begonia9508: It is never for a person to really know the future.
L-J-L 76: Getting together takes time
Normally Maria kept her head on straight. If her mother had been still alive, she would have been scandalized at what Maria had done to keep Liz alive. Maria caught herself. The name was Beth, not Liz. They still didn’t know who was searching for them. Ria Jones was the singing sensation. Ria Jones was also, the sensation on the internet. Google “Ria Jones, Naked,” and your computer would almost be overloaded. The perversity of this was that Google Ria Jones naked, would also most certainly give your system a plethora of viruses, third world computer students, picking the most looked for subject to attach their hacking efforts.
The first time it had been difficult. Maria had pictured her body as something sacred to be shared only with her true lover. Well, she had had to come to terms with the subject of true lover also. Her true love had been her first love and she had no idea of where he was or if he was still alive. The money that Ria received now, would pay for Liz’s or rather Beth’s care for several months. Maria, dressed in a negligee, had been shown into an elaborate set. The room lights were dim and Maria couldn’t see the faces just outside the circle of photo lights. She was seated on a bed covered with satin sheets. She stretched and turned at the photographer’s commands. He snapped her from every angle. Then a break was called. “Maria, let the negligee slip down to your waist,” someone said.
This was what Maria had signed up for. She took a deep breath and
thought of the money involved. A woman came into the circle of lights and rearranged the satin sheets around her legs. Maria was now naked to her waist. Again the commands to move, stretch and preen as the continued clicks of the camera were made. The photographer was everywhere. He seem to be catching her from every angle.
Finally the command, “Wrap it up,” was made and a woman came to Maria offering her a robe. Wrapped in the robe, Maria stood as the negligee slipped to the floor. Carefully, Maria stepped out of the negligee and was hastened to her dressing room. It was several weeks later when called into the production offices that Maria was presented with the picture of choice. Maria was sitting in the middle of the bed, the sheets pulled up around her legs and the negligee crumpled at her waist. The look of pure innocence and a bit of fright, stared back at Maria. They had captured the look of an innocent girl who had no idea what would come next. They couldn’t use it as an album cover, too many stores wouldn’t show that on their shelves, but they did tuck it just inside the album. The sale of her CD and the later sale of the posters supported Ria and Beth for sometime.
That look was never captured again. They saw the coquette, the playful girl inviting all to join her on her bed, the angry woman decrying the invasion of her privacy and the laughing party girl. Never again was Maria innocent of what was to happen next. They did sell many posters and even with the threat of a virus, the internet raved at the sensation of Ria Jones, naked.
There were times when Nurse Adkins was caring for Beth and no one was demanding her time that Maria allowed her self to dream.
Maria remembered the night. Michael was to leave Earth. She was to never see him again. Even if he might be a royal alien, Michael, the boy had all the insecurities of any Earth teen. She had entered his apartment. For once it was even cleaned and ordered. The Italian dinner he had procured, the Scooby Doo decorations he had placed, she knew he wanted to make tonight special. It wasn’t until he told her that he was leaving that Maria took over.
It was a different Maria, who stood without her clothes in front of him. She felt no embarrassment as this had been something she had saved for her first lover. Soon, Michael was disrobed and they made love until dawn. The child Maria and the decorations of Scooby Doo were now gone. In their place was a young woman who loved a young man. It was Michael who sat up and stated, “Maria, I have searched for the world where I belong. Just as I am about to leave it, I found the one place I feel is home. Maria, I am not going. Maria, I will never leave your side.”
Well, this wasn’t how it happened exactly but whose fantasy was it anyway? Maria could see it anyway she wanted. In her mind, they remained together until that cursed night.
The special unit was behind them. But, there were other enemies looking for them also. Max, Liz and Isabel had been captured. Michael came to her. “Maria, it is the Skins. I thought we had destroyed all of them. This may even be a new invasion of those creatures,” he said.
Rescue was being prepared. There was no thought of leaving the three comrades to the cruelties of the Skins. Jesse was strong, but Jesse was much better in the courtroom than in what, essentially, might be a bar fight. Kyle was idle and Kyle was excellent in a fight. His assistance was requested. Michael was not prepared for how quickly Kyle agreed. No matter how strong her attraction was to Max, Kyle stilled loved Liz Parker-Evans very much. He also loved Isabel, although he knew she would always be out of his reach. She was not only married, but she also was in social circles that Kyle would never fit. Kyle himself, didn’t explain that he saw the two marriages differently.
