Birthright *Series* Season 2 (CC, TEEN), Chapter 73, 11/19

This is the place to post all your General Roswell fanfiction. Any Canon fics, which pick up directly from any episode of the show and that focus on Max/Liz, Michael/Maria, Isabel/Alex or Isabel/Jesse, Kyle/Tess, or all the couples together! Rule of Thumb: If Max healed Liz in the Crashdown in September 1999, then your fic belongs here. If it picks up from the show in any way, it belongs here.

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YellowAlien15
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Re: Birthright *Series* Season 2 (CC, TEEN), Chapter 65, 5/14

Postby YellowAlien15 » Thu May 18, 2017 8:21 pm

Well, now I’m all caught up. :mrgreen: Took me a few months. (Real life can be a ‘B****’ sometimes) Season 2 wasn’t my favorite, but with you adding some of the back stories. I give it a two thumbs up.

This series is awesome. I really like Grandma Dee never lose that character. Keep on writing.

Enjoy your Memorial Day weekend! Get some R & R.

YellowAlien15 aka 83 AlienAngel
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Kathy W
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Re: Birthright *Series* Season 2 (CC, TEEN), Chapter 65, 5/14

Postby Kathy W » Sun Jun 04, 2017 4:55 pm

Hello, everyone! Back from visiting my eldest in his new home on the continent. It's so nice having him close enough to reach by car. (Although anything closer than New Zealand would be nice.)


YellowAlien15 wrote:Season 2 wasn’t my favorite, but with you adding some of the back stories. I give it a two thumbs up.


Thank you! And thank you for reading all that. I know what a time investment it is to get caught up with this series. I didn't realize how long it was until my husband had it printed for me. :shock:

Rest assured I will never lose Grandma Dee. The story is technically from the perspective of the shapeshifters, but it's also from her perspective. She and Brivari (Langley) are the major anchors, and are probably in the running for one of the grumpiest non-couple couples in history. :mrgreen:








CHAPTER SIXTY-SIX





November 22, 2000, 9 a.m.

Crawford Residence, Copper Summit, Arizona









Isabel was running. The ground beneath her feet was rough and hard as her feet pounded forward. Below her, far below, was a vast army...and Max didn't know. And Max had to know, so she was running, her chest heaving, hoping to reach him before it was too late. But the harder she ran, the more she seemed to never move; her target, a doorway far ahead of her, never came closer, while the army below advanced at a hideous clip. Her lungs were burning, panic rising, because not only was she not going to make it to Max in time, but it was all her fault. That army was there because of her….



Flailing, Isabel woke up, lurching upright in bed so quickly, she got woozy. The room swam in front of her, unfamiliar, unsettling, and it took a moment to remember where she was. Oh, yes. Vanessa Whitaker's house in Copper Summit, Vanessa Whitaker's bedroom, and Vanessa Whitaker's bed. Nothing like sleeping in the bed of an alien enemy to induce a good night's sleep.

"Bad dream?"

Isabel jerked back against the headboard, tugging the sheet up to her chin. Nicholas was seated beside the bed, all decked out in a suit and tie. "What...what are you doing here?" she sputtered.

"Watching you," Nicholas answered.

"Watching me what?" Isabel demanded.

"What'dya think?" Nicholas chuckled. "Watching you sleep."

"What? Why?" Isabel said, her thin pajamas feeling almost invisible beneath the sheet.

Nicholas studied her for a long, awkward moment. "I used to watch her sleep," he said finally.

"You...watched your sister sleep?"

"Yeah. Just like this."

"So you sat much too close to your sister's bed and watched her sleep?" Isabel said. "Did that freak her out like it's freaking me out?"

"It's not freaking you out," Nicholas said calmly.

"I'll be the judge of what's freaking me out, thank you very much," Isabel said crossly.

"It's not freaking you out," Nicholas repeated as though this were established fact. "You like it." He leaned in closer. "She liked it."

Isabel's eyes narrowed. "I can't speak for what she liked, but I can speak for what I like, and I don't like someone leering at me when I'm sleeping. Back off."

Nicholas gave her a sly smile. "You don't mean that."

"Everything okay in here?"

It was Ida, wearing a quizzical expression which bore the shades of something darker. "Just fine, Mom," Nicholas said.

"Not fine," Isabel corrected. "I woke up and found him here, staring at me. He seems to think I like it, but he's dead wrong about that."

"No, I'm not," Nicholas said firmly.

"Oh, dear," Ida clucked. "He was very close to his sister."

"So I heard," Isabel said coldly.

"Nicholas, dear, come along," Ida said briskly. "We need breakfast before the service."

"I don't want to," Nicholas said sullenly.

"Nicholas," Ida said warningly, "come along. Isabel and the rest of them need to get ready too."

In the tense silence which followed, the look which flashed from mother to son was decidedly non-maternal, matched only by Nicholas's answering glare. "I'd appreciate it if you left," Isabel said, eager to speed his exit.

The glare swung toward her, and she found herself matching it; just who did this little twerp think he was? She had the distinct impression things were about to get ugly when Tess appeared in the doorway. "Morning, everyone!" she said brightly, eyeing Nicholas up and down. "Hey, Nicholas. Nice suit."

Isabel let out a breath as the tension in the room evaporated. She'd bristled at last night's interruption, but this one was a godsend which broke the spell as Nicholas smiled and rose from his chair. "Thank you," he said to Tess. "I'll see you later…'Isabel'."

"We'll see you all downstairs for breakfast," Ida said in what was probably supposed to be a cheerful voice, but was overshadowed by something she muttered to her son on their way out.

"What did she say to him?" Isabel whispered.

Tess came into the room and closed the door. "Something about, 'some things never change'. What was that all about?"

"You tell me," Isabel groaned, flopping back onto the bed. "I was having this awful dream, and I woke up and found him sitting in that chair, eyeballing me."

Tess's eyebrows rose. "Creepy."

"Worse than creepy," Isabel corrected. "He claims he used to watch Vanessa sleep and that she 'liked' it. Can you imagine him sitting next to her bed like that and watching her while she slept? There was something icky about the way he said it, something almost…"

"Sexual?" Tess finished. "Maybe Nicholas was 'close' to his sister in ways we hadn't thought of."

"Oh, God, that's nauseating!" Isabel exclaimed.

"If you ask me, this whole family is nauseating," Tess said.

"He kept arguing with me," Isabel went on, "telling me I liked it when I made it very clear I didn't. Even his own mother couldn't pull him off me. I'm glad you showed up when you did. Nice work complimenting his suit."

"I wasn't lying," Tess said. "I didn't even know Brioni made suits that small."

"I'm sure they'll make anything if you give them enough money," Isabel said. "Where's Max?"

"He went down to breakfast," Tess said. "He wants us all packed and ready to go so we don't have to come back here after the service."

"No argument from me," Isabel said. "I never want to see this place again as long as I live."







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







"You awake?"

The voice was faint, but Courtney heard it. It took her a moment to put together the background thrum and gentle rocking motion and remember where she was, which was stretched out on the back seat of Rath's car. "How long have I been asleep?" she said, pushing herself to a sitting position.

"Few hours," Rath said. "Same as Maria."

Courtney glanced at the front seat, where Maria was leaning against the window in what looked like a very uncomfortable position. "Oh. Guess you were talking to her, not me."

"I was talking to you," Rath said. "We're almost there. Anything look familiar?"

A look out of the window revealed acres of land with nary a house in sight. "It looks appropriately middle-of-nowhereish," she answered, "but I wouldn't know. I haven't been here in decades."

"Really?" Rath said. "When was the last time you were here?"

"1959," Courtney said. "The year I came to Roswell."

"So you've been in Roswell since 1959?"

"No. I was outed as Resistance, and had to run."

"Oh, yeah," Rath said. "They killed your dad." He was quiet for a moment. "So why here?" he said at length. "Why this particular middle of nowhere?"

"We landed in the mountains nearby," Courtney said.

Rath twisted around. "You have a ship here? You mean a spaceship?"

"Eyes on the road, Mikey G," Courtney said dryly. "If there's no point dying in Copper Summit, there's sure as hell no point dying before you get there. And yes, we had a spaceship, with 'had' being the operative word. The shapeshifters destroyed it ages ago."

"Shapeshifters?" Rath said sharply. "There's more than one?"

"There was way back then," Courtney said. "Nasedo was the last one left."

"What happened to the rest of them?"

"You've been here for a while," Courtney noted, "and people have been fighting over you all that time. The human military, my race, accidents...they got picked off one by one."

"Oh," Rath said. "Bummer."

That was close, Courtney thought as Rath lapsed into a disappointed silence. God, but she'd have to be careful; once again, it was instructive just how much damage a simple plural could do. "But why set up shop in any middle of nowhere?" Rath went on. "Wouldn't a city be a better place to hide? Whitaker was in Washington."

"Only after decades of experience in acting human," Courtney said. "We had to learn. We came off the ship in small groups, and practiced blending into human society. A small rural community was an easier learning curve."

Maria stirred, and Courtney was gratified to see Rath look her way in dismay. This was the private conversation they'd missed and needed to have, free of interruption and the constant miasma of suspicion. It would be a damned shame if it ended just as it began.

It didn't. Maria turned, rearranging herself into what looked like an even more uncomfortable position before growing still once more. "So...1959," Rath went on. "You worked at the Crashdown."

"It's was Parker's then, but yeah."

"So it was you in that photo Mr. Parker had, not your grandmother?"

"Duh," Courtney said blandly.

"Not 'duh'," Rath corrected. "For all I know, you brought your grandmother along with you."

"Don't I wish," Courtney said wistfully. "No," she added quickly, "no, I don't. Coming here was basically a death sentence. I knew that, my whole family knew that...I would never wish that on my grandmother. What?" she went on when she saw the astonished look on Rath's face. "Why are you looking at me like that?"

"You...have a grandmother?" he said.

"Of course I have a grandmother," Courtney said. "Everyone has a grandmother, and a grandfather, two of each, in fact, and a mother, and a father. We have families just like humans."

"Yeah," Rath said quickly. "Yeah, of course you do."

Courtney leaned forward, resting her arms on the front seat. "No, of course we do. We're from the same planet, remember?"

Michael turned to look at her again as Maria stirred once more, as though sensing an argument she'd like to participate in. "Eyes on the road," Courtney reminded him. "There'll be plenty of opportunities to off ourselves in spectacular fashion when we get there. And let me take this opportunity to once again remind you that this is a very bad idea, and that we still have time to turn the car around."

Rath returned his eyes to the road, narrowly missing a pothole which looked deep enough to wave to China. "Not gonna happen," he said firmly.

Courtney leaned back against her seat. "Of course not. But I had to try."

Rath's eyes flicked toward her in the rear view mirror. They rode in silence for another minute.

"So what are we gonna find when we get there?" Rath said. "Who's in charge?"

"Hopefully we'll find nothing but a sham memorial service," Courtney said. "And who's in charge would be Nicholas. He's Khivar's Second, just like you're Max's Second."

"Khivar?"

"The guy who stole Max's throne," Courtney clarified.

"And what's Nicholas look like?"

"Oh, he's not hard to spot—he's a height-challenged, scrawny little tweenager. Long story," Courtney amended when Rath raised an eyebrow. "He's the one who looks like a kid."

"So the leader of the Skins looks like a kid?" Rath said skeptically.

"Great disguise, huh?"

"I guess," Rath said doubtfully. "Okay, so when we get there, the first order of business would be to find Max and the rest of them."

"Correction," Courtney said. "Your first order of business is to find Max and the rest of them. I have other plans."

"Why?" Rath said sharply. "What are you doing?"

"Destroying the new husks," Courtney said. "If you're really going to barrel into Copper Summit, I might as well do something useful. Denying Nicholas and the rest of them another 50 years on this planet is my definition of 'useful'."

"But you need a new husk," Rath protested. "So does everybody in your 'resistance', don't they?"

"Yes," Courtney said sadly, "but I can't save only some husks. Either they all survive and are harvested, or they all die. I vote for die."

"And I don't," Rath said firmly. "We're here to rescue Max and the rest of them. We'll come back later for the husks."

"Don't you get it?" Courtney said. "There is no 'later'. It's now, or never. We won't get this chance again, and we can't afford to let those husks be harvested. Once they're mature, they can be preserved for a long time. If Khivar decides to send more troops, the last thing we want waiting for them is a closet full of human suits."

"Is he doing that?" Rath said in alarm. "Is he sending more Skins?"

"Not that I know of," Courtney said. "But he could."

"So that's just hypothetical," Rath said. "But your husk is dying, which means you're dying...and that's not hypothetical."

"I'm not the one you should be worried about," Courtney said. "I don't have a planet waiting anxiously for my return."

Rath fell silent as Courtney looked out the window, resisting the urge to scratch at said dying husk. Any other time, she'd be basking in Rath's obvious concern for her, but this was no time for sentiment. According to Future Zan, the husks had been harvested in that other timeline, and Rath had secured one for her. That was the good news; the bad news was that, given their losses over the years, most of those harvested husks would not have been used. Until Khivar arrived, that is, with troops that needed a useful way of blending into the human population, and found one at the ready. Aliens wearing human skins—it was the stuff of human nightmares, and it was real. Here, now, in this timeline, things had changed. A chance to change them further, to prevent the harvest from happening, had dropped into her lap, and she had to take it. Hopefully Brivari's safe house would actually be built in time. Hopefully she'd make it out of this alive to actually see it.

"So do you know Max and Isabel's grandmother?"

Courtney snapped back to the present. "What?"

"Mr. Parker showed me a lot of pictures of you from 1959," Rath said. "You were talking to Max's grandmother in one of them."

"I...was I?" Courtney stammered. "I don't know. That was a long time ago, and Mr. Parker...the old Mr. Parker...took a ton of pictures because he'd just expanded the bar into a restaurant. It was probably just some random photo."

"Didn't look like it," Rath said. "You looked like you knew each other."

"Maybe we did—then," Courtney allowed. "I don't know any grandmothers now."

"Huh," Rath said. "That's weird. I mean, I know she'd be a lot older now, but you don't look different. I'd think she would have recognized you—"

"Ummpf!" Maria said, awakening suddenly.

"Morning, Sunshine," Courtney said.

Maria gave her the stink eye as she stretched, or tried to, in the front seat. She'd enjoyed the silence and the chat with Rath, but the King's Second had put two and two together much too quickly. One well-placed kick to the back of the front seat had produced the necessary distraction.

"Where are we?" Maria said.

"Almost there," Courtney said. "Ready to be Supergirl?"







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







Banks Residence







Anthony tried Courtney's kitchen door, and found it unlocked. "It's just me," he called. "Don't get too excited."

A moment later he was in the living room, where Dee was on the couch, disheveled and bleary-eyed. She'd fled their house last night in a panic after Courtney's phone call, and raced here only to find Courtney gone, and Michael with her. Finally able to see the impact of what she'd been pushing for, she'd refused to come home, bunking at Courtney's house on the couch, of all places. She looked none too comfortable, and no wonder; time was when they'd both been able to sleep on the couch or the floor without every muscle in their body shrieking at them, but that time had long since passed.

"You look awful," Anthony remarked.

"Gee, thanks," Dee said sourly. "What are you doing here?"

"I brought breakfast," Anthony answered, holding up a McDonald's bag. "Egg McMuffin, hash browns, orange juice."

"Why?" Dee said. "I thought you were mad at me."

"I am mad at you," Anthony said. "Doesn't mean I want you to starve, or be crippled. Why didn't you sleep in the bed, for heaven's sake? It's not like Courtney's using it."

"I don't want to be squirreled away back there," Dee said. "I didn't want to miss anyone who came in."

"And why would anyone come in?" Anthony said. "Given when they left, they should be getting to Copper Summit right about now, assuming he floored it, which he probably did. The only way they'd be here now is if they turned around and came back."

"Which she said she was going to try and get him to do," Dee reminded him.

"And which you didn't want him to do," Anthony reminded her. "Did you?"

"Yes! No! I don't know," Dee said wearily. "I only wanted Michael to go; I certainly never wanted Courtney to wind up there, or Maria. Courtney will be recognized a mile away."

"And you didn't think of that?" Anthony said. "It didn't occur to you that if Michael went, he'd take her with him, or that she'd choose to go with him? You thought Michael would actually go without Maria, or that Maria would let him go without her?"

"I think," Dee said in a brittle voice, "that we've established that I didn't think anywhere near as much as I should have."

"And you sent three more people into harm's way because of it," Anthony said.

Dee stared at her hands. "Don't you think I know that? I feel bad enough about this as it is. I really don't need you making me feel worse."

They sat in silence for a moment, him with his sogging McDonald's bag and her slumped on the couch. His hard-headed wife reminded him of schoolmates who always got A's; they thought getting a B was a tragedy, a C the end of the world. Dee was right so often that she'd forgotten how it felt to be wrong, that she even could be wrong. He couldn't remember when he'd seen her this down, if ever.

