Comes The Inquisitor *Series*(AU,TEEN) Complete - 9/23

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.

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Misha
Addicted Roswellian
Posts: 402
Joined: Thu Jun 20, 2002 10:44 am
Location: Guatemala City, Guatemala
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Postby Misha » Sun Nov 12, 2006 2:22 pm

So, after an eternity of being MIA, I'm here!!! And as usual, every part leaves me wishing you would post everyday and about twenty pages of the story :P (yeah, wishful thinking on at it's max expression ;) )

Anyway, I don't know what I would have done in Brivari's position after seeing Valeris. I would probably dismissed it as wishful thinking and store it at the back of my mind just to wonder sometimes if it could have been real... Still, it was heart breaking!!! He finally sees his best friend and it's pretty much to hear bad news. Brivari it's an idealist at heart, and has worked so hard to see those ideals come true... and now he finds out it hasn't been so "idealistic" after all...

Girl, am I glad he didn't have to kill River Dog or Quanah!! That's so tough!! To know your friends might turn on you and your Royal duty -and survival- comes down to who lives and who doesn't. :cry:

YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY!!!!! No more Hunters!!! WOOHOOOOO!!!!!!! I wonder what Brivari is going to do with this new found freedom!!!!! And ahem... I'm missing hearing from Dee... so... maybe... hhhmmm...

Goooooooooo Hal!!!!!!! And go Yvonne and Stephen, especially Stephen!!! The gods know that those two have gone through a lot in such a short time, and are tangled up in some serious mess! It was so sad reading that Hal will regret his entire life not kissing the girl, that it wasn't just an after thought that he told Michael about. Sighs...

Have I told you how much I love you tie-in everything to the series???!!! LOOOOOVEEE IIIIITTT!!!!! :D :D :D

Now, what is Valenti going to do? What is he going to uncover this time around?? hhhhmmmm...

Misha
"There's addiction, and there's Roswell!"

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

Postby Kathy W » Sun Nov 12, 2006 5:34 pm

Misha: Hey, there! I enjoy tying the show into the story too, especially River Dog and Hal. It was harder with this book--long time, little to go on--but Book 4 is great fun. Atherton, the movie, Grandpa Valenti, all those lovely Skins running around. Heck, even Hubble might show up. :D

I won't be surprised if Brivari never makes up his mind about whether he actually spoke with Valeris. I know I haven't. ;) I can see it going either way, and I'll leave that to the individual reader to decide.

And Dee shows up in the next chapter (110). The loss of all the hunters causes Orlon to take drastic measures, and those measures involve the Proctors.





CHAPTER ONE HUNDRED NINE


May 25, 1949, 5:30 p.m.

Chaves County Sheriff's Station




Jim Valenti tapped his pencil on his notepad and studied the man sitting across the table. There were so many soldiers around Roswell that it was hard to keep them all straight, but he'd have sworn he'd known of a Hal Carver a couple of years back who, if he remembered rightly, had been a captain. The Carver now sitting across from him bore little resemblance to the Carver of Valenti's admittedly dim memory. This Carver had a hard-bitten look about him, like one who'd tried to clean himself up and hadn't quite succeeded. His hair had grown long, his clothes were unkempt, and his attitude left a lot to be desired, but the story he had to tell was interesting, to say the least. Valenti had remained mostly silent for the past half hour as Carver alternately told this story and wore down a cigarette, currently short enough to burn fingers. The end result was about half a dozen pages of notes, none of which, unfortunately, were likely to do anyone any good. And he almost hadn't had those. Carver's first act after finally managing to remember his name was to object to the report form Valenti had begun filling out.

"Mind if I smoke?" Carver had asked, his cigarette already lit.

"Nope. What's your address, Captain?"

"Put that away," Carver ordered. "I don't want anything written down."

"Then why'd you come to the sheriff's station?"

"Just to talk. No writing. Not yet, anyway."

"Then when?"

"Maybe never," Carver had retorted, "and definitely not now."

"Fine," Valenti had said blandly, pushing the form away. Things would go faster if he didn't have to file a report, and the faster things went, the faster he'd be rid of this weirdo. "So we 'just talk'. I've never pretended to be a shrink, but I'll have a go. What's on your mind, Captain?"

"Don't you go dicking around with me," Carver warned, wagging his cigarette in Valenti's direction.

"If anybody's 'dicking around', that would be you," Valenti said coldly. "You demand to see me and only me, you don't want a report filed, I had to wrestle your name out of you, and I still have no idea what this is about, if anything."

Carver leaned in closer. "It's about a murder."

"Then I'll need to know who the victim is so I can pull the file."

"There won't be a file," Carver had said. "It was called an accident, but it was really a murder."

"An accident—be it truly an accident or not—would also have a file," Valenti said, praying for patience. "I still need a name."

Carver hitched himself to the edge of his chair, leaning almost halfway across Valenti's desk....only to jerk backwards as someone walked by behind him. "You got somewhere private we can talk?"

"Private?"

"Yeah, you know, private. As in a place where no one can overhear us. What, you need a dictionary?"

Valenti had bitten back a remark about a suitable shrink's couch in the break room and headed down the hallway. This wasn't the first time he'd heard about an accident that was supposedly a murder. By the time he'd ushered Carver into an interrogation room and closed the door, Valenti had already drawn his own conclusions.

"This is about Betty Osorio, isn't it?"

Carver, who had seated himself in the chair furthest from Valenti and plunked his ashtray on the table, merely nodded.

"I gather you've been talking to a Lieutenant White?" Valenti ventured.

"So have you," Carver answered. "You want to hear me out or not?"

"By all means," Valenti said, "but I'll need to take notes. For my own records, not official ones."

"No."

"Carver, do you want to catch whoever killed Miss Osorio or don't you? I assume you do, or else you wouldn't be here." Carver had been silent, eyeing him through the clouds of cigarette smoke now filling the small room. "Fine," Valenti went on. "You want my help nailing whoever killed her, I need notes. It's that simple. Start talking."

That had been half an hour ago. Now, leafing through his pages of scrawl, Valenti reflected that despite having two genuine "alien calls" in the past two days, neither had really told him anything. Both the lovely young Lieutenant and the razor-edged Captain were notoriously tight-lipped about all the interesting stuff.

"That's quite a tale," Valenti said, setting down his pencil.

Carver's eyes narrowed. " 'Tale'? What do you mean, 'tale'? Are you calling me a liar?"

"I'm calling your testimony what any good lawyer would call it were it to make it to a courtroom," Valenti replied. "Almost everything you've told me happened while you were in the company of a woman now dead, or by yourself. Is there anyone who can corroborate any of this?"

"Funny thing about smuggling classified documents off an Army base and handing them over to reporters," Carver said sarcastically. "You don't sell tickets to the event. No, of course no one else saw us! Why would we do something like that where someone could see us?"

"Well," Valenti mused, "I suppose we could get Miss Osorio's sister to say you called. And Pete down at Parker's could confirm the presence of a note, if not its contents. Still, that's mighty thin."

"I have the note," Carver said, reaching into his pocket and pulling out a folded piece of paper which he thrust in Valenti's direction. Valenti unfolded it, the feminine scrawl inside making his blood run cold: "Just in case." "This is good," he said, setting the note down. "We can confirm it's her handwriting, confirm the number is her sister's...although frankly, 'just in case' could be interpreted to mean just about anything."

"Then what the hell do you want?" Carver demanded in exasperation. "It should be obvious even to a simpleton that Betty was murdered because of what I gave her, because she was going to go public with it the very next day. And Sheridan Cavitt's the prime suspect."

"I agree," Valenti nodded, "on both counts. I have no trouble seeing Cavitt behind this, and I'd like to nail him to the wall same as you, maybe even for the same reasons. Unfortunately, what's obvious or what I like doesn't cut it in our country's legal system. You have to prove it, and for murder, you have to prove it beyond a reasonable doubt. Reasonable doubt like the holes you've left in your story big enough for an Army battalion to drive tanks through. For example, what kind of classified information did you give Miss Osorio? What was so damning that someone would want to kill her for it?"

"I told you that doesn't matter," Carver said. "What matters is that it was classified."

"Okay. What about the key Miss Osorio left you? Who gave it to her?"

"No idea."

"Then where did it lead? I know you said the base, but where on the base? The mess hall? The commissary? The commander's bathroom?"

"I told you, I'm not talking about that."

"You told me you wouldn't say what you found, but surely you can say where you found it," Valenti reasoned.

"Fine," Carver said impatiently. "It led to the morgue."

"The morgue?" Valenti echoed. "Well, that's interesting. This wouldn't have anything to do with the survivors of that....'weather balloon', would it?"

"Last I checked, survivors don't go to morgues," Carver said.

"Right," Valenti said, hitting yet another dead end. "You know, Carver, if this ever goes to court, you'll have to go on the record. Are you willing to do that?"

Carver's eyes softened, his gaze drifting away like it had when Valenti had first asked his name. "Betty asked me that," he said quietly.

"I'm sure she did," Valenti answered. "And what did you say?"

"I said yes."

"So she got to take notes without a dispensation from God?"

"Nothing personal, Valenti, but you're not exactly built like she was," Carver said dryly.

"Tell me about it," Valenti murmured, remembering Betty Osorio's ample figure. "But seriously, you'll have to be willing to stand up and say this in court if it goes that far. There won't be a case without you."

"You get me whoever killed Betty," Carver said, flicking ashes into the ashtray, "and I'll go on whatever record you want. Including the classified documents and what I found in that morgue."

"Good," Valenti sighed, running a hand through his hair. Perhaps this hadn't been a complete waste of his time. "Where to next? I'll talk to Pete and Miss Osorio's sister, but that won't get us far, as I've already told you. What about this Dodie fellow—"

"He won't help you," Carver interrupted. "He'll just tell you it's Army business, send you packing, and rat you out to Cavitt same as he did me."

"Then what about your friends? You said they threatened your friends if you didn't resign. Which friends? Did they know they were being threatened?"

Expecting to be brushed off yet again, Valenti was surprised when Carver looked thoughtful for a moment. "That's a possibility," he said, nodding. "I wonder if she's still around?"

" 'She' who?" Valenti asked. "Anyone I know?"



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


Roswell




"Oh, my God! Oh.....oh.....oh, baby," Walker moaned, collapsing onto his elbows. "Oh, baby, that was the best one yet! Don't you think that was the best one yet?"

Beneath him, Rosemary dredged up a smile. "Absolutely."

Not, she added privately as Walker heaved himself off her and rolled onto his back. There was no shortage of men who considered themselves God's gift to women, but Private Walker was a special piece of work. Correction—Corporal Walker. She kept forgetting that someone had bothered to promote him. No doubt they were regretting that now, if they hadn't already.

"Mmm," Walker murmured in satisfaction, closing his eyes in his usual post-coital stupor. "Bet you don't have many customers who move like I do."

"They all move pretty much the same way," Rosemary said, slipping out of bed and reaching for her robe. "In and out."

A hand grabbed her arm. "Don't," Walker said, pulling her back onto the bed. "I like you wearing just exactly what you are now."

"I'm not wearing anything," Rosemary pointed out.

"Exactly," Walker grinned.

"Don't you want your cigarette?"

"Let's go again," Walker whispered, nuzzling her ear. "I reload fast."

"You only paid for one," Rosemary reminded him, grateful once again that Walker couldn't afford a twofer on a corporal's salary.

"I'm so talented, I think I deserve a discount," Walker said, his hand straying between her legs. Rosemary clamped her own hand around his wrist and pushed it away.

"You paid for one," she told him firmly. "Business is business."

"Oh, c'mon, sweetheart! I'm not 'business'!" Walker protested as she pulled away from him and donned her robe. "Besides..." He reached over and dug in his pants pocket, pulling out a wad of bills. "I've been saving. I can pay for another ride."

Shit, Rosemary exclaimed silently. "You have to make an appointment," she told him, thinking fast. "I'm a busy woman, you know. My next customer won't like it if I stand him up."

Walker's face darkened. "Who's your next customer?"

"None of your business," Rosemary said casually, lighting two cigarettes and handing one to Walker as she curled up beside him on the bed. Ten minutes, she thought, glancing at the clock. She only had to keep him busy for ten minutes. "So tell me again about how you're saving the world," she said softly, running a finger down his bare chest. "You always make me feel so safe."

And Walker was off and running on his favorite subject—himself. He never tired of trumpeting about how he was assigned to a top secret mission, apparently unaware that just about every soldier who had occupied this bed also claimed a similar honor. Rosemary was used to hearing this, a large part of her clientele being military personnel, but Walker, as usual, was in a class by himself. To hear him talk, he was single-handedly saving the earth from monsters, or aliens....or worse.

"Yessir, you just wait," Walker was saying, puffing on his cigarette. "Mind you, it's okay now—I got it good, and its actually doing something useful. But that won't last forever, and when it stops, the bleeding hearts who have the wheel now will get replaced by people who'll clean up that scum. And I'll be there to help them do that. I live for that day," he added, flicking ash onto her new satin sheets. "It's the first thing I think of when I get up in the morning, and the last thing I think of before I go to sleep at night."

"I'm sure," Rosemary murmured, sounding duly impressed although she was only half listening. Walker had long ago told her that a high profile prisoner was housed at the base, probably a Russian judging by his level of animosity, and he loved to hold forth on all the lovely things he would do to that prisoner given the opportunity. She usually tuned out at that part; Walker apparently liked his executions as rough as he liked his sex. No surprise there.

"You should see them," Walker said in disgust, "fawning over that thing like it was worth it. Like it mattered. Like it was human."

Rosemary's ears pricked. "Does that mean he isn't human?"

Walker looked startled, as though he'd forgotten she was there. " 'Course it is. I just meant we shouldn't be treating it that way, given what it's done."

"Why do you keep calling him 'it'?"

" 'Cause it doesn't deserve anything else," Walker said darkly, parking his cigarette in an ashtray. "Now, how about you and me go for another gallop."

"I told you, I have another customer," Rosemary reminded him. That wasn't true, of course, but Walker didn't need to know that.

"Oh, yeah? Then where is he? It's almost 7 p.m., and nobody's rung yet."

"Doesn't matter," Rosemary said lightly, slipping off the bed. "I need time to get ready. And he's prepaid, so he has his time slot even if he's late."

"Well, maybe I'll hang around," Walker said, sliding the sheet down as he spoke to show off his supposedly generous assets. "And if he doesn't show, I can have my ride."

"Doesn't work like that," Rosemary said pleasantly, tossing his clothes at him. "Get dressed. Time's up."

"Oh, baby..."

"Don't 'oh baby' me," Rosemary interrupted. "Business is business. I want you out by the time I'm out. Use the back door."

She stepped into the bathroom, shrugging off her robe and reaching for a towel. No man liked to bed a woman who smelled of another man, so she bathed a lot. Thank goodness for the warm climate; she didn't know how working women in colder climes dealt with the dry skin that must result from bathing so often. Five minutes later, she stepped back into the room wearing a fresh robe...and a frown. Walker was still there, grinning from ear to ear.

"I told you to leave," Rosemary said coldly.

"But he's not here yet," Walker protested. "And I can pay."

"Out!" Rosemary said curtly.

"If he doesn't show, you can make twice the money," Walker noted, "his money and mine. Business is business."

Rosemary's teeth clenched. Like all experienced businesswoman, she'd developed an "always" list. Always collect your payment up front. Always insist on cash. Always have your customers enter and exit through separate doors. Always insist your customers honor their time slot. And always be ready to draw the line if necessary, whether that be with words or the famous knee to the groin.

"Haul that little white hiney of yours out of my bed, Walker, or I'll—"

The doorbell rang. Thank God, Rosemary thought. It was probably just the landlady, but anyone would do to do get rid of Walker. "You see? That's my next customer. Out!" Rosemary ordered.

"Oh, all right," Walker grumbled, climbing out of bed....only to make a beeline for the door in the altogether. "I want to see who it is, and show'em the competition," he crowed.

"No!" Rosemary exclaimed desperately, lunging for the door. But he was already there, pulling it open to find.....

"Am I....interrupting something?" Jim Valenti asked, eyeing Walker up and down.

"Who's this?" Walker demanded.

Rosemary broke into a dazzling smile. Here she'd been afraid the door would open to reveal her elderly—and very Catholic—landlady. While that would have been amusing, this was even better. "Corporal Walker, this is Jim Valenti," she purred. "Deputy Valenti, actually, of the Sheriff's department."

''Is there some sort of problem here?" Valenti asked.

"No," Walker answered, his face ashen as he scrambled for his clothes. "I was just leaving. I—" He stopped, at a loss for words for probably the first time in his life. A minute later he'd fled, his footsteps echoing down the back stairs, not even bothering to close the door.

"What was that all about?" Valenti asked, removing his hat as he stepped inside.

"I would imagine it would have something to do with my profession being illegal," Rosemary answered smoothly, closing the back door behind Walker and locking it for good measure. "Are you here to arrest me, Deputy?"

"Now, Rosemary, you know we leave you alone just as long as there's no trouble," Valenti answered. "And that guy who just left looked like trouble."

"Nothing I can't handle," Rosemary said. "You don't run a business as long as I have without learning to deal with the pushy types. No pun intended," she added, winking at Valenti, who blushed. "But I must admit your arrival was....helpful. I have some free time. Can I return the favor? No appointment necessary."

"That's not why I'm here," Valenti said, still flushing. "I was looking for some information about a fellow named Carver. He used to be a Captain over at the base. I think I saw him here once. You know him?"

"Sure," Rosemary said, said, taking a seat at her dressing table. "Hal was a regular customer. A very regular customer."

" 'Was'?"

"He disappeared," Rosemary clarified, picking up a hairbrush. "Didn't say why. Just never came back."

"Carver says he was forced to resign," Valenti said, leaning against the wall as she began to brush her hair in long strokes. "He says they threatened to take it out on you if he didn't."

"And?" Rosemary asked.

"And I was wondering if this had anything to do with that time the MP's ripped up your place."

"Could be," Rosemary said. "That never happened again, so I guess resigning worked."

"Mm-hm. You get a lot of military customers, don't you?"

Rosemary cocked an eyebrow. "Of course."

"Are they all enlisted men like the one who just left, or do you get any brass?"

"I get all stripes. Why?"

"I was just wondering if you ever....hear things," Valenti said.

"Things like....what?"

When Valenti didn't answer, Rosemary shrugged a shoulder, causing her robe to slip open a bit. "There's really no need to be coy with me," she said, enjoying the look on Valenti's face. It was always fun to make the uptight ones blush, and Valenti was almost as uptight as her first husband. "Just ask me what you want to know."

"Okay," Valenti said, deliberately looking away. "Do you know anything about a Sheridan Cavitt, currently a Lieutenant Colonel?"

"I might," Rosemary allowed. "Why?"

"Carver and I suspect Cavitt had something to do with a death back in '47. He wouldn't have gotten his own hands dirty; he would have delegated the job. Who does he work with?"

"You're the sheriff's deputy. Don't you know who the hit men in town are?"

"In town, yes," Valenti replied. "But this could be anyone from all over the county, someone from the base, or both. And I happen to know that you serve both a wide geographic area and, like you just said, a wide clientele."

That I do, Rosemary thought with satisfaction, pulling the brush through her long auburn hair. Wide enough that she could easily have pointed Valenti in the right direction and waved him on his way if doing so hadn't violated another of those "always" principals: Always keep your clients' confidences. A great many of those were revealed in the heat of the moment. Men never shut up. Under any circumstances.

"How did he die?"

"Who?"

"Whoever Cavitt supposedly killed."

"It was a 'she'," Valenti answered. "One Betty Osorio of the Fort Worth Star Telegram."

"The lady reporter?" Rosemary asked sharply. "The one who was here at the time of the crash?"

"That's her. It was a car accident.....officially."

Rosemary set her brush down and stared into the dressing table mirror. She remembered Betty. They'd shared a drink at Parker's, two business women in an age that didn't favor business women. Granted, Betty's business differed from Rosemary's, but what they had in common far outweighed their differences. Betty had been brash, fearless, and a good dresser. And now it seemed her death was courtesy of a man who'd no doubt found her threatening. What else was new.

"I'm sorry, Deputy," Rosemary said. "I never kiss and tell. It's bad for business. "But....."

"But....what?" Valenti asked.

Rosemary leaned in close to Valenti's ear. "I have been known to say things that perhaps I shouldn't while I'm...distracted. And as I mentioned before, I have some free time. So if you'd like to try distracting me......"

"I see," Valenti said slowly. "And how much does this....'distraction' cost?"

"Five dollars for forty-five minutes."

"Five dollars?"

"Trust me, it'll be the most rewarding interrogation you've ever conducted."

Rosemary smiled as Valenti colored again. She could have just told him what he wanted to know, of course. But this way she got paid. Because business, after all, was business.



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


Mescalero Indian Reservation




The sun was low in the sky when River Dog awoke to find himself alone in the bedroom he shared with his siblings. A glance at the clock told him he had been asleep for hours, and he rose hurriedly, pulling a blanket around his shoulders. He found his father outside splitting logs, an amazing thing to watch given that last night he had very nearly died. If only Quanah knew how close he had come.

"River Dog," Quanah said when he saw him, "you shouldn't be up. Go back to bed."

"Did they find him?"

Quanah's eyes dropped, then strayed toward the woods. "No."

"Were they really looking?" River Dog asked accusingly.

"That's not fair," Quanah admonished. "Several teams of men have spent hours combing the forest, and none found any trace of Nasedo. And yes, they were 'really looking'. Do you think Itza-chu would have settled for anything less?"

River Dog sat down on the bench beside the back door and pulled the blanket closer, grateful for its warmth despite the warm May evening. Quanah was right; Itza-chu would not have settled for anything less than a full effort to find the man he was once so suspicious of. In a textbook case of irony, it was the medicine man who had so opposed Nasedo's presence who had argued forcefully that they had an obligation to search for him and render aid if needed.

Things certainly hadn't started out that way. When Quanah, River Dog, and the others arrived back at the village, weary and footsore, a meeting had been called at once. Itza-chu was there, having largely recovered from his injury the night before, and he had bidden them tell their stories individually. After everyone had spoken it was clear that, while all had initially reached different conclusions about what they had observed, all the stories matched at all the key points, and everyone had observed the same things. The notion that creatures widely considered myth were actually real was understandably disturbing to many, and some chose to deal with that by questioning whether River Dog and the others had actually seen what they thought they had.

"I, too, once considered skinwalkers to be myth," Quanah said in response to the misgivings about the accuracy of their reports . "But no longer. I have seen one with my own eyes. I was wrong. They are real. And they are flesh, not spirit—my gun wounded one. I finished it with my bare hands. We can defeat them...and Nasedo showed us the way. He rescued my son, killed one of the skinwalkers, and enabled me to kill the other. River Dog tells me Nasedo was injured in the fight. We were unable to find him in the forest, so my son and I ask for volunteers to help us search for him. I feel I owe him that."

"Silence!" Itza-chu had commanded after a lengthy period of intense questioning from villagers followed this speech. "You have heard Taklishim say that I greeted him rudely last night when, in fact, I never went near his house. You have heard Grey Wolf say that he watched his father and older brother leave for Nasedo's cave, only to have his father appear minutes later with no knowledge of this. I have told you myself how one who looked like Quanah attacked me in my dwelling. River Dog has told you how he discovered the skinwalker's true nature, and Quanah has said that he saw a skinwalker wearing his shape. Do you think us all liars?"

Another argument ensued. If the notion of skinwalkers being real left people uneasy, the idea of having one as powerful as Nasedo obviously was so close to the village did little to assuage their fears. No one thought him a mountain spirit any longer—no spirit would have suffered a physical reaction like Nasedo had last night—but in some ways, that made matters worse. A flesh and blood being that could create light from the sky was more frightening than any spirit. Some felt that the proximity of such a potent shaman could be beneficial, but others were glad he was gone.

"He could turn on us," someone suggested, as murmurs of apprehension rippled through the crowd. "We cannot know his purpose."

"But he did not turn on us at the moment of need," someone else argued.

"And why were we in need?" another challenged. "Because Nasedo was here, that's why! The skinwalkers pursued him here. If he had not come, neither would they."

Through it all, River Dog had leaned against the wall, exhausted, knowing that Nasedo was no shaman, that his powers came from another world and, most importantly, that he had saved Quanah's life. He could reveal none of this....and that was extremely frustrating.

"Enough!" River Dog exclaimed, rising to his feet, fighting a wave of dizziness. Everyone quieted and stared at him in surprise as though they had quite forgotten he was there. "You say that you fear Nasedo because he is powerful," River Dog continued, struggling to keep his voice even, "but is power evil? I say power is neither good nor evil; it merely is. It is the use of power that makes it good or evil. The skinwalkers used their power to deceive and attack us—was that good, or evil? Nasedo used his power to defeat the skinwalkers and help my father save me. Was that good, or evil?"

