The Long & Winding Road: Book 1 - Dry Lightening (CC, Mature) Chapter 13 - 9/16/2019

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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keepsmiling7
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Re: The Long & Winding Road: Book 1 - Dry Lightening (CC, Mature) Chapter 11 - 3/23/2019

Post by keepsmiling7 » Sun Mar 24, 2019 11:48 am

I started off being hungry reading about all of the food......just like the pod squad could eat despite their surroundings.
We could get lost in the beautiful writing and expressions as their journey continued.
This is indeed a long and winding road.
Thanks

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Re: The Long & Winding Road: Book 1 - Dry Lightening (CC, Mature) Chapter 11 - 3/23/2019

Post by xmag » Sun May 12, 2019 10:26 am

Bumping this, it's been almost two months now, we need an update, please!
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Michael : From day one, I knew you were the girl for me, I never wanted anyone else.

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The Long & Winding Road: Book 1 - Dry Lightening (CC, Mature) Chapter 12 - 6/9/2019

Post by KindredKandies » Sun Jun 09, 2019 8:00 pm

keepsmiling7: Yep, they had to eat in order to keep their strength up.

Thank you so much for the amazing compliment!

xmag: We know it’s a pain to wait such a long time for an update, but you know how real life can be… and sometimes it just doesn’t want to let go of you. However, here we are with an update. :)



Book One – Chapter 12

October 13, 2016 – Pete’s Liftoff Gas Station, Outskirts of Roswell, NM – 1847 Hours

“Wait, what?” Maria interrupted, certain the comment deserved an in-depth explanation. “He took a green rod out of his armor?”

Liz’s mind was turning the information over and over as she kept an eye on Max. She’d seen it through their connection… and she’d seen it before. Or at least something that sounded like it. “Like the rod in the Welcome to Roswell sign when all of the humans in town disappeared?”

Max nodded. “Yeah, it looked exactly like the description you gave us. The difference is that this time all the Antarians disappeared.” He watched Liz, easily identifying the little nuances in her features that indicated the wheels were turning in her head.

“So, you said that time exists differently on Antar, right?” Maria asked, needing clarification.

“We think they went to another plane of the battlefield.” Max shrugged one shoulder and shot a glance at Michael.

He picked up without missing a beat. “We can’t be sure.”

Maria and Liz exchanged a look, a lifetime of friendship allowing them to carry on a conversation that didn’t require a single word be verbalized between them. She spoke up when Liz gave an imperceptible nod. “What kind of plane are we talking about? Something like a different time zone?”

“Not exactly, no.” Max tapped the side of his thumb against the weapon at his hip as he considered the best way to explain. “It’s more like an exhibition game in chess. Think of the planes as additional chess boards and there’s a grand master being challenged on each board by different challengers.”

Maria shifted to look at Michael and she couldn’t stop the questions from tumbling over one another. “So all of those soldiers, the Resistance and the… the what, the Opposition, went to another battlefield? Wouldn’t that be dangerous? I mean, how would they know where they’d end up? What if they ended up on another occupied field?”

In spite of the years of subduing his human side, time hadn’t dulled his senses where she was concerned. He shifted, his stance indicating his patience was waning. His jaw was working as he waited and his fingertips began to drum restlessly against his weapon.

Isabel couldn’t take much more of the four of them standing there staring at each other so she moved to stand between them, drawing their attention to her. “We don’t know where they ended up and yes, it was dangerous.” Her tolerance for the incessant questions was at an all time low. She felt Max move just enough to put him closer to her, felt herself calm when he placed a hand on her shoulder. She nodded, knowing he would pick the thread of the conversation up and give her time to collect herself.

“We believe the actions of the Resistance officer was a failsafe to ensure our survival.”

“Then why not just move all battles to these other planes of existence to protect you? Why not just have the… Different planes of existence,” she mused aloud. “Do you mean they all died? The green rod the Resistance officer threw was some sort of weapon, an explosive device with amplified power or something, and it killed everyone but you?” She looked between Max and Isabel, studying their expressions, and deciding that she was on the right track.

Then her eyes sought out Michael, suddenly aware of his pain, and she wondered if he somehow felt responsible for the man’s death… for the death of all of those on the battlefield that day and every other day of the war he’d been thrown into. He hadn’t moved a muscle, but he’d never had to. He could radiate dozens of emotions with nothing more than his eyes and in them she saw the truth, the weight of the responsibility he carried.

Liz was mulling over this most recent information while half-listening to Maria’s rapid-fire questions and she shook her head slowly. “No,” she said after a couple of minutes. “The rod that was stuck in the Welcome to Roswell sign was emitting a signal of some sort that made the humans in town disappear.”

Max watched her and a faint trace of a smile eased his features for the barest of moments. He’d missed her so much. It had gone even deeper than a physical ache; it had been soul deep and nothing had filled the hole left by her absence in his life. His head tipped slightly when she began to speak again.

“When the electrical field was interrupted it blew up and the humans reappeared, completely unaware that they had ever been gone.”

Maria considered the explanation and her eyes rested on Michael again as she exhaled slowly. “You’re right. Yes, we go with what we know, which makes it entirely possible that they simply disappeared, moved, shifted or something to some other plane.”

“What Kyle would’ve called a Hail Mary pass,” Liz said with a sad smile. How many times had he explained football to them in an attempt to get them to remember the rules, the history, the absolute beauty of the game? How many games had they sat through with him, rolling their eyes at each other while he had one-sided arguments with referees, yelled at the players when they made bad plays and shouted in triumph when his team scored or the other side fumbled the ball?

