now that there was a Pierce on the loose, much more quickly than he'd expected.

About ten minutes later they left the motel, bound for the train station. So distracted was he by what he'd just learned that he hadn't seen her reach into the wastebasket and retrieve the doll fragments he'd tossed there, pass her hand over them....and rejoin the pieces.




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




Guerin residence,

Roswell





"Gimme that," Andrew ordered.

"No way!" Douglas protested. "You had it last."

"And I'm havin' it now. I'm not watchin' this. Sesame Street is for babies."

"Then maybe you're a baby," Douglas taunted.

"Boys!" a voice called from the kitchen. "Stop fighting over the remote! And keep your voices down; I'm on the phone. What? Oh....yes, I'm sorry," the voice continued in contrite tones. "The kids were just tussling....this is Brenda Guerin. May I speak with my husband, please?"

Andrew lunged for the remote, prevailing upon the smaller, younger Douglas to give it up. Douglas scowled as Andrew grinned in triumph and changed the channel to a boxing match. But the smile slid off his face when the boxing match vanished, replaced by Bert and Ernie. "What the...." he muttered, punching the remote again. The boxing match blinked on briefly, only to blink right back to Sesame Street.

"What are you doing?" Andrew hissed in a stage whisper.

"Nothing," Douglas retorted sullenly. "What could I be doing? You've got the remote."

Idiots, Michael thought placidly, sitting two seats away, ignoring and being ignored. He smiled faintly as Andrew struggled to get his boxing match to stay, never noticing how Bert and Ernie always reappeared when Michael blinked his eyes. He had no idea why he could control the talking box everyone was so attached to without the device the boys were fighting over, but it was darned handy, not to mention great fun to watch Andrew steam.

"Guess we're watching Sesame Street," Douglas said smugly.

"Not me," Andrew muttered, tossing the now uncontested remote down on the sofa and stalking off to the room he shared with Douglas.

Douglas threw Michael a conspiratorial smile. Douglas had no idea Michael was behind this, of course, nor did he really want to watch Sesame Street. He just wanted to annoy Andrew, a goal Michael shared and one which made them friends in some weird way.

"Everything okay in here?" Mrs. Guerin asked warily, the phone to one ear.

"Yup," Douglas answered. "Andrew decided to do something else while we watch Sesame Street."

"Did he?" Mrs. Guerin asked skeptically, her eyes raking the room for signs of carnage. "Well...okay, then," she went on, finding none. "Michael, how are you?"

"Okay," Michael answered tonelessly.

"Good," Mrs. Guerin said, still sounding skeptical. "Yes, I'm still here, honey," she said into the phone. "Just checking up on our newest arrival....."

She retreated to the kitchen while Michael fastened his eyes on the television screen. This might be considered a "baby show" by some, but he found it oddly useful, much more so than that other show always playing at Westlake, the one with the man wearing a sweater and singing about "the neighborhood". Plus it had that deliciously grouchy green guy in the garbage can with whom Michael felt a strange sort of kinship.

"Mr. Guerin will be a little late, so he said to start dinner without him," Mrs. Guerin called. "Go wash up, boys."

Michael trooped obediently to the bathroom along with Douglas while Mrs. Guerin went after Andrew. She wasn't bad, that one, much nicer than the imperious woman at Westlake who had banished him to the upstairs floor. This place wasn't bad either, much smaller and quieter, with fewer people to fight over everything.

"First one here," Mrs. Guerin smiled when he appeared in the kitchen and slid into his chair. "Douglas and Andrew have lived here for three months now, and they never make it to the table on time, so good for you, Michael. You hungry? Go ahead and start then," she added when he nodded. "You'll get first pick of the rolls because you were here first."

Michael pulled the basket of bread toward him eagerly. Another good thing about this new place was that the food was better. "Here's the butter," Mrs. Guerin said, depositing a plastic container of the gooey yellow stuff beside him along with several other bottles.

"I want that," Michael said pointing.

"What? The Tabasco sauce? Gracious, you don't use that on bread!" Mrs. Guerin chuckled. "You put butter on bread. Use the butter."

I don't want the butter, Michael thought stoutly, slipping out of his chair. The Tabasco bottle was just out of reach, but Mrs. Guerin got there long before he did.

"I said 'no'," she said firmly, pushing the bottle further away. "It'll upset your stomach. Mrs. Melbourne will have a fit if I let you get sick."