The babble of conflicting voices rose again as River dog sank back down, unable to remain on his feet any longer, only to look up again as the voices hushed. Itza-chu had risen to his feet, and such was his presence that everyone quieted immediately. "Fools," he said in a deadly voice, as every pair of eyes widened, including River Dog's. "You shame me. You shame yourselves. How many men are in this room? How many women? And yet a child is the only one who sees."

River Dog's eyes darted around the room; everyone was staring at him. Any other day, those stares might have made him quail. Now he was merely fighting to stay conscious.

"We have no way of knowing if the skinwalkers would have come if Nasedo had not," Itza-chu continued, "and we do not know exactly who Nasedo is. But this we do know—he has vanquished our enemies, saved one of us....and we may have need of him again. What if there are more skinwalkers? What will we do without Nasedo if more appear? Or what if he lies now in the forest, wounded and angry that we have not come to his aid? Who would be foolish enough to provoke the anger of such a powerful being who has proven helpful?"

Silence. No one spoke. River Dog struggled to keep his eyes open. He was fading fast.

"We will search the forest," Itza-chu said firmly. "If we do not find Nasedo, so be it. But we will try. We will—"

But River Dog had heard nothing more. He had simply collapsed, exhausted from the trials of the previous night and the energy the magic stones had taken from him. Pandemonium had erupted in the meeting hall as he'd slid to the floor and was narrowly caught by his father and ferried home to bed, all with assurances that everything possible would be done to find Nasedo. He had fallen asleep immediately despite his efforts to stay awake.

"Perhaps we should take heart from the lack of news," Quanah was saying now, balancing another log to be split. "If Nasedo were injured or dead, we would have found him. Perhaps he recovered and has simply....left. With the skinwalkers dead, perhaps he no longer needs to hide."

"He would have said goodbye if he were leaving," River Dog said dully, noting privately that Nasedo would always need to hide.

The axe came down, the two halves of the log falling to the ground. "Son, we don't know what Nasedo is," Quanah said. "We now know he is not spirit, but the fact remains that he is not like us. Your great-grandfather told me as much. He also told me that there were four of Nasedo's kind, and two had passed on. That leaves a third unaccounted for. Perhaps the need to hide prevented him from being with this third. Perhaps that is where he is now...and if so, we should be happy for him." Quanah set another log on end and picked up his axe. "Did he ever mention a living kinsman?"

"No," River Dog said as the axe came down again. "As far as I know, he is alone."



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



Copper Summit, Arizona




Malik found Marana on the lower basement level, leaning against one of the tanks which held the emergents, arms crossed tightly in front of herself, staring off into space. She didn't even hear him come in.

"Is something wrong?" Malik asked in alarm. "Did we lose another one?"

Marana turned around with a start. "Malik...I'm sorry. I didn't see you. No, we haven't lost any more....yet."

"But you're worried we're going to," Malik prompted.

When she didn't answer, Malik pulled up a chair. "Look," he began gently, "you told me the attrition rate for Covari was very high. We've only lost five so far out of fifty, and the first was due to equipment failure, so it's really only four. That's not even close to what you were expecting."

"But it's the way they died," Marana said. "I had Amar take that faulty tank apart practically down to its molecules, and he couldn't find any reason for the failure. So we still don't know what happened, and it could happen to any of these others."

"But it hasn't happened again," Malik pointed out. "The other four didn't die from faulty tanks."

"Would that they had," Marana said. "At least that's a failure we're familiar with. No, the other four merely died in their tanks with no indication whatsoever as to why."

"But you said as many as half could die."

"I said half don't survive emergence," Marana corrected. "More don't survive their first shift. But once an embryo passes a certain stage, it's virtually guaranteed to emerge, even if it doesn't survive the process. To have them just die during development like that....that's strange. And that's what has me worried. Something's not right here."

"Were you able to do any kind of autopsy?"

"No," Marana sighed. "Three of the emergents disintegrated before I could examine them. The fourth was still intact, but then Orlon sent me out on yet another wild goose chase looking for Brivari. I told him the body would likely be gone by the time I returned, and he didn't seem to care. And of course it was gone when I got back because I'm always off chasing someone who can't be found. If I didn't know better, I'd say that was Orlon's intention."

Malik didn't answer as Marana fell into an obviously frustrated silence. Orlon had definitely suffered from tunnel vision since losing his second hunter last summer. He would have sent Malik out looking for Brivari if not reminded that currency was needed to survive in this culture, and earning currency required Malik to stay home. So Orlon had increased the amount of time that he, Amar, and Marana spent scouting various areas for Brivari, to Amar's delight and Marana's dismay. After the first emergent's violent death, she had become as fixated on the occupants of these tanks as Orlon was on Brivari, and their cross purposes were not breeding harmony.

"Let's talk about something else," Marana said. "Did you have any luck with Brivari's ally at the military base?"

"He's coming around," Malik said, his standard answer for queries of this type. "But it's going to take more than just visits from me to convince him that I'm on Brivari's side."

"Like what?"

"Like maybe staging an attack and letting me foil it by tipping him off," Malik suggested.

"You mean like last time?"

Malik stiffened. "Meaning?"

"Meaning the humans were alerted the last time we attacked," Marana said, "But I suppose that doesn't qualify because that was just Amar screwing up, as usual."

Her tone was bored, her mind clearly not on the subject, and Malik relaxed. Everyone had long ago accepted that Amar was responsible for alerting the humans during the attack on the base a year and a half ago; even Amar had reluctantly reached the conclusion that something he had done, however inadvertently, must have served as forewarning. Even so, Malik lived with a deep-seated fear that information would come to light that would prove otherwise. If that happened he would have to run, losing everything he'd ever known for the second time in his life, not to mention the fact that he had nowhere to run and no one to run with.

"I was hoping you were making some headway at the base and we could get Jaddo out of there," Marana was saying. "Perhaps Orlon would let me tackle this problem with the emergents if he had at least one Warder in custody."

"You know he won't rest until he has Brivari," Malik noted.

"But Khivar might order him home if we had Jaddo," Marana said. "I hope the hunters being gone so long is good news. I just want this over with, don't you?"

"Sure," Malik said. Though not the way you do, he thought. He had deliberately avoided pondering why the hunters had been gone so long this time. He didn't want to think about that.

The doorbell rang. "I'll get it," Malik said.

"I'll come with you," Marana said disconsolately. "It's depressing in here."

It was still warm outside when Malik opened the door, the hot, dry night a promise of even hotter nights to come. The single light by the door was the only illumination on the empty front porch. "Hello?" Malik called.

"Probably one of those children who ring doorbells and run away," Marana said sourly.

"But it's a school night," Malik frowned. "They wouldn't be out this late—"

He stopped, having stepped outside....or tried to. A large box lay on the porch floor, a box which bore no address or markings of any kind save for one: The "V" shaped royal mark, burned into the top of the box, the embers still glowing as though it had only recently been lit. Malik and Marana both stared at it in shock.

"Oh, no," Marana whispered.



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

I'll post Chapter 110 next Sunday. :)
BRIVARI: "In our language, the root of the word 'Covari' means 'hidden'. I'm always there, Your Highness, even if you don't see me."

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Misha
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Postby Misha » Sat Nov 18, 2006 5:53 pm

As Kyle once wisely said, I gotta wash my eyes...

Five dollars ain't worth it... I'm telling you Rosemary, it ain't worth it and no one would blame you for not taking Walker -of all people!!- into your clientele... :shock: :shock: :shock:

Now, poor River Dog trapped between wanting to tell the truth and keeping the secret. What if Nasedo really needs them? What the heck happened to "the truth will set you free"???!!! :roll:

I'm sure Brivari is alright, though... I mean... he has to be, right???? Why else would he go all the way to Arizona and make that special effect glow in the dark??? Yeah, he's fine...

I so want to see Dee!!! She's now close to her 10th birthday, right? :D

Misha
"There's addiction, and there's Roswell!"

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Kathy W
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Postby Kathy W » Sun Nov 19, 2006 2:11 pm

*Hands Misha a washcloth for her eyes*

Misha wrote:What the heck happened to "the truth will set you free"???!!! :roll:


Well, that never worked too well for our pod squad. It's one of those notions that's great in theory, tricky in practice.

Dee is approaching her 11th birthday, although her adolescent days appear to be approaching faster than that. ;) And as for Rosemary, $5 went a lot further in 1949 than it does now. Maybe groceries were tight that week. (Although I'm with you--given the client in question, I think I'd rather go hungry!)




CHAPTER ONE HUNDRED TEN


May 26, 1949, 6:30 a.m.

Copper Summit, Arizona





"Is it both of them?" Orlon asked.

Marana glanced at Malik before answering. "Yes."

"Are you sure? Brivari could have mixed in ordinary debris to make it look like more."

"Even my limited equipment found the genetic signatures of both hunters all over this," Marana answered, refraining from noting that, as a bioscientist, Brivari couldn't have fooled her with "ordinary debris" if he'd tried. "So I'm sure."

Orlon remained silent for a moment, his back to them, his gaze far away. "Well," he said at length. "Well, well."

Amar gave a snort of disgust. "Is that it? Brivari just killed the last two hunters, and all you can say is 'well, well'?"

Orlon turned a pair of deadly eyes on him. "I should point out that now is not the best time to provoke me. Consider yourself warned."

Malik stole another glance at Marana as Amar lapsed into sullen silence. The box containing the remains of both hunters lay on the floor in the middle of their group, the royal "V" burned into the top having eaten clear through the box. Both Orlon and Amar had been out hunting when the box had arrived, and had only just returned, leaving several long hours for Malik and Marana to verify their suspicions about its contents....and worry. Despite his secret elation at the knowledge that the hunters no longer posed a threat, Malik found himself very uneasy about what would happen now. This was a turning point; having failed to take Brivari by force, new tactics would have to be employed. Exactly what those tactics would entail was likely on the mind of everyone in this room, albeit for different reasons. Amar no doubt wanted swift and terrible vengeance, Malik wished to encourage a dialog, and Marana was likely worried about the fate of the emergents because of the way Orlon had reacted the last time Brivari had killed a hunter. He'd become slightly unhinged last summer when Brivari had slipped through his grasp again, arguing that they should abandon the emergents and move their base to Roswell; fortunately, Khivar had disagreed. Orlon's personal desire to bring down his long-time enemy was affecting his judgment.

"How is it that he was here—right here on our own front porch—and you didn't see him?" Amar burst out. "Could you two be any more incompetent if you tried?"

"What is he talking about?" Orlon asked sharply.

"He's talking about the lack of a post mark," Malik answered as Marana curled further into her chair, having already heard—and been terrified by—the forthcoming explanation.

"What's that?" Orlon demanded. "What does that mean?"

"It means that this box wasn't mailed through the humans' usual written communication system like the last box was," Malik replied. "Anything that passes through the post office receives a stamp called a 'post mark'. This—"

"Stop stonewalling," Amar interrupted. "The short answer is that Brivari himself dropped this little gift on our doorstep. Which means that Brivari himself was here, not just in this town but at our house, and they missed him!"

"Of course he was here," Malik said, trying to keep the irritation out of his voice. "I told you the symbol was glowing when we found it, so it must have only just been lit. And what do you think we should have done? Invite him in for tea and cookies?"

"You know as well as I do that he watched you open that door, watched you pick up this box," Amar said angrily. "But did you even try to look for him? No! Of course not! You scuttled back inside and hid in the basement!"

"Correction," Malik said stonily. "We brought the box inside and Marana tested the contents."

"Same difference," Amar said sourly.

"There's nothing we could have done!" Marana exclaimed. "He's too powerful!"

"I love it," Amar said, breaking into a grin. "The scientist is scared witless of her own creation. Makes that human "Frankenstein" story look more interesting, doesn't it?" He leaned forward eagerly, warming to his subject as Marana glared at him. "So, how do you like your 'enhanced Covari' now, Marana? Still think it was a good idea? Isn't it just—"

"Silence!" Orlon snapped. "Is this true?" he asked Malik as Amar smirked behind him. "Was Brivari here?"

"He must have been," Malik answered. "Mail only comes during the day."

"We didn't see anything," Marana added hastily, "and we certainly didn't go looking for him. He could have killed us!"

"But he didn't," Orlon said softly, turning to stare at both of them. "Why not? Why are both of you still alive?"

"How should I know?" Marana asked crossly. "I'm just glad we are."

Orlon raised an eyebrow to Malik, who looked away. He'd had the same thought, of course—he was certain Brivari had watched them retrieve the hunters' remains, and it would have been child's play to for him to kill them both—but he hadn't. The reason for leaving Marana alive was obvious—she was capable of creating a substitute for the serum that silenced Jaddo's powers. But what of himself? Was it possible that Brivari was actually considering his offer of loyalty?

"This makes no sense," Orlon was saying, shaking his head. "He had the perfect opportunity to cut the number of his enemies in half. He knew all the hunters were dead, and even if he didn't know that Amar and I were not here, he could still have easily felled the two of you before we even knew what was happening. So why didn't he? What use has he for you?"

"He was probably just weakened from killing the hunters," Malik said reasonably, hoping to steer Orlon away from this worrisome train of thought. "He did dispose of two of them this time."

"I'd like to know how he did that," Amar said. "I thought he couldn't handle two all by himself."

"He can't," Orlon answered. "He accomplished it the same way he always does—by enlisting allies to do his work for him. A tactic we shall now have to pursue more vigorously ourselves."

"No way!" Amar retorted. "We should contact home and have them send more hunters."

"No," Orlon said sharply. "No one is calling home."

"But they could send a dozen hunters!" Amar protested. "I bet they will when they hear what's happened. I'd just like to see him try to fight off that many—"

"No one is contacting home," Orlon said firmly. "Is that clear?"

"But—"

"I said, is that clear?"

He's embarrassed, Malik thought, throwing Amar a warning glance and praying that, for once, he'd pay heed. And worried. Orlon had set out on this little expedition thinking it easy to capture at least one of the Warders; nearly a year and a half later, he had no hunters left and no Warders to show for it. Khivar had passed off the first hunter's death at the hands of Brivari's human ally as a lucky shot, but had been none too pleased when he'd learned that Brivari had brought down the second. Orlon no doubt planned on keeping this latest setback to himself for a good long while.

"Fine," Amar sulked. "Then what are we going to do? Something, I hope."

"We shall have to play Brivari's game," Orlon replied. "Malik, I will need to be coached on appropriate clothing, customs, and manners. You are most suited for that task."

"Okay," Malik said warily, "but why?"

Orlon gave him a dark smile. "I am going to pay a call."



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



5 p.m.

Mescalero Indian Reservation




"There you are," Billy grumbled as Joe crawled under the branches into their hiding place. "I've been here for fifteen minutes already."

"Where's Jimmy?" Joe asked.

"He's not here either. Light up, already, will you?"

"No. We wait for Jimmy," Joe said firmly.

"I see him," Billy announced, peering through the branches. "He's just leaving his house. Now light up, will you?"

Joe twisted around to look for himself. Jimmy—or Grey Wolf, as his family called him, was a small dot in the distance, trudging away from his house as his older brother, River Dog, stood in the back doorway. "All right," he said, pulling the cigarettes and matches out of his pocket. A moment later, a ribbon of smoke snaked skyward.

"Think we'll get our cave back now that Nasedo is gone?" Billy asked hopefully as Joe passed him the cigarette.

"We don't know for sure he's gone," Joe pointed out. "Besides, would you go in there after everything that's happened?"

"No," Billy admitted, passing the cigarette back. "I like this place better anyway. The cave was too far away. We can smoke more often here."

"This place" was a snug space beneath the lower branches of some massive evergreens right on the edge of the woods, chosen for it's lack of visibility and the fact that it was usually downwind from the village which was clearly visible in the distance. Jimmy was already halfway to them. "Now remember," Joe said severely, "we don't bug him. We just let him talk. Right?"

"Right," Billy agreed.

A minute later feet appeared outside the branches, and Jimmy crawled inside. He wasn't even all the way in before Billy started talking.

"So what were they like?" he burst out, unable to contain himself. "What's a skinwalker look like? My father says they're just stories, but—"

"They're not stories," Jimmy said flatly. "Your father's wrong."

"Will you shut it?" Joe exclaimed, glaring at Billy. "Give him a minute!"

Billy fell into an abashed silence as Jimmy took the cigarette Joe offered without answering. Both had attended the village meetings where Jimmy and his family had talked about their adventure with the skinwalkers two nights ago, but neither had had so much as a minute alone with their friend since. Both were bursting with questions, but Joe had more self-control.

"You okay?" Joe asked Jimmy.

"Yeah, I'm okay," Jimmy answered, although he looked a bit pale. "So's River Dog and father. We're all okay."

"Itza-chu is better," Joe said. "Someone overheard him asking the ancestors to help Nasedo. There's a switch."

"He's scared," Jimmy said soberly. "He knows he couldn't fight the skinwalkers if they come back."

"Were you scared?" Billy ventured.

"Shitless," Jimmy whispered.

Joe's and Billy's eyes widened. Such a bald admission of fear to one's peers was rare. "So what do they look like?" Billy asked eagerly.

"They're skinwalkers, you idiot," Joe said in exasperation. "They look like whoever they're trying to copy."

"But is it a good copy?" Billy pestered, ignoring Joe. "I mean, could you tell?"

Jimmy shook his head. "No. Not by just looking, anyway. They were perfect, right down to their clothes and their voices."

"Wow!" Billy breathed.

"Creepy," Joe muttered.

"Very," Jimmy agreed. "Especially when one of them looked like my father."

"But the first one looked like Itza-chu, right?" Billy asked.

Jimmy nodded. He hadn't handed back the cigarette, and nobody minded. "At first I was glad to see him because Grandfather was trying to make me tell him where River Dog had gone, and Bright Sun had just called me 'Jimmy' right in front of him. I was hoping Itza-chu would distract him."

"Sisters," Joe muttered.

"But then Itza-chu—I mean, the skinwalker—ignored Grandmother, didn't even greet her, and was so rude to Grandfather...something just wasn't right. 'Course, I didn't know what. Not then."

Silence. Joe lit a second cigarette, took a drag, and passed it to Billy, whose eyes were round. "And then what?"

"Then I went to bed," Jimmy shrugged. "I woke up when I heard River Dog and father talking outside. Father wasn't even mad that River Dog had disobeyed him and gone to Nasedo's cave, and that was weird. He said he wanted River Dog to go with him to the cave, and River Dog came in to get some food. I tried to warn him, but he wouldn't listen."

"Brothers," Joe muttered.

"And then they left," Jimmy said. "And a few minutes later....father came home."

"You mean your real father, right?" Billy asked.

Jimmy nodded again, his hands clasped tightly around his knees. "He said he'd just gotten home and hadn't seen River Dog. When I told him what happened, he had me get his hunting rifle. And then Itza-chu was hurt, and mother was all upset, and father went into the woods alone...." He shook his head at the memory. "I don't ever want to go through that again."

"You don't have to," Joe said. "Both skinwalkers are dead, right?"

"But where are their bodies?" Jimmy asked. "Where did they go? And what if there are more? How would we fight them? How would we even know? And what happened to Nasedo?"

"Well, that's not hard," Billy said. "He's dead, right?"

"Billy!" Joe hissed.

"If he's dead, then where's his body?" Jimmy demanded. "Where are all the missing bodies?"

"How should I know?" Billy asked crossly. "I just—"

"Shhh!"

Joe had clamped his hand over Billy's mouth, his eyes fixed on what little ground they could see right outside their cocoon of branches. A pair of feet was right outside. A pair of feet that hadn't been there a moment ago. Their secret hiding place was apparently secret no longer.

"Put those out!" Joe whispered to Jimmy, who grabbed both cigarettes and ground them into the dirt, burying both. "Quiet!" he hissed in Billy's ear as Billy made strangled sounds of panic. "If they don't hear anything, maybe they'll go away!"

But the feet did not go away. Instead one moved back, a knee appearing in its place, and a hand reached out and lifted the branches high, higher....

A moment later, Jimmy burst from the hiding place, running for home as if his life depended on it, yelling the whole way. "River Dog! Father! He's back! Nasedo's back!"



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



By the time Brivari reached the edges of the village, its inhabitants were already gathering in response to the child's shouting. This wasn't the introduction he'd had in mind, having intended to send Quanah's younger son to quietly fetch his father so that Brivari might speak with him alone and gauge the reaction to the events of two nights ago. What he had overheard of the children's conversation had been encouraging, but still....he had no idea how much Quanah and his son had seen during the battle with the hunters, or if the boy had managed to keep the secret of Brivari's origins. The faces he saw now as people spilled from their dwellings to stare at him were not encouraging; some looked merely wary, some worried, some downright frightened.

Quanah appeared and broke into a broad smile, the only smile in the crowd. "Nasedo!" he exclaimed. "You are alive! We searched for you all day yesterday, and when we did not find you, we feared the worst."

"I had matters to attend to," Brivari answered, remembering with satisfaction the looks on Malik's and Marana's faces when they had realized the source of their "delivery". "And how did you fare?"

"Nasedo!" River Dog called, elbowing through the crowd, his noisy younger brother and wide-eyed little sister hovering in the doorway of their dwelling. "I thought Grey Wolf was teasing!"

"We are unharmed," Quanah said, putting his arm around his son. "Weary, but unharmed."

"I am glad to hear that," Brivari said sincerely, remembering how very close he'd come to putting the boy into a coma, him being the only source of energy for the healing of two people. "And what of your medicine man?"

Quanah's eyes shifted just as the crowd suddenly quieted. The medicine man was standing outside his "wickiup" as he always did when Brivari visited, wearing both his trademark scowl and a bandage on his head. Brivari shot a questioning look at Quanah, but Quanah's eyes were locked on the medicine man's, as were everyone else's. The village seemed to be holding its collective breath, waiting for the medicine man to....what? In the past, he had said nothing, done nothing but hold this disapproving pose, frequently for the duration of Brivari's visit.

But not this time. A murmur rippled through the crowd as the medicine man stepped sideways, pulled aside the door cover to his dwelling, and gestured inside.

"This is a surprise," Brivari said dryly.

"Not really," Quanah said quietly, his eyes raking the crowd. "He is fearful. They are all fearful. Of you. Of more skinwalkers. Of what might have happened had you not been here. Of what may happen now that you have returned. Itza-chu is famous for his stubbornness, but he is not so near-sighted that he cannot lay that aside for the good of his people. Come," he added, moving toward the wickiup. "I will accompany you."

But when they reached the wickiup, the medicine man had other ideas, holding up a hand to stop Quanah from entering. Quanah threw him a doubtful look, but Brivari nodded in agreement, following the medicine man inside; the two of them had things to settle with each other. Brivari had no wish to make enemies of these people, but if it came to the worst and their conversation was not successful, it was just as well that there would be no witnesses.

The interior of the wickiup was dim, the only light coming from an opening in the roof that allowed smoke from the small fire in the middle to escape. The floor was covered with some sort of brush, which was in turn covered with what appeared to be animal skins. The medicine man was already seated on the far side of the fire, his features as dour and disapproving as ever beneath his bandaged head, and he gestured to the spot across from him. Brivari took a seat, and the two of them regarded each other in silence for a moment.

"I am relieved to find you well," the medicine man began in a gravelly voice that Brivari realized he had never heard, the medicine man having never spoken in his presence.

"I am similarly relieved to find that all of you survived the attack on your village," Brivari replied.

"We searched the entire forest for you, and when we did not find you, I invoked our ancestors to watch over you," the medicine man continued.

"Your gesture is much appreciated," Brivari answered politely.

"Legends of men who can take the form of animals have long circulated among the Apache," the medicine man went on, "but never have they been said to be capable of mimicking human form. Are there more of them?"

"No," Brivari answered promptly. Not exactly, he added to himself. Four "skinwalkers" remained, but those could not hide from him like hunters. Had his luck been better last night, there may have been one less; unfortunately, it had been Malik and Marana who retrieved the remains of the two hunters, both of whom might be useful to him in the future. Even Orlon was safe for the moment; killing him might induce Khivar to send another, less predictable adversary with more hunters in tow. But Amar...Amar he considered expendable. As did Zan, Brivari remembered, recalling Valeris' admissions, now pushed firmly to the back of his mind for later review.

"I see," the medicine man murmured, visibly relieved at the news that he could expect no further assaults. "And now I must ask what your intentions are toward my people."

"I have no 'intentions' toward your people," Brivari answered.

"Of course you do," the medicine man insisted. "Men of power like you, like me, never take action without reason. You came here for a reason. I would know that reason."

"Then may I assume you had a 'reason' to provoke me when I attended the sweat?"

The medicine man's eyes flashed, but he held his temper. "I needed to prove you were not like us, that you represented a danger to my people."

"And in the process, you nearly crippled me at a critical moment, thus endangering your people," Brivari observed.