Maria drove the getaway car. Michael and Kyle, dressed completely in black, entered the facility where they were sure the captives were housed. Everyone’s life changed that night. They came to the place where Liz was kept. As a human, the Skins wanted to study her separately. The rescue party had found no resistance so far. The guard at the front of the facility was just a pile of dust. Michael had engaged him in conversation claiming to be lost as Kyle crept up behind and with a powerful spin kick, Kyle got him, in that oh so special place in his back, which made him deflate and blow away.
“Kyle, take her out. Deeper in, it is going to be alien fighting anyway. Get her safely to Maria’s car. Come back if you have a chance,” Michael ordered.
“Yeah, have a chance.” Kyle was still in the facility when the explosion happened. He tried to protect Liz with his body, but the flames were all around. It was here where Kyle’s life forever changed. Something was in the flames. It was the “Balrog from Tolkien.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fwWDiXjat-s
It ran at Kyle and he almost dropped Liz to defend both of them. The creature was flaming, but it had substance. Kyle never knew if it was Skin related or not. He grappled it in a waist hold and with super-human strength Kyle bent the creature backward. The creature exploded with a woosh, which ignited the explosion and blew both Kyle and Liz out the door. Kyle was badly burned as was Liz, but they were not consumed. That was another thing not explained. Kyle managed to get Liz to Maria’s car. The whole complex was gone. It would be later when Kyle was with his native commandos that he decided that he had faced the Great Satan and won. Even his commandos enhanced this reputation. Kyle was a leader who had faced something awful and lived. He was invincible. They all fought that way.
Maria drove through her tears. There was no way that anyone could have survived that holocaust. That night, Maria DeLuca and Liz Parker died. Ria Jones and her sister, Beth were born. They badly needed quick money. Kyle had been approached by the military and offered a bounty for signing up. That seemed to be the only thing to do. That bounty and each successive bounty thereafter, went to the care of Beth Jones. Much of his paycheck was sent to Beth Jones in care of her sister that famous singer Ria Jones. When it became known that Kyle was related to the singer Ria Jones, he took a lot of teasing. Almost every trooper had that first picture of Ria pinned up in his locker. As more and more pictures surfaced and were plastered over the wardroom, Kyle was the only one to not have one. “She is more like a sister than anything else,” he explained.
“You would let your sister take pictures like that?” was the question.
Kyle just shook his head, “She just does what she has to, to survive.”
At this time, exactly how much Ria did was only speculation.
Michael did not retreat into any fantasy. He had to keep his feet on the ground, if no one else could. He only listened to the Heavy Metal type music so he never saw the albums or the pictures of Ria Jones. Michael was not the type to read the tabloids. When the building had gone up in flame, Michael was in an entirely different part of the facility. As far as he could tell Kyle, Liz and even Maria had disappeared. Michael did not have a lot of time for conjecture anyway. Michael had just managed to get Isabel outside and made his return to find Max. He felt that he was responsible for the care of Max and Isabel.
Now, the best thing he could do for Isabel was for him to keep as far away from her as possible. It had been Michael who said they were better alone than in a group. Jesse would contact Michael if something developed that he needed to know about. Once a month, Michael would call Isabel and they would talk for a short while. He was always careful to use a throw-away cell phone. Michael had to suppress his own problems. For better or worse Max and Isabel were here and it was as if Maria and Liz had never existed. Max wasn’t much help as he quickly drifted into some other world where he could still function. In this unreality, Max wasn’t a cripple. He was a hero and he was always trying to find his one true love. This other world wouldn’t accept him for very long, either. Max was constantly being ejected back into reality. Michael tried to help Max, but he was beginning to believe that Max as a space-head attracted less attention than if some of his true powers were seen.
Michael had attended the university where Max taught. He finally got an advanced degree in literature. This allowed him to keep close to Max and to have enough money to sustain himself.