Maria breathed a little easier when she caught the slight easing in Michael’s tense frame. She was glad Liz had made that small comment about Kyle. It had been the right thing to say in that moment. She glanced at the tall blonde who had fallen silent after telling them what had happened on the battlefield. “Isabel, you said what you all thought you knew about the granolith was a lie.” She met Michael’s eyes and her voice was quiet as she said, “What’d you do afterwards?”

“We made their sacrifice count. Isabel and I moved Max back to the granolith chamber.”

“Max was alive, but extremely weak,” Isabel said as she glanced between the men flanking her. Max had fallen silent, letting them offer some of the information while gathering his thoughts. She knew he would take over soon, was familiar with his pattern of contemplative thought before taking charge. How many times had she witnessed it over the years? “Michael needed time to recover from healing him and we all needed time to regroup.”

They hadn’t passed a single Antarian on the way to the chamber. After the unending auditory assault of a war that would not end the silence had been deafening and it had been unsettling to find themselves suddenly alone, no longer surrounded by others. “We had no idea how long we had before Kivar’s army discovered the loss of their forces on the battlefield. We needed answers and we needed Max to heal quickly. I didn’t trust anything Tess told us about what to do if one of us was seriously injured.” The anger that bordered on pure unadulterated hatred wasn’t new, but it burned in her veins as thoughts of the murdering hybrid surfaced, and it took an effort to bring it under control. Now wasn’t the time to focus on that, she reminded herself. “I remembered what River Dog told us when Michael was dying.”

Michael’s posture relaxed slightly as he looked at Maria. So many memories rushed through his mind, memories of a time that hadn’t necessarily been easy, but had still held a touch of innocence. “I remembered the map in the cave that held the healing rocks.”

Liz and Maria looked at each other, mentally connecting the dots at the same time.

“The balance,” they said at the same time.

He nodded. “We searched the cave. The map was there, hidden outta the line of sight.” His eyes took on a faraway look as they locked on something only he could see, but his voice remained strong and steady as he relayed the story. In his minds’ eye that moment flared to life and as he spoke he could see the scene as if it was happening in real time.

Max had been weak and in spite of the healing there was still the possibility they could lose him to blood loss or the shock his system had suffered. He’d helped Isabel lean him up against the wall, knowing she needed the relief as much as Max did. He had frantically searched the walls, desperately needing to find the healing stones he knew were hidden there.

“It’s gonna be okay, Max,” she assured him, needing it to be true. “We’re gonna find the healing stones and make a circle just like we did years ago when Michael was so sick.”

He felt her eyes boring into him, searching his hands in vain for the healing stones. He wouldn’t let them down. He continued his search in earnest, shoving the weakness in his own body down and drawing on his inner reserves to give him the push he needed to keep going.

“If you can’t find the stones,” Max said, his voice projecting to sound level and strong, “the two of you place your right hands on the Granolith and focus on home. Perhaps there’s a chance the connection can take you home in time to stop Kivar.”

Isabel’s voice was insistent when she responded and there was no doubt of her resolve. “I’m not going without you, Max.”

He could hear the movement as the King forced himself to a sitting position. “You can put your hands over mine and connect to it.”

“This will work,” Isabel insisted, hearing what he wasn’t saying. It had to work. What did it matter if what he was saying was possible if he wasn’t alive to see it come to fruition? She looked between the two men. “We don’t have any water. When we did this before there was water.” She paused as a thought occurred to her. “There was more than just the three of us.”

Michael shut out their voices as he reached deep inside himself, searching for his human side. It had been so long since he’d allowed it to surface; hiding it from himself as well as his enemies, protecting it… preserving it. When his eyes opened once more they held no trace of Rath.

Maria’s voice came to life, her tone calm and soothing, and he could almost see her solemn green eyes locking on him as she spoke. “Try it again.”

And he had. His hand had swiped across the wall and in a matter of seconds he had found what he was looking for.

“We don’t need the water,” Michael interrupted as the familiar symbols came to life before his eyes. He abandoned the wall to draw a rough circle around the Granolith with his weapon. He nodded at the map that was now visible, specific points brighter than others as the stones glowed with their incandescent, unearthly light. “It’s the same one we saw on Earth on the cave wall and in the dream plane. The symbols of where we come from and where we were sent and then the four of us connected like the spokes on a wheel.”

Max wheezed as his head dropped back to rest on the wall, so focused on what Michael was doing that he didn’t feel the dull thud. “The point in the center has to be the Granolith.”

Michael and Isabel exchanged a look and he nodded. “We need to move him, brace him against the Granolith.”

They crouched down on either side of him, preparing to move him when Max reached out to grip Michael’s arm in a forearm clasp. The move effectively stopped him in his tracks and their eyes locked. A million things passed between them in that moment, but of them only one was spoken aloud.

“Remember what Onaedlak told us,” Max rasped. “If I don’t make it the seal of the King transfers to you.” His eyes moved to his sister and then back to his Second. “You won’t put yourselves in danger to save me. The Granolith can’t be used to reset the timeline again. Kivar must die this time.”

It wasn’t a suggestion. It wasn’t the plea of a dying man. It was a direct order from their King.

They retrieved the healing stones and took up positions on either side of him, careful to remain within reach of the Granolith in case Kivar’s soldiers showed up. They drew upon their memories of a time long ago, the stones cradled in their cupped palms as they focused their thoughts on healing Max.

The chamber around them was suddenly illuminated by a light so powerful it was blinding. They were unable to see the Granolith, Max or each other. Using a combination of instinct and training they scrambled to reach him, to touch the Granolith as ordered. The light was so bright it was impossible to see anything and fear spiked through them like a living thing.

They felt rather than heard the pained hiss of indrawn breath when they collided with him, hands latching onto whatever limb they came into contact with as they slammed their free hands against the Granolith that might as well have been invisible. The pain was immediate, running through their bodies like a live current unlike anything they had ever experienced. And then the shocking jolt of pain faded, replaced by a strange, languid euphoric state.