"I had no way of knowing that," the medicine man replied sharply. "At the time, you were the only danger I knew of, and even after all that has happened, you remain so now. Why did you seek us out?"

"I did not 'seek you out'," Brivari said. "I sought only the cover of the nearby forest. It was your people who first approached me; I did not approach them until invited."

"Irrelevant!" the medicine man snapped, annoyed by this inconvenient fact. "What is your purpose here, shaman? What do you want?"

Brivari's eyes fixed on the medicine man's, eyes which gave the lie to his angry, defensive tone. Those eyes were frightened, and that fear was understandable. He knew too much, this one, had sensed too much for his misgivings to be easily dismissed. And he represented the one major stumbling block between Brivari and these people, who had proven competent, dependable allies; lacking Quanah's stealth and good marksmanship, and his son's bravery, it would have been very difficult, if not impossible, to take down both hunters. Perhaps some measure of truth was called for.

"I want exactly what you want," Brivari began, choosing his words carefully. "We are not so dissimilar, you and I. We are both guardians of our respective peoples, responsible for their safety and welfare."

The medicine man's eyes narrowed. "If you guard your people, then why are you not with them?"

"I guard the leaders of my people," Brivari clarified, "leaders recently wounded in battle. Naturally their enemies see this as an opportune time to strike again before they recover. I cannot let that happen."

"And where are these leaders?"

"Safely hidden far from here," Brivari answered. "Their enemies sought me out in the hopes that they could wrest their whereabouts from me. The woods are dense and difficult to navigate, which is precisely why I sought refuge there until our leaders recover and the time comes for me to leave." He paused a moment before addressing the crucial point, the driving force behind this conversation. "My responsibilities lie elsewhere. I have no desire to challenge you for the leadership of your people. I walk another path. I will not interfere with yours."

Silence. The medicine man stared at Brivari across the fire, his eyes a shade less fearful. "And what path will you walk now, Nasedo, that your enemies have been vanquished?"

Not all of them, Brivari thought heavily. As relieved as he was to not have hunters to worry about, their demise would bring more problems. If Orlon was preferable because of his predictability, it was that very predictability that told Brivari what his next move would be now that he'd lost all of his hunters. A move which made it all the more important that Brivari keep his Indian allies, as he may soon be losing others.



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



Proctor residence




"Dee, why haven't you set the table yet?" Emily called up the stairs. "It's almost dinner time!"

Thud. Footsteps followed the sound of something heavy hitting something solid, and a moment later, Dee appeared at the top of the stairs. "Which do you want me to do?" she asked crossly. "Homework or table setting?"

"I asked you to do some of your homework before dinner," Emily clarified, "and that was two hours ago when you got home from school. That doesn't mean—"

"Well which?" Dee demanded. "I can't be in two places at once!"

"What's all the noise about?" David asked, walking out of the kitchen.

Emily bit her lip and prayed for patience. "I was just asking our daughter to do one of her daily chores."

"Well, you also asked me to do homework before dinner, so—"

"Dee, would you please set the table now?" David interrupted pleasantly. "And don't let me hear you speak to your mother that way again."

Grumbling under her breath, Dee stomped down the stairs and into the kitchen, leaving her parents standing at the base of the stairs. "How old is she again?" Emily asked faintly.

"Ten," David answered. "Nearly eleven."

"Just checking," Emily sighed. "Because otherwise, I'd swear she was going to be a teenager soon. She's certainly acting like it. You want to tell me why she does what you say, but gives me hell when I ask her to do exactly the same thing?"

"First, I don't bother arguing with her because that's pointless," David answered. "And second, the two of you are too much alike."

"Oh, is that what it is?" Emily said dryly. "She—wait a minute. Are you saying that it's pointless to argue with me?"

"Mother!" Dee wailed from the kitchen just as the doorbell rang. "There aren't enough clean forks! I hope you're not going to blame me for that!"

"I'll get the door. You get the fork shortage," David smiled, as Emily threw him a skeptical look and headed for the kitchen. The bell rang again before he reached the door, and David opened it to find a middle-aged man nicely dressed in a suit and hat, most likely one of the salesmen who had plagued his wife for the past two weeks.

"You are David Proctor, are you not?" the man asked politely.

"Yes," David answered, marveling that these door-to-door people had been in the neighborhood long enough to know everyone's name. "But I'm afraid we don't need anything today. Thanks anyway."

"Forgive me, but I beg to differ. I believe I have something you very much need."

"I doubt it," David said evenly. "The encyclopedias at the library work just fine for us, and our vacuum cleaner's quite new. Now, if you'll excuse me, my dinner is waiting."

"I was not referring to commercial goods," the man replied. "I was referring to information."

" 'Information'?" David echoed. "What kind of 'information'?"

"The kind that could save your life," the man replied. "Or the lives of your wife, Emily, or your daughter, Deanna."

The hairs on the back of David's neck rose. "Have we met?" he asked warily.

"We have not," the man answered. "But I have decided it is time that we do. Allow me to introduce myself," he continued, removing his hat. "My name is Orlon, and I am here on behalf of my planet, Antar."


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


I'll post Chapter 111 next Sunday. :)
BRIVARI: "In our language, the root of the word 'Covari' means 'hidden'. I'm always there, Your Highness, even if you don't see me."

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

Postby Kathy W » Sun Nov 26, 2006 1:57 pm

Hello and thank you to everyone reading!






CHAPTER ONE HUNDRED ELEVEN


May 26, 1949, 5:50 p.m.

Proctor residence




"My name is Orlon, and I am here on behalf of my planet, Antar."

David Proctor quickly stepped onto the porch, closing his front door behind him. The door was a flimsy barrier at best, but still better than having nothing between his family and his visitor, who had politely stepped back to give him room. The correct use of the name of Brivari's planet made it unlikely that this was someone from the Army or any other human, for that matter. But if alien, which one? He knew of only four who were neither hunters nor Warders, three of whom they'd met in one fashion or another. It wasn't Malik, who had stood in this very spot and told David that Brivari had escaped. This definitely wasn't the one who'd shown up on Halloween, nor was it likely to be the less experienced one his wife had met last Fourth of July.

"You're Brivari's personal enemy," David said after doing the math. "The one who used to be his friend and was sent here to capture him."

Surprisingly, the alien smiled at this announcement. "I can't tell you how grateful I am, Mr. Proctor, that you have chosen not to waste our mutually valuable time feigning ignorance. And I see my reputation precedes me. Yes, I used to be Brivari's friend, a long time ago and a world away. I regret to say that things are different now, and I confess a certain amount of surprise that Brivari even acknowledged our prior liaison, much less in a favorable light."

He didn't, David thought, wondering how this "Orlon" would react if he knew that it had been Malik who had spilled those particular beans. "So," David said, "I gather you're here because you're losing?"

Orlon's eyes turned a shade darker. "Excuse me?"

"I figured it would come to this, but I thought it would take a lot longer," David said. "Brivari's killed all the hunters, hasn't he?"

Orlon regarded him in silence for a moment. "Very astute, Mr. Proctor," he said finally. "Very astute. As usual, Brivari has chosen his allies well."

David smiled faintly. "Including you, a 'long time ago and a world away'?"

"Brivari did not choose me," Orlon replied, his tone less friendly now. "I chose him; I now regret that decision, in ways you can only imagine. And yes, he has managed to dispose of the hunters, which leaves me at something of an impasse."

"Because even the four of you can't handle Brivari alone," David said thoughtfully. "So now you think you're going to turn me against him."

"What I think, Mr. Proctor, is that no one has given you a full accounting of the particular interest Brivari's king had in this planet and will continue to have in the future. I think you will find this information quite enlightening, and I wish to provide you with it."

"From your perspective, of course," David said dryly.

"Of course," Orlon answered readily. "Each of us can only speak from our own perspective, and you are certainly free to consult Brivari on his."

"And you think I'll believe you....why?"

"You're obviously an intelligent man, Mr. Proctor," Orlon replied, eyeing him steadily. "And an intelligent man such as yourself must have noticed gaps and inconsistencies in the information you've been given. Have you never wondered, for example, why Brivari chose this particular planet? Has it not struck you that he seems to know a great deal about a world where he supposedly arrived only by accident?"

For just a moment the porch disappeared, and David was back in the smoky bar with Charles Dupree at his elbow.

"It's the children they wanted, you know. It was always children they took. Young ones. Not babies. Old enough to talk. They must have needed them to be a certain age."

David had never had the chance to confront Brivari about what "they" had been after, or why the etchings of the children's faces in the alien book matched the faces worn by the two boys in that rock chamber. Dupree's account matched Brivari's transferred memory perfectly, and the healing stone Dupree had given him, now safely hidden in a drawer upstairs, was identical to the ones Brivari had.

"I see I have touched a nerve," Orlon said softly. "I offer to answer your questions, Mr. Proctor. All of them. Honestly, and to the best of my ability."

"I find that hard to believe," David said skeptically, "given that you're very likely to incriminate yourself in the process."

"An unfortunate necessity, under the circumstances, and a risk I am willing to take. I ask for but a small amount of your time. What you do with the information you receive, if anything, is your decision."

David eyed his visitor warily, torn. He had no illusions about how "honest" this particular alien was likely to be, but he was still likely to learn something of value from such an encounter even if it was laced with lies. All the best lies contained some truth, and this Orlon would have to be very careful indeed, knowing that anything he said would be carried right back to Brivari, who was likely to reappear any time now that the main danger had passed. Still, David would have to be very careful; one slip could give away Malik's duplicity or the location of the hybrids, either of which could be catastrophic.

"All right," David said. "I'll hear you out. But not here. I don't want my wife and daughter involved in this."

"I would prefer a private meeting as well," Orlon replied. "Where do you wish to talk?"

"I'll meet you later on tonight at a bar nearby called the Klassy Kat. It's on the corner of—"

The front door opened abruptly, and Emily appeared. "David, why are you still out here? Dinner's—oh! I'm sorry," she said, spotting
Orlon. "I didn't mean to interrupt."

"I was just passing through the neighborhood," Orlon interjected smoothly before David could answer. "I was thinking of buying a house here."

"We were just chatting," David added, eager to end the conversation, not at all sure about how his wife would react if she discovered yet another alien on their front porch. "I'll be right in."

"This is a wonderful place to live," Emily said, smiling at Orlon. "We'd be happy to answer any questions."

"I thank you kindly," Orlon replied. "If—"

He stopped short, staring at Emily—no, not at Emily, but past her. Dee was standing beside her mother, and she was staring fixedly at Orlon, her eyes locked on his. "If I have any further questions, I'll be sure to let you know," Orlon finished, tearing his eyes away from Dee.

"What is he doing here?" Dee demanded.

"Deanna!" Emily exclaimed. "How rude! I'm so sorry, Mr....."

"He's not a 'mister', Mama," Dee said flatly. "He's an alien."



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


And things were going so well, Orlon thought sourly as the adult female looked from him to the child and back again in shock. He had wanted to reveal himself only to the male human, and had been delighted when his target had answered the door. The appearance of the mate had proven a distraction which had masked the arrival of the child, who had promptly thrown a telepathic barb obviously calculated to draw a reaction: "Why hasn't Brivari killed you yet?" What was especially maddening was that he'd fallen for it, his momentary hesitation betraying his comprehension.

But all may not be not lost. As he recalled, only the child could use telepathic speech. Perhaps the female could still be fooled. Given the male's unexpected level of resistance and intelligence, the last thing he needed was an audience of three.

"My goodness," Orlon chuckled. "What strange notions children have these days. But then with everything that's been in the papers, I suppose that's to be expected."

"Dee, why did you say that?" the female asked her daughter, who was glaring defiantly at Orlon.

"I said something to him in telepathic speech, and that's why he stopped talking for a second," the child declared.

"Madam, I assure you I have no idea what she's talking about," Orlon said soothingly. "For some unfathomable reason, I appear to have upset your child, and that certainly was not my intention. I do apologize."

The female's eyes flicked to her mate's, who remained impassive, then to her child's. "Perhaps you're overreacting, dear," she said gently.

"I am not overreacting!" the child said hotly. "He's an alien, and I want to know what he's doing here. Don't you?"

*It's not working,* came Malik's voice in Orlon's mind. *Tell them who you are.*

*No,* Orlon said stubbornly. *You heard the male. He wants his mate and child left out of this, and so do I. He will be difficult enough to convince on his own.*

*You don't get it,* Malik argued. *These people are familiar with ours, and they're extremely tenacious. Their daughter won't back down, and they will believe her. Cut your losses now, and tell them the truth.*

"You never did give us your name," the female was saying, obviously still suspicious. "And what type of house were you looking for? A colonial? A ranch? Perhaps a split level?"

Orlon opened his mouth to answer, realizing as he did so that although he had come prepared with a pseudonym and a rudimentary ruse for approaching, he had no idea how to answer the second question. He looked to the male human for assistance, but found only resignation.

"You'd better tell her," the male human said quietly.

*You see?* Malik insisted. *Even he knows you can't continue the subterfuge. And the longer you try, the harder it will go for us when she finds out. Which she will any minute now.*

*Will you shut up and let me think!* Orlon exploded, realizing at the last second that he'd forgotten to speak privately. The child's eyes flared in triumph.

"There! See? He's just said something to rest of them!"

"The 'rest of them'?" the male repeated. "You mean you're not alone?"

"David, what is going on here?" the female demanded.

"I was trying to leave you out of it—" the male began.

"Leave me out of what?" the female interrupted. "Who is he? Is he....is he....oh my God!" she finished, drawing away from Orlon in fear and pushing her child behind her.

"Madam, I assure you I mean you no harm," Orlon said, having difficulty stifling his anger at having been exposed so unexpectedly. "I merely wish to talk—"

"Oh, you want to 'talk', do you?" the female sputtered angrily. "Like you wanted to 'talk' when you showed up on our porch on Halloween?"

"That was another; I have heard of that incident, and I sincerely apologize," Orlon continued, trying desperately to salvage the situation. "That one's actions were completely unsanctioned and his behavior reprehensible. I have deliberately not brought him with me tonight precisely because I knew his presence would make you uncomfortable—"

"Then who did you 'bring with you'?" the male broke in accusingly. "You said you and I were going to talk. You never said anything about anyone else."

*This is going to hell in a hand basket,* Malik muttered, using yet another of his untranslatable human expressions. *I'm coming in.*

*No!* Orlon ordered. *Stay where—*

Too late. Malik rounded the corner of the porch as all three humans drew back in alarm. "Mr. Proctor, Mrs. Proctor, my name is Malik," he said before Orlon could stop him. "I give you my word that we are not here to harm you. We only want to talk, but if you want us to leave, we will. It's your call."

That's it? Orlon thought scornfully as Malik stopped, awaiting a verdict. What made Malik think he would succeed where Orlon had failed? But the strangest thing was happening. The humans' eyes were all locked on each other, their glances flickering back and forth as though in silent communication, although Orlon was unaware of any human language other than the spoken variety. For some reason they appeared to be considering Malik's words very carefully, even though Orlon had just said basically the same thing with no effect other than fear.

"How many of you are there?" the male asked.

"There are three of us," Malik replied. "Myself, Orlon, and one other. The one you mentioned before is not with us."

"Why didn't you tell me who you were?" the female demanded of Orlon. "You told my husband."

"We were afraid we'd alarm you," Malik said quickly, before Orlon could reply. "You've been through so much....we meant to speak to your husband, and then let him speak to you in whatever way he felt best. Obviously that didn't work. I'm sorry about that. We didn't mean for it to go this way. But believe me when I say that we are not here to harm you. I will not let that happen. You have my word."

More glances were exchanged. Orlon looked to the male for a decision, but it was the female who spoke first; Antarian intelligence denoting human males as dominant obviously did not apply in this case. "Excuse us a moment," the female said firmly, motioning her family back inside the house. "We need to discuss this in private."

*I sincerely hope you know what you're doing,* Orlon said darkly to Malik after the humans had disappeared inside.




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




It took every ounce of self control Emily possessed not to light into her husband before they'd hit the safety of the kitchen, far enough away to be out of even alien earshot. Her daughter didn't even make it that far.

"Daddy, you can't talk to them!" Dee burst out before the kitchen door had swung closed behind her. "Even if Malik is there, the rest of them are just trying to find out what we know so they can find Brivari and kill the king. And he's just a little baby! Are you going to help them kill a little baby?"

"Simmer down," David said firmly. "Nobody's killing anybody."

"I wouldn't be too sure about that," Emily chimed in. "David, what were you thinking? Were you actually planning to talk to them without saying anything to me?"

"I didn't know there was a 'them'," David answered, "and the idea was to get the one I did know about far away from the two of you into a public place where he'd be less likely to pull anything."

"Wonderful," Emily said. "Then all three of them would have jumped you."

"I doubt it," David argued. "They can't afford to make us mad right now."

"Why not?" Emily asked.

"Because Brivari has killed all the hunters."

"He did? Yippee!!" Dee exclaimed, hopping up and down with joy as Emily leaned against the wall in relief. They'd seen no hunters since the two who had come for Brivari two Christmas's ago, but the memory of that awful night was still fresh in her mind. A world without hunters was a better world, even with three aliens on her porch.

"That's why they're here," David continued. "Brivari's too powerful for them to take down by themselves. They're here to turn us against him, and they can't do that if we're dead."

"Turn us against him how?" Dee asked, pausing in her celebrating.

"By telling us what their people were doing on this planet in the first place," David answered, looking directly at Emily.

"What does that have to do with anything?" Dee asked impatiently. "The hunters are dead! Do you know what that means? He's coming back! Brivari can come back now!"

But Emily wasn't listening, nor was her husband as their daughter continued jumping for joy. They knew that Brivari's people had been on Earth prior to the crash, but they'd never learned why. That both Warders had been tight-lipped about the subject was disquieting, to say the least. Whatever it was, it couldn't be good news because this wasn't the first time the enemy aliens had offered to answer this question. Just last July, the woman who had talked her way into this house to see if Brivari was here had asked Emily if she was sure she was on the right side. "Ask him sometime, Mrs. Proctor," she'd said. "Ask Brivari why my people are on your planet, and see how you feel about his answers."

"We've always wanted to know," David said quietly. "We've always had questions they wouldn't answer."

Dee stared at her father in disbelief. "You're not actually thinking of talking to them, are you?"

"We may never get another chance," David pressed, still staring at Emily.

"No, Daddy!" Dee protested. "Why would you think we can believe anything they say? They're just going to lie to us! We can't trust them!"

"She has a point," Emily allowed.

"Of course we can't trust them," David said. "But I don't think they have the luxury of lying too much because they know we'll just ask Brivari for verification. And just think," he added, kneeling down beside Dee. "We may learn something by talking to them that Brivari would find useful. Maybe we'll have something to tell him when he gets here."

"Maybe," Dee said doubtfully. "But I still say it's a waste of time talking to liars. Don't you, Mama?"

The teakettle whistled. Emily crossed the room to turn it off, passing the table with their now cold dinner, grateful for a moment to think without two pairs of eyes boring into her. She didn't want her husband going off alone with those people, nor did she want them in her house. She wanted to know why their people were here....and she didn't. She had an awful feeling that knowing was going to back her against the proverbial wall, force her to choose between two sides of a conflict that didn't concern her....or did it?

"Emily?" David said behind her. "We need to give them an answer."



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



Try as he may, David Proctor could not remember a more awkward or uncomfortable situation than the one in which he now found himself. Six people sat in his living room, three facing three, all wearing expressions dominated by varying amounts of unhappiness and suspicion. He would have preferred to meet the leader of the enemy alien group alone as he'd first intended, but Emily would have none of it.

"Three against one?" she'd huffed after agreeing to hear them out. "Are you crazy? No way am I letting you go off alone with odds like that. If they're so set on talking to us, then all of them talk to all of us, or no one talks to anyone."

These terms had not sit well with the aliens' leader, Orlon, who was apparently unhappy about having to make his case before a committee. Upon hearing that was his only option, however, he had filed inside along with Malik, looking grave and apologetic, and a woman who had appeared out of nowhere and looked absolutely terrified. A glance at Emily had produced a small shrug; she didn't recognize the alien woman as the one who had "visited" last summer, but these were shapeshifters—appearances meant nothing. Now the three aliens sat stiffly on the Proctor's couch, while David and Emily occupied the armchairs and Dee sat on the floor. Malik was casually dressed and wore the same face as when he'd last visited, that of a young man in his twenties. The woman presented a similar appearance. Despite being Brivari's contemporary, Orlon had chosen a much older and more formal appearance than Brivari had, that of a man in his mid-fifties at least, wearing a suit complete with shiny black wingtips. He resembled a college professor, or a doctor, perhaps, and David wondered idly if he'd chosen to present himself this way for a reason, or just by chance.

Now that they were seated, everyone regarded each other in wary silence. Orlon appeared disgruntled, the woman stared at her hands as though afraid to look them in the face, and Malik's expression was neutral. On the other side of the species divide, David waited patiently, Emily's arms and legs were crossed tightly as if trying to hold herself together, and Dee was scowling defiantly. Finally, Orlon spoke up.

"I am grateful," he began, sounding more annoyed than grateful, "that you are willing to listen to what we have to say. And further grateful that you have seen fit to trust us enough to invite us into your dwelling."

Hardly, David thought, feeling the pistol he'd tucked into the back of his belt pressing into his back beneath the sweater he'd thrown on to hide it. Emily's own small pistol was in the pocket of her apron, virtually invisible. David would have insisted on having a weapon in any case, but it was a measure of how much this whole situation had changed her that it had been Emily who had raised the subject.

"Perhaps the best place to begin is by learning what you have already been told," Orlon continued. "I am unaware of how much you know of our world's history, or the conflict that now engulfs it."

And you're going to stay that way, David thought. Due to how much they knew about the Royal Warders' business—and how devastating it would be if that information was accidentally blabbed—one of the ground rules David had insisted on was that they would not divulge any of what they had done with or been told by the Warders. Dee had been given strict instructions to say nothing telepathically as she still hadn't learned to speak "privately" and to keep her "ears" open in case Malik said anything to her, while all of them were to be careful to avoid physical contact with the aliens lest one of them try to form one of those telepathic connections which had gifted David with disturbing memories.

"We have nothing to say to you," David said evenly. "You, on the other hand, supposedly have something to say to us. So say it."

"It is such a long story, I hardly know where to begin," Orlon answered.

"Try the beginning," Emily suggested.

Orlon's eyes flared briefly...but not so briefly that David missed it. Brivari's former friend had a temper, one he was working mightily to control. "Very well then," he said, his voice a shade darker. "For generations, the two dominant races on my planet have sought to better themselves through medical advances. Over many of your centuries, they learned to replace and regrow damaged organs, cure disease, and prevent many illnesses and anomalies from occurring in the first place. Many times these goals were achieved by acquiring the advantages of a different race, say a predisposition to immunity to a given illness, and applying them to their own. Are you following me?"

"We're not stupid," Emily said flatly.

"We're not implying you are," Malik broke in. "Humans have only just begun to engage in this type of research, so you may be unfamiliar with what we're talking about."

"If I need clarification, I'll ask," Emily said, only slightly mollified. "Just talk. I'd hate for this lovely encounter to last any longer that it absolutely has to."

"A sentiment I share, madam," Orlon said coldly.

"You were saying?" David prompted. Across the room, Malik threw him a sympathetic look. Dealing with temperamental people appeared to be a hazard that crossed species.

"My world's political situation now comes into play," Orlon continued, still throwing icy stares Emily's way. "My planet has always been ruled by a monarch. The death of the reigning monarch inevitably provoked a struggle for the throne, followed by a new regime. This constant turnover naturally slowed and sometimes interrupted progress of all kinds. Until the time came when one man gained the throne by unprecedented means; the support of my race, the Covari. Never before had my people backed any contender for the throne. Rivals stepped aside, resulting in the first peaceful succession in our recorded history."

David nodded slightly, just enough to encourage Orlon to continue without indicating that he had already heard most of this. Beside him, his wife and daughter remained stony-faced and silent.

"The man I speak of was the father of the king Brivari now serves," Orlon went on. "Upon his death, the king's son took the throne with no dissent. It had been the elder king's desire to found a dynasty, to have his children and grandchildren succeed him, and to make certain that his race would remain the dominant, ruling race of our world. To this end he sent research teams across the galaxy in search of other species whose traits might be used to enhance his own. Many appeared promising, but one was truly exceptional. And this one exceptional species had the added benefit of inhabiting a planet whose atmosphere was inhospitable to the king's rival race, allowing the king's researchers to work in virtual secrecy and keep any benefits discovered for themselves."

David frowned; this sounded very much like what the Warders had said about their enemies not being able to follow them here because they couldn't survive on this planet, but that would imply that humans were this "truly exceptional" species. That couldn't be right. As far as David knew, all alien attributes were superior to a human's.