"Maybe Courtney's right," she said finally. "I'm too close. Maybe I should've pushed harder to have someone else adopt them."

"Don't be ridiculous," Anthony said. "You're definitely having trouble with the bigger picture, but those kids wouldn't have lasted a year without you, certainly not this last year. Then there wouldn't be a bigger picture to see."

"So what do I do?" Dee said miserably. "How do I fix this?"

"That's the point, Deanna," Anthony said gently. "You're so accustomed to wrestling the world into the shape you want that you've never really made peace with the fact that there are things you can't fix. This is one of those things." He held up the bag. "Have something to eat. You'll only feel worse if you're starving."

"I want to feel worse," Dee said dully. "I deserve to feel worse."

"Far be it from me to rain on your pity party," Anthony said, "but making this all about you definitely isn't the way to fix it."

"I'm upset!" Dee exclaimed. "Can't I just be upset?"

"You're upset because you screwed up," Anthony clarified, "because you aren't perfect. Join the club; no one is, not even you. If it makes you feel better, look at it this way. If the cavalry rides back into town and needs your help, how much help will you be if you haven't eaten in ages? Do you really want to fail them twice?"

That did it. Her eyes flashed with a hopeful-looking and very familiar resentment as she snatched the bag out of his hands and unwrapped the Egg McMuffin, which bore little resemblance to the mouth-watering photos which appeared on the posters. They never did.

"Come back home," Anthony said as she wolfed down the food, hungry in spite of herself. "Sitting here isn't going to do a thing for anyone."

"No," Dee said firmly. "I will sit here until she comes back, until they come back. Because they are coming back, every last one of them. And I will be here when they do."

Her phone rang, and she snatched it. "Hello?" she said hopefully.

Any hope that it was good news evaporated when her face fell. "Uh...hang on."

"What?" Anthony said. "What's wrong now?"

"It's Jim Valenti," Dee said in a hollow voice. "Amy DeLuca is looking for her missing daughter."






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







Copper Summit, Arizona







"Wow," Maria remarked. "What a dump."

Word, Courtney through privately, gazing out the window at the first place she'd lived on this planet, now a dilapidated, tawdry version of the nice little town she'd left behind back in '59. Nicholas and Company had not been good stewards, but then that would surprise precisely no one. She'd heard that he'd leaned on tourism to bring in funds as the number of his troops had decreased, but she was unprepared for the level to which it had sunk. "Fortune Teller!" screamed one sign; "Wagon Rides!" screamed another, followed by "Bob for Apples!" and "Pick Your Own Berries!" She had no idea where anyone would find berries out here, but maybe they'd cooked up something. They certainly had the tech.

"It's like a third rate Disneyland," Maria said as they drove down the Wild West-themed street.

"More like fourth or fifth," Courtney said. "If that."

Maria turned to look at her. "Amazing. For once, we agree."

"Don't get yourself all sweaty over it," Courtney advised. "I'm not."

"So where is everybody?" Rath said. "Place is empty."

He was right. The streets were deserted, all the shops bore "Closed" signs, and theirs was the only car moving. "The memorial service was this morning, wasn't it?" Courtney said. "That's where they'd all be."

"Okay, so where's this 'Universal Friendship League'?" Rath asked.

"Beats me," Courtney said. "It didn't exist when I was here. Got an address?"

Rath handed her a copy of the letter which was sent to Vanessa. "Down this road and turn left," Courtney instructed, "assuming they haven't changed the street grid."

They hadn't. Nicky had bigger fish to fry than redecorating the town. Turned out the "Universal Friendship League" was the old town courthouse, no longer needed, of course, as justice was no longer dispensed here. They parked the car in front, and piled out.

"Looks closed," Maria said.

"Huh. This is where the service is supposed to be," Courtney said.

"Door's locked," Rath noted, trying the front door.

"And you can't see through the windows," Maria said. "Weird. Don't," she added when Rath reached for the door bell. "Let's look around first."

They circled the building, Courtney trailing behind. She hadn't been here in decades, and it looked so different now, like a failed fake ghost town, but here and there were little things she remembered. She'd been so naive back then, so idealistic, so...so many things she wasn't now. The last time she'd been here, she'd been a different person. The last time she'd been here, her father had still been alive...

But enough with the walk down memory lane. This was still enemy territory, and all four of the Royal Four were squarely in the middle of it, or at least she hoped they were. Was it possible Nicholas had figured out who they were, and fled the town with his prizes? But no; he would never leave his harvest behind, and that harvest must be here somewhere. Coming around to the front of the old courthouse, her eyes raked the unfamiliar fake western buildings, mentally overlaying the old architecture. The new husks would have to be in town; there wasn't enough space in the warren of rooms beneath Nicholas's house. "No one's here," she called to Rath and Maria. "Let's drive around and see what we can find; it'll be faster than on foot."

They piled back into the car, circling one block, then another. The buildings were all different, and Nicholas had had plenty of time to build new facilities since her departure, but any new infrastructure would likely be adjacent to the old for logistical reasons. And the largest of the old tech hubs hadn't been far from the courthouse, which would have put it right about…

"There!" Courtney exclaimed, pointing. "Stop the car!"

"Why?" Maria demanded. "I don't see anything."

"Of course you don't—it's inside. Stop the car," Courtney commanded, "or I jump out."

"Let her," Maria advised.

"We don't have anything else to go on," Rath argued. "I'm sticking with her. And there's the jeep!"

Michael pulled over across from Zan's empty jeep, which was parked in front of a dingy wooden building labeled "Stagecoach Museum", one of the less ridiculous offerings on the Copper Summit tourist circuit. The door was open, the interior dark and dank, and she led them without hesitation past replica stagecoaches complete with life-sized dolls, including a creepy looking hearse with a corpse.

"Where are we going?" Maria hissed.

"The door would be in the back," Courtney said, "and it'll have a weird lock on it, like—"

"Like this?" Rath said, pulling back a curtain.

"Yes," Courtney breathed, stopping in front of a decidedly non-western door with a lock which would recognize Argilian DNA. Assuming they hadn't specifically locked her out, that is, which was quite possible…

But the panel lit, and the door unlatched. "Okay, you're good for something," Maria allowed, "but how does this help us find Liz and the rest of them?"

"First things first," Courtney said, already through the door to the stairs on the other side. It was a bad time to say this out loud, but Zan and the rest of them might already be lost. But she had Zan's Second with her; if she could destroy the new husks and convince him to leave, their world would still have a chance. The door banged closed behind them as they clattered down the stairs, Rath rushing ahead of her as they came around a corner just as someone collapsed on the stairs in front of them.

"Isabel!" Maria exclaimed. Ahead of them, Rath's hand shot out, sending a short figure flying amidst the sea of maturation chambers filled with husks.

"Get her out of here!" Rath shouted.

Her heart pounding, Courtney grabbed one arm and Maria the other, propelling the stunned Vilandra up the stairs. "Up we go," Courtney said briskly, reaching the top in record time. "Take her outside," she instructed Maria. "I'm going back in."

"I'm going with you," Isabel said, one hand to her forehead and looking none too steady.

"Me, too," Maria said stoutly. "Michael's in there."

"No shit," Courtney said. "One of you trapped in there with Nicholas is quite enough, thank you. Both of you stay here."

"You know Nicholas?" Isabel said.

"Unfortunately," Courtney said. "Let me deal with him."

"I am not leaving Michael's life in your hands!" Maria protested. "I'm—"

"Staying right here like I asked you to," Courtney said firmly. "Look, I know you hate my guts, and believe me when I say the feeling's mutual, but I don't want Michael dead either. I will get him out of there. Stay here, and don't become one more person I have to rescue."

Isabel put a hand on Maria's arm. "Do what she says," Isabel said quietly.

"But what if she needs our help?" Maria persisted. "If you were down there, Max and the others are probably down there too."

"No, they're not," Courtney said. "Stay here."

Vilandra gave her a strange look which Courtney ignored as she grabbed a crowbar from a nearby display and crept back down the stairs. Vilandra had been the only one down here because Nicholas had figured out who she was and singled her out, leading her away from whatever they had planned for the rest of them. They didn't know where the rest of them were or have time to find them, but there was still a chance, a chance which had been visible at the base of the stairs. Nicholas had taken a calculated risk to make the husks mature faster, and the gamble he'd taken could now be his undoing if she could manage to not let him see her. She crept around the corner, her feet making no sound.

"...gleam of dull stupidity in the eyes," a sarcastic voice said as she neared the base of the stairs. "If I'm not mistaken, you must be the king's second-in-command. I killed you myself in your last life. Ready to die again?"

"Bring it on," Rath said grimly.

Not again, Courtney thought wearily. Rath had no idea who he was up against, but she was willing to bet it didn't matter; even if he had, he'd be doing exactly what he was doing now, what he'd done in that other life on that other world when he'd met Khivar's army alone and paid the ultimate price. She wasn't sure whether to be dismayed or impressed; maybe both. Or maybe she should save the introspection for after she smashed that power crystal and rendered them all temporarily blind, deaf, and dumb. Rath and Nicholas were both raising their hands to begin their duel as she reached the base of the stairs, Nicholas unfortunately facing her, but all of his attention on the man he'd killed once already. But she had to move to get to that damned crystal, had to take the time to aim carefully, to make sure she hit it right at the juncture where it connected to the main power source, where it would do the most damage...and Nicholas was no fool. More's the pity.

"No!" Nicholas screamed when he spied her.

Her swing hit home. The crystal smashed, and gas spewed into the room as Rath ducked and Nicholas flew backwards, screaming, his hands to his head. "Run!" Courtney commanded, racing up the stairs with Rath on her heels. She reached the top, and wrenched the door open to find a nervous Vilandra and Maria waiting for her.

"Where's Michael?" Maria demanded.

"On his way," Courtney said. "Run!"

"What's that noise?" Vilandra asked as the sound of breaking glass wafted up the stairway.

"Good news for us," Courtney said, "but only if we run!"

They did, thank goodness, and without hesitation, their feet sending up clouds of dust in the clearly unvisited museum. Ironically, that had been the easy part. God only knew where Zan and the rest of them were, and the effects of destroying the crystal would be acute, but temporary, so they had no time to look for them. The best they could do now was hope she'd given the rest of the Royal Four a chance to escape while escaping themselves with the King's Second and any remaining shred of hope for Antar. Convincing Rath to leave without Zan would be the hard part. Maybe she should lie? Say she knew where they were being held, and take off? But wouldn't he just turn around and go back when he found out? Not to mention he'd never trust her again, and that the best chance they had of finding the rest of them was right now, amidst all the confusion…

But her fretting was for naught. As they emerged from the fake museum, Zan, Ava, and Liz Parker rounded the corner on foot at top speed. "What are you doing here?" Zan demanded. "We gotta go now!"

"Way ahead of you, boss," Maria answered, looking behind her. "Michael? Where's Michael?"

Everyone followed Maria's gaze. What is he up to? Courtney thought despairingly. He'd been right behind her! Had the idiot stayed to finish off Nicholas? With the husks gone, time alone would do that without Rath getting himself killed. She could feel Maria's accusing eyes on her, unable to tear her eyes away from the doorway as she watched it, willing him to appear…

He did, arms full of something large wrapped in a blanket. What the hell? Had he taken Nicholas hostage? "Open the trunk!" Rath bellowed.

Maria complied, and Rath deposited his burden inside. "Is that what I think it is?" Maria demanded.

"Just drive!" Rath shouted.

For once, Maria didn't argue, heading for the driver's seat without further objection just as the muffled sound of explosions came from inside the museum. But instead of celebrating that her plan had worked, that she'd managed to set off the chain reaction she'd been hoping for, Courtney was gazing in amazement at Rath, who hesitated before climbing into the car. Whatever had been wrapped in that blanket was much too large to be Nicholas. "Where do you think you got that new husk?" Future Zan had asked her. "You and Michael were good together. If he'd lived, I bet you would have been great together. You were his match."

The car took off with Maria at the wheel, the jeep on its heels. They hadn't gone more than a few hundred yards when the Stagecoach Museum behind them exploded.

"What was that?" Maria demanded, unable to turn around.

"The building blew up," Vilandra reported, her eyes out the back window before coming to rest on Courtney. "What did you do in there? What are you even doing here?"

But Courtney was looking at Rath, whose eyes were on her. Future Rath had gotten her a new husk, and now that had been repeated in this timeline. If this wasn't evidence that the two of them would play out the way they had the last time, she didn't know what was.

Vilandra's phone rang. "It's Tess," she reported. "Max wants us to follow him. He wants to pull over."

" 'Course he does," Rath muttered.

"Why does he want to pull over?" Maria said. "Why not get as far away from here as possible?"

"Isn't it obvious?" Rath said darkly. "He wants to bitch at me for coming at all."

"As if!" Maria snorted. "We just saved his ass! I think," she added, with a glance back at Courtney. "Miss I'm-On-Your-Side hasn't answered Isabel's question."

The atmosphere in the car chilled as Maria's rearview-mirror-glare, combined with Vilandra's less hostile, but still suspicious gaze and Rath's questioning one made it clear she was not among friends. The crisis was over. Now the real work would begin.

"Hey!" Maria called. "She asked you a question. What did you do?"

"I'm afraid you don't count in the royal hierarchy, sweetheart," Courtney said. "I don't have to tell you a thing."

"What about me?" Vilandra said.

"Or me?" Rath added.

Courtney looked out the window. "I won't talk to anyone but the king."





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


I'll post Chapter 67 on Sunday, July 2. :)
BRIVARI: "In our language, the root of the word 'Covari' means 'hidden'. I'm always there, Your Highness, even if you don't see me."

emerald123
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Posts: 15
Joined: Fri Dec 31, 2010 4:30 am

Re: Birthright *Series* Season 2 (CC, TEEN), Chapter 66, 6/4

Postby emerald123 » Mon Jun 26, 2017 1:13 am

This is so good. I'm caught up on the story again. The back story is so good. I was really surprised with the interplay between Anthony & Dee.
Looking forward to next chapter.

Debbi

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

Chapter 67

Postby Kathy W » Sun Jul 02, 2017 4:08 pm

^^ emerald123: I'm so glad you're enjoying it! Dee does need someone to challenge her (a human, I mean. :wink: ) Anthony is more than up to the task.







CHAPTER SIXTY-SEVEN






November 22, 2000, 11 a.m.

Arizona








The jeep roared down the highway as Liz slumped in the back seat, shaking. God, but that had been close. There was nothing like being trapped in a room full of enemy aliens to drive home the point about how dangerous this all was, and she'd thought they were all done for when, inexplicably, the Skins had faltered. At the last minute, when Max and Tess had finally collapsed, the Skins had started yelling and grabbing their heads as though someone had stabbed them in the ears. Not that she wouldn't have loved to, but she had no idea what had caused that. She was just glad something had.

The car lurched sideways, then righted itself, but continued to wobble. Looking into the front seat, she saw Max's hands shaking on the wheel. "Max, are you okay?" she asked.

"He's fine," Tess answered.

"He doesn't look fine," Liz noted as the car continued to drift.

"He was just fighting our enemies," Tess protested. "He's exhausted."

"So did you," Liz said, "and you don't look exhausted."

"I didn't do it for as long as he did," Tess said.

"Well, I didn't do it at all, so maybe I should drive," Liz said.

"Maybe you should," Max broke in. "We're stopping in a few minutes, and you can take over."

So you can speak for yourself, Liz thought as Tess frowned, but didn't protest. The universe apparently felt she needed yet another indication that Tess would make the better partner, and had helpfully provided one in the attack by the Skins, where Max had held off the Skins with his powers while she had stood by, helpless and useless behind his green shield, praying it wouldn't fail. And when it had started to, it had been Tess who had proven useful, adding her power to Max's and shoring up the faltering shield. "I can help. Let my strength flow into yours." Definitely not something she could have done, being merely human and all. No, mere humans merely cowered behind alien shields, not strengthened them. When they had escaped, Tess had taken the front seat with Max, and now she was speaking for him. It was all a bit much.

"Call Isabel," Max said suddenly. "Tell her to tell Michael we're pulling over soon. Tell him to follow me."

It wasn't clear who he was speaking to. Liz hesitated before reaching for her phone, but Tess beat her to it. "Why are we pulling over?" Liz said.

"I have something to settle," Max said.

"Here?" Liz said. "Max, we just escaped from a town filled with enemy aliens. Shouldn't we keep going?"

"Message delivered," Tess reported, ringing off.

"I said, shouldn't we keep going?" Liz persisted. "Why stop so close to Copper Summit?"

"If Max says pull over, we pull over," Tess declared.

"Not if it gets us killed," Liz retorted. "We almost died once today. Are we really going for twice?"

"I'm sure Max has his reasons," Tess said stoutly.

Liz folded her arms. "Then I want to hear them."