Occasionally, Michael would have thoughts of Maria. That was unproductive. Michael was sure that, someway, Maria had been caught in the explosion, which killed Kyle and Liz. She was supposed to stay in the car, but Michael knew that if Kyle was having trouble getting Liz out, Maria would have been right there to help. There was no trace of any of them that Michael could find, so he tried to keep his mind on straight and do what he had always done, be at Max’s side.
Productive or not, visions of Maria kept coming. So much had happened that Michael no longer knew which parts of the visions were real and which were conjectured by a lonely mind. Like many people after a tragedy, the reality of his memories were becoming blurred by the longings of the present.
Michael remembered the numerous fights they had, but in his mind the fights all ended in a session of kissing that kept Michael going. Michael, vaguely remembered the joys of that first night they made love. With all the pressures around him, Michael was beginning to believe this must have been a wet dream. Michael could not believe anything in his life could be so pleasurable.
Were these memories of pleasure, a punishment for the sin of taking Maria with them that night? Michael replayed in his mind what he believed they did. They needed Maria. Kyle would look for Liz and Michael would face the Skins to rescue Max and Isabel. Whatever happened, both Michael and Kyle had agreed, they needed to be ready to leave very quickly. That was where Maria came in. They both trusted Maria. Michael often wondered how much loosing him would mean to Maria. Michael was alien. His love would be given very dearly. Maria was human and she probably could manage to go on if he was lost.
Those thoughts were also, unproductive.
Nothing could have survived that terrible explosion and fire. Liz and Kyle along with Maria were probably long gone. Maybe’s, what ifs and other incriminations could not bring her back.
If Max had been more lucid, he might have wondered why all of his fantasies were of heroic actions. They all involved bringing healing of some sort to those around him. Occasionally, he had really bad nights. He saw himself as a child walking into the Crashdown dozens of times. Every time he saw a crumpled figure lying in a pool of blood. He tried to get to her, but something stopped him every time. Max just couldn’t let go of the feeling that if he could have reached her, someway, he could have brought her back to life. That was ridiculous. How could a child save a girl dying of a gunshot? Did he think he was a healer or something? If he was so interested in healing, why didn’t Max go to medical school? With luck,q the terrible dreams would mellow out and once again, Max would find himself leading an expedition crossing the desert. He still felt he was missing something by not helping that girl, now, a woman.
Somewhere in the shifting sands, there was located the Jo Jo berry bush. It had a tremendous root. The root stored liquid to keep the plant alive during the years between any moisture. That liquid would also sustain life. One drink of the jo jo berry juice and blood would clot and wounds heal. In Max’s mind there was no discussion about whether the clotting might cause a stroke. If only Max could suffer through the terrible heat from the red sun, which looked down on him.
The alarm rang. Max got up to face another day.
For the few lucid moments he was allowed every day, Max prepared for his classes. If he was lucky, his lectures would be brilliant. There were those times when Max just drifted off into some fantasy. His students learned to live for the great moments.
Michael had made one of his infrequent contacts with Isabel last night. “How are you holding up?” Michael had asked.
“Fine, I guess,” was the reply. Then as always, Isabel began to ask about Max. “How did he do this week?” she inquired.
“Better, maybe. At least, I heard that most of his lectures were coherent. There are still those times when we are walking that I feel he is in another world,” Michael explained.
“Max always drifted into dream worlds, when we were growing up,” Isabel stated. “Most of those dreams were his obsession with Liz Parker,” she continued. “Is there any word about what happened to them?”
Michael sighed. “I have read all the reports. There were no bodies found. We know that the Skins would have blown away, but if humans had been found, I would think there would be some record. The authorities are still looking into what caused the fire and explosion. Not finding any human remains, they are writing it up as an act of ‘God,’ an empty warehouse, completely unattended, just going ‘bonkers.’ As much as it pains me I am afraid that Maria, along with Liz and Kyle were killed. There just was no evidence left in that flame.” Michael had voiced the same questions to himself many times. It was only by shear character and willpower, which kept him from collapsing like Max. Someone had to remain strong. Even with the strength of Jesse, Isabel had a hard time. She depended on Michael many times. She needed understanding from her own kind. What would happen when Michael reached the end of his rope? Would eventually he also need help? Where could he turn?