"This work proceeded throughout the old king's lifetime," Orlon said, "and was continued after his death by his son. The guardians for the young king and his family were the first true recipients of this research. The enhancements they received allow them to do the most amazing things: They can move objects with their minds, produce huge energy fields, even manipulate the structure of matter. They are, in a word, terrifying."

That sounds like Brivari, David thought, a cold dread growing in the pit of his stomach. This was the second part of the narrative to sound familiar, although it still fell far short of Charles Dupree's experiences.

"The persecution of this exceptional race," Orlon continued, "the abduction of and experiments on its unsuspecting members continued until the death of the young king and his family at the hands of his rival, the one I now serve. If the king were to reappear, this persecution would no doubt continue. I'm quite certain you wouldn't want that to happen."

"Why?" Emily asked. "Even assuming any of this is true—and that's one hell of an assumption—we have no idea who these people are. How does any of this concern us?"

Orlon smiled tightly. "It concerns you, madam, because the exceptional race I speak of is your own."

"Ours?" Emily echoed in disbelief. "You think we're 'exceptional'? Given the way you're behaving, that's news to me."

"If I'm following what you're saying," David broke in before Orlon could retort, "that means that these...'enhancements' you mentioned...the energy fields, moving things without touching them, and so on...are actually human attributes transplanted into your people."

"Correct, Mr. Proctor," Orlon replied, his eyes flicking sideways as Emily gave an audible snort of disgust. "I knew the moment I laid eyes on you that you were possessed of a quick mind and superior insight."

"But humans can't do those things," David pointed out, ignoring the complement that was really a not-so-veiled insult to his wife.

"Not yet," Orlon agreed. "Let me explain—it is the human brain which is truly exceptional, a fascinating organ which has evolved far ahead of the bodies it occupies. The human brain is capable of producing massive amounts of bioelectricity which, properly applied, can produce the most startling effects. But humans use only the barest fraction of their brains' capabilities. Most of the human brain's promise will lie dormant until such a time as your people have learned to access and control it. There are rare exceptions, of course....like the one right in front of us."

All eyes swung toward Dee. Even the female alien had stopped staring at her hands to look at Dee, who stiffened as she realized she was now the center of attention. "I can't do any of those things," she protested. "Why is everyone staring at me?"

"You are the first human we have encountered who is capable of telepathic speech," Orlon answered. "Prior to you, we had no idea the human brain enjoyed both an electrical and a telepathic component. Such riches," he continued, shaking his head as though he just couldn't believe it. "Most races enjoy either one attribute or the other. Antarians, for example, enjoy a full range of telepathic abilities, but only mild bioelectric capabilities, enough to produce a very small energy field. Other races find their fortunes reversed. In our considerable experience, only humans enjoy such a smorgasbord of talent, virtually all of which goes to waste."

"So you expect us to believe that people from your planet came here, kidnapped us, and stole our brains?" Emily said skeptically.

"Not just any brains," Orlon answered. "Children's brains."

David's hands tightened on the arms of his chair. "What did you say?"

"Children's brains," Orlon repeated. "It was discovered that a brain needed to have reached, but not surpassed, a certain level of development in order for the replicated tissue to be most effective."

"What level?" David demanded, as his wife stared at him in surprise. "What age?"

Orlon passed the question to the female alien with a glance; she answered hesitantly, without looking directly at anyone. "Four to eight years. Sometimes nine. After that, it was too late."

"Too late for what?" David asked.

"Too late to take any useful samples," the woman answered. "Much past nine, and the portions of the brain capable of producing voluntary bioelectric charges begin to atrophy from lack of use, much the way an unused limb will atrophy if not used."

"My colleague is a bioscientist," Orlon explained, "one who is intimately familiar with the human genome project. She worked closely with one of its founders, one of the Royal Warders by the name of Valeris."

"You worked with Valeris?" Dee piped up, springing to her knees. "He—" She stopped, sinking back down on the floor as David threw her a warning look and Orlon's eyebrows rose.

"So," Emily said, "now you expect me to believe that your people came here, kidnapped our children, and stole their brains? And what—no one noticed that their child's brain was missing?"

"Not brains—brain cells," the woman clarified. "Only those specimens with a very rare genetic mutation made useful subjects, so we couldn't afford to harm them. And our science allows us to replicate cells, so there was no need to take an entire brain."

"Well, that's a relief," Emily said, sarcasm wreathing her voice. "So you took children's brain cells, and no one noticed? I can't speak for all parents, but I think I'd notice if I stumbled upon some odd little gray person drilling a hole in my daughter's head."

"Specimens were collected at night when human children are left untended for long periods," the woman answered, looking momentarily startled at Emily's description of her people. "They were returned unharmed. There would have been no visible signs of trauma, and the children themselves were sedated, so...."

There, David thought, not hearing the rest of her recital. Taken at night....sedated....ostensibly unharmed....those were the last pieces of the puzzle. The age of the children—or "specimens", a chilling word if ever there was one—the time of day they were taken, the amount of time this had supposedly been going on, and the fact that no marks were left all added up to Charles Dupree's' experiences. "They wanted something inside of us," he'd said. Perhaps it was a kindness that he'd never learned exactly what.

But Emily, of course, knew nothing about Charles Dupree, and her skepticism had apparently reached its limits. "All right," she said briskly. "I've heard just about enough of this nonsense."

"Excuse me?" Orlon said coldly.

"I have no idea what your day job is, mister, but take my advice and skip the fiction writing because you're terrible at it. Of all the cockamamie stories! You must think we're blithering idiots to expect us to buy a ridiculous yarn like that!"

"Madam, I assure you, everything we've told you is the truth," Orlon insisted.

"Can you prove it?" Emily challenged.

"You see before you two people who participated in this project," Orlon said. "Marana, as I've mentioned, was a bioscientist who directed some of the research teams and put their findings to use, while Malik was responsible for retrieving and replacing the specimens."

"So they say," Emily countered, as Malik looked distinctly uncomfortable at having been fingered. "But they'll say anything you tell them to. I mean proof. Real proof. Objective proof."

"You have the testimony of two witnesses," Orlon said impatiently, choosing to overlook the fact that Malik hadn't witnessed to a thing. "What further 'proof' do you need?"

"Plenty," Emily said severely. "You want me to believe that you've been coming here for years, snatching children out of their beds, taking their 'brain cells', and plopping them back with no one the wiser? And their parents never missed them, the children never said anything, and you never harmed them? If you ever unwisely decide to pull this stunt again, you might want to try making up a plausible story."

"Which is precisely why you should believe me!" Orlon objected. "Why would I invent a tale you would not believe?"

"Why indeed?" Emily snapped. "Perhaps because you consider us stupid enough to buy it hook, line, and sinker? Or perhaps because you were hoping we'd be flattered at being labeled an 'exceptional species'?"

"You are an exceptional species!" Marana exclaimed with more vigor than she'd said anything else. "Just look at your daughter! Now that her telepathic capabilities have been awakened, there's no telling what else she could do. None of our operatives ever encountered an evolved human in all our years here. I would absolutely love to get a look at your daughter's brain."

David winced as his wife's eyes flared. "I didn't mean that quite the way it sounded," Marana said hastily, realizing her mistake....but it was too late.

"Out!" Emily ordered, rising from her chair and pointing to the door.

"Madam, I—" Orlon began

"Out!" Emily repeated. "Get out, or I'll make you get out! And you know how I'll do that," she added severely, one hand in the pocket of her apron, her eyes boring into Marana's shocked face.

As before, it was Malik who made the decision. "That won't be necessary," he said without so much as a glance at Orlon for confirmation. "Of course we'll leave. I'm sorry we upset you." He nodded to David and Dee as he headed for the front door with Marana scuttling after him like a frightened rabbit, her eyes locked on Emily as though expecting her to start shooting any second. Orlon lingered a moment longer, then reluctantly joined the parade, the expression on his face making it clear that Malik was in for one hell of a lecture.

"Can you believe that?" Emily exploded after the front door had closed behind them. "What kind of a ridiculous story was that? And that creepy woman looking at Dee like she was a piece of meat," she added, shaking her head at the thought.

"Told you they'd lie," Dee said confidently.

"Did Malik say anything?" Emily asked.

"Nope. Nothing."

"Well, he probably couldn't risk you reacting to anything he said and giving him away," Emily said. "Or maybe he isn't as 'loyal' as he claims. Anything's possible, especially when he went along with a tall tale like that. What do you think, David?"

When David didn't answer, both Emily and Dee turned to stare at him. "Daddy?" Dee said. "What's wrong?"

David hesitated for only a moment. It had to be done, and if he waited any longer, he'd lose his nerve.

"You wanted proof, right?" he asked Emily.

"Yes," Emily said warily, "but they didn't have any."

"No, they didn't," David said heavily. "But....I do."


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

I'll post Chapter 112 next Sunday. :)
BRIVARI: "In our language, the root of the word 'Covari' means 'hidden'. I'm always there, Your Highness, even if you don't see me."

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83 AlienAngel
Enthusiastic Roswellian
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Location: I never got my letter to Hogwarts... So I'm moving to Forks to live with the Cullens

Postby 83 AlienAngel » Sun Nov 26, 2006 9:34 pm

Wow! 111 Chapters and still going.
Keep up the wonderful writing!
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Kathy W
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Postby Kathy W » Sun Dec 03, 2006 3:02 pm

83 AlienAngel: Thanks! I've started Book 4 already, which takes place in 1959, so the saga continues. :)




CHAPTER ONE HUNDRED TWELVE


May 26, 1949, 7:00 p.m.

Proctor residence




David Proctor slowly descended the stairs, one incriminating piece of evidence in his pocket, the other in his hand. Emily and Dee were still in the living room, the former perched stiffly on the edge of the chair she'd occupied during the aliens' recital, the latter merely curious. Sitting down near his wife, he started to speak and stopped, started a second time and stopped again.

"I guess I'm suffering from Orlon's problem," David said ruefully. "I'm not sure where to begin."

"The beginning works for you too," Emily said.....and there was a different note to her voice now: A note of alarm. Her eyes were practically begging him, Tell me it's not true. How he wished he could...but he couldn't.

"Okay. Remember how Mac lost his job at Pohlman Ranch when Mitch sold it to the government in '47? He and I used to go out to that seedy bar in Roswell every Saturday night," David continued, as Emily nodded. "I met someone at that bar. Someone who said he'd been abducted by aliens."

"Lots of people are saying that," Dee scoffed.

"True," David allowed. "But lots of people don't have memories accidentally transferred into their heads by people from Antar like I did. And one of those memories sounded an awful lot like what this guy was saying."

"What memory?" Emily asked.

"It was of two human boys around 5 or 6 years old, maybe 7, being worked on by a group of aliens who looked just like Brivari and the others...when they look like themselves, that is. They were in some kind of laboratory, and one of the boys woke up and panicked."

Emily frowned. "You never told me about any memories with humans in them, never mind children."

"No, I didn't," David answered. "I wasn't sure what it meant, or even if it meant anything at all. I asked Brivari about it, and he suggested that maybe I was getting all the memories jumbled—his, Jaddo's, and mine—or it could be something I came up with myself. That sounded plausible. But then I found out that Mac had overheard Cavitt saying that the Army had seen ships like the one the Warders came in multiple times over several years, but no one had ever managed to get close to one, never mind capture it. Which means they've been here before."

"But how do we know those ships were their ships?" Emily objected. "There are more aliens out there than the ones we've met, and like you said, they couldn't get close to the ships they saw before. And this 'memory' you had, it could very well be something you came up with yourself. Just think of all those nightmares you had when you got back from the war."

"I know," David said heavily. "Except that the boys were dead ringers for the faces of the two male children in that metal book we found in the trunk of our car. And the man I saw in the bar was an identical twin to the adult version of Jaddo's reincarnated general in that same book."

The color drained from Emily's face. "Are....are you sure? They say everyone has a double somewhere."

"True," David said, having been through all these rationalizations himself many, many times. "But this 'double' described the same scene I saw in the memory....and added a few details. He was always taken at night. They gave him some sort of drug that knocked him out; it was inhaled and smelled sweet, and he learned to hold his breath and breathe in less of it, meaning he woke up sooner. One time he woke up when they were working on him, and panicked. Just like I saw in that memory."

"But...that would mean either Brivari or Jaddo was here to see that and make it a memory in the first place," Emily said, puzzled. "Why would the king send his guardian, or his top general's guardian for that matter, all the way out here on some science project?"

David shook his head. "I don't know. But I do know that this man said they only took children and that they wanted something inside of them, although he didn't know what. He knew their blood is a different color. Remember that cut I got on my arm? He cut me, on purpose, to make sure I wasn't an alien. I'd passed myself off as a fellow abductee to win his confidence and given him one too many details, and he got suspicious."

"He attacked you?" Emily exclaimed.

"Sounds crazy," Dee muttered.

"That's just it," David said. "He wasn't crazy. Everybody called him that, but he wasn't. Disturbed, maybe, but not crazy."

"But still," Emily protested, "he doesn't sound stable, David. How much faith can we put in someone who behaves like that?"

"He apologized afterwards," David said. "Said he had to do it, to make sure. He said, "They don't always look like aliens. Sometimes they look like us."

David watched Dee glance quickly at her mother, who had gone white. The sheer weight of the volume of details was beginning to affect her too, just like it had affected him. At least he'd had several months to mull it over, and he had the incriminating memory for reference. All of this had been dropped in his wife's lap in a matter of minutes.

"It is odd," Emily allowed, still very pale. "And we know they managed to make those babies look human somehow, but still....is that all you've got? A story from an obviously unstable person and some jumbled memories?"

"No," David answered. "When Charles—that's his name, Charles Dupree—left Roswell for good, he gave me something. He said it was the only thing he'd managed to take from the aliens, and that he had no idea what it was." As he spoke, he reached into his pocket, pulled it out, and slowly uncurled his fist. "But we do."

Emily said nothing, just stared at the healing stone in his hand for a long, awkward minute before standing up and walking to the living room window, her arms clasped tightly around herself. Dee opened her mouth to say something, but stopped when David gave her a warning glance. The healing stone had been the point of no return for him too, and that point was not a pleasant place to be.

"But how do we know this is their healing stone?" Dee objected, unable to contain herself any longer. "Just like we're not sure if the ships were their ships, we don't know if this is theirs either. Maybe other aliens use healing stones too. Just because they're new to us doesn't mean they're new to everyone."

Emily turned around. "Maybe," she said, though without much conviction. "Anything else?"

"This is a picture of Charles and his new bride," David said, handing over the photograph of Charles and Ada Jane.

"Nice looking guy," Emily said. "But I don't remember the faces in the book well enough for this to mean anything to me. If—"

She stopped, looking at Dee, who had climbed to her feet to look at the photograph and was staring at it in shock, her eyes wide.

"What?" Emily asked.

Suddenly Dee took off, pounding up the stairs two at a time. Emily looked helplessly at David, who shrugged, baffled. Seconds later, Dee reappeared with two pieces of paper in her hand which she set side by side on the coffee table. "Can I see that?" she asked, reaching for the photograph. Mystified, Emily handed it over as she and David peered over Dee's shoulders.

The papers were pencil rubbings, each showing four faces. One set were children, the other adults. "You copied them," David murmured. "When did you do that?"

"Right after we found the book in the car," Dee answered. "Look." She pointed to a rubbing of one of the adult males; Charles Dupree's face stared back at them, the resemblance all the stronger with his wedding photo lying right beside it.

"Oh, my God," Emily whispered.



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



"Let me make a wild guess," Amar said, grinning broadly. "Things didn't go well?"

"Shut up," Malik muttered as they swept past him, Marana guilt-laden and Orlon absolutely livid. They had traveled in tense, furious silence to the abandoned farmhouse they had previously used for refuge where Amar had been waiting for them. Tense or not, Malik hadn't minded. He knew silence would be in short supply just as soon as they were all together.

"What were you thinking?" Orlon exploded at Marana with such fury that she shrank back. "Or were you thinking at all? Do you have a brain anywhere in that head of yours?"

"What'd she do?" Amar asked, genuinely curious.

"I was trying to reassure her that we didn't think they were stupid!" Marana protested.

" 'Reassure her'?" Orlon thundered. " 'I'd love to get a look at your child's brain.' That's your definition of 'reassurance'?"

"You said that?" Amar chuckled, shaking his head. "And they call me stupid."

"It was a compliment!" Marana wailed.

"Sure it was," Amar said cheerfully. "Only trouble is that humans aren't familiar with the way bioscientists look at every living thing as a potential specimen and expect us to be grateful for that."

"Would you just shut it?" Malik demanded.

"No," Amar said casually, "I won't. Just to refresh your memory, I was left out of this little escapade because everyone thought I'd be socially unacceptable. How ironic that it's the mighty scientist who proved to be the weak link in the chain."

"And you," Orlon continued, rounding on Malik. "Since when were you given the authority to make decisions about anything?"

"Since you brought me along to advise you on human customs and expectations," Malik retorted. "And you can be glad you did, or we wouldn't have gotten anywhere near as far as we did."

"The key word there is advise," Orlon seethed. "You didn't 'advise', you butted in and took over! Khivar put me in charge of this mission, not you!"

"Yes," Malik said coldly. "And what a fine job you've made of it."

"Hold it," Amar said as he stepped between Malik and Orlon, the latter's eyes flaring dangerously. "Amusing as this is, I'm truly curious now about what happened, and I won't find out if you kill each other. And that would be so tragic. Me not finding out, that is, not you killing each other."

"Everything was going fine until you interrupted me!" Orlon spat at Malik, ignoring Amar.

"Correction," Malik said heatedly. "Everything was going fine until Mrs. Proctor and her daughter showed up and you reacted to something the kid said telepathically. You gave yourself away!"

"Really?" Amar said in surprise. "Damn. That's the same trick I tried on her, and she didn't fall for it. Kid learns fast."

"She couldn't prove anything!" Orlon snapped, stalking away in frustration. "I could've gotten past the female if you'd just given me more time!"

"I told you then and I'm telling you now, it was already too late," Malik argued. "Her husband had already thrown in the towel—"

"Towel?" Orlon echoed. "What does this have to do with linens?"

"He means 'given up'," Amar said helpfully. "Humans always say one thing and mean another."

"—so it was already over," Malik finished. "At least I got us in the door."

"And right in front of the firing squad," Orlon said bitterly. "That infernal female! The male was nowhere near as hostile. He would have at least let us finish."

"We did finish," Malik said firmly. "They just didn't like what we were saying, and they would have felt that way no matter who delivered the news. Is your memory really so poor that you don't recall me predicting they'd be resistant? We had no proof, the science we were talking about is the stuff of fiction on their world, and Brivari can just deny it all anyway!"

"The point is that I told you to stay out of it!" Orlon barked. "You should not have interrupted and placed us in front of a virtual tribunal, with that annoying child preventing us from speaking freely to each other."

"You can't blame Malik and me for this!" Marana objected. "We were expecting to stay out of sight, so we weren't prepared for—"

"I noticed," Orlon interrupted in disgust. "Not that I think being 'prepared' would have had a positive effect on your performance."

Marana's eyes flashed. "I didn't come here to 'perform'," she said tersely. "My job was to oversee two captured Warders and as many hybrids as had survived, not to explain the human genome project to a bunch of hostile humans."

"You have him to thank for the change in job description," Orlon said sourly, glaring at Malik.

"Wrong," Malik said flatly. "That was your fault. You blew your cover, and I tried to salvage the situation. You accepted the terms given when you could have refused them and approached Mr. Proctor alone at a later date. You volunteered to the Proctors that Marana and I had participated in the project, making it even more unlikely that they would sympathize with us when they were already highly unlikely to anyway. You blundered the whole thing, and this was after I told you it wouldn't work anyway. What's the point of having me 'advise' you if you never listen to that advice?"

"So I gather you find me incompetent?" Orlon said in a deadly voice.

"I find you too close to the mission," Malik said. "This has become a vendetta for you, Orlon, and I can safely say that we all feel that your personal feelings are clouding your judgment."

Silence. Marana stared at the floor as Orlon's furious stare swept over everyone. Amar, to his credit, returned it without flinching.

"Malik isn't the only one who predicted this wouldn't work," Amar said, serious for once. "Those humans aren't going to listen to a thing you say no matter how many you're talking to or how it's worded. You know the Warders have a talent for inducing almost fanatical devotion. We shouldn't be trying to convert their allies, we should be courting their enemies. Are you ready to try it my way now?"

"It appears we are out of options," Orlon said icily. "Do what you wish. And as for you two," he added to Marana and Malik, "if you no longer wish to be in Khivar's service, I'm quite certain I can find replacements who are."

"I seriously doubt that," Malik replied. "That would mean you'd have to contact home and admit to Khivar that you lost the hunters, the Warders, the hybrids, and two valuable members of his team."

"I don't answer to Khivar," Orlon said flatly as he turned and stalked out of the room.

A full minute passed as the three remaining Covari stared after him in astonishment. "What is he talking about?" Malik demanded. "Since when doesn't he answer to Khivar?"

"He does as far as I know," Marana said, equally confused.

"Whatever he meant, you shouldn't piss him off, Malik," Amar said. "He's an ambitious man, and it's never smart to cross an ambitious man."

"For someone so 'ambitious', he's making an awful lot of stupid decisions," Malik muttered.

"Sure he is," Amar replied. "Like you said, he's too close to it. But too close to it or not, the fact remains that if this drags out much longer, he'll have no choice but to contact home, and when he does, he'll lose no time blaming everyone and everything but himself."

"And replacing us," Marana added. "Amar's right, Malik. I know this wasn't our fault just as well as you do, but if we press the point, we'll pay for it. This is not a good time to be anyone who's even suspected of not being on Khivar's side."

Malik blinked. "You're agreeing with Amar? Did the fabric of the universe just unravel, or something?"

"Funny," Amar said, "but entertaining as you are, I have to be going. Someone has to salvage this mess."

"How?" Malik asked. "What's this about 'courting enemies'? All their human enemies want the Warders for themselves."

"Nope," Amar said with a smile. "Not all of them."



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



7:45 p.m.

Proctor residence




The spring sun was low in the sky by the time David finished filling the sink with dishwater and lowered a stack of plates into it. Their very late and reheated dinner had just finished, and Emily had taken him up on his offer to do the dishes and disappeared upstairs. She'd been quiet during the meal, picking at her food and saying little more than the occasional "pass the butter". David didn't blame her; seeing Charles Dupree's wedding picture side by side with the alien sketch had been jarring even though he already knew they were identical twins.

"Want me to dry?" Dee asked.

"Sure," David answered.

"Is Mama coming back down?"

"Don't think so. Not for awhile, anyway."

"Can I sit on the counter?"

"Aren't you getting a bit big for that?"

Dee held out the dishtowel. "Nope."

David smiled as he dried off his hands. Dee loved to sit up here while she dried dishes, but Emily frowned on this particular perch. When she was little, the concern had been that she'd fall; now he was wondering if she wasn't just too big. And heavy, he added as he hoisted his surprisingly heavy daughter onto the counter beside the sink. They weren't going to have a little girl for much longer. "Don't tell your mother," he cautioned, sticking his hands back into the soapy water.

"I won't," Dee promised, twirling the towel, waiting for the first of the dishes to be rinsed. "Is Mama mad?"

"I'm not sure," David admitted. "She's probably in shock. I've had awhile to think about what she's learned in one evening."

"But she can't be mad at Brivari and Jaddo," Dee objected. "Even if it was their people, how do we know they had anything to do with it?"

"Because one of them remembers it," David reminded her. "That memory I have comes from one of them, so one of them saw Charles Dupree wake up."

Dee was silent for a moment, mulling over this inconvenient bit of information as the first of the rinsed dishes arrived. "Even if they were there, that doesn't mean they did it too."

"But it would mean they knew about it," David replied. "And they're both trying to reinstate the king who sanctioned it."

"Well, maybe he had a good reason," Dee said stubbornly.

"I'm sure he thinks he did. And I'm equally sure it doesn't matter. Even Hitler thought he had good reasons for systematically killing the Jews." David set the casserole dish he'd been scrubbing in the drainer. "You can't just take people and experiment on them, Dee. That's what the Nazi's did."

"But they hurt people," she countered. "They didn't give anybody medicine for pain, and some people died or were crippled. It sounds like this Charles guy was okay."

"Physically, yes," David allowed. "But not emotionally."

"Because he remembered," Dee persisted. "What if he hadn't woken up? Then he would never have known, and he would have been all okay."

"Maybe," David said. "But even if that's true, even if he didn't remember a thing, it was still wrong to take him. If I steal something from you and you never notice it's missing, I've still done something wrong."

"They didn't take me," Dee muttered, realizing that she was losing the argument. "They saved my life."

David set the last of the dishes in the drainer. "I know," he said softly. "I saw that memory too."