An uncomfortable silence filled the car as Max remained silent and Tess put a hand on his arm. Brown noser, Liz thought darkly. "Well?" she demanded, ignoring the disapproving look Tess sent her way. "What gives, Max?"

"I just have something to settle with Michael," Max said.

"Oh, right," Liz said, "I get it. You want to yell at him for coming to Copper Summit."

"That's not what he said," Tess protested.

"But it is what he meant," Liz countered. "You may be good at bowing and scraping, but you don't know these people as well as I do."

"Why would he yell at Michael?" Tess retorted. "Michael wouldn't have come without a good reason."

"Probably not, but that won't stop the argument," Liz said. "And we don't have time for that now. Yell at him later, after we're further away."

"It won't take long," Max said grimly. "I'll yell at him now."

The jeep slowed. Liz sighed, and Tess looked startled, as though she couldn't believe she'd been wrong. Behind them, Michael's car also came to a halt, and everyone piled out.

"Liz!" Maria called. "Are you okay?"

"I'm okay," Liz assured her as Maria enveloped her in a crushing hug. "We're all okay."

"Where were you?" Maria demanded. "We couldn't find you."

"We were trapped inside the Universal Friendship League," Liz said.

"But we looked there!" Maria protested. "All the doors were locked, and there was no one there."

"They locked us inside," Liz said. "We were almost to the front door when they caught us. Max and Tess fought them off."

"We were right outside that door," Maria said, shaking her head, "and we...uh oh."

Max was advancing on Michael, who was watching him grimly. "What the hell were you thinking?" Max demanded. "You could have gotten us all killed!"

"See?" Michael said darkly. "Told you he was gonna scream."

"What do you expect?" Max demanded. "I told you to stay in Roswell!"

"I'm not your dog, Maxwell," Michael retorted. "You want someone to sit up and roll over, try the pound."

"Don't you even want to know why we came?" Maria demanded.

"We should listen to what Michael has to say," Isabel chimed in.

"No we shouldn't," Liz argued. "We all barely escaped with our lives. We should save the questions until we get further away."

"I have a question I'd like answered now," Tess said. "What is she doing here?"

Everyone fell silent as they followed her gaze toward a still figure hanging back from the group whom Liz hadn't even noticed. Courtney. The girl whose picture was in Nicholas's bedroom. In all the hubbub of the escape, she'd barely noticed her.

"Well?" Tess persisted. "What's an enemy alien doing with you?"

"She's not an enemy," Michael said.

"Oh, really?" Tess said skeptically. "Love to hear how you worked that out, but you haven't answered my question—what's she doing here?"

"Saving us," Isabel said.

Heads swung around, startled. "What do you mean?" Tess said suspiciously.

"She helped Maria get me out of there," Isabel said. "And something she did set off that explosion."

"Why exactly were you down there in the first place?" Max demanded. "You were supposed to be at the memorial service with us. I told everyone not to go anywhere alone, so what do you all do? You go off alone!"

Liz's mouth set in a thin line; that had been directed at her, as she was the only other one of them who'd "gone off alone". "Yeah, it's weird," she said stonily. "It's almost like we all have minds of our own."

"Like we're not just wind up toys he gets to play with," Isabel added darkly. "No, Max," she went on when Max tried to interrupt. "You being pissed because we weren't obedient little children isn't what's important now. What's important is what I saw. They had a whole army down there, hundreds of people in these...these...tubes, or something. And what was weird is that some of them looked like people we'd met. There was another Ida, another Walt, another Nicholas—"

"Wait, you mean clones?" Max said. "They're cloning themselves?" He looked at Liz, who looked at Maria, who looked at Michael.

"Not clones," Michael said. "Husks."

"Husks?" Max repeated. "What's a husk?"

"People suits," Maria translated, "to make aliens look human."

"See, this is why you shouldn't blow my head off before you ask a few questions," Michael said. "We learned things you didn't know, things you needed to know. That's why we came."

"And how did you learn this?" Tess asked.

"From her," Maria said, pointing to Courtney.

Everyone looked at Courtney, who hadn't uttered a word in this debate. "Her," Tess repeated. "You learned this from an enemy."

"I told you, she's not an enemy," Michael said impatiently. "She belongs to a rebel group, and they're after her too."

"Oh, how convenient," Tess said scornfully. "Don't tell me you actually believe that."

"Given that she apparently blew up the building that had this 'army' in it, I'd tend to," Liz said.

"So what?" Tess said. "That could mean anything."

"What it means to me," Liz said firmly, "is that she took out something Isabel saw as a threat. You know, Isabel, who was actually down there, and actually saw what was down there? Unlike you and me, who weren't down there, and have no idea what she saw. I'm not in the mood to second-guess Isabel at the moment. Are you?"

"No!" Tess said quickly. "No, I...look, I was just pointing out that in the heat of the moment, she may have misinterpreted what she saw. That could happen to any of us."

"Yeah, any of us," Isabel said. "Including you."

Liz allowed herself a small smile as Tess looked stricken, her attack on Courtney perceived as an attack on Isabel. "Let's get going," Max said. "Courtney's with me."

"Why?" Michael demanded.

"Because I want to hear what she has to say," Max answered. "Isn't that what you wanted?"

"You're not interrogating her without me there," Michael said.

"I'm not 'interrogating' her," Max said impatiently. "I'm—"

"Bullshit," Michael said flatly. "That's exactly what you're doing."

"Just stop, would you?" Isabel said desperately. "God, haven't we all been through enough already without the two of you tearing each other apart by the side of the road in the middle of nowhere?"

"Not the middle of nowhere," Liz corrected. "The middle of somewhere, as in somewhere much too close to a town full of enemy aliens. I vote we talk when we get home, where we're safe and we can talk openly."

"Good idea," Isabel said. "And we should all be together, because then we only have to go over it once, and we can settle any questions that come up right away, without everyone jumping to the wrong conclusions."

"I agree," Liz said. "Let's go. Max, you're exhausted. I'm driving."

Isabel and Michael moved immediately, the latter ushering the still mute Courtney back to his car. Liz pulled Maria along with her as Max and Tess hesitated. "Come with me, please," Liz begged. "Don't leave me alone with those two."

Maria squeezed her hand. "Eh, I've picked on Courtney since last night. I'll pick on Tess for a bit. Everyone needs a little variety."

Maria climbed into the passenger's seat while Liz took the wheel. After what seemed like a long time, Max and Tess climbed into the back seat.

"Ready?" Liz asked, pretending to not notice as Tess's hand crept over Max's.

"Yeah," Max said dully. "Let's go."





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






Copper Summit, Arizona







Glass crunched underfoot as Nicholas prowled the underground complex which housed the maturation chambers, now a scene of utter destruction. Husks leaned against their damaged chambers and spilled out of broken ones like corpses, twisted and tangled in a bizarre tableau chiefly notable for the lack of one feature—blood. No blood flowed until a husk was donned and created a physical link with its owner, so these were bloodless corpses, their clothing still neat, their bodies technically uninjured. There should be blood amongst this carnage to do it justice. Instead there was only broken glass, broken chambers, and his broken heart as he surveyed the end of his army.

More glass crunched as footsteps approached. "So," Nicholas said slowly, crouching by Vanessa's now useless new husk. "Do you believe me now?"

He felt, rather than heard Greer shift uncomfortably behind him. "Yes. And so does your mother."

"My mother," Nicholas snorted derisively. "My mother obviously has the imagination of a hamster, so that's not a ringing endorsement. They all spent a night under her roof, and she still couldn't figure it out. I'm curious...when did you figure it out?"

"I held out till the end," Greer admitted. "They'd discovered the doppelganger at the memorial service, so they had to be dealt with, but I wasn't sure until he used that energy shield."

Nicholas raised an eyebrow. "What 'energy shield'?"

"A damned annoying one," Greer said sourly. "They're powerful. Very powerful."

"And is that your excuse for not capturing them?" Nicholas demanded. "Because even though I took Vilandra out of the equation, and even though it was only two royals against the entire town, you still managed to let them get away."

Greer's features darkened. "They were incredibly strong," he protested. "And we weren't at our best, with much of our energy diverted to the husks—"

"I don't want excuses!" Nicholas interrupted angrily. "They were here, right here, and now they're not! They dropped right into our laps, and somehow, we screwed it up anyway!"

"With 'we' being the operative word there," Greer retorted. "You pulled the princess out, but I don't see her anywhere. Where is she? Don't tell me you let her get away!"

Nicholas's jaw twitched. "Are you mocking me?"

"I'm pointing out that we all failed," Greer snapped, "including you. We had them! We'd worn them down, and then suddenly, we were severed from the husks and couldn't function. What the hell happened down here?"

Nicholas nudged Vanessa's husk with the toe of his shoe. "I tried to explain the facts of life to Vilandra, but she was surprisingly resistant. Seems our airhead princess has grown a spine in this new incarnation. She actually attacked me, can you believe that? Not that I don't admire a little S&M in a woman, and not that she had a snowball's chance in hell of succeeding, but still...we'd have her if Rath hadn't shown up."

Greer paled. "Rath? Rath did this?"

"No, numbskull, Rath did not do this," Nicholas said. "Rath barely knows how to count, never mind exactly where to damage the maturation apparatus to simultaneously break the link and cause a devastating chain reaction that takes down the entire complex. Although he did face me alone, just like he did the last time. Points for bravery, even if he is a dimwit. And if you ever quote me on that, I'll kill you myself."

"But if Rath didn't do it, who did?" Greer said. "Vilandra?"

"Guess again!" Nicholas said with savage cheerfulness. "The Royal Four were either too stupid or engaged elsewhere, so who does that leave?" He paused as Greer frowned, puzzled. "Give up? Courtney!"

"Courtney?" Greer repeated in astonishment. "Courtney was here? In this room?"

"Of course she was," Nicholas said sourly. "She's with them, remember? She landed the killing blow, knowing exactly how it would incapacitate us. Without her, we would have had them all."

Nicholas's phone rang. "What?" he said impatiently.

"My deepest condolences for your devastating loss," a silky voice said.

Nicholas stiffened. "Brivari," he said furiously. "You can't cross our borders without setting off a hundred alarms, so you had to send your minions, didn't you?"

"I'm flattered you think so highly of me," Brivari said with that maddening calm which was his signature, "and further flattered that you think I have minions when most would argue that I'm the minion, as are you. But I'm afraid this was all their idea. They followed your bread crumbs. Maybe you should stop feeding the birds."

"Maybe you should go to hell and stay there!" Nicholas snapped. "This isn't over, not by a long shot!"

"Oh, it very much is," Brivari said patiently, in the tone one uses with a stubborn child. "You won't be able to grow another crop in time, and you're all going to pop like old balloons within a year at most, likely less. You've seen what they can do. Surrender now, and the king might let you keep your head. Emphasis on 'might'."

"What I've 'seen' is that they're all clueless teenagers," Nicholas retorted. "Good luck retaking the throne with that."

"Given that you had literally all four of them within your grasp and lost them, I'd say our luck is holding out very well, thank you," Brivari replied, unperturbed by his temper. "That was a truly spectacular failure. I'm sure your master will agree."

Nicholas made a strangled sound of fury. Khivar would be apoplectic, and not just because they'd lost the Royal Four—as if that wasn't bad enough, it was the Resistance who had dealt the killing blow. That made it ten times worse. "In light of your inability to capture them even in what you consider to be a considerably less than ideal state," Brivari went on, "one's attention naturally turns to what will happen when they are in an ideal state. You've seen what they can do. They learn very quickly, and when they come into their own, they will be unstoppable."

" 'They' didn't do any of this!" Nicholas exclaimed. "This was Courtney's doing! And her husk will fail just like all of ours will, so good luck with that too!"

"Sir?" Greer whispered.

"The Resistance is going to pop right along with the rest of us, so if you're counting on allies to—"

"Sir?"

"—prop up those idiot kids, you'd better think again—"

"Sir?"

"What?" Nicholas roared.

Greer was staring at the shattered chambers nearby. "There...seems to be a husk missing."

Nicholas's eyes narrowed. "Which one?"






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






McDonald's,

Benson, Arizona








"Well, that was a total snooze fest," Maria remarked as she and Liz walked arm in arm through the parking lot. "Here I thought I could get in some prime Tess-baiting, and she and Max both fell asleep as soon as the rubber hit the road."

"They were wiped," Liz said. "They held off the Skins until they collapsed."

" 'Collapsed'?" Maria said. "What happened back there?"

"The Skins ambushed us at the memorial service," Liz said. "Max put up his green shield, and when he started to get wobbly, Tess helped. They kept it up until they couldn't any more."

"And then what?" Maria said.

"And then I thought we were done for," Liz admitted, "until suddenly they all started yelling and grabbing their heads like they were in pain. It gave us a chance to escape, and when we ran out, we found you."

Maria squeezed Liz's arm. "I'm awfully glad you did."

"Me too," Liz said.

Me three, Courtney added silently, flanked by Rath and Vilandra as she walked behind the two girls, with Zan and Ava further ahead. There was much to be grateful for: They were many miles away with no sign of pursuit, they had all escaped Copper Summit with their lives, and the husks had been destroyed, with the added bonus that Nicholas knew it was she who had destroyed them. It was more than she could have dreamed of, and the tension and exhaustion of the last few days had taken their toll, sending her into a deep sleep almost as soon as their car had started rolling, awakening only when the decision was made to make a pit stop at a McDonald's.

It had been a bit of a surprise to learn exactly whose that decision had been. While she'd fully expected the confrontation between Zan and Rath and the ensuing paranoia over her motives, she hadn't expected Liz Parker to defend her, or take control the way she had. Watching everyone obediently file into cars as ordered had been surreal, but at the moment, Liz was probably the closest thing to a neutral party the royal family had. The tug-of-war over herself had taken some surprising twists, with Ava leading the charge instead of Maria. She'd felt a bit sorry for Ava, who was quite right to question even those actions which made it look like she was on their side; Jaddo had taught her well. Fact was, though, that Ava was wrong, and while she'd expected support from Rath, the further support from the princess and the king's human ex-girlfriend had been surprising, and not just for her, judging from the look on Maria's face. It had been a relief to climb into a car with two people willing to give her the benefit of the doubt, which had no doubt contributed to her conking out the way she had. She wouldn't have dared do that with Maria.

"Eww," Maria remarked as the door closed behind them. "Grease city. Gross."

"Familiar," Liz corrected. "We ate here on the way down."

"You have my deepest sympathy," Maria said. "This makes the Crashdown look like a five star restaurant."

"It does, doesn't it?" Liz agreed.

It was a grease pit for sure, but the smell of food, any food, was intoxicating. Zan and Ava had already secured a table away from the rest of them, and Liz and Maria did the same. "Over here," Rath said, motioning to an empty booth with a dirty table. "What do you want?"

"Four hamburgers, a large fry, and a large Coke. What?" Courtney said when he stared at her. "I don't know about you, but I'm starving."

"Me too," Isabel said. "I'll have what she's having."

Rath raised at eyebrow, but didn't protest. Vilandra gingerly slid into the booth and frowned as her feet stuck to the floor.

"I wanted to thank you for backing me up out there," Courtney said.

"You're welcome," Vilandra said. "I wanted to ask you a question."

"I'll bet you do," Courtney allowed, "but I think Max was pretty clear we should save the questions for when we get home."

Vilandra raised an eyebrow. "Don't you mean Liz?"

Courtney smiled faintly. "By virtue of the fact that he didn't object," she clarified.

"Whatever," Vilandra said. "This isn't about that. This is about me."

Great, Courtney thought wearily, having been hoping the interrogation would remain postponed. "Did you know me?" Vilandra asked bluntly. "I mean, in that other life. On that other world."

"You mean our world?" Courtney said.

"This is my world," Vilandra said quickly. "This world. It's the only world I know."

Courtney gave a non-committal shrug, having clearly touched a nerve. "No, I didn't know you. You're the king's sister. We didn't exactly run in the same circles."

Vilandra leaned in closer. "What was my name?"

"What?"

"My name," she repeated. "What was my name in that other life?"

Courtney hesitated, but couldn't see the harm in reciting a name. "Your name was 'Vilandra'."

The effect was immediate and severe. Vilandra recoiled, her eyes wild, and Courtney was instantly sorry she'd answered. "You're sure?" Vilandra whispered.

"About your name?" Courtney said. "Positive."

A moment passed before Vilandra seemed to get a hold of herself. "Back in that barn, you knew that Max and the rest of them weren't down there with me. How did you know that?"

"I guessed," Courtney shrugged.

"No," Vilandra said firmly. "You knew. How? What made you so sure?"

Courtney briefly debated several evasive answers before deciding none would fly. "Because Nicholas would've separated you from the others. He wouldn't have wanted you mixed up in whatever they had planned for the rest of them."

"Why?" Vilandra demanded. "Why would he single me out?"

"Don't you know?" Courtney said.