Max was the first to regain consciousness and he smiled to himself when he recognized the cave on Earth. It was only fitting they should return to the place where a fateful decision had changed so many lives. His hand flexed and he slowly moved his arm, testing it and finding its motion free and without pain. His palm landed against his chest and came into contact with living tissue rather than the breastplate that had become a part of him what seemed like a lifetime ago.

He heard Isabel groan to his right but his eyes landed on Michael first. He was stirring and the first thing he noticed was the absence of Rath’s armor. He reached for his sister as her eyes slowly opened and she suddenly started when she saw them. “Max! What happened?” She moved quickly, crouching next to him so she could check him over. “You’re alright?!” It was a question and a statement all rolled into one. To say she was overwhelmed would have been an understatement. Movement drew her gaze and she caught sight of Michael as he began to orient to his surroundings.

Michael sat up gingerly; hands moving over his chest, abdomen and sides as he tested his range of motion and cataloged potential points of injury. Absently he responded to Isabel when she called his name and inquired about his status. “I’m good.” Rath’s shied was gone and he hurt like hell. Nothing was broken, none of the pain indicated internal injuries, but that didn’t stop the pain that radiated through his body.

“Michael?” Her tone was insistent and she wasn’t going to be put off.

He shook his head. “I’ve had worse Antarian hangovers,” he muttered and tested his limbs as he carefully got to his feet.

She rolled his eyes at his dismissive statement. Translation: Drop it.

“Max, what happened?” he asked rather than get into a pointless argument with Isabel.

“I don’t know.” He sat up straighter, his eyes traveling over the cave they had found themselves in. “I saw the dream plane, like we did years ago when we healed you. We were in the desert on Earth and then a bright white light wiped out what I could see. When I opened my eyes we were here.”

“All I could think was how much I wanted us to go home,” Isabel mused as she helped Max to his feet. His body, now healed of its life-threatening injury, stood solid and immovable next to her.


Michael’s voice trailed off as he reached the end of what he had to say. What came next would come from Max. Their brother, their leader, their King; the outline of the mission they had drafted Liz and Maria to undertake alongside them would be outlined by him without question. He could feel Maria’s gaze on him, knew the exact moment her gaze shifted away from him. It still amazed him that a look could be felt, could produce such a physical impact.

Maria looked away from Michael when Liz moved from her side, watched her as she came within reaching distance of Max. There was no mistaking the look in her eyes. It was a look she knew from high school, a look that spoke of feelings so deep that words couldn’t adequately convey the emotions involved. And it was a look that revealed a love that had somehow only deepened over time.

Fifteen years ago there had been no doubt that she loved Max, a teenage boy who hadn’t understood where he was from or where he belonged. Now he stood before her a King who bore the scars of battles he’d fought just to return to her. And, somehow, as she watched, she could swear she could see the love they shared arc between them, taking on a life of its own.

Liz hadn’t been able to take her eyes off of him the entire time Michael had spoken, possibly saying more words in that brief explanation than she’d heard him say the entire time she’d known him. She’d listened as he’d described Max’s injury, knowing from her knowledge of biology and anatomy just how close he had come to dying on a battlefield so far away. She’d seen the tiny facial tics, the tensing of muscles in his arms, the fingers of his free hand clenching over the scar tissue from the wound that had nearly ended his life. She could imagine some of what he was feeling as he relived that close call.

And she could easily recall the feeling of icy cold that crept through her veins as she lay on the floor of the Crashdown, her life slipping away as the destruction from the bullet that had torn through her body began to cause catastrophic system failure through blood loss and internal damage. On occasion that piece of her past erupted in a nightmare and she woke shaking and freezing as the memory came back to life in vivid detail.

Max could see the questions building as Liz and Maria absorbed the information that Michael had just given them. He moved, stepping away from Isabel and Michael without breaking ranks to take control of the conversation. “We’re running out of time.” He winced internally at the absolutely dire words. He had rallied troops and inspired weary soldiers on the edge of collapse to charge into battle and that was the best he could come up with? He sighed inaudibly. He was so tired. There was no time for such thoughts, he chided himself and forced his posture to straighten.

“I know how grim that sounds, but it’s the truth. We are running out of time. The fact of the matter is that if the three of us are killed the Granolith will reset the timeline.”

There was a heartbeat of silence before Liz exhaled a slow, shaky breath. “Oh,” was all she could manage.

“Another failsafe,” Maria murmured.

He could see Liz sorting through his statements; thoughts, theories and suppositions coming together at lightning speed. It was something he’d always admired about her.

“How many…?”

Max shook his head to stop the question from forming but he was prevented from having to answer her when Michael spoke up, short and to the point.

“Enough times.”

Isabel shifted. “We learned that from bits and pieces we saw when we were bonded to the Granolith.” She could feel her brother’s gaze as he turned his head in her direction and he took control once again. She was immensely grateful because she didn’t want to be the one to share what he was about to reveal.

“She’s right. There are several variations, but the one constant that has never changed is Tess. There was only once where we didn’t meet her and it failed as well.” He didn’t allow himself the luxury of softening the blow he was about to land. “Tess is necessary for our survival.”

Isabel watched the other women, saw the red-hot surge of anger that sparked to life in their eyes as they exchanged a look riddled with disbelief. She could almost see them digging their heels in as they prepared to do battle and she couldn’t blame them; everything in her rebelled at the thought that Tess was relevant to their survival.

It was Maria who finally broke the tense silence. “No.”