"Are you mad at them?" Dee asked.

"I don't know enough to be mad or not," David said. "I haven't heard the other side of the story."

"So you think there's another side?" Dee asked hopefully. "Like what?"

"Well," David said as he let the water out of the sink, "I'd like to know what's up with this rival of the king's that the enemy aliens are working for. Whenever there's something new, everyone wants it, so I find it hard to believe he's as blameless as they would have us believe." He dried his hands and twisted Dee around on the counter, pointing out the window over the sink. "Look at the sunset," he said, eager to change the subject. "Isn't it beautiful?"

"Uh-huh. So do you think those other people are going to come here and start taking kids too?"

David smiled faintly. There was no distracting this one, especially now that she was older. "I don't know. I certainly hope not. Can we talk about something a little less depressing?"

She wrinkled her nose at him the way she always did when she felt he was dodging the question. "Okay. Like what?"

"How about that sunset?"

Dee gave him a skeptical look. "It's great, Dad. Really. Anything else?"

Dad? When had he become "dad"? Hadn't he been "daddy" just a few minutes ago? Did it really happen that fast? "I'm sure we can come up with something," he said, swallowing his pride at having been demoted to "dad" status. "How about—" But she'd stopped listening, her eyes drifting over his shoulder, riveted on something there. So something was able to distract her after all, and he turned around to find out what.

"You're back!" Dee exclaimed, vaulting off the counter toward Brivari, who stood calmly in the doorway to the dining room looking absolutely no different than he had when he'd lived here. One would never have guessed he'd been gone for a year and half. "Are you all right? Have you seen Jaddo yet? Are you going to stay with us again?"

"Yes, no, and that still wouldn't be wise," Brivari answered, wearing one of his rare smiles. "You've grown."

"You haven't changed a bit," Dee announced.

"We never do," Brivari told her. "David Proctor," he added, nodding to David. "Are you well?"

"Yes, thank you," David answered, deciding to leave discussion of their recent visitors for later. "And you?"

"Better than I have been in a long time," Brivari answered.

"Is it true that all the hunters are dead?" Dee asked eagerly. "Did you really kill them all? They're all gone?"

Brivari stared at her a moment, then looked at David. "We've had some visitors," David said quietly. So much for waiting till later.

"When?" Brivari asked.

"Just a couple of hours ago," David replied.

"Orlon always was efficient," Brivari sighed, "but this time he's outdone himself."

"He was also quite chatty," said a voice behind them.

David's heart sank when he saw Emily standing in the kitchen doorway. Her arms were crossed, her face set in that look that always meant trouble.

"Yes, I imagine he was," Brivari said gravely. "Are you well, Emily Proctor?"

"Is it true?" Emily demanded, ignoring him. "Is what they told us true?"

"Not now, Emily," David said.

"Yes, now," Emily insisted. "I won't wait another minute wondering if that fantastic story is true if I don't have to! Is it true?" she demanded again. "Did your people really come here for years, kidnap children, and experiment on them?"

Silence. Dee looked back and forth from her mother to Brivari, her expression making it clear whose side she was on regardless of the answer. David watched Brivari's gaze flick from Emily to himself, then back again. He's going to lie, David thought. Brivari had no idea they'd met Charles Dupree, that they had something beyond the mere word of his enemies or a cryptic transferred memory. With no knowledge of any hard evidence, the safest thing to do would be to deny everything.

"Yes."

Emily's eyes widened in shock right along with her husband's. "You did?" she echoed faintly. "You took children out of their beds in the middle of the night and did things to their brains?"

"Yes."

"And those babies? They look human because part of them is from those children you took?"

"Yes."

"And you?" Emily whispered. "The things you can do....those things come from human brains? Children's brains?"

"Aside from shapeshifting....yes."

Emily sagged back against the doorframe under this avalanche of admission, thunderstruck. Dee moved closer to Brivari as though she feared for his safety while David shook his head in surprise, not at what Brivari had admitted to, but at the fact that he'd admitted it at all.

"Well," Emily said after a moment, her voice shaky. "I guess I got what I asked for. Thank you for your honesty." She straightened up, pulling herself together. "Now....get out of my house."

"Mama!" Dee exclaimed.

"Emily, please—" David began.

"Out," Emily repeated firmly. "Get out, and don't come back!"

And then they were all talking at once, Dee shouting at her mother, David trying desperately to inject some perspective, and Emily continuing to insist that Brivari leave. Only Brivari was quiet, watching the drama play out before him, saying nothing.

"Stop!" Emily ordered furiously, producing a momentary pause which she seized on immediately, rounding on Brivari. "I asked you once what would happen if the needs of the ones you guard conflicted with the needs of the one I guard. Do you remember what you said?"

"I believe I noted that we had both best hope that day never came," Brivari answered quietly.

"Right. Well, it just came," Emily said flatly. "I can't trust you anymore. I can just imagine what you intend to do with my daughter."

"Mama, he saved my life!" Dee exclaimed angrily.

"But why?" Emily challenged. "When he did that, he knew you could do their 'telepathic speech'. Did he save you just because you were a fascinating specimen?"

"No," Brivari said firmly.

"But I don't know that," Emily said bitterly. "All I know is that you just admitted taking children and doing horrible things to them! How could I call myself a parent if I let you anywhere near my daughter after hearing you say that?"

"Emily, we haven't heard the other side of the story," David said carefully. "I'm sure we've only been presented with a very biased version. If—"

"I don't care if it was biased," Emily interrupted. "He admitted it. You heard him. We all heard him." She turned to Brivari, who still hadn't moved from his spot near the door. "You told me once that if I asked you to leave, you would. Did you mean it? Or was that just another lie?"

"Don't go!" Dee begged. "You just got here!"

Brivari's gaze swept the room, passing from Dee's pleading expression to Emily's angry one, lingering on David's regretful look. "I meant what I said, Emily Proctor. And I am glad to find you all well." He paused. "Goodbye."

"No!" Dee shouted, pelting after him into the dining room and returning a moment later as David knew she would. Brivari had disappeared like he always did, and Dee turned the full force of her anger on her mother.

"I hate you!" she screamed, tears streaming down her face. "You don't know anything about anything, and you just decide he's guilty? He didn't even get to say anything! Isn't that just like what the Nazi's did? Is that why you didn't like the war, Mama? Because you agreed with them and wanted them to win?"

David winced as his wife recoiled, stricken, and Dee ran out of the kitchen and pounded up the stairs, slamming her bedroom door so hard that the house shook.



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



Eagle Rock Military Base




"Move, would'ya?" Walker grumbled, pushing past the other soldiers in the chow line.

"Didn't anyone ever teach you to wait your turn, Walker?" someone groused.

"A man could starve to death waiting for you lot to load up," Walker complained.

"What's the matter, Walker?" someone else asked. "Not gettin' any?"

Not gettin' enough, Walker thought as he headed for an empty table in the base mess hall. He'd been in a foul mood ever since Rosemary had blown him off for that smarmy sheriff's deputy even though he'd had perfectly good cash in his pocket. How could she possibly prefer that skinny little twit? Was he paying her more? Was this a bidding type of thing, where the highest bidder won the auction?

"Shove over," Walker ordered, plopping his tray down at the least occupied table in the huge mess hall and ignoring the contemptuous stares of the other men as they got up and left. Let them leave—he preferred to eat alone anyway. Granted, the base mess wasn't the best place to come if one didn't like crowds, but Walker escaped the compound every single chance he got. The further away he was from the monster, the better.

"There you are," said a pleasant voice nearby. "I've been looking all over for you."

Annoyed, Walker looked up to find an unfamiliar fellow Corporal smiling down at him. "Do I know you?" he asked tersely.

"No...and yes," the soldier answered.

"Word games. Very funny. Get lost," Walker said flatly.

"Make me," the soldier said casually.

Walker's eyes flicked up from his tray. "Don't shit with me, man. I'm not in a good mood."

"What else is new?" the Corporal chuckled.

Walker slapped his fork down. "What the hell do you want?"

"I want you, Corporal Walker," the soldier said calmly, sitting down on the opposite bench. "Like I said, I've been looking all over for you."

"You want me for what?" Walker said suspiciously.

"Rumor has it," the soldier said, leaning in and lowering his voice, "that you absolutely hate aliens. Yes, yes, I know," he continued, as Walker's eyebrows rose. "You're not supposed to admit you have one on pain of death, if not worse. But my colleagues and I know you have one, so let's ditch the tedious denials and just refer to it as something else so you can honestly say you didn't discuss a forbidden subject. How about we call it....the 'monster'?"

Walker said nothing, just stared at the soldier across from him, who was looking at him with undisguised amusement. "Now that we have the preliminaries out of the way, let's get down to business, shall we?" the soldier went on. "As I said before, rumor has it that you hate....'monsters'. My colleagues and I feel the same way. We disagree with the practice of housing and feeding monsters and getting nothing in return from them. Unfortunately, those currently in command prefer to coddle monsters in the hopes they might one day give us something useful. But you and I know that's never going to happen, don't we?"

"Like I said," Walker said stonily, "what the hell do you want?"

"My colleagues and I want to transfer the monster to those who will make it truly useful," the soldier replied. "And that's where you come in."



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

I'll post Chapter 113 next Sunday. :)
BRIVARI: "In our language, the root of the word 'Covari' means 'hidden'. I'm always there, Your Highness, even if you don't see me."

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

Postby Kathy W » Sun Dec 10, 2006 2:51 pm

Hello and thank you to everyone reading!





CHAPTER ONE HUNDRED THIRTEEN


May 26, 1949, 7:50 p.m.

Eagle Rock Military Base




Disguised as a human soldier, Amar watched Corporal Walker's eyes narrow suspiciously as he glared across the table at his unwelcome visitor. " 'That's where I come in'?" Walker repeated. "What the hell is that supposed to mean?"

"I should think that would be obvious," Amar said dryly. "Do I really need to spell it out for you?"

"Yes," Walker said flatly.

Good Lord, I think he means it, Amar thought in disgust. Perhaps he should have appeared as a superior officer who could have given Walker an order rather than as a peer seeking cooperation. But the same instincts that had made Amar forcefully reject Orlon's insistence that they approach as aliens also had him rejecting the notion of taking a higher rank. Three months spent posing as Walker's "pet" had taught Amar that Walker hated all aliens, so even appearing as the alien enforcers that Orlon had wanted to use as a disguise was far too risky. Walker also hated authority of any kind while simultaneously lording it over anyone of lesser rank, which is why Amar had chosen to present himself as a corporal. Of course, that meant he now had to deal with the fact that Walker was hopelessly dense.

"Very well, then," Amar said wearily. "Let me spray paint the footsteps on the floor for you. Monster bad. We want monster. Monster hard to reach. You help us reach monster. We take monster away. You happy. Got it?"

Walker's eyes narrowed further. "Are you always a horse's ass, or are you just having a bad day?"

"I could ask you the same question," Amar said casually. "Look, we want your prisoner. We—"

"There is no prisoner," Walker interrupted. "You're dreaming."

"Right. As I was saying, we want your prisoner, and it's very hard to reach, so—"

"There is no prisoner," Walker repeated tersely. "And whatever you've heard about me, you heard wrong."

"Oh. So you prefer to bed males instead of females?" Amar asked innocently.

Walker slammed his glass down on the table, drawing stares. "Get outa here before I kick your ass."

"Corporal, please," Amar said mildly. "You're drawing attention. Besides, when it comes to ass-kicking, you'd lose every time."

"Shall we step outside and see about that?" Walker demanded.

"Always the braggart," Amar smiled. "Nice to know some things never change."

"Will you stop acting like you know me!" Walker exclaimed. "I've never laid eyes on your ugly face!"

"Of course not. It's a new one. Look, we know you hate aliens, so—"

"Don't say that word!" Walker hissed. "There are no aliens here!"

"Sorry. I meant 'monsters'. We know you hate 'monsters', so you're the perfect person to—"

Walker stood up suddenly, upending his tray all over Amar. Laugher erupted from soldiers nearby as Walker stalked out of the mess hall, leaving Amar sputtering as he wiped gobs of greasy human food off himself. Damn it! he swore silently, tearing after Walker. This should have been easy—the Walker he'd known would have jumped at the chance to get back at aliens. Walker wasn't in the hallway outside, so Amar ran out the nearest set of double doors and promptly found himself slammed into a wall.

"Now, you listen to me, you piece of shit," Walker ground out as Amar struggled furiously in his grasp, unable to respond the way he wanted to without giving himself away. "We all signed nondisclosure agreements, and if my CO catches even a whiff of me talking to someone about prisoners, or aliens, or monsters, I'm screwed. And I've got too sweet a deal to be screwed. You got that?"

"What the hell are you talking about?" Amar demanded. "You hate aliens. That's no secret because you shoot your enormous mouth off about it every single chance you get! I'm giving you a chance to get the alien into the right hands, the hands you've always thought it should be in. The hands of those who are going to make it give us something useful."

"If you'd shown up a couple of years ago when I was locked up too, that might have sounded good," Walker replied. "But now I got myself a cushy job with a promotion, better pay, and lots of leave. And the alien's rebuilding the ship it came in, so it's giving us something after all. You're too late."

"What about when it's done?" Amar asked, squirming in Walker's grip. "Then what's it going to give you? Nothing, that's what. I'm telling you, we can get more out of it!"

"Catch up with me when the ship's done," Walker said. "That shouldn't be too hard since you think you know more than God."

"Look who's talking," Amar retorted.

"Why, you—"

A soldier abruptly came out the door just as Walker slammed Amar into the wall again, pausing to stare at them a moment before continuing on, casting uneasy glances backward as he stopped to light a cigarette a few yards away. Walker, who had released Amar when the soldier appeared, started walking away, only to stop again when Amar scrambled in front of him.

"What if I told you I knew why they were here? They've been coming here for years, experimenting on human brains!"

"Wouldn't surprise me," Walker said darkly. "I've said all along they were up to no good, and we should kill every last one we find on sight. Like I said, catch up with me when it's done rebuilding the ship and maybe it will have outlived its usefulness. Until then, we never had this conversation."

Walker stalked off, leaving Amar wincing as he touched his sore head where it had slammed into the wall. Stupid brute, he thought sourly. Sure, Walker hated aliens, but not when he was profiting from their presence. "Two-faced, opportunistic hypocrite," Amar muttered. "Two years ago, you would've jumped at the chance."

*I believe I pointed out that two years is a long time?* said a voice behind him.

Amar glanced behind him and scowled at the soldier with the cigarette, who was no soldier, but Orlon in disguise. *I thought I told you to stay out of it,* Amar muttered.

*Good thing I didn't,* Orlon noted. *One more slam, and you'd have been unconscious. This is risky, you know. If he finds out what you are, never mind what you were—*

*I know, I know,* Amar interrupted irritably. *I still say it's a better idea than your approach. Confession has failed twice now—the female didn't believe you, and this brute did believe us and didn't care!*

*He cared,* Orlon countered. *He just wasn't surprised because he's already an enemy.* He paused, pondering as Amar massaged his bruised head. *Perhaps I was hasty. This may indeed work. We know this human has no contact with Brivari and is at odds with Brivari's human military allies, so it is unlikely anyone will learn of a liaison with you and expose you. Now, if you could only learn to control yourself....*

* 'Control myself'?* Amar sputtered. *Wasn't it him slamming me into a wall?*

*And wasn't it you baiting him every chance you got because you knew just exactly which buttons to push?* Orlon said pointedly. *I have news for you, Amar. Deliberately antagonizing someone whose help you need is never a wise choice.*

*Then you shouldn't be antagonizing Malik,* Amar said flatly. *He was only trying to salvage a situation you screwed up.*

Orlon stared at him hard for a moment before dropping his gaze. *You're right. I was angry. Just like you were now.* He smiled faintly, looking at Walker's tiny figure, barely visible in the distance. *You know what your trouble is?* he asked, nodding toward Walker. *The two of you are too much alike.*

*Gee, thanks,* Amar muttered. *You're a real sweetheart.*



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



Parker's Bar, Roswell



Jim Valenti pulled his car into a parking space outside Parker's and turned off the engine. Business looked good for a Thursday night; the front door was open, the clientele spilling onto the sidewalk, trying to catch a breeze from the still warm evening. This was his last stop on the road to finding out what happened to Betty Osorio, a road which had been predictably short. Under the auspices of cleaning up some old files, Valenti had made a few phone calls. Betty's family knew nothing about her death other than what they'd been told, and the car she'd died in had long ago been destroyed. The Fort Worth Star Telegram confirmed that she'd been assigned to Roswell to investigate the hastily retracted newspaper story that had announced the discovery of an alien ship, but had received no word from her since she'd left, never mind the smoking gun that Hal Carver claimed he'd handed her in the form of damning military documents. Which left Rosemary, and the precious tidbits of information she'd managed to remember during what must have been the most memorable fact-finding session Valenti had ever conducted, even it was illegal. Still, he certainly wasn't the only member of the sheriff's department to pay a visit to Rosemary, and it had all been for a good cause. Or so he'd kept telling himself as, time and again, he'd had to refocus his attention on that "cause" when his mind had wandered off onto....other things. Rosemary could do that to you.

Valenti wound his way through the half civilian, half military crowd toward the bar, glad to find an empty stool at the end. It would be best not to have too many pairs of ears nearby for what could be a prickly negotiation. Pete, the owner of Parker's, could be a gold mine of information, especially if his palm was greased, but there were times he got a little cranky when dealing with the law and needed his arm twisted a bit. Valenti had already stopped down to the Roswell sheriff's station that afternoon to look up his old co-workers and some ammunition. He'd found both, along with the welcome news that the moniker "Deputy Martian" seemed to have gone the way of all things.

"Jim!" Pete smiled broadly as he spied Valenti. "Good to see you! It's been awhile. You still on the county beat?"

"Yep," Valenti replied, sliding onto the barstool. "For a little longer, at least." Hopefully long enough to nail Cavitt, he added silently. Betty Osorio had died in Chaves County, so having county resources at his disposal and county credentials to back up his inquiries had come in mighty handy.

"Well, here's hoping you'll be back home soon," Pete said. "What'll it be?"

"The usual," Valenti said. "So—how's things?"

"Excellent!" Pete grinned, opening a beer. "Got crowds of tourists year-round, especially in the summer. This summer ought to be better than ever what with the new Crash Festival they're planning. Turns out aliens are good for business."

"Glad to hear it's helped somebody," Valenti said dryly.

"People still going nuts?" Pete asked sympathetically, leaning on the bar.

"Completely," Valenti answered, picturing the Buckpits and the piles of food on their back porch. "I hear they're going nuts here too. Seems there's been a rash of robberies lately."

"Well, you know how it is," Pete said casually. "Bunch of tourists, lots of cash—the field's ripe for the picking, if you know what I mean."

"Sure," Valenti nodded, hesitating just the right amount of time before asking his next question. "Has your back room been busy lately?"

"Not especially," Pete said, some of the friendliness evaporating from his voice. "Not that I keep tabs on it, or anything."

"Right. Notice anyone in particular going in and out of there a lot?"

"No."

"You sure?"

Valenti waited while Pete's eyes darted around, looking for eavesdroppers. It was a well known fact that all sorts of business deals went down in Parker's back room. Lots of them were legit....and some of them weren't. Pete always pleaded ignorance, claiming that the room was there for his patrons to use if they wanted and he had no idea what was discussed there, but every Roswell deputy knew better—Pete made it his business to know everything he could about his customers, no matter what he said.

"Did the boys send you down here?" Pete whispered. "Because there were already here, and I told them I didn't know anything!"

"Does that mean you didn't notice anyone in particular going in and out a lot?"

"It means the back room is there for anyone who wants to use it, and I don't keep track," Pete said impatiently.

"Bullshit," Valenti said casually. "These robberies, they've all obviously been done by the same thief or thieves, and they've been very well planned by someone who knows the area well....including your back room. Or so I've heard."

"Then you heard wrong!" Pete exclaimed. "I run a clean business! People don't plan heists in my bar! If you're looking for that, go check out the Klassy Kat! Stupid name," he muttered indignantly. "Imagine calling a place like that 'classy'."

"That's probably why they spelled it with a 'k'," Valenti noted. "Look, maybe we can help each other out here. You give me the names of anyone who's been frequenting the back room lately, answer a few questions I have, and I'll make sure the boys downtown don't know I talked to you. How's that sound?"

"My name stays out of it?" Pete asked suspiciously.

"Completely."

A minute later, Valenti tucked a valuable piece of paper into his shirt pocket which held information that Roswell's Sheriff Hemming would kill for. The whole of Chaves County had initially borne the brunt of the alien hysteria, but that hysteria was now coming home to roost in Roswell in the form of hordes of tourists, alien-related festivals, and the resulting crime and other headaches that inevitably accompanied such an influx. Hemming was tearing out what little hair he had left trying to keep order in an increasingly disorderly town, and Valenti fully expected to be transferred back to Roswell any time now. Having presented this little nugget would look good on his resume.

"Now—my questions," Valenti said. "Does an officer named Cavitt come in here?"

"Used to," Pete answered.

" 'Used to'? When did he stop?"

"Not long after the 'crash'," Pete replied. "A bunch of regulars stopped coming around that time, but most of them came back. Cavitt never did. Don't miss him, either. That one had an attitude."

"Ever see him hanging around with any civilians?" Valenti asked. "Especially those civilians known in these parts as troublemakers?"

"Jesus, Jim, I don't follow my customers around with a camera."

"Like hell you don't," Valenti said blandly.

Pete sighed as he plopped a beer on the bar for another customer. "Look, Cavitt didn't give much of anyone the time of day, and certainly not civilians. He came with his posse, he socialized with his posse, and he left with his posse."

"Did he ever cause any trouble? Start any fights?"

"Nope," Pete said. "Although I wouldn't have minded taking a swing at him."

"What about the posse? Any of them ever hang around civilians—"

"Sure they did," Pete interrupted. "That's what the boys come here for, to hang around civilians. Especially well built civilians," he added with a grin, nodding toward an exceptionally well-endowed woman at a table nearby. "Look, Jim, what's this about? Do you think the military is plotting World War III in my bar?"

Something happened here, Valenti thought silently, swishing his beer around in his glass. Rosemary had described a nameless officer who had come to her soon after the crash distraught over something he'd done, something awful, something he wouldn't divulge. And in the throes of his angst, he'd made one damning statement: "I should have punched that bastard Cavitt in the nose and left him lying in a heap outside Parker's." Rosemary had heard nothing that would link that incident to Betty Osorio, but Valenti thought it was possible that the unhappy soldier she'd ministered to had been ordered by Cavitt to find a suitable civilian to accomplish what he wanted, and Parker's would be a good place to do that.

"One more question," Valenti said. "Did you receive a letter here for one Captain Carver on July 10th in '47, and did you deliver that letter?"

"That's two questions," Pete said, holding up two pudgy fingers. "Don't they teach you guys to count in deputy school? Yes, and yes. And what is it with that lady reporter? She died almost two years ago, and suddenly the whole bloomin' world wants to know about her."

" 'Whole bloomin' world?" Valenti echoed. "Like who?"

"Like some sweet young thing and her boyfriend," Pete answered. "The one right over there."



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



Spade was just about to call it a night when a stranger holding two beers appeared at his elbow. "Captain," the man said, holding out the extra beer. "May I have a moment of your time?"

"Anyone with another beer can have a moment of my time," Spade said magnanimously, settling back into his chair. "Do I know you?"

"Nope. I'm Jim Valenti," the man said, extending a hand. "Deputy Valenti, actually."

Ah, Spade thought. So this was the intrepid—some would say foolish—sheriff's deputy who had taken up Yvonne's crusade to find out what happened to Betty Osorio. "Stephen Spade," he said, accepting the handshake.

"I understand we share a mutual acquaintance," Valenti said, taking a seat and pushing Spade's beer across the table. "One Lieutenant White."

"Did Pete tell you that?"

"Yep."

"And how much did that cost you?" Spade chuckled.

"Not a dime. Let's just say I have an account with him." Valenti paused, eyeing Spade thoughtfully. "I had a visitor yesterday. Fellow by the name of Carver."

Well, I'll be damned, Spade thought. So Carver had done the right thing after all, and so quickly too. "Good," he said out loud. "Did he tell you what Betty left for him here?"

"He certainly did," Valenti answered.

"Is that worth anything?"

"In court? Not nearly. But he did give me another tip, which led to another, and another, and....well, let's just say this isn't quite as hopeless as I first thought."

"So instead of completely hopeless, it's 'not quite as hopeless'? Let me guess—you're one of those 'glass is half full' people."

"Do I detect a bit of skepticism?" Valenti asked.