Truthfully, she had no idea what Vilandra knew, but the resulting startled look and guilty drop of the eyes made it clear she knew something, something which upset her deeply. "Are you okay?" Courtney said gently.

"No," Vilandra whispered, visibly shaking now. "No, I'm not okay. I thought she was lying. I thought she was just making up stories to get me on her side—"

" 'She'? 'Her'?"

"Whitaker," Vilandra said. "Did you know her?"

"The way sworn enemies know each other," Courtney said. "Go on."

"She said I...I fell in love with this guy, and that I...I betrayed my entire family," Vilandra went on, choking on the words. "And I convinced myself that she was nuts, or lying, or both, but then Nicholas said the same thing, that I'd fallen in love with...with…"

"Khivar?" Courtney said.

Vilandra paled visibly. "Yeah," she said miserably. "Him. Nicholas said I'd sacrificed a kingdom for him, and that he was here to take me back. Is that true?"

"The concept of 'truth' doesn't apply to Nicholas," Courtney said. "Nothing he says is 'true' in the conventional sense. He works in half truths and innuendo, when he's not spouting outright lies, that is."

"He also said this 'Khivar' was the leader of the rebellion," Vilandra said. "Michael said you were in a rebel group. Is this 'Khivar' who you work for?"

" 'Leader of the rebellion'?" Courtney repeated, bemused. "Is that what they're calling it now? Huh. I'd call it a 'coup', or a 'hostile takeover', or just plain 'war'. Leave it to the bullies to try and legitimize their behavior by calling it a 'rebellion'."

"Fascinating, but that's not an answer," Vilandra protested.

"Look, I can't go into chapter and verse in the middle of a Micky D's," Courtney said, "but I can promise you I don't work for Khivar. The rebels I'm with are against Khivar."

"Then why did Nicholas have your picture in his bedroom?" Vilandra demanded.

"Because he's a megalomanic and a pervert," Courtney said. "My father was Nicholas's Third and the leader of the Resistance. Nicholas discovered both of us back in 1959, and executed my father; I got away. Nicholas doesn't like that. No one likes being made a fool of by those closest to them, but homicidal maniacs really take a burn to it."

Vilandra fell silent, the specter of a dead father once again working its magic. Thanks, Daddy, Courtney thought wistfully. This was the second time that the mention of her father had silenced her accusers. He would be glad to know he'd protected her even in death.

"Nicholas said he was considered a ladies man on that other world," Vilandra went on. "He claimed I'd 'given him the eye' sometimes."

"You?" Courtney snorted. "In his dreams! If you noticed him at all, it was probably because the little runt was in the way. He just dreamed up the rest of it."

Vilandra leaned forward suddenly. "Was he right?" she asked intently. "Was Whitaker right? Did I really betray my family? Did I…"

She stopped as though unable to finish the sentence, the anguish on her face almost palpable. "No," Courtney said firmly. "You weren't trying to betray anyone—you were lied to. And of course they're trying to spin it as though this is what you wanted because their grab for power was a disaster. Our world has been a mess ever since. They're looking to you to legitimize them, and they know you don't remember, so they're filling in those gaps with what they want you to believe."

"You could be doing the same thing," Isabel said.

Courtney closed her eyes briefly. "Yes. Yes, I could. I'm not, but I can't prove that. Frankly, you can't trust anyone. Until your memories come back, the best you can do is collect information from as many different sources as you can so you can decide later what to do with them."

"Okay," Isabel said in a strained voice. "So I've talked to Whitaker, Nicholas, and you, and the one common thread is that I brought about the destruction of our world. Where does that leave me?"

Our. This was the first time the princess had used that modifier, and Courtney was all ready to launch into another impassioned defense when she realized what the princess was really asking. "Listen to me," she said, reaching across the table to take Vilandra's hand. "You never wanted this to happen. You never intended for this to happen. Khivar lied to you, to me, to all of us. You are not a bad person."

That hit the spot. Vilandra relaxed, almost slumped, really, and squeezed Courtney's hand for a moment before withdrawing it. "Okay," she said, sounding close to tears. "Okay, I...it means a lot to hear that from someone...you know. Someone from over there." She stood up. "I need to use the bathroom. Be right back."

Courtney sat back with a sigh. "Our world" had reverted to "over there", but the fact that it had been elevated at all, even for a moment, was significant. Rath was still waiting for food at the counter, her stomach was rumbling, and her arms were sticking to the table, which made her all the happier when a teenager wearing a McDonald's uniform and a bad case of acne appeared next to her. "Can I clean this up for you?" he asked.

"Please," Courtney said.

The kid produced a spray bottle of cleaner and a rag. "Word of advice," he murmured as he started on the table. "Don't get too cozy with any of them. Makes the rest of them suspicious. They're a prickly lot."

It took her approximately 3 seconds to cycle through shock, fear that she was talking to a Skin, and relief as the familiar black eyes slid by. Brivari. She'd hated those black eyes, but now they were the best thing she'd seen all day. "God, I'm glad to see you," she whispered. "I could seriously hug you."

"Please don't," Brivari said dryly. "If holding hands with the princess caught their attention, imagine what they'd do if you start feeling up the staff."

Courtney glanced around. Maria and Ava were giving her the evil eye, and Liz Parker looked startled, while Zan had his back to her and seemed unaware of her latest faux pas. "I...didn't know anyone was watching," she confessed. "And I'm not sure I care."

"The first thing you learn about royalty is that someone's always watching," Brivari said. "Like me, for example." He finished the table, pocketed the rag, and leaned in closer. "Well done!"

Brivari moved on to another table as Courtney stared after him, flabbergasted. Had he just...had he just given her a compliment? Out loud? With something vaguely resembling a smile? And why not? she thought proudly. She'd kept everyone alive, destroyed the husks, pissed off Nicholas, and scored one for the Resistance, all in one go. It was official—she rocked. A Royal Warder had said so. It didn't get more official than that.

Rath appeared with a heavily laden tray. "What are you so happy about?"

"Food," Courtney replied, privately noting that she was happy enough to burst. Happy enough to not care that Zan had been apprised of her behavior and was now watching her suspiciously. Happy enough to pursue a line of inquiry she'd been avoiding for fear of overstepping her bounds.

"So, Mikey G., " Courtney said, tucking into the first of her four hamburgers as she glanced out the window at their car. "What's in the trunk?"






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





I'll post Chapter 68 on Sunday, July 30. :)
BRIVARI: "In our language, the root of the word 'Covari' means 'hidden'. I'm always there, Your Highness, even if you don't see me."

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Kathy W
Obsessed Roswellian
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Chapter 68

Postby Kathy W » Sun Jul 30, 2017 2:58 pm

Hello and thank you to everyone reading!








CHAPTER SIXTY-EIGHT





November 22, 2000, 8:30 p.m.

Evans Residence, Roswell







Isabel sighed inwardly as Max turned onto their street. She and Maria had switched cars when they'd dropped off Liz, with Maria riding home with Michael and Courtney, and her with Max. She'd fully expected an earful the moment they were alone, but instead been faced with only sullen silence. Frankly, she preferred the earful.

"Okay, you can talk now," Isabel said as they pulled into the driveway. "Let's just get it over with."

Max said nothing as he turned off the engine. "I mean it," Isabel said. "We've got an hour before we meet up with everyone again. Let's settle our differences without wasting everyone else's time."

Without a word, Max climbed out the jeep, slamming the door behind him. Alarmed, Isabel followed, stopping herself from yelling after him just in time as their mother appeared on the front stoop.

"You're back!" Diane exclaimed. "But I thought the conference wasn't over yet!"

Max marched past her and into the house. Stunned, Diane looked at Isabel, who shrugged helplessly. "It wasn't a very good conference," she said awkwardly.

"Which doesn't even begin to explain why my son isn't speaking to me," Diane noted.

"Max and I...we had a bit of a disagreement," Isabel confessed.

"A 'bit'?" Diane echoed. "Looks like more than just a 'bit'. What on earth happened?"

"I'll talk to him," Isabel said.

"Talk to him?" Diane repeated. "Didn't you just drive all the way back together?"

No. "Uh...yeah, but we didn't do much talking," Isabel said, pushing past her mother before she got tangled up even more in her own lie. "I need to talk to Max."

"See, this is why I'm glad you're both starting therapy," Diane called after her.

Of course you are, Isabel thought furiously, kicking herself for playing right into her mother's therapy-loving hands. Max's door was locked, but she made short work of that. "Are you out of your mind?" she demanded.

Max was seated on the end of his bed. "Thanks for knocking," he said tonelessly.

"Thanks for nothing," Isabel retorted. "Now Mom is more convinced than ever that we need a therapist!"

"Maybe you do," Max said.

"Maybe I do?" Isabel said in astonishment. "I'm not the one doing the silent treatment thing!"

"No, you're the one who went waltzing off with a known enemy at the worst possible time!" Max retorted.

" 'Known enemy'?" Isabel said. "I didn't know Nicholas was an enemy when I followed him."

"He was watching you sleep," Max said. "Talk about creepy. That should have clued you in, if nothing else did."

"So 'creepy' is now synonymous with 'alien'?" Isabel said. "You haven't noticed there are plenty of creepy humans? And how did you even know that? I certainly didn't tell you, and I'm betting Nicholas didn't, so that leaves Tess. I thought we were going to wait until we all got together to talk about what happened?"

"That isn't about the memorial service," Max said stubbornly. "That was earlier."

"So, what, now we're carving up our lovely experience into different sections?" Isabel demanded. "Like 'before the service' and 'during the service' and 'after the service'? Is 'before the service' carved up into 'night' and 'morning'? Because I didn't keep track of every time I got up to pee."

Max's eyes flashed as he rose off the bed. "Stop it. Just stop it. We almost died today, every single one of us!"

"What else is new?" Isabel said. "How is that any different from the dozen or so other times we've almost died?"

"Because it almost worked, that's how!" Max exclaimed. "They had us, Iz. Tess and I held them off as long as we could, but there were too many of them. They wore us down. You should've stayed with us. I told everyone to stick together, so what do you do? You run off!"

"And, what, you think I could have changed that somehow?" Isabel said. "If I'd been there too, maybe we could have held them off for a few more minutes, but that wouldn't have been enough."

"I guess we'll never know," Max said tightly. "What I do know is that you're usually the one who's afraid of trouble, and now you go looking for it! I try so hard to keep you safe, and then you wander away. How am I supposed to keep you safe if you don't do what I tell you?"

Bristling at his tone, Isabel stopped herself mere milliseconds before launching into a blistering retort because, annoying as it was to have him treat her like a 5 year-old, Max had a point. She did spend a lot of time fretting about just this sort of situation, so why had she followed Nicholas? Because he might know something about "Vilandra", that's why, something she couldn't admit to Max. She'd been looking for more information, not a psychopath with a clone army. Max had been looking to protect them all, and had failed. They'd both gotten more than they'd bargained for.

"Want to know what I know?" Isabel said. "I know what I saw in that basement. There were hundreds of them, Max, maybe thousands. Whether they were clones, or...or 'husks', or whatever, it was an army, an army we do not want walking out of that basement. And now it never will, so I'm glad I went down there. If I hadn't, we would never have found it."

"And if Michael hadn't shown up, it wouldn't have mattered that you found it," Max argued. "We can't do anything about it if we're dead."

"No, if Courtney hadn't shown up," Isabel corrected. "Michael said she smashed something down there, and that's what caused all those explosions. If he'd come alone, we'd all be six feet under."

Max arched an eyebrow. "I thought we were supposed to wait until we all got together to talk about what happened?"

"I guess you're not the only one who gets to break the rules," Isabel retorted. "And what happened to 'do what I tell you'? Why does Michael get a pass, and I don't?"

"Because he brought Courtney with him," Max said.

"Oh, so now he's the savior because he transported the savior," Isabel said sarcastically. "I find a hidden alien army, but I get yelled at. Go figure."

"You want points for your 'hidden alien army'?" Max said bitterly. "Fine, you've got points. Feel better?"

"No, Max, I do not want 'points'," Isabel said furiously. "Look, I get that you're terrified because you couldn't protect everyone today, but that doesn't give you the right to treat me like an infant, or an imbecile. I just want a little respect! Is that too much to ask for?"

"I'm done here," Max said sullenly.

"Yeah?" Isabel said. "Me, too."

KnockKnock "Are you two all right in there?" Diane's worried voice said. "I heard shouting."

Isabel took a moment to compose herself. "We're okay, Mom. We're just ironing things out."

There was a pause. "Okay," Diane's dubious voice said, "but I'm mentioning this to your therapist, so don't be surprised if she brings it up when you start seeing her."

"Great," Isabel muttered. "Just great."






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





Guerin Residence







"Great," Maria muttered. "Just great."

Courtney held her tongue as they climbed out of the car in front of Rath's apartment building. Two cars over was a sheriff's cruiser—no, the sheriff's cruiser, presumably including a sheriff, who was currently nowhere to be seen, but probably not for long.

"Maybe he's here for someone else," Rath said.

Maria gave him a look of utter disdain. "Yeah, right. Wanna take bets?"

"But how would he know we left too?" Rath said. "We never told him."

"Three guesses," Maria said sourly. "The first two don't count."

Rath looked at Courtney, who shrugged helplessly, as mystified as he was. They trooped up to Rath's apartment and duly located the missing sheriff, who popped off Rath's sofa like he was spring-loaded. "You're back!" he said, rather unnecessarily. "Is everyone...are you all…"

"We're okay," Rath said quickly. "We're all back, and we're all okay."

Valenti let out a sigh so deep, it was probably audible in Copper Summit. "Thank God," he said, his relief visible as well as audible. "I thought…we thought…"

"Who is 'we'?" Rath asked.

"Isn't it obvious?" Maria said.

Valenti's expression changed abruptly, relief morphing to annoyance. "You, young lady, are in a heap of trouble! Do you have any idea what you've put your mother through?"

"I'm guessing you're about to tell me," Maria sighed.

"Don't get smart with me," Valenti scolded. "When I said I'd cover for the rest of you, you two weren't on the list. Then all of a sudden, you're gone too! Michael's absence just caused some raised eyebrows at school, but yours—"

"Caused my mother to lose her marbles," Maria finished.

"Made her sick with worry," Valenti corrected severely. "I had a pretty good idea where you'd gone, but I sure as hell couldn't tell her."

"What, like I could?" Maria demanded. "What would that even sound like? 'Hey, Mom! I'm running off to Arizona with Michael to fight evil aliens! Catch you later!' Like that would have gone over."

"Okay, everyone just calm down," Rath ordered as Valenti's eyes flashed. "I'm sorry we cut out on you, but we learned some things that Max didn't know. They were walking into a trap."

"That's what phones are for!" Valenti exclaimed.

"All communication in and out of Copper Summit is monitored," Rath said. "We couldn't call them without giving them away."

"How did she even find out?" Maria said. "I told her I was studying for some big state test, so I was staying over at a friend's house to study both last night and tonight. She shouldn't even expect me home until tomorrow."

"See, that's the problem with lies," Valenti said. "Too many details give you away."

"Meaning?" Maria said.

"Meaning your mother stopped into the Crashdown and talked to Mr. Parker," Valenti said. "When she found out Liz was out of town, she asked how she was going to make up that 'big state test'. Which made Jeff call the school."

"Who told him there wasn't any big state test," Michael finished.

"Exactly," Valenti said. "Didn't take her long to figure out her daughter wasn't in school, or to put two and two together when she discovered you weren't either.

"Of course not," Maria muttered.

"When she came to me," Valenti went on, "I figured it had something to do with Max and the rest of them, but none of you were answering your phones. I had to put on a show of looking for you."

"I told you, we didn't dare use our phones," Michael said. "They could have tracked us."

"How do you know that?" Valenti demanded. "Where'd you get that idea?"

Maria pointed. "Her."

Courtney braced herself as Valenti's gaze swung her way. "Who's this?" Valenti said. "Wait...you look familiar. Do I know you from somewhere?"

Bless you, Courtney thought with relief. If Rath learned that Valenti already knew she was an alien, things could get very frosty, very fast. "This is Courtney, from the Crashdown," Maria announced. "She's an alien."

Valenti adopted an appropriately startled look. "She is? What, you mean like...like the rest of you?"

"No, not like the rest of them," Maria said. "She's a Skin, which makes her an enemy."

"But one that's part of a rebel group that's on our side," Michael added, "which makes her a friend."

"You hope," Maria said.

"I know," Michael corrected.

"Oh, really?" Maria challenged. "And how do you 'know', exactly? Is it your head that knows, or are you still thinking with your—"

"Enough!" Valenti commanded before she could finish that sentence. "Your poor mother has been scouring town for you, or anyone who knows anything about where you may be, and you stand here kibitzing! Do you have any idea what you've put her through? Do you have any idea how much trouble you're in?"