It would’ve been easier to deal with her if she’d gone off on an angry rant. The finality of the word, the force behind it combined with the sincere belief that Max was wrong was somehow all the more volatile.

“No. I won’t accept that. She killed Alex.”

And she had, there was no arguing against her words. How did one argue with the truth? She took a step in Maria’s direction. “We know that.” That truth still tore at her soul. Not a day had passed when she hadn’t been tortured with the knowledge that Alex had been killed by one of them, that she had welcomed his murderer into their midst.

Maria was right, Liz thought. She had heard every word through a fog of white noise. How could Tess be necessary for their survival? After all they had been through because of her, how could he even speak those words? They knew she had killed Alex. She had been cold and calculating and never shown an ounce of remorse for his death. She had betrayed them, led them right into a trap that had nearly cost them their lives. How did they expect to stop it from happening again? How could they ever trust her when they knew what she was capable of?

Max shifted, the motion so subtle she would’ve been missed if she hadn’t been watching him. His posture was ramrod straight, his eyes piercing as he looked at each of them in turn. As she watched she realized she wasn’t just looking at Max; she was looking at the King. He was resolute and the confidence he felt radiated off of him. She felt something in her settle in response to that look and a calm set up residence in its place.

“The plan is to go back to 2001 and change the past. We have to stop Tess from killing Alex and restore her in order for us to be a complete unit in the event that Kivar gets past us here.”

Her mind was snapping back and forth as she struggled to digest his words. From the corner of her eye she saw Maria’s lips move as she began to form a sentence… a question, a statement, she didn’t know because the words never had a chance to be spoken before Isabel silenced her with a look.

“No, she won’t get away with mind warping anyone, conspiring with the enemy to betray us or,” her eyes went hard, “threatening Alex’s life. We’ve been over everything we know about what we’ve seen concerning past timelines. The variable is Tess. This time she will comply.”

Maria swallowed, trying to moisten her suddenly dry mouth and throat. Isabel’s tone was pure ice and it chilled her to the bone. She glanced at Michael, noting the slight nod of his head. She was surprised to feel the easing that came over her. Isabel’s tone, fury beneath ice. Max’s tone, authoritative and demanding. Without looking away from them her hand found Liz’s and she exhaled calmly when their fingers locked together, the simple contact giving her strength.

Max nodded at his Second. “Comman…,” he shook his head. “Michael.” Years on the battlefield had ingrained the association of rank and he rarely addressed his friend, his brother by name.

“There are three objectives that have to be met,” Michael said as he picked up at Max’s command. “The first, as Max said, is Tess. He’ll visit Tess and redirect her goals. They have to be changed in order to restore the group as a complete unit with the Granolith.” He shifted his stance, booted feet planted wide. “Second, Liz visits Max…” he caught the look of confusion that passed between the two women and he nodded to himself. “2001 Max,” he clarified. “You’ll brief him on Tess and Kivar. It’s a priority for you to convince him to seal the Granolith. We believe it’ll take the combined energy of him, my other self and 2001 Isabel to accomplish that task. Sealing the Granolith buys us time to restore Tess to the group in the event we don’t stop Kivar from our end.” He paused to look at Maria and his tone altered slightly, becoming less distant. “And Maria, you’ll have to visit me. I’ll need to see what you know about us now and get me to the Granolith to seal it with Max.” He glanced at Isabel, giving a sharp nod.

“The two of you have to convince Max and Michael to tell our parents who we are,” she said and she could tell by their expressions they hadn’t expected that. “Having them in our corner will be an asset. Having Liz’s parents, your mom, Maria, and Alex’s dad would only make us stronger. Maybe if we hadn’t been so isolated we would’ve been less of a target for Tess, Nasedo and Kivar.” She forced her tone to remain steady. “It might’ve been the difference that meant Alex would still be here.” She nodded to herself. “Jim Valenti and my dad know the law. They have connections and they know how to investigate. Alex and his dad, they know the tech world, which could provide us protection from the Special Unit.”

Max reached over and rested his hand on his sister’s shoulder, reminding her she wasn’t alone. He could read her thoughts as easily as if he was in her head. Every one of the people she had mentioned was either dead or presumed dead and he knew what it was costing her to get through this without breaking down. She wouldn’t allow it to happen in front of anyone, but he knew it was costing her dearly. “Liz, Maria,” his tone was steely, but the apology underlined the words, “if there had been any other way to do this without involving you it would’ve been done.” He drew in a slow breath as he scanned their faces and he was saved from having to say more when Michael spoke up.

“The two of you are the key to the success of this mission.”
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Re: The Long & Winding Road: Book 1 - Dry Lightening (CC, Mature) Chapter 12 - 6/9/2019

Post by xmag » Mon Jun 10, 2019 8:29 am

Oh, ouah, so many timelines! It means that Max, Michael and Isabel have died in all those previous timelines. It's just as well that they don't remember, can you imagine remembering all your past lives and past deaths or in this case, alternate lives and deaths?

So is book 2 Liz and Maria's mission? Because I don't expect past Max and Michael will be easy to persuade to tell the Truth to the Evans. Isabel, yes, I think, but the other two? Tess won't agree easily. Our girls are going to have one hell of a trip back in the past.


One question, if there are many past, or alternate timelines, is OUR Roswell one of the timelines?
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Michael : From day one, I knew you were the girl for me, I never wanted anyone else.

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Re: The Long & Winding Road: Book 1 - Dry Lightening (CC, Mature) Chapter 12 - 6/9/2019

Post by keepsmiling7 » Mon Jun 10, 2019 5:33 pm

Max appeared to happy in the Earth cave......
And now they set out on the three objectives, most of which will make them stronger.
Thanks

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The Long & Winding Road: Book 1 - Dry Lightening (CC, Mature) Chapter 13 - 9/16/2019

Post by KindredKandies » Mon Sep 16, 2019 10:09 pm

xmag- They have been through a lot... all of them, human and hybrid. Every decision they make has an effect on the future and the past, for them and all those they love. It's a lot of responsibility and a burden that weighs heavily on them because they know, have witnessed, experienced, and suffered through every failure up to this point.