Michael returned to his seat, his eyes still on the bottle. He certainly had no desire to involve that nasty woman from Westlake, but he knew he wouldn't get sick. He'd already had plenty of Tabasco when he and Douglas had snuck into the kitchen in the middle of the night for a snack, yet another perk of this new place along with the fact that his stature had risen in Douglas' eyes when it turned out Douglas lapsed into a coughing fit whenever he so much as smelled Tabasco. Now he fastened his eyes on the bottle, concentrating hard. There had to be a way to get it. If he could work the television without the remote, he should be able to get that bottle....

"I said butter your bread, Michael," Mrs. Guerin was saying. "You're wasting your golden opportunity to....."

She stopped, her eyes widening. And so did Michael's as the kitchen table slowly rose into the air as if pulled by invisible ropes. It cleared the chairs, wobbling slightly, then began to tip; the Tabasco bottle slid toward him along with the rest of the contents of the table. He reached out and grabbed the bottle just as the table thumped back to the floor with dishes, silverware, and salt and pepper shakers perched precariously near the edge.

The faint sounds of the garage door opening wafted through the open kitchen window as Michael alternately looked at the table and the coveted bottle of Tabasco, now in his hands. He hadn't intended to do that; he'd been expecting the bottle to move, not the table. Mrs. Guerin stood there, speechless, one hand to her heart, and Michael gave her a guilty look. He didn't want to upset her. The last thing he wanted was to be sent away from this place. Wordlessly he rose from his seat and reset the table, putting every plate, glass, and piece of silverware in its rightful place before returning to his seat and keeping his eyes on his roll, which was shortly covered with Tabasco sauce.

The kitchen door opened. "I made it!" Mr. Guerin smiled, spying the almost empty table. "Traffic wasn't as bad as I thought. Hello there, Michael. I see you beat everyone to the table, including me." He pecked his wife on the cheek. "How was your day, honey?"

"I.....I....." Mrs. Guerin stammered.

She doesn't think anyone will believe her, Michael thought. And they probably wouldn't. It hadn't escaped him that no one else seemed to be able to do what he could do. No one, that is, but the other two, the two he'd been separated from. He had no idea how, but he knew them. He had no idea why, but he needed to be with them. They said he'd been angry with the girl, and he vaguely remembered that, but didn't remember why. What he did remember was that he needed to find them. So he'd have to be careful about what he did here and who he let see it. He didn't want to be sent away. This was not only a much nicer place, it was a much freer place. Which meant it was a much better place to do what he had to do, which was to find the others, the others who could do what he could do.

Mr. Guerin was watching his wife with concern. "What's wrong? You look like you've seen a ghost."

Michael looked up, locked eyes with Mrs. Guerin. "From now on," she said carefully, "let's make sure Michael can reach the Tabasco sauce."




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



Evans residence




"Isabel, honey? Why aren't you in bed?"

Isabel crooked an arm around her drawing even as she threw a guilty look toward the silhouette in her doorway. She and Max had been put to bed, so she wasn't supposed to be up. She'd carefully waited until the drone of the "TV" had begun before moving around, but that didn't take into account the number of times Diane randomly stopped by and peered in the room.

"What are you doing?" Diane asked curiously, snapping on the light, gazing at the crayons covering the little table set up in a corner of the bedroom. "You're drawing? In the dark?"

When Isabel said nothing, Diane came over and took a seat in one of the little chairs. "May I see your picture?" she asked gently.

Isabel's eyes dropped. She hadn't wanted to show her, hadn't wanted to start a flood of questions that she couldn't answer. But there was something about the quiet way Diane asked that reminded her of one of the many reasons she felt safe here. She could tell Diane no, and she would be disappointed, but she'd accept that. Diane would ask questions, but she wouldn't get mad if Isabel didn't answer. All of which made Isabel more willing to share what she could, if only to please her. She was so happy here, and she wanted to make Diane happy too.

Slowly, her arm unwound. Diane leaned sideways, looking but not touching.

"That's pretty, sweetheart. What is it?"

I don't know, Isabel thought. All she knew was that she couldn't get the swirly symbol on the paper in front of her out of her mind, and it was terribly important. But why was it terribly important? Why was it simultaneously familiar and frightening? She didn't know that either.