Listening to this exchange, Courtney felt the tug of a strange and decidedly unwelcome emotion—sympathy for Maria. Her cover had been plausible, it was only down to bad luck that she'd been discovered, and they now knew that the consequences of their not going would have been dire. Much as she'd rather not, she felt obligated to weigh in.

"Do you have any idea what would have happened if we hadn't gone?" Courtney said. "We got there just in the nick of time. Even ten minutes later, and Max, Isabel, Tess, and Liz would probably be dead, or worse. Which would you rather have—one frantic mother, or four dead kids? Because those were your choices, whether you knew it or not."

Michael pointed to Courtney. "What she said."

"Yeah," Maria added warily, "what...what she said."

Valenti's eyes locked on hers, and Courtney held his gaze. It's true, that gaze said, and he got the message; the sheriff was a good liar and he could read minds. "Okay," Valenti said, sounding marginally calmer. "Okay, but why didn't you call her when you got back into town? Have you sworn off phones for good?"

"I was going to call her," Maria said. "I'm just not ready yet."

"Oh, yes, you are," Valenti declared. "You're going home."

"I will, but not now," Maria argued. "I have to finish—"

"No," Valenti said firmly. "You're finished. Nick of time or not, there's no crisis now, so home you go. Saddle up. I want you outside in five minutes, or I'll drag you out myself."

Valenti marched out. "I'll talk to him," Rath said, following him outside, leaving Maria and Courtney alone together.

"What was I supposed to do?" Maria said in exasperation. "Not go? Tell her the truth? Tell me, what was I supposed to do?"

"There was nothing you could have done," Courtney said. "You tried to cover it, and it might have worked."

"But it didn't," Maria said sourly.

"Nope," Courtney agreed. "Shit happens."

"Why are you agreeing with me?" Maria demanded. "I just questioned your motives. Again."

"What else is new?" Courtney shrugged. "Doesn't mean you're wrong about this. Or right about that."

"Still not buying it," Maria declared.

"Not my problem," Courtney said. "You know Michael has responsibilities elsewhere, and you're suspicious of anyone who reminds him of that as you do your best to make him forget it. That's all on you."

The shape of the universe fell back into place as Maria's eyes narrowed. "Okay," she said, coming nose to nose with her. "Since I have to go do the penitent daughter thing, I'll miss the powwow, so just tell me this—why did you say Michael was right behind you when you came up out of that basement? Because he wasn't."

"Yes, he was," Courtney said. "I told him to run, and he did. He must have turned around after that."

"Or you were trying to blow him up too," Maria said accusingly.

"I want him alive as much as you do," Courtney argued. "Just for a better reason, one that doesn't solely consist of getting in his pants."

Maria's eyebrows rose. " 'Solely'?"

Rath reappeared. "I don't think I did much good, but I tried," he said to Maria. "You'd better go."

"I don't like that I'm missing the debriefing," Maria said.

"You'll find out about it later," Rath said.

"That's not what I meant," Maria said, glaring at Courtney.

"She's afraid I'll get a pass I don't deserve," Courtney translated. "Just call Isabel," she advised Maria. "Maybe she'll babysit me for you. She was there too."

"I was there too," Rath said pointedly.

"Maria!" Valenti bellowed from outside. "Now!"

"Guess Michael is my babysitter for now," Courtney said sweetly.

With one last flash of fury, Maria exited. "Sorry about that," Rath said. "We've got about an hour before the rest of them come over. You can go back to your place if you want, or...I had another idea of how to spend the time."

Courtney arched an eyebrow. "You did?"

Rath smiled faintly, but led her outside to the car. "Wait," Courtney said, divining his meaning. "Are you sure you want to do this? Aren't you supposed to wait for the others?"

"This belongs to you, not me," Rath said. "And not them."

"Yeah, but...look, when they find out you took the risk of going back for this, they're gonna be pissed," Courtney said. "Maria already is. And then if they find out you showed it to me without them...I just don't want to get you in trouble."

"I'm always in trouble," Rath shrugged. "It's kind of my usual state. Ready?"

Speechless, Courtney nodded. The trunk lid rose, and she pulled aside the blanket. "Is it okay?" Rath asked.

"Oh, yeah," Courtney breathed. "And way better than sex."






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






The atmosphere in the car was thick enough to cut with a knife as Valenti's cruiser glided down the road with a smoldering volcano seated beside him, staring out the window. He was accustomed to Kyle's temper, but that was different; Kyle followed the typical male pattern of merely blowing up. Smoldering required time and effort, both of which most men were loathe to spend, especially on situations like these. Maria certainly came by it honestly; he'd watched Amy DeLuca smolder all day. The five minutes he'd given Maria to gather her things had really been five minutes for him to call her mother and tell her he'd found her wayward daughter. The resulting eruption had nearly busted an eardrum, and he hadn't managed to get a word in edgewise before he'd had to hang up. Maria wasn't the only one who was going to be in trouble at the end of this journey.

"Miss DeLuca, we need to come up with a story, and fast," Valenti said. "Fortunately it's easier to concoct a good lie after the fact, so maybe this one will stick."

No answer. "Did you hear me? I said we need to come up with an explanation."

Still no answer. "Miss DeLuca, do I need to take you to the hospital to have your hearing checked?"

"I'm exercising my constitutional right to sulk," she announced.

"There is no constitutional right to sulk," Valenti said.

"Then my constitutional right to silence. I know I have that. School said so."

"Only with law enforcement," Valenti said. "How far to do you think that'll get you with your mom? She's not law enforcement."

"Could have fooled me," Maria said darkly.

"We've only got a few minutes," Valenti reminded her, "so I suggest you think now and tantrum later." He paused, waiting for a reply which never came. "Fine," he said flatly. "You're on your own. Good luck with that."

"Look, what was I supposed to do?" Maria demanded. "They were in trouble!"

"You could have called me," Valenti said.

"What for?" Maria retorted. "So you could talk us out of it? So you could insist on coming with us? Nick of time, remember? We didn't have time to call you and argue about it."

"I just don't like being the last one to know anything around here!" Valenti exclaimed. "Can you at least clue me in? You could have called after you left."

"Called where?" Maria said. "The station? Your house? 'Oh, hi, Sheriff, we're off to Arizona to battle evil aliens. Later!' Kyle would have freaked out, and I'll bet your deputies would have had a few hard-to-answer questions about that."

"Oh, stop it," Valenti said severely. "You could have left a message to call you back."

"Great, so, it's life or death, and we're supposed to spend our time figuring out how to call you?" Maria said incredulously. "God, you sound like a girl who was left out of a party! This isn't about you! Courtney told us the entire town of Copper Summit, the entire town, is made up of Skins. Not a Skin here and a Skin there, but a Skin everywhere. Here we thought maybe nobody knew Whitaker was an alien, and it turns out they were all aliens. Max and the rest of them didn't know that. You heard Courtney—if we hadn't gone, they would have died, and that is more important than your hurt feelings!"

Shit, Valenti thought darkly. The only thing worse than a mouthy teenager was a mouthy teenager with a point. What he couldn't tell her was that he had another source of information—an unusually rattled Dee Evans had filled him in, so when Amy DeLuca had come calling, he'd known exactly what had happened to her daughter. The fact that the typically stalwart Dee was so upset was upsetting in itself, and only underscored the gravity of the situation, a fact which had dogged him as he'd made a pretense of looking for Maria. He'd spent his entire day backed against the wall by one DeLuca, and now here he was, backed against the wall by another. It was humiliating.

"I thought you hated Courtney," Valenti said, changing the subject.

"I do not...where did you hear that?" Maria demanded.

"At the Crashdown, every time I go in there and hear the two of you sniping at each other," Valenti said dryly. "It's not exactly a secret."

"Okay, so I hate her," Maria said impatiently, "but not when she's right, and this is one of those very rare times. We had to warn them."

"So you made up a state test? State tests are easier to check."

"Anything less than that wouldn't have needed all that studying," Maria said. "She never would have bought it."

"She didn't anyway," Valenti pointed out.

"Yeah, it sounds like she did, until Mr. Parker opened his big mouth," Maria retorted.

"Don't pin this on Jeff," Valenti protested. "He was just answering her question. It's not his fault."

"It's not mine either!" Maria exclaimed. "Or yours, or Mom's, or Michael's, or anyone's but the people trying to kill them!"

"But why did you have to go?" Valenti said. "Why couldn't Michael go?"

"By himself?" Maria said. "Are you serious?"

"He wasn't by himself," Valenti said. "He had Courtney."

"So you expect me to leave him alone with her?" Maria said.

"Why not?" Valenti said. "She's an alien, right? Doesn't that mean she has powers, or intel, or something like that? You certainly seem pretty impressed with her."

Maria stared at him for a moment. "Oh, my God," she said, flabbergasted. "You sound like Liz! She's always assuming Tess is better for Max because Tess has powers, and Tess has all this experience running and fighting, and blah, blah, blah."

"Sounds reasonable," Valenti said.

"No, it doesn't!" Maria exploded. "Don't you get it? We're the only ones keeping those Czechoslovakians human! We're what grounds them! We're the ones who remind them what it means to be human, to be a resident of planet Earth!"

"For now," Valenti said. "The way I understand it, they'll be leaving eventually. They're needed elsewhere."

"Oh, not you, too," Maria said wearily. "What is this, a Greek chorus? Never mind," she said impatiently when he looked blank. "Just forget it."

"Lets," Valenti agreed. "We have bigger fish to fry. Looks like you'll have to tell your mother that you and Michael just decided to take some time off, kind of the way Max and Liz did when they disappeared into the desert that night."

"Which was also an alien thing," Maria said sourly.

"But no one knows that," Valenti said, "including your mother. She doesn't know you had a very good reason for disappearing, and we can't tell her. All she knows is what she sees, so cut her a break. Tell her you wanted some alone time with your boyfriend, take the heat, and wait for her to calm down."

"I don't believe this," Maria muttered.

"Believe it," Valenti advised, "because we're here."

They were. Pacing in the driveway was a highly agitated Amy DeLuca, who started toward the car like a Valkyrie as her target sank lower in her seat with a scowl on her face that would have given Beelzebub pause. Trapped between two furious women, Valenti found himself feeling sorry for both. Amy didn't understand, couldn't understand, because they couldn't tell her, but her daughter had left for a very good reason. Was there really no way out of this?

"Stay here," Valenti said to Maria.

"Why?"

"Just do what I tell you," Valenti said. "For once? Please?"

Maria was still scowling, but didn't question him further. Valenti climbed out of the car, one hand raised as if to ward off an attack. "Hang on a second, Amy—"

"Don't you hang-on-a-second me!" Amy exclaimed. "And don't you dare hang up on me again, Jim Valenti!"

"I can't talk to someone who's off the deep end," Valenti said firmly, "and frankly, I don't feel comfortable leaving a minor in the care of someone who's off the deep end. There is an explanation, but if you really can't calm down, I'll take Maria back to the station until you can. Which is it going to be? Do I stay, or do I go?"

Amy looked startled, then wary. "I can't imagine what kind of explanation she could have for this one, but go ahead. What'd she snow you with?"

Hope this works, Valenti thought. Maria's sass had given him the idea, her remark about how he resembled a girl who hadn't been invited to a party. "Turns out Maria wanted to go the Junior Law Enforcement conference too," Valenti said, "the one Max and Isabel Evans, Tess Harding, and Liz Parker were attending. So Michael took her."

Amy's eyebrows rose to an impressive height. "That's it? That's her line? Or I guess a better question would be, you're actually buying that line?"

"Liz and the rest of them are back too," Valenti said. "Given that Michael and Maria came back with them, she might be telling the truth. Go ahead, check," he added. "Tess is living with me, so I know she's back. Call Jeff Parker, and see for yourself that Liz is back."

A tiny flicker of doubt flashed in Amy's eyes. "I think she just felt left out," Valenti said, taking advantage of the silence. "You know how teens get when their friends are doing something they aren't. And frankly...well, you and I both know this doesn't hold a candle to some of the things you did when you were—"

Thwack! "Don't you dare finish that sentence!" Amy said severely, landing a well placed smack on his arm. Nevertheless, she looked calmer now, less likely to shoot first and ask questions later.

"Just hear her out," Valenti suggested. "You can always kill her later."

"Is that official advice from local law enforcement?" Amy said dryly.

"It was a joke," Valenti corrected. "And you just told a joke. Which means you're thawing."

"Don't count on it," Amy warned.

"Give me one minute," Valenti said, climbing back into the car, and nailing Maria with a hard stare. "Did you hear that?"

"Yes," Maria said quietly, followed by a long pause. "Thank you."

"You're welcome. Now go make nice."

They both climbed out. "Maria?" Amy said as her daughter started for the house. "Maria!"

Valenti sighed as Maria stalked into the house without so much as a backward glance, and Amy turned to him in consternation. "Got any more sage advice, Sheriff?"

Valenti shook his head. "Nope. I'm fresh out."






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






Banks residence







"We could watch some more TV," Anthony suggested.

"Daytime TV stinks," Dee said.

"It's not daytime any more," Anthony noted.

"TV stinks," Dee amended.

"Another book, then?" Anthony said. "There won't be any more newspapers until tomorrow. So you won't eat, read, or watch television," he went on when she shook her head. "That leaves sex."

"I'm not even going to dignify that one with an answer," Dee said sourly.

"You've spent the entire day here," Anthony said gently. "Are you seriously planning to spend the night here too? At least at home, you'd have more to distract you."

"No, I wouldn't," Dee argued. "Don't you get it? I am undistractable! I said I'll sit here until they're back, and I meant it!"

"Well, I've sat here all day, and that's enough," Anthony said. "I have no intention of sleeping in any bed tonight but my own."

"Suit yourself," Dee said.

Anthony sighed in exasperation, but Dee found it hard to sympathize. Truthfully, she wouldn't mind if he went home. While it had been kind of him to spend the day with her, it was easier to fret without an audience or an adjudicator. She just wanted to fret as much as she wanted, whatever way she wanted, without anyone else passing judgment. There'd been enough of that already.

Her phone rang, and she grabbed it eagerly. "It's Diane," she muttered in disappointment, followed by, "Hello, dear" in what she hoped was a neutral tone.

"How did Philip ever live to adulthood?" Diane demanded.

Oh, good Lord, Dee thought wearily, sinking back on the couch. The last thing she needed right now was to land squarely in the middle of a husband/wife argument, especially when the husband in question was her son. "I'm sorry if you and Philip aren't seeing eye to eye at the moment, Diane, but I'm really too busy to referee—"

"No, that's not what I meant," Diane interrupted. "How did your son ever make it to adulthood without you throttling him? I swear, teenagers are the most irritating creatures on the planet!"

"Teenagers?" Dee said. "Granted, most men act like teenagers occasionally, but Philip hasn't actually been a teenager for a very long time."

"No, I mean real teenagers," Diane said in exasperation. "Max and Izzie are at each other's throats, and neither will say why. And just when I marched in there to demand they tell me, they're on the way out the door! Said they had a 'meeting', or something. So first they're yelling at each other, then they're not speaking, and then they're trotting off together? I don't get it! I don't—"

Dee sat up suddenly. "Wait," she commanded. "Are you saying they're back?"





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



Vacations coming up! I'll post Chapter 69 on Sunday, August 20. :)
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."

cjeb
Enthusiastic Roswellian
Posts: 12
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Location: South Carolina

Re: Birthright *Series* Season 2 (CC, TEEN), Chapter 68, 7/30

Postby cjeb » Mon Aug 07, 2017 6:01 pm

Thanks.......I do enjoy this
"I didn't step out from behind my tree,my kids cut er down and dragged me out kicking and screaming"

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

Chapter 69

Postby Kathy W » Sun Aug 20, 2017 3:26 pm

^^ You're very welcome! Thanks for sticking with it all this time. 8)








CHAPTER SIXTY-NINE






November 22, 2000, 9:30 p.m.

Banks Residence








The phone clutched to her ear, Dee looked hopefully at Anthony. "Wait," she commanded. "Are you saying they're back?"

"Yes!" Diane exclaimed. "Early, and without explanation! And mad at each other!"

Dee nearly stopped breathing. "So Max and Isabel are back," she clarified as Anthony watched expectantly. "You know this? You've seen them?"

"Of course I've seen them," Diane said in exasperation. "Isn't that what I'm talking about?"

"She has!" Dee whispered frantically to Anthony with a hand over the mouthpiece. "They're back! Are they okay?" she said to Diane. "Are they all right? They're not hurt, are they?"

There came a pause. "No," Diane said slowly. "Why would they be?"

"I...I was just worried," Dee said.

"You?" Diane said skeptically. "They could jump into an erupting volcano, and you'd tell me they'd be fine."

"That's a bit of an overstatement," Dee protested.

"Not by much," Diane countered.

"What about the rest of them?" Dee pressed. "Are Liz and Tess back too? What about Michael and Maria?"

"Michael went too?" Diane said. "I never heard about him going. Why do I always seem to be the last to know anything?"