Keepsmiling7- One of the goals of their objectives is to secure their futures on Earth while another is to ensure their group survives intact. Their strengths have to be combined in order to provide that outcome.


Book One – Chapter 13

October 13, 2016 – Pete’s Liftoff Gas Station, Outskirts of Roswell, NM – 1923 Hours

Liz could feel the weight of the burden that had just been laid on her shoulders. They were the key to the success of the mission? How was that even possible? What could they have to contribute that would make them so important? How could their involvement be the difference between life and horrible deaths for their loved ones? What if they failed? She didn’t want to bear the responsibility if they weren’t successful.

How could Tess be an integral part of their success? She could feel anger burning hotly through the haze of fatigue and the emotion battled endlessly with the pain of knowing their plan meant saving the very person who had murdered one of her best friends in cold blood. Tess was cold and calculating and she had her own agenda. How did they really think they could turn her? She sighed heavily and rubbed her temples but it did nothing to ease the headache she could feel building up behind her eyes. Without conscious thought she leaned into Maria, drawing strength from her best friend.

Max could see the toll their news was taking on Liz and he wished furtively that he could spare her this agony. But there was no way around it. No matter how many scenarios they’d run through it always came back to this one. Michael had broken the initial steps of the plan down and he’d known she wasn’t going to receive the news well. Her eyes had dulled with pain and she had withdrawn, falling silent and returning to Maria’s side for comfort.

He wanted to be the one to relieve her pain, to erase the suffering he’d caused with so many of the decisions he’d made. He was resolute in his plan to rectify his past mistakes that had caused so much loss in their lives. The need to be alone with her, to talk to her, to ease her suffering was a living thing that burned in every fiber of his being. He glanced at Michael, catching his eye and giving a sharp nod in his direction. They had to talk to Liz and Maria, separately and alone.

Liz was unaware of the looks being exchanged between the two men as she forced herself to breathe in slowly in an effort to find her balance. On some level she had been aware of the fractional easing in Maria’s body after Isabel spoke up, her voice a blend of ice and steel, but it did little to help her accept their decision to restore Tess to her place in the group. Max believed she was necessary to their survival but his confidence did little to reassure her. She forced down the fire that raged inside of her as it flared to life once again.

She shoved down the weariness that hung so heavily over her, forcing her body to stand so that she could confront Max with her questions. And she had so many. What made him believe he could redirect Tess’ goals? There was no way of knowing how many variations of the timelines existed, no way of knowing how many times they had actually reset the timeline, so what made it different this time? But for some reason, as she stood there staring at the man who was so familiar and so much a stranger at the same time, not a single word passed her lips.

From his position nearby Michael kept the others in his peripheral vision but his focus was on Maria. He watched her openly, unapologetically. There was no way to curb his awareness of her and truth be told he didn’t really want to. It had been so long since he’d felt anything beyond what was necessary to ensure their survival. He took in every line, every curve of her body as she pulled from her inner reserve of strength. Her mind was working overtime, sorting through the information he’d hit them with, and attempting to put it in some semblance of order that made sense to her.

He inhaled slowly, deeply, and caught her scent beneath the other smells that permeated the old building. Even after all the years that had passed he’d be able to identify that scent as being unique to Maria. He shifted to quell the automatic response when her sharp green eyes locked with his. Whatever she’d been sorting through, the pieces had fallen into the order she needed and she was ready to move forward with the conversation.

“So from what you’ve said there are two constants regardless of the timeline: Tess and the Granolith.” Her gaze shifted to Liz, monitoring her condition and shifting back to him when she determined her friend was holding her own. “According to you the three of you can’t survive without Tess yet she’s proven through too many timelines to be a traitor.” She held her hands up as if weighing the options and after a moment she lowered them again. “So why not just destroy the Granolith? I mean, if the Granolith is gone then Tess, Nasedo and Kivar have nothing to gain. It won’t matter what relationship, if any, Tess has with the group.” It made perfectly good sense to her. It solved the problem of Tess. Take her out of the equation altogether and it meant everyone was safer.

Isabel glanced at Max and he gave the slightest hint of a nod.

“Because it wouldn’t stop Kivar from coming to Earth after Isabel,” he replied.

“The dreams…” the tall blonde’s voice was distant, her tone easily identified as uncomfortable.

“You mentioned the dreams before,” Maria mused as she studied the looks passing between the three hybrids. It was apparent they weren’t something they wanted to discuss. “What was it you said?” She cast about for the remnants of the conversation that had contained mention of the dreams.

“That the dreams were a message,” Liz said, picking up the thread of the conversation. “That if you didn’t leave, with Tess, Kivar was going to bring the war on Antar to Earth.”

“But what made you think that?”

Michael met Maria’s inquisitive gaze head-on. “We believe the dreams were coming from Kivar. It was the only thing that made sense.”

Max looked at Liz. “We don’t know that it’s possible to destroy the Granolith, but even if we could there’s another problem.” He watched her puzzling over his words and he felt the unfamiliar tug of a smile at the corners of his mouth when she put it together.

“Physics,” she said as a moment shared so long ago in a high school science class passed between them. An image she’d seen through their connection of stars rotating around a black hole came to mind. “The Granolith isn’t just an unknown power that shaped a civilization. It’s moved you through space and time from one planet to another in two completely different galaxies. It essentially creates a door at one end of a wormhole.” She paused and turned to look at Maria. “Attempting to destroy it could have catastrophic consequences.”