Spade smiled faintly. "Look, Deputy, I encouraged Yvonne—Lieutenant White—to pursue this because I know how important this is to her, and because I believe Colonel Cavitt is at least knowledgeable about Betty's death, if not culpable for it. But looking at what we've got, I just don't see how to get there from here. It's been too long, the evidence is circumstantial, and Cavitt wouldn't have done it himself—he would have had someone else do it for him, someone—".

"Really?" Valenti interrupted in mock surprise. "Now why didn't I think of that?" He paused as Spade's eyebrows rose. "Forgive my sarcasm, Captain, but I don't need you to tell me how to do my job. I'm way ahead of you. And since I'm local law enforcement and I know the hit men in the area, I have the best chance of figuring this out."

"Feel better now?" Spade said dryly. "I was about to say, 'someone military'. Cavitt would never have entrusted something like that to a civilian."

"Why not?"

"Because he wouldn't have wanted what Miss Osorio was carrying to fall into civilian hands."

"You mean the classified documents Hal Carver gave her?" Valenti shook his head and smiled when Spade answered him with nothing but a level stare. "I'd sure love to know what it was in those documents that was worth killing for."

"I'm sure you would," Spade answered. "But if I told you, I'd have to kill you."

"Very funny," Valenti said sourly.

"What I can't figure out," Spade continued, ignoring Valenti's temper, "is where you fit in all this. I know why this is important to Lieutenant White, but what's your angle? She said you have a beef with Cavitt, but that puts you near the end of a very long line. What could Cavitt possibly have done to you that would make you pursue a two year-old so-called murder case at what you must know is the risk of your own life?"

Valenti leaned back in his chair and studied Spade for a moment, the noise of the milling crowd in the bar filling in the silence. "Cavitt kidnapped me," he said finally, "or tried to."

" 'Kidnapped' you? When?"

"December, 1947," Valenti answered.

"Would that be December 13, 1947?"

"Close—it was the 14th. I gather your life got interesting then too?"

Did it ever, Spade thought. That's when the aliens had attacked the base, when Treyborn had died, when they had raced against time to find a way to keep John alive, resulting in all the x-ray machines being installed. When Ramey had made his stand, threatening to out the entire operation if the order to execute John was carried out, when Spade had tucked a certain extremely incriminating letter safely away in his quarters against the day when it might be needed. And when Cavitt had disappeared for several hours thinking he'd tracked down the other alien, only to return empty-handed.

"My life got interesting long before that," Spade said. "So you saw something. Something Cavitt wanted you to keep quiet."

"No—something he wanted me to divulge," Valenti answered. "And I wouldn't."

"Why not?"

"Others things were more important," Valenti said evasively. "The point is I don't appreciate being locked in a car with a gun to my head. If I can bring him down, if there's any way to do that, I promise you I'll find it."

Spade eyed Valenti across the table as he finished his beer. Valenti was a mite testy, not to mention nosy, but Spade knew from personal experience how much nerve it took to say "no" to Cavitt. Whatever Valenti had seen, he'd kept his mouth shut at gunpoint to protect it, and that raised him several notches in Spade's eyes. "Look," Spade said, relenting a bit, "I can't tell you what was in those documents that Betty had, and it really doesn't matter anyway. I can tell you that only three people I know of would have had enough information to know which key to send to Betty...and two of them are dead. Want to guess who the third one is?"

Valenti's finger tapped his beer glass. "Lieutenant Colonel Sheridan Cavitt."

"Bingo," Spade said. "And like I said, Cavitt would've tapped someone military to do the deed. So the answers we both want are at the base, which means that I have the best chance of figuring this out, assuming that's even possible. And despite my skepticism, I plan to keep trying. If I find anything, I'll let you know."

"Be careful," Valenti warned. "You're closer to Cavitt than I am, and more likely to get caught."

"Really?" Spade said pleasantly. "Now why didn't I think of that?" He stood up, setting his empty glass on the table. "Thanks for the beer, Deputy. And just for the record, I don't need you to tell me how to do my job."



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


9:30 p.m.

Klassy Kat Tavern




Mac Brazel sank into a chair opposite David and pushed a glass across the table. "There. That's your third. Now will you tell me what's wrong? Must be something pretty big to make you actually want to come here."

"Just domestic trouble," David said.

"You and Emily had a fight?"

"There certainly was a lot of fighting, but it wasn't me and Emily," David sighed.

"Emily and Dee?"

"Partly."

"Ah, that's normal," Mac said. "Girls and their mothers. You know how it is. And Dee's getting to that age, you know."

"This wasn't a normal fight," David said. "Or at least it wasn't about a normal subject, if you catch my meaning."

Mac's eyes widened. "So all that started up again?"

"Oh, yeah. Big time."

"What, is it the Army? Is Cavitt bothering you again?"

"No," David answered. "Nothing that desperate. I just needed to get away from the house for awhile and clear my head. I really appreciate you coming with me."

"Sure thing," Mac smiled. "Anytime. I'll sit here all night with you if it'll help. God knows you did it for me, and in this very place, too. Ironic, isn't it?"

And fitting, David thought, glancing around the smoky bar. He was here because of the fallout from their various alien visitors....and this was where he'd first learned about what had caused that fallout, about what his wife and daughter had only just discovered. He'd expected Emily to be angry, but he'd never dreamed she'd actually kick Brivari out of their house, at least not without hearing his side of the story. Now there was a furious stand-off with Dee locked in her bedroom, refusing to open the door, and Emily silent, stiff, and unapologetic. Neither seemed angry with David—yet—but that hardly mattered when the very atmosphere inside the house was so tense it practically crackled with that electrical energy the aliens had claimed humans could produce.

"Dave?"

"Hmm?"

"That guy's been staring at you for awhile now," Mac said in a low voice, nodding toward the bar. "You know him?"

David followed Mac's gaze, and his glass froze halfway to his lips. Brivari was at the bar, indistinguishable from other patrons to anyone but David. He gave a slight nod when he saw David looking at him and went back to his drink.

"Mac," David said slowly, "can you give us a minute?"

"So you do know him," Mac said. "Who is it?"

"Someone you said you never wanted to meet."

Mac's eyes widened again. "That's....that's one of....sure," he said hastily, rising from his chair. "Take your time."

Mac headed for the opposite end of the bar from Brivari, who waited several minutes before sliding into Mac's chair, his drink appearing untouched. The tavern wasn't terribly crowded, and no one was close enough to overhear them. Ironically, this public place was the perfect place for a private conversation.

"Whiskey," David said, eyeing the glass. "I didn't know you drank."

"I don't," Brivari answered. "I've observed the effects of this particular substance on humans, and they are not encouraging."

David smiled slightly. "No, I guess not." They sat in silence for a moment before Brivari spoke again.

"I am sorry it has come to this, David Proctor."

"So am I," David murmured. "So am I."

"How many of my people approached you today?"

"Three," David answered. "Orlon, Malik, and a woman, a scientist of some sort."

"Marana," Brivari said. "A bioscientist."

"Yes. A very nervous 'bioscientist'...but she certainly settled some questions for us." As David spoke, he pulled something out of his pocket and pushed it across the table toward Brivari, who examined it for a full minute.

"Is this recent?"

"Very," David answered. "Just this week, in fact."

"So he is thriving?"

"I suppose he is now," David said, looking at the upside down image of Charles Dupree and his bride. "But he's haunted by memories of what happened to him. Memories you share, because you gave one to me. But why would you have a memory like that? I thought you were supposed to be guarding the king."

"Things were in a state of flux," Brivari replied quietly. "The old king had died not long before, and his son, the king I now seek to resurrect, had assumed the throne...and his son was not the man his father was. My role as advisor naturally increased to match his lack of experience. I had to inspect many of the old king's projects...including this one," he added, fingering the photograph. "This was our only failure, the only one who managed to mislead us. A few others began to reawaken only to be resedated, but this one actually deceived us, fully regained consciousness, and fought back. A worthy donor for Rath."

" "Donor'?" David echoed. "I've talked to this guy, and I can assure you he didn't 'donate' anything."

Brivari sighed, gazing into the drink he wasn't drinking. "Under normal circumstances, we would barter for samples of genetic material from a race that had desirable characteristics. Under normal circumstances, any race possessing such characteristics would be advanced enough for us to approach."

"And we weren't," David said.

"Your species is young, still confined to your own planet, and your medicine primitive. You know what the reaction would have been if we had asked for what we wanted."

"So you took it," David said, shaking his head. "Do you have any idea how this looks to us? We just fought a war against people who used human test subjects against their will. Sound familiar?"

"More familiar than you know," Brivari said. "On my world, it is members of my race who were used for test subjects."

"Your race? Why?"

"Because it was convenient. Because the bioscientists created us in the first place and felt justified in using their creation any way they wished. Because we were considered expendable. Any or all of the above."

" 'Created' you? What does that mean?"

"It means, David Proctor, that my people were an accident, the product of some of the earliest experiments in the replication of a living being. The potential uses for a being capable of changing its shape were many, and one of those uses was as test subjects. A great many of us were produced for no other purpose."

David felt a chill run up his spine. " 'Produced'?"

"Yes," Brivari said softly, " 'produced'. Shapeshifting precludes reproduction, among other things, so we were made in, as well as for, the laboratories."

"You once told Emily that you were never a child," David said slowly. "Is that because you were...'produced'?"

"We emerge—or are 'born', in your lexicon—fully grown," Brivari replied. "We gestate in tanks not unlike the pods you rescued."

"And they made you to use as lab rats?"

"At first. Then the wealthy and powerful got wind of our existence and found additional uses for us as assassins and warders, among other things. Those were the lucky ones."

"But....didn't anyone run away?" David protested. "Didn't anyone fight back, or—"

"Fight how?" Brivari interrupted. "Run away to where? We were considered things, tools of our science to be used as normal people saw fit, and those normal people would never assist a fugitive, especially a fugitive from a race that terrifies them. Some tried to run, of course, but since my people can recognize each other on sight, there was always one of us willing to finger another in exchange for a dispensation from the labs." He paused. "I was one of the lucky ones. I was purchased by a wealthy family to guard their son."

Purchased. David sat back in his chair, stunned. "You're a slave race," he whispered.

"Correction: We were a slave race," Brivari said firmly. "Years later, when my Ward sought the throne, he offered my people his patronage in exchange for our support. He took the throne peacefully, the first monarch within memory to do so, and allowed my people to choose their professions, own property—in other words, to live, for the first time since our creation. Only the defective and the condemned found themselves sentenced to laboratories, and—" He stopped for a moment, looking away, troubled. "My Ward was not perfect," he said heavily, "and his son even less so. I was recently reminded rather forcefully of just how imperfect they were. But I remember what it was like before they took the throne, and despite their imperfections, I will not return to that."

"Of course you don't want to return to that," David said, still in shock. "But I certainly don't want more children being kidnapped."

"They won't be—at least not by us. We ended the collection phase of the project several years ago, having found all we needed. The last expedition to this planet was the one where Malik and Amar faked their own deaths and went rogue."

"And now they're here helping the opposition do exactly the same thing you did, aren't they?"

"Exactly. And if Khivar stays in power, they will succeed."

Jesus, David thought wearily. Talk about being between a rock and a hard place. Help Brivari's people, and he was helping those who had already kidnapped and experimented on children. Refuse to help him, and they were effectively helping the other side....which planned to kidnap and experiment on children. "Look," he said earnestly, "I'm truly horrified by what you've told me about how your people are treated. But I'm afraid that doesn't condone what you've done. You can't expect me to help a regime that thinks they can just take whatever they want, even if no one was technically hurt."

"And you cannot expect me to willingly return to life as it was before," Brivari said. "I will do anything—anything—to keep the lives my people have won, and in order to do that, I must return the king to the throne. The untapped power of the human brain will elevate the king and his family over their enemies, virtually assuring that his line continues. And if the price of that is one frightened human boy and some stolen brain cells, that is a price I'm willing to pay."

"I'm afraid that price is too high for me," David said heavily. "I have no intention of helping your enemies, but I'm no longer certain about helping you either." He paused. "I'm sorry."

"As am I," Brivari said softly. He rose from his seat, leaving his glass on the table. "For what's it's worth, I never liked the project. What we were doing was too close to what was done to my people for my comfort."

"But you'd do it again, wouldn't you?" David asked.

"Absolutely," Brivari agreed. "Goodbye, David Proctor."

David watched him leave, saw Mac twisting around on his barstool and watching also. A moment later, Mac was back at the table, looking warily in the direction Brivari had gone.

"What was that all about?" Mac asked. "You don't look so good."

"I need another drink," David sighed.

"What? You haven't finished that one!"

David picked up his glass and downed the whiskey in one gulp. "There," he said, pushing the now empty glass toward the astonished Mac. "Now I need another drink."

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

I'll post Chapter 114 next Sunday. :)
BRIVARI: "In our language, the root of the word 'Covari' means 'hidden'. I'm always there, Your Highness, even if you don't see me."

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Kathy W
Obsessed Roswellian
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Postby Kathy W » Sun Dec 17, 2006 6:12 pm

Hi Misha! Yep, Spade and Valenti are both alpha males, so putting them together could be explosive. But they're both also good at what they do, so if they can find a way to work together, that will help. Especially since they're going to have to work together before the book is over. ;)

Brivari does have a great deal of respect for both Emily and David (good thing too...can you imagine Emily's reaction if he'd lied to her?), but I think he was also fishing to see if it was safe to leave them alive. If the Proctors ever decided to turn the aliens in, it would fall to Brivari to remove that threat. Not a pleasant thought, but that's his job.

And boy, are you ever right about Emily and Dee. Both of them are stubborn as oxes. I would not want to be David Proctor for the foreseeable future. Talk about living in a war zone. ;)





CHAPTER ONE HUNDRED FOURTEEN


May 27, 1949, 7:30 a.m.

Proctor residence




"Dee, would you pass the milk, please?"

Silence. David looked back and forth from his wife to his daughter, who was studiously ignoring her mother's request just like she had ignored everything about her mother this morning. "Dee," he said, "I know you're angry with your mother, but that doesn't give you the right to ignore her. Now pass her the milk."

Thunk. Dee reached across her cereal bowl and moved the milk bottle from one side to the other without looking up. "Thank you," Emily said faintly. When two attempts to pour failed due to shaking hands, she put the cap back on the bottle and just stared at her dry cereal as though not quite certain what to do with it. "So is this what it's going to be like now?" she asked.

"I don't know, Mama," Dee answered stonily, the first time she'd said so much as "boo" to her mother all morning. "You tell me. You're the one who started it."

"I started it?" Emily exclaimed in disbelief. "How did I start it? I didn't ask all those....people to show up here and dump their problems on us!"

"No," Dee said flatly. "You just kicked Brivari out of the house without even listening to him. You listened to them and not him. Talk about backwards."

David caught Emily's frustrated look across the table and stared into his coffee cup. What Dee didn't know is that Emily had heard Brivari out, if in absensia. He'd told her what he'd learned from Brivari last night about the shapeshifters being a manufactured race of slaves who had been freed, after a fashion, by the very king who had decided that the human brain was so interesting, and the fact that the opposition planned to engage in the very same "research". She had listened in silence and gone to bed without rendering a verdict. David had joined her, staring at the ceiling throughout their mutually sleepless night, every bit as torn as his wife. They'd known there was a war on Brivari's planet, of course, but they'd had no idea of the political and social baggage behind it. And knowing that only produced more instead of fewer mixed feelings on the subject. How could they condone what had been done to human children? How could they expect Brivari and his people to return to a life of slavery? In every direction there was a huge moral obstacle, none of which cancelled out the others. Neither of them had told Dee any of this yet, and it wouldn't have helped anyway; she had already chosen sides, and this new information would only confirm the side she'd chosen.

"I listened to him," Emily protested. "I asked him if it was true, and he said it was."

"You asked him four questions, he gave you one word answers, and then you threw him out," Dee said. "That's what you call 'listening'?"

"For someone who thinks I should listen, you're not doing much listening yourself," Emily said sharply.

Dee turned hard eyes on her mother. "Fine. I'll ask you four questions, and then I'll go to school. How's that?"

"Deanna," David warned.

"I did what I thought was right," Emily argued.

"That's what Hitler said," Dee retorted.

"What, now I'm Hitler?" Emily said in astonishment. "If anyone's Hitler, it's Brivari! He's the one who experimented on people against their will, just like the Nazi's did."

"Brivari didn't do it; his people did it," Dee countered. "Do you hate every single German because of what Hitler did? If I meet a bad Indian, does that mean I can't talk to Bright Sun anymore? What about the people who wanted to kill Jaddo? That was us, Mama, our people. Does that mean you and I are to blame for that?"

"That's not the same thing!" Emily said angrily. "We don't agree with what the Army is doing, and we've done everything we could to stop them! Lots of people didn't agree with what Hitler was doing, and they worked against him every chance they could. But Brivari was here, while it was happening. He participated in it, he condoned it, he even benefited from it!"

"So did you," Dee said.

Emily blinked. "Excuse me?"

"Healing stones don't work on humans, Mama. They only work on aliens...unless Brivari's holding one. The only reason he could heal me after Denny hurt me was because he had those human brain cells you keep going on and on about. If Brivari's people had never done what they did, then I'd be dead right now. Would that make you happy?"

Dee rose from the table and picked up her now empty cereal bowl. "I have to get ready for school," she said coldly, stalking past her stricken mother to deposit her bowl in the sink before marching upstairs.

Emily did not speak for a full minute after Dee had left. "That's not fair," she finally whispered, her expression one of someone who has just been slapped—hard.

"Of course it's not fair," David said gently. "She's a child, Emily, although God knows she doesn't always sound like one, and she's viewing this whole situation through a child's lens—her own experience. As far as she's concerned, the Warders saved her life and were persecuted by her own people. She's not thinking past that."

"Well, I'm her mother—it's my job to think past that."

"Of course it is," David agreed.

"No matter what they did for her, or how hard it was for their people, that doesn't mean they can just march in here and walk off with ours."

"Of course it doesn't," David replied.

"The end doesn't justify the means."

Except when it does, David thought, his wife fastening her eyes on him when he didn't respond.

"Do you think I was wrong to make him leave?"

David kept his eyes on his breakfast. "I think that if you're not comfortable with him being here, then he shouldn't be here."

"That's not what I asked you."

"I know."

They sat in silence for a moment before Emily rose from the table and dumped her uneaten cereal in the trash, her stiff back making it clear she felt she'd been betrayed. Footsteps sounded down the stairs, and a moment later, Dee entered the kitchen and fetched her lunch out of the fridge. "Bye, Daddy," she said, pecking him on the cheek, bypassing her mother. Across the room, Emily's shoulders sagged as the side door banged closed.

David leaned back in his chair and sighed, exhausted from little sleep and caught in the middle between the two people he loved most, both of whom were right in their own way. Dee apparently felt that he had taken her side in this debate because he hadn't yet verbalized a side; in reality he was thrashing back and forth from his wife's point of view to his daughter's. His own experiences were no help; he'd done many morally ambiguous things during the war, and watched others do the same. War was a breeding ground for moral ambiguity....and so was slavery. And so is love, he added privately, rising from the kitchen table and going to the front window, watching his daughter meet up with friends on their way to school. Because despite having seen firsthand how haunted Charles Dupree was by what had been done to him, the reality was that David would gladly trade a dozen haunted Charles Dupree's if those stolen brain cells could keep his daughter alive.



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


Mescalero Indian Reservation




The perceptions of River Dog's people toward Brivari had changed; that was immediately apparent as he entered the village and noted the difference in the expressions which greeted him. Before the hunters, people had been courteous, but cautious; a few had spoken to him, but most had not, and children had obviously been advised to stay away. After the attack, everyone had been downright fearful. Now he was surrounded by smiles and friendly greetings, and by the time he reached the middle of the village where the medicine man's wickiup stood, a bevy of children followed him, watching him curiously. Itza-chu emerged from his dwelling as always, but this time he did not assume his customary disapproving pose; instead, he merely nodded briefly in greeting and went back inside.

Ironic, Brivari thought as he spied River Dog's younger brother at the door of their dwelling and watched him break into a smile and run inside. Once shaky allies were now firm, while stalwart allies had turned on him. As would these, if they knew, he added to himself, gratified nonetheless to see friendly faces after what had happened with the Proctors. As soon as he had learned that Orlon walked this planet, he had known that one day Emily Proctor would learn what he never wanted her to know and would react just exactly as she had, shielding her offspring from a perceived threat. And her mate....Brivari was surprised to discover how much stock he placed in David Proctor's opinions, so much so that he had waited patiently for a chance to approach him privately. It was important that David know how Covari had been treated prior to Riall and that Khivar intended to pursue the project also, information which Brivari was certain Orlon had neglected to convey. And sadly, it had been necessary to determine if the Proctors were now a threat. They knew more about Antar's business than most Antarians, and could cause a great deal of trouble if they desired. Fortunately, they were much too upset with Antarians in general to offer aid to Orlon and would never place their family in danger by contacting human authorities. That he had merely lost their assistance was something of a relief, as he had not been looking forward to the task of disposing of them if the need arose.

Quanah appeared on the doorstep of his dwelling, smiling broadly. "We were not certain we would see you again," he said, gesturing Brivari inside. "You left so quickly after you spoke with Itza-chu, and he was unclear as to whether you would return."

"I had business to attend to," Brivari said cryptically. Leaving had been something of a necessity; after assuring the medicine man that he had no desire to challenge his authority, it would not have done to linger.

"Please—sit," Quanah said, indicating a chair as he seated himself. "I have no idea what transpired between you and Itza-chu, but I'm sure you noticed his change of attitude."

"Your medicine man and I spoke plainly with one another," Brivari replied. "I believe we have reached an understanding."

"Whatever you said assuaged his fears," Quanah said, "and the rest take their lead from him, as you've no doubt noticed."

"You did not 'take your lead' from him," Brivari noted.

"I have been known for my stubbornness since boyhood," Quanah chuckled. He hesitated a moment. "I did not have a chance to thank you when last we met."

"Thank me for what?"

"You saved my son's life," Quanah said simply.

"And he saved mine," Brivari replied, "by deliberately leading my enemy away from me."

"True," Quanah agreed. "Then perhaps you are even."

Not likely, Brivari thought. River Dog had saved his life not once, but three times: When he had wielded the healing stones after the disastrous sweat, when he had led the skinwalker away from his cave at a risk to his own life, a move which earned him the protection of the Warders every bit as much as the Proctor's child,...and a third time, when he had unwittingly provided the energy for Brivari to heal himself after the hunters' attack, all the while thinking he was healing his own father who lay dying on the forest floor. Poor payment, perhaps, for such a valuable ally, but it had been necessary—only after he had healed himself had Brivari had the strength to pick up a healing stone and heal Quanah.

"But even or no, I am still grateful," Quanah was saying, unaware of how close he'd come to death, of how close his son had come to death as the primary source of energy for healing two people. "I have a request," he continued. "I have had some time to ponder what happened, and I have questions, if you will hear them."

"Of course," Brivari answered, having expected this. Quanah had seen a great deal and was in a position to ask a great many inconvenient questions, but any question he asked would pale beside those of Emily Proctor's.

"I was wondering about the light that shone so I could see to shoot the skinwalker," Quanah said. "The swirling symbol in the light...what did that mean?"

Brivari blinked. He had expected Quanah to ask how he had produced the light, having forgotten that these people spent far more time dwelling on the "why" than the "how" of almost anything. Even hunters, with their relatively limited knowledge of the world around them, would recognize Antar's emblem, a crude depiction of the very galaxy in which both he and Quanah lived. It was an ancient symbol, born of an age when Antarians thought they were the only sentient life in the universe, much the way humans did now. The mass in the middle was Antar itself, the center of the universe...or so they had thought at the time.

"It was a warning," Brivari replied. "A warning to the skinwalkers that they were about to die."

"So that symbol heralds death?"

"For all practical purposes, in that place, at that time....yes."

"And your kinsman," Quanah continued. "River Dog was unclear as to whether you had managed to find him despite what the peyote did to you."

So am I. "I was very ill," Brivari answered. "If your son had not found me, I would likely have died in short order. I have no way of knowing if what I think happened actually did, or was merely a delusion brought on by illness."

"For the sake of argument, let's say it was real," Quanah suggested. "Did your meeting go well?"

Brivari's eyes drifted over Quanah's shoulder, unseeing. His confrontation with the Proctors had forced him to confront his feelings about Valeris's admission that Zan and his father before him had violated their agreement with his people and quietly removed troublesome Covari by sending—no, ordering—them to the labs, the very same labs he had just explained to David Proctor. Zan had likely just been following in his father's footsteps, something which, ironically, Brivari had frequently complained did not happen often enough. But Riall—Riall was a different story. It was Riall who had made the pact with Covari and knew very well he was breaking it. That betrayal was painful, and Brivari had pushed it to the back of his mind in the aftermath of the hunters' attack, only to have it pulled front and center by Orlon's revelations to the Proctors. Having to explain his people's history and justify morally questionable behavior to a skeptical audience had settled Brivari's mind. Riall had been wrong to betray him, to betray all of them...but Brivari understood why he had done so, why he had always known the difference between what was right and what was necessary. There was a difference between understanding a course of action and agreeing with it; one could have the former without the latter. It was a distinction Brivari hoped the Proctors would recognize one day after they'd had time to digest what they'd heard.