"Do you happen to know if any of the rest of them are back, or don't you?" Dee said impatiently.

"Wow, the entire world has gone nuts," Diane said sourly. "Jeff Parker said that Amy DeLuca had called to see if Liz was back, so I gather at least Liz and Maria are back. I imagine they're all back. Why?"

"If Amy's calling around, it sounds like you have competition for 'last to know anything'," Dee noted.

"Ah, there you are," Diane said dryly. "Finally you sound like my mother-in-law. I was getting worried. Now, what do I do with my feuding children?"

"Let them feud," Dee said. "It's their business, not yours."

"God, you sound like Philip!" Diane exclaimed. "That's exactly what he said!"

"Of course it is," Dee said. "That's the tack I took with him, and he made it to adulthood, remember? Look, you've already signed the kids up for therapy. Keep a list of what you're worried about, and give it to Dr. Johnson. What else can you do? I have to go. We can talk later."

"Feel better now?" Anthony asked when she rung off.

"Max and Izzie are back, and I gather Liz and Maria are too, but no one will know about Courtney," Dee said. "I have to call her."

"Wait," Anthony said, plucking her phone from her hand. "You know you can't do that."

"Give that back!" Dee exclaimed. "They're not in Copper Summit any more."

"No, but she's probably with the rest of them," Anthony said. "Do you really think they're going to let her step out to take a call?"

"We have no idea where she is," Dee argued.

"We know she's not here," Anthony pointed out. "If her phone goes off and one of them answers—"

"I'll hang up," Dee said impatiently. "I'm not an idiot."

"You'll be in her call history," Anthony corrected. "She won't have time to erase it. They'll find out you know."

"I...it'll be a wrong number," Dee stammered.

"Oh, right," Anthony said skeptically. "Max and Isabel's grandmother just happened to call the waitress who's an alien."

"So...maybe I have her number for a perfectly good reason," Dee said desperately.

Anthony raised an eyebrow. "Such as?"

"I don't know!" Dee exclaimed. "I'll think of one! I have to know if she's all right!"

"Dee, if they find out you know about them, they'll eventually find out you know Brivari," Anthony said, "and then what? You know what Max can do to him. Do you think he's ready to renounce his hold over him like his future self was? Because I don't."

"I don't care!" Dee exploded, snatching the phone out of his hand. "I have to know if she made it!" Dialing rapidly, she avoided her husband's disapproving gaze as it rang, her heart nearly pounding out of her chest as she willed Courtney to pick up.

She didn't. "It went to voicemail," Dee said in a strained voice. "Again."

"Good," Anthony said flatly. "You're not thinking straight. It may be over, but you can still do real damage. Put the phone down before that happens."

Her phone rang. Startled, Dee stared at it for a moment. "I don't recognize the number," she said, frowning before answering it warily. "Hello?"

"Dee?" Courtney's voice said. "I don't have much time, so—"

"Oh, thank God!" Dee exclaimed, sinking onto the couch with a relief so strong, she felt weak. "You're all right! Where are you? Are you here? Are you in Roswell? Are you—"

"I'm in Roswell, but I only have a few minutes," Courtney broke in. "Rath is in the bathroom."

"So he didn't hear your phone ring," Dee said.

"What? I'm on Michael's phone. I smashed mine."

"You did what?"

"I destroyed it," Courtney said. "I couldn't let the hybrids get a hold of it. That phone can call Brivari."

"They wouldn't have known how," Dee said.

"Don't be too sure about that," Courtney said ruefully. "They may be inexperienced, but they're pretty damned resourceful."

"But...then you can't call him either," Dee said, flustered. "Or me, or anyone. You're cut off."

"Tell me something I don't know," Courtney said impatiently. "Future Zan specifically said not to tell his younger self about Brivari, and he would know. I couldn't take the chance, not for either of them. If Zan finds out about Brivari now, they both go down."

Dee felt the first prickle of shame as her relief that everyone was back safely began to sink in. Courtney had willingly cut herself off from anyone who could rescue her not only to protect Brivari from Max, but to protect Max from himself. Max could wreak havoc if he knew what he could do to his Warder without a clear understanding of the consequences. Courtney had behaved like a leader, while she had behaved like a spoiled brat.

"Look, I didn't call to talk about phones," Courtney went on. "I just wanted you to know everyone got out safely, and I destroyed the new husks. Nicholas and company are all screwed."

"But...that means you're screwed," Dee said.

"No, it doesn't," Courtney said with deep satisfaction. "Rath grabbed my new husk. Future Zan told me that Rath had gotten me a new husk, but I never heard the details."

"What difference does it make?" Dee said happily. "All that matters is that you have it! Right?" she went on when Courtney remained silent. "Is something wrong?"

"No," Courtney said quickly. "Of course not." She paused. "I have to go. They're all coming over soon, and I'll have to explain myself. Except Maria. I gather her mother grounded her for life."

The prickle of shame returned as Dee was reminded yet again of Amy DeLuca's panic, panic she'd had a hand in causing. "Explain yourself about what? You just effectively destroyed one of their biggest enemies. Doesn't that count for something?"

"Let's hope," Courtney said. "But I imagine the fact that I knew them for months without telling them who I was is going to count against me."

"Now, you listen to me," Dee said sternly. "If they give you static, you just say the word, and I'll swat all of them into the middle of next week."

"Even the ones you wanted me to rescue so badly that you stopped talking to me?" Courtney said dryly.

"Yes, even them," Dee said, feeling herself flush. "I...I wasn't thinking straight. I didn't expect so many dominoes to fall."

"Yeah, that's the trouble with dominoes. And was that an apology?"

"I thought you said you wouldn't hold me responsible for your going," Dee protested.

"I don't," Courtney answered. "That was my decision. Just like it was your decision to cut me off when I wouldn't immediately do what you wanted."

"Look, everyone gets some screw-ups," Dee said irritably. "Chalk this up as one my biggest."

"I will. And just so we're clear, that wasn't an apology?"

Dee closed her eyes briefly. "I'm sorry," she said in a brittle voice. "Not for loving my grandchildren, but for not thinking beyond them."

There was a long pause. "Wow," Courtney said finally. "Dee Proctor, admitting she was wrong. Must be a cold day somewhere. But for what it's worth, you're rarely wrong. I imagine you're out of practice."

"And when I am, I make up for lost time," Dee said darkly.

"You sure do," Courtney remarked.

"Oh, for heaven's sake!" Dee exclaimed. "I admitted it, I apologized—what more do you want?"

"To needle you!" Courtney chuckled. "I don't get to rib you very often about how wrong you are. And besides, it's taking my mind off the coming showdown, which is likely to be epic. Not looking forward to it."

The laughter was gone, replaced by a nervous tension. "I meant what I said," Dee said firmly. "I understand why they'd be wary, but if they don't come around after you've filled in the blanks, just say the word, and I'll knock some heads together. Repeatedly, if necessary."

"My own personal hit man," Courtney said fondly, but with a catch in her voice that Dee didn't miss. "That's nice of you, but you can't—it would give too much away. I'm on my own on this one."

"No, you're not," Dee protested. "I—"

"Rath's coming," Courtney said suddenly. "Gotta go."

The line went dead. Dee stared at the phone in her hand, feeling every bit as bereft as she had when she'd learned Courtney was going to Copper Summit. "Well?" Anthony demanded. "What happened?"

"She's at Michael's," Dee said in a hollow voice. "And they're all coming over soon to rake her over the coals."

"Mmm," Anthony murmured. "And you'd like to go over and set them straight."

Dee nodded slowly. "Yep."

"But you can't," Anthony added.

Dee shook her head. "Nope."

Anthony sat back on the couch. "Well. That stinks."

Dee tossed the phone down in frustration. "Yep."






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






Guerin Residence







"So that's the basics," Courtney said. "Questions?"

Silence settled over the room as five pairs of eyes gazed at her with expressions ranging from satisfaction to doubt. Figuring out how to condense decades of war over two planets into a simple, brief narrative for Rath had been difficult. Figuring out what to tell the rest of them had been a cinch—merely repeat what she'd told Rath, and play it by ear from there. Everyone had taken a turn, with Rath detailing their version of Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, while Zan, Ava, Vilandra, and Liz had filled in their experiences. It was comforting to be holding this powwow on Rath's turf, and further comforting that his were the eyes displaying satisfaction and support. Vilandra looked troubled, but not hostile, while Liz Parker remained neutral. Her most fervent detractor was fortunately missing; word was that Maria had been grounded for life, or at least until tomorrow. Personally, she was voting for the former.

But that didn't mean she was off the hook. Across from her, Zan looked wary, while Ava was obviously suspicious. It was a safe bet that the bit about the Resistance favoring Rath for the throne hadn't sat well, but having told that part of the story to Rath and Maria, she couldn't leave it out. Whatever the fallout, she was content to sit here in silence for as long as it took them to process what she'd said, at which point the real work would begin. And when it did, she had no doubt who would be leading the charge.

"So," Ava began, proving her right much too quickly, "you say that on your world—"

" 'Our'," Courtney corrected. "It's not 'my' world, it's 'our' world. It's your world too."

Ava's eyes narrowed. "Do you really think it's a great idea to interrupt me?"

"When you're wrong? Hell, yeah," Courtney said. "If you don't like it, stop being wrong."

Zan raised an eyebrow, and Courtney could have sworn that Liz bit back a smile. Rath nodded his approval, having counseled her not to '"take any shit". He needn't have bothered, just like Dee's offer to knock some heads together had been kind, but unnecessary. Not taking shit was one of her specialties.

Ava, on the other hand, clearly felt differently. "So you lie to us for months, and now you expect us to believe you?" she snapped. "Why?"

"Why, what?" Courtney said. "Why did I decline to identify myself, or why would I expect you to believe me?"

" 'Decline to identify yourself'?" Ava said archly. "What, you can't say the word 'lie'?"

"Sure, I can say the world 'lie'," Courtney answered. "But I wasn't lying. No one ever came up to me and said, 'Courtney, are you an alien?' If you had, and I'd said no, you could call me a liar. But you didn't."

"Seriously?" Ava demanded. "You're gonna play semantics here?"

"Just calling it like I see it," Courtney shrugged. "Not for nothing, but none of you ever told me you were aliens, so by your logic, you're all liars too."

Eyes shifted all around. Liz Parker's mouth was now definitely curling. Rath was openly smiling. "Fine," Ava said flatly, after a quick glance to take the temperature of the room. "Why did you…'decline to identify yourself'? What did you hope to gain by 'declining to identify yourself'?"

"My job," Courtney said. "I'm a soldier. I follow orders."

"Whose orders?" Zan said.

Courtney gave him a level stare. "The crown's orders."

"The 'crown'?" Ava repeated. "I thought you said you wanted Michael on the throne?"

"What I said was that the Resistance felt Michael would have made a better ruler in that other life," Courtney corrected. "But when Max's throne was stolen, all of that went out the window. The Resistance has been helping the crown ever since we got here. I take orders from the crown."

"But Max is the king," Ava said.

"Max was the king," Courtney corrected. "He couldn't be king while he was in a pod, and he can't be king while he doesn't remember who he is or where he came from. In the interim, I take orders from his Warders."

Everyone looked blank. "A guardian," Courtney clarified. "Sort of a Secret Service Agent, like the president has, only way more powerful. You know them as 'shapeshifters'. Nasedo was a Warder."

"Sounds like 'warden'," Vilandra said uncomfortably. "Like a prison. Let's stick with 'shapeshifter'."

"So you took orders from Nasedo," Ava said.

"Yes," Courtney said. "And he ordered me to stay hidden."

"But now Nasedo's dead, so we can't ask him," Ava noted. "Convenient."

"Like hell it is," Courtney retorted. "You needed him, and you know it. His death is anything but convenient."

"Did you kill him?" Ava demanded.

"Kill a shapeshifter?" Courtney said. "I'm good, but I'm not that good."

"Whitaker killed Nasedo," Vilandra objected. "She said so."

"That doesn't mean she did," Ava said. "We didn't see it happen. Whitaker could have been lying, just like Courtney could be lying. I mean, why did Whitaker have pictures of Courtney?"

"Because I was her enemy," Courtney said. "I'm Resistance, remember?"

"Is that why Nicholas had pictures of you?" Ava said. "Because you're an enemy?"

"That, and he's a pervert," Courtney said dryly.

"Got that right," Vilandra muttered.

"Then what about Michael?" Ava said, with a disapproving glance at Isabel. "If Nasedo's dead, that order no longer applies. Why didn't you just tell him the truth when he found out you were a Skin? Why did you run?"

Everyone sat up a little straighter and listened a little harder, this apparently being a sore point with the royals. "I was going to tell him," Courtney said truthfully. "I was working up to telling him. I wanted him to know, but…but not like that," she finished, her eyes on anything but Rath. "I didn't want it to be like that."

"So you smashed a window to smithereens because you didn't want it to 'be like that'?" Ava said skeptically.

"Look, I shouldn't have to tell you, any of you, that revealing your species is terrifying," Courtney said. "It's a game changer. You're always wondering if you'll live long enough to explain, before the other person's fear makes them kill you, or turn you in, or out you to someone who'll kill you or turn you in. Have any of you ever been discovered when you weren't expecting it? How'd you handle it? Was it fun for you too?"

Silence. Vilandra looked stricken and Rath pensive, while Zan and Liz exchanged knowing glances which Ava didn't miss. "So now who gives you orders?" Ava said. "Now that Nasedo's dead, who do you report to?"

Courtney shook her head. "Not to you, that's for sure."

Ava's eyes flared. "Why, you little—"

"Tess," Zan said suddenly. "That's enough."

The rebuke was quiet, but effective. Clearly put out, Tess lapsed into a sour silence as Zan fixed his eyes on Courtney. "What happened to them back there? The Skins, I mean. They'd beaten us, but then they all collapsed. What did you do?"

"In order to answer that, I need to go into more detail about husks," Courtney said.

"I'm listening," Zan said.

He was. So was everyone else, Ava included, this question being far more interesting—and relevant—than Ava's line of inquiry. Zan had zeroed in on what she would have voted the most important part of their adventure. Score one for the king.

"Husks are living things," Courtney began, "and they take a long time to grow. It takes about as long to grow a husk to maturity as it does to grow a human to adulthood, approximately 20 years, give or take."

"That's right," Vilandra interjected. "That's what Nicholas said, that they'd 'spent 20 years nursing them from spores to maturity'."

"It's painful to label anything Nicholas says as 'right', but, yeah, about 20 years," Courtney agreed, not missing the sharp look Zan gave his sister. "They have to be kept in a tightly controlled environment, and there isn't a lot of room for mistakes. Mess up a husk's development, and you have to start over from scratch—"

"This is all fascinating, but can we skip the Bio 101 and get to what Max asked you?" Ava interrupted. "What did you do?"

"You won't understand the answer if you don't let me finish," Courtney insisted. "Do you want to hear this, or don't you?"

"Yes," Zan said firmly. "We'll be quiet. Go on."

Tess scowled. Liz suppressed another smile. "So my point is that husks are precious," Courtney went on. "They're the only things keeping us alive here, and they're hard and tedious to cultivate. This is the third crop of husks they've grown since we landed here in 1950—"

"That's right too," Vilandra broke in. "Whitaker said they got here in 1950."

"Great," Tess said dryly. "Whitaker said so. I feel so much better."

"I'm just pointing out that the stories match," Vilandra protested.

"Not sure how much it helps to have the liars agree with each other," Tess said.

"If this was the third crop, what happened to the other two?" Zan asked, ignoring them.

"The Warders...shapeshifters...destroyed them," Courtney answered, swapping terms when Vilandra looked queasy. "But Nasedo's dead now, so they thought this crop was safe. They hadn't counted on you." She paused, letting that sink in. "But even though Nasedo was dead, they still had a problem. Our husks are dying. Nicholas has lost a lot of people, and waiting for the harvest meant he'd lose even more. So they tried to speed up the maturation process by linking each husk to a Skin. Linking allows the husk to draw energy from the Skin it's linked to. It's like a quick and dirty fertilizer. It works, but it's dangerous because it weakens the person who's linked."

"That's why they all collapsed," Liz said. "You broke the link."

Courtney nodded. "They talked about using it in the past, but they never did because they were afraid it would compromise them too much. This time, I guess they felt they had no choice."

"So all those Skins who attacked us were actually weak?" Liz said.

"And they beat us anyway," Zan said. "If it hadn't been for the husks, they would have beaten us even faster."

"What about you?" Ava said. "You didn't collapse."

"I wasn't linked," Courtney said. "I'm an enemy, remember?"

"Then how did you know what to do?" Ava said. "Call me crazy, but you say you're their enemy and that you haven't been there in years, but mere minutes after arriving in town, you manage to bring them all to their knees. That sounds like you know way more than you're letting on."