"Is it something you saw somewhere?" Diane suggested. "Or maybe.....or maybe something from where you came from? From where you lived before you came to live with us?" She paused. "Honey," she said slowly, "do you remember anything about where you were before we found you and Max that night?"

Isabel responded with a small shrug even as memories flashed in her mind. The clearest was of breaking free of something which had made it hard to breathe, something wet and warm, much warmer than that awful cold when she'd finally been able to breathe again. The next was of walking under a starry night sky holding hands with Max and the other one, the one who was missing and who she looked for in every single face she saw.

"Anything at all," Diane was saying. "Even a little something? Even....."

Diane stopped talking abruptly as Isabel climbed onto her lap and wrapped her arms around her. She felt Diane melt into her, wrapping her own arms around her, burying her face in her hair. She loved to be hugged, this one. It was a useful way to distract her when she asked lots of questions or wanted Isabel to do something she didn't want to do. As much as she needed Diane, Diane seemed to need her every bit as much.

"I love you too, sweetheart," Diane whispered, stroking her hair. "And I'm so glad you and Max are here. But it's very late. You should be in bed. You can draw some more tomorrow."

Isabel obediently climbed under the covers and closed her eyes. As soon as she heard the squeak of the sofa springs in the living room, she climbed out again, moving soundlessly. Diane had only just been here, so hopefully she had at least a little while before she stopped back.

Max was awake. She knew he would be. Max wasn't as happy here as she was. He liked Diane well enough, and tolerated Philip, who was less patient, but he wanted to leave. Trouble was, he didn't know where to go. Neither of them did. That bothered Max, but it didn't bother Isabel. She not only felt happy here, she felt safe. Safe from what, exactly, she didn't really know. All she knew was that this house and the people who took care of them stood between her and something frightening, something she'd rather avoid.

She crawled into bed beside Max and handed him her drawing of the swirly thing. He studied it for a few seconds before nodding solemnly, folding the sheet of construction paper, once, twice, three times, and reaching for the little house Diane had given him. It was hollow, and the folded paper fit inside perfectly. Max liked it when they remembered things, even if they didn't know what they meant. Giving him something to remember was like giving Diane a hug—it was something he desperately needed and which took his mind off whatever it was Isabel wanted to distract him from. She tried very hard to make Philip and Diane happy, and to make Max happier too. The happier they all were, the more likely she would be able to stay in this safe place a little while longer.




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




"It's a classic older two-story house," the realtor was saying, her spindly heels click-clicking on the hardwood floors. "Needs some maintenance. It was used as a boarding house for years. Will that be a problem?"

Brivari glanced around the interior of the house he had called home back in 1959. "Why would it be?" he asked.

"Some people object to owning a home through which so many....different people have passed," the realtor answered delicately.

" 'Different' as in 'lower income'?"

The realtor pinked slightly. "Well....yes, I suppose that stereotype does exist. Shall I show you the kitchen?"

"Of course," Brivari answered, stifling a smile. If only the realtor knew how many truly "different" people had lived here over the years, people defined by something much more fundamental than their income.

"I'm afraid the appliances are quite dated," the realtor apologized, "as is the linoleum. This house has never really been modernized. Even the furniture is original."

"And why is it on the market?"

"The owners inherited the house when the previous owner, a relative, passed away," the realtor explained. "She was the one who operated it as a boarding house, and her heirs sporadically lived it in, rented it out, or tried to sell it."

" 'Tried'?"

The realtor hesitated. "I'll be honest with you, Mr. Langton. This has been a difficult house to sell, and not only because of it's condition. There are certain....stories associated with it, local folklore which is dreadfully difficult to get rid of."

"Stories such as.....?"

"I suppose you'll hear them anyway, so I may as well tell you," the realtor sighed. "It's said that one of the occupants of this house was murdered back in the 50's, although not in the house. Another disappeared completely after being suspected of another murder. Still another disappeared after exhibiting odd behavior; to hear the older folks tell it, she jumped out of a second story window to get away from her own father. This all happened within a very short period of time, and when the proprietor died only a couple of years after that, I think the confluence of events led people to draw conclusions about this house. Conclusions which I find completely unfounded, you understand," she added hastily. "But there's no accounting for people's feelings on any subject, which are frequently not the least bit related to reason."

"Quite true," Brivari murmured. "Quite true." He paused. "I'll take it."