"You are not sure of that either," Quanah said softly as Brivari weighed his answer in silence. "That is not uncommon."

"The meeting itself did not go well," Brivari admitted, "but I have made some measure of peace with it."

"Do not judge your experience too harshly," Quanah advised, "or even try to pass judgment on it's validity. Not yet. People often learn startling things from their dead, things they would perhaps rather not have known. Their first instinct in such cases is to dismiss the encounter as fantasy. Time usually tells whether what they've heard is true or not, and time frequently changes the way they feel about it."

"I hope so," Brivari said. "I'm certainly not at liberty to repeat the procedure."

"True. Your kinsman has moved on."

" 'Moved on'?"

"I spoke with my grandfather recently," Quanah explained. "He tells me your kinsman is no longer there. That only happens after someone has said what they needed to say. Whatever happened between the two of you left him free to continue his journey."

For just a moment, Brivari felt an incredible ache, as though Valeris had died all over again. Even when he had dismissed the entire notion of speaking with him again as sheer nonsense, there had been a part of him that hoped it were possible. And now Valeris was truly gone, from hope as well as reality, and with the loss of the Proctors and Jaddo's continued imprisonment, Brivari was more alone than he'd ever been.

"Your kinsman is not the only one free to move on," Quanah was saying. "If you've come to say goodbye, River Dog will be very unhappy that he missed you."

"Actually, I would like to stay," Brivari said. "If that is agreeable, of course."

"That is welcome news," Quanah smiled. "We assumed you would be leaving because Itza-chu told us there are no more skinwalkers."

"There aren't," Brivari assured him. "But I have other reasons for craving the solitude of your woods. Will that be a problem?"

"Not at all," Quanah said. "You're welcome to stay as long as you like. Grey Wolf!" he called to his younger son, eavesdropping as usual from a nearby doorway. "Did you hear that? Nasedo is staying! Find your brother. He will want to know as soon as possible."

Not completely alone, Brivari thought gratefully as Grey Wolf raced to obey. Not yet.



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


Copper Summit, Arizona



Alone on the lower basement level, Marana let go, feeling her fingers lengthen, her eyes enlarge, her torso shrink. A moment later, she sighed, relaxing completely for the first time since yesterday when Orlon had scared her to death by conducting a committee meeting with humans. She'd been terrified when Orlon had announced that he intended to turn Brivari's allies against him, certain that her presence at the child's house several months ago would be revealed. Waiting outside while Orlon pleaded their case would have been nerve-wracking enough; being ordered inside, into the very place where that dreadful female had brandished a weapon, had been almost too much to bear. Naturally Marana had worn a different face, but that counted for little with people on close terms with Royal Warders. Fortunately, although the female certainly had had plenty to say, she hadn't referenced Marana's earlier visit other than one cryptic remark that everyone seemed to have missed. Thank goodness. If Orlon found out she'd been discovered.....

Footsteps sounded behind her. She'd been so lost in thought that she'd missed them, and it was now too late to shift. Not bothering to turn around, she braced herself for a scolding, not caring one way or another. It had been so long since she'd felt like herself....so long.....

"Did we lose any more?" a voice asked.

Marana turned to find Malik gazing at the nearest tank, the emergent inside curled in a peaceful ball. "Yes," she answered curtly. "Another one was dead when we got back yesterday, just like the others; no tank malfunction, no obvious cause, just....dead. And while I'd love to pin that on my not being here, I seriously doubt that would have made any difference."

"It's not your fault," Malik said gently.

"No," Marana agreed regretfully, "it isn't. Would that it were. If I were doing something wrong, I could fix it." She paused, noting that his human form was taller now that she was shorter. "Aren't you going to read me the riot act for shifting when I'm not supposed to?"

Malik smiled faintly. "The 'riot act'? Someone's been paying attention. And no, I'm not going to blow you in. No one's going to find you down here. Besides, you've had a rough week."

"It's been so long since I've felt normal," Marana whispered, holding her properly sized hands up for inspection. "Don't you ever feel that way? Don't you ever just want to look like yourself?"

"I did when I first came here," Malik admitted. "Of course, I wasn't exactly sure who 'myself' was given that I had just gone rogue. But after awhile, I grew to like this form. It was my admission to an acceptance I'd never experienced."

" 'Acceptance'?" Marana snorted, shaking her head. "You keep going on about how 'friendly' these humans are, how 'tolerant'. Would you call that awful female yesterday 'accepting' and 'tolerant'?"

"I haven't made it a habit to announce that I kidnapped human children and extracted their brain cells," Malik said dryly.

"Neither have I," Marana retorted. "Orlon should never have admitted our role in the project, never mind parking us in front of them as pieces of evidence and blaming us for the results."

"That wasn't your fault either," Malik said.

"You keep saying that," Marana said bitterly. "I ruin everything I touch, and you keep telling me it's not my fault. She certainly thought so. Did you see the way she looked at me, like I was some sort of monster? I belong to the most respected profession on our planet, and she acts like I've done something awful!"

"From her perspective, you have," Malik said calmly.

"Perspective?" Marana echoed. "Human medicine is so primitive, she doesn't even know what we're talking about!"

"Exactly," Malik said. "Which is precisely why you shouldn't be taking this so personally. The humans can't begin to comprehend our science because theirs is so far behind."

"Just wait," Marana muttered. "Someday this backward little rock will figure out genetic replication, and when they do, how much do you want to bet that they'll reject it as being 'wrong'? Every single world we've seen do that is way behind us scientifically, still mired in moral debate while their own people die of diseases that could easily be cured if they'd just shut up and learn something."

"Every world that gets that far engages in the same debate," Malik reminded her, "and this world will be no exception. Neither were we."

"Our world moved past it quickly," Marana said stubbornly.

"It certainly did," Malik sighed. "And then promptly created us...and we all know how well that worked out."

Marana stared at him in astonishment. "Why do you always take their side?"

"I'm not taking any side," Malik objected. "I'm merely pointing out that there's more than one side. Acknowledging a different point of view isn't the same as agreeing with it."

"Not everyone would agree with that," Marana said soberly, "so if I were you, I'd acknowledge that point of view."

"Meaning?"

"Meaning don't ever go after Orlon the way you did yesterday. You don't want to be on his bad side."

"What's he going to do?" Malik asked. "Fire me?"

"If you're lucky, that's all he'll do."

Malik's eyebrows rose. "Are you saying he'll try to kill me?"

"You don't realize what it's like back home, Malik," Marana said, her voice brittle. "We're all scared. Khivar is paranoid about all Covari, and he's every bit as fanatical about finding the Royal Four as Orlon is about finding Brivari. You can't reason with irrational people; don't even bother trying. Let's just finish what we're here for and go home. I want my life back."

"And you won't get it," Malik said. "That life you want back was courtesy of Zan. In order to have that, Zan has to be returned to the throne."

Marana gaped at him, unable to believe he'd said that out loud. People had lost their lives and probably still were for saying less than that. How could he say something like that so casually? Why would he even think that when he was the one who had run, who had....

"That's what this is about, isn't it?" Marana whispered. "You're trying to restore Zan to the throne. You're—" She stopped, certain nagging details falling into place. "You're working with them, aren't you? That's why those humans stopped protesting the minute you showed up! They know you!"

"What on earth are you talking about?" Malik demanded.

"How do you explain why they were so willing to let us in after you appeared when just seconds before, they were ordering Orlon out of their sight?" Marana asked suspiciously.

"Easily," Malik retorted. "I wasn't lying to them like Orlon was, and they knew that. They may be primitive, but they're not stupid. And while we're on the subject, perhaps you would be so kind as to explain why Mrs. Proctor spoke directly to you when she threatened to make us leave. Have the two of you met before?"

Damn! So someone had noticed after all. "I have no idea what she meant," Marana protested. "It could have been anything, the way she was raving—"

"She wasn't raving, she just didn't like what she was hearing," Malik corrected.

"There you go again, taking their side!" Marana exclaimed angrily. "I swear you sympathize more with humans than you do with your own people!"

"Perhaps that's because my own people are behaving irrationally on virtually every front," Malik said crossly. "I'm not working with the Proctors, Marana. Apparently Khivar isn't the only one who's paranoid."

That's not my fault either, Marana thought, sagging against one of the tanks as he stalked off, mentally kicking herself that she'd said anything. She should have kept her mouth shut. Malik was her one and only friend in this desolate place; lose him, and she truly had no one.



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



That was close, Malik thought, pressing his hand on the lock to the upper basement level door. Careful as he'd been, there were bound to be inconsistencies, and the longer they were here, the more likely it was that someone would connect the dots. He'd been most unhappy with Orlon's plan to speak with the Proctors, believing it to be doomed to failure: They had no evidence, Brivari could always deny everything, and voluntarily admitting their own participation was sheer idiocy. The only reason he'd intervened was because he feared the Proctors would grow angry enough to reveal his own complicity or contact their authorities; otherwise, he would have been very happy to see Orlon thrown off their front porch. This whole situation was becoming more of a mess every day they stayed here.

"This is not a mess!" an angry voice declared as the door to the lower level slid closed behind Malik. "I'm telling you, I have everything under control. This is just a minor setback."

Malik cautiously peered around one of Amar's workbenches to find Orlon facing a communicator. He must have enabled privacy mode because no hologram floated over the device's glowing symbol and no voice was audible, meaning only Orlon could hear whoever was on the other end. Who was he talking to? More importantly, who didn't he want anyone else to know he was talking to?

"Brivari has proven exceptionally annoying, as usual," Orlon said after a pause where he was clearly listening to someone else. "He's—yes, all the hunters are gone. All four. Well, of course we can find him, but catching him—that's another matter."

Malik's eyes widened. All the hunters are gone. One thing was certain—Orlon wasn't talking to Khivar. There was no way he would so casually admit his failure to Antar's current ruler, no way he would have taken that tone with him either. Communication with home was rare; one near miss after another had made Orlon reluctant to contact home unless absolutely necessary.

"I need more resources!" Orlon was saying. "What about some trithium? If we could power that device that blocks their powers, we could—well, then, more hunters? No? Someone? Anyone?" Pause. "This isn't a leadership problem, it's a manpower problem," Orlon said testily. "I've got two heavily altered Royal Warders to bring down with only a temperamental engineer with poor judgment, a bioscientist with no judgment, and a human lover with the wrong judgment! And what about you? Do you have any judgment in that head of yours?"

Malik pressed in closer, barely registering the personal insult, dying to know who Orlon was talking to. Was this a new patron? Was this what he'd meant when he'd said he didn't answer to Khivar?

"Now, you listen to me," Orlon said in a deadly voice. "You put me here because of my knowledge of your quarry; I put you where you are, and I'll get you where you want to be. Either give me the tools to do that job faster, or accept the fact that it will take longer than you would like."

Malik blinked as Orlon stalked out of the room, the symbol on the communicator fading abruptly. Whoever that was he'd been talking to, he had just effectively hung up on them. Orlon must be very sure of himself to be so rude, meaning his contact was likely no more than a lackey. Malik waited several seconds before coming out from behind the workbench, staring at the communicator Orlon had left behind. Interesting....someone else was pulling Orlon's strings, and it wasn't Khivar. But how to find out who?

A minute later, Malik headed upstairs. This particular job called for an engineer.



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


1655 hours

Eagle Rock Military Base






Standing on the x-ray machine, Yvonne waited impatiently for the guards stationed at the stairway to decide she was human. She was late, having spent the afternoon helping out in Harriet's office in a vain attempt to learn something, anything that would point in a helpful direction regarding Betty Osorio's death. Cavitt's secretary had been as cheerful as ever, but there had been no further revelations like the unbelievably good luck of finding Hal Carver's address in the Rolodex on Betty's desk. Initially elated when Stephen had told her that Carver had visited Deputy Valenti as they had asked, she'd soon deflated when informed that it didn't matter—without hard evidence to connect someone to Betty's death, all the circumstantial evidence in the world wouldn't help, however damning. She'd gotten a lot further than she'd ever expected only to hit a road block anyway. And somehow that road block was all the more frustrating because she was further down the road than she'd ever dreamed she'd be.

Finally declared human, Yvonne flew down the stairs and headed for her quarters, wanting to wash her face and use her own bathroom before dinner. John would be back any minute, and he was always ravenous; she usually had the meal waiting for him when he arrived in a somewhat weird, housewifely type of way. She'd have to remember to get tea from the mess hall instead of coffee; for some odd reason, John continued to reject coffee, insisting that there was something "wrong" with it. She had no idea what that could mean, especially coming from someone who couldn't taste, but lacking more information, she'd simply substituted tea, which he'd accepted without question. Yet another mystery to solve.

Yvonne reached her quarters and put her hand on the doorknob, pausing as another of those awful cramps crept up her back. Odd. Cramps usually came with periods, but these cramps were in between. Precisely in between, now that she thought about it. This had been happening for several months now, and she had no idea why. Her periods themselves had been normal, save for that one heavy one last summer, so perhaps this was just her body's way of complaining about everything she'd been through these last couple of years. God knows it had a right to complain. One hand on her back in a vain attempt to stem the ache, she closed her door behind her, snapped on the light.....and gasped.

"Good evening," Brivari said pleasantly as he looked up from the newspaper he'd been reading in total darkness. "It has been quite some time, hasn't it?"


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

Next week--Part 8 comes to an end with Chapter 115. Chapter 116 jumps to 1950 and begins Part 9, the last part in the book. I'll be posting Chapter 115 on Wednesday, December 27. Happy holidays to all! :)
BRIVARI: "In our language, the root of the word 'Covari' means 'hidden'. I'm always there, Your Highness, even if you don't see me."

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Kathy W
Obsessed Roswellian
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Postby Kathy W » Wed Dec 27, 2006 3:39 pm

83 AlienAngel: Thanks! My holiday was wonderful, and I hope yours was too. :)




CHAPTER ONE HUNDRED FIFTEEN


May 27, 1949, 1700 hours

Eagle Rock Military Base




Yvonne gaped at Brivari, absolutely speechless. Quite some time.... It had been so long since she'd seen him here, anywhere, a year and a half almost....and he looked like he'd never left. "What....why...." she stammered, uncertain of where to begin.

"The hunters are dead," Brivari said calmly, as though she'd asked him a question. "Yes, I am sure. The other four still live, but will find apprehending me difficult since I can recognize them on sight."

"But.....how...."

"Entering this building has never been a problem, and still isn't," Brivari continued. "I realize that movement around the compound is more restricted what with your 'x-ray' machines, but your quarters are unguarded and therefore accessible. And there seem to be fewer guards," he noted, folding up the paper and setting it on her beside table. "Has security become that lax?"

"Well...." Yvonne began, still absolutely flabbergasted at his sudden appearance. Where to begin? So much had changed since Brivari had left: John now worked a typical American work week, while she and Stephen and everyone else enjoyed a level of freedom they had only dreamed of before the x-ray's had been installed. Perhaps it was best to start with the question asked.

"There are fewer guards because John's not here, and—"

"Not here?" Brivari said sharply, rising to his feet. "Where is he?"

"No, no," Yvonne said hastily, realizing she should have rephrased that. "I mean he's not here now. Or rather, he will be here later—any minute, in fact. It's almost dinner time. Look," she continued, realizing that none of what she'd just said made any sense as Brivari continued to stare at her with a puzzled and only slightly less alarmed expression, "John is fixing your ship. Every day he goes to the hangar nearby and works on it, and then he comes back here at night to sleep."

" 'Fixing our ship'?" Brivari echoed, his eyes widening. "The one we arrived in?"

"Of course," Yvonne answered. "Is there another one?"

"And Jaddo is allowed out of the compound to....'fix the ship'?"

"Yes. Has been since...oh, last July. Repairing the ship was the next big project after that night vision device he helped us make."

Several seconds passed as Brivari stared at Yvonne in utter amazement...and then he suddenly began to laugh. "What's so funny?" Yvonne asked, bewildered. Just seeing Brivari smile was a rare event; she couldn’t ever remember him laughing, unless one considered the odd chuckle a laugh.

"Repairing our ship," Brivari repeated, shaking his head as he laughed. "Outstanding. And wouldn't you know he finally got the message after I disappeared."

"Who got what message?"

"Jaddo. I've argued all along that he needed to pass along a continuous stream of basically useless information in order to justify his existence, and he fought me every step of the way."

"I wouldn't call that night vision device 'useless'," Yvonne noted. "But he's been working directly with General Ramey, not Pierce, so that might have softened his attitude. I take it you don't think the ship can be fixed?"

"Absolutely not," Brivari said. "That ship was much too badly damaged. But no matter; I'm quite sure everyone is salivating at just the notion of a working ship. So General Ramey is still in charge?"

"Yes, and quite popular from what I hear," Yvonne replied.

"Good," Brivari said approvingly. "And Jaddo...I would imagine this latest turn of events agrees with him?"

"Completely," Yvonne nodded. "He's much calmer now, except on weekends, when he's not allowed out, and he spends those weekends planning the next week's work. Working on the ship kept him sane while you were gone." She paused. "He was relieved to hear you were all right last summer. After he realized you'd managed to kill a hunter all by yourself, I think he finally relaxed."

"You mean as much as he ever relaxes," Brivari said dryly. "But then I suppose that goes with the territory. Jaddo was always driven, never satisfied. Just like Rath."

"Rath?"

"Jaddo's Ward. They are very similar people; they worked well together, and hopefully they will again. Hopefully, this will not have all been for nothing."

Brivari's tone was wistful and relieved at the same time, the only evidence so far that he'd been on the run and out of the loop for over a year. "He's fine," Yvonne assured him. "Thriving, really, as much as anyone could under the circumstances. I can't figure out him not liking coffee anymore, but except for that, I—"

"He doesn't like coffee? Why not?"

"I'm not sure," Yvonne frowned. "This just started a couple of days ago. He said it was 'different'; it was a bit strong, but it's been stronger and he hasn't said anything. I just switched him to tea, and he didn't mind that. I'm sure it's nothing. He can't taste anything anyway....what's wrong?"

"This...'tea' you speak of," Brivari said, a disturbed expression on his face, "is it considered a stronger taste than coffee?"

"Milder, actually. Why?"

But Brivari was staring off into space. "How long has Jaddo been here?" he asked after a moment.

"Almost two years," Yvonne replied, wondering what that had to do with coffee. "Why?"

Brivari glanced at her quickly, then looked away. "Nothing. Don't tell him I mentioned it; that would only upset him. But could you pass along that the hunters are dead and I am now free to visit the base, if not his cell?"

"Stephen's already done a test run," Yvonne answered with a wide smile, "so I'm willing to bet we can do much better than that."



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



Copper Summit, Arizona




"This is a bad idea," Amar grumbled.

"Just hurry up," Malik said impatiently, throwing a worried glance at the door. They were alone for now, but there was no telling how long that would last.

"Look, do you know how to access the logs on a communicator?" Amar demanded. "No? Then pipe down. Oh, by the way, did I mention this was a bad idea?"

"Several times. Pipe down yourself, and find that last transmission."

Amar sighed and picked up one of his tools. "You're taking an awful risk, Malik. If Orlon finds out—"

"He's upstairs sulking. And he won't."

"Why not?"

"Because for all that you're a pain in the ass sometimes, you're too good of an engineer to leave tracks," Malik said.

"Flattery will get you everywhere," Amar deadpanned. "But that's not what I meant. He won't track you through here—I'll see to that. But if you mess with his business, he'll find out one way or another, and when that happens, you'd best be on another planet...and I don't mean this one."

"You sound like Marana," Malik said, shaking his head in disbelief. "Since when were you two kindred spirits?"

"Since we both seem to know when to back off....and you don't," Amar said pointedly. "That was really stupid of you to challenge him yesterday and put Marana and me on the spot. I think I convinced him to let it go, but one more stunt like that, and nothing I say will matter."

"Why not?" Malik asked. "Aren't you the golden boy who's going to team up with Brivari's enemies?"

Amar looked away as Malik eyed him closely. Amar had been tight-lipped about his idea of approaching Brivari's enemies; Malik still had no idea who he was talking to, although it was a safe bet that it was someone at the base. And that put Malik in a quandary; should he make a preemptive strike and tell Spade why Antarians had first come to this planet before he learned it somewhere else? Turning the girl and her family against the Warders was one thing; turning their military allies against them would be catastrophic.

"Well?" Malik pressed. "Aren't you going to tell me what happened?"

"It didn't work," Amar said shortly.

"Why not? Who were you talking to?"

"Doesn't matter. Look, my point is that Orlon—"

"Is ambitious," Malik finished. "Yes, you said that. And for me, the point is that someone besides Khivar is holding Orlon's leash. We've seen him speak to Khivar in the past, we know he doesn't want to tell Khivar that he's lost all the hunters, but he's calling someone else to send more? Someone with that kind of authority? Someone like...who?"

"Could be anyone," Amar said. "Wherever there's a vacuum, something rushes in to fill it; when there's a power vacuum, that something is ambitious people, which in this case means dangerous people. There's no shortage of dangerous people at home, and it's not wise to cross dangerous people."

"It's not wise to cross us either," Malik said firmly. "Our agreement is with Khivar...but I get the impression we're not working for Khivar anymore. Maybe that's why Orlon is so disinterested in the emergents. It was Khivar who wanted Covari free of the king; perhaps Orlon's new master doesn't?" He leaned closer, looking Amar squarely in the eye. "The price of our assistance was the production of Covari free of any ties to the crown. And if we're not going to get paid, I'd like to know that. Wouldn't you?"

Amar returned his stare before returning to the communicator. "Of course I'd like to know. I'm here, aren't I? And that's despite the fact I know this is a bad idea. I just want you to be more careful, that's all."

"You want me to be careful?" Malik echoed in amazement. "Sage political advice, agreeing with a bioscientist, concerned for my welfare....who are you, anyway? Should I insist you identify?"

"I'm worried, that's what I am," Amar said, his eyes flashing with an annoyance that, for once, was comfortingly familiar. "At the rate we're going, we'll have to—"

"What?" a strange voice suddenly demanded. "He killed the other two? And just when I thought you couldn't possibly make a bigger mess of things!"

Amar slowly withdrew the tool he'd been using. "Found the logs," he said, rather unnecessarily. "Let me back it up to the beginning of the last entry...."

A second later, Orlon's voice sounded from the communicator, a voice layered with resignation and defiance. "This is Orlon. I'm afraid I have some bad news, but I assure you that I will persevere, and I have everything under control."

"What did you do now?"
the voice they'd heard before demanded.

There was a pause before Orlon answered. "The hunters are dead."

"What? exclaimed the second voice. "He killed the other two? And just when I thought you couldn't possibly make a bigger mess of things!"

"Where's the hologram?" Malik asked.

"There is none," Amar said. "Orlon had the imager turned off, so none was recorded. It's audio only."

"I would hardly refer to four dead hunters as a 'minor setback'," the voice snapped. "Are you sure they're all dead?"

"Brivari can't possibly be more annoying than you! Answer the question!"

"Well, can't you find him? There are four of you and only one of him!"


The recording was pocked with Orlon's responses; Amar listened with interest and Malik with impatience, having already heard that side of the conversation. He mentally filtered out Orlon's voice while trying to identify the other, a miasma of anger, condescension, sarcasm....and completely unfamiliar.

"Who is that?" Malik asked.

"No idea," Amar said, shaking his head. "Without an image, we might be out of luck."

"Then get Jaddo. Even you should be able to locate someone who's locked up! I want those hybrids, Orlon. Sooner or later, Khivar's going to discover that I ordered Zan and Ava killed, on your advice, no less, and even though I told them to leave Vilandra alive, he'll still blame me because they didn't. The only thing that will save my neck is having his precious lover's hybrid in my pocket."

"Good Lord," Malik breathed when the voice paused to listen to Orlon's response. "This is the one who ordered the king's assassination! So Khivar really didn't want them dead."

"I can't send trithium! If I dispatch a ship without authorization, I'm as good as dead!" Pause. "If I can't send a ship, then obviously I can't send hunters or anyone else! What, did you shift your brain cells out of shape?"

The voice was growing angrier, and if Malik remembered correctly, the conversation was drawing to a close. It was unbelievably frustrating to not be able to identify the speaker. Malik tried to remember the various voices he'd heard, but it had been so long, and this wasn't the lackey he'd expected. The speaker was probably someone high up the chain, far from where Malik had been.