“What, like we could destroy both universes?” Maria asked, gaping at Liz.

“Galaxies,” Liz corrected. “Both Antar and Earth reside in the same universe. They’re just in different galaxies.”

“Do not go into lecture mode.” Maria made a face because she knew her well enough to know it wouldn’t take much for her to slip into professor mode. “You know science wasn’t my thing. So universes, galaxies, whatever, are you saying we could actually destroy both if destroying the Granolith was an option?”

“Theoretically, it could at minimum take out Earth and our solar system and in turn eventually threaten the existence of our galaxy.”

Isabel’s heart went out to the two women as she watched them bounce theories off of each other. How many times had she, Max and Michael hit dead ends going over every angle of the Tess quagmire as they tried to create a viable plan to stop Alex from being killed, to somehow stop her betrayal? Time after time they came back to the same conclusion: Tess had to be part of the unit for them to survive.

The four square unit needed to be complete in order for their survival to be successful. No matter how distasteful she found the knowledge that Tess was necessary, every scenario came back to her taking her place in their unit. She watched Liz and Maria, recognizing the lines of strain in their features. The knowledge that the hybrid responsible for Alex’s death had to be included in their numbers weighed heavily on them and she sympathized.

She saw Max shift, saw him lift his chin in that subtle manner he had when he was about to speak and she moved to intercept before he could get a word out. From the corner of her eye she saw him settle his weight back on his heels, crossing his arms over his chest as he deferred to her judgment in this situation. Maybe she couldn’t change the situation but she could at least offer them a brief respite.

She knew Max and Michael were both eager to have the opportunity to speak with the women one on one and she could understand that. She’d give anything, literally anything, to have that same chance with Alex. She swallowed down the tears that threatened to form in her eyes, refusing to reveal her inner turmoil, and she kept her voice soft as she spoke to them. “We know how hard this is and if there had been any way to avoid dragging you into the mission we would have done it. We’ve dreaded this moment since we realized what had to be done.”

Isabel glanced at the men behind her, flanking her position. “We’ll take a break. You guys will probably feel better after a hot shower.” She knew they’d feel better but she didn’t want to stand there and tell them how they’d feel. They didn’t need that from her. “The shower in the back has been brought up to my standards so there’re even warm fluffy towels waiting. We can talk again when you’re more comfortable.” She held her breath as they looked at each other, carrying on a silent conversation before slowly nodding in agreement.

Max glanced at Michael after the women had left the main room of the station, disappearing into the back. He could hear them talking, their voices a low murmur. “It’s probably best to let them clean up before we talk to them.”

Michael grunted and pushed away from the doorframe to move to the window and stare outside. Darkness was falling rapidly. “We should do a perimeter check while they’re hosin’ off.”

Maria looked around the corner of the open door into the bathroom, uncertain what to expect. She’d been in the bathroom briefly but she hadn’t really spent much time checking out the amenities. Even knowing Isabel she didn’t have much in the way of expectations. She couldn’t imagine that there were things like showers and indoor plumbing on the battlefields of Antar. But as she glanced around she quickly realized that Isabel Evans hadn’t lost her touch.

She could hear the whispers of sound as Isabel and Liz moved around in the area outside the privacy of the inner sanctum of the bathroom complete with shower stall. She was certain in its best days it hadn’t been so pristine. She reached inside the stall to turn the water on, letting it get as hot as she could stand it before she stripped out of her clothes, folding them neatly and placing them on the counter next to the door. Isabel had promised they would be clean and where she had left them when she was finished. Her fingertips ghosted over the towels hanging on the rack close to the shower, warm and fluffy as promised. There wasn’t a doubt in her mind that Pete had never had warming racks installed.

The pounding hot water was a welcome relief to muscles that ached and skin that felt like it hadn’t been clean in too long. She despised the sticky, gritty feeling that came from not having a shower and it almost seemed as if it had been days since her last one. In reality she knew it hadn’t been anywhere near that long. She’d glanced at the time as they’d walked back to the bathroom, surprised to learn it was barely 24 hours ago that Michael had barged back into her life and…

No! She slammed the mental barriers into place to protect her from witnessing that scene in her mom’s living room again. What he’d done, he’d done to protect her. If he said what he’d taken out had been a Skin she knew it was the truth. She kept her eyes open, knowing if she closed them that scene would flare to life again no matter how much she didn’t want to see it. Instead she focused on Cameron while she lathered up, seeking solace from thoughts of him.

But she was denied even that small comfort as her mind automatically began to wonder if he was safe. There was no way of knowing. She stared at the white band of skin on her naked ring finger, seeing her engagement ring sitting on the dresser in their bedroom where she’d left it several days ago before fleeing their home. What must he be thinking? She knew he would have found it by now, would’ve been hurt by its presence and her missing from their home. He’d know where she’d gone. He wasn’t the type to stand back and let something like that go ignored though. Why hadn’t he called? Why hadn’t he come after her?

She swallowed down the immediate thought that if he could have come after her he would have. There was only one reason to explain him not even calling to check on her. She shoved that thought aside, refusing to entertain it. Cameron was fine, there was no reason to think otherwise. Standing in her mother’s living room she hadn’t been concerned that he hadn’t called or shown up. Because he was working, she reminded herself. He was working and he was on a tight deadline and he was giving you some space before he came after you. He’d probably called and talked to her mom, made sure she had arrived safely, and then decided to give her a few days. Yes, that’s all it was.