The realtor blinked. "You'll....you'll what?"

"I said I'll take it. Let me know what paperwork you'll need. I'd like to move in as soon as possible."

"But....but we haven't even talked price," the realtor said, bewildered.

"I'll pay the asking price," Brivari answered. "No haggling."

The realtor's jaw dropped. "You....really?"

"Is that a problem?"

"No! No, of course not," the realtor babbled. "I....well, that's wonderful, Mr. Langton! The owners will be so pleased! Let's set up an appointment to go over financing, and—"

"I'll be paying cash."

"C-cash?" the realtor stammered.

"Yes, cash. No mortgage, no bank involvement. That should expedite matters, shouldn't it?"

"Absolutely," the realtor agreed, nodding vigorously. "I'll meet you at your convenience, any time, anywhere."

"Let's say here, then," Brivari replied, pulling out his Daytimer, "tomorrow morning at 9 a.m.?"

"Excellent!" the realtor enthused, scribbling in her appointment book. "Shall I show you the rest of the house? It doesn't feel right not having shown you the entire property."

"By all means," Brivari answered as the realtor practically skipped through the house, so delighted was she to have the albatross off her hands. His visit to Rath's foster parents' home tonight had underscored the need to keep a close eye on the hybrids. It hadn't been clear exactly what Rath had done, but Mrs. Guerin's fractured, confused conversation with a social worker had revealed how quickly things could go bad. Rath's feat, whatever it was, had ultimately been written off to Mrs. Guerin's lack of sleep and sheer inability to believe whatever she'd seen, but next time, if there was a next time, they might not be so lucky. He needed to stay close, meaning he needed a part-time residence here, and as luck would have it, his former rooming house was available. It was only fair, he supposed, that a prime contributor to the myths which hampered its being sold should be the one to buy it. He followed the realtor dutifully through the rest of the house and yard, lingering a bit in his old first floor room that reminded him of Audrey. He wouldn't be using that one. It turned out the locals weren't the only ones with "feelings" about this place.

Forty-five minutes later, after the realtor was satisfied she'd earned her commission, Brivari headed up the front walk of Roswell's library. Valeris' book had served its purpose. While it was doubtful the hybrids would ever need it, it still needed to be hidden, and storing it separately from the Granolith was still prudent. Perhaps more than ever before, there was no telling what would happen now.

The library was nearly empty, it being near closing time. The section he needed was apparently being rearranged judging from the high percentage of empty shelves relative to the stacks of books on the floor and the signage—"Rare Books" had been replaced with subdivisions, the nearest to his target being "Ancient Languages". Perfectly appropriate, and he climbed atop a stool, revealed the handprint lock, set the book inside....and paused.

"May I help you?"

Carefully, Brivari withdrew his hand. "No, thank you," he replied, plucking one of the few remaining books from the top shelf on his way down. "I found what I was looking for."

"You're lucky," the librarian noted, peering at the title through her classic librarian spectacles. "This section is all cattywampus, what with the reorganization. You should check that out right away; we're closing in ten minutes."

"I'm afraid I don't have a card."

Ten minutes later, after the impatient librarian had issued him a temporary library card under the pseudonym he'd be using here and raised her eyebrows at his new address, Brivari emerged with a completely useless book and a rage so profound that the first thing he did when he was out of sight was hurl the book to the ground and make it burst into flames, the power driven flames leaping higher than they had any right to as he paced back and forth, absolutely furious. Because once again, Jaddo had made his presence known, even after he'd left: The control crystal, required for the operation of the Granolith, was gone. It had been there when Brivari had retrieved the book, secreted there long ago against the possibility that enemies would locate the Pod Chamber. But it was gone now, and there was only one other person who knew where to find it and possessed the ability to access it. He'd not only taken Ava, their one untraumatized hybrid, but he'd taken the means to operate their only escape from this planet. Only the hybrids could activate the Granolith, but they needed the crystal to do that. Damn it! Brivari swore. Even if Zan regained his senses, they would not be able to leave without finding Jaddo first. And he can leave without me, he added bitterly. Jaddo had a hybrid; all he need do is induce that hybrid to insert the crystal, and he could take Ava back to Antar without so much as a by your leave. For all the good it will do him, Brivari thought sourly. Even if Ava survived intact, she alone would never be enough to retake the throne. And Jaddo knew that, which meant the goal had been to prevent Brivari and the rest of them from leaving without him.