"Besides, what good would any of that do? This isn't a lack of resources, it's a lack of leadership! It's your ineptitude! It never ceases to amaze me how you people can't complete even the simplest of tasks. How you kept Zan and his father on the throne for so long, I'll never know. If I were ruler and not merely the second, I swear I'd rid myself of all of you!"

"Athenor!" Amar whispered. "Khivar's top military general. They say he actually stepped out from behind his troops and killed Rath himself."

"Shh—there's more" Malik said as Orlon proceeded to accuse everyone, including Khivar's second in command, of not having any judgment.

"Watch yourself, Covari, Athenor snapped angrily. "No one who's failed as often as you have has any business finding fault with my judgment. And don't expect distance to protect you; the husks have begun to mature, so before long, there won't be a galaxy between us. Rouse your fellow idiots and make certain you have a warder by the time I arrive. And remember, the identities of my team are to remain secret. I will be the one called 'Nicholas'. Don't repeat that to those dogs you work with, or it will be the last thing you say. Do you think you can handle those simple instructions, or do I need to find a more competent operative?"

"Charming," Malik muttered, "and the feeling is mutual."

"Now you listen to me, came Orlon's furious voice. "You put me here because of my knowledge of your quarry; I put you where you are, and I'll get you where you want to be. Either give me the tools to do that job faster, or accept the fact that it will take longer than you would like."

The communicator fell silent; several seconds passed before Amar spoke again. "I think that's the end of it. Does that square with what you heard?"

"Yes," Malik said darkly. "And I seriously doubt that's the end of it."



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


Proctor residence



"Dee!" Emily called as the screen door slammed, "don't slam the door! And what about your homework? You know you can't go outside until you've at least started it!"

Dee ignored her, stalking away from the house at a good clip, her hands shoved in her pocket. As far as she was concerned, her mother's banishing of Brivari from their house was absolutely, totally, completely unforgivable, and she never, ever wanted to speak to her again. She had never felt so betrayed in her life; the fact that it was her own mother doing the betraying just made it worse.

"Deanna!" Emily called behind her. "How much longer is this going to go on?"

As long as you make it go on, Mama, Dee thought sourly, heading down the sidewalk toward Anthony's house. All Anthony knew was that she and her mother had had a fight; he'd wisely stopped asking questions after learning that, and she'd been so embarrassed by Emily's behavior that she wouldn't have elaborated even if she'd been free to. What difference did it make if the people who ran Brivari's world had done some awful things? Hadn't the people on Earth done lots of awful things? Hadn't they just had a war because of all the awful things just one man had set in motion? And what about what was happening to Jaddo and what had already happened to Urza and Valeris? As far as Dee was concerned, for every bad alien, there was a bad human, and vice versa. Lumping all aliens together was every bit as wrong as lumping all humans together. Brivari had never done anything to hurt them; he'd saved her life. For that to be discarded because her mother took offense to something someone else had done a long time ago made Dee so mad, she couldn't see straight.

"Evenin', Dee," a voice called.

Dee stopped on the sidewalk. "Hi, Mac."

"Say, could you come over her and give me a hand? I'd sure appreciate it."

Dee walked up the Brazel's green lawn to where Mac was repairing one of the posts on their front porch. "Hold that there for a minute," Mac said, indicating the post, "while I pound these nails in."

Holding the post was hard; every whack of the hammer made it jerk, and Dee braced it with her leg to hold it steady until Mac was done. "That's better," he said approvingly when he'd finished. "Thanks."

"Sure," Dee said.

"So—what's up with you and your mama?" Mac asked, glancing over her shoulder.

Dee looked toward her house, where her mother was still standing in the doorway. "I'm mad at her," she announced.

"Hard to believe, but I figured that out already," Mac said dryly. "What I meant was, what's up with you not answering her?"

"I'm not speaking to her."

"Really?" Mac said casually. "How long do you think you can keep that up?"

"I'm never speaking to her again," Dee announced.

Mac's eyebrows rose. "Never's a long time. I'm not sure that's even doable."

"Watch me," Dee said confidently.

Mac stared at her a moment, then abruptly began laughing. "What's so funny?" Dee asked suspiciously.

"You're the spitting image of your mama," Mac chuckled, reaching for another nail. "Maybe your grandma wished too hard."

" 'Wished too hard'?" Dee echoed. "What does that mean?"

Mac smiled as he pounded the new nail into the porch post, now steady enough to work on without Dee holding it. "It means that all parents hope their kids will grow up and have kids exactly like them so they can see how hard their own parents had to work to raise them. Did you know I used to be a picky eater?"

"No," Dee said doubtfully, not seeing the connection between her mother's horrible behavior, grandparents' wishes, and Mac not eating his vegetables.

"Well, I was. I always left my crusts. Wouldn't touch casseroles because I didn't know what was in them. Only ate about a half dozen different foods at any one time. I drove my own mama crazy, and one day she said, 'Billy—' that's what I went by when I was younger because my name's William—'Billy, I hope that one day, you'll have a kid who doesn't eat just like you won't'."

"So what happened?" Dee asked.

"She wished too hard," Mac said with a twinkle in his eye. "My oldest ate mostly peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for at least six years. One night we told him he couldn't get up from the dinner table until he'd tried two peas—just two peas—and he sat there until ten o'clock at night, when we finally gave up. Another time he tried them, and promptly threw up all over the living room rug. My mama watched all this and said, 'Oh, dear. He's worse than you ever were, Billy. I guess I wished too hard'. So," Mac concluded, with a nod in the direction of Dee's house, "maybe your grandma wished a little too hard that your mama would have a child just like her. Because you're every bit as stubborn and hard-headed as she is."

"I'm not hard-headed," Dee protested. "Mama's wrong, and she knows it."

"She'd probably say the same thing about you," Mac noted.

"Then she'd be wrong," Dee said firmly. "Because I'm not wrong, and I know I'm not wrong."

Mac paused a moment in his hammering. "Has it ever occurred to you that maybe neither of you is wrong?"

"How? We can't both be right."

"Sure you can," Mac said. "There's lots of different ways of looking at things, and sometimes each of those ways is at least partially right."

"I'm not partially right, I'm completely right," Dee said firmly.

"You sure about that?" Mac asked, eyeing her closely. "Your mama's a good person, Dee; so are you. Are you absolutely certain that she doesn't have at least a few very good reasons for feeling the way she does?"

Mac didn't wait for an answer, just went back to his hammering as Dee sulked against the porch railing. She didn't blame every German for Hitler....but that didn't change the fact that Hitler was wrong to do what he did. And she didn't blame every Antarian for kidnapping children...but that didn't mean it was okay to do that. "Okay, maybe she has one good reason," she conceded grudgingly. "But that doesn't mean I agree with her, or that I'm not mad at her."

"Understood," Mac said. "We don't have to agree with everyone. Never will anyway. That's why it's important to learn to agree to disagree."

"You can't 'agree to disagree'," Dee countered. "You either agree, or you don't."

"That's where you're wrong," Mac said. "Like I said, we're never going to agree with everyone. That goes for parents and children, husbands and wives, friends—wherever people get together, they're going to disagree with each other. All those different experiences and opinions out there, it's inevitable. Just imagine what would happen if everyone stopped talking to each other just because they disagreed."

Dee said nothing, not liking where this was going. "Now, you take our government, for example," Mac went on. "The way the founding fathers set it up, they just assumed that everyone wasn't going to agree, a safe assumption if ever there was one. That's partly why we have voting and different houses of Congress, and not all branches of government have the same powers. And whatever the majority decides, that's the law, even for the ones who don't think it should be. They can keep trying to change the law, but they can't ignore it. Otherwise we'd have chaos."

"Are you saying you think we should vote on this?" Dee asked.

Mac set his hammer down. "No. I'm saying that you can't keep ignoring your mama forever just because you think she's wrong. Right or wrong, she's still your mama, and she's not ignoring you, just because she thinks you're wrong. I think you should seriously consider agreeing to disagree."

"How do I do that, exactly?" Dee asked skeptically.

"You just accept the fact that she feels one way and you feel another, and go on with your life," Mac said, shrugging. "Doesn't mean you don't still think she's wrong; it just means that you realize she has a right to her own opinions just like you have a right to yours, and you're both just going to have to live with that. And why be miserable and not speak to each other while you're living with that? Because you're always going to have to live with that, Dee. No matter how old you are, or where you live, or who you live with, you're always going to disagree with somebody. It'll be a nasty life if you don't learn to disagree civilly."

"So, what, I just walk away and act like nothing happened?" Dee protested. "I can't do that! I'm still mad at her, and you can't just stop being mad at someone. Try it some time."

"All the more reason to talk to her," Mac answered. "It's a lot easier to make it clear that you're mad if you're talking to somebody. Just ask Mrs. Brazel," he added with a faint note of amusement.

Dee's eyes widened. "Do you mean you and Mrs. Brazel fight? I've never heard you fight!"

" 'Course we fight," Mac answered. "Everybody on the planet fights at one time or another. And off the planet too, from what I understand." He finished pounding in a nail and reached for another. "Will you at least think it over? For me?"

"Okay," Dee said reluctantly. "Do you need any more help?"

"Nope. That about does it. Thanks a bunch."

"You're welcome," Dee said, resuming her walk to Anthony's house. Mac might have a point that people disagreed about all kinds of things, but she had no intention of letting her mother off the hook by acting like nothing had happened. Maybe she couldn't maintain her silence forever, but she knew she could hold out for a good long while, long enough to make life in their house very uncomfortable indeed. Maybe uncomfortable enough that her mother would reconsider, or her father, who had yet to weigh in with his feelings on the subject, could talk some sense into her.

Dee rang Anthony's doorbell; a moment later, his mother appeared. "Come right in, dear," she said, smiling. "Anthony's upstairs."

"Thank you, Mrs. Evans," Dee said, glancing down at her house and pausing for a moment, her eyes narrowing. Mac and her mama were both clearly visible, the former on his front porch, the latter still standing in their side doorway. And for just a moment, she'd thought she'd seen Mac throw a sympathetic shrug her mother's way.



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



May 28, 1949, 0610 hours

Eagle Rock Military Base




Sergeant Brisson hurried down the hallway toward the prisoner's room, medical bag in hand. These early mornings were killers; unfortunately, his efforts to move the administration of the serum to evening had failed, largely because no one wanted to risk either administering two doses on the same day or delaying a dose by several hours. As the prisoner had been leaving for the hangar earlier and earlier, Brisson had been obliged to arrive earlier and earlier, and not being a morning person, that was a royal pain. Evening would be so much better, with the prisoner here for several hours and timing not being an issue. Rounding the corner into the main hallway, he came to a dead stop when he spied Captain Spade coming toward him.

"What?" Brisson exclaimed in disbelief, hastily checking his watch. "Am I late? But I can't be! Honestly, Captain, it's only 0610. If you want to leave this early, you really need to let me know."

"Relax, Sergeant," Spade answered. "The prisoner hasn't even had breakfast yet. You're fine."

"We really should be doing this in the evenings," Brisson grumbled, Spade falling in step beside him as they continued on toward the prisoner's cell. "Then you could leave in the middle of the night if you wanted to."

"Not up to me, Sergeant," Spade said calmly. "Take it up with Dr. Pierce. Good morning, Corporals," he added to the guards outside the alien's cell.

"Good morning, sirs," the guards said.

"I have taken it up with Pierce," Brisson retorted, ignoring the guards' greetings as he stepped on the x-ray. "Fat lot of good that did me. A few extra hours between doses just one time wouldn't mean squat, and he knows it. Are you finished, Corporal, or have you decided I'm an alien?"

Corporal Thompson looked up from the x-ray's viewer. "No, sir. You're human. Corporal LaBella will get the door for you."

"It's about time," Brisson muttered, eager to be done with this daily, distasteful task. The alien was up and dressed as usual, its sleeve already rolled up as it studied a pile of papers on its lap, some of which it covered as he approached. It hated this procedure every bit as much as he did, resulting in silent agreement between them that they get it over with as fast as possible. Brisson certainly didn't mind; he had his bag open and the syringe out before he'd even set the bag down.

"Lieutenant White was not feeling well yesterday," the alien announced suddenly.

Brisson nearly dropped the syringe, he was so startled. The alien hadn't spoken to him since last summer when it had so memorably threatened to kill him if Pierce harmed Lieutenant White in his quest for an alien-human child. "She...she wasn't?" he stammered, syringe poised in midair.

"No," the alien answered, staring at its papers. "I do hope she's not ill."

"She looked okay when I saw her," Brisson said hurriedly. "I'm sure it's nothing."

"Really?" the alien said coldly. "I'm not."

It swung its head around to stare at him, those eyes burning holes in Brisson's as he stood rooted to the spot, terrified. "I'm telling you, she was fine when I saw her," Brisson said, embarrassed to hear his voice quavering. "If something was bothering her, it's not now."

"I should certainly hope not," the alien said in a low voice, its eyes still locked on Brisson's.

"She's fine," Brisson insisted, cold sweat pouring down his back. "I promise."

"Are you going to give that to me, or are you going to stand there gaping like an idiot?"

Brisson glanced toward the observation room window, or rather, where he knew the window was; the guard was no doubt wondering why he was standing there holding a syringe over the prisoner's arm and not doing anything but arguing about Lieutenant White. "I do hope she's feeling better today," the prisoner remarked casually as Brisson gave the injection with shaking hands. "It would be most unfortunate if she were not."

"I tell you, she's fine!" Brisson snapped, fear making his voice climb an octave. "You're not the only one who worries about her, you know!"

Silence. Brisson felt his face flushing as the alien stared at him with raised eyebrows. What on earth was he saying? Was he actually thinking that this...this thing cared for Lieutenant White in any way? That was ridiculous. And besides, there was no need for concern; Pierce had never noticed the switched labels, using the so far unsuccessful alpha cells instead of the beta cells. Hopefully they'd be set for several more months until he decided to switch again. The "not feeling well" that the alien had noticed was likely cramping from the procedure itself, something far less dangerous to the Lieutenant than the alternative and which Brisson could do nothing about.

It's just worried it'll lose its biggest ally, he thought sourly, tossing the syringe in his bag and snapping it shut. Or maybe it wanted Pierce to fail. Maybe that's what this was all about—maybe the alien knew that Pierce was on the right track. This was probably nothing more than fear that Pierce would succeed, not genuine concern for the Lieutenant's welfare. Cursing himself for even briefly entertaining such nonsense, Brisson banged impatiently on the door, stalked out of the room when it opened.....and ran smack into Lieutenant White standing just outside holding a tray of breakfast.

"Sergeant?" she said quizzically.

"I.....you.....sorry. Excuse me," Brisson sputtered, fleeing down the hall and around the corner, knowing full well that if the alien was concerned that Pierce would succeed, he wasn't the only one. So am I, Brisson thought heavily as he headed back to the lab. So am I.



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


"What's his problem?" Thompson asked Spade after the disgruntled Brisson had disappeared inside the prisoner's room.

"Don't know, don't care," Spade replied shortly, his eyes drifting down the hall as though expecting someone. "Look, Thompson...." Spade moved between Thompson and LaBella, his back to the latter. "Lieutenant White will be here shortly with the prisoner's breakfast. I need you to let her in."

"Of course, sir," Thompson answered. "Why wouldn't I?"

"Understand me," Spade said, his voice dropping. "I need you to let her in."

Thompson's eyes widened at their code word "need". "Is....anything wrong, sir?"

"Not at all," Spade replied. "I just need you to let her in. No matter what."

"Yes, sir," Thompson answered, completely befuddled. Everyone knew Lieutenant White appeared with the prisoner's meals every morning and evening like clockwork, and he had no idea why today would be any different than any other. He glanced at LaBella, but he was daydreaming as usual, completely unconcerned.

But something was up because Spade didn't leave; he lingered in the hallway, chatting with both of them, and Thompson noticed him tense slightly when Lieutenant White appeared around the corner with the requisite tray of breakfast. "Good morning, Lieutenant," Spade said promptly. "I'll hold that for you while Corporal Thompson checks you out."

"Thank you," Lieutenant White said, handing Spade the tray. She stepped up on the x-ray as Thompson peered in the viewer, more confused than ever as to what was going on. The Lieutenant appeared perfectly normal, didn't look ill, or angry, like Brisson, or different in any way. He waited patiently for her feet to stop moving, for the bones to come into clear view, still wondering what could possibly make Spade think the Lieutenant wouldn't be admitted like she always was.....and froze.

Thompson swallowed hard, pushing his face more firmly into the viewer in the hope that no one would notice he was panicking and that he wasn't really seeing what he thought he was seeing. The feet standing on the x-ray had none of the markers typical of the human foot, just long, thin bones with no joints. It's an alien, Thompson realized, his heart pounding. This is why Spade had been so cryptic—he was letting an alien into the prisoner's room. But which alien? And why? Was this another attack? An escape attempt? "I just need you to let her in. No matter what." Was this the "what", or was there more to come?

Slowly, Thompson straightened up, trying not to look into the Lieutenant's—or rather, the alien's—eyes, only inches away. He failed; those dark brown eyes he'd always secretly found so attractive bored into his own, daring him to say anything. Watchful eyes, eyes that held no malice or hatred, but were merely ready...for anything. These eyes were different than those of the one alien he'd already encountered. This alien had an aura of power the other lacked, of danger, of being accustomed to being obeyed. If Thompson said anything, if he gave it away, this one would kill him and never look back.

"Very good, Lieutenant," Thompson said, struggling to keep his voice steady. "Go right in."

"Thank you, Corporal," the alien said in a perfect imitation of Lieutenant White's voice as it retrieved the tray from Spade. LaBella slid the door open only to have Brisson come flying out of the prisoner's room and nearly collide with Lieutenant White...or rather, what looked like Lieutenant White. He rushed off, gibbering apologies, completely unaware that he'd almost mowed down an alien. The fake Lieutenant had no sooner disappeared inside when a guard appeared at the end of the hall.

"LaBella? Phone call. Says it's urgent."

"Go ahead," Spade said promptly. "I'll take over until you get back."

"Thank you, sir," LaBella said, lumbering off, having no idea that he'd just let an alien into the prisoner's room and leaving Spade and Thompson alone in the hallway. It took a full minute for Thompson to find his voice.

"Timing was a bit off, wasn't it, sir?"

"Yeah," Spade sighed. "Short notice. Sorry about that. I'd hoped to have LaBella out of here before she—he—got here so I could give you a better heads up."

"Is that the one I met before?"

"No," Spade answered. "That's the one that got away."

"The one who guards a king."

"Right."

"I could tell," Thompson whispered, shivering inwardly at the memory of those eyes. "Is he here to break out the prisoner?"

"Nope. Just visiting."

Just visiting? Thompson stifled the urge to laugh; how did anyone "just visit" one of the most secure, top secret places in the country? "Does he....'visit' often, sir?"

"This is the first time since the x-rays were installed that's he's been able to see his friend."

Thompson looked at Spade in surprise. "That long? But that was..."

"A year and a half ago," Spade finished for him. "This is the first time it's been safe for him to come back given what was going on out there."

"So...he was coming here before that?" Thompson said, confused. "I know we didn't have the x-rays then, but...how did he get in?"

"We've never learned how he gets into the building, but he got in to see the prisoner the same way he did this time."

"But...." Thompson stopped, thunderstruck as realization washed over him. Lieutenant White. She'd been letting the alien take her shape and visit the prisoner! And Spade must have known, given how casually he was talking. "How long....when....do you mean that wasn't always her when I was talking to her?"

"Most of the time, it probably was," Spade said calmly. "It started right after he escaped, and it worked on a pretty strict schedule. She had to be herself most of the time, so he had to be careful about when and how often he was her."

Thomson had to repeat that last incredible sentence to himself several times before he could even begin to think that he might at least partially understand it. "He's going to have to be even more careful now," he said, his mind still whirling. "You're not going to be able to pull this off very often, sir."

"I know," Spade said. "I told him that. He can talk to us, pass things along, but actual contact will have to be minimal."

"If you don't mind, sir, I'd rather he didn't 'pass things along' through me," Thompson said, feeling slightly ill.

"Don't worry," Spade said. "He knows Yvonne and me, so he can work through us. I just need you to let him in once in awhile. Visits from his friend are the only thing that kept the prisoner sane."

And working on the ship is keeping him sane now, Thompson thought, suddenly understanding the single-minded ferocity with which the prisoner had attacked the rebuilding of his ship. Abruptly cut off from contact with the only other one of his kind—or the only other friendly one of his kind—he had thrown himself into work on the ship to keep his mind off it. "So what changed, sir?" Thompson asked. "Are the enemy aliens still out there?"

"They're still there, just not as many," Spade answered. "And the most dangerous of them are dead."

"So the scales have tipped in their direction?"

"More like balanced. For the moment, at least."

Thompson said nothing for a moment. "Is this ever going to end, sir?" he whispered.

"God, I hope so, Brian," Spade said quietly. "I hope so."



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



Immersed in the diagrams he'd drawn of possible ways to repair the ship, Jaddo didn't look up when his door opened again. He knew it was breakfast, and he intended to make short work of it. Today was Friday, the last day before the humans launched into their endlessly annoying "weekend", that two day period of alleged rest and recreation which meant nothing to him but boring confinement. This particular weekend was more aggravating than most as Jaddo had had a brainstorm last night. Even if Keyser could locate the crystals which controlled power distribution to the ship, it was looking more and more doubtful that the engine itself could ever fully be repaired. But communications....now, that was another matter entirely. Fixing the communications array was child's play compared to fixing the engines. And the communications array inside the ship could be set to transmit on several private frequencies known only to the royal family, unlike the typical portable communicator which cast a wider net. If he could manage to repair communications and contrive to be alone inside the ship for a short period, it was quite possible that he could contact sympathizers at home or their allies on other planets.

Sighing, Jaddo set the pad down on the a table, careful to close the cover. Contriving to be alone would be difficult, but first he would have to repair communications when he was supposed to be working on the engine. His drawings had to be cryptic; while most of these fools wouldn't know what he was doing, keeping Keyser in the dark would be more difficult. Even the nervous Sergeant Brisson had a brain, despite appearances to the contrary, which is why Jaddo had covered his work before issuing a reminder that Jaddo had meant what he'd said about holding Brisson responsible if Pierce succeeded in impregnating the Healer. While that was highly unlikely, she would probably not survive such an incident, and she was much too valuable to lose.

"Good morning," Lieutenant White said, sliding the breakfast tray onto the table.

"I'm glad to see you've brought tea," Jaddo replied, substituting a nod for a greeting. "I can't imagine what's happened to the coffee, but—" He stopped dead as he looked up into those familiar brown eyes...eyes which now bore the telltale infrared signature of a Covari.

*It's me,* Brivari's voice said quietly.

Jaddo just sat there, staring, too stunned to speak. He had imagined Brivari walking through that door so many times, he was ashamed to admit it, but he hadn't dared hope that such a thing would ever happen despite Malik's assurances that Brivari remained at large. All that blather about hope keeping one alive was nonsense. Hope was nothing less than excruciatingly painful.

*I don't have much time,* Brivari continued, throwing a glance toward the door. *I understand you're repairing the ship—a brilliant move, by the way—and you'll be leaving soon. Captain Spade tells me he can manage these meetings only very occasionally, so we shall have to send messages back and forth with our allies, a task made easier because they are no longer confined to this building. And we apparently have another ally, one called 'Thompson'. Spade assured me he'd let me in, but I confess I wondered there for a minute.*

There was a pause during which Jaddo remained both motionless and speechless. *All the hunters are dead,* Brivari continued. *That leaves Orlon, Marana, Malik, and Amar. They are unlikely to capture me, but it is still too dangerous to approach the pod chamber, so I'm afraid I don't know how our Wards fare. The odds of a successful escape are much higher now now that you are allowed outside the compound; once you are free, we can deal with the remaining four together.*

Silence. *For heaven's sake, Jaddo, say something!* Brivari said in exasperation. *Time is short, so I suggest you spend it talking instead of gaping. We have much to catch up on, you and I.*

Brivari's tone pulled Jaddo back to reality. *I....* He stopped, wondering where to start. Where did one begin after such a long absence, after so much had happened? How did one even begin to prioritize such a lengthy list? And Brivari must have an even longer list, meaning they wouldn't be able to say everything that needed to be said. Finally, Jaddo settled on the first thing that had come to mind.

*I am so very glad to see you.*

The Healer's borrowed face softened. *As am I,* Brivari said gently. *As am I.*



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

Next week jumps to 1950 and Part 9, the last part in the book, where...

....Pierce's experiments meet with success...

....General Ramey loses his grip on the compound....

....alliances shift, and shift again as the struggle to control Jaddo's fate heats up for both humans and aliens.

I'll post Chapter 116 on Sunday, January 7, 2007. Happy New Year, everyone!
BRIVARI: "In our language, the root of the word 'Covari' means 'hidden'. I'm always there, Your Highness, even if you don't see me."


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