She stepped out of the shower and reached for a towel, thankful for its warmth, but barely registering its softness as she ran it over her skin. If he’d talked to her mom… would it have been her mom he really talked to? If it wasn’t, had that made him a target? No, he wouldn’t have waited to call. He’d have called right away, probably talked to Amy right after she arrived. He was safe, nothing else was acceptable. She slammed the door on that thought, caging it in and keeping it safe from any other possibility. Cameron was safe. They would complete their mission and he would remain that way.

She swallowed hard as she dressed in the clothes that were now as clean as if they’d been run through a washer and dryer. She’d never meet Cameron if they were successful. She’d never know what it was like to know him, to collaborate with him, to fall in love with him. And she’d never even know it. She rubbed a hand over her chest, feeling the ache there, the emptiness that accompanied the idea of not having him in her life and in her heart. She could only hope and pray that he would find someone truly worthy of the gift of his love.

As Liz switched places with Maria her thoughts were running along a similar path. She’d now spent five days cooped up in the old station and in that time there hadn’t been much in the way of conversation. Michael had left to retrieve Maria and that had left Max and Isabel to prowl around the station restlessly in anticipation of his return. She’d watched them become agitated the longer they waited and once he’d passed what they’d deemed an acceptable window for her retrieval she’d known the reality of their situation was much grimmer than she knew.

And still she’d waited as patiently as she knew how. Because she knew that Max would explain the situation. He would reveal the truth. He had. And it was worse than anything she could have imagined. It wasn’t just the fact that they had spent more than a decade embroiled in a war on their home planet. It wasn’t that their war was coming to Earth. Hell, it wasn’t even that they had lost some of their own to horrific deaths at the hands of assassinating aliens. And God help her, it wasn’t just knowing that her parents were out there potential targets for the Skins.

Those things all weighed heavily on her, but of all of them, what burdened her heart the most was the fact that Max believed Tess was necessary to their survival. He believed they could turn her, could bring her in to complete the Four Square. But how did one turn evil? And that’s what Tess was, what she had been well before she’d stepped foot into their sleepy little town to infiltrate their ranks. She had come there with a purpose, scheming to get what she wanted, careless of the collateral damage she left in her wake.

She had used Alex, destroyed his mind and committed murder. She had used Kyle, toying with his feelings and stringing him along until he’d outlived his usefulness and then she’d carelessly tossed him aside. She had been systematic in carrying out her plan. Cold and calculating without a hint of remorse. And for what? By all accounts she had returned to Antar and spent her life in hiding. She was fairly certain that hadn’t been on Tess’ agenda, so somewhere along the way her plan had failed.

She wasn’t dead though, so it hadn’t failed nearly badly enough. No, no matter what Max said, what he believed, she knew Tess was too dangerous and she couldn’t be trusted. Her mental abilities had been stronger than they’d imagined. How else could she control so many people at one time? Alex had been under her control for a month that they knew of and everyone had believed him to be in Sweden for that whole time… his parents, his friends and the people at school who were responsible for setting the exchange program up. Even when he’d supposedly come back, he’d maintained the belief that he’d been there and he’d even come armed with a ton of slides as proof. Had the slides even existed or had it all been more of Tess’ mind games?

It was Tess slithering into their lives like the snake she was that had changed the course of their futures. How could inviting her in make the difference? She easily recalled Future Max telling her that he’d pushed Tess away and because of that she’d left and everything had gone to hell. But in their current scenario Max hadn’t pushed Tess away. He’d had sex with that tramp and gotten her pregnant and then chosen to go with her to Antar where she’d betrayed them. No, maybe they hadn’t exactly welcomed her into their circle but… but no, she had been welcomed at first. Isabel had extended the first olive branch, attempted to make friends with her. Jim Valenti had opened his home to her. Kyle had been attracted to her. But in all of those scenarios she had sabotaged them, controlled them to some extent, and because of her several people she cared about were dead or marked for death.

The belief that Tess was necessary to their unit, to complete the Four Square, was a constant shared by Future Max and her Max that had returned to Earth hoping to change the past and alter the future. But how could that be so? In her opinion they were both wrong. She ducked her head under the water, letting it wash away the traces of shampoo and soap as she tried to make sense of it. No, she decided as she got out and reached for a towel, she was going to have to have a one-on-one conversation with Max because no matter how she weighed the options, Tess always came out as the deciding factor. And not in a good way.

She dressed in clothes that were once again clean thanks to Isabel and she studied her reflection in the mirror. She looked like she’d aged ten years in a matter of a few days. She sighed and ran a hand through her hair before exiting the bathroom and stepping out to join Maria and Isabel. The women were silent as they stood there, struggling to find the words to say what they felt needed to be said but they all seemed to be drawing a blank. She exchanged a look with the woman she shared a lifetime of friendship with and after a moment of silent communication they nodded.

Maria turned to look at the tall blonde, taking in the changes that the years had left on her. There were things that remained the same; she was still striking and beautiful. She commanded attention without question and she wondered if she’d been as at home commanding troops on the field of battle. Yes, she decided after a moment, she would’ve been.

Without intending to her gaze dropped to the woman’s right arm, following it down to her wrist where the scar from Vilondra’s wrist plate remained. She couldn’t stop herself from wondering about that, curious about what the bonding had entailed even as she recoiled from the thoughts.

Next to her, Liz was entertaining the same thoughts, but in her case her scientific curiosity overrode any immediate dislike of the idea that the bonding had entailed such an intimate physical aspect. She wouldn’t ask of course. It had been glaringly obvious that neither Isabel nor Michael had any wish to speak of the bonding. But she couldn’t help but wonder at the level of technology that would require actual DNA collected in that manner. The scientist in her was screaming to understand the how and why but she knew they were answers she wasn’t likely to ever learn.