With an effort, Brivari doused the flames and restored the book. There was no sense in drawing attention by destroying town property just as he was moving in. Until Zan and the others reawakened, the crystal was essentially useless, so it mattered little who had it just as long as it was kept separate from the Granolith. Everything was useless until the hybrids came back to themselves, and when they did, they would all find Jaddo and pry that crystal from his fingers by force, if necessary. Just imagine Zan's reaction if he discovered Rath's Warder had absconded with his wife.....

The book thunked into the book return of the now closed library just as something else occurred to Brivari. The hybrids which the resistance had lost in New York City had never been found despite years of searching. Even Nicholas' efforts had been fruitless. All interested parties had eventually abandoned their efforts....but what if they were still out there? If the pods in the chamber had failed, so too, presumably, had the others. There was only one legitimate Zan hybrid, but the other three were created equal and interchangeable. There might be another copy of Ava out there, making Jaddo's abduction of her irrelevant, something he'd no doubt considered and probably the reason he'd taken the crystal. Perhaps.....

The book return door closed with a thud as Brivari shook his head. They had all searched for years for those pods, even Jaddo, according to the resistance, which had tactfully dealt with each of them separately after their split. While it was worth a call to the Healer to ask her to keep her eyes open for any unusual activity in the New York City area, it probably wasn't even worth hoping they'd survived.




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




New York City




"Here you are, hon," Carla said, pushing a Danish on a napkin across the counter. "Best tuck it away in case Vanessa comes back. Let me get your coffee."

Willy pocketed the illicit pastry promptly as Carla poured coffee into a Styrofoam cup, added three sugars, and snapped on the lid. "Just the way you like it," she said proudly, pushing the coffee across the counter too.

A hand appeared out of nowhere. Willy was faster, sweeping up the coffee in a practiced motion that was too graceful to term "snatching". Two seconds later he stood with Danish in pocket and coffee in hand while his benefactor faced off with her co-worker.

"Feeding him again?" Vanessa demanded. "How many times do I have to tell you we don't feed the homeless?"

"Willy's not homeless," Carla objected. "He lives right near here."

"Sure, if you call subway tunnels home," Vanessa scoffed. "I'm telling you, they're like roaches! You feed one, pretty soon you're overrun."

"Then perhaps you could tell me why I've been feeding Willy for over a year now and we haven't been 'overrun'," Carla said stoutly.

"The grace of God," Vanessa said dramatically. "Any minute now, it'll happen."

"Right," Carla said, rolling her eyes. "You've been saying that for over a year now too. Seems to me the only thing we're 'overrun' with is your stinginess."

" 'Stinginess'?" Vanessa said incredulously. "Tell me something—did he pay for what you just gave him? Did he? Because refusing to give away free food isn't called 'stingy', it's called 'business'."

"That's not what Ricco thinks," Carla retorted. "He knows what Willy does for us. He keeps the street people in line. He rounds up the kids and takes them to shelters. Ricco knows this place is worse off without Willy, and that's why he doesn't mind me feeding him."

"Ricco!" Vanessa exclaimed. "It's a miracle this place is still in business what with his bleeding heart! Why, if I let him, he'd feed every drunk who walked by!"

"Willy's not a drunk!" Carla protested.

"Yeah, sure," Vanessa said scornfully. "And if you believe that, there's this bridge in Brooklyn I'd like to sell you. Just look at him! He's a mess! He's....."

But Willy had moved on, waved on by a smile from Carla that told him this was just more of the same old, same old, nothing she couldn't handle and nothing he took personally. He'd spent most of his life living in New York's subways, so he was used to it. No one liked the homeless, those walking reminders that society couldn't cure all ills, that hard times could hit anyone, that the price of those clothes in that bag from Saks hanging off your arm could feed the entire population of Tunnel 218 for a week. The homeless evoked strong emotions in everyone, from shocked stares to hostile glares to elaborate and often comical efforts to pretend they weren't there, making them simultaneously the most noticed and most invisible people in the world.