"I knew they might be linked," Courtney said, working to keep her voice even because Ava had a point, "and I knew we could use that against them if, if, we could find out where they were cultivating the husks. Turns out that's exactly where Nicholas brought Isabel, so looking for her meant we found the husks. We got lucky."

"And you magically knew just exactly what to do, and managed to do it in seconds," Ava said.

"I saw the control crystal at the base of the stairs, and I smashed it," Courtney said.

"That's true," Rath said. "She broke something with a crowbar, and all this gas, or whatever, came spewing out."

"And of course that magically made the entire building explode," Ava said.

"I wasn't expecting that," Courtney admitted. "I was trying to break the link and disrupt the food chain to the husks, but that wouldn't have caused them to blow up, or even die right away. Like I said, we got lucky."

"Oh, yes," Ava said blandly. "Very lucky."

"So why do you think the whole building exploded?" Zan asked.

"I'm guessing," Courtney said, "but I imagine it's because the whole set-up was such a kluge job. What little I saw of it looked like it was held together with chewing gum and bailing wire. It would have been very fragile, and very easy to compromise."

"So we're supposed to believe that this race with superior technology has an 'easily compromised' system that's 'held together with chewing gum and bailing wire'?" Ava said skeptically.

"They had to improvise," Courtney said. "We all did, after we lost our ship."

Startled glances were exchanged all around. Vilandra looked fearful, while both Zan and Rath leaned forward eagerly. "Ship?" Rath said hopefully. "You have a ship?"

" 'Had'," Courtney corrected. " 'Had' a ship."

"What happened to it?" Zan asked. "Was it destroyed?"

"No," Courtney said. "The Warders found it, infiltrated it, destroyed the crop of husks it contained...and sent it home with a message."

"What message?" Ava demanded.

"A very simple one," Courtney said. " 'The king lives'."

All eyes swung toward Max. "It was brilliant," she went on. "In one fell swoop, they deprived us of a crop of husks and all the technology on the ship, and broadcast to everyone that their king and his family had survived the coup. Antar went nuts."

There was a sharp intake of breath as the atmosphere in the room changed suddenly, and everyone stiffened. What? Courtney thought as all of them looked at each other in turn, even Ava appearing nonplussed. What had she said? Why was everyone looking so startled? No one said anything for a very long minute.

"Is...is that the name of our planet?" Zan ventured finally.

"Yeah," Courtney said faintly. " "Antar'. It's our home. It's what I've spent the last half century trying to put back together."

The subsequent looks exchanged among hybrids who didn't even remember the name of their planet were heartbreaking. Courtney watched as this information sank in, an abstraction suddenly made real, each reacting in their own way. Rath looked like he'd had a divine revelation, Liz appeared stricken, Zan looked troubled, Vilandra downright ill, and Ava…

"Oh, come on!" Ava said scornfully. "What, she utters a word, and everyone just buys it? We have no idea if she just made that up."

"Look, I get that you were raised by one of the most paranoid people anywhere," Courtney retorted, "but do you really have to be such a raging bitch?"

"Enough!" Zan said suddenly. "Quiet, both of you!"

Ava smoldered in her seat, anger radiating off her in waves as Courtney returned her glare. Of course Nasedo hadn't told her; he wouldn't have wanted her blurting out the name of their world in some untoward place. Skepticism was one thing, paranoia another, but this...this was something else. Ava seemed determined to block anything she said just because she said it. Not helpful.

"I think we've all had enough," Liz said. "It's been a long day, which started with all of us almost getting killed, and I think we could all use some rest and perspective. So I vote we all go home, sleep on what we've heard, and come back tomorrow with more questions."

"So you just believe all this," Ava said scornfully. "Of course you do."

"I said what we've 'heard'," Liz replied in a steely tone. "Whether I believe what we've heard is up to me. Or you. Or any of us. And I don't think we're going to settle that tonight."

"I agree," Vilandra said. "I'm fried. Let's go home."

"Fine by me," Rath said. "I'm already home."

Ava looked at Zan. "Max?"

Zan hesitated. "I agree with Liz."

The expression on Ava's face made it very clear what she thought of anyone who agreed with Liz. "Fine," she said flatly, "but what do we do about her?"







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







Parker Residence








"Did you need something, honey?"

Liz spun around, trying not to look guilty. "Oh...hi, Mom. Just looking for new towels."

"I put out new towels this morning," Nancy said.

"I know. But I tossed it on the toilet seat, and it fell down behind the toilet, and…"

"And I don't clean back there as often as I should," Nancy laughed. "Yuck! Grab a new one, and throw the other one in the wash. I'll try to run a mop back there tomorrow."

"I'll do it," Liz said quickly "It's my bathroom, after all."

"Well, aren't you just all grown up and taking initiative," Nancy teased.

"I take initiative all the time," Liz said.

"Not when it comes to cleaning," Nancy said dryly. "But I won't fight you for it. The grody floor behind your toilet is all yours."

Her mother walked off, chuckling, as Liz grabbed a clean towel. Great. Now she'd lost the perk of having her mother clean her bathroom, although that wasn't such a bad idea given the way her room was turning into a bus station these days...

Her phone rang. "Maria?" Liz said. "Are you okay?"

"Is she there?" Maria demanded. "I heard she was there."

"Yes," Liz sighed, "she's here. And before you go spouting off, the alternative was Michael's place, so this is better, right?"

"Ever so slightly," Maria allowed darkly, "emphasis on the 'ever so' and the 'slightly'. I'm not supposed to be using the phone," she added in a whisper, "so if I hang up quick, that's why."

"How's your mom?" Liz asked. "Is she calming down?"

"Maybe," Maria answered. "Valenti's story seems to be having an effect; there's less steam coming out of her ears than usual. Man, that guy's a good liar. Smooth as silk."

"He listens to enough lies that he's probably learned how to do it well," Liz said. "Lucky for us."

"So what happened at the meeting?" Maria said. "What's up with Courtney's new husk?"

"What new husk?" Liz said.

"The new husk," Maria said impatiently. "You know, the thing Michael threw in the trunk right before we drove off? The thing he went back to get, and nearly got himself killed?"

"I...don't know anything about that," Liz said. "Nobody said anything about it."

"What?" Maria exclaimed. "See, this is why you should have waited until I could be there. I was the only one who saw that, so without me, you're missing the important stuff."

"I wouldn't say that," Liz said. "We talked about some pretty important stuff. But there's lots left to to go over, so we'll be talking more. Look," she went on when Maria began to protest, "your mom has to let you go to school. We'll talk there. You should go before she finds out you're on the phone. Stay strong!"

Liz rung off quickly, before Maria's objections could get to her. It was really too bad Maria was catching hell for their run to Copper Summit, especially considering how lifesaving it had been, but there was nothing for it. They couldn't tell Maria's mother the truth just like they couldn't tell her own parents the truth. They were all stuck in their various ways, and this was Maria's. And this is mine, Liz thought, bracing herself before she opened her bedroom door.

"Welcome back," Courtney said.

Liz plopped the towel on the bed. "I got you a towel, and you can wear some of my pajamas."

"Thanks," Courtney said from her seat on the floor, where she was leafing through a magazine. "I'd rather not wear the towel. Got me in trouble the last time. Kidding," she added when Liz looked nonplussed. "Just kidding. So...how's Maria?"

Liz blinked. "What?"

Courtney tapped one ear. "Alien hearing. I heard the phone ring."

"And the conversation?" Liz said.

"No," Courtney admitted, "but it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out who was calling. How is she?"

"Pissed," Liz admitted. "She said something about Michael getting you a new husk? That didn't come up tonight."

"No, it didn't," Courtney admitted. "But that was only round one."

"Which is what I told Maria," Liz said, simultaneously surprised and impressed that Courtney hadn't denied it.

Courtney set the magazine down. "Liz, I'm really grateful you agreed to let me stay here, and really sorry you got stuck with it. I know you were trying to make a clean break."

"Yeah," Liz sighed. "Well...I don't think that's going to happen."

"Me neither," Courtney agreed. "But you should at least get something out of it. I can offer you something no one else can. Like a chance to talk about something you can't talk about with anyone else."

"Like what?" Liz asked warily.

"Like the other Max," Courtney said. "The one from the future."





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




I'll post Chapter 70 on Sunday, September 10. :)
BRIVARI: "In our language, the root of the word 'Covari' means 'hidden'. I'm always there, Your Highness, even if you don't see me."

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Kathy W
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Chapter 70

Postby Kathy W » Sun Sep 10, 2017 5:36 pm

Hello and thank you to everyone reading!






CHAPTER SEVENTY





November 22, 2000, 11:45 p.m.

Parker Residence









Courtney watched a string of emotions play out over Liz Parker's face as she contemplated an offer she couldn't refuse, but knew she should. At least this was something important; it had been almost comical to watch them all wrap themselves around an axle over where she would be spending the night. The obvious answer was to stay at Rath's apartment, the one place which didn't come equipped with parents, but that had caused everyone to engage in the local version of "WWJD", that being "WWMD" or "What Would Maria Do"? Popular opinion seemed to be that Maria would have a meltdown, especially considering her current, less-than-wonderful circumstances. The ensuing silence as everyone had looked at everyone else, unwilling to take her in and hoping someone else would, would have been painful if it hadn't been so amusing. For a minute there she'd held out hope of seeing her little house again, if only because no one was willing to cross Maria or step up to the plate.

And then the long-suffering Liz Parker, she of the martyr tendencies, had offered to warehouse her, albeit for one night only, citing parental difficulties. Everyone had gratefully accepted, cheerfully ignoring the fact that they'd have to do this all over again tomorrow. Still, she felt sorry for Liz, who frequently seemed to get the short end of the stick when it came to matters Antar. It was only fair that her kindness be repaid. And the one thing she had in way of payment was information, particularly information about a certain man from the future of their mutual acquaintance.

"Liz?" Courtney said as Liz stared at her in shock. "Did you hear me? You can talk to me about the other Max."

"I...have no idea what you're talking about," Liz stammered.

Courtney smiled faintly. "Max 2.0? The Max from the future? 2014, to be exact? When the earth is overrun, and everyone's dead, and it's all just one big disaster movie? That Max."

Liz sat down slowly on the end of the bed. "You...you saw him?"

"Oh, yeah," Courtney said. "Several times." She paused as Liz gaped at her, clearly unwilling to commit. "Okay," Courtney shrugged. "I just thought you might have some things you'd like to get off your chest, seeing as how you can't talk to anyone else about him."

"What makes you think that?" Liz said.

"Because it's clear no one else knows about him," Courtney said. "And it's a big enough story that everyone would be talking about it if you'd told them. But you didn't...did you?"

Liz's head drifted very slowly from side to side as though simultaneously willing and unwilling to answer the question. "Didn't think so," Courtney said. "So...2014. Pretty freaky, right? Sounds like everything went to shit."

"Why would he go to you?" Liz asked, still wary.

"Because I'm apparently in that world he was eager to erase," Courtney answered. "According to him, I was the only one of my race to survive."

Liz's eyes drifted away. "The new husk," she said faintly. "Your husk is failing, but Michael got you a new one."

"Yeah," Courtney said. "The other Max told me I had a new husk."

"So it happened again," Liz said dully. "That much didn't change."

"We don't know that," Courtney pointed out. "He didn't say how I got the new husk, just that I did."

Liz was quiet for a moment. "Do you think it'll work?" she said finally. "He said he wanted to fall out of love with me so Tess would stay here, but...but it seems like that's not enough to change something that big. Does saving the world really hinge on Tess?"

Unlikely, Courtney thought silently as Liz's eyes pleaded with her for permission to run back into Zan's arms. Although it was far more likely that the treaty, or a lack of it, had played the major role in the fall of Earth, Future Zan had made a fair point when he'd noted that Ava's absence had rattled Khivar's reluctant allies. It was quite possible that if the invasion force arrived again, things might go differently if they encountered the Royal Four instead of the Royal Three. While she would have found no practical difference in the absence of a minor player like Ava, some would. It was all in the symbolism.

But she had no intention of going into interplanetary politics with Liz Parker. "I don't know," she answered honestly. "All I know is that his future was bad enough that he felt he had to try and change it."

"But if the same things are happening, did we really change it?" Liz argued. "You needed a husk, and Michael got you a husk, then and now."

"Think of it this way," Courtney said, having thought about this a great deal. "Suppose we had a fistful of dice, not a couple, but a lot. Every die has six numbers, and every number is a different choice. That means there are a limited number of choices, so every time we roll them, we're bound to get some of the same numbers."

"Or the exact same numbers," Liz said.

"Not likely," Courtney said. "Too many variables. What matters is the aggregate. Suppose we added up the face values of every die for every role, the result of all our choices. Over hundreds of thousands of rolls, even small changes could make a difference."

"But would it be enough of a difference to change the outcome?" Liz persisted. "It seems like it would take a massive change to prevent something like an invasion."

"Maybe not," Courtney said. "That's the beauty of it. Over a long period of time, even little changes add up."

"Do we have that long?" Liz said doubtfully.

"At least a dozen years," Courtney said. "That's substantial. Unscrupulous merchants who put their thumb on the scales only moved those scales a little bit, but they raked in huge bucks over time."

"You sound like you think it'll work," Liz said.

"I've been trying to get my planet back to where it was for 50 years now," Courtney said. "My father died trying to get it back. I have to believe it'll work."

"Yeah, I...I'm sorry about your father," Liz said. "You said Nicholas killed him when he found out he was Resistance?"

"Well...technically, no," Courtney allowed. "My father killed himself before Nicholas could torture him. I know this because I watched it happen. I was right next to him when he committed suicide."

Liz's eyes widened. "Oh…oh, my God, I'm...I'm so sorry."

"Yeah," Courtney agreed. "Me, too. But now you see why I want that little rat dead, and why I'm willing to believe we can change things. It can't get a whole lot worse than what we're heading for already."

Liz nodded wordlessly, obviously miserable, obviously wishing there was some other way to change the future that didn't involve tearing her heart in two. "But cheer up," Courtney advised. "It's probably not forever. Once this is settled, maybe you and Max can...you know."

"You wouldn't want that," Liz said. "You want it back the way it was."

"I want our king happy," Courtney said. "He doesn't seem very happy with Tess. No one does."

"I'm sorry she went after you like that," Liz said. "I mean, I get that she was suspicious, I just don't know why she was so…"

"Nasty?" Courtney finished. "I do. She knows no one likes her. She knows she's only tolerated because she's the one with the most knowledge and experience."

"And now you have knowledge and experience she doesn't have," Liz nodded.

"Exactly," Courtney said. "So I'm a threat to her even if I'm not a threat. Plus, look who raised her. Should we really be surprised?"

"Tell me about it," Liz said darkly. "Nasedo wanted to kill Agent Pierce from the FBI, so he kidnapped me to use as bait."

Courtney blinked. "Seriously?"

"But Max followed me," Liz went on, "so the Pierce caught Max instead of Nasedo catching Pierce. They had him for about 24 hours. I was afraid we'd never get him back."

Holy shit, Courtney thought. Brivari had never gone into the details of Zan's capture, although she'd certainly wondered why he'd been so willing to meet her condition for returning, that being a Jaddo-free Roswell. Something had obviously gone down between them, but then something was always going down between them. If Jaddo had set a trap for the FBI which Zan had fallen into, that meant Jaddo was responsible for Zan's capture. No wonder Zan's Warder had been more than willing to kick him to the curb.

"That bastard," Courtney said, shaking her head. "Sometimes I wonder if he had any working brain cells up there."

"You...didn't like him?" Liz said.

"Of course I didn't like him," Courtney answered. "Who would like him? He was a short-sighted pain in the ass. He was also a blunt instrument, which you need at times, but that doesn't mean I liked him."

A small spark kindled in Liz's eyes. "Can I ask you something?" she said in a confidential whisper, hatred of Jaddo apparently being a bonding experience. "How good are you with things like computers or...cameras?"

"What do you need?" Courtney said.

Liz hesitated, glancing around as though afraid she'd be overheard. "I...I took some pictures that I wasn't supposed to, but then I deleted them. I'd ask my friend Alex if he could get them back, but he's busy with this exchange student thing he's doing, and besides, if he saw them...I'd have some explaining to do."

"You took pictures of Future Max?" Courtney said.

"Uh...yeah," Liz confessed.

"Why, Liz Parker," Courtney said dryly. "I hereby dub thee an honorary rebel. Where's the camera?"






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






Valenti Residence








Tess quietly closed the door behind her, hoping against hope that no one was awake, but no such luck—Valenti's bedroom door was closed, but the television was blaring in the living room. Still, it was loud enough that she might be able to sneak past Kyle and make it to her room without being seen. The last thing she wanted right now was to talk to anyone.

"Hey, you're back!"

Shit, Tess thought darkly as Kyle peered at her over the top of the couch. "Yeah, I'm back," she said shortly.

"So how'd it go?" Kyle asked as she hurried by. "Did you...wait!"

"I'm tired," Tess called. "I want to go to bed."