Aware of Isabel watching them, almost as if she was waiting for the dreaded question to finally surface, Maria shook herself free of any thoughts regarding the bonding process. There were things they needed to know but she’d rather not let her imagination run wild and supply her with images to fit the story they’d been told. “Michael didn’t mention himself or you when he was laying out everyone’s roles in the plan,” she said finally. Her gaze skimmed over the other woman’s scarred wrist once more. “Are your roles somehow linked because you were bonded to the Granolith together?”

“No.” Isabel shook her head, grateful that the question hadn’t been more intrusive. “No, the Granolith bonded Rath and Vilondra together. He isn’t Rath anymore than I’m Vilondra or Max is Zan.” And they weren’t. It’s who they had been in another life but it wasn’t who they were destined to be. “I’ve never forgotten Alex. I loved Alex, I still do, that’s never changed. The minute I learned he had been killed by Tess it became my goal to save him and to make her pay for what she’s done.”

“I don’t see how she’s gonna pay for his death by going back and making her a part of the group,” Maria said, her tone deadly serious.

Isabel swallowed with difficulty. To be honest, neither did she, but she knew now wasn’t the time to focus on that. “Michael omitted our roles because I felt it was my place to provide you with that information.”

“She isn’t going to pay for what she did to Alex, is she?” Liz asked, her heart breaking yet again for justice that would never be found for their fallen friend.

“I may not be able to exact retribution for her crimes because for some cosmic reason even I don’t understand she has to be a part of our unit if we’re to survive. But Max and Michael are able to make sure she can’t do anything other than what’s required of her.” She paused a moment. “Do you remember what Courtney said about Nicholas regarding his powers? She said he could do everything we could do times a thousand.” She let that information soak in for a few seconds before she continued. “What she didn’t say, perhaps didn’t even know, is that we’re stronger than both Nicholas and Nasedo. Our powers were underdeveloped because we didn’t know anything about ourselves. That isn’t the case now. Max and Michael are able to do what Nicholas could do and their abilities are magnified well above what he was capable of.”

How many times had she seen those abilities used on the battlefield? She had watched them destroy the minds of their enemies. Michael had been especially formidable in that capacity. Max was strong, he was capable, and his mental powers were off the charts, but in rare moments of quiet she knew he waged a battle within himself. It was always there, the constant war between healer and killer, and she prayed he would be able to find peace if they succeeded.

“My role in the mission is to find Alex and to break Tess’ mind warp.”

“You have that ability?” Maria asked, her tone revealing a hint of skepticism. “I mean, if she’s already got a hold on him isn’t it gonna be dangerous to – “

“I will break her mind warp and he will not suffer any permanent damage. Alex will be restored and he will have the life that was stolen from him.” It was an oath she had sworn years ago and she was so close to finally achieving that goal that nothing would prevent her from succeeding. “Michael’s role isn’t quite as defined. He’ll be there to make sure everyone else’s goals are met and completed.”

Liz studied her in contemplative silence for a while before she spoke. “You don’t believe Tess should be brought into the group, do you? You don’t believe she can be trusted.”

“I believe that I can stop her from killing Alex.”

“And what’s to prevent her from coming at us from another angle? She could still bring all of this down on us at a future time,” Maria said, certain it was true.

“Max and Michael will assure her cooperation.”

“With mind control.” The brunette nodded as she began to pace. “How does that make us any better than her?”

“Maybe it doesn’t, I don’t know.” Isabel sighed heavily. Personally, she believed that Tess should be taken out of the equation altogether, but barring that, she would make sure she never had the opportunity to put Alex in danger again. She turned her head when she heard the door at the entry to the station squeak in protest as it was manhandled by a firm hand. Michael. “They’re waiting to talk to you separately.” She glanced at Maria. “He’s not a monster.”

Maria’s mind roamed back to right after she’d learned the truth that there really were aliens in Roswell. Even in the nightmares that had followed that revelation, she’d never equated him with a hideous monster. Michael had been the one she’d felt safest with. And now, knowing what she knew of the situation, knowing that he’d killed to save her life, and in spite of the nightmare she couldn’t quite wake from, she knew that still held true. He was a man capable of terrible acts against an enemy, but she didn’t believe he was a threat to her. She looked at Isabel and nodded. “He never has been,” she said finally.

The tall blonde relaxed, releasing a breath she hadn’t realized she’d been holding at Maria’s statement. She glanced at Liz. “I can tell you want to change his mind, to make him see reason because no matter what else has changed, you know who and what Tess is.” She drew in a deep breath before shaking her head. “You won’t change his mind, Liz. This is the course of action he’s settled on and as the King his decisions are resolute and carried out without question.”

She smiled tiredly. “And I’m a woman who bows to no man regardless of seal or crown. He wants me to listen to him, to weigh his words and understand his decision. He’s demanding the same thing I intend to demand of him.”

Isabel nodded as the barest hint of smile lifted her lips at the corners. She hadn’t seen it all those years ago, but in Liz her brother had found his match. Maybe because at the time they had all been too young to see it, to understand it. But now, after years that had changed them, she could look back and see their strengths and their weaknesses. “I’ll be taking watch to give you time to talk.” Her eyes dulled with pain as she was once again reminded that she had no one to connect with before they undertook their mission. Without another word she straightened her spine and turned sharply on one heel before leaving the room.
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keepsmiling7
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Re: The Long & Winding Road: Book 1 - Dry Lightening (CC, Mature) Chapter 13 - 9/16/2019

Post by keepsmiling7 » Tue Sep 17, 2019 10:39 am

Interesting situation........none of us want responsibility of a mission that is not successful. I agree with Liz.
And can Tess really be trusted?? She just "slithered" back into their lives.
It appears Isabel has new respect for Liz, that his brother has finally met his match now.
Can't wait for more.

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