Descending the stairs to the nearest subway platform, Willy decided on the way down that he did take some tiny bit of umbrage at the depiction of him as a drunk. He may be homeless, he may not be a natty dresser, and his hair didn't get washed as often as he'd like, but he was no drunk. Oh, he used to be. Used to get soused on a regular basis, so badly that he almost got walled up in an old subway tunnel years ago. One of the workmen tasked with closing off the tunnel had ignored his scoffing colleagues and done one last check, found Willy in a drunken stupor, and pulled him out. That was the night that had changed Willy's life.

The door to the utility room was open a crack. Nodding slightly to the man mopping floors a few yards away, Willy nudged it open and picked carefully past mop buckets, brooms, and other cleaning paraphernalia until he reached the door in the back, half hidden behind boxes. The New York Transit Authority kept trying to flush the homeless from the subways, sending regular patrols to evict them and closing off old access and service tunnels. But the homeless were nothing if not resourceful, and they'd found other ways to get into those closed off sections, which were highly prized because they weren't patrolled and access was restricted to those in the know. There was a pecking order even among the homeless, and the higher caste homeless didn't like the lower caste homeless any more than the non-homeless did. Willy fished the Danish out of his pocket and left it on top of one of the boxes, payment to the low paid janitor for his silence, and slipped through the door.

It was dark and quiet on the other side, his footsteps the only sound as he headed down the tunnel, sipping his coffee. There was no one here at the moment although evidence of habitation was all around; it was still early, and everyone was out gathering. They'd be back later with whatever clothes, food, or job offers they'd found. Fall was chilly down here, winter downright cold, but gas heaters and small fires warmed them, and the ability to sleep peacefully made it all worth it. He was halfway through his coffee when he reached the place.

Reverently, Willy placed his hand on the bricks covering one of the openings to the old subway's access tunnels. This was where he'd seen them all those years ago: The angels, tiny little angels, glowing brilliantly, sleeping peacefully. He remembered them well even though he'd been stone drunk, even though he'd never seen them since that night when the worker had pulled him out. The angels had done it, he was convinced of that. The angels had sent that worker back inside to save him because the angels had work for him to do. Already the champion of the children who called the tunnels home, Willy was convinced the angels wanted him to do more. Why else would they have appeared to him as children?

As soon as he'd sobered up, Willy had made pursuing his new vocation his life's work. Gone was the alcohol; surely heavenly beings hadn't saved him just so he could get plastered on a daily basis. He kept the peace in the tunnels, rallying others he could trust to form a kind of underground police force. He gave seminars on how to survive, including things like how to stay warm by stuffing your clothes with wadded up newspapers and advice to choose coats with the largest pockets to hold whatever you might find. Mindful of the fact that many of the children down here came with adults in tow and that helping the adults in their lives helped the children also, he pointed people toward shelters, services, and businesses willing to hire the homeless and kept an eye out for free programs at schools, parks, and libraries. Those kids who were there alone found Willy to be a stern parent, insisting they go to school and checking their homework every night. Some left, chafing under that level of supervision, and Willy let them go. He couldn't save everyone; he could only clean up his little corner of the subway. Now in his seventies, he was slowing down, but he always got where he was going. It just took him a while longer.

The coffee was almost gone, and he tucked the cup in his pocket so he wouldn't litter. Every day for the last thirty years, he'd made a pilgrimage to this spot, hoping to see the angels again. He never had, but kept hoping he would someday. And if he ever did, he thought the angels would be pleased. He'd just turned away when one of the bricks fell to the floor.

It fell softly, with a small thump. Surprised, he stopped. There was a hole in the wall now about four feet off the ground, and he stopped to look through it.

Another pair of eyes stared back at him.

Startled, Willy scrambled backwards. It was them! After all these years, all this time, the angels had returned! And they'd known right where to find him, right here, right where they'd shown themselves before. Angels always did that. All those books he'd read about them in the library said so. Oh, he had so much to tell them, so much to thank them for! Slowly, carefully, he lowered himself onto his arthritic knees and waited.

A moment later the wall crumbled, and the angels came through.







End of Book Five



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


Coming in July......

We've finally arrived where this series was heading from the beginning: September, 1999, and a particular shooting at a particular café with which we are all particularly familiar. The last book in the series runs alongside all 3 seasons of the show, expanding what we saw on screen, filling in blanks, and adding the perspectives of the shapeshifters, along with others entrusted with protecting the Royal Four. Experience Roswell all over again, but from a different angle in Birthright, the sixth and last book in the Shapeshifters Series, beginning Wednesday, July 7th, 2010.

Locked