She closed the door behind her and nearly threw herself on the floor, digging under the bed. A moment later, she had Nasedo's mysterious box in her hands, praying that the lock had timed out. If she'd ever needed whatever was in here, it was now.

But it was not to be—the box refused to open. Wasn't this just a great way to end an already crappy day. First, she'd almost gotten killed, then she'd had to endure Liz and Maria all the way back to Roswell, chattering away as Max sat beside her, silent and grim. Then everyone had fawned over Courtney, treating her every word like gospel even though she belonged to an enemy race. No one had even blinked when the brat had sassed her. Michael was clearly smitten, and even Max seemed inclined to take her at her word even though she could be making the whole thing up. Seriously, "Antar"? What kind of a name for a planet was that? And whatever the name of their planet was, why hadn't Nasedo told her? How were they supposed to know if anyone was telling them the truth when he'd left so much out? She was convinced the answers were in this box, but how long had he expected them to wait? They needed to know now. She needed to know now.

"Tess?"

It was Kyle, standing in the doorway; she hadn't even heard him open the door. "I thought I locked that," she said irritably as she shoved the box back under the bed before he could see it. "I told you, I'm tired."

"No, you didn't lock it, and you look more pissed than tired," Kyle said.

"Thank you, Dear Abby," Tess said tartly. "Now get out."

Kyle pondered that for a moment. "No."

"I'm sorry, what?" Tess demanded. "I want to be alone. Get out!"

"After you get whatever's bugging you off your chest," Kyle said.

"You know, I could throw you out," Tess threatened. "Without even lifting a finger."

"So why don't you?" Kyle shrugged. He waited while she stared at him in consternation before sinking down on the floor beside her. "What the hell happened? Dad said you were investigating Whitaker. Did something go pear-shaped?"

"No," Tess admitted. "We got some answers, permanently crippled an enemy, and got home safely."

"Okay," Kyle said slowly. "That sounds...great! Better than great—it sounds fantastic. So what's the problem?"

"She's the problem!" Tess sputtered. "They're all fawning over her, and buying everything she says, like she's the goddamned Oracle of Delphi! Courtney," she clarified when Kyle looked blank. "You know, Courtney from the Crashdown? Turns out she's an alien from our world, a member of the same race as our enemies. But she claims she's on our side, and that she knows all this stuff about what they're up to, and—"

"Wait—back up," Kyle ordered. "Courtney? The blonde? She's an alien? Damn," he muttered when Tess nodded. "She's hot."

"Oh, for Christ's sake!" Tess exclaimed. "Is that really the only thing you can think of?"

"No, just the first thing I think of," Kyle admitted. "Okay, so, she says she's on your side. Has she done anything to prove that?"

"She…" Tess hesitated, loathe to finish that sentence. "She basically saved all our lives," she finished reluctantly. "But she could still be an enemy! That doesn't mean anything!"

"Yeah, it kinda does," Kyle said.

"Not necessarily," Tess argued. "Maybe this was all a set-up. Maybe they just wanted it to look like she was saving our lives so she would win our trust."

"You were raised by a hard ass," Kyle noted. "What do you think? Do you really think that's what's happening?"

Tess looped her arms around her knees. "No," she said sullenly. "It feels pretty much just like it looks."

"Well, there you have it," Kyle said. "If it's any consolation, you don't have to like her just because she saved your life. Max Evans saved mine, and I still think he's a dick."

"Gee, thanks," Tess muttered. "That's real sweet of you."

"Hey, I get it," Kyle said. "She stole your mojo. I've been there. Same thing happened to me on the football team."

"You're comparing my life to a football team?" Tess said incredulously.

"Football isn't just a game," Kyle said seriously. "It's a metaphor for life, any life, anywhere. Everyone wants the same thing, everyone's fighting over it, trying to figure out how to get it, and the way you can get ahold of it keeps changing, so you have to keep adjusting your strategy. But win or lose, you still have to shake the other team's hand when you're done, and then you do it all over again. Yeah. Life."

"Wow," Tess said blandly. "Deep."

"I know," Kyle agreed, either missing or choosing to ignore the sarcasm. "Everyone underestimates football. But anyway, I was the go-to guy on the football team, knew all the plays, the team trusted me, had the coach's ear. But then this guy transferred from Gateway, you know, that Bible-banger school? And man, he was good! Never thought I'd see a good ball player come out of that place, but I guess that's why his parents transferred him, so he'd have a bigger team and a bigger league. But I just got shunted aside for a while. And it sucked."

"That's not what's happening," Tess protested.

Kyle gave her a pitying smile. "Sure it is."

Tess looked away, unwilling to let him see that she knew he was right. She had been the one 'in the know', the one with the answers, the one with the experience. They didn't like her, but she was useful. That wasn't much, but it was something...and now it was nothing. She didn't even know the name of their planet. How could Nasedo not have told her the name of their planet?

"The good news," Kyle went on, "is that after this guy and I had it out, we became a much stronger team, and we won more. We just had two really good players instead of one."

"Well, bully for you," Tess said bitterly. "If only it were that simple."

"Why wouldn't it be?" Kyle said.

"We won't be a 'stronger team'," Tess said with a catch in her voice. "Turns out we're a weak team. They had us, Kyle. Our enemies, they had us dead to rights. Max and I, we combined our powers, and we held them off as long as we could, but...but it wasn't enough. They were all ready to finish us off when Courtney showed up, and if she hadn't..."

"But she did," Kyle said gently. "And they didn't."

"But they would have," Tess said miserably. "We should have been stronger. I should have been stronger."

"Why?" Kyle said. "Why are you dumping all this on yourself? I'm a good ball player, but I couldn't hold off another team all by myself. In order to win, I need everyone around me doing what they do, and doing it well. It's too big of a job to do alone, and it sounds like this was the same way. You needed a team. There's no shame in that. Just be glad you had one."

They sat in silence for a few minutes before Kyle put an experimental arm around her. She hesitated for only moment before scooting closer.

"You know, you're right," she said into his shoulder. "Football really is a metaphor for life."

Kyle patted her shoulder. "Of course it is."







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






November 23, 2000, 7:30 a.m.

West Roswell High School








"School, glorious school!"

Liz looked up from her locker. "Isn't that supposed to be 'food, glorious food'?"

"It is," Maria agreed, "but I was inspired by the depressing movie I watched last night because there wasn't anything else to do. This place usually feels like a penitentiary, but today..."

"It's inspiring you to new heights of artistic expression," Liz said dryly. "Must be, because I usually don't see you bursting into song in the hallway. Told you your mom would have to let you come to school."

"Thank God," Maria sighed, leaning against the lockers. "You know it's bad when it's easier to watch starving orphans and murdered prostitutes than your own mother."

"So she's still mad," Liz said.

"And how," Maria agreed. "Although she did join me to watch Oliver! on the opposite end of the couch. Makes sense, in a way; a lot of the characters in that movie wanted to kill each other."

"It had a happy ending, so maybe she'll be inspired too," Liz said.

"Maybe," Maria allowed. "So how bad was it?"

"How bad was what?" Liz said.

"Courtney," Maria said. "How bad was she?"

"Oh, um...actually, she was great."

Maria blinked. " 'Great'? What do you mean, 'great'?"

"Well, we talked about what it was like to be an alien on Earth," Liz said, "and what it felt like to wear a husk. I guess they're a lot shorter without it, so she had to get used to being taller. And they don't have hair like we do, so—"

"Wait," Maria commanded. "Are you...are you saying you bonded with her?"

"No," Liz said quickly. "I'm saying I talked to her. Big difference."

"Talking is bonding," Maria argued.

"I talked to Nasedo," Liz reminded her. "Does that mean I 'bonded' with him?"

"God, I hope not," Maria said. "But you didn't talk to Nasedo about any of those things."

"Well, what was I supposed to talk to her about?" Liz said. "She was sleeping on the floor in my room. I'm not going to just ignore her."

"Why not?" Maria said darkly.

"She seems pretty cool," Liz said. "She's smart, she's practical, she's frank, she's—"

"Stop!" Maria said in disgust. "The last thing I need right now is a list of her wonderful attributes. Especially when she doesn't have any."

"Look, I know you don't like her, but if she's who she says she is, she's a good person to have in our camp," Liz said.

"Big emphasis on the 'if'," Maria muttered.

"There's always a big emphasis on the 'if'," Liz said. "Come on—we were going to have a quick meeting before first period, and we only have a few minutes left."

Maria followed along beside her as Liz privately reflected that she was all but won over. She and Courtney had spent a good deal of time talking about the mechanics of wearing a husk, a conversation the budding scientist within her had found nothing short of fascinating, but the real conversation had been about Future Max. It had been cathartic to be able to finally talk with someone about one of the hardest times in her life. It was kind of embarrassing, really, how quickly she'd abandoned her initial wariness and blurted out everything up to, but not including, her fake liaison with Kyle, something which was just too painful to reveal. Only after she'd babbled for a good 10 minutes had she realized that the conversation had been decidedly one way. "So," she'd asked uncomfortably, "what did Future Max say to you?"

"Most of it was the same," Courtney had shrugged. "He said he was glad to see a familiar face...and I'm sure he meant one he hadn't been in love with," she'd added hastily when Liz had paled. "I asked him how I'd survived until 2014, and he told me about Michael getting me a husk. He talked about the invasion, and how everything had gone to hell, and how he'd come back to fix it, but he was very mysterious about how."

"Yeah, I'll bet," Liz had said glumly.

"But I thought it had something to do with you," Courtney had continued, "because I found Kyle acting really weird down in the storeroom."

Liz had stiffened. "Weird? Weird...how?"

"He looked like he was meditating," Courtney had said, "if that's a thing jocks do. Kept going on about you needing his help, and him being a 'vessel'. Some vessel. He looked scared shitless."

That had done it. The tears she'd been holding back as she'd relived the whole sordid episode had flooded over, prompting a "Whoa! What's wrong?" from Courtney, accompanied by lots of sympathetic murmuring and back rubbing. "Can I tell you something?" she'd said to Courtney, feeling an overwhelming need to confess. "Something you can't tell anyone else?"

"You mean a secret?" Courtney said. "C'mon, you know I'm good at secrets. We all are."

"Max can't know," Liz insisted, furiously swiping tears away. "Ever."

"Understood," Courtney had said promptly. "Spill."

And she had. Every detail of her fake hook-up with Kyle Valenti had come flooding out, including the aftermath when Future Max had disappeared. "Wow," Courtney had said softly. "What a bastard."

Liz had stared at her through tears which were coming thick and fast. "Excuse me?"

"To expect you to do something like that...what a bastard," Courtney repeated. "There's no other word for it. Wait," she'd continued when she'd seen the look on Liz's face. "Do you think you don't get to be mad about this? Because you do."

"He was trying to save the world," Liz protested.

"Granted, but you still get to be mad about it," Courtney said. "You even get to be mad at him. That's a perfectly normal and perfectly acceptable way to feel, saved world or no saved world. I've felt that way a million times, and yet I still go on trying to save our world. It's the right thing to do, the only thing to do, even if it sucks, and trust me, it does suck. But you know that."

I do, Liz agreed as a gigantic weight had lifted from her shoulders, the burden of believing that she had to cheerfully accept her fate because of the massive number of people affected by the outcome, and the guilt because she hadn't. "I should tell Kyle," she said, suddenly calmer. "He was so supportive that night about doing something so bizarre with no explanation...I had no idea he was downstairs fretting. He never let on. I should tell him the truth. He deserves that."

Courtney had considered that in silence for a moment. "He does," she'd said finally, "but I don't think you should tell him. Hear me out," she'd continued when Liz looked perplexed. "How would he feel when he heard Future Max was hiding in the bathroom during the whole thing? Wouldn't that make an already hyper-weird situation even more weird? How would he feel about the idea that Max, or some version of him, had orchestrated this whole thing? It's no secret that Kyle doesn't like Max, so I don't think he'd like finding out he'd been manipulated by him."

"He was manipulated by me," Liz had corrected.

"And he didn't mind that," Courtney had noted thoughtfully, as Liz had felt a twinge of guilt at the ready agreement that she'd been manipulative. "But it was really Future Max pulling the strings, so...no. It sounds like a good idea, but I don't think it would work out to be a good idea. It's over and done with it, and he's made his peace with it. If you tell him, make sure it's because you think it would give him more peace, not because it would make you feel better to confess."

Much later that night, when she'd lain awake in bed as Courtney snored on the floor, Liz had pondered how straightforward Courtney's assessment of the situation had been. She was right—she wouldn't be telling Kyle for Kyle's sake, she'd be telling him for her own. Would Maria have pointed that out if she'd spilled to her? Maybe, but she got the distinct impression that Courtney was older, much older, and much more experienced and clear-sighted than any of them. To have access to that had been a blessing, which is why it was so hard to feel the waves of suspicion coming from Maria. Some day she would tell her about Future Max, but now was not the time.

"Hey," Liz said as they came abreast of Isabel, Michael, Max, and Tess waiting in the designated spot. "Maria's back."

"You okay?" Michael asked.

"No," Maria said flatly. "Why didn't you tell everyone about the new husk you got for Courtney?"

Oh, great, Liz groaned as eyes widened all around, everyone's but Michael's, that is. "It didn't come up," he said, shrugging.

" 'It didn't come up'?" Maria said incredulously. "Wow. Same thing she said. Now you're quoting each other?"

"What is this about?" Max asked sharply.

"Michael got Courtney a new husk," Maria said. "That's why we had to wait for him to come out of that barn. You know, the one that blew up only seconds later?"

Everyone looked at Michael. "What?" he said crossly. "She said her husk was dying, and I saw her new one, so I grabbed it."

"And you didn't see fit to mention this?" Max said.

"I told you, it didn't come up," Michael said.

"How could that not 'come up'?" Tess demanded.

"Easy," Liz said. "We didn't have much time last night, and lots of things didn't come up."

"Well, it's coming up now, Space Boy," Maria said hotly. "And I'm sure everyone wants to know why you neglected to mention that little detail about how you went back to get her a new husk, and almost got yourself killed."

"I didn't 'go back'," Michael protested. "It was right there in front of me, right near the stairs."

"This is bad," Tess declared. "How do we know she didn't set this whole thing up so Michael would get her a husk?"

"If she's working with the enemy, why would she have to?" Liz said. "She could just stroll in and get it. She wouldn't need us."

"It would be a way to earn our trust and make us feel sorry for her," Tess said.

"So that would mean the Skins really weren't trying to kill us back in Copper Summit," Liz said. "That it was all for show, just a ruse. I was there," she went on when Tess glared at her. "So were you. You know they were trying to kill us, or you sure seemed convinced of it at the time. But now that Courtney's the one with the answers, of course you have to turn her into the bad guy."

"Because she is the bad guy," Maria retorted.

"Oh, right," Isabel said, jumping into the fray. "Because people who save your lives are always bad guys."

"Will you listen to yourselves?" Maria said in astonishment. "Why are you all falling at her feet?"

"That's what I'd like to know," Tess said darkly.

"No one's falling at her feet," Max said firmly. "We all have to remember that she could be a friend or an enemy. We just don't know yet."

"Do you really think I don't know that?" Michael demanded.

"What are we supposed to think, when you're risking your own life to save hers?" Maria exclaimed. "You've drunk the Courtney Kool-Aid!"

"Gee, thanks for the vote of confidence," Michael retorted. "I know this could go either way, which is why she doesn't have that husk yet. If she's a friend, we can give it to her; if she's an enemy we can keep it from her, or use it as a bargaining chip. Either way, having the husk gives us options."

Liz held her peace as everyone was silent for a moment, digesting Michael's very sensible suggestion, none with more difficulty than Maria, who was struggling—and failing—to find fault with it. "I don't think the issue is the husk," Isabel said. "It was the fact that you didn't tell us. I mean, we all went over our respective stories, but you never mentioned grabbing a husk on the way out of an exploding building."

"Oh, this is rich," Max said.

"What's that supposed to mean?" Isabel said.

"It means I know you haven't told us everything either," Max said, his eyes locked on his sister.

"What are you talking about?" Isabel said warily.

"You know exactly what I'm talking about," Max said curtly. "Nicholas told you something when you were down in that basement, something you haven't told the rest of us." He walked closer as Isabel paled. "So...are you going to tell us now?"






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



My dance school is opening this month, so I'll be back with Chapter 71 on Sunday, October 8. :)
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."

keepsmiling7
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Re: Birthright *Series* Season 2 (CC, TEEN), Chapter 70, 9/10

Postby keepsmiling7 » Mon Sep 11, 2017 7:13 am

Sure glad you are still posting here!

cjeb
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Re: Birthright *Series* Season 2 (CC, TEEN), Chapter 70, 9/10

Postby cjeb » Tue Sep 12, 2017 3:14 pm

Yes, me too. Thanks.
"I didn't step out from behind my tree,my kids cut er down and dragged me out kicking and screaming"


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